A Twist Of Fate
December, 2010 Entries
"Just because you can't, doesn't mean you shouldn't try. And just because you shouldn't, doesn't mean you can't." - Me

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(12/31/10 - 9:26 PM)
The network is humming, and we decided to just order out and stay in tonight. We opened our last bottle of Champagne from Missouri (I know, I know - that statement technically makes no sense), and are just hanging out playing Lego Indiana Jones. These games are highly addictive - trust me on this.

Wanda had a productive day but me - not so much.

Looking forward to a better tomorrow, after two soul-destroying days that whizzed by and disallowed me from doing the things I had planned to do on my days off. I rarely get time off like this, and it seems like something is always screwing it up, somehow.

(12/30/10 - 9:17 PM)
Bought Wanda a new Wi-Fi capable mid-range network printer and installed it today. That is, after I re-ran a bunch of cables, replaced our network Router, added an 8-port switch, and tore my hair out talking to TWO ethnic-individuals overseas who (God bless them) couldn't type a lick, couldn't understand what I was saying, and had no notion of what I actually needed. I don't mind customer support jobs going overseas - those people need to work too. What I DO mind, is being unable to speak to someone who is versed in both typing, the language, and the potential problems at hand. I would gladly pay more for hardware, if it meant being able to have these things. I honestly would.

Suffice it to say that I spent 37 minutes on the phone with a young lady who took half of that time typing in my name, my serial number, model number, etc. and then told me that because the router was out of warranty (by just shy of three weeks, I learned) she could not help me with the switch that I had purchased that day, which was hooked to it, and was the reason for my call.

Uh, what now? >Sigh<

(12/29/10 - 7:36 PM)
Slow day at work today, which allowed me to duck out a little early. Came home and did the usual, followed by unlocking the last of the gold bricks in Lego Star-Wars. I'm still a big kid sometimes, and it's a great distraction when I need it, periodically.

(12/28/10 - 5:44 PM)
Today was a tough one for me. I woke up at about 2:00 am, with a pain I can only describe as excruciating. It felt like someone had wedged a soda can into the back of my cranium, between my brain and the skull.

I'm really not exaggerating, either. Light, sound, movement and thinking were all nearly impossible to bear.

Early afternoon brought abatement, and I had no idea what that was all about: I just know I don't ever want to have it happen again.

My back has been on and off all day as well, which didn't help. I look forward to taking it extra-easy tonight.

(12/27/10 - 6:06 PM)
The first day with the new network in place at work was less trying than I had anticipated (alright - for me, anyway). I was in a foreign element for a short time, only due to using pieces of software that I had not been running at home on Windows 7 for the past year.

What I thought I might hate, I have come to like. So it appears that the decision to switch was sound. I just feel bad for my Assistant, and Expediting & Shipping Managers, who have no experience with the new OS. The learning curve will be a bit steeper for them, but I'm hoping it is worth it for them to not have the constant hangs, lock-ups and crashes familiar with our old network.

(12/26/10 - 10:22 PM)
What a grueling day. Spent eleven hours at work on a Sunday setting up the new Windows 7 network on all new, fresh out of the box, PC's. The upside was that the 64-bit network installed amazingly fast. The tough bits were getting all the software correctly ported over from machine to machine.

Our (that's my Assistant Becky, who was a champ and agreed to this self-flagellating task, and I) biggest problems were getting the accounting software to convert over and suesequently work on all three machines, and getting the ethernet time clock to work on a 64-bit system, as it said it was capable of doing.

After hours of messing around, she finally figured out that we had a cable that went out from just unplugging it and moving it across the room, and that the chip in the cable was NOT 64-bit compatible.

Which would have been handy to know beforehand.

It's also amazing how much software you recall that you need to download, install and configure on three new machines. Trust me: there's always 'one more'.

(12/25/10 - 10:26 PM)
Spent yesterday evening for Christmas with my Mom's side of the family, and after a bad back day let my brother get the best of me. I lost my temper (internally) at one of his comments, and when he mentioned his level of education and inherent use of logic in response to one of my Aunt's innocent inquiries (in a way that, I felt, implied that I just didn't posess) I about went nuclear.

Instead, I calmly cited the fact that perhaps we should not debate the issue further because I could not argue his voluminous education in comparison to my own, conversely, meager one.

Now, don't get me wrong: he's my brother, and I love him dearly. It's just that he's an attorney and he has a mind like one. His having viewpoints that are often 180° from my own certainly don't help either. He's a devout athiest | vegan | evolutionary | pro-choice sort, and I'm none of those things.

So, when I mentioned that Steve Forbe's idea of a flat-tax structure was brilliant, and he decided that that wasn't so out loud, something inside me finally snapped.

I guess it's all the times that he's felt compelled to examine my viewpoints that I hold sacred in discussion, followed by his reason and logic in attempting to dissuade me from them, that had finally worn me down to the point where being around him at times like this feels more like I'm on trial than hanging out with someone I truly care about.

I felt bad, because (it turned out later) that everyone was keenly aware of the elephant I had placed in the room. Worse still, he took it as a "personal attack" on him: something I never meant to imply but, in hindsight, I suppose could be construed that way with my retalliatory response.

It's just hard to be tired, to be in pain, and have one's compelling viewpoints constantly derided and broken down ad-nauseum - especially while in company.

Hopefully, it won't happen again. But my concern is that, as years have gone on, it has gotten progressively worse - not better.

(12/24/10 - 11:08 AM)
Today we do a late-afternoon Christmas with my Mom's side at her place. On the way, we'll be stopping by my friend Gary's house to drop off a palmtop PC that I had no way to fix, in the hopes that he can figure something out.

Working on the media library, and still in awe of my present. I got it all up and running and connected, which proved to be easier than the pre-Windows 7 manual said it would be. Except for having to download new software (which took forever) it was mostly painless. Had I been a novice, however, I would have probably been on the phone to tech support, because it's not intuitive for someone who has no clue what they're doing. Then again, it's not exactly the sort of thing a novice would typically purchase.

Had a weird dream last night about shopping in an antique store in an unspecified foreign country, which turned into a psychological castle battle.

Don't ask.

(12/23/10 - 6:55 PM)
Spent the day working on setting up the RAID server, and working in-tandem on the media library. Got my Boss's new iPod set up, so he's all good to go come Monday. The gang at work and I bought him one. Wanda and I bought him an FM transmitter cable for his car, and a Garmin nUVI. So he's going to enjoy traveling a whole heck of a lot more. Plus, he won't be asking me to re-burn CD's, from his digital backups, that he's lost or destroyed. Backing up his CD's has proved to be a good investment in time, rather than buying new every few months.

(12/22/10 - 8:06 PM)
Knocked off a little early at work this afternoon to do the annual hang out and 'Christmas Cheer' thing with the gang. This year, spirits were high, and the bonuses were outlandishly gratuitous. My Boss not only gave me a substantial bonus check, he also gave me a ton of 'accessory gifts' and, as the topper, a Gigabit Ethernet 8Tb hot-swappable 0/1/5 RAID server. It's something that I've avoided buying (working my way up to needing it), but it provides a great peace of mind backup to my now triple-redundant 2Tb drives. Plus, it has it's onw capacity to mirror whatever I tell it to, so any changes to the master are picked up by the server.

I'm in geek heaven.

We had a great year, all in all. We had near-record margins, which allowed us to give such large bonuses and purchase new equipment. There's been a wage freeze in effect for two years that I believe will be gone come January 1, and we've hired some new talent that is fast becoming better than my wildest dreams.

Looking forward to a banner year, and looking forward to cementing the atmosphere of 'team' we've been cultivating successfully of late.

(12/19/10 - 10:23 AM)
I slept in until nine this morning. Even I'm astounded, because I went to bed early.

I was thinking of writing today, but I'm not so sure now. I've got a ton of stuff to do, so I might just blow it off. Tomorrow begins a pair of three-day weeks at work, and I look forward to a second year of delegation so that I have no obligation to be there.

It's a far cry from the years where I went in on Christmas Eve, and Day. Not that I would mind the money again, though.

Also today, an observation: Amazon.com's 'Lightning Deals' are beyond petering out. This morning's fare? Cases of Pumpkin Pie filling, individual-serving packets of potato chips, and some stuff I've seen three times already that they haven't managed to move yet.

I'm guessing that only the hard-core deal junkies (i.e. - me) have hung in this long. Though, to be fair, I did spend more than I had intended over the course of the past few weeks because some deals were just too good to justify passing up. I got full-series sets of The West Wing, Ally McBeal and 24 for a pittance, as well as some lesser-known series for a song.

So, a good haul, all in all.

(12/18/10 - 5:46 PM)
Spent an enjoyable morning/afternoon with Wanda's family at our home for Christmas. It was nice to have everyone hang out a little longer than usual (though still nowhere near the marathon sessions my family has always done since as far back as I can rememeber.)

The 'home-made' gifts reached a new pinnacle of awesome with Gary's hand-crafted creation of Charlie Brown Christmas trees (complete with single ornament.) Never have I been so happy to receive something crappy that I have to store in my house. And believe me - this puppy is a keeper.

Even more than usual, my sister-in-law Sara's desserts were waist-assaultingly amazing. And little Mattox is so cute, I questioned his paternity openly. How could cousin Mike make something so freakin' adorable? Mostly, he just ran smiling lap after lap around the house, re-discovering things like a fish in a bowl, and making us all just watch and go, "Awwww!".

I can't wait to get into Grandma's home-made carmel corn again this year - a treat that I look forward to, because it's just so damn good.

Leftovers abound, even though I made a concerted effort to cut back on the spread this year (I'm 1/4 Italian, and I'm my Grandma Lee's Grandson, after all). At times like these, I think I miss her more than usual.

All in all, a day that went off fairly well with the exception of my back feeling the overdoing it during the morning's preparation. It's my own fault, but Wanda was amazing doing a ton of stuff. We make a good team.

(12/16/10 - 9:23 PM)
Here's a story compliments of my new friend, Carl:

A man owned a small farm in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin State Wage & Hour Department, claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent.

"Well," replied the farmer, "there's my farm hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board.

"The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $150 per week plus free room and board.

"Then there's the half-wit who works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night."

"That's the guy I want to talk to - the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the farmer.

(12/14/10 - 8:46 PM)
Jim, our Expediting Manager at work, was making the rounds tonight just before leaving. He had his coat on - a Carhartt that has certainly seen better days but still keeps him warm and dry.

When he got to Mr. Phillips Screwdriver's station, he made known his needs for the evening. Before he could leave, Mr. Phillips Screwdriver says, "You need a new coat. This one's all ripped up!" And, with that, he put his finger into one of the numerous holes in the jacket, and pulled, making a fist-sized hold where once a finger-sized one had been.

My question is simple: Why? What possible good does that do? Seriously?

(12/13/10 - 7:22 PM)
This week marks the beginning of the annual tradition of the Christmas spread at work. Specifically, our Boss goes out and spends copious amounts of money and effort to give all of his employees a hot and cold buffet each and every day through Christmas. It was especially gratifying to watch the employee's who had not yet experienced this being amazed at his generosity. I think, for him, gratitude is something that he rarely gets in the amounts that he deserves. And it's a far cry from the pessimistic outlooks that former employees have imparted in years past.

So - keen!

(12/12/10 - 8:37 AM)
Woke up this morning to Wanda shaking my shoulder. Apparently, I was having an awesome night terror, and screaming a great deal. Lucky her.

The company Christmas party last night was a mixed bag. The turnout was amazing, and the hanging out was fun. I just didn't expect the hanging out at the restaurant to go so late. What ended up happening was that we finally left at about 8:30, as no one had yet gone out to my Boss' home, and the snow and ice were flying before - and the entire time - we were there. Apparently, a great majority of the folks there felt the same, so individuals who I had hoped to mingle and talk with throughout the evening at the home of my Boss, ended up leaving.

I made an executive decision to just call it a night, and Wanda and I just came home and snuggled up.

Oh, and I might have gone outside to burn our mail shreddings at 8:45 at night.

This morning finds me tired, so I'm guessing I didn't sleep well. I know the dreams were fast & furious, and well populated, so that probably didn't help.

Other news... Oh! I'd like to thank Josh, Wade, Ted, Becky, Tricia, Abbey, and Adam for all your help trying to find some used cell phones for some folks who needed them. You guys all rock, and I appreciate the help immensely. It's nice to have such good friends.

I almost forgot about the walk-in guy who came in to the shop this week...

This old gentleman came in the other day, with a piece that he had hack-sawed off of his log splitter. He had a series of lines faintly etched to a point, and asked if we could cut it back to 'sharpen it'.

I did what he wanted, he comes in, and says, "Well, this isn't right, You didn't go back to the lines!" Meaning, the second, inner, set - not the outer ones he pointed to when he said, "Take as little as possible off."

Most of my customers are intelligent, and know what they want. It's the walk-ins to a tier-1 machine shop who want some crazy-ass thing from their shed fixed that seem to be the worst. Plus, they seem to want everything for free.

In the words of my Boss, "I have risked everything to have this machine shop. I have over one million dollars of equipment on the floor. When you have that, then you can name your own price, and decide what is fair. If you don't approve of my price, then feel free to find another shop who might be willing to do it for you. But this is the price that I must have."

Truer words were never spoken.

I plan on doing a whole lot of nothing today. I might write some (I only got four pages done yesterday), but I'm thinking more and more that Mario and the Wii, or possibly a good book, might need some attention.

I'll figure it out. Enjoy YOUR Sunday, and I'll see you all next week.

(12/11/10 - 4:22 PM)
Spending the morning checking out some of my recent 'bargain' downloads from Amazon.com (read: my crack pipe). These include my first brush with Imogen Heap (still on the fence about her), and Regina Spektor's new Live album (Anything she does, I will buy. She's a favorite of mine.)

Working on the media library (no surprise there, I'm sure) and doing a little catching up on the blog and web site.

This afternoon, we have the aforementioned company Christmas party, and it appears as though we should have darn near a perfect turnout, leading me to believe that this might be one of the best ever parties.

All of our luggage, for the most part, is now gone and the group of guys we have is pretty keen, leading to good table conversation. Additionally, as years go by, we have more and more individuals who have stuck around, making the communal historical aspect more interesting as conversation fodder.

We shall see, but I have high hopes.

(12/10/10 - 4:22 PM)
It's been a steady week at work. We've hired a new, night, CNC turning center operator who I find I like a great deal, and I think is going to work out swimmingly.

Workload has been steady to climbing of late, but we've planned well for that, so it hasn't impacted us negatively in the slightest, which is a nice change. As time goes one, I find more and more that individuals in their respective positions seem to make the shop, as a whole, run more seamlessly, using previous knowledge to avoid future caveats.

It's all rather nice.

I've spent the last two weekends writing quite a bit, and have managed to flesh out some sixty-one pages of a new novel. They all need re-tooling, but I've held myself back from doing so in lieu of writing more framework. It's been tough as the true crafting, for me, comes in changing the framework to look less like a skeleton and more like a person with discernable features and personality.

But it will be worth it to get through this phase. The mistake I made when I began writing my second novel was to craft after writing only a few skeletal chapters at a time. The problem, I soon realized, was that this made the telling of the story less and less malleable, and more and more problematic and difficult to change without discarding a great deal of work that I was more than satisfied with.

Lesson learned, there.

I had another amazing idea for a book in the shower the other day (for some reason, I do all of my best thinking there - seriously), but I've lost it now due to not having written it down. Luckily, I began writing this most recent work after a shower brainstorming session, where I successfully wrote down all my character arc ideas IMMEDIATELY. I really need a waterproof notebook (note to humorous family: don't get me one - I really won't use it - I was being facetious.)

I don't know how much writing I'll get done this weekend, but I plan to hit it hard again as time permits. My company Christmas Party is tomorrow afternoon, and I have stuff to do tomorrow morning, so it's looking more and more like Sunday is going to be the time for it.

Days like these, I wish I could write full-time. Perhaps, someday...

(12/09/10 - 5:24 PM)
Astonishingly enough, our replacement television arrived today, just days after I ordered it from Amazon.com.

To take a step back, our super-awesome, two-year old, television went all stupid on us, and proceeded to degenerate to un-useability fairly quickly (Adverbs!)

I got pissed, then just resolved myself to the fact that I would spend yet more money this month to replace it. In case you're keeping score, that's a Christmas present for my Boss, a new television, snowblower, and other assorted Amazon.com 'lightning deals' that I could simply not live without.

I need to just stop doing anything, so I don't spend anymore money. the upside is that we're blessed enough to be hard-working and have it. Which is good, because the end of the year is nigh, and my back problem still exists - even with my co-pays reset.

Next year will be better. It MUST be better. I realize that I said this a year ago but - come one - how many down years can one guy have?

Still, it could have been a whole hell of a lot worse, all in all. And for that, I am sincerely grateful, all kidding aside.

(12/08/10 - 6:14 PM)
Mr. Phillips Screwdriver inserted himself stealthily into my office this afternoon. He was upset about a job that was being run with, "Junk technology" in the form of a modern, cutting-edge, milling cutter.

Yes, you read that right.

He began a monologue about how the other cutter we have (a post 1950's design that has been phased out by even the largest provider of carbide inserts for said-same tool) is far superior to this new-fangled one, and how he just doesn't fathom why we wasted all that money tooling up with this new technology several years ago, when this old one is more awesome than Jesus and a Leprechaun put together.

I made the time out sign, as I tried to stop him verbally as well. Instead, he talked louder for another full twenty seconds before my hitting his conversational brakes finally took hold.

"Okay," I said, "You're unhappy about the way this job was started. Fine. I get that. Feel free to change cutters, and use whatever you like. That's the solution here. I don't need, nor wish, to discuss cutter engineering with you over this project. It isn't necessary, nor will it solve anything."

Simple enough, right? Nope!

"I just don't see why they even use these junk cutters..."

And so the monologue began anew. Again, he began at the beginning and, again, I tried to physically and verbally stop him.

Finally, it worked once more,"Okay," I said, "You're unhappy about the way this job was started. Fine. I get that. Feel free to change cutters, and use whatever you like. That's the solution here. I don't need, nor wish, to discuss cutter engineering with you over this project. It isn't necessary, nor will it solve anything."

Okay, now I've said it twice.

And so the monologue began anew. Again, he began at the beginning and, again, I tried to physically and verbally stop him.

Finally, it worked once more,"Okay," I said, "You're unhappy about the way this job was started. Fine. I get that. Feel free to change cutters, and use whatever you like. That's the solution here. I don't need, nor wish, to discuss cutter engineering with you over this project. It isn't necessary, nor will it solve anything."

Okay, now I've said it three times.

This time, it finally seemed to stick. Then I said, "If you're that dissatisfied with the job, leave it for tomorrow and I'll have the guy who started it, finish it."

This seemed to satisfy his needs, and he walked out of the office as quickly as he had come, still monologuing about cutter engineering.

I make the following comparison:

"I don't want to work in this house! It has Phillips screws, and not Fillister screws. Phillips design is inferior! I realize that I have both kinds of screwdriver, but Fillister was just fine in the 20's, and they still make them, so they must be pretty awesome!"

(12/06/10 - 7:26 PM)
Another evening alone, as Wanda donates her time to her Church's food pantry. I always have such grandiose plans for what I'm going to accomplish on nights like this, and yet I usually manage to scratch the surface and then just aquiesce to laziness.

Tonight, I'm afraid, was no different. I'm off to raid the DVR now that my chores are done and dinner is eaten.

Impressive, I know.

(12/05/10 - 8:18 AM)
I got to use my new snowblower yesterday, as well as the new retractable extension cord. And let me say this: I almost felt guilty because clearing my driveway took about three minutes, and it was effortless, thanks to the self-propulsion and electric start. The verdict: A great buy on a great snowblower. I almost look forward to winter now, rather than another hellish one armed with only a shovel and a broken snowblower as feet of snow pile up.

I'm not repeating last year. I learned my lesson well enough.

(12/04/10 - 8:46 AM)
As I type this, the snow is already three inches deep. Here's the good news: I ordered a new snowblower, with electric start and self-propulsion that arrived on Tuesday; got a new gas can and mixed the oil last night, and also purchased a retractable extension cord for my garage; installed it and a duplex outlet in the stead of the simplex one I had for my garage door opener and did it all before Wanda got home yesterday.

So even though my snowblower took a crap pre-maturely, and my back hasn't worked in almost three months, I feel confident enough to say to Mother Nature: "Bring it on, ho."

Also, I'm listening to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Christmas Album, and it's freakin' hilarious. Neko Case even makes an appearance on track four. Sweeeeeet.

(12/03/10 - 8:42 PM)
Came home from work today and installed the new outlet and retractable extension cord so that I can finally try out my new snowblower tomorrow, if the weather forecasters have anything to say about it.

I don't relish being in the cold, but I am eager to try the new unit out.

(12/02/10 - 7:06 PM)
Went to the dentist this morning, and on my way back I snuck into the local home improvement store to buy a new gas can and retractable cord for my snowblower. I also picked up a duplex outlet to replace the simplex one that I installed only months ago, figuring there was no way I would ever require a duplex next to my garage door opener.

On some levels, it's good to be wrong.

Now I just sit, and wait for the snow to fly so I can try my new blower.

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