27 November 2010

The Boy gets his permit

A few posts ago I mentioned that the Boy was most anxious to get his permit to drive and after a few practice driving runs in empty parking lots and his first full week of driving school, not through the school thank you very much little, today was the day.  The day.

He swore six ways 'til Sunday that he'd studied the manual, not just the practice test his driving school had given him.  I quizzed him last night and he seemed to know his stuff.  We got up a little early in order to get to the dreaded DMV early, anticipating a nasty line.  I was not excited about this as it was really cold this morning and I was not looking forward to stranding in 15 - 20 degree temps.  I shouldn't have worried.  We got there at 750AM and they had opened early! 

Editorial aside - seriously, what government agency opens early, anticipating a crowd?  What government agency is fully, and I mean fully staffed on a Saturday morning after a two-day holiday?  The Illinois DMV in Naperville, that's who.  Man, am I impressed!  Every time I've had to do something with them (registering three out-of-state vehicles, four drivers' licenses, and one permit), they have been unfailingly polite, efficient and, dare I say it, helpful.  Say what you will about Illinios government, since we deserve most of it, but Secretary of State Jesse White runs an awesome operation!

Anyway, 30 minutes later, we were out of there, and the Boy had a permit in hand.  He is now legally permitted to drive with either me or the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.  He wanted to drive home from the DMV but we had my car, so that was not going to happen.  Not because I have the nicest car ever (I mean it's a nice car) but it's big (for a new driver) and it's new and I am not risking it.  So we got home and it was in to the beloved Taurus.  I have to admit that his first legal foray onto the roads was a good one.  He was deadly serious about it and took his new responsibilities seriously.  I still feel like we need one of these in the back of whatever car he's driving:
So another chapter in the adventure that is life here in the Den is now underway.  We'll see where this one takes us.  This much I know, I am so not eager to see how quickly it takes us to the poor house when I have to add the Boy to the car insurance plan.  My wallet heart aches at the thought.

26 November 2010

Thankful, thankful I'm not working at Disney

It's been a good Thanksgiving here in the Den.  Much to be grateful for and recognize that we have been blessed tremendously.  I know that, in spite of myself, I've been blessed beyond measure and I'm glad we took time yesterday to count a blessing or two.

It was a good day.  Of course, on that day of excessive eating, it started with me making pumpkin pancakes and frying up the sweetest meat blessing ever - bacon.  After that, the kitchen was dedicated to the elements of Thanksgiving dinner for which we were responsible - rolls, wheat and white, "killer" salad, and potatoes, mashed and sweet.  So in between food work, we watched a movie and then headed over to our friends for dinner.  As we sat around their table, I marveled at the blessing of friends.  I'm quite certain it was not the high I was on from the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML's mashed sweet potatoes, which were absolutely epic this year.  No, I really was grateful for friends, those we were with and those afar, and family. 

So after dinner we did that most American of things - went to the movies.  Now we had seven people, all with varying movie tastes, including three really hoping for "Jackass 3D" (I'll let you guess who that was) and then votes for "chick flicks."  So we decided to go with the least offensive option, Disney's "Tangled."  My thoughts - this was a mistake.

As the movie opened, Disney proudly proclaimed that it was their 50th animated film.  Umm, Imagineers, you may want to rethink your approach.  It was the standard Disney schlock, including a lot of spontaneous breaking into song, over the top thugs, cutesy animals, and you know it wouldn't be a Disney film without it, the elimination of parents.  Seriously, if you believed what happens in pretty much every Disney movie, you'd learn that parents are killed or missing-in-action, and you are either orphaned or watched over by some horrible person/creature/ogre, etc.  I cannot even begin to imagine what went down in the lives of the Disney creative folks but my help, people, can't you please work out your issues with a therapist!?  Why must you inflict your issues on the rest of us?  Is it a requirement that you have major parental issues to work there?  Seriously, LET IT GO!

And, now it's Black Friday, and happy to say we won't be a part of the madness.  Who needs it?  Not me.

21 November 2010

Black Paint + Church Carpet + One Year Old = Not Good

I was never a math genius.  It took me two years to pass Algebra in high school and I stormed out of Geometry three weeks into my senior year.  I took one math class in college - the one I needed to take to graduate, so suffice to say, formulas are not my friend.  But this one I could figure out:

(black paint) + (church carpet) + (a one-year old) = a bad situation

And, lo and behold, that's what happened while getting religion today.  I was chatting with a couple of people, including the Boy, in one of the halls (yeah, we probably should have been in Sunday School, but that's beside the point).  One of the moms I was talking to had her one-year old son and he was trolling around.  Someone had left out several cans of paint from the big production our church had done the week before and said cool little one year old knocked into one.  The black one.  The one that was pretty much full.  The one that didn't have the lid secured on.  You don't have to be a mental giant to know what happened next.  Something akin to this:
Not a Rohrshack test inkblot!
So the mom and I dove to the ground like we taking cover from incoming missles to start the clean-up.  I'm in my nicest suit (tailor in Hong Kong did a fine job with this suit) so off goes the coat and tie and we get to work.  This draws a crowd.  Lots of 'helpful' commentary.   And by 'helpful' commentary, I mean not so much, until someone hit on the idea of a shop vac!  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!  So the order was issued to bring the shop vac from home.  In the meantime, one brother who oversees the physical facility took over and before you knew it, most of the paint was gone.  He was a trooper!  And then another brother showed with the shop vac and the carpet was back to normal!  Kind of a big relief.

Glad we've got industrial strength carpet in the building.  It may be ugly but I'm telling you it'll withstand nuclear war.

20 November 2010

Same day turn to Toronto - a trip report

It dawned on me recently that there are only about six weeks left in the working year and one of those weeks is already blocked for my annual core leave at the end of the year.  I looked at my vacation calendar bank and saw that I still have five days to burn so I decided to burn a voucher I'd won and march off to Toronto for the day.  Why?  Why not?  Well, it let me fan the fire of my airline dork-dom by flying a new airline and fly into a new airport, plus eat a really good sandwich, so it was a win-win-win.  So here's what went down yesterday:

I was flying from Chicago's Midway Airport to Toronto's Billy Bishop City Center Airport on Porter Airlines.  As a loyal, "Rhapsody in Blue"-bleeding Global Services member/devotee of United Airlines, I've steadfastly avoided Midway - never flown out of there Midway, only landing there a couple of times on diversions.  So I headed out early since I was on a 640AM departure and I'm glad I did.  Parking was a snap, but the lines at Security were hideous.  At 510AM, the lines were snaking back towards the check-in area and they weren't moving.  Apparently a lot of people were anxious for this TSA grope-o-rama:
Honestly, TSA?  Is this really necessary?  I hope you at least bought this guy dinner.
After twenty minutes of not moving, some genius in airport management decided to open the "expert traveler" lane, in which I was standing, to the employee only line.  This was great, but we were berated for ten minutes by another crack TSA agent about how we better not slow down his employee line.  Way to go, TSA, way to go.

It was a quick march to my gate, conveniently near a Potbellys,  Nothing like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie at 6AM to soothe the jangled nerves after a run-in with the TSA.  My flight boarded at 620AM and it was quick as there were only eight, count 'em, eight of us on this flight.  A load factor of only 11% on this flight - cannot remember when I've seen that empty a flight.  Anyway, it was like every seat was a First Class seat.  Porter is all-coach but the seats are leather with ample leg room.  The plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, is a little rocket.  We were airborne fast and soon after take-off, a light snack was served (and it was FREE! - US airlines take note):
And even the OJ was served in a real glass
With such a light load, it was an easy service for the crew and it was a beautiful day for flying.  See the view from my seat, 3A:
In less than 90 minutes, we began our descent into Toronto's close-in Billy Bishop City Center Airport.  Landing was fast and clearing Canadian customs was a snap.  Then took the ferry, yes, the ferry, from the airport to the mainland.  Then grabbed Porter's free shuttle to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in central Toronto.  I set off to explore a little of central Toronto by foot.  After several stops, including the Bay to score a set of 2010 Winter Games gloves that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML had wanted, I made my way to the Sandwich Box for an amazing sandwich.  This place does hand-crafted, grilled sandwiches that don't disappoint.  I had a prosciutto, arugula, and provolone slathered in roasted cumin and garlic on a Swiss roll with a side salad that was incredible.  Made the whole trip.  Of course, I failed to take a picture.  Idiot!

After lunch, I strolled around a bit more and then made my way back to the Fairmont to catch the bus to the ferry and to the airport. 
View of the CN Tower from the ferry heading back to the airport
 Clearing Canadian security was grope-free and easy.  Then it was into Porter's lounges.  The gate areas are set up as lounges, including free wireless, snacks and drinks and it's a totally civilized way to go.  What a pleasant way to go!  Soon, it was time to get back on the plane.  Load factor was much better this time, closer to 80%.

I had two seats to myself for the flight back.  Good crew again.  During the demo, the flight attendant standing in the aisle next to my seat had to tell the two yutzes in the row behind me to basically shut up since they were being so loud.  Good for her.  Once again, rocket-like take-off into a beautiful sky.  It was a smooth flight with free snacks and two drink runs.  I read a bit from my Kindle (a very academic read on life in North Korea - close to 900 pages and it's taking me awhile to get through it) until we landed.  Quick 90 minute flight.

Cleared US Customs at Midway in a room not much bigger than a closet.  Chicago has to have the nicest Customs agents in the entire US system.  They are unfailingly pleasant.  Even at O'Hare during a crush of flights, they are cool.  I was in my car in about ten minutes and on my way home.  Because it was a Friday night at rush hour, I spent more time sitting on the Stevenson (non) Expressway than I did on the plane on the way back.  All in all, a good day!

15 November 2010

"I've fallen and I can't get up!"

"I've fallen and I can't get up!" Ah, how many of you remember the dulcet tones of that elderly lady, screeching away as she pushed on her Life Alert, seeking help.  C'mon, admit it now, you laughed at that commercial.  It was funny.  Here it is:

But most of us, as we watched it, never envisioned having to use one.  I'm not at that point, yet, but we did get a LifeAlert for my Mom last year after my Dad died.  It's been a source of reassurance for the family, especially us, living so far away.  We learned a valuable lesson last night about it.  It only works when you wear it.  Here's the brief version:

Mom was in her garage putting away some books (first mistake), which required her to get on a small stepladder (second mistake), and as she stepped off, she missed the last step (third mistake, albeit wholly unintentional) and down she went.  She tried to break her fall with her right arm and she did break her fall, although one could easily argue its success since she managed to break her arm, the humerus bone, about four inches below the shoulder.  As  you can imagine, the pain was pretty awful and she wasn't going anywhere.  And this is where the fourth mistake reared its ugly head - she wasn't wearing her LifeAlert.  It was in the house.  So Mom pounded on her garage door until a neighbor's son (still not sure if I have the detail correct) heard her and got the paramedic fiesta rolling.  So it was another ambulance ride for Mom.

Mercifully, it was a very clean break and the doctors are confident that she'll heal.  We are so lucky it wasn't a more serious break and even more lucky that it wasn't a hip.  The hip breaks and all bets are off.  So my brother and sister are on the situation like white on rice and in talking to Mom today, she seems OK.  She wouldn't talk to me for awhile, knowing I was more than a little displeased about her not wearing the LifeAlert.  I'll save my lecture for her until the meds have worn off.

Bottom line is that she's going to be fine.  We are very fortunate.  So word to the wise - if someone you know is using a LifeAlert or similar device, make sure they use the dang thing!  It's only good if you where it.

14 November 2010

Learning to drive

In our fine state, one is eligible for a permit at 15 years old.  But in a bit of a twist, you can't get your permit until you've completed all manner of tests and classes, so I have yet to find a kid who's gotten his/her permit the day they turned 15 (cue the audible sigh of relief).

The Boy turned 15 a couple of months ago and we are beginning in earnest to do this:
Good times...right?
So the Boy and I have been out on one driving experience so far and he did, I must say, a good job, a really good job.  Demonstrated some mad skills parking the car and also worked hard to show he was taking the responsibility seriously.  He's been taking mental notes, watching his mother, sisters, and me drive.  Mostly the examples set have been good ones.  Unlike this:
Never get tired of this...way to go, Britney!  What a good mom!
Shortly the Boy will start driving school and will be on his way to an official permit.  I'm sure my insurance company is elated.  I drive by their headquarters whenever I go to my office and they are doing a very extensive renovation on said building.  I think that CapEx is being funded by the anticipated increase in our premiums once we add the Boy.  Can't WAIT for that first premium bill!

12 November 2010

23rd Season of "The Simpsons" Ordered

As my work week draws to a close, I wanted to highlight one of the most important news stories of the week.  Obama's trip to Asia?  No.  Rep. John Boehner's impossible tan?  No, although one wonders how he's not dead from UV ray poisoning.  But I digress.  The big news?
23 years and they haven't aged a day

Fox has ordered up as 23rd, yes 23rd, season of only the Best.Television.Show.Ever.  I speak, of course, of "The Simpsons."  I could not be more pleased at this news.  While I've not been as devout a viewer this season thanks to CBS scheduling "The Amazing Race" at the same hour, I've been able to catch up thanks to online episodes and it's still just awesome.  Sure, after 22 seasons, a couple, but only a couple, of the scripts may have seemed a little tired, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a show that still so sharply satirizes American life.  It's brilliant.  This opener from earlier this season is proof-positive of the brilliant satire:

So to Matt Groening and team, I say "Well done!"  I'm eager for a 23rd season, and many more. 

07 November 2010

A Sunday Snapshot

From time to time, I've spoken of what goes on in the Den on a Sunday.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, our Sundays roll a little bit differently.  I thought a bit about this today as the Boy had a friend join our services for the first time today.  So how is it different?

A couple of things - Sundays are treated as a Sabbath day, a day of rest from the demands of everyday life, which means we typically don't shop, run around, work, etc., as we try to dedicate the day to the Savior (although I dedicate a goodly portion of it to the reading of the Sunday New York Times - so sue me).  Secondly, our Sunday services are three hours in length and are led by a lay clergy, meaning lots of folks get involved in Sunday worship.  I'm one of those who is involved and I'm involve at a leadership level, serving as Second Counselor in our ward (like a local parish) bishopric.  So my day is a little different.  Here's how it went today:

0600 - Bishopric meeting: opportunity for us to review the day's agenda, speakers, and to discuss needs within our ward
0700 - Ward Council: the leaders of our various groups (e.g. Sunday School, mission, primary, youth, etc) met to talk about 2011 plans as well as any upcoming activities and needs of ward members
0900 - Sacrament Meeting: this meeting opens our three hour block and is our most important meeting of the day.  Why?  The Sacrament is passed to all in this meeting.  Today was Testimony meeting, where any member of the ward was invited to come forward and bear witness of the Savior and the truths of His gospel.  Today was a good one - powerful spirit.
Sacrament Meeting - not ours, just a reasonable facsimilie
 1015 - Sunday School: I actually got to go today!  We are studying the Old Testament and had an interesting discussion from Jeremiah.
1110 - Priesthood Meeting - Men's worship service.  Met with some of the young men today.

1200 - The block's over and folks head home.  I stay back as one of my administrative responsibilities includes reconciling collected tithing (yep, we're tithe payers, too).  We wrapped up in about an hour today and it was time to head home.

Looking at my calendar, the rest of the day is free.  No other meetings.  It's a quiet Sunday.  So we're home now, hanging out and trying to make it a day of rest.  The Lord took a break after six days, per Genesis, so why not us?  It's been a good day.  I like Sundays like these.

05 November 2010

Politics in action - high school style

It's been a big week politically, hasn't it?  Not sure what went down in your state, but things were 'exciting' here in Illinois.  It only took until today to decide if we'd get a new governor - we did not.  But given our history, the incumbent will likely be imprisoned within 18 months.  Other states managed to not elect a few of the cast of crazies that were running - Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, I'm talking about you - while it looks like a few got in - ahem, Jerry Brown.  It's been a bruising few months of horrific campaign ads.  I'm all kinds of glad that it's over.

While all these shenanigans were unfolding, we had our own campaign raging here in the Den.  The Boy decided to run for Freshman Class Representative at his high school.  When he decided to run, we had to sign off on an agreement that made the Magna Carta look like light bathroom reading and we had to agree to all kinds of campaign rules, including a spend limit of $30.  I'd like to suggest that said limit be imposed on state and federal elections as well.

So, armed with a $30 limit, boundless creativity and a nuclear-powered personality, the Boy was off to run for class rep.  And ran he did.  His campaign slogan - 'Keeping it real everyday.'  His campaign premiums - duct-tape bracelets in his school colors and six t-shirts that his sister, CAL, helped design.  Said shirts were worn and by his friends throughout the campaign week.  I'm totally cool with not getting them back.  Have you hung around freshmen boys?  They either reek of Axe or just plain reek.  He gave three campaign speeches yesterday, all of which he described as totally off the cuff.

Well, it worked.  The Boy came home today, excited to report that he'd been elected!  And so begins his career in leadership, not politics.  He's a natural.  Very excited for him.  And pretty darn proud!