Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Using the Noodle

After arriving home from work (I love these half days when I have the kids!) and riding the exercise bike Scott & Danielle wanted me to take them out to lunch. I pointed out I had taken them to the movies yesterday which I really could not afford but they please-please-d me into submission. I did tell them NOT to ask for any food out for the remainder of the week.

We ended going off to Noodles & Company, which none of us had ever been to before. Scott had the usual (no matter where we go that has pasta) Pasta with marinara sauce, Danielle had noodle with Parmesan cheese and butter and I had their INDONESIAN PEANUT SAUTÉ; which is rice noodles sautéed with fiery peanut sauce, broccoli, carrot and napa cabbage. Topped off with bean sprouts, crushed peanut and lime garnish, well, it was awesome! We hit Costco and headed home. They are downstairs playing, while I do work e-mail and blog. We are planning on a trip to the pool later.

Over the Hedge

After arriving home from work Monday around 11:30 I took Scott and Danielle off to see Over the Hedge. This turned out to be far better than I had anticipated. While I expected excellent animation, I did not expect a good plot and the diverse array of voice talent; even William Shatner, who I have soured with lately, was enjoyable.

After the movie we came home, played assorted games, and headed over to the pool for an hour so. One of Scott's friends, Ben met us there, and I verified at lunch today that was no coincidence, as Scott had IM'd him to say we were heading over there.

Chris was home from work when we returned home from the pool and as it was Monday's we did Quizno's as they have the special pricing for three large sandwiches on Mondays.

My son at Work

I had the chance to talk to his direct supervisor Monday evening and am very pleased to report my son Chris is doing awesome on the new (first) job. Working hard to the point of being told to stop and take a break in fact, and on physical work no less. I could not be more pound of him, and am pleased he is doing far better than his Mom and I would have thought! I underestimated him, and have no problem admitting I did so! This will be such a good experience for him. Last evening he ended up coming over here with several friends until after 11, the racket was louder than my surround sound, but I figured he deserved the unwinding time.

This is so cool in one respect, the coming of age and learning one of life's lessons, and sad in another as your realize your first born is now far along on the road to maturity, and leaving the house in a year or so. I never understood the pain and sadness my parents used to talk about in this regard after my brother, followed my myself, moved out of the family home years ago. It was one of the many times they said "It's something you will only understand if you grow up and have children of your own one day.". Well, once again Mom and Dad were correct!

Sunday - Or Fire! Fire!

One thing of mention for Sunday was the large fire I caused on the propane grill! I was making burgers for dinner and got distracted as Chris was playing the Game Cube on the large plasma display. I looked out to see volumes of smoke the likes of which I had never seen and raging flames and meat inside the grill! After waving off the helicopter with the hanging waterbag from the forestry service, a quick cessation of the gas supply helped though the grease in the grease pan of the grill burned for awhile and the burgers and charcoal had a lot in common. Whew!

Monday, June 26, 2006


Saturday was the Open House down where the X has her new business. It's like an indoor mall for home improvement. They have her business, a place that does painting, floors, roofs, bathroom fixtures, a building supply place, a handyman place, etc. etc. etc. so she had asked if I would bring the kids down to the open house.

As Chris is now working for him Mom, he was excused from this as he had already been at the Open House on Friday.

We headed out around noon and arrived. Impressive place indeed, as you walk into what appears to be expensive marble floors with a central fireplace and waterfall/pond in the center, you are immediately impressed. Even more so when you discover the floor is really acid etched concrete! It was amazing this one place they had there, the things they could do with concrete from table tops looking better than formica....to..as they put it, pretty much anything you could imagine.

We got the tour from the X, Scott and Danielle and I trying our keys in the door lock to see if we could win a prize (we did not), and then we got a bite of free lunch (pulled pork and snacks; Scott opted for the snacks, he hates pulled pork) and we settled in the X's office and chatted and such.

On Mom's laptop Scott drew one of his cartoons for his Mom and Danielle did a nice landscape. Mom had to keep speaking to the kids as they have one of those big retractable electric awnings in the office and they kept playing with the remote control. Danielle you trying to use the phone and Mom said "You can't dial outside without the SECRET code". "You mean 9?" I replied by reflex, which won me 'the look". I smiled and shrugged, and finally Danielle was told to leave the phone alone. I chatted with the X's partner Jeff for a bit about Chris and how he was doing at the job, we discussed how kids today have it much easier than we did, etc.....I am glad Chris got a job there because I think it will be good for him physcaily and mentally. He'll appreciate what hard work means and come to value a dollar, and develop a good work ethic. It should also encourage him to do better in school so he gets a scholarship!

The X walked me over to the handyman company to see about having someone come out and give me an estimate to install a ceiling fan in the cathedral ceiling of the living room. That is scheduled for 4PM today. They were also having an excellent sale on a ceiling fan with light at the fan/lighting store there, so, if the cost is reasonable for doing the electrical work I can pick up a fan there for $70 with a light and a lifetime warranty on the motor.

We left after about 2 hours (the kids were bored). Scott was hungry so we stopped at Little Ceasers for bread sticks (I gave the bulk of them to the kids) and then we stopped for dessert at a McDonald's that was featuring chocolate dipped cones. Scott wheedled me into getting french fries too and we all headed home.

We did the pool later in the day.

Chris starts work

My son Chris joined the land of the gainfully employed working for his Mom's home improvement company. it's heavy physical work, and after his first day he agreed that getting up and going to work sucks.

I am, very proud of him. He could have taken an easier minimum wage job but chose this instead.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I decided Thursday night, the last overnight of the week with the kids, to show them WarGames. I have always loved that movie! When I was the age of the David Lightman, the principal character in the movie, I was very computer literate. I too used to try and get into computer systems, though any system I could break into I immediately e-mailed the system admin how I got in and how to fix it, and then logged off. I never took anything, or looked at any file contents. Like David in the movie I had the old dumb terminal with the acoustic modem you had to put the phone hand set into. I too had a home-brew computer system build into a card cage with no case around it. I stopped all such activity well before I turned 18, but I had a lot of fun, and I like to think that I helped some system administrators save their systems (and possibly their jobs!) from attack.

Anyway, it I have always felt it is an awesome movie, and while Scott did not particularly like it, Chris, who complained at the beginning that it was boring, was soon sucked into the movie and really enjoyed it. Danielle seemed to enjoy it as well. Have you seen the Movie? If you check out the link above, check out the trivia section, which contains some interesting facts.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The House Screams with Silence

I had a great week with the kids, I will see them for half the day a bit later, yet, I am already bummed because they go back to their Mom's house around 6PM. The house will scream with silence after they are gone, I can barely stand the thought of it. This is one of those things that so totally sucks beyond the telling of it! I get mad at myself for not being a better husband and realizing the X was unhappy. I get mad at her for not making an effort to salvage the marriage....I feel so bad for the kids, particularly my little girl...I feel like I have failed them.......oh this stinks...

The Altimate Idiot!

I have done tirades about poor drivers, but this mornings blonde in the silver Altima tops them all. YOU know who you are! Zooming along at 80+ miles an hour, head moving up and down and far to the right as she's brushing her hair! I could not believe it! THEN five minutes later after exiting the highway, she pulls up to a red light and totally turns the rear view mirror so it is pointing at her and continues her grooming experience, totally oblivious to those around her (and now because of the way the mirror is oriented, behind her!). Hello!!!!! Next time leave the house five minutes later and make yourself all pretty at home! So, she is dubbed, the ALTIMATE IDIOT!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wednesday is Bacon Day!

It's been a great week thus far outside of work. It's my first week with the kids of the summer. I have been working half days, coming in at 6:30AM and scheduled to leave at 10:30 though this week I have not been getting out of work until 11:30AM. Yesterday, in spite of the three hours of e-mail and other work fun from home, was a really nice day. We had incredible weather, sunny and in the 80's.

Scott wanted to go to Gamestop to get a new MegaMan game, so off we went after I was done on the exercise bike with Scott sitting there waiting for me to complete. he is also looking to return/exchange his ds-lite because it has a dead pixel, but, they did not have any new units in. He did get his game though! I had not eaten so we stopped at Wendy's on the way back where, I offered Scott and Danielle a treat since they had eaten PB & J sandwiches. Danielle opted for a Frosty, for his 'treat' Scott had 10 chicken Nuggets. We stopped at Forest Hills on the way home for some needed items.

We headed over to the pool a bit after five and had our longest visit yet, over an hour, and while it was warm and the water great, there were maybe 10 people at the pool. We played tag with some squooshy balls, using three, you had to hit your target with all three. Then Scott and Danielle took turns going off the diving board while I three a ball for them to catch or kick.

Sunday's episode of Iron Chef America had been Battle: bacon, so, for dinner I got a pound of bacon and I wrapped some ball park franks with two strips each of turkey bacon, and on the ones Chris and I were going to have I lightly brushed with the roadhouse spicy sauce before putting them on the grill. Scott opted for waffles as he is not a bacon fan. Danielle, CHris, and I loved the bacon wrapped dogs, they were excellent!We all watched a couple of episodes of The Simpson's together and then the rest of the evening was spent working, playing, watching TV with assorted kids.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Scott's Picture

Wow! Here's a picture my son Scott, age 14, drew this week. He is SO talented with free-hand drawing and flash on the computer! Who can name all the characters? Click on the picture for a larger version of it.

My Friend Suresh

I had a surprising phone call earlier in the week from an old friend back east. I have not talked with him in ages. We chatted about my nightmare job and lackluster life, how his job was doing (he had just passed his CISSP exam. CISSP, or the certified information systems security professional, is one of the toughest IT examinations to pass. Having that certification is most impressive!) We talked about the past, how his lovely wife Indu and their baby girl was doing, and more. I was very happy for him, and yet I must admit, a bit envious too. I imparted my usual post-divorce advice to communicate with his wife and never keep bad feelings to yourself about the relationship instead of sharing them with each other. After all, what good is discussing your problems with a multitude of other people while excluding your spouse and family?

I first met Suresh years ago (around 20+ or so years ago!) when we were both working at the same company back in New Jersey. I was working for the Engineering Computer Facility and he for Management Information Systems. He had a small one room dwelling nearby. We became fast friends. Suresh either loved or was tolerant of my warped sense of humor, indeed, being Indian, my fake Indian accent did not bother him, or, if it did, he left me live and I thank him for that! We both loved Science Fiction and Technology. He turned me on to James Axler's Deathalnd series of books which I still buy and read this day. In fact, I can't pick one up without thinking of him.

The years passed, I remember the weekend I helped him move out of that apartment to go live back in New York. The Engineering Computer Facility, and Management Information Systems merged into one IT department that I ended up managing. Down the road came a very sad day as Suresh left and took a job in New York.

He still worked for me part time, and along with him and my former brother in law (who I still consider a friend and part of my family and hope he feels the same) they became the 'dogs' of the IT department. "Bad Dog!" I would chide if one was late. This usually resulted in a torrent of barking and often when they were around the corner working I could hear periodic boughts of barking and laughter

Suresh would often bring in Indian food his mother had made on the weekends we worked and we would have that for lunch. I think sometimes he did it simply because he knew how much I enjoyed it.

Time continued to march on.....I got married....he got married... we had kids and the kids grew older slowly. Before their first child arrived we met in Florida one year for vacation, one of the best vacations ever! We were so close with them over the years that the kids grew up calling them Uncle Suresh and Aunt Indu, and a better Aunt and Uncle the kids could not have asked for, blood relations or not! And Indu, Danielle still asks when she will see Aunt Indu again...so you know she loves you!

Suresh used to bring me spices from New York, and I remember making batches of spicy popcorn and Christopher would always be saying "Don't forgot the spicy chili powder Uncle Suresh sent!" He would also bring me a spicy snack called chukli, which is crunchy and looks like it was extruded from a play dough set. I love it though the play dough probably has more nutritional value!

Time continued to march on, my company decided to close down the New Jersey Locations, and we moved to Michigan. Suresh came for a quick visit in MI as his business had taken him to Detroit I believe. Suresh and Indu had their first child. Work became hectic, I saddened with the continued pressures and uncertainty, the soon to be X wife became disenchanted with me. The divorce and associated turmoil, particularly for myself and the three kids who were stunned by the X's wanting it....and still life marches on. I got the occasional e-mail from Suresh and Indu; after all they were busy starting their family, I was far away, and his job, like mine had turned so hectic and full of pressure. Sometimes months would go by without a direct mail between us.

Anyway, as I sat talking with him this week, these thoughts and many others flew through my head, and I realized once again how much affection I had for him and his wife, and how glad I was to hear from him and have friends like him. I truly value their friendship; have so few friends in the real world...it is good to be reminded to cherish them. Thanks Pal, for taking the time to give me a call. It made my day! Actually, it made my year! Give the girls a hug from me, and keep in touch when you can. I really miss you guys.
Take care!

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Weekend

Not much to say about the weekend though this post is quite lengthy; Saturday I spent 6 hours on-site at work (in addition to the extra time from home). Saturday night Danielle and Scott slept over, though Danielle was very sad (both because of the missing daddy issues when she is at her Mom's and that Scott had been teasing her. Scott was upset because his Mom talked to him about that; did not even give her a hug when she dropped him off. In spite of that, we had a nice evening. The tree of us watched the weeks episode of the Avatar, and D and I watched assorted other TV for the remainder of the evening including House. I took them to McDonald's Sunday morning and then did a few more hours of work, culminating in much fun cleaning of the gutters. I have one of those (heavy) metal sectional ladders that you can bend in a variety of shapes. I needed a straight up and down ladder, so, after bending it and thwoking myself in the head while folding the sections I finally got it up by the gutters. As I started to climb and hit the halfway point, image my horror and the ladder bent mid-way and I went plummeting towards the house! Other than extra pain in my back I survived the fall, and curse myself for NOT double-checking the latches were in place for that configuration. I rectified that, and began the fun process of by hand removing several inches of goo from the gutters and the top of the downspouts. This fun filled process completed (and another crack on the head with the latter) I headed inside.

Chris showed up around 1PM with his brother as his Mom was having an open house at her house (she put the house on sale last week). He stayed until about 2PM when he had a graduation open house to visit. Danielle and her friend Abby were in town for the Grand Rapids Festival of the arts. Around 4 I rode the exercise bike and then cleaned up. At 5:15 the X, her brother, and Danielle and Abby arrived to pickup Scott and I. We headed to Fire Mountain which is one of the better all you can eat buffets I have been to, and had an enjoyable dinner. Scott was cracking everyone up at the end of dinner by making gumdrop eyes for his hand and making a puppet out of It, soon to be imitated by the girls. Deb's brother commented that his brownie was a bit dry at dessert time; i replied back with, "Well, you mix a bit of coca powder, sawdust, and gorilla glue to hold it all together, that's what you get! In fact, no animals were hurt in the preparation of any of the 'meats' at dinner, and no real mike products were used in the 'ice cream' section of the dessert bar!" He left, and I took the opportunity to stick a steak knife in his brownie. When he returned and looked at it, I announced "He who shall remove the sword form the brownie will be king!"

We headed back, I was dropped off and did some work from home and watched some movies off the DVR, and THOUGHT I was going to bed around midnight when dinner hit with a vengeance and I was up[ until 4AM. I decided at work Monday morning that 2 hours sleep is just not enough!

Friday Night barbecue

Friday the X was coming for dinner. It's always a pleasure to have her, plus I got to keep kids longer. I made three types of grilled chicken, some plain for Scott, some with Jack Danielle's Smokey Honey sauce, and some spicy with Roadhouse Hot and Spicy sauce. I also served baked beans, corn on the cob, pasta salad, and loaded potato salad which tastes a lot like a baked potato. All agreed it was a great dinner. I was stunned by Christopher thanking me and telling me he liked it. It is so rare that the kids will all eat the same food, but, ever rarer when they complement me on the cooking, so, I was quite gratified by the comments all had.
The X, Danielle and I watched an episode of Two and a Half Men off the DVR and then for dessert we had Ice Cream along with the Bananna Bread Danielle had the X had made for Danielle to take to class.

Cool, yet HOT under the collar

Well, as I mentioned on my Memorial Day post the AC had given up the ghost. By Wednesday of last week I had it repaired. I have the maintenance contract with the gas company (all of you remember how many posts I did on the house heating problems this past cold season) but, the odds finally caught up on me. While all the cold weather repairs were covered, the AC was not. The compressor seized up, and of course the compressor is NOT covered. SO to make a long story short I used Service Magic to get bids from contractors in the area and by Wednesday I had working AC and they replaced the whole external unit that contains the compressor and cooling coils and fan. This cost me a bit over $1K, of course money I did not have and had to charge it. Sigh!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

Read below for my belated tale of Memorial Day weekend, including the tale of terror regarding my experience with yet another service drone!

After leaving work around 11AM on Friday I picked up Danielle and she and I went Grill Shopping. The X had retained custody of our expensive stainless steel grill and after an entire summer last year of no grilled food, I decided to pickup a grill and say Damn to the unscheduled budget interruption! (Of course, it should be noted that this expense of about $220 which I paid cash for, comes back to haunt me later!)

In search of a propane grill we went to Costco, Target, Meijer's, Home Depot, and finished up with Lowes.

Costco had only monster expensive stainless steel units (if it were not for those gasoline savings the membership there would be practically worthless, except for gasoline and impulse buys that is). For example when I bought my digital camera last year they were $50 more for the base camera than what I found at newegg.com AND I got a 1GB memory card too!

Target had only ultra costly or ultra cheap, and not a good selection of either.

Meijer's had a decent selection, but, nothing jumped out as a great deal or a unit I liked.

Home Depot was a bit better, and I actually found a grill I liked, but, try and get someone to help you! Ever walk into Home Depot and you are greeted by a number of people? Then actually try to find one when you want something.

Lowes not only had a great selection, but, had about 8 models in quantity pre-assembled (for no extra charge!)! So, we decided on a model and headed home.

Danielle and I headed down to Grandma's house Saturday morning to fix her PC which would no longer get on the internet via Netzero (who wanted to charge her 2 bucks a minute for tech support!) Geez!! Now I see why Netscape is running those commercials where they are bucking against Netzero and mentioning they do not charge you for tech support. Plus, when I talked to the supervisor at Netzero the accent on this guy was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I hate that! If you are taking calls on a US support number, is it too much to ask that the person picking up can speak English in an understandable manner? I say it is NOT an unreasonable expectation!

Anyway, we had called because according to the error, Less than Zero....uh....I mean Netzero was giving, it was a problem with their network. Since I had exited McAfee's security suite I did not think it was something local until Mom mentioned hitting a block all on a popup......SO some investigation showed that exiting McAfee which warns you that your PC will be unprotected is an exaggeration; since the McAfee personal firewall uses the XP firewall, it does NOT unblock that! It turned out Mom had blocked what I surmise to be the built in commercial portion of Netzero and it refuses to run without that talking to the Internet. I explained to Mom how if she has an update running for Netzero or a program she is using that it is OK to allow the changed program access to the Internet. If she is doing nothing and that happens, deny it. That fixed, and with Danielle and I each picking a trinket from Mom's Yard Sale, we headed home.

I contacted the X whose van I wanted to borrow and Danielle and I headed to Lowes in the Mustang with the X meeting us there to pickup the grill. I got confirmation from the X (she has incredible purchase sense!) that the $40 more grill was a much better deal that the one I had been considering. This was of course after teasing her by asking of the $2000 unit would fit in her van! She concurred, she snagged a salesman (I already had a cart with an empty propane tank and grill utensils) and I paid. I then took my receipt as the service folks had told me to the home and garden section to swap the empty tank for a full one which was an additional free bonus.

Of course when I arrived there which was a considerable distance from where I started, the register drone there knew nothing about this deal

"Look! I have a receipt that shows the tank exchange there! That alone should be enough for you to do the swap" I stated.

Alas, the bit of drool leaking from the corner of the drones mouth and her glazed eyes should have warned me what was coming next

"But....you....have....one...of....our....new...propane.....tanks........" she droned in monotone "this....is....for....a....tank....exchange".

"Yes!" I cried, "And here is the empty tank!"

The flow of drool noticeably increased at this point and, while I did not think it was possible for those eyes to glaze over any more...they did!

"But....this.....is....one...of....our....new ....propane......tanks......." she started.

"I know!" I cried cutting her off mid-drone! "I bought it here! I have a receipt! See!??"

(Of course, shoving the receipt near her face only caused it to become moistened with drool!)

"I.....do.....not....know......how.....to....process....this... you...must.....do.....this.....through......customer....service" she said, nearly slipping in the puddle of drool that had accumulated from her expending so much effort in an attempt to speak in complete sentences.

"They told me to come HERE!" I almost sobbed.

At this point though I was saved.....A Drone Supervisor arrived, and with a quick application of a napkin to wipe some of the drool off the drone, and an encouraging pat on the drones head stated "Sure you do! Just process this as a regular propane exchange. Take he tank and give him a full one"

She did, and I was soon back on my way to where, after all this time, they still had not loaded my grill. I told the X I would speak to someone, so a quick trip to Drone Command (Uh, customer service) caused the dispatching of enough drones to take care fo thsi.

Once we arrived back art my residence, The X's partner Jeff helped me move the grill. Jeff and the X then departed.

The temperature was climbing (high 80's Saturday, mid 90's Sunday and Monday) so around 5PM Danielle, Scott, and myself headed to the association pool and enjoyed a cooling off. We returned home to change and then we headed to Forest Hills food where I picked up meat for burgers and chicken for Scott. I made nice jumbo cheeseburgers for all except Scott who had grilled chicken brushed with olive oil.

I also turned on the AC because at this point it was just too hot to deal with. That got us through the night.

Sunday and Monday were just more of the same, though Sunday Danielle, Scott, and I headed to Costco so I could by bulk burgers and hot dogs (actually reasonably priced for ground sirloin and Ball Park franks...hmmm perhaps I can get some extra millage out of that membership! We also got a package of Brownie bites which the kids love.

We watched TV too, finishing off accumlated episodes of Lost, Dr. Who, Braniacs, and others. I ened up by the end of Monday night having wacthed the reamining four episodes oof Charmed which included the Season FInale.

We hit the pool, and the X showed up as I was grilling so we threw a hot dog on the grill for her. It became evident at this point in time that the central air had breathed it last gasp so I turned it off. Sleeping (trying to sleep) Sunday and Monday night was next to impossible, even with a fan blowing on my bed.

Monday was more of the same with pooling and grilling........and back to work and school Tuesday.