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Friday, February 25, 2011

Please wait...

I am away on business and shall return on Sunday. I know I have a post coming up as a result of being tagged by Uncle Skip. I have not blown it off, and will take care of it early next week.

Please stand by! :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chalk Boards, Mop Buckets, and Lessons Learned


I'd mentioned briefly in my last post that there are things I've done over the course of my life that make me look back and shake my head. I don't really have any regrets, but some things I could have done with out. Unfortunately these things of which I speak were definitely events during which I really learned something. On the bright side, they make for great stories, and thus, good blog fodder.

Generally speaking, I do not learn well by reading instructions. For a lesson to sync in, I really need to handle it first hand, and experience the process. I find that I can sit in the passenger's seat, and go somewhere dozens of times without learning the route. If I'm not driving, I pay very little attention to where I'm going and how to get there. In fact, even if I am driving, if someone is telling me turn by turn which way to go, I can almost guarantee, I will forget before the trip is over. The only real way for me to memorize a route is to see it on a map, and navigate there myself. GPS will get me there, but that's just as bad as someone navigating for me.


I know, "typical guy, doesn't read instructions, doesn't ask for directions," right? Well, perhaps.


In earnest, failure is really my best teacher. I can't retain information unless I've failed at it a couple times first. There's a quote (or so they say, here and there on the internet) from Thomas Edison, who was asked about failing to make a light bulb 700 times before finding the winning combination. There's some debate as to the number of times he failed, and even some debate as to whether he was asked the question at all, but the sentiment is there... "I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."

Anyway, the point is, the more unfavorable the results, the more I tend to take away from the lesson.

One such occasion was in high school. (...actually most such occasions were in high school...)

I was never a model student, and it wasn't unusual for me to jump at the chance for extra credit, especially if it didn't involve any homework-like activity. After all, the whole reason I needed extra credit was because I didn't like things like homework... I'd do things like take notes on the chalkboard for the teacher, so he didn't have to write. My hand writing was neater than his anyway, so it worked out for everyone. I'd clap chalk erasers out the window. I'd stack the chairs at the end of the day for the cleaning crew... things of that nature.

One such task was to erase and wash the chalk boards. I remember standing in the middle of the room and looking at the chalk boards. This was, of course, one of the few rooms that had chalk boards on three out of the four walls, and they were all covered in chicken scratch. Except of course, the one on which I took notes. That one was perfect.

Still though, I'd have been there all afternoon with a sponge and a bucket. There had to be a quicker way. In a stroke of genius, I ran to the men's room around the corner where the janitor kept his things. I happened to know the lock on the janitor's closet was broken (...don't ask why) so I figured I'd help myself to the mop and yellow bucket. Thinking myself the smartest guy in town, I wheeled the thing down the hall to the classroom, where the teacher was giving one on one tutelage to someone else who was falling through the cracks. I definitely had the better deal, I thought.

This is the part when I get to the lesson that I learned.

Figuring I'd be done with all the chalk boards in short order, I slapped that nasty mop up on the board and began working my way across the room like a wild man. I got about 2/3s of the way done, before I learned that you should really change out the used water from the yellow mop bucket before washing chalk boards. In my excited haste to get the job done, I really (honestly!) didn't notice that the water in the bucket was something more accurately described as sludge.

Too late to quit now... Somehow I finished the job, and got out of there before anyone started complaining that the room smelled like vomit. I think I missed class the next day, probably for some invented reason. I don't know if I got that extra credit or not, I thought it best not to ask.

To this day, I can't help but grin every time I see one of those yellow mop buckets.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tell Me All Your Thoughts On God

I have never set down in text my thoughts on God and religion, and I avoid talking about religion whenever I can. This will be the first post I have ever made that voices my thoughts. It's possible that this post will make me less popular among some readers, but I thought it best to throw my cards down on the table so that those who enjoy my company know what they're dealing with... If any of this goes against your beliefs, please understand that I hold no ill will or any sort of judgment for you. Your beliefs are yours, and you have a right to them. I also feel that in matters of faith, we cannot entirely choose what to believe, that it's something inside of us that just feels right. I did not select what to believe, my beliefs selected me. As with any idea based upon the intangible, I imagine it's subject to change or vary at some point. Perhaps it's a work in progress?

So please read, and judge if you like, but know that I'm not. (And if you're catholic, know that *I* know you're not supposed to! :) )

I grew up Catholic, participating in the weekly mass as an alter boy for many years. All things considered, it's not a bad way to grow up. I took from it compassion, I learned manners, I learned a little responsibility and I learned a bit about community. That said, the church is not the only place where these things can be learned, and perhaps may not even be the best place to learn them, but definitely not the worst.

My problem isn't with God. I believe in something that could be called God. Whether that be an old man sitting on a golden throne throwing lighting bolts at bad guys, or something a little more like a ubiquitous force or state of being remains to be seen. If I had to label myself, I'd have to go with agnostic... If I get to the pearly gates some day, I'd be a little surprised but I've been surprised before. I'm a believer in science, but I don't see science and God as being necessarily mutually exclusive. After all, what caused science to exist?

Take a look around at the billions of stars, and the complexity of reality on a universal scale, all the way down to the atoms that form the things around us. There are far too many variables that had to fall into place just so, for this reality to exist. To think that it is all by simple chance is just a little too unbelievable for me. There is far too much majesty for that.

My problem is with organized religion in general. Please understand, when I say "my problem is with" I don't mean I have a beef with it, or a grudge or score to settle, or that I dismiss it. I respect religion and the rights of those who participate and believe. In truth I admire them in a way. I simply see things a little differently. I don't feel like my relationship with God is or was impacted at all by church or regimented prayer, nor can I fathom why a God who took the time to create me as an individual would want me to do things from which I derive no joy. The faithful would say he's testing me, or that it's a sacrifice to be made to prove my faith / love. Love is not having to prove it, in my opinion.

I think God is what sets our lives into motion, but then leaves the rest to us, otherwise why give us free will? I think he tips the first domino, but in the end what happens is either through our own actions and nature's impact on our course. Like a plinko chip... We know the direction we're headed, but the mystery is where we'll be when we get there. Once we're there, maybe there's a comparing of notes that goes on and we're ushered to whatever game awaits us after that... who knows?

I believe God would want for me all the things that I want for my children. Health, comfort, opportunity, love, shelter, etc. I give everything I can for my children and I seek nothing in return except for the satisfaction of watching them learn and grow and achieve. I love them as they are, whether they thank me or not.

I don't ever want my children to feel like they have to get together once a week to chant about how good I am, or how great my works were. I don't want them to paint invisible signs in the air that represent the thought of me. I don't want them to partake in rituals meant to honor me. I don't want them to end every conversation we have with a magic word. I certainly wouldn't want them eating my body or drinking my blood.

That said, it is nice to get the grateful smiles and warm hugs and pecks on the cheek. When they (currently only one can talk, but...) tell me they love me or thank me for being there, it's without question the greatest feeling one can feel. I would never demand it. I would never expect it. If I did demand it, would it be given genuinely to me, or in fear or the consequences that not giving it would inure? Wouldn't the latter make the words empty?

As I get older, I look back at my life and I shake my head from time to time at the things that I've done or said. I have no real regrets, but there are things I'd do differently, or things I've done that I can't really understand now, though I'm sure at the time, it made perfect sense.

I started to wonder if God looked back and had similar thoughts, and what would they be? What would he say about it on an interview I wonder?

...

I created the earth and all other planets. I set them into orbit around suns I set fire to. I shaped the mountains. I planted the trees. I carved the rivers. I push the wind. I made the dinosaurs, but didn't care for where they were heading, so I wiped the slate. I created life in more forms than you will ever learn, and yet you ask for my blessing every time someone sneezes.

I put thoughts into the minds of early man, and spoke to many of them directly. I gave commandments, and cradled early civilization in my hands. I asked that word of my existence be spread, and my people killed those who disbelieved.

I myself wrought havoc on those who opposed my devoted. I killed their sons and families. I drown their soldiers. I threw frogs and bugs at them, and little flaming ice cubes. When my followers disappointed me, I flooded the entire earth with the exception of two, who were asked to save the animal kingdom.

I exacted great punishments on those who crossed me yet I sent my son to you, and let you kill him. I then sent him back to forgive those who killed him.

Perhaps I realized my vengeful ways proved ineffective, and decided to show you my love in other ways. Sort of mellowed out a bid, if you will. I have left you all alone for the last few thousand years since you killed my son.

I've turned a blind eye to groups who are killing in my name. A few thousand years ago, perhaps I'd have done the work myself, but like I say, I prefer not to meddle these days.

I allow the births of disfigured and disabled babies. I let good people fall to sickness and disease. I let hearts be broken, and families be torn apart by tragedy, and when you cry out and ask me why, I let my followers tell you that I work in mysterious ways, and you believe it, yet when you are wronged by peers, it's not enough to believe that they're mysterious.

You continue to believe that I am wonderful for all the good things, and you forgive me for the bad. I'm glad my teachings about forgiveness seem to have stuck...

...

Anyway, all those things are in books written by people who probably made a great deal of money off of them, so in my mind it's most likely fiction. In the end, I might be wrong, and in such a case, God is infinitely forgiving right? I believe my purpose was to raise my kids and love my fellow man (and women) and I do both of those things to the best of my ability. I'll take that case before the big jury with confidence in the final hearing.

Here's hoping!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Feeling Souper - Pasta e Piselli

We like food, my wife and I. I know most people do, but I think that had we had the opportunity to go back in time and tell ourselves that it's okay to work toward doing something you love rather than something you just think you're supposed to, we might have actually done something in the culinary field. I suppose we still might someday, it is a dream of ours to one day open a bed and breakfast. ...We might have to move somewhere that people would want to visit though. There's nothing particularly special about this area, except for perhaps the paranormal activity.

My mother in law bought me a "Good Housekeeping" soups and stews cookbook for Christmas. Soups and stews are one of my favorite things to cook. Mostly because they require being left alone for long periods of time, and I can definitely relate to that... God knows I enjoy stewing in my own juices from time to time.

The wife and I decided that we'd make a soup a week, and freeze it in baggies to nuke for each meal as sort of a filler.

Last week's soup was Pasta e Piselli. I just realized that all these recipes are available online, so I won't have to copy them myself. That just made this post very much easier.
The actual recipe can be found here.

It's a very fast and easy soup to make, and it's done in only 15 minutes. It's basically a chicken broth with pasta, peas and a can of diced tomatoes.

It had never occurred to me before to mix tomatoes with chicken broth, but it really sort of opens my eyes to a lot of other kinds of possibilities. I make a mean chicken soup with rice that I may add some tomatoes to now. Used to be that tomatoes would give me killer heart burn, but as it turns out, that was due to a hiatal hernia, which my chiropractor fixed. I no longer get heart burn at all.

This particular recipe is very good, but I think the next time I try it, I will add another can of tomatoes, as the one can only gives just a hint, whereas I think I'd like it just a little more so.
For the pasta, I used elbows and bow-ties. I also cheated on the chicken broth, I used a couple cubes of bullion.

If you're into soups, this one comes highly recommended for ease of prep and excellent flavor. Let me know what you think if you try it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Here's the Thing...

Image Credit: welcome-to-monster-land.blogspot.com 

Now, the picture above is not what this post is about, but when I say "Thing", it's what I think of. Interestingly enough, when I googled for the image, googling for "thing" does NOT yield pictures of Thing Adams. Too far removed from the main stream I guess.

Further note: do not search for "thing" on google without "safe search" set to at least "moderate". Just trust me on this...

Anyway, have you ever noticed people on TV (Adams Family aside) don't have any problem coming up with the words they're saying as they're saying them, like so many people do? I would not likely be a very successful radio personality, because as I'm telling stories or talking about various subjects, I pause and stumble as I reach for the words... Inevitably, I use "thing" in reference to many items with which I'm very familiar. Thus, in an effort to improve my diction I've decided to curb my usage.

Such a versatile word... Perhaps too much so for its own good... How many times have you heard (or said) "I need that thing..." or "Can you grab the uh.... thing..." We've gotten so comfortable with not being able to readily call up the correct word, that almost any object can become a "thing".

It goes beyond the tangible now too, it's not just for items... People say "Oh, that? Yeah, that's his thing." or "The thing is..." Of these phrases, the "things" aren't really even things... they're habits or subjects or issues...

According to google, the definitions of "thing" are:


  • a special situation; "this thing has got to end"; "it is a remarkable thing"
  • an action; "how could you do such a thing?"
  • a special abstraction; "a thing of the spirit"; "things of the heart"
  • an artifact; "how does this thing work?"
  • an event; "a funny thing happened on the way to the..."
  • matter: a vaguely specified concern; "several matters to attend to"; "it is none of your affair"; "things are going well"
  • a statement regarded as an object; "to say the same thing in other terms"; "how can you say such a thing?"
  • an entity that is not named specifically; "I couldn't tell what the thing was"
  • any attribute or quality considered as having its own existence; "the thing I like about her is ..."
  • a special objective; "the thing is to stay in bounds"
  • a persistent illogical feeling of desire or aversion; "he has a thing about seafood"; "she has a thing about him"
  • a separate and self-contained entity

Is it really necessary to have a word like this? I'm not convinced... Although, I have had a hell of a time trying not to use it.

My house is full of little objects (and yes, I wrote "things" and changed it), bits and pieces of toys and games and such that, unless you're familiar with, it cannot be identified... except as a "thing"... I've been lenient on myself in this situation because to explain the purpose of such a thing would be long winded and unnecessary. It's really just a "thing".  But when the object is an every day thi... ah, item... such as a coffee mug, I've actually been getting frustrated with myself for saying "thing".

I'd like you, gentle reader, to pay attention to how many familiar objects, the names of which are well known, that you or your associates call a "thing". Please comment and share your stories, I could use the support. Not an easy th... undertaking.

Store Wars

Regardless of your stance on organic foods, if you have any sort of sense of humor, you'll enjoy this at least on some level.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter in New England (With Pictures!)

I used to think back to the winters I experienced as a kid, and how the snow drifts would be huge and you could plod through waste high snow banks, and how much worse winters were back then, and so on. Obviously, the fact that I was smaller had a lot to do with that.

Lately, the snow is deep enough that I'm getting flashbacks of digging out forts inside large mountains of snow that were left behind by the plows. I'm pretty sure that I could do a cannonball from my second story window and just sorta slip into the snow with a "foop", and not touch the group. I won't be trying that, so I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it.

In the late 90's, my brother ( at forever endeavour ) and I climbed up onto the roof of the garage and cleared the three feet of snow from it out into the back yard. That snow WAS in fact deep enough to cannonball into, and I actually did do it, giggling like an idiot the whole time. Something about jumping off a roof just sets off a certain stupidity gene that I think all us guys have. Gotta be that Y chromosome... or more accurately: the "WHY??" chromosome.

Anyway, I took some photos of the road and back yard when all this snow began earlier this year. It's not all from the same storm, but I thought the same season would be good enough. Click for larger images.






Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Office 2010: Can't Create File When Opening Attachment

I know it's been a while, but this is an actual tech tip that I need to keep track of... Instead of googling for it every time it comes up, I'll toss it up here. ...and google for it in the search bar at the right... anyway...

In Outlook 2010 if you are getting a lot of the same attachments, say from a voicemail system, and all the attachments are named the same thing, eventually you will get over 100... Once you get 99 of them, everything after that will give you the error "Cannot Create File:..." when you try to open it. Here's the fix:


1. Click Start > Run and type regedit.
2. Click Edit > Find and type OutlookSecureTempFolder.
3. It should be something like: C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\OLK###
4. Browse to this location in explorer.
5. You can delete only the voicemail files if you'd like, or delete all of the files in this folder.
6. Restart Outlook.