Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Wife -- Imelda?

Carol and I have been married a long time.

Occasionally people will ask, "How long have you two been married?" Carol will usually begin to do the math in her head (which doesn't take her long because she's a very sharp lady). I, however, immediately blurt out the correct answer, which is (take note husbands), "Not long enough!"

That always earns me a smile and points. NOW who's sharp?

But I digress: In those many years since we said our vows, we have noticed a recurring phenomenon. We will occasionally find a product we really like. It's always just right for us. It fits our needs perfectly. It's comfortable, in every sense of the word. It's well-made. Sometimes it's even available at a lower price than similar but not-so-perfect items.

These products can be a simple as a hand-held gadget for the kitchen or as complex as a motor vehicle. A garment. A tool (hand or powered). A bed-pillow. A particular restaurant's version of General Joe Chicken (Szechuan style -- yum!), and so on.

How do we find these perfect items? Well, we shop carefully. We compare. We discuss our likes and dislikes about similar items we've tried that aren't perfect. Plus sometimes we're just damn lucky and stumble onto "it."

What's the recurring phenomenon I mentioned? It seems to be one of those immutable laws of nature, like the fact that the dropped slice of bread always lands buttered-side down. It is the apparent FACT that not long after we find one of these items/products/devices/garments, etc., it is discontinued.

Oh, maybe not immediately, but soon! Want some examples?

I've written on this blog in the past about our early SUV, a 1984 3/4-ton Dodge van. We put over 200,000 miles on that van in 13 years, and loved it! By 1996 Dodge had improved their van but hadn't changed the basic design, so we gave the old one away (literally, to a friend) and bought a brand new one just like it. By 2008 the "new" one was getting long in the tooth, so we thought about replacing it. You guessed it; Chrysler had quit making the vans.

I mentioned General Joe chicken above. Here in Victoria there was just one restaurant that got it right, with just enough hot spices to make your nose sniffly, but not enough to burn away the taste. Yep, they went out of business.

Anyway, our solution to this damnable phenomenon is this: Once we find one of those perfect products (other than perishable stuff, like General Joe chicken) we stock up.

Is there a point here? Does it have anything to do with the post's title? YES!!

My wonderful wife Carol has discovered the most comfortable shoes she has EVER worn in all those years of our marriage and beyond. You may have seen them—they are Skechers Shape-Ups. (No, I'm NOT getting paid to endorse this product.) (Darn it.) These are walking shoes with a boat-shaped, rounded sole that allows you to roll from heel to toe as you walk.

This rounded sole is cushioned and designed such that the entire sole of your foot is supported throughout each step -- even if you have very high arches. Some reviews say it feels like walking in sand, but without the resistance.

Now . . . YOU may not like these shoes. But Carol says she may never wear another shoe in her life that isn't one of these Shape-Ups.

After wearing her first pair for about a week, she bought another. Then another. Then a pair of low-top boots of the same brand and design. She's going to try playing golf in a pair (instead of her soft-spiked golf shoes), and if successful will keep a pair just for golf.

Yesterday we bought, assembled and installed in her closet a horizontal storage rack just to contain all these shoes. This for a lady who already had plenty of shoes she used to think were comfortable.

So . . . All of that to say these two things: First, if you want to try on a pair of these Shechers Shape-Ups for yourself you'd better hurry. Experience tells me they won't be making them for much longer.

And second, if they DO keep making them for a few more months you may want to buy stock in the companys that makes shoe storage racks, because Imelda Carol will be buying more of them soon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

More ski trip prep

One week from today we'll be heading for Denver!

Or, actually, heading for the area around Raton, NM, or Trinidad, CO. That's about as far as we can manage in one long day of driving. The long range forecast doesn't show another storm coming across the Southwest then, but it such a storm develops we may alter our course to head straight north into Kansas, and then West on I-70.

Either way we'll make it to Denver by next Sunday morning, stop for groceries and supplies, and trek across Berthoud Pass to Winter Park.

Still, there's a lot to do between now and then. We've already begun gathering up all the winter gear and garments. We'll have to get all of the golf paraphernalia out of the SUV and rearrange the seating/storage.

Aside: we thought about golf this weekend, and may still play tomorrow if the wind eases a bit. Today we have bright sunshine and afternoon temps in the low 50s, but the wind is 15-20 and pretty biting. Wimps that we are, we're skipping golf today.

The one preparation that is of PARAMOUNT importance this week isall Carol's responsibility. It is . . .


In past years I've copied into a blog post the actual recipe, and if anyone is interested I can do so again (or email it to you). These are the World's Best Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, Wheat Germ, and Whole Wheat Cookies, and thus (with all those ingredients) actually good for you.

They are at least as good as anything the elves in Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy could make, and MUCH better than anything the elves at Keeblers make.

We'd survive if we forgot most anything else, but the COOKIES are vital!

(It's not "cookies," it's always "COOKIES!!")

Oh, and I just HAD to borrow this quote found on talented artist Ryan Wolf's blog:

"Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face."
Dave Barry

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Be careful what you post!

You knew that, right? Seems like the rule is, "Once on the Internet, ALWAYS on the Internet!"

Oh sure, you can always delete blog posts. But once they've been up there you have no control over who might copy what you wrote, publish it no telling where, and put in there a reference to YOUR blog. And if you (like me) actually identify yourself with a real name, a real home town, and a real email address, you can ALWAYS be found.

What am I babbling about?

Well, I had a phone call today at work from Area Code 571. The first time the call came in I glanced at the number, didn't recognize the area code, and let it go to voice mail. Hey, I had someone in my office and it was an important conversation! Anyway, that number called me three times and on the third time I answered.

On the line was a very nice lady from Northern Virginia (suburb of D.C.) who was conducting a survey about needle coke. She had Googled the term, and found this very blog!

Yes, back in 2006 I wrote a post titled "What is Needle Coke?" Here's a link to it, since I just KNOW you're going to rush over there to read the post!

Or, you can just Google "needle coke" and my blog post is the 5th item down from the top.

What she really wanted was some inside information about PRICING of needle coke, and I really couldn't help her there since we don't publish prices. Needle coke is one of those commodities that, if you wanted some you'd probably already know the approximate cost.

Anyway, we had a very pleasant conversation. And likely she will produce an article in some high-dollar publication quoting me as an unnamed "industry insider" who would only speak "off the record."

(I told her I was just the HR guy, and didn't really know much about the business side of our operation, so please don't quote me by name. She MIGHT even have believed me!)

Anyway, I figure if a short post I wrote in August of 2006 is significant enough for someone to track me down in my office at the plant and ask me a bunch of questions, WHO KNOWS what will happen when someone reads some of my OTHER posts?

They might learn about the ycaripsnoc and identify it for all to see -- then we'll all be in BIG trouble!

So be careful what you post!

Or hide your identity well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not so much of a match-up after all

Vikings defense was awesome.

Dallas never had a chance once they started turning the ball over.

Good for Favre! You gotta love it for him.

Ski trip progress

Yep, it’s about time for the annual Earle family ski trip. February is our traditional time and, since we are a traditional family by nature, it’ll be in February again this year

As I have noted in past posts, we Earles have been accused of taking our vacations VERY seriously. Right, Tina? (You know who you are!) Well, why not? After all, much of the fun is in the anticipation and preparation.

Why so much preparation? Glad you asked!

We are, by turns, extravagant and penny-pinching. In order to penny-pinch we have to shop for the very best advance deals on:

1. Getting there, including airfares for those who are flying and motel reservations for those who drive but spend a night on the road.

2. Early-purchase discounted lift tickets (a HUGE saving).

3. Meals for the entire week, which Carol prepares in advance in quantity (like stew, and spaghetti sauce, and so on) and then freezes. This avoids the expense of eating out daily or buying those $10 hamburgers for lunch at the restaurants on the mountain.

4. Ski and other cold weather apparel, which costs MUCH more at the resort than in your local sporting goods and outdoor stores—especially when they are having a sale!

All of that penny-pinching allows us the extravagance of our accommodations at the resort and our blow-out final dinner at a Denver restaurant before we all go our separate ways to our separate homes in Tampa, Chicago, and Texas.

Here's a shot of the whole group from last year just before that blow-out dinner, in our matching official Earle Family Ski Sweaters, each of which (the sweaters, that is) comes with a Certificate of Authenticity:

This year we are including a couple from Virginia as well, but they can’t stay for the whole week and will thus miss much of the total experience, to their loss.

More on all of this later. I’m cutting this post short to prepare for watching the Dallas Cowboys play the Vikings this afternoon. Romo versus Favre—what a match-up!

Later, all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Have you seen this?

This brand spanking new Airbus 340-600, the longest passenger airplane ever built, sits just outside its hangar in Toulouse, France without a single hour of airtime.

Enter the Arab flight crew of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT) to conduct pre-delivery tests on the ground, such as engine run-ups prior to delivery to Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi.

The ADAT crew taxied the A340-600 to the run-up area.

Then they took all Four engines to takeoff power with a virtually empty aircraft. Not having read the run-up manuals, they had no clue just how light an empty A340-600 really is.

The takeoff warning horn was blaring away in the cockpit because they had all 4 engines at full power.
The aircraft computers thought they were trying to take off, but it had not been configured properly (flaps/slats, etc.)

Then one of the ADAT crew decided to pull the circuit breaker on the Ground Proximity Sensor to silence the alarm.
This fools the aircraft into thinking it is in the air.

The computers automatically released all the Brakes and set the aircraft rocketing forward.
The ADAT crew had no idea that this is a safety feature so that pilots can't land with the brakes on.

Not one member of the seven-man Arab crew was smart enough to throttle back the engines from their max power setting, so the $200 million brand-new Aircraft crashed into a blast barrier, totaling it.

The extent of injuries to the crew is unknown due to the news blackout in the major media in France and elsewhere.

Coverage of the story was deemed insulting to Muslim Arabs.

Finally, the photos are starting to leak out.

A French Airbus: $200 million dollars
Untrained Arab Flight Crew: $300,000 Yearly salary
Unread Operating Manual: $300

Aircraft meets retaining wall, and the wall wins.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

How cold was it last night?

Probably not as cold here in South Texas as where you are.

Well, except for Michelle in South Africa -- it's summer there, remember!

But for those of you in the NORTHERN hemisphere, global warming seems to have taken a vacation. Proof?

Well, just down the street from my house I saw what is pictured below. I stopped, looked at the sun sparkling on the icicles covering the discarded Christmas tree, and just HAD to go back for the camera.

Yeah, they ran the sprinkler on the tree all night. And I'm sure this is a fairly common sight "up north" where people have snow blowers in their garages.
But down here, southwest of Houston, it's a rare night when the temperature reaches 18 degrees F.
(Yes, that's the answer to the title question. Good job picking up on that!)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gettin' Ready!

This year was the most fun Christmas I've had in 5 years.

See, 5 years ago was the last time both my daughters and their husbands were all at our home here in Victoria, TX. Older daughter Christina was carrying my grandson Trevor, who was born the following April.

And that year we had a magical Christmas Eve snowfall of almost a foot! Now you've got to put this in perspective . . . I've lived in Victoria for 24 years, and it has NEVER snowed in all that time. Much LESS acculmulated! But in 2004, despite global warming, etc., we went to bed on Christmas Eve thrilled to have seen light snow falling and starting to actually stick to the grass. Imagine our delight and disbelief Christmas morning to have a foot of snow on the ground! (I've got HUNDREDS of pictures to prove it!) Snow had not even been in the forecast!

No. I'm sorry. You CAN'T imagine it.

Anyway, no snow this year. But both daughters, their husbands, and my grandson all spent 4 nights and days with us before flying back to home and work.

What fun to have a house full of people for a change, and to watch the thrill of an almost 5-year-old on Christmas Morning! This is the best of times for him. Santa is very real, and of course we spoiled him terribly before giving him back to his parents to take home to Tampa.

Anyway, I just hope any of you reading this had even HALF as good a holiday season as we did.

But now the decorations are put away, the house is clean, and we're gearing up for the NEXT family tradition . . . THE EARLE FAMILY SKI TRIP!!!

I've reserved our lodgings, airline reservations are made for the Florida contingent, ski lessons are reserved for Trevor, discounted lift tickets are purchased, lockers are reserved at the mountain, reservations are made at the Denver Macaroni Grill for our Farewell Dinner . . .


Next, Carol will begin baking COOKIES, preparing and freezing dinners, the car will be loaded, and I note from that there is LOTS of SNOW out there.

So, excitement is running high. We are (as the title of this post says) "Gettin' Ready!"

Sunday, January 03, 2010

I couldn't stand it!

"Lost my desire to put up blog posts."


That lasted, what, a week? Maybe two?

Well, I'm not sure that the desire is back to stay, but when I saw this "Letter to Ma and Pa" from a redneck farm kid in the Marine Corps, I just had to share it with those few of you who haven't already seen it.

It's pretty funny. Here you go:

REDNECK FARM KID in the Marine Corps

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

We go on 'route marches,' which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A 'route march' is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why...the bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake . I only beat him once... He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6' and 130 pounds and he's 6'8' and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter, Alice