personal, family comments edit

Yesterday was pretty busy so I wasn’t able to get around to posting anything about the holidays here. I’ve had several folks very anxious to hear the goings-on, so figured I’d best bust ass and get something up here before a lynch mob shows up at my door. Thankfully, I don’t think this will be quite as eventful as you might hope.

But maybe it will.

I left work at 4:00p Friday, December 20 for vacation. It was time off, but since I’m the only one around work who knows how to deal with web related issues, I was still on call the whole time for emergency situations. I run a pretty tight ship on that stuff, though, which means that I very rarely get calls. (That’s a good thing.)

By 5:00p that night I got a call. Wouldn’t you know it? It’s an “emergency” where someone needed access to a particular web site. It doesn’t matter that any one of the techs at work (still there, mind you) could have done it; I got the call. I had another one of these “emergency access request” calls earlier in the week, and when I finally got dialed in from home and did the operation, I called the guy back and he was like, “Oh, well, I’m out with my wife now, so I guess it wasn’t that important. Never mind.” So I don’t really think this was that much of an emergency, but since I’m getting paid to deal with it, I did.

I did not get any further calls during my vacation, and that rocked.

My sister, Tai, and her husband, Dan, packed up their things in Provo, Utah, and moved themselves back in with my parents here in Oregon the weekend of Dec. 21/22. They swore up and down when they left that they would never live in Oregon because he doesn’t want to be near his family and… well, actually, I don’t know that Tai was against living in Oregon. Either way, they were definitely not living in Oregon.

Guess who’s got egg on their face now, eh?

My other sister, Tori, flew in that weekend as well (I think?) and also stayed with my parents. They went from no kids to three kids in their house in a matter of days. I felt sort of sorry for them and their “houseguests,” but they asked for it.

I think that weekend, the 21/22, my dad, Tori, Jenn, and I all went to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I may write up a review on it, I may not. My opinion of it was, well, not so high. I thought there were lots of problems with the first movie, most notable of which is that it was three hours long and not actually worth three hours of my time. It took too long getting anywhere, and the fights seemed more pomp and circumstance than anything I should actually be concerned over the characters for. I also can’t stand Tolkien’s writing - too much detail, too long, too epic, not enough story to keep me interested. The Two Towers followed suit. It’s sort of like Peter Jackson filmed one nine-hour movie, then arbitrarily cut it up into three pieces and moved on. There was no intro to The Two Towers - you start out and just flail around and hope you can remember what happened in the last movie. Then you finally figure it out and see that it really doesn’t matter anyway, because this movie is going to take off on some sidetrack for most of the time and not even really deal too much with how the ring progresses towards Mordor. Anyway, I felt a little cheated, as did Jenn.

Christmas Eve and Christmas were shaping up to be sort of controversy-laden, but I skated through them without too much issue. Last year it was very confusing - Christmas Eve night we went to Jenn’s grandma’s house, then we went to my parents’ house; Christmas morning we were at Jenn’s parents’ house, then we went back to my parents’ house. I think at some point Jenn ended up going to her other set of grandparents’ house, too, but I don’t really remember. This year it was beginning to look like that, then some family issues on Jenn’s side caused some serious confusion as to whether anyone was doing anything at all, and, if so, what time things were happening. It ended up where their entire family was planning everything around the fact that Jenn’s sister didn’t have custody of her daughter for Christmas day until like 8:00p or something, and Jenn’s mom asked for Christmas day off and not Christmas Eve, so no one could get anything together because no one’s schedules meshed. I’ll admit I don’t understand why you would plan an entire extended family’s holiday schedule around one four-year-old, but that’s just me. I did my best to avoid getting involved with the planning of that side of things, instead choosing to just do what I needed to do and hope for the best.

It ended up going like this: Christmas Eve Jenn and I went to my parents’ house. There we opened stockings and a couple of gifts. Christmas morning Jenn and I opened our gifts to each other, then went on an unplanned foray to Jenn’s parents’ house because Jenn and her sister “weren’t feeling like it was Christmas” without getting together over there. After that, we went to my parents’ house where we finished opening gifts. Later on, Jenn’s parents and sister came over, my dad’s parents came over, and we all ate. It got a little chaotic there at the end and Mom started tearing out her hair (she needs to not stress over that stuff, but then, I’m not one to say anything; I stress over stuff that might happen), but once people started leaving, things calmed down and everything was cool again. That night, Jenn and I went back to Jenn’s parents’ house so we could watch Aurora (Jenn’s sister’s four-year-old) open her presents. Let me tell you how stimulating that was. After that, we finally went home, exhausted from the holiday.

So what did I get? Well, I’ll list a few of the things, but honestly, I don’t remember every single thing off the top of my head, or exactly who gave me what. I gave my thank-yous in person and have since wiped it from my brain. Just let it be known that I appreciate each and every item donated to the cause (me).

Stuff I Got:

I’m pretty sure I got some other stuff, too, but I don’t recall off hand. If/when I do, I’ll tack it on to the list above.

One thing I didn’t put on the list: My new prize possessions. I got two shirts from Jenn’s grandma (step-grandma?) that require some mention here. Imagine a polo shirt made out of very, very thin cotton. Sort of like a cheap t-shirt. Three buttons at the collar, which is also made of this thin cotton (not the stuff a real polo shirt collar is made from). Elastic surrounds the waist and both arms. Each shirt is divided into thirds from left to right, like three giant vertical stripes. The third on the right contains smaller vertical stripes of teal, dark blue, and white. The middle third is entirely white. The left third on one shirt is teal, the other shirt is dark blue. The collar of each shirt matches the left third of its respective shirt.

I don’t know when I’m going to wear these. I don’t own any white loafers or polyester pants, and I’m not going on a senior citizens cruise any time soon, so I’m at a loss. I think I’ll bring them into work and put them on the “shirt wall” we have in the back for odd and annoying shirts we receive.

The rest of Christmas week played out very light. I played a bit of PS2, renting a game called Burnout 2. That game was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t worth $50. I like winning and all, but there was so little challenge that I was near to unstoppable at the game. I won way too easily. Then again, if I wasn’t winning and the challenge was there, I would have thought the game pretty repetetive. Either way, if it was a $20 game I’d have snapped it up, but at $50, it’s only worth the rent.

At some point between Christmas and New Year’s, Jenn and I went to see Two Weeks Notice. It was a pleasant romantic comedy and I must say I was much more pleased with it than I was with Maid In Manhattan. It was fun, and I felt good coming out of it.

New Year’s was sort of lame. On New Year’s Eve, Jenn and I went to the Winter Hawks game against Seattle and watched the Hawks lose 5-3. We were supposed to go with Jenn’s friend Apryl and her husband Tony, but we found out that after about a year of marriage, Apryl and Tony are splitting up. It’s unfortunate, especially because I really liked Tony and hanging out with him, but it sounds like it’s for the best. I forgot to ask Apryl if she wanted to move in with Jenn and I and be part of my harem, but I think maybe it’s too soon. :) Anyway, Apryl ended up coming to the game with her brother, and rather than coming back to our place with him to play games, they went to one of Apryl’s friend’s houses.

That night, Jenn and I went home after the game and played Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary Edition. I have never felt dumber. All the questions in the game were stuff that happened in the last 20 years and on a good majority of them, I had no clue. I cleaned up at all of the music and movie questions, but outside of that category it was hit or miss… mostly miss. That was the longest game of Trivial Pursuit ever. (Jenn ended up winning, but I wasn’t far behind.)

I don’t really remember what we did New Year’s Day. I think we went to the mall or something, but who’s to say?

Friday night, Jan. 3, Jenn and I went to see Catch Me If You Can. It was pretty good. I had a good time seeing how this kid kept duping everyone and making fake checks, knowing it was all based on actual happenings. Plus, Christopher Walken was in that as the kid’s dad, and I love Christopher Walken.

At the same time we saw that movie, we found that the theaters in our area jacked up the ticket prices. It used to be $5.50 to see a matinee and $7.50 to see a prime time show; now it’s $6 to see a matinee and $8 to see a prime time show. Sure, that’s not a lot in the scheme of things (especially considering that’s low compared to the national average, from what I can tell), but it’s a lot from my frame of reference. Not to sound like an old miser, but I can remember when you could get into the prime time picture for $6. I’m not so sure that upping the price of movies in a down economy is the smartest way to go, especially when, in times of depression, the first portion of a person’s budget to get cut is the entertainment part. I guess I will invest more heavily in Blockbuster or something. Maybe Netflix is the way to go. We’ll see.

Also Friday night, Jenn and I totally spaced that we had a Winter Hawks game to go to. For some reason, we thought the next game was on Sunday but there was also one that Friday. To avoid getting hassled, we told the folks there that we had to have dinner with my family because of Tori’s imminent return to school, but that was just to avoid the grief. So there you go - if you were one of the victims of the lie, I trust you to keep the truth under wraps. You know who you are.

I finished off my vacation Sunday night (Jan. 5th) by going to a Winter Hawks game (where we lost 3-2 to Kelowna) and then coming home for a well-needed new episode of Alias. I was not so pleased with the hockey game, but the Alias episode rocked. I love the Marshal character and I hope he continues to be a prominent figure.

Thus I returned to work on Monday, January 6. Upon returning, I began to wonder if things actually run when I’m not in the office, as I parsed through quite a bit of email, most of it requiring action on my part. I’m almost caught up now, though I’m still trying to remember what I was up to with certain projects two weeks ago and doing my best to come back up to speed.

Last night Jenn brought home one of those Pilates inflatable ball workout DVDs and the ball and started in with that. I tried it out, too (hey, I gotta get off my fat ass and do something before I atrophy away into nothing), but I think the ball is about six inches in diameter too small. I’ll try it again, and if it’s something I could do on a regular basis, maybe I’ll get a larger ball.

Other happenings…

My cat, Xev (who is eight months old and still only about six pounds, and who I have taken to calling “Tiny Tiny” because of that), has started standing up and looking around like a prairie dog. If anything gets her attention, she’ll sit up very tall, sometimes even on just the toes of her back feet, and look around for it. I’m going to see if I can train her to walk around upright like a little person. I think that’d be funny.

I’ve started working out of the tassel-making books I got for Christmas and have discovered that making a tassel is harder than you might think. I’ve only made a couple, but I’m already coming to understand that the thicker the string you work with for the skirt of the tassel, the easier it is. I’ve tried a few with a thin rayon thread, but they usually are pretty hard to get to work and I think they turn out sort of poorly. I’ve done one with some hand-weaving wool (sort of like thin yarn) and it turned out really nice, so maybe I’ll go that route for a while.

I’m also starting to really get into watching the director’s commentaries on the various DVDs I’ve got. I just watched the one for The Goonies the other night and it was really interesting to hear some of the stories the actors and the director have from the making of that movie. They also did something different with that commentary than they normally do - they actually showed the actors and the director while the commentary was going on. I kind of liked that; the movie played in the bottom corner of the screen, and you could watch the reactions of the commentators as the show was going on. (Also, I still think Kerri Green is totally hot, and you got some good footage of her in there.)

personal comments edit

Well, folks, I’m back in the office and playing catch-up on all the exciting things I missed over the holiday break I just took. Looks like I’ve got 173 new messages in my personal inbox and 122 in my work inbox. After I check those out and take the appropriate action on each, I’ll see about posting the happenings from the vacation.

personal comments edit

FYI: I’ll be on vacation the last two weeks of the year, so after Friday, Dec. 20, there will be inconsistent (if any) entries showing up here. I’ll be back at work on Jan. 6, and then we’ll return to the regularly scheduled program.

personal comments edit

Not a lot has gone on lately, so I haven’t updated the site. For some reason, writing out how I watched syndicated reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and had chili dogs for dinner doesn’t sound like something I need to do. But now you know, so stop complaining.

I went to lunch yesterday at my friend Colin’s house. I mentioned him in my last post when I was talking about how I really can’t stand little kids but his kids are cool. Anyway, went to lunch over there and sort of had a little bit of my faith in humanity restored.

See, he’s got two kids - one’s 4 (Peter) and the other’s 1.5 (Tim). I think. I’m guessing at the ages because, well, I don’t remember these things (hey, it takes me a while to remember how old I am). Normally, I would not be amused by the antics or the things kids like this say and do. But certain things struck me.

For example, Colin’s wife, Kathy, was talking to me and telling me that Peter was “acting out” and she couldn’t figure out what was going on. Turns out, what she called “acting out” was him doing things like talking out of turn and not being polite. (Obviously I wasn’t there all day, but that’s what I saw.) Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s something I just assume a little kid like that will do. But it seems that can be controlled, and I find that very interesting.

Another thing: Peter was eating lunch and asked “May I please be excused to go potty?” Huh? Jenn’s niece usually just mumbles something incoherent that rhymes with “bathroom” and then whines a little and runs for the toilet. This was perfect English I was hearing. Unbelievable!

This all started me thinking, and I’d like to bring forth my (now very solid) belief: One of the prime reasons children in this country are gibbering idiots is bad parenting.

That’s right, bad parenting. It seems to me, at least by looking at these two tykes, that if you pay attention to your kids and teach them well, they may just act like the responsible human beings they’re supposed to be.

I’m not saying there’s no issue with the school system or anything else, but I think this is pretty conclusive evidence that it begins in the home and trickles out from there. Even if you have a pretty crappy school, you can at least grow up with the basics and some good common sense if you have a good parental environment.

I was considering writing an open letter to parents everywhere, right here in the blog. I may still. But for now, let’s leave it at that.

personal comments edit

This weekend was reasonably eventful. As always, let’s start at the top and work our way down, so the entire weekend can be savored by you just as it was by me.

Friday night Jenn and I went to Jenn’s niece’s preschool Holiday Program.


Let’s just get this out in the open right now: I don’t find small children cute, entertaining, funny, or otherwise interesting in the least. I can probably count on one hand the number of people whose kids I find cute. And the “little kid things” that kids do… eh. I don’t really care if your kid mispronounced a word or said something that you found funny. Chances are, I’m not going to. You want your kid to impress me? Have him/her speak to me in full, understandable sentences, in a coherent fashion, enunciating words so it’s clear what they have to say. That’s what impresses me. (My friend Colin’s kids freaking rule. Cute and intelligent. That’s good kids, and good parenting. I’m down with that.)

Anyway, the program… It was 20 minutes of a bunch of preschoolers not remembering the words or motions to a bunch of songs I’ve never heard before. I didn’t know what they were saying about two-thirds of the time, and I wasn’t amused.

I got dinner out of the deal, though, so I’ll call it even.

Saturday morning I took my car in for the 15,000 mile service at the dealership. Oil change, etc. One of the things I wanted them to check was the rear window washer fluid squirter doesn’t squirt so much as it just dribbles the washer fluid down the window. The front ones work well, what’s up with the back one?

Turns out, that’s the standard functionality for the thing. Dribbling. The service guy was surprised by this, too, but such is life. About $150 later I was on my way.

Saturday night the Winter Hawks put on quite a show, shutting out the Seattle Thunderbirds 5 - 0. That put our goalie, Lanny Ramage, as the record holder for most career shutouts in the Winter Hawks franchise. Pretty cool. That game was also the yearly Teddy Bear Toss, where you throw a stuffed animal out onto the ice the first goal the Winter Hawks score. This year they collected 4,275 bears, which is the record for the most bears yet. That was quite a sight to see, and the game rocked. I left the arena stoked and ready for Sunday’s game.

Sunday. Mmmmm. This is a horse of a different color.

A little family laundry to air out, here: My granddad (mom’s dad) is pretty cool. I think so, at least. He makes me laugh and he’s always doing something interesting, from digging gold out in the sticks to going down to Mexico to get all of his dental work done. He is, above all, known for his rather creative gifts, most of them involving wood products of some nature manipulated via jigsaw. Every once in a while, though, he goes on these kicks of “I’m not getting anyone anything, I hate any holidays and all gift giving.” This, friends, is one of those years.

Of course, that doesn’t apply to Granddad’s girlfriend’s family (Grandma’s dead, before you ask, so that part is kosher). Her family gets gifts of all shapes and sizes. It’s just his own family that he won’t get gifts for. I, and the rest of the family, not only find this peculiar but also frankly irritating. One would think “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” right? Treat everyone equally? Not here, man. We’re getting the short end.

I do not want to imply that I am entirely gift-driven. I don’t care one way or the other. What outrages me (and everyone else) is the unfair/unequal treatment. If anything, one would think that he’d be looking out for his own first and foremost, but that’s not what’s going on here.

Anyway, Granddad’s idea this year was that he’d get everyone together and have a holiday meal on him. Okay, I can handle that. I’m down with the food thing. Since some of the family lives in Washington and some live in northern Oregon, a halfway point needed to be chosen. This was to happen on Sunday at 11:00a.

Here’s where the fun begins.

Granddad chose a restaurant he likes called “Spiffy’s” in, uh… Chehalis? Centralia? I can’t remember. Milepost 68 on I-5 - you can’t miss it. There are only four things there: two gas stations and two places to eat. One of those places is Spiffy’s.

Not knowing what to expect, I started asking around to the various family members that had eaten there. Folks laughed when I asked about “Spiffaria’s” and asked why I hadn’t already eaten at the “Home of the Brown Lettuce.” That didn’t bring my hopes up any, but I tried to be positive.

My parents, Jenn, and I all set out for Spiffy’s around 9:00a. We were told it takes about two hours to get there, so we figured we’d get there right on time.

We pulled into Spiffy’s parking lot at 10:15a. So much for the two hours. Forty-five minutes until everyone was supposed to be there, and we’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. We drove around the two gas stations and the other place to eat (“The Mustard Seed”) and then went back to Spiffy’s when we realized there was nowhere to visit.

Spiffy’s needs a new roof. And a new sign outside. Maybe some new blinds and a paint job.

I think you see where I’m going.

Interestingly enough, Granddad and his girlfriend were already there. Guess we’re not the only ones who found that two hours was an hour too long to drive.

We went in, early as we were, and got seated in the back. On the way, I was treated to read the “Scripture of the Day” on the wall in the entryway, got to browse the stack of Jeff Foxworthy tapes by the cash register, and walked past the buffet.

We’ll get back to the buffet in a minute.

The room we were seated in, besides being unheated, had a full waiting station (cash register, milk/coffee dispensers, etc.), an organ, and a podium. Apparently this was some sort of multipurpose affair. We took our seats and made small talk until others started to arrive.

As people arrived, the trend seemed to be “everybody stand up and run to the door and greet the person coming in rather than making the person come around.” That got to be tedious, so I stopped greeting. I’m sure that was perceived as unsociable or rude, but I really don’t care. You get what you get, and that’s that.

Folks showed up I didn’t even remember. My granddad’s sister? I think I’ve seen her like twice ever. Jenn mentioned that she didn’t know anyone, and I was like, “Hey, now you know what it’s like when I go to every event with your family - thousands of people who show up that I don’t remember and will probably never see again.” That’s what it’s like, too - complete melee.

People, of course, also fawned over the children in the group (kids of my cousins… what does that make them to me? like, second cousins or something?). In light of my thoughts on how children don’t amuse me, this part of the thing didn’t have any draw for me, either.

Once things settled down a bit, we got menus to order off of. It turned out, most folks were having the buffet.

Ah, the buffet. “Home of the Brown Lettuce” accurately describes everything in the salad bar. I would not be surprised if this was leftovers from last week’s buffet. The hot foods had enjoyed some serious time under the heat lamps, and the gravy had a nice skin on it that you couldn’t readily puncture with a fork. In fact, the only things that looked decent were the baked goods, but I wasn’t in the mood for solely baked goods at the time, so the buffet was out of the question.

Instead of the buffet, I ordered a seafood pasta dinner. (Hey, dinner started at 11:30a, and by my clock, it was damn well 11:40a!) I didn’t want the salad so I substituted clam chowder. Jenn ordered the chicken cordon bleu with a baked potato.

A while later the waitress came back and said they didn’t have baked potatoes that early. Jenn was a little disappointed but got fries instead.

Shortly after that, the waitress brought everyone’s salads (for those who got the salad). At that time, she told my dad (who also ordered the chowder) and I that they were out of clam chowder, so we had our choice of chicken noodle soup or cream of rice. I don’t really like either, especially because both usually have huge vegetables floating about in them, but I picked the chicken noodle.

Our soup arrived around the time everyone was finished with their salads. I got two cracker halves with mine, and the soup had not stayed in the bowl too well, coating the outside of the bowl, the package of crackers, my spoon, and the saucer. I cleaned that up and ate the three vegetable-free bites of soup.

Around halfway through my soup, the waitress came back to tell me they didn’t have any noodles in the place (though three of the 10 dinners they offered were pasta). Great. I switched my order to the halibut dinner, same as my dad ordered. Misery loves company, right?

I finished my soup about the time the food started arriving (for those who didn’t get the buffet; the buffet eaters were almost done eating by now). A few folks got burgers (which turned out a bit dry, with lots of “filler” material on them) and Jenn’s chicken came. Sadly, the chicken seemed to have done its time under the heat lamp, too, and was bound to give her cotton mouth. There was sort of a dicey “cheese sauce” on there that looked like hollandaise, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. Either way, not good.

Dad’s halibut showed up and he started to eat. By this time, everyone’s got something but me, and I’m pretty hungry.

Fully 15 minutes after everyone’s gotten their main meal, I finally got my halibut.

I think I made out better than most folks because it was actually okay. There was a lot of it, and it seemed just a little dry, but I wasn’t expecting much. Dad liked it, too, so I think we were the only two reasonably satisfied folks there.

After everyone finished eating, we got booted from the room because a new party was coming in at 2:00 and we needed to be out by 1:00.

We left, and out in the parking lot everyone exchanged gifts. Well, not everyone. Lots of people. In the back of my parents’ car seemed to be gifts for everyone in the family. I mean, a huge pile of presents. People ran madly back and forth through the rain with their soaking packages, loading up cars and getting things moving. From my view in the backseat, I noticed two things: First, everyone had gifts for my Granddad. I found this sort of hypocritical, since no one did anything but complain about Spiffy’s. Second, when we left, our car was empty except for two or three very small packages. Everyone else seemed to have problems getting their trunks closed and so forth. I guess I feel like we got the short end of that whole deal.

Oh well. It’s over now, and that’s what matters.

That evening at 5:00p we went to the Winter Hawks game and watched them get totally trounced by Spokane. So much for the unstoppable feeling from the night before.

To close off Sunday, we watched a rockin’ episode of Alias. They’ve finally involved Marshall, the tech guy, in the missions, and that’s a lot of fun. I love that show.

And now it’s Monday. I took my car in to get the repairs on it started and when we called the car rental place, they didn’t know I was supposed to have a car. That figures. We got it set up, though (the rental chick, Carolyn, was kinda hot), and now I’m driving a 2002 Chevy Impala. It’s a little odd, considering it’s so big compared to my car, but it’s better than the Babemobile.