28 November 2008

Thanks Given

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I must admit that we are enjoying the mild temperatures that Phoenix offers in November. It really is nice out (but still not enough to convince me to move back). SML, Our Lady of BYU, and Jill, SML's sister, are out shopping. PTL went with his uncle and cousin quadding for the day, and CAL and I are at home with my niece.

My sister-in-law and her husband live in a gated community - one that I learned is like the "Hotel California" - you can check in anytime you like, but you can never leave. I discovered this at 530AM when I went to run. Got to the gate and discovered you can only get out with a key, a key I did not possess. After falling during yesterday's 5K, I was not about to go climbing fences, so I just ran around their neighborhood - a lot. When I got back to their house, I learned that their front door has no latch. It was still too early to start ringing the doorbell, so after about ten minutes of pacing out front and pondering my fate, I leaned against the door and it flew right open. I was happy to get back in but was also questioning the security of said door.

We had a good Thanksgiving yesterday. The girls went and saw the schlock that is "Twilight" with my mom, sister and her two daughters, and I am pleased to report that none of the three (SML, Our Lady of BYU, or CAL) thought it was all that great. Maybe twenty years of me and my opinions is starting to pay off! PTL and I went with my Dad to my brother's to get ready for Thanksgiving. My brother and his wife went all out to make a nice dinner. My Dad and I had to make a trip to the only open grocery store to try and find an elusive baguette near my brother's house (which I swear is New Mexico-adjacent) and that was a hideous Wal-Mart Super Center. Don't ever go to one on a holiday...I'm just saying. On another note, apparently baguettes are more difficult to find than bin Laden himself.

I am giving thanks today for the re-emergence in my life of Diet Pepsi Vanilla:

This hasn't been sold in Chicagoland now for probably a year but this sweet nectar of the gods is still avaiable here in Phoenix, so I am enjoying it here while I can. For this, thanks is given.

26 November 2008

Good thing that TED is dead

We've made it to Phoenix where in spite of it only being around 70 degrees, I'm sweating like a Finn in a sauna. I think something must be wrong with me...seriously. I'll probably have a stroke during the 5K tomorrow.

We had the misfortune of flying on TED to Phoenix this morning. This was United Airlines' ill-conceived attempt at a low-fare airline within the airline. It lasted longer than all the other experiments (RIP-Metrojet and Song), and there's a reason all these carriers are dead. They sucked, well, Song didn't but the concept did. Anyway, TED will be dead sometime next year and not a moment too soon. Things looked so good when we got to ORD today too. No lines at all and the crowds weren't awful. We holed up in the new Red Carpet Club on the "B" Concourse and then went down to the gate only to discover that the inbound aircraft was late. The crowd at the gate was an indication of things to come. It was a cacophony of crying babies and yelping, barking dogs. The kind of little dogs that go in carriers in the cabin. The next three and half hours weren't going to be good.

We boarded about ten minutes late and it looked like we were going to get out pretty close to ontime. I had a dog in my row and another dog was behind SML, CAL, and the Boy. They had a crying baby behind them along too. Well, then the flight attendants start counting dogs and things went south. 40 - that's forty - minutes later, it was determined that we had too many dogs in the cabin so a dog had to go. So did the accompanying passenger. We got to watch the "Ballet O'Blame" in between the customer service agents too. I was livid by the time we finally backed off the gate.

So once we were in the air - TED continued to blow. As usual, one cup of soda, no whoe can for anyone. The crying baby fiesta went on most of the flight. I could go on and on. It was just a whole lot of unpleasantness. I'll be so glad when TED is officially dead - maybe Mother UA can go back to focusing 100% on its core customer base. Now - I do have to give a shout out to the purser on the flight. He was cool - he came back halfway through the flight to thank me for my business, and as he put it, "helping to pay United's bills." He also offered to comp a "mini meal." That was cool. But that's another thing...

What compelled United to include a can of tuna in their for sale meals? Why not just hand out vomit scented blankets? It's the same thing. The lady in my row could not buy the meal with the tuna in it fast enough and when she cracked open the tin o'tuna, its noxious fumes filled the cabin in no-time flat. What would compel an airline executive to think that putting canned tuna in an enclosed metal tube that is already, in most cases, a flying labratory of sickness, is a good idea? FYI - it's not. It's hideous. All it does is make you question why you paid several hundred dollars to be exposed to canned tuna fumes. And it makes you angry.

This explains why as soon as we picked up Our Lady of BYU that we made a beeline to In-N-Out. That was a good thing. So, now that were at my sister-in-law's, comfortably settled, it's time for the Thanksgiving festivities to begin. Only three more days until the TED return.

24 November 2008

Peace: A Snow Run

What started out as rain during the night quickly turned to snow here in Chicagoland early this morning. Once the snow stated to fall (which, I am delighted to report, was melted and gone by 10AM), I felt compelled to get out and run. These were big snowflakes and I had just read a blog post in Runners World about that first run in the snow and I knew I had to give it a go.

It wasn't a long run - only about 2.5 miles - but it was really satisfying to find myself running as the snow came down. The face mask and hat I had on made me look like I was dressed to commit a felony armed robbery at the local mini-mart but it also gave me a different perspective as I looked forward during the run. I found myself focusing more on what surrounded me. The sensation of the snowflake or two that slipped behind the mask and cooled my face was refreshing. It was quiet too. I was surprised at how different our neighborhood looked with a nice dusting of snow. I look forward to more runs like this but am not sure how I'll handle it once the snow comes down in earnest, sticks, and piles us up. Something tells me I'm in for a real boss slip and fall injury - maybe a broken wrist before the winter's over.

After my run I made my way to the Naperville Running Company to get some decent gloves. I am a huge fan of this store. Their staff is awesome. Totally friendly, helpful, and non-judgmental. You don't have to be a Dean Karnazes or an Usain Bolt to get treated well there. When I was there today, they put to bed the rumor I had heard that Brooks was discontinuing my shoe. Mercifully, they are not...just releasing an improved version in January. I was all set to by a couple of pair if they were being discontinued and I'm mighty glad I don't have to do that!

Snow and cold will not be much of a worry for the balance of the week. We head to Phoenix on Wednesday for Thanksgiving. Our Lady of BYU will join us so we'll all be together for the first time in earnest since she bailed on us in June. It does look like we might have some rain on Thanksgiving but that's not a bad thing. PTL and I are running a Turkey Trot 5K with my brother-in-law, Wes, and it's supposed to by in the mid-60's and rainy. Perfect Chicagoland weather.

You know, it's good to be alive. Yeah, the world economy sucks and looks as though it's going to get worse. Our President continues to redefine lame duck presidency into complete and total do nothingness. But it's still good to be alive. It's good to be counting blessings and giving thanks.

21 November 2008

Spirit of the Y -3rd Place- Really?

As readers of the blog know, I recently made my way to Provo, UT, to meet Our Lady of BYU for Parents Weekend. You can read the older posts from October and see that we had a really good time. I found out that BYU had a photo contest for Parents Weekend and I submitted one of our photos on a whim, without telling anybody. Well, lo and behold, I found out earlier this week that we won! We took third place in the "Spirit of the Y" category. Here's the winning entry:

As far as I am concerned, we should have taken 1st! You can judge for yourself by going to the Parents Weekend website. We won a $10 Gift Card to the BYU Bookstore. I hope Our Lady of BYU spends it wisely.

Getting ready this afternoon to accompany PTL on an overnight in the local forest preserve. Umm...it's gonna suck. Supposed to be about 14 degrees tonight without the windchill. Ah...midwest winters. Maybe we'll get a surprise snowstorm to make it all the better tonight.

18 November 2008

Is it Friday yet?

Really. Is it Friday yet? As I was leaving the office this evening, I honestly thought it was Thursday. Alas, it's only Tuesday but it feels like it should be Thursday. That's the kind of week it's been already.

Started the morning teaching Seminary at 0600, then raced to the office, where I was at my desk for a grand total of one hour today. I was awash in meetings today. No, not awash, flooded, even inundated with them. Even managed to miss one - only a critical one with my boss. Awesome.

Traffic was brutal coming home. As I was driving home, I called SML to check in and heard the sounds of a crying baby in the background. I knew it wasn't ours since we checked out of the baby stage long ago. We weren't babysitting either but I heard a baby. Well, I forgot that CAL is taking a "family life" class in high school and for the next two days (through Thursday), we have a "baby" in our house. Said "baby" is crafted from what I'm sure is the finest Chinese plastic and looks fairly authentic. Its cries, though, are dead-on. The makers of this robo-baby recorded the sounds of a real baby and loaded it up. This baby cries, A LOT. CAL has to care for this thing like there's no tomorrow because it records how it's treated. I held it for all of five seconds and have never been more creeped. CAL has to haul it to school or wherever she goes in a baby carrier. Fine lessons for the high schoolers. Screaming reminder why I am way glad we aren't having babies in our 40's. But every time I hear that robo-baby cry, I wish even more that it was Thursday.

Heard from Our Lady of BYU today. She's entered blogdom. I've put a link to her blog in the "Linked" section of this blog. You can read her blog here. Maybe she can make the weekend get here faster. Someone has to - I'm going to lose my mind.

15 November 2008

"Fireproof" thoughts

So last night, for the first time in ages, SML and I had a chance to get out as a couple for a date. We joined our friends M & E for dinner and a movie. Dinner in suburban Chicagoland on a Friday night can be a battle against massive lines but last night, no. Perhaps it's because we edged dangerously close to the "early bird" special crowd and ate at 530PM. Mercifully not a single member of the blue hair/wash and set gang was seen and we had a good meal and conversation.

We then dashed off to the movies. I no longer pick the movies when we go out with other people - this is for a host of reasons, not the least of which includes my "unique" sense of humor which apparently doesn't translate to the masses and the fact that some of my previous choices have been regarded as questionable (I'd like to point out though that I was not the one who picked out "New York Doll" - that's all I'm saying). So last night's movie was "Fireproof." Perhaps you've heard of it...it's getting all sorts of play with the evangelical set and in marriage seminars. Based on the number of people in the theater and their average age, it's aimed squarely at the over-40 set (we are in that target group but we were skewing the averages lower) - it almost looked like we'd walked into an audience with Dr Phil. I'm not sure that's the target audiences the producers of the movie wanted but that's what they were getting last night.

The movie is getting a lot of buzz as a must-see for couples. I knew I should have been nervous about it when earlier in the day I mentioned to my mother that we'd be seeing this movie. She reported that all of her friends said it was the most wonderful movie ever - call me crazy, but I'm not sure that a gaggle of bunko-playing ladies who lunch in their 70's are the most authoritative sources of film review. So I was already approaching the film with caution. I was just glad going in that we had some free passes to the theatre.

So here's my take on it - this is not the most wonderful movie ever made (sorry, bunko ladies). The acting (and I use the word acting very, very loosely) was horrific. Kirk Cameron, (80's flashback - name his sitcom), starred and it was more like watching "Acting Pains." The other actors were wooden at best. I mean the original "Jonny Lingo" was more convincing ("Mahana, you ugly!" - the classics never go out of style!) The most convincing actor was the woman who played a stroke victim who never uttered a word. The camera work early on was pretty rough too. Methinks they used a lot of interns. And subtlety was a word the directors had banished from their collective vocabulary.

Now, that being said, the film's message is a powerful one and is worth thought and even application. In a successful marriage, there needs to be three partners - husband, wife, and God. Putting God and His Son at the forefront enables love in a marriage to flourish. Putting His love first makes forgetting a spouse's quirks and foibles so much easier to forget. Putting His love first makes forgiveness second nature and not a burden to carry. The message is a good one and I'm sure that some marriages will be saved as a result and that is good. I probably learned a thing or two...

That being said, next time I'm picking the movie.

12 November 2008

I got nothin'

Maybe it's the fact that we are in that weird weather transition phase here in Chicagoland or maybe it's a case of the post-election blahs, but seriously, I got nothin' people, nothin.

It's gotten cold fast here but not wicked bad cold. It's been gray for days and I know that's working on me. And it's been wet, so I've not been able to run outside and that completely blows. Back to the treadmill at the gym at the office. I know that is weighing on me. No pun intended.

And now that the longest election cycle ever is over...what's one to do? I guess watch the press turn on Obama, which they will do. And watch the Democrats take this majority and implode through in-fighting. Which they will do.

Like I said, I got nothin.

08 November 2008

Eating from the hot pot

It looks like fall has packed its bags and left the building. It got cold and rainy/sleety yesterday here in Chicagoland and it looks like that unpleasantness is going to stick around awhile.

With the weather turning cold, thoughts turn to foods that warm. A typical Midwest winter dinner doesn't center on the hot pot, but ours did last night. And it was delicious! We've been trying to get together with some friends who recently returned from a big trip to China so we could trade Asian travel stories and last night was the night.

Derek and Mari put on a wonderful dinner. It was a traditional Asian hot pot meal. Think a really hearty soup, chock full of Asian elements. It was really fun to watch it all being prepared. The vegetables that made their way in were tremendous and the fish, meat, and dim sum just made it all the more amazing. I had made some bao (did chicken this time) to accompany the hot pot. We had a great time talking over our travels through Asia and then we moved onto Europe and our mutual experiences there.

We also found ourselves talking about our mutual university experiences. Mutual in the sense that we all went to the same university, but I was once again reminded that I'm old. We got to talking about my recent visit back to campus to visit Our Lady of BYU and Mari mentioned a French class she took in the JKHB. I mentioned how surprised I was by the renovation, which I thought had been done recently. Turns out it was done while she was an undergrad there, which wasn't so long ago. Shari reminded me at that point that I'm old. And I guess I am getting there.

Since I am old, per my family, I felt no guilt today in literally taking it easy most of the day. I gave blood this morning and took the counsel of the folks there to rest up today. So I holed up in the basement, watched a few episodes of "The Office" - Season Four on DVD, and have been laughing a lot. You just can't get enough of watching Michael Scott mowing down Meredith in the first episode. Good times!

05 November 2008

The Day After

What an interesting time to be from Chicagoland?! Our Senator has been elected as the 44th President of the United States of America. Looks like the mantra of "change" resonated with the electorate. It was something to watch the crowds massed in Grant Park last night. What a great way to showcase this amazing city! Can I give my city a shout out too?! No riots, no overturned vehicles - I mean Philly did that when they won the World Series.

What an election this has been! It's caused so much introspection at a personal level and that translated so deeply in the voting booth. I know the ever patient Shari and I had several conversations about this election and we never questioned how the other would vote. Frankly we didn't know how either would vote until our votes had been cast. I was also impressed at how the Boy took an interest in this. We sat up for awhile last night watching the returns. I appreciated getting the perspective of a thirteen year old on all the madness. He's got some wisdom, that one.

So now, two more months until Barack moves into the Casa Blanca. I kind of think GW is already trunky and may have most of his stuff packed so I don't think it will take the Obamas long to settle in. I am on my way to Dallas right now...maybe I can scope out some new digs for GW and Laura.

04 November 2008

It's almost over!

Praise the heavens, my friends (how many of will puke if you hear either of the Presidential candidates-in particular McCain-call the masses "my friends" again!?), it is almost over. A matter of hours and the longest Presidential campaign EVER will be over.

Now if you happen to be watching any of the network coverage, it would appear that this election is over. And it would seem that the Angriest Man in the US Senate will remain angry, but just not in the White House. Um...shame on the networks. How is it that they are calling winners when, on average, the percentages upon which they are basing their calls are under 10%. Do none of these saps remember the debacle of 2000? Not that I think that this election is going to be decided by the brain trust that is the US Supreme Court, but c'mon, network wads, let's dial it back. Case in point - I cast my vote at 630PM and had to use a paper ballot and based on the Cataract Crew of volunteers working our precinct here in Chicagoland, I can assure you my vote has yet to be counted.

Hopefully when this is all over, and may that be soon, can we all take a collective breather and calm down just a little? Seriously. Matter of fact to get it started, watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert cover the election tonight on Comedy Central. Laugh a little.

01 November 2008

A Tale of Two Meals

I am never one to turn down a good meal, ever. As a result, I got a little thick around the middle (code for FAT). It got worse once I hit my 40's. I knew it was time to change when the concept of wearing a bro, or a mansierre (gracias, Kramer of Seinfeld fame), was beginning to make sense. So about ten months ago, I embarked on the weight loss bonanza (better diet and running) and so far, it's worked. That being said, I still refuse to turn down a good meal.

Last weekend, I had a meal that was not good, with a capital "G". Of course, the target is an easy one. It's cafeteria food. And by cafeteria food, I don't mean Luby's, Chuck-A-Rama (or Upchuck-A-Rama as we loving called it) or their commercial ilk...no, I mean genuine Grade-D university cafeteria food. I dined with Our Lady of BYU at her cafeteria, the newly rebuilt Cannon Center. Our Lady and her friends, Meesh and Sheridan, swore six ways til Sunday that the best option was the omelette and something from the grill. So I followed their counsel. You be the judge, jury, and executioner:

The omelette is in the upper right hand corner of the picture. That's exactly as it was served. I hadn't even touched it yet. Looks like it was shot out of a rifle at point blank range. The main, pork loin and sweet potato fries, finished it out. This much I will admit...the sweet potato fries were good. It is a little unfair to pile on about cafeteria food, I get it. But c'mon. I'll give them this much though - this will keep the dreaded "Freshman 15" weight gain from happening.

Now, this afternoon, it was a much better meal. We finally went to the Flat Top Grill here in our neck of the Chicago suburbs. It's a chain (but that seems to be a requirement if a restaurant is to survive in the 'burbs) with a little more upscale take on Mongolian BBQ. Very friendly service and they put out a good meal. I loaded up my bowl with spinach, edamame, carrots, celery, garlic, pad thai noodles, and a kickin' vindaloo sauce with sirloin to round out the protein compliment. Take a look:

The roti is really good too. You can use that as your fork. Everybody in Casa Lyons was happy with this place. We'll go back...

Now speaking of good cooking, we all remember Julia Child, who went to the big French kitchen in the sky a few years ago. French cooking is not my favorite and I never could figure Julia out. The accent drove me to complete and utter distraction. For those of you that miss her terribly, do you realize you need look no further than Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) to see her again?

When did Julia inhabit Liddy? I first noticed it earlier this week when USA Today ran a picture of the Senator. She was a dead ringer, no pun intended, for the late Julia. Freaked me out. But I may not have to worry much about it after Tuesday. It looks like Sen. Dole may get swept out in the anti-Republican fervor that has gripped the nation. But as Peter Sagal, the host of NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!" said today, in not so many words, "Leave it to the Democrats to lose an election with so much going in their favor." Well, let's see what Tuesday brings.