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Effects.

The effects on iChat are fun! Let’s see your AOL do that!

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By the way, that’s a webcam conversation I’m having with greg in Connecticut.

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Fear.

I’ve decided that it is at age 40 that one becomes afflicted with the “get those damn kids off my lawn!” syndrome. I find myself thinking angry thoughts about the state of the country today and it has mostly to do with change. I’m not really feeling the vibe of society in general today, moreso than usual, and quite frankly some things are leaving me feeling baffled.

For example, I have mentioned countless times that Earl and I live in Upstate New York. We live downwind of a lake. It’s a really big lake, so big it’s called a “Great Lake”. It’s one of five with such a designation. It’s called Lake Ontario.

Mother Nature, always looking for mischief, decides to bring cold, Arctic air over our friends in Toronto and then shoot it across the lake. This in turn brings moisture from this great lake up into the air and then when the cold air hit land, the water falls in the form of snow. Lots of snow.

It has been this way for hundreds, if not thousands of years, ever since Someone decided that the lake would be great. I have been witness to such an event for 40 winters now. This year it seems like it’s an entirely new phenomenon for some bizarre reason and quite frankly this new attitude is baffling me.

Back in my day (did I really just say that?) it was a rare event for school to close. I grew up in the Lake Ontario Snow Belt, a region known to get the most snow east of the Mississippi (crooked letter, crooked letter). Just like the school districts of today, we were alloted five snow days to last the entire winter. If we used any more than five, they either added more days to the end of the school year or they took some vacation days away from spring break. I can count maybe one or two years where we used more than five snow days during a given winter. During those two years we ended losing a superintendent’s day to make up the difference. I remember getting out of school early on several occasions; those days didn’t count against our snow days. We would always pay close attention to the smells wafting from the cafeteria area. If we couldn’t smell lunch, we were getting out early.

I remember only two occasions where we were snowed into school and didn’t get out until later than usual in the afternoon. That was during the winter of ’77. We had an extra snack of peanut butter and jelly in the cafeteria. I was excited because I saw what the clocks looked like beyond 3:30.

This week is Regents week in the New York State school system. The Regents Exam are a set of standardised test that are required for high school graduation. The same test is administered at the same time across the state. The Regents are a really big deal. Because of the standardisation of the exam, if the test is not given at the right time, it’s not given at all. There are no make ups, if you miss it you wait until the next round. In this case, it’s June.

Many school districts canceled classes today, including Regents exams. The roads were dusted with snow this morning. I took my time and had no problem getting to work. As of this writing, we have received less than a foot of snow. Much of the snow came late this afternoon and this evening. The roads are a bit slick, but if you leave out the crazy hysteria that now grips society whenever the skies are less than sunny and 70 and pay attention to what you’re doing, one is able to get about the area just like we did 20 or 30 years ago when we had technologically inferior cars with rear wheel drive and much more snow on the ground.

I am trying to decide if it’s the constant screams of “Winter Storm Warnings” from the National Weather Service whenever more than six or eight inches of snow is predicted or if it’s the “we are in for a big one, news at 11!” dire warnings from the less than adequate television stations that is scaring the hell out of society. Maybe it’s the litigious nature of society today and every school district is terrified of being sued by a greedy set of parents. Or could it be that union’s are putting undue pressure on administration to make their jobs as easy as possible?

Whatever the reason for the hysteria we now face whenever there are more than 40 snow flakes in the air at once, quite frankly I am sick and tired of it. I will trudge on with confidence in my driving abilities and live life as it was meant to be lived downwind from a great lake. I’ll be annoyed and angry but I’ll deal.

And I’ll spin a tale from the good old days for those that’ll listen.

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Stubborn.

“I’m not doing that”, the irate voice said on the phone.

“I’m not doing that either”, she continued.

“Nope.”

It’s always a joy trying to walk a customer through a problem that they are having with their e-mail. Especially when said customer is using an old residential dial-up account to send out mass quantities of e-mail to distribution lists holding hundreds of e-mail addresses.

Here’s the thing. When your computer is screwed up and you call the Technical Assistance Center and then get herded up to “Level II”, I am your god. I know what I am doing and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that your life on the electronic fast lane is a pleasant one. I’ll even help you troubleshoot Outlook Express or Outlook, which isn’t even really my responsibility, but I’m a nice guy.

Most of the time.

Once in a great while we’ll have a customer call in ranting and raving and carrying on like someone set their ugly sweater on fire and then they’ll refuse to do anything that you ask them to do so that you can try to figure out what the hell is wrong with their computer.

“I need you to change…”, I start.

“Nope.”

When did it become socially acceptable to be an utter jackass on the phone? The woman that I was speaking with insisted she knew what the problem was. But she didn’t. She was way off base. She didn’t believe me when I told her that she had typos in her distribution list. She didn’t believe me when I told her Outlook was misconfigured. But she knew what the problem was. So I barked at her.

“Well then YOU fix it!”

Um, that’s probably not the right route to take. I put her on hold and did laps around the cubicles for three minutes. I was hoping she hung up. No, she’s too clever for that. So she listened to an endless loop of really bad marketing messages. I gave her another 60 seconds of advertising bliss before I took her off hold.

“I’ll escalate the trouble to another group and someone will be in touch with you.”

There is no other group. We’re it.

Welcome to the place you never want to go to when you’re in search of technical support.

She has been placed in “The Queue”.

Maybe I’ll call her back someday.

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Communication.

It is my first bachelor night of 2009, Earl is in New Jersey for business meetings. For some reason the meetings scheduled for today and tomorrow are near Newark, but he is spending the night in Atlantic City.

Maybe he’ll win big.

Per tradition I had a healthy supper of popcorn, German potato salad and Peppermint Joe Joe cookies. The flavours competed with one another but mingled well once in my stomach. A bizarre combination, I know.

It seems that I have been on the phone a lot tonight: Earl has called a couple of times, I checked in with my mother and my father, I have chatted online with loved ones in various places. My iPhone has rang a few times. The only one I didn’t speak with was my sister and that’s because she lives in Helsinki, there is that whole time zone thing that throws the plan off a bit.

I like saying the word Helsinki. It doesn’t sound quite as amusing or pleasing to me as Mishawaka, Indiana, but it’s in the same ballpark. Just on a different continent.

The schedule dictates that I should have fallen asleep 45 minutes ago. My body screams that it’s time to get up and be adventurous, well, as adventurous as you can be in Upstate New York when it’s five degree fahrenheit outside.

I’m ready for spring.

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Packed.

So last night it was Bear Night in Albany. Earl was unable to go so I teamed up with our friend greg and made the trek on a very cold wintry night. We met up with the iBears (Sean and Jeffrey, Dan and Roger) and a dolphin (The Spirit of St. Lewis!) at Red Robin for dinner. The dinner was great; it was good to see the guys again (it has been much too long) and meet Lewis. We then trekked over to Rocks. I thought it was kind of early since it was around 9:00 when we left Red Robin but I figured we stake out a spot with the guys, get started on the cosmos and observe the bears that were making their way through the door.

We arrived at 9:20 p.m. and the place was mobbed!

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Since it early in the night and most bears don’t venture out until after 10 p.m., more and more guys (and two women at the bar) just kept packing in tighter and tighter. It got to the point where you could barely move in the place. Greg was stationed directly behind me; I could see the iBears and Lewis smooshed up against the wall between the two bathroom doors.

The iBears and Lewis made an understandably hasty exit and left to go across the street; Greg and I decided to brave it out for a while longer. It was then that I realised that we had ended up near the front of the place without any conscious effort, we were just sort of herded along. Greg went to grab the coats from the coat check. Apparently someone in that department was having some sort of hissy fit because he would not retrieve a jacket for anyone until he had to get five. “I’m not walking downstairs for one jacket!” So Greg stood there waiting until four others decided to get their jacket, and then the jackets could be retrieved. When the one with the hissy fit returned, he threw the five jackets at the nearest bears and let them figure out who’s jacket belonged to whom.

Leather theme. Bears. Five black leather jackets. Not funny.

All in all we decided that we had a good time and enjoyed our adventure in the cold, dark night but I thought it would have been better if bear night had stayed at the Phoenix.

Perhaps it’ll be better in the summer when people actually want to use the patios under the stars.

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Efficiency.

In today’s world it’s all about the green, green, green. Whether you’re talking about money or the environment, it’s all green, though today we are talking about the environment.

I am in the process of setting up a business trip to Oklahoma City. The cheapest fare thus far is $414. The trip out there, for $414 is as follows:

Syracuse -> Chicago -> Los Angeles -> Dallas/Ft. Worth -> Oklahoma City

The total flight time would be 17 1/2 hours.

A whirlwind tour of the clouds above the United States all for $414!

Actually, there is a side of me that is really intrigued by that flight and would actually enjoy the experience. However, because this is a business trip time is of the essence.

After reading about this route I was too tired to see how they were going to get me home, but I suspect it had something to do with Anchorage, Boston and Miami.

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Light.

When I went to The White House Website shortly after the Inauguration of President Obama, I wept with tears of joy…

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… and then I stood and sang our National Anthem (with the folks on the television) for the first time in about five years.

Hope.

In case you haven’t heard, today there’s a little ceremony going on in Washington, D.C. We call it an inauguration. Our new president is being sworn in. His name is Barack Obama.

For me, today ends eight years of a constant stream of “WTFs” when it comes to the leadership of the United States. In eight years I have been turned from a person that didn’t really pay much attention to politics to one that couldn’t help but notice what was going on and was subsequently infuriated repeatedly by “the Man”. It was during the last eight years that I stopped singing the National Anthem as a protest to where our country was headed. It was during these past eight years that I first considered becoming a citizen of another country.

I have hope that change begins today.

Do I think that our new President is the Messiah? I think he has a lot of great ideas, brings a positive light to a very negative place and will steer our country back where she used to be before (and I’ll say this part for the last time) “Bush Lite and his cast of idiots” got a hold of the reigns. Do I think we’ll do a 360 in a week? Of course not. President Obama has a huge task before him.

And I believe he’s up to the challenge.

I think one of the most beautiful things about today is that there really is a sense of hope among Americans. With some that hope is just a glimmer, with others it burns like a supernova. For me, well, I’d put my intensity somewhere around a bright light like they use to keep the fries warm at McDonalds. No matter how bright the light shines, the darkness of dread has been chased away by the light of hope.

And that can only be a good thing.

Balance.

So I’m home this afternoon, burning a little comp time from the last round of on call when I find myself in a little bit of a funk. Recovering from a spectacular weekend has it’s disadvantages, one being that it’s not good to leave half of your luggage at the house of your friend in Connecticut.

But I digress.

Some snow fell during the weekend and the driveway was in serious need of cleaning out. That in itself is to be expected in these parts; we are known for our substantial snowfall this time of year and it’s not uncommon to have to clean out the driveway four or five (or even ten!) times per week. So I got the snowblower out and did the deed of walking back and forth.

Still in a little bit of a funk because my weekend is now officially over and half of my luggage is still in Connecticut, I decided to get silly and do something I had never done before to lift my spirits.

I put on shoes with very little tread left, saddled up the snowblower and cranked it up to high gear. This in turn dragged me along like I was being pulled by a team of sled dogs at a very rapid rate. Having a rather long driveway that has a coating of ice under the latest snow fall makes the mechanical dog-sled ride that much more fun. The neighbor (the one who hasn’t changed his address to his new home in five years) was shoveling and did a double take to see what the hell I was up to; I took the opportunity to wave back at him like I was being pulled across a lake by a speed boat and waving at the competition judges. I wasn’t wearing a bathing cap.

All in all the mechanical dog sled ride on the shoes with no treads improved my mood greatly. I feel I can face the week now.

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Carrols!

My mother just returned from visiting my sister, brother-in-law and nephew in Helsinki, Finland. The first thing she had to tell me was that in Helsinki they have Carrols.

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While kids today eat McDonalds food with their Happy Meal et al as a treat, back in my day we went to Carrols, a New York State based fast food chain that converted all of their locations to Burger King in the late 1970s. I vividly remember Carrols, with their orange and white light globes over the counter and the generous use of the orange and white colour scheme.

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I’m very glad to see that Carrols is still alive and well. Now we have yet another reason to go to Helsinki.

Here’s some information in case you want to geek out with me. Here is a personal lost blog entry from 2001.