Monday, December 24, 2007

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

We made it to Kansas City yesterday and were welcomed by a snow storm. It alternated between those big, fluffy, wet flakes and hard little ice particles that sting like hell when they're driven into your ear by 20 MPH winds when you're trying to scrape the ice off of your rental car having just emerged from a warm airplane bringing you from 65 degree southern clime.

Oh, and to top it off 3 of our bags were lost by the airline. Two (both my son's) were found, flown in and delivered this afternoon. Mine was found this evening and, according to the lost luggage website, is to be delivered sometime between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM. Uh huh.

Laura's winter coat was packed in my suitcase. As was all of my stuff, including my meds. Luckily I have been using wally-world's $4.00 prescriptions and they will fill it wherever you are, so I called it in and picked it up this morning. Tonight is our 23rd wedding anniversary. For a while our dinner choices were limited to Wendy's 'cause all I had to wear were the khakis and golf shirt I wore on the flight here. But - I remembered that I get lost baggage insurance anytime I buy a plane ticket using my am-ex so I get $200 per passenger for any luggage delays over 6 hours. So - I went shopping for an outfit (inside and out) and we went to a Japanese steak house and ate way too much.

Tomorrow is the big get-together here with all of Laura's family. A HUGE dinner is planned, gifts are exchanged and mayhem ensues. It should be a blast.

I wish for you all a Merry Christmas. I'll try to send a little snow your way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

oh, the weather outside is frightful

3 days before we take off for Kansas City and Laura is in her usual pre-trip "ohmygodthiswholehouseisamessitneedstobecleanedtoptobottomorIwon'tcomehome" panic. This means she alternates between full-bore cleaning mode to oh, what's the use it'll never get done.

We do this every time. I admit, it takes a good bit of patience on my part. I do what I'm told, stay busy when she is, and when she bounces the other way I jolly her out of it and keep on working. It makes the week before we go anywhere, ah, hectic, but I will admit that we come home to a clean slate.

Up until the clean-a-thon began I've been mostly working on cars, stuff that Laura's been saving up for me. I guess I left the last of Bahrain behind me Saturday when it rained all. day. long. (The last thing I fixed was the windshield wipers). AND - they're predicting snow for Saturday in Kansas City.

Things are back to normal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snort, slurk, snerk.

*** edited because I can't spell and ONE PERSON WHO WILL REMAIN NAMELESS pointed it out***

This week has been surreal, if only because it has been experienced through the haze of cold medicine. I am in the grip of the ague and there are doubts as to my longevity.

Thank GAWD for Nyquil.

I am now on vacation until January 2nd. It actually started yesterday but I don't know if it should count as I certainly don't feel like I'm on vacation. I have actually accomplished something, though - I've been getting car problems fixed. 1.5 down, .5 to go. (A part has been ordered, it will be installed Monday).

We are having TWO Christmas' this year. This Sunday we are going to my parent's. We are supplying turkey and dessert. (So I do kinda get my missed home-cooked Thanksgiving after all!) Next Saturday we are flying to Kansas City and are celebrating Christmas yet again - on the traditional date - with my wife's family. Everyone is looking forward to the trip. It will be a bit of a challenge, though, as it will be our first trip back since Laura's mother passed away last December. I was in Bahrain on the 4th, the 1st anniversary of her mother's passing and I couldn't be here with her. She won't have to face this one alone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

OOF!

I am home!!!!!!!!!

It felt a little surreal, leaving the airport after that 15 hour flight and trek through customs, seeing trees, pine needles, orderly traffic (well, as orderly as traffic in the ATL gets - which is NOTHING compared to the rally island traffic is) and wet ground (it had rained earlier). I am still a bit jet-lagged and i have A FRICKIN' COLD. ARGH. Even still, I am SO happy to be home.

I am getting used to normal workdays, fighting the cats for my supper, and being able to reach out and touch Laura whenever I want to. In some ways I didn't realize how much I missed her, in others I was never in any doubt. Going to the store, deciding how to deal with the car that won't start, helping to cook supper, all the little things we do for each other I am constantly being reminded of now that I'm home and she is next to me on the couch again. It was a good thing I had 80+ hour work weeks while gone, I don't know how else I could have dealt with being away from Laura for so long without all of my time being so thoroughly occupied.

Before I left Bahrain and disappeared from blogland Liv tagged me for a twist on the 7-things meme.

  • Sloth - I do have a tendency to procrastinate, and have been known to do things at the last minute. Critical items are completed but it will take a while sometimes to complete the hit list.
  • Lust - I defer to President Carter, I have lusted in my heart - only - and as such those instances go with me to the grave. There have been one or two temptations but I have not acted upon them. Should I meet any of you in person that tally may increase.
  • Gluttony - pretty much only in the literal sense of the word - I CANNOT walk away from a buffet without having tasted of everything. In a wider sense of the word, I have an almost insatiable appetite to travel without the means to do so. I take my opportunities as I get them.
  • Anger - They say that depression is suppressed anger. In that case, I must have a mountain of it! These days I do not get really angry any more, at least to the point where I explode. I try to maintain an even keel and have only the occasional flare-up. However, if I am to achieve my goal of being a crotchety old man I have some cutting loose to do.
  • Vanity - I was extremely self-conscious as a teenager - who isn't? - but these days I could pretty much care less. I never did fancy myself as attractive nor did I preen. Today I like to dress for the occasion and will feel uncomfortable if I miss the mark for the occasion, but that is mild and I get over it. My best friend likes to tell people about the time in college when I wore a suit to metals class and although I spent the hour turning a knurled key holder on a metal lathe I didn't get a spot on my clothes. Those days are long gone.
  • Greed - I wish I had more money - again, who doesn't - but only so I could do the things I want (travel, financial peace of mind). I don't want a lot of money, a big house, a fancy car (but would love to drive one once in a while!) or the headaches that come with them. I have accepted where I am and what I have and don't want the greener grass (it is often gained with liberal applications of manure).
  • Envy - like above, I don't really want much so I don't have much to be envious of. I guess if I had to pick something, I am envious of those who have the financial freedom to do what they want when they want.
I hope I have been honest with myself (and you too) in the writing of this list - I think I have. We all have a certain degree of fiction we tell ourselves so that we will be happy with who we are. I know that I could be a better person and I can hope for the day when I have the wisdom and ability to get there. Until then, this list will have to do.

In any case, feel free to correct me on the list above, my rose-colored glasses may be a shade or two too dark for me to see myself clearly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

take note


take note
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
I'd been nominated chauffeur for the accounting guys that came in last weekend - kinda fell into it, actually as I'd been driving while everyone was gone. I had been relegated back to rider status when they returned and reclaimed their vehicles, but when the accountants came in the head honcho here dug out an extra car (it had been parked in his garage since his wife went home) and gave it to me. Pretty much with the understanding that I would accomodate them. And actually, I've had a good time taking them places (despite the parking ticket) and have seen more of downtown this week than the 5 weeks previous. Of course, I haven't had much time to do this in the last 5 weeks, but them needing a ride gave me the confidence to tackle down down traffic and to find places. I've decided next time I'm here I'll spend more time doing that - heading off downtown, finding the places I wanted to go this trip but didn't feel comfortable asking anyone to take me or brave enough to do it on my own. With familiarity comes confidence.

Tomorrow is my last day at work, and if today was any guage, it will be a bitch. I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to fit in last minute meetings and training sessions. I am going in early to get some grunt work done before everyone else gets there. I've been asked out to dinner tomorrow by one of the local guys, I am looking forward to it - I just hope the head guy here isn't organizing anything or I'll have to decide which to attend.

I will admit that I am using the last of my patience, I am so anxious to get on that airplane and go home. In a way I hope tomorrow is busy, it will fly by. A little shopping Friday morning and leave mid-afternoon. And not a moment too soon.

1 day and a wake-up.

night

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

cold store


cold store
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
These little stores are everywhere. I don't know why they are referred to as cold stores. This is about as small as I've seen one, the one just down the street from us is maybe 3 times bigger - which isn't saying much. They have a little bit of everything - including McVitie's Hob-Nobs (which I am munching on as I type, trying to keep the crumbs out of the keyboard). People double and triple park outside of these places, and will occasionally beep their horn to get the attention of someone inside - curb-side service? I was warned when I got here that when I get something, don't take my money out until they ring it up - supposedly things get more expensive if they see you have plenty of money. I personally think that if they were that greedy, they would be ringing things up higher for foreigners whether they see your money or not. Which maybe they do? I haven't seen it, and the prices I've been paying don't seem to be high.

two days and a wake-up.

ma salama.

Monday, December 03, 2007

ground breaking


ground breaking
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
Okay, I promise this is the last post about dirt - but I had to show you this. This is the groundbreaking for the new waste processing system. The machine on the right is a pneumatic jackhammer attached to the end of a boom of a back hoe. They had to use it to create some ground for them to shovel for this ground breaking.

I am on one big rock, with a dust coating.

3 days and a wake-up.

be seeing you.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

take a picture of my bear!

This is the (silent) owner of the bear.

Today was the start of the week. Worked all day on this and that, broke camp at 6:30 and headed for the villa. Tonight was italian. Most of the restaurants around here have entertainment, a singer who plays either the piano or the guitar accompanied by a beat box or better. Usually pretty good, and usually Fillipino.

Today we had a ground breaking for a major project to improve the waste treatment facility. They had tables set up that displayed the plans for the project, with refreshments. Several people took turns turning a shovel full of rock (broken up previously with a backhoe-mounted jack hammer). All major projects get at least his level of ceremony. When they broke ground for a new building here, they sacrificed 3 sheep. They were then cooked and served to everyone at a feast. I'm glad this didn't rate that level of ceremony.

4 days and a wake-up.

syonara.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hard Rock Bahrain


Hard Rock Bahrain
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
After we left the Gold Souq yesterday we zig-zagged a block (or two) and pulled up in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, Bahrain. Several of us had had requests for a tshirt and it was about the right time, so we went in and had lunch. They had this big glass wall with different scenes representative of here (although I've seen a camel crossing sign, I've yet to see an actual camel). I take the picture and when I put the camera down I see the little boy from the table holding up his bear. His mom was telling him to get out of the way, but I asked if he wanted me to take a picture of his bear. I didn't notice until I downloaded this picture that his bear had already had his picture taken.

Today we knocked off at 1:00 PM, so I did get my half-day off. The guys who came in a day or two ago asked if I would take them out the King Fahd Causeway so we did. Afterwards we went back downtown, apparently some of the fake watches had fake winding stems that came off. So we went back to exchange them. I don't know what they did for him but I heard they got out a tool set. I didn't ask, I don't know him that well and if he got done over in his deal I didn't want to remind him of it by bringing it up. Anyway, we left the souq and when we got back to the car, I had a damned parking ticket. ARGH! My first one in 19 years. I don't have a clue what to do, I will start finding out tomorrow. I briefly considered just tossing it. Technically, the car isn't registered to me, I wasn't there at the time so they don't know me from adam's housecat. I believe the car is registered to the wife of the head man here. She doesn't live here anymore, so they can't exactly go after her either - but when it's time to renew the registration it would be held up until the unpaid ticket is cleared up. So I didn't toss the ticket - like I really would have. I feel really stupid for having got it. I didn't feed a parking meter. Well - I'm paying for that parking space now.

We grilled out tonight - beef and lamb kabob, steamed asparagus, grilled tomato halves with olive oil & parmesan cheese, potatoes au gratin, garlic bread, and fruit salad for desert. We all pitched to prep and clean up afterwards and hung around the roof deck - until the ball game started. Everyone peeled off to find a TV. So here I am, and they're all deciding how long to watch before calling it a night. Some are planning to get up at 4:00 AM to watch the "big" game. I wish them a good game, I'm sleeping through.

5 days and a wake-up (sounded better than six days).

toodles.

Friday, November 30, 2007

day 30


dominoes
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
We went downtown to the Gold Souq today, it's near old-town Manama. We were walking down the street and I heard a SLAM! and turned to see these gentlemen playing cutthroat dominoes.

Several of the guys visiting here wanted to buy fake rolexs, and this was the place to get them. As I had no interest in either gold nor knock-off watches I wandered around. There were all kinds of small businesses selling mostly jewelry and knick-knacks (hookahs, table runners, pewter camels, magic boxes (puzzle boxes),etc.) You are expected to dicker, no one pays the price on the label. One of the permanent party guys here likes to go just to haggle. He rarely buys the thing, but he's damned good at getting their best price.

So - as you can see - I got a rare day off. It was nice to wander around a bit. I'm just getting a feel for how the city is laid out. I wish I had some real time off to explore, I think I would love old-town Manama. I've been on an island for almost 5 weeks and haven't been anywhere near the water. Oh well, maybe next time.

7 days and I'm on a plane....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

day 29

despite evidence and rumors to the contrary I am actually on this planet and not 250,000 miles away. Here's a bit of greenery that could not survive in that other environment. (ignore the shadows pointing the wrong direction).

Hoo boy, this place is jumping. All the permanent party folks are back and there's a host of visitors (like myself). So, no more quiet. Confusion will reign for a while. it's already started - someone was left at the apartment this morning. Lunch is being ordered in due to the logistics of trying to get a large number of people out somewhere. I fully expect a mess trying to figure out whose food is whose. Oh well. no big deal, it'll iron itself out.

8 days............

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

day 28

our production methods are state-of-the-art, the envy of our competitors.....

I'm afraid I have nothing witty, pithy, observational, or otherwise of interest to contribute today. More visitors are arriving, people are starting to return from vacation so routines are about to change. I think my driving days are about up, the person whose vehicle I am using is supposed to be back as of today. That will bite, I have enjoyed the freedom even if I haven't had much use for it. I will attempt to commandeer it from time to time for various nefarious activities.

9 days left!

aloha.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

day 27

You know, not in my wildest dreams would I cast myself in this role, although I will admit to occasionally wondering if those I train are about the age of this young student.

Monday, November 26, 2007

day 26

"One of things is not like the others, one of things doesn't belong..."

It struck me a bit funny to see, in addition to the coast guard boats, a dhow (I think that's the correct term, maybe I'll find out if I ever make it to the museum). Up along the national highway on the north side of Manama there are almost life-size replicas of this kind of boat at most of the on/off ramps. I'll try to get a picture when I'm up there next.

Well, I'm moving out of my apartment into another a few floors down, there's a crew of accountants coming in and someone had the idea of letting them all stay in the same apartment. I've been here 4 weeks today, I hope I don't allow a month-old habit to guide me into my old bedroom whilst occupied. I mean, there's sharing and then there's sharing - and I'm not into sharing that much.

gotta go unpack, no rest for the wicked weary. nighty-night.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

day 25


.....made it! (that was close.)

Not all of the dust in the air is the result of strong winds. This island is a rock, with a little dust on top. When they dig any hole, they have to literally use jackhammers (industrial size, on a backhoe machine) to break up the rock. When they excavate the broken rock, they dump it through a screen (as above) to sift out the smaller rock and dirt which will be used to backfill the hole after whatever is placed into it. If you look at the picture, you can see that under the screen is a pile of dirt, and in front of the screen is rock waiting to be screened. Sometimes they have to continue to hammer at the rock to make enough backfill to completely fill the hole. What's left are piles of rock that I'm not sure where they eventually go to live, but apparently it takes a while, because I see these piles in a lot of places.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

day 24


dust storm
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
Got buffeted around a little this morning coming to work. The wind is up and dust is everywhere. This picture really didn't capture the amount of dust in the air, but those dust drifts in the road were really moving, and constantly replaced.

I didn't take the half day off I was entitled to, I had some system changes to take care of. So, next Friday?

I have had an interesting experience working with the staff here. 90 so-odd percent of the people I am working with are Pakistani. They are very hierarchical. If I am telling someone how to do something and their boss happens to be in the room, they will look to their boss for approval before doing as I instruct. However, if I am the only one present, I become the boss and there is no problem.

When the training session is over in the plant, I am offered tea (on a saucer, of course). It is usually cardamom tea with cream and sugar. If I am in one of the main offices and tea time comes around, I am brought tea with some crackers and/or cookies. There is a person whose job it is to bring and serve the tea and crackers and to take away the empties. This is done twice a day. Yesterday it was well past tea time, but the clerk I was training insisted that he get me a cup himself and wouldn't take no for an answer. He didn't have any (I guess he had had his earlier) but by god I sure was. I am told that the plant manager, should he have a visitor, will peremptorily order any of his subordinates - including his deputy - to go fetch tea and/or any refreshment. Last year there was a celebration here at the plant during Eid al-Fitr (celebrating the end of Ramadan) and one of the plant managers (a Pakistani) asked his boss the general manager of operations here (an American) if he enjoyed the lamb he had just finished. Being told yes, the Pakistani yelled over to his deputy-plant manager, who was eating, who immediately got up and fixed a big plate of lamb and brought it over to the general manager and waited until he had tasted it and got approval.

This also means that all decisions rise to the top. Everything here is approved by a plant manager. Purchases are approved 3 times, and receipts 2 times all by the plant manager and any supervisor whose department the purchase is for. Invoice payment is approved 3 times. Authority rests with just a few people. Part of my job here is to eliminate most of the bottle necks involved with this process and to devolve the decisions to the level that purchases can be managed effectively with little delay. Their current system is little more than a means to manage paper. With my system, there is no paper, no signatures, no middle-men.

I have my job cut out for me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

day 23


Behold! This is as close as I could come to Saudi Arabia. This picture is taken from a tower on a man-made island in the Persian Gulf between the two countries - on the King Fahd Causeway. It was financed and built by the Saudi government to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars. It is a little over 15 miles long and consists of 5 bridges and man-made dikes - with the central border-crossing island. It opened in 1986. I guess this really is the border, there are gates beyond which you cannot pass without the right papers. Trucks are parked everywhere getting inspected (I guess). The tower (in which there is also a restaurant) was little populated. There is an identical tower on the island over on the Saudi side.


We ran into a guy who had actually come across from Saudi Arabia, just to say he had been to Bahrain. He told us that the tower on the Saudi side of the island was really crowded, that it is a popular spot for Saudis to come, apparently it is a big deal to be able to visit Bahrain (or just to get a hazy view of it). He was a visitor to Saudi himself, staying for 20 days. He said that we were lucky to be visiting Bahrain instead of Saudi Arabia. He didn't elaborate, but I'm guessing that Khobar (the city on the Saudi end of the causeway) is not a very happening place. I have been told that Thursday night Saudis start pouring across the causeway in search of a good time - and alcohol. It isn't unusual to see Saudi license plates during the week, either.

So, we wandered around the base of the tower, took a few pictures - I tried to get a picture of Khobar but it was so hazy the pictures really didn't come out. After a little while, we returned to our part of the world and had lunch. It was particularly fitting end to the afternoon that the restaurant we ate at didn't serve alcohol.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

day 22

Happy Thanksgiving!

I worked 12 hours today, left and went to eat a turkey buffet at Ric's. There were two kinds of turkey (smoked and fried), 3 kinds of dressing, two kinds of potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, sweet potatoe casserole, glazed carrots, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, pineapple fluff and a pumpkin cake roll.

lots of food, and it was okay - really. Not spectacular, but okay. We took our time and b.s.'d about this and that and made jokes about how it was the best turkey we'd ever had - here. it was the first and only turkey any of us had had here, but that's beside the point. Some Foster's helped wash it down and livened things up a bit.

I talked to my family a few minutes ago, they had just sat down to their turkey dinner. I wish I were there.

I wish that you all have a happy thanksgiving, surrounded by your families.

Tomorrow - off to the Saudi border.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

day 21


my (temporary) office
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
yet another last-minute post, the internet at the apartment was giving me fits last night. So, I came in early (5:30 AM) to finish what I couldn't last night - including this missive. This is where I'm spending my time when I'm not in the plant training. The owner of this office is back in the states, home for thanksgiving. I'll move back out when he returns next week and probably set up shop in the conference room.

Gotta go, sorry for the abbreviated posts the past few days but textile manufacturing waits for no man.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

day 20



Sorry for the 11th hour post. I tried to post last night but the internet wouldn't stay up.

This is where I'm spending all my waking moments lately. Work, work, work, work, work, work, work. This is where I'm about to go to, as soon as I finish this and my bowl of cereal.

Good night to you all, or good morning to me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

day 19

a bit of green in the browns of the area. They do actually plant shrubs, groundcover, and palm trees in the medians. Grass is planted outside the ritzy places - it is much more expensive to plant grass than it is to put in brick pavers, which is very popular here.

Well - the guys left today leaving me alone. There are a few other americans visiting, but they aren't guys I know and we don't work together. I'll be seeing them for dinner occasionally. I didn't have time to miss my departed colleagues as I've been working all day (it's 4:50 AM). tomorrow is going to be a long day.

time for a nap before work. kali nickta

Sunday, November 18, 2007

day 18


mailbox
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
Tomorrow is my son's birthday. My dad's is a few days after. I was hoping to be able to find some cards and mail them (just how efficient is the royal mail?) but I have not even been anywhere I could find any. I will still look for some and mail them, they'll just have to be late.

I am a bit sad tonight. I was originally scheduled to leave here tomorrow. The guys I came with are all excited about going home, they're packing and in general in a great mood. All of the stuff they were consumed with while here are now not so important - the issues are either dealt with, or plans are laid to solve them. My job is just really starting, it'll take me 3 weeks to climb that hill to the top and take the leap - onto that plane on it's way home. They face 24 to 27 hours of travel ahead before they can hug their wives and start to forget the 18 hour days here. We talked about cooking thanksgiving dinner on the way back from the plant. (I've never heard of pressure-cooking a turkey!) Both of these guys are cooking their birds and are worried that they won't be recovered from the trip to be in shape to do so.

I might to to Ric's american - they are serving turkey thanksgiving. I might go, but it'll be busy as Thursday night here is like Friday night at home - everyone goes out to party and the roads will be wicked-busy. Swanson does a passable turkey and dressing tv dinner.

I really miss my family. I miss you guys too, I don't have time to read my regular blogs, I see maybe one or two a day - on a good day. I hope all is well with you all.

gute nacht.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

day 17


FOUL!
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
this is apropos of nothing in particular, I just "ran" across it during one of my daily walks and it struck my funny bone. Not only is this the sewer, it is a foul sewer.

I wish I had more to talk about, but my work is really all-consuming right now. I just updated this week's time sheet and I turned in 89.5 hours. I am skipping sleep to post this.

A bit of minutiae from today - I had Thai food for the first time. A spicy soup for starters that was all about pepper and lime and mint and prawns and lemongrass. major goodness. The main course was duck cooked in a pepper-garlic sauce - more major goodness. I had crepes with mango and ?something? fruit and mango sorbet for afters.

heading for bed, masah alhair to you all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

day 16


This is all I can offer today - the view at night - what is all I'm seeing lately with the long days.

Implementation tomorrow!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

day 15



Today all I can offer is a view from the roof, one I have not seen lately as my work is rather all-consuming now.

Please enjoy the view, may the warmth reach you - we have plenty to spare.

good night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

day 14


Although there are a lot of cars about, after all this is the capital city, they are primarily new cars owned by those who can afford them. The majority of the labor force in this country don't have vehicles, and so the companies they work for pick them up from where they live in the mornings and take them home at night. This scene is just down the street from where I live and you can see the coverall-ed workers getting on this mini-bus going to work. There are a lot of these buses on the road. The truck in the forefront of this picture is used to haul laborers to and from job sites - these would be the guys who bust rocks beside the road, dig the ditches, work the construction sites - general laborers. The guys in the buses are a step up, they appear to be skilled workers of some sort - factory floor or better. Anyway, you'll see these trucks packed to the gills, swerving through the roundabouts. I am told they didn't used to have shelters over the truck bed, this is a recent government requirement. Apparently this shelter is to help prevent these guys from spilling out all over the place if the truck tips over. It doesn't look too effective to me, but I haven't seen an accident either. At least it provides some shelter from the direct sun, which has got to be a godsend especially in the 120 degree heat of the summer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

day 13


THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! although I did think I was passing a KOA at first.

Sorry - No time today, deadlines a-looming. Be good.

Monday, November 12, 2007

day 12


Today's walk discoveries: The Egyptian embassy and the Charter Council for Action. Action for what? Oh, and there was the specific institution for training in hospitality.

I haven't been able to find out much more about the tents thing, except now here's a picture for you. It was suggested to me that this is kind of a "back to their roots" thing, back to their bedouin past. In any case, it begins around this time of year and lasts until spring. Last night as we were going home we saw a kid playing with an RC car and we also saw a few campfires.

Light post today, mucho work to do, not much else happening. Das Vedanio.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 11


I'm over here in my adult world, living with some guys, going to work with them, coming home with them. I see so few children. Sometimes when we're at lunch someone will be there with their kids. I see a few school buses in the morning, kids all sitting behind the bus windows in their uniforms. I haven't been anywhere where there would be a lot of kids. Yesterday at lunch there was a woman with two kids sitting at a table behind a partition, kids running around, she scolding them and then one of them pealed with laughter. What a beautiful sound.

My wife told me last night that my daughter has recently been through a controversy. She is an officer in a group called the Campus Nerds. They put on two haunted houses, one for kids and one for adults. Well, apparently they had a noose in the haunted house. Someone took a picture of it and made a big stink. I've been told that it made the local paper. The end result is that the Campus Nerds had to go make a formal apology to a black fraternity on campus.

The Campus Nerds is not a racist organization - it's a bunch of kids who like anime, computer gaming, etc. You know, geeks. They created a haunted house using images that have been a part of halloween since before my time. This isn't Jena. No one was trying to keep black students out. But someone got all PC on these kids and made a huge stink over nothing. I am sensitive to the legacy of slavery and the racism born of it, I grew up in an area where black people were farm hands, house maids, common laborers and were constantly reminded of their place. I understand the legacy of the KKK and the murders they committed. What I don't understand is why something so obviously not meant to be racist was deliberately made out be so. Ghosts hanging in effigy have long been a staple halloween decoration all over this country. It isn't as if hanging was solely inflicted upon black people. Hanging was the primary means of capital punishment in this country until well into the middle of this century. It was the means of execution for Saddaam Hussein. So now my daughter has been initiated into this world where speech is monitored for fear of offending someone, constantly worried that a look or a gesture will be misinterpreted as a leer or an insult. She isn't out of college yet. She's in, what was for me at least, the last insulated world she'll live in. She should be making good friends and happy memories that'll last her a lifetime, not be dumped slap into the middle of the real world where intentions don't matter and victimization rules the day.

I wish she were back at the age where all she had to worry about was if mommy was going to let her have a piece of candy before supper.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

day 10


During my walk today I ran across the Algerian and Senegalese embassies and the Bahrain Music Society. I am beginning to get the feeling we are in the diplomatic section of Manama. The US embassy is about a half mile from where we are staying, I haven't walked that far out yet, maybe I'll get to wave at a marine as I go by one day. The house above is close by and is indicative of homes in this part of the city. They are all behind walls and either have a strip of planting along the outside of the wall or more likely they train these bushes to grow out & over the wall. One guy has enough of an overhang to park his car under.

Today is a half day at work. Which means I'll go back to the villa and work a few hours from there. There's a rumor that we might go to the mall today, so that'll be nice.

I haven't been able to find out anything more about the tents, I'll try to tell what I've been told. In the fall & winter when it cools down people go "camping" out in these uninhabited areas. Remember I've described Bahrain as a rock covered with dust, so these are open areas outside the city crossed by the occasional road. They set tents up, they look kinda like marquee tents people in the states use for outdoor wedding receptions, only not white. These tents are dotted across the landscape. As it is early in the season, they are spread out, semi-isolated. There are also meeting areas being set up, where people can gather. I don't know what they do when they gather, that's just what I've learned so far. There will be little cold stores set up, like a miniature 7-11, so people can buy supplies. I think that they go out to their campsite on the weekends, or maybe even live out of them for periods of time. In the next few days I'll get some pictures and ask around and try to find out more for you.

Enjoy your weekend, think of me working while you're sitting around the pool.

Friday, November 09, 2007

day 9


Friday! Which is Saturday for me as it is my day off. Breakfast at Ric's American - omelete and a short stack with coffee. Took a longer walk this morning, found the Iranian embassy. Started to take a picture and thought better of it when I saw the guard. Some get a bit testy about that. Saw a few more tom cats, including yesterday's - only today he was in the dumpster instead of beside it.

My return date is being extended to Dec 6th. At least that is the plan. I'm hearing December flights are fairly booked. We'll see.

I am now the chauffeur of the group. Drove to and from work yesterday and out to dinner last night. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But - I am not ready for down town yet. We drive through a patch of undeveloped area every day, nothing but pipelines moving oil from the wells to tank farms. And tents. Apparently about this time every year when it cools down people set up these tents out from the city where they go to stay. I hear that it builds up, more and more tents, turning into little cities, with cold stores (the equivalent here of the corner stop-n-go, etc), central gathering places festooned with banners and the like.

So, I'll put in a few hours of work today (Maggie) tonight we grill and tomorrow back to work.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

day 8


I remembered to take my camera with me on my morning walk today. I hadn't seen animals or even pets since I'd been here - until I started walking in the mornings. I've only seen one stray dog, I see several people walking their dogs, and I see a handful of stray cats. This guy just happened to turn his head just as I took the picture - he had been watching something across the street. He certainly looks well fed.

I am extending my trip. There's been a series of technical glitches loading the system software and really I needed a few weeks to learn how they do things here. Laura took it pretty hard, she's had a bit of a rough time as we've had a series of problems one after another since I left. Remembering how I felt when she was in Europe with her sisters this past spring I know how she feels. I've said before that it was different for the one staying home vs. the one away. I am busy all day long. I get up, walk (the slowest part of my day) get ready and go to work, work all day, leave in the evening (6:00 PM now - since daylight savings time kicked in we are working an hour later to give us back the few hours we could talk to folks at work in the states.) get back to the apartment just long enough to scrounge dinner (go out usually). Finish supper/return to the apartment, work for about an hour (or - hallelujah, relax watch the TV or B.S.) and go to bed. I am constantly busy so I'm kept from thinking about home much. But several times during the day I find myself wishing I were home, or that Laura were here - I see something I think she'd like or something will make me laugh and I want to share it with her. And I now have to delay that for a few more weeks beyond my original return date. That was a long phone call.

Anyway, work is progressing but is still trying to kick me in the stones, so away to it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

day 7


All but 2 of the US management here are leaving today and tomorrow. One of the remaining two will be leaving Sunday, I believe. I took out a pad and pen and during this morning's commute made copious notes that I am transcribing and will verify during the next trips to and from here. Hoo boy, this is about to get interesting.

During today's walk I found an "English Children's School", and Indian Ayurvedic Medical Clinic, and some kind of Bahraini Governmental Industrial training office.

Just to clear up one minor misconception - there is absolutely no sand here. All of those piles in the pictures are of dirt. This island is a big rock with lots of fine, fine particulate dirt. And dust is everywhere. Think if driving down a dirt road at 30 miles an hour in the backroads during a dry summer - the cloud of dust behind you is what happens here when the wind blows. There are guys who go around to the apartment buildings and a lot of night spots offering to wash your car while you're inside.

Work continues to kick my butt, so I will let this go for now.

Happy Trails.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

day 6


I got up at 6:00 AM this morning to go walking. It hadn't been my intention to do so, but I woke up at 5:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. With all of the restaurant eating my pants have been feeling a little tight around the waist, so I off I went. I am going to try to keep it up. I learned this morning that we live near the Syrian embassy, a hospital, a Bahraini Businesswoman's institute, a Lybian Brotherhood Society, a Cultural Exchange (but which cultures are being exchanged?), and a lot of apartment buildings like ours above. Some older, one or two newer. By six AM the day is in full swing in this neighborhood as it has been daylight for about an hour and the construction sites are all buzzing. The weather is nice now, but I imagine that with temps into the 115 - 120 degree range in mid summer I can see the benefit of getting work done in the relative cool of a 5:00 AM morning. As I walk by I get an occasional nod as I pass and a few stares. The guy cutting rebar stopped as I walked by as to not shower me with sparks. I crossed the road anyway so as not to interrupt his work overly long. I think I will start getting a better feel for this country the more I wander off on my own. That opportunity will increasingly present itself as several of the guys here are rotating back to the US for vacations this week. My time behind the wheel of a vehicle, I think, is rapidly approaching. oh boy.

Things at work are getting really stressful, I've got a buttload of things to do and no time to do them, so TTFN!

Monday, November 05, 2007

day 5


The week is in full swing, so I work at work, and I work at the apartment. (you see the laptops strewn about?) The pattern during the week is that we leave in the morning a few minutes after 8:00 and get to the plant @ 8:45. Work, work, work, break for lunch around noonish - at the Yum Yum Tree, say, go back to the plant, work, work, work and leave - starting today - at 6:00 PM (after dark) as now that daylight savings has kicked in the time difference between here and the east coast is now 8 hours, so working 'till six gives us back an hour when the US offices and we are working. We leave, go back to the apartments where we try to decide about supper, actually go to supper (or fix it) and come back - to work, work, work while watching TV until bedtime.

So you can see, I have an exciting time here in the mid-east! Not much to say today, so I will close this and attempt for more intriguing posts for you in the future.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

day 4


Just so that people don't think I'm in some lush island paradise, where everyone lies around the pool drinking beer all of the time, I thought I'd show what the scenery around the plant(s) look like. We're on the back of the industrial park with the world's largest aluminum smelting plant on one side and dusty land on the other. The funny thing to me is that the new offices at the other plant (we're supposed to be moving today - in sha' allah) have green grass out front. A narrow belt, but still.... Very unusual here - it's the only grass I've seen here.

The tarps at the bottom of the picture are shading the parking spaces. During the middle of the summer the temps hit @115 - 120F with 75% humidity so cars left in the sun will have internal temps that would cook you. BIT - not right now. Temps in the low 90s during the day, nights are getting cool. And breezy. You see these tarp/tent covers outside of any building of size - the hospital nearby, the mall, etc. Many buildings also are built with underground parking under them. Makes sense in this climate.

While traffic is wild around here, it is predictably wild. Everyone takes it in stride, a few horn blows if there's some unpredictable move, maybe a hand jesture - no big deal. But today coming to work we saw an episode of road rage. We came up on a car with Bahraini tags that had slowed beside a car with Saudi tags, windows were down and the drivers were yelling at each other. We came up behind the Bahraini, who then sped up, changed lanes pulling in front of the Saudi and then slammed on his brakes, practically stopping - in the middle of a 3 lane highway. From what I'm told, Saudi drivers are C.R.A.Z.Y and Bahrainis hate them. I've seen a few cars with Saudi plates doing twice the speed of traffic, weaving in and out like it's a formula one race. I asked if there are a lot of hand guns here, and was told no, but knives are a different matter. I figure if my driving here (which has yet to happen, but is coming I think) ever causes that level of ire, best to cut and run than stay and get cut.

Yesterday was a half-day of work at the plant. (This is the normal schedule). We went back to the apartment where I worked most of the afternoon - so Toto is still a mystery land to me. One of the big wigs here is leaving Wednesday to go home for a few weeks, he's the guy who've I've been riding around with. He's got a map he's promised me, so maybe I'll be able to use his car and map and start exploring. We'll see.

**note: I usually make a point of replying to all comments to my posts. I want to apologize for not doing so lately. I have very little time for blogging right now, and what I have is reserved for posting here during nablopomo. I do, however, read them all. I will resume doing so as I find the time.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

day 3


Yesterday was our day off, it being اليوم للجمع - i.e. Friday - the Muslim day of worship. I got up and a few of us went to Rick's American for breakfast - fried eggs, over easy, home fries, bacon, biscuit with sausage gravy and a bowl of grits. You know, standard middle-eastern fare. I spent a few hours working and then went up to the roof sat by the pool with a few others and b.s.'d. Afterwards I went back to the apartment, blogged a little and then we met in another apartment and cooked spaghetti for supper, with salad, bread, and apple pie with ice cream for desert. Baskin Robbins ice cream. I can't quite get over western it is here. Of course, this is this country's capital city and while there are many more europeans than americans here it is like New York, just with more dirt. You can - and many guys do - stay here for weeks eating just as you would at home.

But there is no escaping you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. As today is a half-day of work, I hope to start searching for the wizard this afternoon, and find out if the munchkins really do eat the flying monkeys, or is that just an old-wives tale.

Friday, November 02, 2007

day 2


One consequence of an arid climate with little ground cover is the dust. IT IS EVERYWHERE. Guys hang around popular places offering to wash (wipe down) your car while you eat/shop/whatever. It's been windy for the past two days, so everything is extra dusty. Today, being Friday, is the weekend. Everyone parties on Thursday night. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper downtown. That in and of itself is a topic. There are few intersections where roads cross, with traffic taking turns to go. Instead there are traffic circles everywhere. They are each of them a race, everyone jockeying to enter the circle. Nowhere else is the axiom "he who hesitates is lost" more true. You've got to be aggressive in order to get anywhere.

De asked about the food - well, since I've been here I've had Hardee's, Benegans, Rick's American, Japanese steak house, and - pakistani at a food court called the Yum Yum. The guys I'm here with have been here many times before for 3-4 weeks at a time and they all want american food. The only real arabic food I've had since being here was on the Gulf Air flight from Dubai to Bahrain. But - I've got some time, I've made known my wishes for local food.

So far, all of the boning up I did on my arabic has come to naught. Most of the people where I'm working are Pakistani. When you go to a restaurant the help is frequently Filipino. Most of the laborers here are foreign. Apparently the Bahraini are paid by the government (oil revenues, etc) so there aren't many that are laborers. This isn't unusual in this part of the world, from what I've been told and heard in the past.

Anyway, since today is a day off I'm hoping the other guys'll get up soon and we can sightsee.

And the maid - he is an unseen presence who comes during the day while we're at work. I'll post pictures of the apartment sometime soon. It's nice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

ready....., steady........go!

I am going to try to keep up with nablopomo whilst in the midst of my trip. odds are I won't get very far - I haven't had more than 15 minutes for blogging since arriving, so you do the math.

In any event, I'll share the view outside of my apartment - in response to Scott's challenge from sometime back in the olden times when I was in the US and could keep up with what day it is.

These pictures were taken in front of the apartment building I'm staying in.


This is the view across the street from the entrance into the apartment building.



This is the view 90 degrees to the right.



this is the view from the window in the living room. That little slice of blue above the dirt is the Persian Gulf. There is A LOT of dirt here. This island is mostly rock. So the scenery has a overwhelming khaki color with random palms sprinkled in for a peek of greenery.

So, anyway, here's a start to the month. Wish me luck keeping up with it, the real work here hasn't even started yet.

Monday, October 29, 2007

tah dah

I'm here.

jeez.

I'm soooo tired, I'm going to bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

adios, au-revoir, aufwiedersehen

I leave for Bahrain Sunday night. I have a 14 hour flight to Dubai, a 4 hour layover, and just over an hour later I arrive in Manama. Quite tired, I'm sure - which will be good as it'll be almost midnight local.

Things have been a tad busy this week. After 10 months of software development, my trip to Bahrain was finally approved - last Tuesday. I had plane tickets on Wednesday. Good thing I have a valid passport. The trip is scheduled for 3 weeks, I'll be getting home Nov. 20th. At least that's the current plan. I have 3 weeks to completely convert the data from their systems into mine, train the staff in two plants and the front office and support them after going live. I wouldn't be surprised if I wind up staying longer.

While I'm sure I'll be working long hours, especially at first, I hope to find time to explore. I'm quite looking forward to it. I haven't been able to find out much in the way of local landmarks, I'm hoping local plant management can help with that. At any rate, I'll be able to drink some european beer again. It's been 20 years since I've had a real Amstel.

I will be staying in some apartments the company rents for visitors. I think I'm expected to cook my own supper. All that way to eat ramen. But I won't have to clean up after myself, I've been told there's maid service. I sure as hell don't get that here.

We've spent all day getting ready. Did some last minute shopping. Spent the rest of the day doing laundry. And mowing the lawn. And changing the oil in Laura's car. And playing with the dog. All necessary pre-trip activities. And the most important is sitting on the kitchen counter with two glasses and a corkscrew beside it. Better get to it, can't go unprepared.

Friday, October 19, 2007

angry, moi?

Last week I did an interview post with questions from liv. The first question she asked was did anything bring out the meanie in me. I've been thinking about that question since then, but in a slightly different way than I originally did. I rephrased the question to ask myself - Do I get angry. Some people get angry and then get mean. I still maintain I don't get mean, but I do get angry occasionally. so, I thought I'd answer the question again - this time addressing what makes me angry.

Before I start, I want to make the distinction that I do not equate being upset at being angry. People who know me (in the flesh, so to speak - or IRL in internet speak) sometimes mistake me being angry when I'm really just upset. And I can understand it, as both look and sound similar - to a degree. And being upset sometimes leads to being angry.

One more thing - the older I get, the more I tend to rant (like I just did over here). that is neither me being upset or me being angry. It is just me wondering what the hell is wrong with people today can't they just get with the program and by the way I have the best program. So there.

I was gently nudged after the interview post that they had seen me angry, but thought it justified and therefore didn't really call me on it. But that started me thinking about the anger part of the question. It has been bugging me, ergo this post.

I get upset when I see injustice. I get angry when I experience it. Sometimes I get over it, and sometimes I don't. Here on the internet, you don't get to see me get angry much, as I walk away from what makes me angry and come back when I'm over it. I also avoid most hot button issues (be they political or religious or whatever) because they tend to be polarizing and I don't see any point it. I'm not going to change a Bush hater into a Bush lover or visa-versa, an athiest into a fundamentalist, or visa-versa. Express your opinion on a ballot or in a pew. Or not. But not here.

Anyway - I get angry and I get over it, or I don't.

An example of when I get angry and get over it: I read A LOT of blogs written by women. I'd say 90+%. I have always had an easier time making friends with women than with men, and my blog reading habits follow. I occasionally get angry when I see statements in these blogs and their comments about sisterhood, or motherhood, or women unite, or how much better their lives would be if they lived in a creche with other mothers, or once or twice how much better the world would be if women were running things, etc. I get angry because - I'm a guy. It immediately makes me feel that I've been insulted, that I'm not wanted, that I'm not of sufficient caliber to belong - it makes me feel unwelcome. I get defensive - not all guys are jerks, it isn't a solely male perogative to be a bad parent or a bad marital partner, or bad whatever. I take it personally. But I get over it. A couple of times I've left comments to the effect that PEOPLE are bad or good, are nurturers or insensitive louts, are good parents or not - these negative traits aren't solely the male purview. But most of the time I just don't say anything because - especially of the women who've I've read for a long time - I know that they do (sometimes having to be prompted) acknowledge that assholery is not limited to the male half of the population. I just let it go.

An example of getting angry and not letting it go: A few of you know that 3 years ago my son attempted suicide. He was in his first semester of college and living with my parents. They had gone out of town for a long weekend and came home to find my son had been throwing up all over the house, was passed out on the bed and they couldn't hardly wake him up. They called me and I came and got him and took him to the doctor. His doctor had us take him to the ER. The short story is that the doctor and the hospital assumed that he was a drug addict and this was an overdose - because his asthma meds showed a false positive for amphetamines on a broad spectrum drug test. Even though his tests clearly showed that his condition was caused by an excess of tylenol. (He came within a hairsbreadth of permanently damaging his liver or even losing it). What made me really really angry was that after a few days when he was lucid and he told the doctor what he OD'd on, his doctor refused to give a referral to psychiatric help because he felt that drug addicts did not do well in mental heath treatment. A few weeks after my son got out of the hospital I finally convinced the doctor to give him the referral (which my insurance required) but only if he passed a urinalysis to show he wasn't using. I am still angry as I write this, it burns deep inside me. I have no respect at all for this doctor and have lost a good measure of respect for doctors in general. I can find no excuse for him not only giving up on my son, but not even wanting to cooperate with me on me getting him the help he so desperately needed.

Most things I can shake off. I flare for a moment and then get over it and forget it. When I wrote my response to Liv's question I really had forgotten about the times when I'd left a snarky comment or rant on someones' blog. I started remembering them and here we are.

Monday, October 15, 2007

4's meme

in the interest of responding to at least one of the meme's I was tagged for (by the same @#$% blogger, but she's forgiven in the interest of blogger harmony and lower blood pressure) I'll repeat this one (as it's easier than the other!).

Four jobs I've held

a. grocery store general dogsbody/assistant
b. tree & limb general dogsbody/assistant
c. fish camp kitchen assistant
d. farm hand

Four films I could (do) watch over and over
a. Mr. Hulot's Holiday
b. North by Northwest
c. Young Frankenstein
d. Bringing up Baby

Four TV shows I watch
a. My Name Is Earl
b. The Daily Show
c. How It Is Made
d. Holmes on Homes

Four places I've lived
a. Monterey, CA
b. Glen Burnie, MD
c. San Rafael, CA
d. Ocean Springs, MS

Four favorite foods
a. falafel
b. my wife's meatloaf
c. german brotchen
d. peach nehi

Four websites I visit daily
a. earthlink email portal
b. the Houston Chronicle comics page
c. the New York Times
d. The Morning News

Four favorite colors
a. blue
b. depends on what it is and where it is as to what color I would like it to be.

Four places I would love to be right now
a. the beach
b. the mountains
c. on a mission to mars
d. on a cruise on the Nile

Four names I love but wouldn't/couldn't use for your children
a. Brittany Kay
b. Mephistopheles
c. Genevieve
d. butros butros ghali

Four last books you read
a. Tales of Ten Worlds, Arthur C. Clark
b. Lamb, Christopher Moore
c. Mr. Moto's Three Aces, John P. Marquand
d. Going Postal, Terry Pratchett

As per usual, I tag no one, and everyone - who cares to participate.

Friday, October 12, 2007

....begins with the fist step

Poor internets, I am neglecting you so. Things are getting busy around here, my oft-postponed trip to Bahrain is actually rapidly approaching. The travel dates haven't been selected, but all the preparation will be completed by the end of this month, so sometime in November......

It's looking like I will be gone for about 4 weeks and will probably repeat next spring (in between a trip to Pakistan will probably occur). So, I'm busy looking at visa requirements, getting an international driver's license (haven't had one of those in 17 years), checking for immunization requirements, reading up on the area, brushing up my arabic, etc. I'm having a difficult time concentrating on other things -like posting on my blog. I do take occasional breaks to read your blogs, though - all work, no play drives Bob nuts.

I did play a little last weekend, I went to Mountain Day. This is an annual celebration of the birthday of the founder of Berry College - Martha Berry. I meet my best friend (and roommate while there) almost every year there and we putz around, looking to see if we recognize anyone and walk around the main campus to see what's changed. The trip is mostly an excuse to spend some time with him, the college has changed so much and although it is a beautiful as ever (there's a slide-show like banner on the link above and here's a link to other pictures) every year I feel more and more detached from the school itself. I guess it's a combination of the changes there as well as the additional years of separation from who I was then vs. who I am now. So, less nostalgia, more how're things going (with beer and natchos) and a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Liv's Interview

Liv over at Madness, Madness I Say offered to extend the 5 question interview meme to those who volunteered and despite my military background (the first thing they teach you in basic is NEVER volunteer for anything. look what happened the last time you raised your hand.....) I raised my hand.

1) You remind me of that line in "As Good As It Gets," where Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall says to Helen Hunt, "in every single thought that you have, [and how] you say what you mean, and [how] you almost always mean something that's all about being straight and good." Is there ever a time where some inner "meanie" comes out? What is Bob's break point?

This is a difficult question as I rarely find myself in a confrontational situation (i.e. - a fight or knock down, drag out argument). I have A LOT of patience, I don't like to hurt other people's feelings, and I can usually find a way to see the other person's viewpoint even if I don't agree with it. So I rarely find myself in a situation where I want to deliberately hurt someone. Something happened years ago that has helped me develop this. The kids were maybe 4, and 5. I was in a particularly bad depressive cycle and they were doing something or another that really annoyed me and I snapped - I yelled at them. I have a very loud voice. I scared the hell out of them and I could see that. It about crushed me, seeing what my selfishness and lack of control did to them. I am so very ashamed of that. That was 15, 16 years ago and it still hurts. These days, I do my best to keep from putting myself in the position of reaching that breaking point.

I asked Laura if she remembered the last time I was mean to someone and all she could come up with was sometime recently I was on the phone with our help desk - one of the plants had called them with a problem and they called me late one night - she said that, while I wasn't rude, I was plainly annoyed. The situation wasn't a real emergency and it was late and the problem was something they had been trained to handle and this was someone who should've known better. I try not react like that because I want them to feel free to call me so that when they have a real problem they'll call instead of attempting to handle it themselves - and probably make it worse.

***edited to add*** Meno has reminded me of an incident! I left a rude comment on her blog, but immediately deleted it. The person I made the comment about never saw it, but Meno did. So I apologized to Meno. I am glad that it wasn't seen by the intended recipient, it wouldn't have accomplished anything except engender ill feelings.

2) You've danced around some dicey situations at work which led to some darker posts in midsummer. Where are you with that? Can you say?

While being as honest as I know how to be here, I don't mention specifics out of a ?misguided? sense of discretion. So, without directly naming the company I work for, I work for a textile manufacturing firm that had, as recently as 5 years ago, over 30 plants. 15 years ago, over 40. This company has been closing them down and, like most textiles today, is sourcing goods from overseas. We have 10 plants now, 2 of which are closing and 3 more of which are rumored to close by end of 1st quarter next year. Plain and simple, it is driving me nuts. I HATE that all of these people are being put out of work. Thousands of them. The system I support is used in all of our plants, so I personally know 10-20 people at each plant that have lost their jobs. Some of them with 20, 30, and some even 40 or more years with this company (and it's predecessors). I hate that the goods we are buying are (not always, but usually) of inferior quality that what we produced domestically. I hate that I've been here 17 years and am being forced to consider that I will soon have to look for another job. (soon = next year?, 18 months? 24 months?) So, the dicey situation at work is me being unhappy. I am dealing with it. I am doing my best to keep what is left of the company competitive, within the limits of what I control.

3) Beyond what the post of music selections in your last post, what are you listening to these days? Is there any new band or singer that's doing it for you?

I don't buy a lot of music when it comes out. For example, it took me 4 years to buy Black Eyed Peas album Elephunk, but it's in my CD player right now. Another older album I've bought recently and have been listening to a lot is Moby - Hotel. It is a two disc set, one of which is ambient - the one I usually listen to. I scanned the Bilboard charts to see if there was anyone there who I listen to/like and there are a few - Nickelback, Pink, and Matchbox Twenty are all groups I like. A group new to me is Plain White T's. I really like their single Hey There Delilah, I've heard it on the radio a good bit and I'd like to hear more of their stuff. But my most recent acquisition is an album I've wanted for years and could never find. It is listed on the music post, but since it is my most recent obsession I'll mention it here - The soundtrack to the Gene Wilder/Richard Prior movie Silver Streak. I LOVE IT. (the movie too!) I am a big, big, big Henry Mancini fan. As it turns out the soundtrack never had been released by the studio nor Henry Mancini, which is why I couldn't find it. Until now. I finally found it on an obscure label who's purpose is to find and release soundtracks such as this. The last album before this that I bought and played incessantly was Green Day's American Idiot. As it happens, their album Nimrod is in my wife's car's CD player right now.

4) A quote attributed to you is, "I will tell you that your supper was excellent even if I had trouble choking it down." (ahem.) If I were cooking dinner for you, what would be the perfect meal in your estimation?

ahem yourself! I like trying new food, finding out about dishes other people like and then seeing for myself. When I travel I like to find what the local specialties are and give them a go. If I get to go to Philadelphia I intend to visit the home of the philly cheese steak (Pat's AND Geno's). If I get to go to Chicago I intend to find the home of the deep-dish pizza - Pizzeria Uno. Etc., etc., you get the idea. So, the perfect meal for you to fix for me would be......a meal of your absolute favorite dishes. I would help make them and you would tell me as we eat why they mean so much to you, which would make it even more special.

5) Crete, huh? I'm pretty passionate about Greece, and am wondering what you think is so magical about the country that those who have spent any amount of time there hold the memories as delicately as a basket of peacock eggs.

A lot of what made Greece magical for us was - us. We lived on Crete for two years, moving there during our first year of marriage. Those first few years of marriage are an intense time for a couple and "things" mean so much. Also, both our kids were born there. Instead of Laura going to Germany to have the kids in an american military hospital and me quite possibly not able to be there, we decided to have them in a local maternity clinic. I was there. Aside from us, and more directly answering your question - One reason would be the people. We lived on the second story of a two story house, the owner lived downstairs. They involved us in their lives. One evening I had just gone to bed (I had a day shift coming up and had to be up at 5:00) when the owner's wife came knocking on the door and invited us down, their daughter had just got engaged and they were throwing a party. There were 30 or so people there, both families as well as friends and neighbors from the village, including their priest. They asked that we and the babies come down to join them. Oh - Greek people LOVE children. They are a family people. Everywhere we went, the women wanted to hold the babies, asking us their names, how old they were, etc. etc. We were flying home for a visit and were in the airport in Athens. There were a ton of the typical Greek old women there - you know, black shawl, black scarf over their head, black skirt, clunky black shoes - and we joined the line. It wasn't a minute before they started coming up, wanting to see our baby - he was passed from woman to woman all over they airport lobby. Wherever we traveled on the island, we found the Greek people to be warm, out-going, and hospitable. They'd invite you in, break out the raki, or that wickedly strong coffee - don't drink to the bottom of the cup or you'll get coffee mud. In addition to the people, the country is beautiful. You've seen the pictures. And history is all around you. The Minoans were sailing the mediterranean about 5 thousand years ago. There is some minor contention about whether the minoans influenced the egyptians or the egyptians the minoans. Everywhere you turn is something a few thousand years old - the palace at Knossos, the legendary home of the minotaur and the original labyrinth, as an example.

I am sure that this is not unique to Greece, but I haven't visited anyplace yet that matches it.

I am also sure that anyone's experience of anywhere they go is what they make of it. There were some people there when we were that hated it. I invariably find that when discussing traveling or living in other parts of the world someone will say that they didn't like it and then list their grievances. I've lived in a good handful of places here in the states and in a few overseas, and while there are some places I wouldn't necessarily want to live again, there was always something about every place that I liked.

Monday, October 01, 2007

the solstice has slipped

I was getting ready for work this morning and went into the bathroom to take a shower. This being a getting-on-for 70 year-old house we have no central A/C and so the bathroom window is kept open - in a futile attempt at a little air circulation. I started to shiver a bit in the morning coolness and ran a hot shower. I got into the shower, stepped into the water stream and that WONDERFUL feeling of hot water enveloping me, the initial sting of heat and then the relaxing warmth ran through me and I realized - this was my first hot shower since, what, March? April at the latest. I actually had to turn the hot water faucet further than a centimeter.

Fall might just have fallen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Miscellany

I finished testing a system change at 4:30 today and didn't really want to start something else, especially as it would take longer than the half hour I had left in my day. I've been wanting to do a music post of some sort, but I can't do the kind I want because blogger doesn't offer any space to store music files. Anyway, I've got a drawer full of CDs at work and a handful stacked on my computer. They've accumulated over time as I take in one I particularly want to listen to that day. So, I thought I'd build a list of what music I have at work and I could post it here.

I was going to post it here. I have 90 CDs at work. I didn't realize it was that many. So - I'm not going to type all of that here, but I thought I'd list some of them - a cross section of what I have.

The Corrs, Forgiven Not Forgotten.
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Left of Cool
K.D. Lang, Ingenue
Major Glen Miller and the Army Air Force Band, 1943-1944
The Cure, Mixed Up
Blink 182, Take Off Your Pants And Jacket
Pink Floyd, Animals
Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time
Paul Simon, The Rhythm Of The Saints
Tracy Chapman, New Beginning
Everclear, Songs From An American Movie Vol. One, Learning How To Smile
REO Speedwagon, The Hits
Barry White, All-Time Greatest Hits
Liz Story, My Foolish Heart
Eric Clapton, Unplugged
Jeff Lynne, Armchair Theatre
Depeche Mode, Violator
The B52's, Time Capsule
Ravi Shankar, Bridges
Coldplay, A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Aaron Copeland, Copeland the Populist (Rodeo, Billy The Kid, The Appalachian Spring)
Dave Grusin, Homage To Duke
The Mills Brothers, mix cd
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Deja Vu
Chet Atkins, The Essential Chet Atkins
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album
Chick Corea, Solo Improvisations From Japan
Scott Joplin, Collection
Henry Mancini, Silver Streak
Barenaked Ladies, Stunt


I guess 30 is enough for going on with here. A third of the collection. See anything you like? Not much new (I could have listed Corinne Bailey Rae - I guess I just did, K.T. Tunstall too - both given me by my daughter, probably in a futile attempt to update my musical tastes.) Kinda mixed, but I wanted to try show a cross section. Maybe you can tell me if one stirs a particular memory?

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

.....finish last?

damn. I can't believe it's been two weeks. I am all scattered these days.

I am so scattered, in fact, it has taken me a week to acknowledge that Liv was sweet enough to give me this:




she is, of course, utterly delusional - but as she's been under a wee bit of stress lately, what with the moving and being near-death with the crud and all, I'll not burst her bubble.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, I've always been the nice guy. I.e. not the one the girls fight over, but the one they complain to when he didn't pick them. So I suffer silently and hold their hand and tell them what a jerk he is not to recognize what a great catch she is and that he's not worth it anyway.

ANYWAY.

I have just spent a gajillion dollars on plane/car reservations for our trip to Kansas City. We are spending Christmas with Laura's family this year. It'll be the first trip since Laura's mom passed away and it'll be.....weird. I offered Laura a chance to go over labor day weekend and she wasn't ready for that first trip back yet. But by December I think enough time will have passed,Laura will have had time to prepare and having her family around will help. Maybe it'll be a white Christmas!


P.S. What exactly is in that picture? It looks like a woman's bare back w/brastrap and a ?knee? in the foreground, or maybe she's got scoliosis and has an extremely narrow posterior?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

watching the tide

I figured I'd better write something here before the lock seizes up from rust and I cannot get in anymore.

It seems I have an inexhaustible supply of exhaustion lately, coupled with a complete lack of anything interesting going on. net effect, nothing blog-worthy for blog about. I guess I could say that Pat Benetar still has decent chops and was enjoyable despite, or maybe because of, the rainstorm. and that my wallet is now pink on one side, with the cordovan dye washed out of it (and into my pocket lining instead). and that when people started leaving my semi-drunk friend started calling them names, yelling that a little rain never hurt anyone (we'd both had about a six-pack by that time). and that we changed clothes behind the car, in the dark, hoping that no-one would enter or leave the parking lot, so of course while I was changing my idiot friend opened his door, turning on all of the interior lights just as someone was walking through the parking lot (poor guy, saw more than he was expecting....).

but that is boring stuff to anyone but him and me - just another war story to bore other people with next year.

I guess waiting for inspiration to strike, for something I think is interesting to anyone other than me, is turning into this miasma of nothingness that is my blog. I miss the interaction with y'all, writing the occasional comment on your (collective) blogs just ain't getting it. There's a few people I am worried about, De being sort-of overwhelmed with moving, Liv closing on her first house and moving, J seems to have found a mass in her breast, Egan having his world turned upside down and is anticipating separation anxiety (his), Scott's sister having cancer and his just having lost his dearest canine friend, Chani needing to find a community of like-minded thai-ists, etc. I don't say much lately, 'cause whatever I try to say comes out trite in the face of whatever is going on.

don't get me wrong, there's good too - amusing kicked some grad-school butt and is now available to be snapped up by some forward thinking company, grannyvibe has kicked cancer's ass, her 6 month MRIs are clear, meno is her usual, imperturbable self (except when being mistaken for someone ready for an AARP membership), Mir is slowly learning how to be a southern belle, Jen is finding unexpected joy in a 3 year-old package, etc.

And here I am, sitting on the bay watching the world cruise by on it's way to wherever it's going.

I'll be here when it gets back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Grrrrrrrrrrrr

I am so mad I could spit.

Two weeks ago the HR office (about 10 states away from here) from my wife's company mailed out their yearly request for verification of my daughter Kristina's status as a full-time college student, as she is over 17 and therefore not eligible for coverage under their health insurance unless she's a full-time college student. We couldn't get the verification at the time because the semester hadn't started, but we weren't worried since school started on the 16th and the deadline for turning in the verification wasn't until the 24th. Plan A: the normal way to obtain this verification is to request it over the university's web site. So, on the 17th we went to the web site and requested the verification, but the most current information was for the (since finished) summer semester. Nothing to show she was registered, paid, and attending classes for the current semester. Enter plan B: I drive down on the following Monday to talk to the registrars office in person to explain our delimma. I meet my daughter and we go in together. We are told that the web site isn't updated with information about the current semester until drop/add is over, but not to worry, fill out this form and it will be processed in 2 to 3 business days (she actually said business days!). So my daughter goes in today (2nd business day) and is told that she cannot get a verification letter until at least tomorrow, probably the next day as the information won't be in their computer until at least then.

never mind that their computer knows she's fully paid for the semester and never mind that her schedule is in their computer showing she's taking a full load, apparently the computer in the registrars office doesn't talk to the computer in the financial aid department. This lady doesn't care about health insurance, doesn't care about my daughter or her problems. If it isn't in her computer, there is nothing she can do. I am driving down again tomorrow and see if I cannot make her care.

you know, these days going to college is all about the internet. You can apply to the school and be accepted (or be rejected) on-line, apply and receive (or be rejected) financial aid on-line, register for classes on-line, your advisor review and release your schedule on-line and show up for classes (which are sometimes on-line) all without ever having talked to a person. How efficient. When I went to college you had to fill out a paper application, mail it in, and then be interviewed by someone in admissions before you were accepted (or rejected) by the school. You then filled out LOTS of forms for financial aid and then sit down to talk to someone in the financial aid office before you got (or was rejected for) financial aid. You then had to actually, honest-to-god, MEET with your advisor - who actually talked to you about your wants and needs, career and life goals, who then actually ADVISED you as to what degree to try for, what classes to take (and at least for your freshman year) had to sign a piece of paper to show they had advised you and approved your classes. You then had to go through the circus of signing up for classes (1000 students in a hot sweaty gym running around to different tables to sign up for each class hoping there were seats available by the time you reached the front of the line - but sometimes you could talk the professor into letting you in even if the class were full if you REALLY needed the class THAT QUARTER or you wouldn't be able to graduate on time.

There were people in the process who's job it was to evaluate each student individually, taking into account each's needs. After all, college is about teaching people, right?

but not today. today it's all on-line, fill out this web-form and wait for an email.

Several years ago, when my son was a freshman at this same university, he was hospitalized for a week, and had to spend two weeks at home recovering. While he was in the hospital I called his advisor and told her about his situation. She sent her best wishes, said not to worry about classes right now, for him to contact her when he was able to go back to school. 3 weeks later he calls her to ask what he needed to do about the missed time and she didn't even know who he was. He was listed in the university's system as withdraw-fail for not showing up for classes. I called her and asked what was going on, she told me that when I called she thought he was a student in one of her classes (which he wasn't), that it wasn't her responsibility to let his other professors know about his hospitalization and subsequently not attending classes - it was my son's. So I then go to see the dean of students, who was the first (and) last person I talked to there who took a personal interest in my son. While she couldn't override the departmental head's decisions regarding my son's status in their classes, she did call and personally speak to them letting them know why he was out. Each department then worked with my son, letting each of his professors know why he was out and in each case they let him resume classes and worked with him to make up missed classwork and tests. The Dean of students had shown me that someone did care, that there were people dedicated to the kids and not just drawing a paycheck, that this was truly an institution of learning and not some unfeeling corporation with limited resources and a bottom line to consider above all else.

and then this stuff happened. (I didn't even tell you about the parent loan application I submitted to cover room & board for this year. I was afraid I'd pop a vein if I continued the rant. more stuff to straighten out tomorrow.)

I have always revered education. it is your path out of ignorance, an opportunity for you to grow as a person and to gain the knowledge to improve yourself. I have always held academic institutions in the highest regard, special places where kids are allowed to finish growing up and be launched into adulthood. When I went to college I was made to feel like they were there for me, to help me be whoever I wanted to be. I envied my children when they started college, here was their turn to have that experience. Instead, it's one gigantic faceless bureauocracy. hell, that's just like work.