Saturday, April 30, 2005

Romance, finally.

Karyn, you did it AGAIN!

It must be part of a woman’s genetic coding that once they bear children they convey guilt as an automatic function. I don’t think it’s intentional. I think it’s built in—the subconscious mind just takes over and the guilt is transmitted.

It can’t be part of a worldwide gender conspiracy, can it? (Say! That would make a great story line for a novel. I’ll have to develop that.)

Karyn, I guess you were trying to be sympathetic, throwing out that comment about the lawn needing mowing, but...

Hey! Wait just a minute! Has my wife been emailing you? The first thing she began to talk about this Saturday morning was all of the outdoor projects she has in mind. Some of them she wanted to “get started on” today. Translation: “John, I expect you to get several of these things done today.”

Okay, I guess that’s not fair. You don’t know Carol. She’s a one-in-a-billion woman who DOES actually plan, start, and often complete all by herself projects involving things that are stereotypically reserved for the man of the house. Things like trimming trees.

Maybe I should tell you that she bought ceramic tile for our bathrooms and laid it all by herself. Maybe I should also admit that she then bought a WHOLE BUNCH more ceramic tile (12-inch squares) and tiled the entire kitchen, laundry room, den and front hall of our house!

What? Of COURSE I helped. I got to carry in from the garage the sixty-pound boxes of tiles so she could lay them. I think I also hauled in the bags of grout for her to mix with water and apply between the tiles. I mean, SOMEBODY had to do the grunt work!

Her latest project is making concrete stepping stones to create a beautiful landscaped area off our back patio. Yes, she makes them. She pours bags of Sakrete into a mixing tub, adds water, mixes until the right consistency is obtained, and then scoops the wet concrete into plastic molds to make the stepping stones. Once they are cured she places them in the pattern she has created.

The only thing that saves me from being recruited for these projects every evening and all weekend is that she also loves to play golf (Thank You, God!), and she realizes that the evenings have other purposes than just working on projects.

Almost all of my blogging is done after dark. (Yes, you CAN do other things after dark than what most people think about doing after dark.)

But you know what one of the best things about Carol is? Although she’s the mother of two wonderful daughters, she suppresses that subconscious desire to project guilt.

Ha! Take note, you women of the world! Your conspiracy is being subverted!

(Thank You again, God! For everything about my wife!)

Friday, April 29, 2005

The deed is done

It happened today. The plant where I work has been sold.

The good news is; all the employees get to keep their jobs and their current rate of pay. I’ve had to arrange for a new benefits package, and as is usually the case in situations like this some of the benefits are “better” and some not. On balance I think we did pretty well.

The bad news is... Well, I don’t really know if there IS any bad news.

We used to be part of a large corporation. In fact, it was a major oil company. Huge resources (read: deep pockets) but lots of bureaucracy. It was nice being able to spend money for needed improvements and programs without worrying too much about making more sales to pay for it.

And the plant has been profitable, after all.

Now we’re going back to being a highly leveraged organization (read: deep in debt) that has to keep a positive cash flow on a monthly basis to keep the bankers happy. We’re much more sensitive to the whims of the marketplace. Fluctuations in the value of the dollar and the price of oil have more impact. Keeping our customers satisfiedwith premium quality product is essential, as a major plant outage could be catastrophic.

But none of that is bad news. We’ve been there before. Demand for our product is increasing and prices continue to rise, so we ought to do OK. We’re used to operating on a shoestring when we had to.

I guess the worst part is the uncertainty on the part of the employees. The perception is that they now have less job security than they did yesterday because we’ve gone from being part of a big company to being a very small one all by ourselves. And as we all know, perception is often more important than reality.

So it looks like it’s going to be a day-to-day thing. Employees will watch management very closely to make sure we’re not screwing up. Our hope is they don’t get so involved in watching US that they lose focus on their jobs and their own safety.

One large property damage incident that shuts down production for a while could result in that major outage I mentioned a few paragraphs back.

So I guess we’ll all be watching each other for a while. Each group needs to trust the other. And we do, most of the time.

Our new owner has the potential to make a lot of money with this plant over the next few years. He has promised to share those profits through significant bonuses with employees, but that depends on the profits happening.

We’ll hope for the best. Meanwhile I’ve got to get our new payroll system working in time for our regular paychecks to come out (and be correct!) two weeks from today. Then I’ve got to set up a 401(k) savings plan. A new employee policy manual is the next step. Meanwhile there are a myriad of details to be taken care of: new signs, business cards, letterhead, computer network setup with new email addresses and much more, contacts with many businesses and agencies to communicate our new identity, new licenses for our radios, new security plans for the Coast Guard, environmental permits, tax ID numbers... (deep breath).

OK, I’ll stop. Suffice to say I’ll be a bit busy this summer.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thank you, Karyn!

(See the Karyn's comment to yesterday’s post.)


One of the things I’m supposed to have arranged is uniforms (actually just “work clothing,” since the goal is to provide adequate personal protection from work hazards—like long sleeves, flame-retardant material, and so on—not necessarily “uniformity.”) I need to change our contract with the clothing and laundry service to reflect our new name and ownership.

Locker Numbers!

The lockers are part of the work clothing program, and I’ll need to get a bunch of new locks and reassign some lockers.

And those are just a couple of details I had forgotten.

What’s funny is, my standard joke to employees who have a problem with our work clothing program is that, “Well, you could always work naked. But OSHA would have a problem with that. Not to mention your co-workers.” It usually gets a laugh.

I imagine they laugh because they’re remembering that dream of yours, Karyn. It's one that all of us have from time to time.

In any case, your comment put my imagined pressures into perspective. We’ll all get through this, and it’ll be OK.

If I can remember where my clothes are, as I'm searching for the room my next class is in.

Thanks. I think.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Speaking of Priorities...

Today is Wednesday. On Friday I will have been terminated by my current employer and hired by my new one. Well, me and 80 others.

We have benefits enrollment meetings scheduled for tomorrow and Friday to ensure no one has a lapse in their health, life and AD&D insurance coverage. Arrangements are in place to begin a new payroll service immediately when the old one stops.

Those are my first priorities—making sure everyone has continuous benefits, and that they get paid on time.

Everything has been done on a last-minute basis. I don’t even have benefit plan booklets yet, but they ought to be arriving by tomorrow morning. Insurance ID cards are the next necessity. I’m having all employees fill out new W-4 forms and payroll direct deposit authorizations.

What have I forgotten? Probably about 20 things. My hope is that as they become apparent we can scramble and get them accomplished before anyone is negatively impacted.

I envision a discussion like the following:

Lawyer: “Isn’t it true, Mr. Earle, that you were the person responsible for arranging your employees’ benefits?”

Me: “Uh, yes, but...”

Lawyer: “And didn’t you tell all the employees in the preliminary meetings that there would be no gaps in coverage?”

Me: “Well, yes, but I...”

Lawyer: “So, Mr. Earle, please explain to the Widow Jones why there is no Life Insurance benefit on her poor dead husband, who was tragically struck down by a giant hailstone just minutes after his coverage under the former employer ended. Well, Mr. Earle, we’re waiting!”

Me (sweat pouring off my face): “But I arranged everything... Except for one little detail, and...”

Lawyer (pointing his finger at me): “YOU forgot, didn’t you. YOU knew that Acts of God were supposed to be covered, but YOU didn’t make sure, DID YOU?

In my imagination the scene goes on and on, with the result that the whole company goes bankrupt and everybody loses their jobs because I didn’t do mine adequately.

Does anybody else have insecurities like this?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My Rebuttal, and Priorities

What? You don’t want to read about my brilliant, logical rebuttal of Mr. Queen’s diatribe?

Okay! Okay! I’ll summarize.

My complete, edited letter was only a page and a half. I ignored much of the ranting that I consider irrelevant (and that I hope the Commissioners likewise finds to be so) and focused on three points:

First, Christina did not receive the “benefit” of progressive discipline. The employer clearly did not follow his own disciplinary policy.

Second, her intentions were to present the practice in a positive light, not a negative one. The definition of “misconduct “ in the law twice includes the word “intentional,” making it clear that intentions are important. The hearing officer judged that Christina’s intentions were good, and thus there was no misconduct.

Third, although Mr. Queen didn’t like her choice of words, more importance was attached by the hearing officer to her demeanor, or the WAY she said the words. This was clear from Christina’s personal testimony in which she described what led up to her comments, what she said, and the WAY she said it. She included details that proved she was trying to be helpful and positive.

(I’m reminded of the old song that goes, “It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it.” You don’t know that song? Huh! Well, Google it. You’ll see.)

I praised the hearing officer for the conduct of the hearing and requested that her decision be affirmed.

That’s it. That’s all I wrote.

I’m told that the Commissioners don’t listen to recordings of testimony and scrutinize evidence in too much detail. Their attorneys prepare a summary of the case and the testimony in advance and present it to them. I’m hoping that, absent the proverbial “smoking gun” I mentioned yesterday, this case will be no different from the norm and the commissioners will just affirm Ms. Ford’s decision.

If they feel she ruled in error, they could always reverse her. Since I don’t want that to happen, I tend to minimize the possibility, but you just never know.

Politics may play a role. Available funds in the state budget may play a role. I’ll never know what goes into their decision, other than the public announcement that will be produced.

So, now I turn my attention to obtaining benefits and payroll services for the new company I’ll work for when the sale of my plant is completed at the end of this week.

Gotta keep my priorities straight!

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Appeal Letter

Today, six days after it was promised, Mr. Queen’s appeal letter appeared on my office fax machine. I felt a sense of dismay as page after page spewed forth. What could he have possibly written that would require so much paper?

I began reading. OK, first he accuses her of being irresponsible, illogical, and lacking in common sense. (This was their “model employee?”) Over the next three pages he picks apart the written decision of the appeals hearing officer, re-arguing his case and explaining why parts of it were misinterpreted or given insufficient weight.

He points out parts of Ms. Ford’s decision that he agrees with, and parts he thinks are in error. He harps on Christina’s use of the word “finally,” just as he did during the hearing.

He goes into great length and detail about an event that occurred in December, a month before she was fired and which had no bearing on her termination. I remember that during the hearing Ms. Ford allowed a little of that discussion before urging him to move on to the events that DID cause her to be fired.

He bases an argument that Christina is irresponsible (and implies that she might have been lying) on her testimony that she couldn’t remember who has asked her to do something that day in January. (This from a man who likewise couldn’t remember who it was who reported to him her questioning the doctor that he counseled her about! This from a man who claimed he didn’t know his own disciplinary policy and didn’t have a copy of it in his office during the hearing, so he couldn’t testify about it. Yeah, right.)

When he DOES get around to the “final” event, her use of the word “finally” in front of a patient, he admits that she might have said it in empathy and with a smile, but rants on about the “claimant’s apparent inability to understand the negative impact of her communications.” He claims that her intent is not the issue.


A lot of steam and ire, but I find no smoking gun; no new evidence. It’s essentially just a case of Mr. Queen saying, “I don’t like her decision.” Well, the losing party seldom does.

I called the Commission office and spoke with an attorney who handles Commission Appeals. I wanted to know if it would be appropriate to write a brief rebuttal letter. He said it couldn’t hurt, as both Mr. Queen’s letter and any letter I write in rebuttal would be considered.

So I’m writing that tonight. Tomorrow I’ll read it over, re-write parts of it (I always think of better ways to say things the next day), and fax it in for the Commission to consider.

I’m not TOO worried, although you never know for sure how these things will go. So it truly “ain’t over.” Yet.

Oh, the attorney told me this case was on the Commission’s docket for May 10, so it’ll be two weeks before it’s considered and another 3-5 days before we get their decision.

More angst.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pictures of the Grandson

By popular demand... (OK, two of you have asked for them.)

Now remember, these were taken with a cell phone camera, so they're not the best, clearest, biggest, and all that stuff.

But hey, ya gotta admit he's cute!

(If you don't gotta admit it, don't bother putting any comments on this blog!)

OK! (Drum roll, please. Thank you.) Clear the decks, activate your browser, and CLICK HERE for pictures of Trevor!

(Told you he was cute!)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A day late and...

You may have noticed that my Friday posting went up on Saturday morning. Here’s my story (and I’m stickin’ to it):

My little twin turboprop commuter flight from Houston to Victoria was delayed last night. The 30-seat plane was reported as “in maintenance.” 7:00 p.m. boarding time came and went. 7:35 departure time came and went.

At 8:00 all 28 of us crammed ourselves into the shuttle bus and made it to the plane. Just then, for the first time all day, rain began pelting down. Undeterred, we braved the deluge and boarded the plane. Many of the 28 passengers used cell phones to call folks in Victoria and let them know how late we expected to be. It seemed to take forever for the baggage to be loaded aboard, but finally the door was shut and we taxied.

During taxi we all noticed intermittent fog pouring out of the air conditioner vents. When the fog stopped, warm air took its place.

We took off. After a rather short climb we leveled off just in time to enter a pretty violent thunderstorm. “Turbulence” doesn’t begin to describe the ride. But for the seat belts we’d have all been bouncing off the floor, ceiling and windows.

A little of that goes a long way, but after what seemed like 30 minutes (really about 5) the flight deck crew announced that we were returning to Houston because of cabin pressurization problems.

Well, that was no surprise. During the violent ride we’d all noticed our ears alternating between positive and negative pressure. It took a total of 40 minutes to circle back and land in Houston, where we had just left. The flight to Victoria would only have taken 35 minutes.

We deplaned, boarded the same bus, and returned to the same departure gate we had left from. (OK you purists, I should have written "from which we had left," but that sounds stilted). The airline personnel announced to us that there would be a 45 minute attempt to repair the problem. If a repair was unlikely or impossible, they would “air swap” us.

What the hell does THAT mean?

I guess it’s obvious, but in airline talk that means they’d put us in a different plane.

Our response was to look at each other, then walk to the person who announced that plan and say, “DUH! Air swap us NOW, please. Why wait?”

Although they had no answer for, “Why wait,” they wanted to attempt the repair first.

Guess what? The repair attempt failed. So we were air swapped. At 11:00 p.m., four hours after our scheduled boarding time, we boarded the “new” airplane.

Here’s the surprising part. After all that hassle, delay and inconvenience, the passengers were in a giddy mood. They laughed and told jokes with perfect strangers. One person told the flight attendant, “Hey, we ought to all get free cocktails for this!” She checked with her boss and said, “OK. Free cocktails for everyone.”

That put everyone in an even BETTER mood.

Best of all, once we were airborne we found that the violent weather had blown past and we had a very smooth 35 minute flight to Victoria.

I made it home after midnight. Hey, it coulda been worse!

So that’s why the Friday post came up on Saturday. Oh, and tune in tomorrow for some cell-phone pictures of Trevor.

Airport Observations

My HR conference is over. I left the hotel in plenty of time to get to the airport the requisite two hours before departure time. Now, with still one hour and 40 minutes until flight time I’m already sitting at my gate.

Murphy’s famous law tells me that if I had only planned to be her 90 minutes before flight time I would have experienced horrible delays and missed my flight. As it is, I have plenty of time to share with all of you whatever thoughts occur to me over the next hour or so.

Lucky you!

This airport (San Diego) plays the same recording over and over again, about every five minutes. It reminds us that, “Security is everybody’s responsibility!” It then goes into great detail about not accepting any packages or luggage from strangers, never allowing your luggage to be out of your sight and control, and reporting any stranger who asks you to carry or transport any baggage not your own.

Well, darn! When that nice-looking turbaned gentleman offered me $100 to carry his bag to Houston on my flight, I thought I’d hit a lucky streak. I mean, a HUNDRED DOLLARS! But when I heard the recording I had to tell him no. I’m supposed to report him to airline personnel or a security officer, but I don’t see any of those right now so I’ll wait. He left right away anyway.

Oh, and I left my carry-on bag on my seat at the gate while I went to the rest room. It almost looks now as if it has more stuff in it than before, and it feels heavier. Ha ha. I’m sure I’m imagining it.

I wonder about things like shoe removal. On a trip to Louisville a few months ago (chronicled on this very blog!) I was directed to remove my shoes and send them through the x-ray machine. Even when I smiled and told the security person that my shoes contained nothing that would set off the metal detector.

But here in San Diego you are allowed to wear your shoes through the metal detector. So I did. And they did NOT set it off. Ha! Guess I showed THEM.

Perhaps shoes are a greater threat in Kentucky than in California. Or maybe they’re just more concerned there about keeping the carpet clean around the security point. I mean, in Louisville everybody goes to the Derby, right? And walking around all those horses, you’re likely to step in some… Well, you might pick up some… Uh, I guess I can see why they’d want to keep those airport carpets clean. They wouldn’t want someone to smell the horse, uh, “droppings,” and think that odor was attributable to their security efforts, right?

Or maybe there was a shoe security alert that week that has since been lifted. OK, enough about shoes.

It’s lunch time. I wonder if they’ll feed us on this flight. In former times that information was printed right on your ticket or boarding pass, as in “Lunch,” or “Snack.” In these days of E-Tickets and boarding passes you print at home, that information is not as readily available. I think I’ll stroll down to one of the fast food outlets at the end of this concourse and grab a bite. That way I KNOW they’ll feed us on the plane. If I skip the food now, there won’t even be peanuts on the beverage cart, let alone a meal.

Mmmm. Back in the gate area again. I had a grilled chicken salad with ranch. Now I’ll get a hot meal on the plane for sure.

OK, we’re boarding. More later.

Time has passed and I’m now sitting in the departure gate area in Houston. It’s amazing what you see in airports. At this exact location a few months ago I saw a LARGE man stroll by me. More accurately, he swaggered by me. He looked like an NFL offensive lineman. He wore blue jeans and a black tee shirt. The printing on the front of the shirt was white. When I say he was large, I mean he looked like a walking billboard. I read the white letters, shook my head in total disbelief, read them again, and almost choked.

In bold type it read, “F**K Milk, Got Pot?” Except each word was spelled out. No asterisks. Yeah, I was shocked. I admit it. Guess I’m a prude.

One last random thought: This is for all you smokers. Do you know how to say “trash” in Pig Latin?

Think about it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Conference

San Diego is a very pretty city. That is, what I can see of it from my east-facing 7th floor hotel room. The weather out here has been great, with clear skies and temps in the 60s.

The HR conference is going the way these things usually go – some of the speakers’ topics are more pertinent than others. I usually come away with at least a couple of new ideas or pieces of information that will save my company some money over the next year so, on balance, it’s worth the trip.

I promised yesterday to tell you how exciting the conference is. Well, “exciting” is a bit strong as a descriptive word. I didn’t fall completely asleep during any sessions, not even after lunch, so that’s something. I’ll admit to getting blurry vision a time or two, but I never actually snored. At least that’s what the person sitting beside me said.

Nah, that’s not fair. Some of the presentations were excellent. Others were… well, OK.

Still no word on Mr. Queen’s letter. I think I’ve been forgotten. With the time difference, it’s already after 5 p.m. in Texas before we get out of our meetings here, so there’s little chance to call Lona again and ask her what happened.

Besides, I told her (when I was trying to be sweet and persuasive) that I wouldn’t bother her again. But that was when she said she’d send me the letter by the end of the day on Tuesday.

OK, I’ve decided. Tomorrow morning I’ll get up at 6 and start trying to call her. Maybe I can get a look at that letter sometime during the day tomorrow during my travels. The Houston airport has several wireless internet hotspots (outside the Continental Airlines President’s Club locations are always reliable) and I think I have a long enough layover there to log on and check email.

I doubt there’s any real need for immediacy. But next week is going to be REALLY busy at work.

Pressure! Just what I need.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Travels

I'm traveling on business again—this time to San Diego. I flew out here today to attend an HR (Human Resources, to the uninitiated) conference put on by the NPRA.

OK, that's the National Petrochemical and Refiners' Association. It has nothing to do with the National Rifle Association. Which I am NOT a member of. (Glad we've got that straight.)

Anyway, I'm still focusing on Christina's unemployment appeal. Yes, according to the Open Records Act I have a right to a copy of Mr. Queen's letter. The bureaucracy being what it is, though, I have to wait 3-5 days to get the copy I've requested.

I spoke in sweet, persuasive tones to Lona in the Open Records Office asking her to please fax it (or scan it into a PDF and email it—whichever is easier to do) to me as soon as possible so I'll have a chance to offer a rebuttal, if warranted, BEFORE the commissioners meet to review the case. Lona responded to my sweet persuasion and promised she would do one or the other (fax or email it) on Tuesday.

Well, so much for my persuasive powers. And my attempted sweetness. It's now after the close of business on Wednesday and I still don't have it.

Yes, I'm out of town. But my office people are checking my work email and the fax machine for me and will let me know AS SOON AS it arrives.

Right now I'm sitting in my 7th floor hotel room in downtown San Diego, CA, waiting for the lobby bar to open. Also the restaurants. It's not quite 4 p.m. California time, but it's almost six according to my body clock.

I'm chafing at not knowing what Mr. Queer—oops, I mean Queen—has up his sleeve.

Oh, well, nothing I can do about it tonight. I'll let you know tomorrow how exciting this conference is.

Oh, yeah, something else. On the plane I sat beside a family who was flying here to attend their son's graduation ceremony after completion of Marine boot camp! I told them how proud I was of any young person who would serve our country by joining the armed forces at a time like this. Especially to become a Marine. I told them (as a former Navy carrier pilot) that the confidence their son has gained by becoming a Marine will be a part of him for the rest of his life.

I think they knew that, but appreciated that a stranger felt that way and expressed it to them. Thank God for our service men and women.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Back on March 29 I wrote a posting called “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.” That was a reference to my daughter’s unemployment hearing, in which we were successful in overturning the initial disqualification for benefits.

(Don’t you hate convoluted sentences like that last one? It means: she was initially disqualified for benefits, but we were able to get that turned around and now she IS receiving unemployment compensation.)

I thought the odds of that decision being appealed were very long.

I was wrong.

Her employer has appealed to the 3-member commission for a review of the appeals tribunal’s ruling.

His grounds? I’m trying to find out. Under the Open Records laws I have a right to see a copy of his letter requesting the appeal. I have asked for that, but haven’t seen it yet. It takes three to five days, I’m told, to fax me a copy.

And that’s OK, so long as the commission doesn’t consider it during that time and make a decision. Why? Because depending on what the employer wrote, I may want to file a rebuttal for them to consider along with his request.

At the least, the three commissioners are supposed to review the appeals hearing and either affirm it or not. In most cases they affirm it, unless the appealing party presents new evidence (including an explanation of why this wasn’t presented at the initial hearing) or points out errors made by the hearing officer.

If Mr. Queen (the employer — not his real name) just says, “I disagree with the ruling,” I’m not concerned because that’s not good enough. But I think he’s smarter than that, and I think I made him very mad. So he may throw out something unexpected to try to get a new hearing and “get even.”

Thus the title of this post. It has already caused Christina additional angst while in the hospital birthing my grandson. Now I’m feeling the same emotion waiting for information.

Yogi was more right than I knew.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Toilet's Revenge, Part II

The comments below were made in reference to my post of April 9, “The Toilet’s Revenge.”

Michelle said...

Duke - I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. My walls talk to me all the time. In fact I talk to me all the time and the most frightening thing is, I answer myself. And in case you were not aware, I have heard via the pipeline, that my dishwasher is communicating with your garden tap.

Michelle said...

I think your writing is good and I should know, I am a goddess *grin*.

Others of you made somewhat disparaging remarks about my assertion that my plumbing fixtures and other apparent (to you) inanimate objects do, in fact, communicate.

Please note that the goddess above not only confirmed my knowledge of the aforementioned communication, but passed on to me some very specific intelligence concerning my garden tap.

WELL! I think you should know what happened a few days ago.

Carol was using the garden hose attached to the tap on the back of my house. She had pulled the business end of the hose around a corner, and had a pistol-grip nozzle on it to control the spray. After a short period of use she walked around the corner and approached the tap to turn off the water. She was greeted by a fountain.

The hose had swelled and split open not far from the tap. Water was spraying on the patio and surrounding area. No, it didn’t cause any damage. This entire area is outside and open to the weather. But had she NOT walked back to turn off the tap and simply left the hose lying there it could have wasted thousands of gallons of water and caused a mess

Can there be any doubt that this is what Michelle heard whispered by her dishwasher? I’d say she’s both a goddess and a prophetess. And you had the NERVE to scoff! (Sniff).

Btw, I just had the chance to help my daughter Elizabeth and her husband fix a leaking toilet in their upstairs bathroom. (New wax rings, for all you toilet repair enthusiasts. Always use TWO wax rings. One is not enough in most cases, although the home improvement store plumbing experts will tell you otherwise. Trust me!) When I left there was no evidence of leakage.

But I warned them. You can’t be too vigilant when dealing with toilets. It must be a characteristic of the breed, because no other plumbing fixture seems so perverse. If they gloat even a little, they’ll suffer their own version of “Toilet’s Revenge.”

So stand by for part III. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. Someday. Trust me on that, too.

P. S. Michelle? Be vigilant. I think my microwave was sending signals to your clothes dryer. Even a goddess can get distracted from time to time. You might have missed the continuing conspiracy.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A loved baby boy

Yes, I have a new grandson. He's beautiful!

You'll have to take my word for it because the only picture I have was taken on a cell phone camera and doesn't begin to do him justice. Don't worry; pictures will come.

His C-Section delivery had plusses and minuses. On the plus side, he and his mom were able to avoid the stresses of his being squeezed down the birth canal. For him, that means he's not misshapen as can sometimes happen. For Christina it meant freedom from the trauma of labor.

On the minus side, his lungs retained some of the fluid normally squeezed out by that trip down the canal, so he had to be given supplemental oxygen for the first few days. For Mom it meant abdominal surgery and the ensuing pain, limited motion, drug side effects, and the fact that she couldn't hold him or feed him for the first few days while he was on oxygen.

Derspite all that, mother and son are both doing fine now. Mom is home, and son Trevor will be going home tomorrow after one final check to make sure everything is as perfect as it seems to be.

I could get all mushy and emotional about the miracle of birth and new life, but I won't. Those emotions are best understood if they are experienced. To hear about them from someone else's experience just doesn't have the same effect .

We're getting frequent telephone updates about each development as it happens: the first feeding, the first crying, the first night the new parents were able to keep their baby with them in their room all night long. One thing for sure, Trevor will grow up knowing love.

That's comforting to know, but it makes me ache for all the babies that grow up NOT knowing it. But I can't solve that problem, so I'll focus on my own family and enjoy the love that's there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


That has a nice ring to it.

Better than “Gramps.” MUCH better than “Grumpy.” (As in the Dwarf.)

I guess “Grand Dad” would be OK too. Except it sounds like a bourbon.

What am I rambling on about today? Well, you know Christina’s pregnant, right? Today she went to her doctor for a checkup. She’s due in about 2 weeks. The doctor told her he had good news and bad news.

The bad news was, Trevor (yes, they’ve picked out a name and they know he’s a he) is presenting breech. They don’t think they can turn him.

The good news is; she’s having him tomorrow.

April 14, 2005 will be the day my first grandchild is born!

The C-section will be performed at 2 p.m. in Corpus Christi. Yes, I plan to be there along with Carol. So don’t look for another blog post for a day or two.

Lots of excitement in the Earle home tonight. I’m sure everything will be fine, but of course I’ll let you know as soon as I can get back online.

Oh, Elizabeth? We're still planning to visit you this weekend, assuming everything goes well in CC tomorrow. (See, I'm giving you equal time.)


In a recent post on Viki Babbles (blog) the writer recounted her dream of loading a dishwasher while her mother watched.

Of course I had to psychoanalyze her based on that dream. I did it in a comment to the post. Yeah, she thanked me. Pronounced herself cured. Told me she needed no further appointments. I just mailed her my bill yesterday.

Anyway, that reminded me of a recurring dream of my own. It’s very pleasant. In it I am able to hold myself JUST off the ground by force of will. No flapping of arms, no zipping around like a superhero. Just no contact with the ground.

Usually I then take a running start, jump forward, exert that force of will and glide an inch of so above the surface. If the wind is blowing I can move along with the wind indefinitely. If I come to a slow halt I need only release myself to the ground, run a few more steps and glide further.

The dream is quite vivid. I’ve even pictured running to the top of a hill and then holding myself up as the ground falls away in front of me. I slowly descend until once again I’m just hovering above the surface. It’s a lot of fun. You ought to try it.

Someone needs to invent a machine to transmit images into our heads while we sleep. It would have many applications, from “Learn while you sleep,” to “Dream your favorite dream.” Every family would want to own several.

Hey, I write fiction. Maybe instead of inventing the machine, I could write a novel about someone who did!

Of course someone would then start selling porno dreams, and there’d be a real dark side to the wonderful invention. Doesn’t sound like the most believable SF story. In fact, it’s been done, now that I think about it.

Ah, well, nothing original about the idea. It’s still a cool dream, though.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dedicated to Elizabeth.

Today I arrived home from work to find that my wonderful wife Carol had been IM-ing our younger daughter Elizabeth again.

One of the subjects under discussion was Romantic Ramblings. Yes, this very blog.

Elizabeth’s friend Tina, the Creative Writing major who writes Beautiful Vibe, had asked Elizabeth who Christina was. After she’d read all my posts about the unemployment hearing last month. Elizabeth was wondering why I spent so much blog time talking about Christina, and never mentioned HER.

Well, DUH! Come on, Liz, I raised you to be smarter than that! That unemployment hearing took a whole lot of my time and energy and emotion for nearly a month. It was good blog material. The whole situation had suspense, drama, laughter, tears, angst, sex (well, not actually any of that, but I DID talk about pregnancy!), and it was interesting. I got LOTS of comments from those posts.

I just haven’t had any real interesting interaction with you that is blog-worthy lately.

Hey, I posted my speech and toast from YOUR wedding a few days ago! I referred to you as A_____.

You wondered why I called your sister Christina by her middle name? Well, there WAS a chance that someone involved in that unemployment case might have seen the name and recognized it. Yeah, I know, VERY slim. But I thought it might embarrass her if I gave her real name and told all the details about her getting fired. Especially after they accused her of all that “decline in performance” and stuff.

WE all knew it wasn’t true, but my thousands of readers might have wondered. Well, one of them might have. Maybe even both of them. (I think I have two. Some days I'm not sure.)

Anyway, I’m sorry you feel slighted. I’ve added Tina’s blog to my list of regular reads, so maybe she’ll get busy and post some more good stuff. (Maybe I should refer to HER by some pseudonym.) But today you, ELIZABETH, are the subject of my daily post.

Be honored! Tell all your friends, colleagues, work buddies, neighbors, and everyone on the address lines of the spam emails you get. Shout it from the housetop. “I’M ON MY DAD’S BLOG TODAY!”

As I hope you know, Liz, I’m very proud of you! Please don’t feel slighted. I shall mention you more often. Maybe even your terrific husband, too. Please don’t think you have to fall off a mountain or something (like Monica’s daughter) to get a mention. (Sorry Monica.)

Mom and I are coming to visit you this weekend. Get your camera ready. I’m sure we’ll find some blog-worthy material for me to ramble about next week. Readers, you'll BOTH be seeing more about Elizabeth soon.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I have arrived!

My wife thinks blogging is stupid.

She knows I blog because I love to write and enjoy showing off how clever I think I am.

So what’s wrong with that? In Carol’s opinion I’m not as clever as I think I am (she’s my daily dose of reality check). This reinforces her feeling that blogging is stupid. I mean, if it continues to feed my delusions of cleverness, it MUST be. Stupid. Right?

Btw, after 36+ years of marriage I’m still silly in love with her, as she is with me. She puts up with my “stupid blogging” because she knows I want to keep doing it. She’s patient with me, as a caregiver would be with someone suffering from mild retardation.

Why have I arrived? Despite her disdain for my blogging, she was IM-ing (Instant Messaging) our younger daughter today and told her this:

Carol: “Do you have daddy's blog address. You need to read his posting for Saturday. It is a "good" story about a potential horrible experience in the house. Plus he tells it in a funny way.”
Daughter: “k”

That’s all. But think about it! It means she read my blog post. And liked it!!

Yep. I have officially arrived. I AM clever! (Can you see the smug grin on my face?)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Public vs. Private. Blogs, that is.

One of my readers asked (email) why I named this blog “Romantic Ramblings” when there’s nothing remotely romantic in any of it.

Good question.

One answer: I wanted to identify myself as a wannabe romance novelist, trying to get published, hence the “Romantic.”

I decided at the onset that this would be a “public” blog, not a “private” one. Meaning: I would identify myself, including providing links to a personal web page and an email address. After all, if I’m ever published I’ll have an author’s web site (with a link to buy my book, natch!) and I’ll be more of a public figure. So why not start now? That's why I get a lot of emails for comments instead of comments y'all can see.

I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, right? I’m listed in the phone book. You can Google me in Victoria, Texas, and get a Mapquest map to my house. (In fact, do that. Then come by some day and listen to my appliances and fixtures talk to each other!)

The upside of a public blog is that my family members (out of town, out of state, wherever) can tune in periodically and find out what’s happening in the Earle household. Likewise my friends from work, my boss, my agent, and anyone who knows me can check out my writing and life events. Cool, right?

Well... On the “dark” side, all this public disclosure (lack of anonymity) limits what I put on my blog. I’ve got to watch my language, because, for crying out loud, my almost-89-year-old MOTHER reads my blog! (Hi, Mom!) BTW, she’s still sharp as a tack; thank God, just not quite as mobile as she used to be.

If I think my boss is a jerk (I DON’T, Greg! HONEST!), I can’t say it here. If somebody at work is having an affair with a co-worker (not you, Doug! And not the one with Jennifer!), or if I have to investigate a juicy sexual harassment claim, I can’t talk about it here. Even though I know you’d all like to hear about it.

So I write about my toilet leaking, my golf game, and equally inane subjects. Instead of, say, an intimate discourse on a blogger’s introduction to her IUD. (OK, I KNOW you’re ALL going to want to read that one! Here’s the link: Beautiful Vibe )

That’s not what you’d put out for the entire world to see and then admit to your identity, right?

Sometimes I’m envious of you anonymous bloggers who have little data in your profile, no email address, and thus the freedom to talk trash, handle delicate or politically incorrect subjects, or share VERY personal thoughts or events with no real repercussions.

Hmmm. I may create a SECOND, anonymous blog someday and let it ALL hang out. If I do, I’ll pretend to have just “discovered” it and provide you with the link to it.

For now though, “Romantic” is all in the eye of the beholder.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Toilet’s Revenge!

Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I KNOW it was coming?

You think the toilet started leaking, don’t you? Oh, no! Not THIS toilet. It’s much too subtle for that. This particular toilet (see my postings of February 26 and following) heard all of my gloating and, in true devious toilet fashion, lulled me into a false sense of security. Even though I told you that I KNEW it would start leaking sooner or later, it waited until today—a full seven weeks later—to take its revenge.

At the risk of offending my female readers, I’m beginning to suspect that this toilet is a she. I mean; what male do you know who could devise a scheme like this and have the patience to wait seven weeks to pull it off?

OK, here’s what she did. She conspired (through a direct pipeline, of course—how else?) with the faucet fittings under the master bathroom sink. Now this toilet is in the hall bathroom, so she HAD to communicate through the pipes. Most likely Morse code, using water pressure pulses for dots and dashes.

Anyway, this morning, after all shaving and other morning bathroom activity had been completed, Carol was in the kitchen and I just HAPPENED to be putting something away in the bedroom. I heard a sudden loud roaring from the bathroom that could only be water at full pressure, blasting against other objects. It sounded like your water hose with a nozzle on it spraying at full stream against the siding on your house, or against light-weight aluminum hub caps on your car.

My first thought was, “TOILET!” I rushed to the bathroom door and saw water cascading out from the cabinet under the sink.

What I did next was stupid. But I’ll bet it’s what every one of you would have done. I opened the cabinet door to look!

Of course, I got a face full of water and couldn’t see anything.

I yelled to Carol, “Major water leak in the bathroom!” while I sprinted, barefoot and dripping, to the front door and then outside to the main water shut-off by the foundation. The flow only lasted about one minute.

When I got back inside, Carol had assessed the situation and was already sucking up the water with a carpet steam cleaner/vacuum combination we’d bought a year or so ago, and which happened to be available in the spare bedroom closet.

Thirty minutes later I examined the evidence. One of the flexible water supply lines from the shut-off to the sink faucet had just come apart. All at once. No warning drip, no slow leak, just an instantaneous failure.

Can you see how devious this plot was? The toilet chose to move the location of her revenge to another part of the house to throw off suspicion! She waited long enough that our guard was down. Then she arranged a full frontal assault designed to inflict the maximum damage and pain.

On reflection, I’m also convinced that the sink faucet is male. He went along with her scheme, seduced by her flirtations and promises of future favors. But being a typical male, he couldn’t wait (as she no doubt wanted him to) until we were out of the house or out of town. That would have caused the absolute maximum damage she no doubt desired.

No, he had to let loose the fitting when we were there so he could see all the action, the running around, the yelling and the panic. Yep, typical male.

So, what did he get for listening to her whisperings in Morse code? He got emasculated! I took off both of his flexible supply hoses and replaced them with other lines. Prosthetics, so to speak.

We now have a fan blowing on the small area of damp carpet in the bedroom just outside the bathroom door. We were very lucky to so minimize the quantity of water that escaped. All is quiet again, and the cost of the repair was minimal.

But I can hear a quiet, female giggling coming from the direction of the hall bathroom.

(Do your household plumbing fixtures communicate? Are you sure?)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Well, I tried...

It's Friday afternoon at last, another week of work is past.
Tomorow 'twill be Saturday. (I hope a round of golf to play.)

I usually don't take the time to post a message all in rhyme.
It puts me in a happy frame, of mind--just like a playful game.

I read a post by Cowboy Joe, a poet from the land of snow.
He wrote the whole thing as a poem, sitting in his chair at home.

(OK, I had to stretch for that one.)

I took his challenge, told him I could do it too! Or, at least, try.
I mean, come on now. Just how hard could it be, really, playing bard?

Keeping up a constant beat with words that rhyme is no great feat.
Why, people do it all the time! Though most are much more skilled than I'm.

I'm really getting into this! My mood is turning into bliss.
I know that all my reader friends will try this too, like other trends.

Rhyming blogs might knock 'em dead. The biggest hit since, well, sliced bread.
And pretty soon the blogging masses will all be rhyming out their ... (Maybe I ought to re-think that one.)

But now I'm staring at the clock, and find I'm faced with writer's block.
It's getting close to supper time. I've run out of ideas that rhyme.

My previously impish mood is turning now to thoughts of food.
I fear that I am doomed to fail at besting Joe in this travail.

I guess he's just a better poet, and if you others didn't know it,
Well, now you do. I quit! I'm beat. I'm going to get some food to eat.

So you win, Joe, up in B.C. I hope you savor victory
With well-earned pride, cause you're the best. I'll stick to prose, like all the rest.

(And I thought that would be easy!)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A wedding toast

Almost 6 years ago my younger daughter A____ was married to a young man from our home town of Victoria, TX, whose name is T_____ B_____. I'm referring to them this way to spare them the embarrassment of seeing their names on the internet in my blog. Not that anyone who knows them would read this, or care if they did, but...

The groom was then a 6 foot 7 inch tall Navy enlisted man. That should explain the second and third paragraphs in the toast below.

As Father of the Bride (sounds like a movie, doesn’t it?), I stood up during the reception dinner and made the following speech. I had written it out beforehand and memorized it. I came across it today and thought I’d share it with you.


A TOAST — TO THE NEW MR. AND MRS. T_____ B_______.

I had the opportunity to speak at my daughter A____’s high school graduation. Although she was home-schooled through high school, she had participated in sports and cheerleading activities with Crossroads Christian School, so we were invited to join their graduation ceremony. Of course, her teacher was her mom, Carol, and she enjoyed a teacher/student ratio of 1:1. At that time I referred to her as being first in her class, and, quite literally, in a class by herself.

T_____, to the best of my knowledge, has never been in that same sense "in a class by himself." However, in most of his experiences he has found himself to be above his classmates… especially when he stands up. In fact, he is definitely "head and shoulders above the crowd" in almost every situation. So Carol and I are truly delighted to welcome T_____ into our family as someone we can all look up to.

The Navy considers T____ to be a "First Class Petty Officer." A very apt title! He is without question First Class in every respect to all of us gathered here, and especially to A____. So, I think we can all agree that these two are now jointly in a class by themselves… a classy couple… truly a class act!

And now, my toast!

Nearly 31 years ago, in Corpus Christi, Texas, another small wedding was celebrated between a young man in the United States Navy and a young woman from South Texas. It, like this one, joined two people who had met, were separated by thousands of miles for a while, wrote lots of letters, decided that "letters just weren't cutting it any more," (to steal a phrase from A_____'s invitation) and so became man and wife.

Like A___ and T____, these two were, first of all, best friends. In the years that followed their love became richer, deeper, and fuller. There were many, many more good times than bad; and the good times were very, very good, while the bad times were not all that bad. The Lord richly blessed that marriage of 31 years ago. And those two are still best friends.

So, to our daughter and our new son, A____ and T______ B______. May God richly bless your marriage with good health, prosperity, and ever-increasing love and devotion for one another. May you be able to look back 31 years from now and realize that your happiness has been at least close to that experienced by Carol and myself; for to equal ours would be miraculous, and to exceed ours, impossible!

Yeah, I’m proud of my little speech, but I’m a lot prouder of them. Now, some six years later, they’re doing great.

Maybe my prayer at the end is being answered.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Novel News

OK, all you faithful readers. I know you’re out there. You make comments and you email me. And I appreciate each one of you. Some more than others, of course. The ones who make POSITIVE comments are, perhaps, a bit more appreciated than those who disparage. But hey, it’s a free country. And if you have a blog, we can have a dialogue! If you don’t and comment as “anonymous,” you’d better hope I don’t find out where you live. (Kidding!) (Maybe.)

Anyway, if you’re reading this one, I have some news. Lantz (my literary agent—see the header at the top of the page) emailed me that he’s sent out about 20 queries to publishers with MY synopsis attached and asked if he can send them the MS.

That means that this is my BEST opportunity yet to have my novel considered by a real publishing house. A couple of the less discerning ones have already told him it’s “not right for them.” That’s OK. Soon he’ll locate one with a modicum of taste, and then we’re off to the races!

So if you believe in prayer; or crossed fingers; or wood-knocking; or petting a duck for luck, Chuck; please get after it! OK, I made up the one about the duck, but whatever!

If you’re an editor and reading this, please contact Lantz Powell at and let him know what a great writer you think I am. Ask him for a copy of CHERISH IS THE WORD. It’ll knock your socks off. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll publish it and we’ll both make millions on it and the sequels.

(Whenever I write “sequels” I always picture sequins. Curious.)

Anyway, I get a feeling akin to nervous excitement when I think of actual publishing professionals taking a look at what I’ve written.

I just hope Lantz sent them the GOOD synopsis, not one of the old ones!

Now I’m horrified again. What if he did that? Nah. He’s a pro. He wouldn’t. Would he?

That’s beyond my control, so no sense worrying about it.

So, I may have no news for months. Or I may have good or bad news sooner. Since you’re sticking with me, faithful readers, you’ll be among the first to know.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Another Country Song

On the way to work this morning I heard one of my all time favorite country songs, Drivin’ My Life Away by Eddie Rabbit.

If you don’t know it, you don’t listen to Country.

Here are the lyrics, but they’re just part of the appeal:

Well the midnight headlight find you on a rainy night
Steep grade up ahead slow me down makin no time
Gotta keep rollin
Those windshield wipers slappin out a tempo
Keepin perfect rhythm with the song on the radio
Gotta keep rolling

Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me
Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a sunny day

Well the truck stop cutie comin' on to me
Tried to talk me into a ride said I wouldn't be sorry
But she was just a baby
Well waitress pour me another cup of coffee
Pop me down jack me up shoot me out headin down the highway
Lookin for the morning

Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me
Ooh I'm driving my life away, looking for a sunny day

Why do I like that song? It starts with just a rhythm guitar that picks up into a steady, 4/4 beat that I want to describe as “driving,” but I’m intimidated by the pun.

The rhythm is reminiscent of the sound of a big rig’s tires rolling down the interstate hissing on the wet pavement. The lyrics present an instant visual image of headlights reflecting off the rain water into your eyes. What else could he mean by the “midnight headlight FIND you on a rainy night?” Those eight words give me a picture of a weary driver half-blinded by the oncoming headlights, wishing he were somewhere else, ANYwhere else.

With the next line you enter his thoughts (stream of consciousness). His mantra is repeated twice, “Gotta keep rollin’.”

Then the next two lines about the wipers keeping time with the music on the radio... I’ve had that experience. Have you? It’s rare and almost magical when it happens. And, “slapping out a tempo.” Is that the perfect verb, or what?

His chorus is a lament. Wasted days and wasted nights. Wanting something better. Knowing he’s not going to find it driving this truck, but what else is there? It’s all he knows, and all he has. Yeah, all of that is in there. You just have to listen for it.

Ah, the second verse! Does that not paint you a picture? Can’t you just see him ease into a truck stop for a break, so stiff he can hardly make it out of the cab onto the parking lot? He avoids the puddles as he limps across the pavement. He sits at the counter.

Then the sex scene. A girl half his age tries to hustle him for a ride and maybe more. But he’s been around the block a few times and knows what she’s up to. He dismisses her with a turn of the head. “She was just a baby.” Five words that give me a complete picture of his disdain.

He looks to the waitress for what he really needs. Coffee. And a couple of little white pills. Of course they’re in there! “Pop me down, jack me up, shoot me out heading down the highway.” Jacked up, he’s “lookin’ for the morning.”

I love a song that tells such a complete story in just a few words. From just those two short verses and a chorus you can find enough material and imagery to produce a two-hour movie. I can see him in a dysfunctional marriage (because he’s never at home), burned out from driving, cynical as hell about life in general, but with JUST enough hope to keep “lookin’ for a better way for me.” I could write a sappy, happy ending. Or have him strung out on drugs dying in a blazing crash that angers his boss because the truck’s cargo was ruined and the insurance won’t pay.

Songs can transport you into your imagination. It takes a combination of tempo, rhythm, key (major, minor), tight lyrics and sometimes voice inflection and harmony.

I think this song has all of those.

Monday, April 04, 2005

My Company is being sold. So?

As you can read in my blog header, I am a practicing Human Resources Manager. I’m proud that the plant where I work has a very low employee turnover rate. As far as our ownership, however, it’s the proverbial revolving door.

The plant first started production in 1983. I came to work there in 1986. I was the third HR manager in 3 years. Oh, yeah, the stories I can tell you about this place! Some are destined for a future book, if I can ever get the first novel published. Some are so bizarre they’ll need no fictionalization (is that a word?), and others won’t need much.

The place was built by a British firm, and then sold to a group of managers and other investors in a Leveraged Buy Out. (An “L.B.O.” — remember those, back in the 80’s?) We operated under that identity for a few years, then changed our name and “went public” through an Initial Public Offering (an IPO — remember those?).

In the late 90s the company overextended and then saw a sudden downturn in our markets. Can you spell “BANKRUPTCY?”

Yep, the banks shut us down. We were listed among their “non-performing assets” and sold to the highest bidder.

Our knight in shining armor turned out to be Unocal, short for Union Oil Company of California, Inc. That purchase took place in July, 2003. Uh huh, less than two years ago.

It’s been a great association. Unocal has huge corporate resources (read, deep pockets) that we have been unaccustomed to for the last decade or so. The contrast after coming out of a bankruptcy liquidation sale at auction has been dramatic to say the least.

But all good things, as they say... (Sigh) Today, Unocal announced that they have accepted an agreement to be acquired by Chevron Texaco for a mere 18 BILLION dollars. So before the end of 2005 we will be changing our name again.

Same ol’, same ol’. Everybody wants to know what it’ll mean to them. The answer is, nobody knows yet. All I can tell employees is that so far everybody who’s bought the place has operated it. That means they need operators and maintenance folks and managers and staff. Chances are we’ll all be fine.

It’s another distraction from the routine, a topic of never-ending buzz and conversation among employees as the various parties conduct their “due diligence” and the lawyers run up their exorbitant fees. And I was just starting to figure out who was who in Unocal.

Ah, well. Cycles of change. Remember Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game?

And the seasons, they go around and around
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round in the circle game.

Great song. Right, Joe?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Another Peeve

Well, I warned you. I got so much response to my last "Pet Peeve" post that I'll try another and see if anyone can relate to it like they did to the one about cashiers giving out change.

Do you drive? Of course you do. My daily commute is 32 miles each way, but unlike you urban dwellers most of mine is across the open Texas countryside. Speed limit 70. So the trip takes me only 40 minutes.

Do you ever find yourself behind someone who will drive at the speed limit for a minute or so, and then slow down to 10-15 mph below it? When you're about to pass, they speed back up. And do you notice that they have a hard time staying in one lane for very long? Even if there is only one lane in each direction, they'll cross the centerline or wander onto the shoulder.

This happens to me almost daily. And EVERY TIME, guess what's going on? Go ahead, guess.

They're talking on their cell phone, that's what!

When you get close enough to see the driver, one hand is always holding a cell phone against his/her ear.

Now, many of these people talk with their hands. It's a compulsion, I guess. You'll see them gesturing with one hand while holding the phone to their ear with the other. How do they steer the car? With their KNEES, of course. Which MAY be why they can't seem to stay in one lane.

Have you ever steered with your knees? Of course you have. We ALL have. But not for miles and miles, I hope. If you do, and especially if the wind is blowing (as it always seems to be doing in South Texas), you have to have very active knees and legs to stay in something close to a straight line. And if you are moving your knees up, down and around to steer your car, guess what your right foot is doing.

Did you guess? OK, I'll tell you. It is NOT keeping a constant pressure on the accelerator pedal, so your speed is going up and down like your knees!

I won't even begin to talk about how these people miss turns, run red lights, and are a threat to themselves and to people like me who are paying attention to traffic. But I WILL tell you my advice for these people.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said in large letters, "HANG UP AND DRIVE!". I'd love to get one. But besides that I have two pieces of advice.

First, if you're out in the open Texas countryside and just HAVE to yammer away on that stupid cell phone, please set your cruise control so your speed will stay constant.

Second, go to WalMart and spend the $10 or so it costs to buy a HEADSET for your phone. Ever hear of a "hands free" device? That's what I'm talking about. It looks cool, you can gesture all you want and still keep one hand on the wheel, and it MIGHT save your life.

I'm sure I'll hear about the people who eat while they drive, or put on their makeup, or read a book or even watch a tiny portable TV while behind the wheel. And yes, I've seen ALL of those things. But the cell phone antics I see darn near every day.

And I'm out driving through open countryside. I can't imagine what it must be like on the city freeways.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Great Saturday

It's been almost 3 weeks since the sinking golf cart episode. Today's weather was about as perfect as it ever gets in South Texas (40's at dawn, rising into the mid 70's in the early afternoon, with 5-10 mph of breeze flowing out of the southeast), so we just HAD to go out to the golf course.

Ruth came along, and the three of us had a very nice afternoon. The golf was only OK, but the weather and the company couldn't have been much better.

Several comments were made about turtles, to Carol's chagrin. She did tell me on the way to the course that she had left her cell phone and new watch at home. I started giggling, and then she started laughing and we both had a good laugh about her cart's misadventure a few weeks ago.

When we came home I was saddened along with much of the rest of the world to learn of Pope John Paul II's passing. We're not Catholic, but it would be difficult for anyone to deny the influence that man has had on the world.

It's now evening. We were able to get a lot of minor weekend projects done, a good round of golf, and we've just enjoyed each other's company. No cute comedy, not anything exciting to blog about, just a great Saturday.

That's not altogether bad, is it?

Friday, April 01, 2005


Never fails. Yesterday I post some comments about my “difficulty communicating with Lantz,” and then THIS happens.

Lantz emailed me yesterday. He attached a copy of the synopsis I’d written for my novel and asked that I rewrite it. Bemused, I opened it. I thought, “What’s the big deal?” I had re-written the synopsis a number of times as I revised the novel over the months (make that “years;” I first “finished” the MS two years ago and have re-written it MANY times since).

My last MAJOR edit and re-write occurred in November of last year. At that point Lantz agreed to represent me and I sent him a laundry list of files at his request. These included a marketing plan, a chapter-by-chapter outline, a curriculum vitae on myself, a new synopsis, answers to a bunch of questions, and more.

Well, I THOUGHT I had sent him all that stuff.

When I looked at the synopsis he sent me yesterday I was horrified. It was a very old, poorly written version that didn’t even reflect the current (final) version of the MS!

He had emailed me previously that he had been sending out my synopsis to publishers to look at.


I scanned through my files looking for the newest synopsis. I couldn’t find it.

Now, I’m a pack rat. I save everything. I even have file folders on my hard drive to contain “archive” files that I may want to look at some day. You know—early versions of chapters, outlines, ideas, that sort of thing. I even have a second hard drive on my PC that I use to back up files in case the “C” drive crashes.

I KNOW I re-wrote that synopsis! Where is it?

I searched through my “Sent Emails” file and called up the one with all the attached files I had sent to Lantz last November. I KNEW I’d included a synopsis. It wasn’t there!

I gave up and wrote a new one. Yes, I have filed it in TWO places with a back-up. With abject apologies I sent him the new, much improved version.

How much damage was done by some (?) publishers seeing that old monstrosity? I’ll never know.

Maybe that’ll teach me not to complain about Lantz’s communications. I seem to live in a glass house, so I’d better put down the stones.