Duncan Speaks English

Last night Sharron and I were laying in bed.  Parker and Sharron were having issues because Parker was very grumpy.  I think it was because he didn’t get a walk that evening because it was cold and raining pretty hard.  I ended up moving Parker over next to me so that Sharron could get settled.  She got very upset because she loves to have Parker next to her.

To console her, I said she should get Duncan.  He’s a very still sleep dog and will usually let you do anything without making a peep or moving.  I tried to sell Sharron on Duncan by saying how sweet and nice he is and that she should really get him and hold him.  After again saying how sweet and nice he is, out of the blue, Duncan growled.

I think I laughed so hard I had tears.

RPF Movie Forum

My favorite daily haunt, The Replica Prop Forum has introduced a new forum for movies.  It’s been aptly named the movie forum.  :-)

The Great Injury of 2010

Posted this on Facebook, but wanted to repost it here.

Friday October 1st:

Went to the hospital today. Smashed 2 fingers in my garage door trying to close it without power. Lossed my middle right fingernail when I pulled the fingers free. To make it worse, to get back into the house, I went to the front door and rang the doorbell (no power) and while waiting for Sharron to answer, passed out in a heap on the porch.

When I awoke, I thought I was going to throw up, so I leaned over the side of the porch, only to pass out again. This time I woke up in the mud (we were in the middle of a monsoon storm). This time when I rang the doorbell (still without power) Sharron answered. She cleaned me up and took me to the ER. They x-rayed me and put a fake fingernail on (no really!). I’m fine, but will have to see a hand surgeon in 1-2 weeks.

Definitely one of the worst days of my life (yes I know, I’m blessed).

What’s really been bothering me is that I could have easily landed in a mud puddle and drowned…

Basketball

In the fall of 2009, a dream was born.  One of my co-workers, Tory, suggested we form a department basketball team to play in the Travelers recreational league.  We were able to assemble a team of 11 players, some with experience, some without (like me).  Ok true, I had played in junior high and then tons of pick-up games in high school and in the Air Force.  Does that kind of thing help or hinder though?  Only time would tell.

Our first game was on November 12th…at 9:10 PM.  Gah.  That’s a late game, especially for guys not used to playing and who had never played together before.  Needless to say, the outcome was not good.  44 – 19 loss.  It would be the first of many.

We did finally win a game in December with a score of 50 – 25.  A little strange after some of the other scores we’d had.  Our second win was 2 weeks ago against a team that we had already lost to.  We won by 1 point.  This wasn’t too surprising as the first game against them, we’d only lost by 2 points.

The season has been a lot of fun with many games being very close and at least winable.  The crushing blow for this season came Monday night.  We played the team that we had our first win against again.  The problem?  5 of our 11 players would be unable to attend.  With the margin of victory being so great last time, we of course were confident that we could handle it.  We didn’t.  We lost 30 – 35.  This would be the other teams 1st win this season…and as it turns out, their first win in over 3 years of playing together.

I have to be honest here.  I’m not the best player.  I’m probably one of the worst.  I play pretty good defense, but so does the rest of the team.  I really suck at offense.  I scored a max of 2 points in any given game, and did on Monday too.  However, I missed 4 free throw shots.  If I made even half of the shots I missed in any game, we would probably have a few more wins under our belt.

All that aside, this was probably the most devastating loss to me personally in many years.  We did nothing right and I really felt that as a team we played poorly.  We easily could have won this game, but just didn’t pull it together.

Really, that’s been the struggle with the team the whole season.   As I said, we play pretty good defense, our problem is offense.  We have a problem with getting the ball to anyone under the goal.  Or, getting someone with the ball outside to drive to the hole.  We tend to simply shoot from outside.  The problem with that is that we can’t make more than 1 of 5 of these shots.  I’m pretty tall, but have never really been able to jump very high.  Apparently I’m not the only one with this problem as we can’t seem to get rebounds on offense.  So we play defense for 1-3 minutes, run back, shoot and miss, run to play defense… ad nauseum.  Rinse and repeat.  Etc.

We have 2 games left.  The first one is against a team we haven’t really played before.  The previous time we were supposed to play them, only 4 of us showed up.  We played 1 half of a game and lost 21 – 4.  The rules state you can’t play a whole game with only 4 players.  The final team we did lose to, but only 35 – 42.  Both games are very winable, I just hope we can step up our game a bit.  Wish us luck.

The Pants Game

One of the games that I like to play with Parker I call the pants game.  It’s pretty simple really:  If I am holding on to a pair of pants, he’s going to try his hardest to bite onto them and pull them away from me.  He’s really very smart about it as I’ve trained him that it’s only my pants, not Sharron’s, and it’s only non-work pants.  It’s a fun game to play that he really enjoys even if it’s only for 30 seconds.

Friday I was getting dressed for work and he was sitting on the bed watching me.  He knew he couldn’t get my work pants and this seemed to depress him some.  He jumped down off of the bed and looked at me as if to say, “Why can’t I get these pants?”  He then looked behind him and saw a pile of laundry.  In this pile was another pair of pants (Non-work even!).  He turned back to me and I swear he smiled.  Quick as can be he grabbed the paid of pants out of the pile of laundry, pulled them up onto the bed and shook them around in victory!

It was pretty damn funny.  :-)

CT Veternas Stand Down 2009

Yesterday, Sharron and I volunteered all day at the Connecticut Veterans Stand Down 2009.  We’d been told that we were going to be Lion’s Guides, but had no idea what that was.  When we arrived, we found out where we’d be working and it was at the eye clinic.  We were at first worried that we’d just be doing crowd control or some other menial task all day, but when we started talking to the actual Lions volunteers, they said they could train us to do a couple of the exams in about 5 minutes.  We both ended up leaning the peripheral vision test.  It was easy to do and could be operated from a seated position.

After we did this for about 10 minutes, they asked if anyone would like to be trained on the glaucoma tester.  Sharron volunteered and she proceeded to try and learn for about 10 minutes before giving up.  The doctor said that they really needed someone with good hand/eye coordination.  Sharron volunteered me as she said I was good at video games.  :-)

I started out with MANY problems trying to both operate the device and to get the device itself to work.  After finally getting it figured out how to operate the machine, the hard part was getting the device to work consistently.  Sharron finally figured it out and got it fixed.  After that it was smooth sailing for the rest of the day.  The only real hard part after that was the size of the chairs.  It was hard to get up to where you needed to be to get the exam and it was harder for me to get down to where I could use the device.  I finally ended up putting 1 leg through the back of my chair and sitting on that leg while reaching over the table to use the device.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.

This morning Sharron did a quick search for news about the event and found an article:

Record number of Connecticut Veterans seeks aid at state event

If you click through to the article you’ll see that they got a good picture of me as their headline picture.  :-)

Weekend Project

For a long time now Sharron and I have been dreaming of a ceiling fan in our bedroom.  Our house was built in the 70′s and the style at the time was to not put ceiling fixtures in the master bedroom, or so we’ve been told.  So we knew ahead of time that we were going to have a few challenges just to get this project off the ground.  1 – Figure out a way to mount a fan mountable electric box into the ceiling.  2 – Get electricity to that spot.  3 – Figure out how to utilize the existing wall switches OR run new cable to those positions.

Saturday morning, I climbed up in to the attic to do some investigating.  (NOTE:  To access the attic, you have to use a step ladder and then twist yourself OVER the shelves in a closet before using ONLY your upper body strength to pull yourself up)  I found the cabling for the 2 existing wall switches pretty easily.  I did not find any live circuits though.  What we discovered is that the outlet that was being controlled by the wall switches is where the electricity was coming from.  This was either a good thing or a bad thing.  We weren’t sure at the time.

Our next stop was the Connecticut Lighting Center to see if they had any better ceiling fans than Home Depot or Lowes.  We quickly discovered that the quality of the fans was MUCH better than at either of the BIG stores.  We also quickly decided we really liked the Minka-Aire Delano II with nickel finish, so we bought it.

We headed to Home Depot to get the ceiling box kit we’d need.  The fan sales man told us we would need a brace kit, but instead should mount a 2 x 4 between ceiling joists.   We ended up buying 2 different electrical boxes for ceiling fans in just to make sure we’d got one that worked.  We also bought 50′ of new electrical wire (2-wire, 14 gauge) and a wire snake in case we needed it.  When we got home, we discovered that the 2 plastic electrical boxes we’d bought would be of no use as the directions for the ceiling fan specifically stated NOT to use plastic boxes.  Back to Home Depot we went…

While back Home Depot, we changed out minds and decided that we would get the brace kit instead of trying to simply find the right electrical box.  What we didn’t realize at the time though is that the space between our ceiling joists is 22″ and not the standard 16″…

Once home, it was time for me to go back up into the attic.  What I quickly discovered was the 22″ space between the joists.  While I was measuring and preparing to cut a hole in the ceiling, Sharron was quickly doing some math to determine if we’d need that additional support or not.  According to her calculations, the brace kit would support 70 pounds at 16″ and 35 pounds at anything greater than 16″.  Our fan manual stated that the ceiling should be ready to support 50 pounds of weight…

During all of this time, Sharron and I had also been trying to work out a good circuit design.  We make many many many drawings of how it would work.  Before calling it a day on Saturday, we had come up with what we thought was a good solution.  Just to give you an idea of what we started with, here is what the circuit looked like:

Initial Electric

Sunday morning we got up bright and early.  Sharron and I had decided that we would need to close the space between the joists to 16″ in order for the brace to work.  Luckily, we already had 4 existing 2 x 4 scraps that were of the right length.  I grabbed a drill bit and some screws and took it all up in to the attic with me and proceeded to install them.  It took me longer than I would have liked, but I was able to take advantage of an existing 2 x 4 that runs through the middle of the attic for added support.  When it was done, we were ready to install the brace again.

I needed a break from the attic, so I came down to discuss our electrical situation again.  For breakfast that morning, we had gone out to pick up something quick and also to stop at the hardware store.  Sharron smartly suggested picking up a live wire sensor.  Looking at the directions for the new fan switches and at our home improvement book, we were able to come up with a new new plan (yes, 2 new’s) for how the wiring should work.  I had found a wire in the attic that was live that I could splice in to and run it to the fan and had done so.  Looking at it for this new new plan, I realized that I’d made a horrible error and that there would be no way for the switches to break the circuit.

We took a break for a quick lunch and I took a shower.  I had thought I was done up in the attic, but after we’d discovered this latest circuit limit, we again had a dicussion regarding how the electricity should flow.  We determined that it should work like this:

Final Electric

This plan however, required that I head back up into the attic to run the splice together the black wire from the electric in portion of the plan to the black wire in the existing 3-wire that runs between the 2 switch boxes.  This would run electricity in from the circuit breaker to switch 1 via the black wire, from switch 1 to switch 2 via the red wire, from switch 2 to the fan via another black wire and from the fan back out via the white wire thus completing the circuit.  This plan calls for the electrician to ignore all white wires except for the one that connects directly from the circuit breaker to the fan.  I’d never seen an electrical plan like this before, but, that was what the directions called for.

When I was done up in the attic, we had these wires sticking out of the electrical box in the ceiling:  1 black, 2 whites and 2 grounds.  1 white would be ignored completely, so I capped it.  The others all tied together into the fan.  Sharron graciously went to the circuit breaker to turn it back on to see if we could get it to work.  I initially tried turning each switch on separately.  This did not work for either switch.  Sharron suggested, smartly, that I turn them both to on…SUCCESS!  The fan turned on immediately.

I took a quick break and fed Parker his dinner.  Sharron worked on getting some of the other fan pieces staged to be put in to place.  When Parker was done eating, I returned to help with the installation.  We made quick work of the rest of the process and were able to get the entire thing up and running:

P1010149

P1010150

The first picture is what it looks like when it’s operating and for comparison, the second picture is what it looks like at rest…which is what we needed when we were done.  We started clean up of the project at around 8:50 PM on Sunday.  We both took Monday off of work.  :-)

Famous?

Several months ago I was asked if I’d be interested in being interviewed by a magazine called GI Jobs.  Not being shy, I figured, “why not?”  The magazine is geared towards military personnel who are getting ready to separate from the military and provides advice on what types of jobs are available.  They wanted to highlight me as someone who had applied their military skills in the business work place.  My article was posted in the June issue both online and in their print magazine.  Heck, I even made the cover!

A few weeks ago, I was contacted again by our internal PR team and was asked if I minded if they posted my story to the internal news page.  I again said ok.  This morning, I log into my computer and the first thing that comes up is this:

PDT Front Page

As you can see, my article was the TOP story on the internal news site today.  This page is only viewable by Travelers employees, but it is what EVERYONE in the company sees when they first log on.  It is nationwide.  I have received email about this from people all over the country.  Some I know and some I don’t.  It has been an interesting day.

Christmas Project

Sharron has been very busy the last few months painting new buildings for her Christmas village.  I too enjoy painting, but my hand is none too steady and I end up getting too frustrated with detail work.  I can see in my head what I want, but can’t seem to make it happen.  On a recent trip to Michael’s though, I found this Santa ornament that looked like a good cross between 1 color easy and super detailed hard.

Santa Ornament

I’ve been trying to find some time to start and finally couldn’t take it anymore yesterday.  During my lunch break, I digitally painted him.  :-D

Computer Painted

I can’t decide if I should paint eyes on him or not.  He looks good both ways though.

Last night when we’d gotten all settled in, Sharron was working on a project in her office and that gave me a good opportunity to bust the paints out.  I started with the green background color.  I also painted the back of the “ball” he’s perched on the same green color.  Most likely I’ll have to do a second coat before I’m happy with it and then I’ll move on to the red!  Wish me luck!

Six Flags

Um…hello?  Is this thing on?  Sorry, just making sure this still works.  :-)

2 weekends ago, Sharron and I went to Lake Compounce with her work.  Lake Compounce is a local amusement park.  It’s pretty small, but it’s a really nice little local park.  They have 3 roller coasters, 1 of which is really good, and a bunch of other fun little rides.  About 1/3 of the park has water attractions and for the first time in nearly 10 years I went on a water slide.  In fact, I went on ALL of the water slides.  The park is one of the smallest parks I’ve been to, smaller by far than Enchanted Village/Wild Waves where I used to work in Washington.  The smallest is probably Elich Gardens in Denver, but only by just a smidge.

Going to this park of course awakened my theme park bug.  I love going to the various Six Flags parks and of course Disney.  We have a Six Flags that’s within an hours drive from here and I’d LOVE to go!  My plan is to take a day off of work and just spend it at the park (hopefully when there are no lines!).  Nick and I did that back in 2003 for the Six Flags in Atlanta and it was Awesome!  My problem is…nobody seems to be as interested in going as I am.  I’ve asked nearly everyone I know and for most people, there’ s just not the allure to going that I seem to find.

I’ll keep looking for someone to go with, but if it starts to get too late in the year, I know that no matter what day of the week it is that there will be lines, so I’ll have to go before then…even if I have to go alone.  That’s really no problem though as I rode almost all of the rides at Lake Compounce alone and it wa sn’t so bad.  Well…maybe the water rides as I was probably twice as tall as the other riders.  :-)

Sharron’s back prohibits her from riding most of the rides, so while it was be AWESOME to go with her, I know she’d be pretty bored waiting for me to get off of the roller coasters.