Saturday

Thank you to the well-wishers on our anniversary. 🙂

Hit the Northville REI store’s garage sale today. We were issued tickets at the front door — numbers 368, 369, and 370. They were on numbers 101-110. Much perusal of the other goods in the shop before our numbers were called. The Garage Sale items are returns, mostly, and are generally pretty picked-over. I mean, who wants a pair of used hiking boots? Ewwww.

I was searching for a GPS nav system for the car — they had a few from people who upgraded, but not one suitable for car use. We’ll hit the Troy store’s garage sale on Monday. It’s a bigger, better-stocked store, and we’ll go earlier.

After that, we drove across the parking lot to PF Chang’s for our Anniversary Lunch. With Kid. Yum. Love going there, can’t afford to do so (both financially and waistline-ly) except as a special occasion (or if I can expense it… the Northville location is close enough to my office to serve as a possible business lunch destination when entertaining customers).

Stopped off at the “new” (it’s been open a few months but we hadn’t been to this one yet) Trader Joe’s on the way home. It’s nice, big, clean, and had a bigger selection of stuff than the one closest to the house. Good to know. No Two-Buck Chuck on this trip, but lotsa salmon for me. And a cheesecake for tomorrow evening. And an interesting-looking dark lager.

Then back to the house, where I transferred various electronics (Val One, assorted chargers, and the Delphi SkyFi XM sat radio unit) from the Cobra back to the truck. The truck’s 4-year-old XM antenna has gone flaky, so I’m going to have to replace it. Sigh. This is a somewhat involved operation as I have to drop the headliner partially, which involves removing a bunch of other trim pieces on the interior, and I have to pull the radio out of the dash. I might take advantage of this and upgrade from the FM modulator to something called a “PIE” (brand name) adapter that plugs into the radio’s input port for a CD changer (which I don’t have or need) and has a couple RCA inputs which I can adapt to the input from the XM unit — or my iPod. The advantage over the FM modulator is mostly in sound quality, as the FM unit chops some of the lows and some of the highs — the modulator has a narrower frequency response band than the FM receiver itself does, actually — but also will allow me to switch to terrestrial radio when desired without having to power down the XM unit.

Anyway, I stuck my “travel” XM antenna up at the base of the windshield on the dash for now, having removed it from the Cobra, and all works for now.

Then Miss E and I took the truck (her driving) and the Cobra (me driving) over to the storage yard where I keep my trailer, pulled the trailer out from its spot (me), loaded and tied-down the Cobra (me), rolled up the windows and crawled out through the trunk via the fold-down rear seat (E — and next spring I need to borrow a smaller kid for the task of opening it up), then put the trailer back (literally — have to back it in) in its spot (me — nailed it in one pass, thankyouverymuch). I’d offered E a chance to drive the Cobra around first as it’s been a few months since she’s had stickshift practice, but she decided against it today.

Then home to a nice, quiet dinner and some trip planning for K and me. Aside from the funeral procession for President Ford, not much interesting on the telly tonight.

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Happy Anniversary

To us. 8 years today.

Got her a Coach purse. Which will most likely be exchanged. Not a problem.

Kid came for (most of) the weekend today. Had her Christmas from us and my family. She liked *her* Coach purse.

(See, there’s this outlet mall at Exit 154/157 — depending upon which direction you’re traveling — on I-69 just over the Indiana side of the MI/IN border. It has a Coach Factory Store — they used to call it an “Outlet” until someone determined “Factory Store” sounded more posh. I stopped in there on the way home from Tulsa on Wednesday to buy extra presents.)

Watched “Cars” on DVD tonight — that was one of my presents from Karen. Also watched the first 3 episodes of “The Muppet Show”, the Season One DVD set I got from my folks. Both watches were enjoyable.

I still owe the LJ a trip report. It’ll happen at some point. Maybe. 🙂

Home again

Got home today about 2:30 PM. Left Tulsa yesterday about 11 AM Central after installing a couple of dimmer switches for lights at the folks’ place, stopped overnight in Indianapolis (well, okay, Fishers, Indiana, just NE of Indy), finished the trip today. I couldn’t be bothered dragging the computer into the hotel last night, possessing just enough energy to haul myself and my suitcase in and run the in-room jacuzzi tub (free upgrade, thank you Hilton HHonors Gold VIP membership).

It was an… interesting holiday visit back to Tulsa. I’ll go into some detail another time. The actual travel was completely uneventful.

Here in Tulsa…

Posting from my mom’s ‘puter today.

Made it in to Tulsa yesterday. 185 miles in 2 hrs, 22 minutes, for an average speed of 78 and change mph. 😀

Got settled in here at my folk’s new place, then we went to Claud’s for my usual: double-meat cheeseburger with the onions fried in and fries. I’m a 3rd-generation Claud’s customer. Dad, Mom, and I went together this time.

Dad waited until after lunch to ask me to fix up his DVD-RW setup so he could actually record TV shows. Quick glance at his setup and a quick glance at the DVD-RW deck’s setup instructions revealed that I could fix the problem with the addition of one length of co-ax, so that’s what I did.

Went over to my aunt and uncle’s place to catch my cousins, who are otherwise busy on Christmas. Found out one of my other uncles had had a relatively mild heart attack Friday night and got a stent installed Saturday, which appears to have solved the problem there according to the before-and-after angiograms. I’ll probably pay him a visit at the hospital tomorrow.

Today: the Cobra got a bath (it had mucho road slime from the rainy start to the trip down here), and I got some favorite junk food I can’t get in Michigan: Taco Bueno. Yum. 🙂

Tonight is the annual extended family Christmas Eve gathering here at the ‘rents, and tomorrow is a movable feast, so to speak. Here, sister’s, brother’s, aunt & uncle’s, other aunt & uncle’s for dinner. The ‘rents are going to my stepmom’s family gathering outside of Oklahoma City, but I’m not. Love those folks, but not up for a Christmas dinner with the dessert table located in the smoking section (no kidding), nor do I really want to either a) spend about 4 hours total in a car with my dad driving, or b) drive another 4 hours or so myself (2 down, 2 back). So I’ll stay here in Tulsa instead.

To all: hope your holiday — whichever you’re celebrating — is happy, cheerful, and full of whatever you find wonderful. To me, that’s the main thing: find what makes you happy and have lots of it, be it family (blood or of choice), friends, food, Chinese take-out and a movie, or some combination of the above.

On the road again…

Posting from a hotel in Springfield, Missouri.

Lost an hour — AN HOUR! — going the last 5 miles of I-69 on the north side of the Indianapolis area. But made pretty decent time the rest of the trip. Punched out of the rain in Indy, no enforcement issues, drove an extra 20 miles and still saved at least 45 minutes in the St. Louis area, and was on the road not quite 13 hours in total today (including stops totaling a bit over an hour and the 5-mph-average hour in Indy). Total distance traveled: about 780 miles. Got another 180 or so to do tomorrow. Easy runnin’. Could’ve done it tonight, but the eyes were tired so I pitted.

Cell Phones and work

“about which more anon”

Then I got distracted.

ANYway…

The cell phone is paid by the company, which means I am theoretically available via said phone to handle business needs. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does…

Last year, we’re on our way to Tulsa for Christmas. I’m driving across I-70 in, IIRC, western central Illinois when the cell rings. It’s the plant manager of one of our plants, and there’s a customer with A Problem That We Must Fix Immediately. Problem is described, I make a quick analysis — all the while keeping on my westward path — and suggest a quick fix and a long-term fix based on the assumption that the problem is, in fact, as described.

I should point out at this stage that this was a potential issue that we had brought to the customer’s attention some 4 years earlier, again 2 years prior, and yet again about a year prior to this incident, and each time, the customer poo-poo’d our concerns, not wanting to spend money to fix it (dancing around the details, it involves a part sized for one version of the engine that would be rather oversize for another version of the engine, and we suggested making a version the right size for the other, lower-production volume version of the engine to avoid this possible issue).

Anyway, that conversation over, about a half-hour later, the phone rings again. My uber-boss (the director). Same situation, relay that I’d already talked to the plant manager and what I’d told him. No big deal, the boss wanted to make sure he had it straight from me for the conference call with the supplier, which he hoped to keep me out of.

Couple hours later, we’ve stopped for lunch and are now on I-44 in Missouri. Phone rings again, boss again, more details from conference call, we work out a plan of attack. Okay, good to go, have a good Christmas…

A few days later, we’re now almost home (I-94 in Michigan), phone rings, it’s my senior technician with test results that confirm what we’ve been saying all along, plus he wants me to talk to the customer people as the boss is now snowmobiling Up North and out of cell coverage (smart man…). Okay, say I, and he gives them my number.

Customer’s “Six Sigma” specialist calls me a short time later. I pull off and Karen takes over the driving…

A side note on “Six Sigma”. It’s ostensibly a problem-solving process. It’s been largely discredited in most industries, but several large automotive enterprises are a bit out of phase and still use it. What happens is they have these “experts” with silly martial-arts titles like “Six-Sigma Green Belt” or the coveted-by-people-who-don’t-know-better “Six-Sigma Black Belt” who are experts at this supposed-problem-solving-process but don’t actually know the products whose problems they’re trying to solve. They just parachute in and throw buzzwords around and browbeat people into submission, declare the problem solved, and then dash off to the next problem they know nothing about. Apparently, one can make a good deal of money off clueless management drones (none of which would last 30 seconds at my employer) as a Six Sigma Consultant, provided one doesn’t mind not being able to look oneself in the mirror every morning and has a large supply of paper towels to mop up the slime trail one leaves behind.

Anyway, the Black Belt has called me. It is clear — CLEAR — that my employer is being thrown under the bus yet again by this customer, as has happened on several other occasions where we are being blamed for something not of our making and not something we can fix. I give the Black Belt the history of this product, including all the times we suggested this needed to be optimized for the specific application, only to have the suggestions rejected out of hand by the customer. Furthermore, it’s also clear that they don’t actually know what’s causing the problem they’re having! They haven’t actually root-caused the problem yet, we’re just getting blamed automatically.

A couple hours later… we’re home, but I’m still on the phone with this guy and a couple others who have joined in — none of whom are the product engineers who know the product; they’re all trouble-shooters who apparently were the only ones who answered their phones… the product engineers are all incommunicado (smart guys…).

More conference calls scheduled for that night, and again the next morning, and the next 2 days after that. It eventually comes out that the problem thought to be due to our product was in fact due to something completely different: an insufficiently-strong mudflap would break in cold conditions when hit with snow/ice/slush, and subsequently whenever the driver turned right, the left front wheel would throw snow & ice into the engine’s air inlet, which would then get blocked, and something bad would then happen to parts of the engine, which looked like it could have been caused by our product, ’cause by the time it got to the shop, the snowball in the air inlet had melted… It also turned out that they’d never actually tested for snow packing on this vehicle, using “surrogate” data from a completely different vehicle with a completely different configuration instead. They reconfigured a few things to eliminate that problem, and lo! no more issues. Imagine that.

Hey, I got a couple of compensatory days off out of it, at least… all because my cell phone is available for work stuff. 🙂

Winding down for the year

As you may have noticed, I occasionally get busy in real life and don’t get a chance to post. This should not be cause for panic. Like a few folks I know online, I don’t necessarily announce to the world when I’m traveling (why invite trouble?), but will post about it after the fact. Like now:

Last weekend, K and I went to the Chicago area for a nice, long weekend (Wednesday-Sunday, plus we both took Monday off from work) together ’cause due to silly department rules at her workplace, she can’t get the time off right around Christmas, so I’m making this year’s run to Tulsa solo. This, believe it or not, is no skin off K’s nose, as Christmas really isn’t her holiday and really never has been, for reasons that I’m not even going to start discussing. Plus she doesn’t much care for my dad these days. He *has* got a bit of “hardening of the attitude” going on the past few years, now that he’s in his mid-60s, but the big issue is that his har-har-can’t-you-take-a-joke attitude grates on her. I’m used to it and don’t take him even remotely seriously (but yeah, it grates on me, too), but K’s only had very limited exposure to this and prior experience with folks who *were* serious.

Anyway, we drove in on Wednesday, staying in St. Charles, which is pretty much due-west of downtown Chicago about 30 miles, and is a charming little town on the Fox River. Dinner: the St. Charles outpost of Giaradella’s Chicago-style pizza (deep dish you can swim in). Thursday was downtown — Shedd Aquarium to see the baby beluga whale, dolphins, penguins, and sea otters (and a bunch of fish, and for me, the lizard special display and a effing-big anaconda in the Amazon display area), lunch at Rick Bayless’ Frotera restaurant, and a bit of shopping. Parking is stupid-expensive in downtown, and between the monster traffic (foot and vehicle), the cold, the wind, and the unpredicted sudden torrential downpour(!!), we decided to escape rather than fight our way back down to the Sears Tower, so I’ll have to do that on another visit. Dinner: fairly decent BBQ at the BBQ Shack in St. Charles, although the hushpuppies were never done right: burnt outside, still doughy-raw inside. Friday: SHOPPING. Woodfield Mall and surroundings in Schaumburg, including a freakishly-large IKEA store, plus side visits to my old neighborhood in Hoffman Estates and a house Karen’s dad once had in Arlington Heights. While K didn’t score everything on her list, we both landed nice dress shoes at Nordstrom Rack and K also found a nice dressy winter overcoat. Lunch was at Portillo’s Hot Dogs, Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Saturday: shopped St. Charles. I scored a Ralph Lauren wool/cashmere dress overcoat at SteinMart (we suspect the “defect” is that it was tagged as a 48L but wears like a 50L — the size I actually need! — ’cause we couldn’t find even a single pulled thread anywhere on it), K wandered around The Container Store, and then we wandered downtown St. Charles until it got too cold, then we drove up the road to Elgin, which is being gentrified — and has a “riverboat” casino that floats but doesn’t cruise (no surprise there!). We didn’t stop. Breakfast: Colonial Cafe. Lunch: Portillo’s in St. Charles. Dinner: completing the Chicago-style pizza competition, the St. Charles location of Gino’s East.

Pizza verdict: I like the Detroit version of Chicago-style deep-dish, as made by Pizza Papalis, better. Why? The Chicago sauces were drab and plain, all tomato, no spice (Gino’s East) or very little spice (Giardella’s). But here in Detroit, we get sauce with some kick. Best of both worlds: Chicago “you can swim in it” deep dish, but some actual flavor. Gino’s had better crust according to K, who thought Giardella’s was a little overdone bordering on burnt.

Drove on home on Sunday, uneventfully. Monday: laundry, dr’s appointments, retrieve Scooterbird from the vet where we board him, etc.

The good news is that things are relatively quiet at work right now, what with most people gone. The US auto industry pretty much shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s, and my employer is no exception: tomorrow (Thursday) is the last work day for the year. Due to how the holidays fall this year, Friday is “Christmas Eve (Observed)” on the company calendar, Monday is, of course, Christmas, Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday are “Floating Holidays”, and next Friday is “New Year’s Eve (Observed)”. Then we’re off New Year’s Day and back at it on Tuesday, January 2.

I did 17 weeks’ worth of expense reports this morning, dating back to the 2nd half of August(!!). Won’t get reimbursed until next year, but they’re done and waiting for approval from the boss when he gets back after the first of the year. Most of them are piddly mileage claims, but there’s also 3 months’ worth of cell phone bills (the company pays the bill, in exchange, I’m available for business via the phone, about which more anon) and a few business meals in there, along with my annual SAE dues.

Tomorrow will be a VERY light day at the office. Er, half-day. 🙂 Meeting with one of my supplier friends for lunch, then I’m done for the day. Back to the house, get the Cobra ready for my Christmas run to Tulsa and back. Got the new Valentine One ready to go, hook up the XM satellite radio receiver with its wireless FM modulator — which also serves the iPod — and I’m ready for the road. 950 or so miles each way. I’ll get a good, early start on Friday and make it most of the way, then finish up on Saturday. Weather should be okay once I get out of the rain in Michigan/northern Indiana on Friday.

Today, managed to get home early enough to wrap K’s Yule presents while she was still out helping the local DV (that’s “Domestic Violence”) shelter run its Christmas present give-away for residents/former residents. Apparently, being given something for nothing (when you have next to nothing) isn’t quite enough for some people… talking Elmos, bilingual Elmos, older ticklish Elmos were available, but a few were quite put out that nobody donated a couple dozen of the new, scarce, TMX Elmos. Yet another manifestation of what my brother-in-law calls the “breathless sense of entitlement”. The teens have this in spades, says the stepdad of a 17-year-old. What I try to get across: the world owes you NOTHING. It doesn’t owe you a job. It doesn’t owe you a car. It doesn’t owe you a living. It sure as hell doesn’t owe you happiness. YOU have to EARN it, and the best way to do that is education and hard work in whatever field you wish to pursue. Teens really don’t know any better in a lot of cases — they simply lack the experience of life giving you the golden bitch-slap. But it’s really pathetic, in my not-even-remotely-humble opinion, when someone who is in a DV shelter with good reason, and is being given plenty (food, shelter, legal aid, counseling, job-seeking help), no charge, gets bitchy about the choices of free gifts for their children provided by people who chose to give to others in need, people they don’t know and have never even met. Whatever happened to gratefulness? Thankfulness? “Hey, wow, my kid’s going to get to have a Christmas after all, thank you!” Nope: “Hey, why don’t you have any of them TMX Elmos? I can’t believe you don’t have none of them! I want one!” Well, we’ll just get right on that, cupcake, see if we can’t find a store somewhere with a bunch of ’em that have been sitting on the shelves, unsold and unloved, since the day after Thanksgiving. Riiiiiiight. (For those of you playing along at home, TMX Elmos have been sold out, subject to fistfights, sold via lottery, resold at high premiums on eBay, etc., as they’re the new “it” toy for the preschool set. There ARE no “surplus” TMX Elmos anywhere.)

This is one of those times when I feel the need to break out the LART, I’m afraid.

LART: Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool, commonly manifested as a large wooden mallet. Thought to have originated with Afterburner, Erols.com’s spammer-killing wizard, and propagated throughout USENET by the agents of S.P.U.T.U.(M.) – SubGenius Police Usenet Tactical Unit (Mobile).

So I may be somewhat scarce posting around here for a bit. I’m taking the craptop with me, and my folks have high-speed ‘net access, but time is a premium. It’ll depend on how sleepless I am. 🙂