December 31, 2008
December 28, 2008
A little teaser - #6 on the list:
Successful United Parcel Service deliveries will occur in inverse proportion to how badly you need the stuff being delivered. Customers clicking on tracking numbers will see lots of verbiage about "natural disasters." What can brown do for you? In December, not a helluva lot.
There were stories in the paper of problems homeowners were going to face with the thaw. Typically water will freeze in your gutters, called an 'ice dam', preventing water from draining through your downspouts. I don't have separate gutters as the drains are built into the roof. I was up on the roof Christmas Eve shoveling off the edge of the roof to expose the drains. They were indeed filled with ice and I chipped away around the drains hoping they would be the first to thaw.
Then it snowed Christmas day. I carried a shovel in my truck in case I got stuck driving over to my parents house. The shovel was put to good use when I helped my brother and father finish clearing the driveway for the arriving guests. I forgot my shovel at my parents when I left. Fortunately I have a spare.
Then it was back up on my roof that evening to clear the roof edges. I also shoveled off most of the snow from the garage figuring it was in the greatest danger of failing. Every so often I would pause to look around the neighborhood, quiet and snow covered on Christmas evening. It really was beautiful.
My driver picked me up for my UPS shift on Friday, and promptly got stuck on my street. We chained up, but still couldn't plow our way through the heavy, slushy snow. Someone on our route loaned us a shovel a few days back, and I ran back to grab my shovel to help dig out. We got stuck a few more times, and we also dug out a few other stuck cars. The day ended early, so I went back up to the roof to clear the rest of the house. Of course I left the shovel on the truck.
I don't own three shovels, so I was down to a garden hoe and rake. Neither worked terribly well, so I opted for a four foot 1 x 4 piece of wood. It worked pretty well, but the snow was wet and heavy by then so it was slow going. But the weight of the snow convinced me it was that much more important to get it off the roof.
We also have an aluminum patio cover with very little slope. I had forgotten about it until I finished with the roof, and briefly thought about leaving it alone and accepting the risk of collapse. Who wouldn't want a shinny new cover from this guy? But the hesitation was brief (very brief Farmers Insurance!) and I was able to clear most of it off with the garden hoe.
The melt has begun in earnest, but our house is surrounded by a tall drift of snow from the roof clearing. It is a bit of a climb for the pooch to get out to do her daily business. The wet snow also isn't nearly as fun to frolic in.
With no more freezing temperatures on the near horizon we can put away the chains, stop shutting off the water main when we leave, repair the damage to pipes and windows, and just get back to the stuff of daily life.
And you may get your Christmas packages delivered soon.
December 25, 2008
December 24, 2008
"Still waiting for that Christmas package from Grandma to arrive?
It's on its way — really — but you'll need an extra dose of patience as delivery drivers and letter carriers battle the same snowy conditions and ice-covered hills that have turned commutes into crawls and side streets into skating rinks.
The worst winter weather in years means those holiday cards and presents may stay stuck, well, in the mail, until we start to thaw this weekend."
We haven't been able to deliver our full route for the past week. After days of snow and temperatures still below freezing, there are streets where it simply isn't safe to drive. There are several streets that haven't seen our truck in a week.
To avoid the risk of getting stuck, we haven't been driving down any of the cu-de-sacs on the route. This means we (me) need to run the packages up and down the street. Of course this slows us down tremendously, as does the times we do get stuck. The packages keep coming whether we can get to them or not, so there is quite a backlog. Planes have also had trouble landing, so there are even more packages on their way.
As I mentioned previously, as the backlog grows the organization goes out the window. And any number of times during the day we hit a frozen rut in the road, the truck rocks from side to side, and an avalanche of packages rains down. And we're set back another 15 minutes as we dig it all out.
Many anxious folks approached our truck today, hoping and praying that their package was there. Most all of them walked away disappointed. Many Christmas presents won't make it in time. Pretty crummy, but there isn't much we can do about it.
The season has been sent into overtime as has my part of it. Today was supposed to be my last day but since the weather has created such a backlog, we've been asked to stick around probably through next week. It has been quite the adventure but I am about ready for it to be over. These guys work too darn hard.
We have made a home and created our own memories over the years. Several of the ornaments on our tree that I haven't featured are mementos from trips or events during the past seven years. I can only hope that the next seven are even sweeter as we grow to love each other more and more.
I asked my wife to marry me on Christmas morning of 2000. The best thing I have ever done, and our first/best Christmas memory was when she said yes.
December 23, 2008
"I've thought a bit about skipping Christmas for a year. In reality I just want to leave some of the craziness behind. I would like a holiday of just spending time with friends and family. No gifts, no time at the mall."
Well, this year some of that has come true. My family has decided to forgo exchanging presents this year. Obviously financial times are hard and some of us can't or shouldn't afford it this year. When my Mom and I broached the subject, the response from the rest of the family was warm and great. It has never been about the presents of course, but Christmas will still be a little different this year.
We have been a little behind the eight ball this season. Our Christmas cards will be going out after Christmas because we have been waiting over two weeks for the picture. Broken windows, broken pipes, being snowed in for days - the season seems to have a small cloud hanging over it. The toughest part this year is that my wife and I won't be together on Christmas Day. She is spending Christmas out of town to be with her Mom this year.
Like our Christmas cards, our Christmas will be coming a little late this year.
When I found it in a Hallmark a few years back, I had to have it. It is similar to a magnet that I have had since I was a child. I can remember having the magnet stuck to the side of my grade school desk. You probably had a similar desk - industrial gray metal with the built in laminate wood chair and flip open desk top. All the desks the same except for what little decoration you could stick to the side (and the occasional vandalized scratching in the desktop).
I still have the magnet. It is stuck to our fridge at home. Gone are the typewriter and the visions of being a writer, but this little magnet (and now ornament) still bring a smile when I see them.
December 22, 2008
We were renting a house in Greenlake at the time, and we hadn't finalized anything with the landlord about a dog. We had mentioned a future dog when we moved in, and though he wasn't excited he seemed open to the idea. We also had to be concerned with our upstairs neighbor as she was a doctor working all kinds of crazy hours. We couldn't have a dog barking all day while we were gone.
We found our wonder-pooch shortly after Christmas. I wandered through a Humane Society and found her and her mother. Both had been given up as a result of a divorce. I mentioned the find to my wife who rushed down on a lunch hour and put our name on the list for Sierra. We still hadn't talked to the landlord, and he received a call from the Humane Society breaking the news. To his credit, though still not excited, he didn't refuse.
Sierra of course looks nothing like the "promise of a dog" ornament, but she is still one of the best Christmas presents ever.
December 21, 2008
The invite list grows a little bit each year. People disappear for a while but stay on the list to return in later years. Even out-of-towners continue to get the invitation in hopes that they will be back in town for the holidays. This year we missed out on a number of folks because the snow fell all night long, there were threats of power outages, and as I mentioned the party was near a top of a steep hill. They were definitely missed.
We were treated to a surprise visit from a trio of out-of-towners who hadn't been to the party in at least five years. Matt, Holly and baby Annabelle quietly made there way into town and popped in on the party to surprise everyone. Many folks hadn't seen Matt or Holly in years, and it was great seeing them to exchange stories and hugs. Also, after following Annabelle's story on these and other pages, they were delighted to meet the miracle baby in person. She was sporting her latest pair of casts so we all got to sign them.
The party has become slightly tamer over the years. We're not as young and invincible as we once were, hangovers don't go away as quickly, and now there are children in attendance.
There is always a late night adventure when the guys have sufficient anti-freeze in them, and this year it was sledding. We threw our winter jackets on over our P.J.s and climbed to the top of the street. The snow was a little too deep and the slope of the hill a little too gradual, but it was fun to be out there frolicking in the winter wonderland.
In the morning, Brent and Debbie make a hearty breakfast for everyone that always features lots of bacon. In years past we have lazed away the day, often watching the Seahawk game. There were fewer people who had stayed the night this time, and with the snow-bound roads we all wanted to get the drive home started.
Another wonderful Christmas season spent with friends. Those that didn't make it this year, you were missed, and you will just need to whoop it up a little harder next year. The rest of the photos can be found here.
December 20, 2008
December 19, 2008
My driver called me this morning to see if I was ready to go. I am feeling a little better than Wednesday, but still not great. It turns out that he didn't make it in yesterday either, so he said that today's truck will be bursting at the seams. It is going to be a long one. Hopefully the chains will allow us to climb and descend all the hills of our route.
I am really looking forward to the weekend. Big Christmas plans with friends are on the calendar, and this annual party is always a good time. However, lurking on the near horizon is another big storm with threats of snow and high winds.
Plans may be canceled if the storm hits full force since they live on the top of a steep hill. If the winds do hit us while we are in a deep freeze, the power may go out again and we may need those sleeping bags and firewood after all.
Have a great weekend, and watch your footing.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.
You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.
I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crocodile.
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."
You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato spot
With moldy purple spots,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.
You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.
December 18, 2008
Our power went out for a few hours. Preparing for the worst, we dug out the candles, sleeping bags, lanterns and brought firewood in for a fire. The weird thing was our backyard neighbor had power but our street was dark. We didn't need to worry about the food in the fridge since we had some natural cooling going on outside.
I think my wife was a little bummed when the lights came back on. It meant her laptop was working again and she needed to get back to work. Away went the books and on came the electronics. Not nearly as nice a glow as from a fire.
December 17, 2008
While we were driving around the neighborhood, I found a similar problem at a house I was delivering to. They had a timer hooked up to the water spigot, and the plastic device had burst flooding the driveway. The fix was simply turning off the valve, but it made me think "glad I insulated my plastic pipes". Clearly it wasn't enough to prevent a freeze.
So after gulping down some pizza my wife had thoughtfully picked up, it was off to Home Depot. I dashed out so quickly that I didn't remember my wallet. Fortunately, my wife had a pile of change in her car and I was able to come up with stacks of quarters and dimes totaling $6.40 for the repair.
The pipe on the back of the house is still intact, but we will be turning off the water to the house while we are at work and while we're sleeping. It looks like it will be a number of days before there is any hope of a thaw.
More snow is forecast for today and tonight. The forecast led many school districts to close for the day though no flakes were falling. I can remember as a kid anxiously listening to the radio, waiting for them to come around to my school district and tell me there was no school today. As an adult it is quite different. A world blanketed in snow inspires quiet, but most days there are places you must get to and you can't stop to play in the snow. A white Christmas sounds fantastic, unless there are serious hills to get to your family's house.
I really enjoy getting away, and the slower, simpler pace when you are camping in the woods. I actually met my wife on a camping trip about nine years ago, so camping continues to bring me joy every day.
December 16, 2008
When my driver picked me up, he had already tackled the neighborhood I was most worried about. Apparently the city (or maybe a hired contractor) made this hill a priority and he was able to climb the hill without chaining up. Unfortunately around noon we became stuck in someones driveway and had to get the chains to get out. This slowed us down and gave new meaning to vibration headache, but I did feel a little more secure on the steeper hills of our route. We were out until 7:00pm, and would have been out past 8:00 if another driver hadn't come to lend a hand.
I slipped a few times on the icy streets and walkways, but fortunately never took a spill. The words for the day were 'slow and deliberate' and I felt like an arthritic old man taking baby steps all day. Today promises to be more of the same. Hopefully the package load will be a little lighter, but I am guessing there will be no let up until Christmas Eve.
I had an appointment early this morning before work, so I had to brave the icy streets in my two-wheel drive truck. I loaded in some bags of concrete and rocks over the rear axle to try to gain a little more traction. The roads in my neighborhood were the worst and once on the freeway it was smooth sailing.
I had a reason to roll down my passenger side window this morning, and...
The window didn't make it a fraction of an inch before it completely shattered. Now my truck has that open door feel just like the UPS truck.
"Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today."
This one doesn't need too much explanation. Both my wife and I have a soft spot for the Muppets. We loved the TV show, we've seen all the movies, and we played Rainbow Connection at our wedding. And in case you didn't know already, there is a new Muppets Christmas special, "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa", this Wednesday at 8:00 on your NBC station.
December 15, 2008
Here is a video of the incident, and President Bush's response to a reporter. In his level-headed response he talks about protester's attempts to garner attention, which this one certainly did.
I don't know if anyone else's mind went immediately to this, but mine did.
As we walked around the tree this evening talking about my wife's ornaments, many of the ones from her mother had something to do with the year they were given. If the year was not already on the ornament, she wrote it in somewhere. There is a little 1993 on the bottom of the nurse's right foot. The Christmas tree is a little This is Your Life presentation.
December 14, 2008
Snow will not be the problem tomorrow, but rather ice. Western Washington is quite hilly, so tomorrow's commute will be hazardous. I'm not sure if tire chains really do much for traction on ice. I asked my UPS driver if they ever shut down. He said it has only been once or twice in the 15 years he has worked there, and one of those was during the windstorm a few years ago when no one had power.
There are streets I don't think will be safe tomorrow, so I hope we at least skip one particular neighborhood. There is only one way in and out, and it is a street steep enough that traction in the rain is sketchy. I also don't think there will be much running tomorrow. I had difficulty staying upright just walking to my shed this afternoon. Tomorrow is going to be long and probably more than a little ugly.
December 13, 2008
With the threat of snow and temperatures in the 20's, I spent the day tracking down chains and wrapping the pipes outside the house.
As we don't get lots of snow in the northwest, I have never bothered to get chains for my truck. Of course trucks have terrible traction to begin with, so adding chains is only a minor improvement. Typically if it snows I will drive my wife to the train and borrow her car which has all-wheel drive. For some reason I thought this year was when I would finally get stranded in my truck. So now I have $35 worth of peace of mind.
Since I redid the plumbing outside the house for the sprinkler system, the normal styrofoam hose bib thingy (that is the technical term according to the lady at Home Depot) no longer works. So I had to improvise something to insulate the pipes to guard against the freezing/bursting problem. The pipe wrap stocked at the Depot were not large enough to surround the 1" sprinkler pipe, so I had to use two pieces cobbled together. Duct tape and plastic bags were involved. My solution isn't pretty, but hopefully it will be enough.
Last year we dedicated the race to Alyssa who had just found out she had breast cancer. This year she is cancer free and was there to run with us. A nice bit of closure.
It was also Amy's first time running a 5k. She walked the event last year, but this time she did a run/walk. She had done all her training indoors on a treadmill, so breathing in the 35 degree air and fighting the hills made it a bit tough, but she finished well and promised to run another 5k. We welcome another
The two ornaments above are ones that my Grandmother made years ago. She was my Mom's mother. And she wasn't 'Grandma', she was 'Nannie'. Even folks at work called her Nannie. She was a wonderful woman, very loving and caring, but she would shake her finger at you when you were in trouble.
I can remember many holidays spent at her house, our ever expanding family crowded around the table. It was quite an event to graduate from the kids table to the adult table. I remember the glass dish with butter mints on the dining room bureau, the game cabinet in the living room with games from my mother's youth, and all the other treasures in her basement. Her house was Home.
December 12, 2008
It was a long day at work fighting the wind and sideways rain. When the high winds whipped across the roof of the truck, it rippled like the sound effects metal used to simulate thunder. Pine trees were swaying, and garbage cans were rolling down the road. If a house didn't have a sufficient enough covered area to protect the packages from the rain, we had to put them in large plastic bags. For a job that depends on shaving seconds, this makes it tough to stay on schedule.
Tomorrow morning is the local Rudolph Run 5k. I am pretty smoked from a week of running packages in work boots, so this 5k will definitely be just for fun. Friends and I have run this event the last few years, and it is a nice way to wrap up the year. As I head off to bed I hope that the threat of snow has been exaggerated.
Have a great weekend.
When I was growing up I really liked flying ornaments, I'm not sure why. I also had an ornament with a reindeer flying a biplane, but it disappeared somewhere over the years. There was also a family favorite called "Joy Bird". It was a big, yellow, construction paper bird made by my older brother. It had 'Joy' in big black letters on the side, and the bird was wearing a ball cap and sneakers. It was a classic.
December 11, 2008
"With a brutal economic slowdown, 2008 may feel as if it will never end. Now the world's timekeepers are making it even longer by adding a leap second to the last day of the year.
Along with the economy, the Earth itself is slowing down, requiring timekeepers to add an extra second to their atomic clocks to keep in sync with Earth's slightly slowing rotation. So an extra second will be tacked on to Dec. 31 after 6:59:59 p.m. and before 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time."
"The Earth is rotating slower and slower over time, while the atomic clocks are not slowing down. On one average day the difference is around 0.002 seconds,which means around 1 second in 500 days. In order to synchronize the atomic clocks with the Earth's observed rotation, the atomic clocks are occasionally instructed to add an extra second – the leap second. Leap seconds are inserted so that the difference between the UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and UT1 (mean solar time - observed Earth rotation) is kept below 0.9 seconds. "
Time and date.com
December 10, 2008
December 9, 2008
The battery in my "fancy" phone is almost toast. This is the phone/PDA with e-mail and web access, as well as all my calendar and contact information. The battery won't last 8 hours on standby and will drain with a couple of phone calls. I have a cheaper/simpler back up phone that I normally take out running or biking. The fancy phone is bulky and expensive so I don't want to carry it or risk dropping it.
With the battery issues, I have been carrying the cheaper phone with me on the UPS truck. So no e-mail during the day. Not many folks are calling these days, plus I can't hear the ringer over the diesel engine so I may miss the call anyway. Being untethered has been kinda nice. I could use a little focus in my life right now, and being away from the "bing" of a new e-mail every few minutes is refreshing.
I am trying to improve, and I am getting lots of practice delivering packages during the day. We have regular business stops where we need to get a signature when we drop off a package. As most signatures are illegible, I need to ask them their name to clarify who I left the package with. I don't want to ask the same person "what was your name" every day, so I am trying my best to focus. It is an uphill battle with all the new faces, but it is getting better.
December 7, 2008
We threw in a couple of our favorite Christmas CDs and started digging out our decorations. One of the best parts of decorating the tree is going through all the ornaments each year. Some we have bought together as a couple, but many are from our youth. I've inherited ornaments that used to decorate my family tree, and there are handmade ornaments made by my Mom and Grandmother. Each has a little memory attached to it.
One thing missing from our tree is candy canes. We always had them on our family tree growing up, and I can remember sneaking a few off the tree in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I'd grab them off the back of the tree where I though no one would notice. I know I can just buy a big ol' box of them now, but it would be more fun to sneak one off the tree each day.
December 5, 2008
We actually received a UPS package yesterday, and my driver handed it to me as I hopped on the truck. I ran it back inside and wondered all day what it might be. A Christmas anticipation (Thanks Kevin!).
The shelves of our truck are full and the floor stacked four feet high with packages. UPS survives only with incredible amounts of organization, and tis the season when they need it the most. Unfortunately when systems get overloaded, organization takes a beating. A half empty garage is easy to organize with shelves, bins and labels, but when it starts getting filled to capacity, you tend to give in and just toss any additional items anywhere.
I'm still enjoying the job, but I am taking a bit of a beating. Walking is a great way to recover from a full or half marathon - running and climbing stairs all day, not so much. I decided to wear a pedometer to see how far I was running each day, but unfortunately the bouncing of the van adds to the clicking off of miles. I stashed it in the van yesterday instead of on my belt to do a little subtraction, and it looks like I am running between five and seven miles in short sprints each day.
There were lots of flat screen tv's from Costco on the van yesterday, so there must have been a good sale I missed. Guitar Hero III is popular this year, and yesterday marked the release of the Harry Potter lite book The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Amazon had some clever muggle packaging to mark the occasion.
Riding around with Paul has been another nice change of pace. The last four or five years I have been working largely alone. Without daily social interaction, an already introverted personality has turned farther inward. This has taken a toll on friendships and on the wife. I often describe myself as a loner who happens to have a large number of friends, but that isn't really accurate. It isn't that I prefer to be alone, it is just that I can be content without others around. But content isn't happy, and I need to aim a little higher.
The sunset was beautiful last night as I ran around my town. Have a great weekend everybody.
December 3, 2008
The screen is one of the more impressive features. Amazon's calls the technology "electronic paper", and it is pretty similar to reading a printed page. There is none of the electronic glow and glare of a typical computer screen, so there is none of the eye strain associated with it. The bonus features of doing your reading on the Kindle include:
- The ability to carry about 200 books with you. You can also delete any of the books and download any of them later if you wish.
- An included electronic dictionary so you can look up any words while you are reading. You can also look up the terms on Wikipedia as well.
- You can create bookmarks, highlight passages, make notes and store clippings for later reference. The clippings can be saved to your computer as well.
- You can purchase books for $9.99 or less and have them sent wirelessly to your Kindle for free. This can save quite a bit of money and time, especially on best sellers and new releases still in hardback.
- You can download samples of any of the books before you buy.
- You can also subscribe to newspapers and magazines and have them sent wirelessly to your Kindle, again at noticeable savings.
The Kindle is one of those things I was interested in, but would not have purchased for myself anytime soon. And those are the best kind of presents. I have a stack books staring me in the face, so my regular use of the Kindle will probably a month or so away. I only wish I had it before I bought the Nicolas Sparks book for book club. Then I could have read it anonymously.
December 2, 2008
Juno is about a teen girl named Juno who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. The movie's attraction is in the quirky characters and Juno's snappy/sarcastic dialogue. The adoptive parents are Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, and though they seem to have it all initially, in the end they aren't as prepared for adoption as they think. Juno's parents in the movie are more understanding and supportive than she expects. Overall it was an enjoyable movie.
I enjoyed The Bucket List. From the previews I expected a pretty formulaic movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. With Jack Nicholson, you can expect some over the top moments, but I didn't feel him dominating the movie like I expected. And I always enjoy Morgan Freeman. Their characters share a room in the hospital as they are both being treated for different forms of cancer. Their relationship is initially abrasive, but after going through chemo together they form an uneasy friendship.
Freeman's character recalls a teacher's exercise of writing a bucket list of all the things you want to do in your life before you "kick the bucket". He starts to write one, but after a couple of entries he gets the news that he has less than a year to live. He crumples up the list thinking "what is the point now". Nicholson's character finds the list, convinces Freeman that it is now more important than ever, and offers to fund the adventure. He adds his own entries to the list like skydiving, getting a tattoo and kissing the most beautiful girl in the world to the list.
They jet around the world to a safari in Africa, the pyramids in Egypt, and the Great Wall of China. Along the way they delve into topics of philosophy, religion, family and regrets. There are some predictable moments, but I found the movie to be pretty satisfying.
After the movie, my Mom-in-law asked what was on my bucket list. I didn't really have an answer. I have some goals and things I'd like to do, but I'm not sure they are big enough to be on a bucket list. I've been fortunate to have some great adventures, and I have lots of stuff in my bucket already (to mix metaphors). The goals these days are smaller and as a couple.