A million and one things…

There are a million and one things that I should be doing this morning. Most of them pertain directly to preparing for the five project teams I’ve going coming in over the next two weeks to work on three different deliverables. But here I sit, keeping up with Mafia Wars, Facebook updates, the Drudge Report, and jotting down some ideas for a personal project that I have been kicking around for the last few weeks.

Some might say that I have a perfectionist streak or that I too often expect things to go as they are supposed to, but really, I’ve never expected more from anyone else than what I expect from myself. And while I’ve been successful over the last year at cutting way back on the 10 or 12-hour days, I think the quality of my production has probably improved.

I know I do good work… self-doubt has never been one of my afflictions. The masters I serve know I do good work, too, which is why the “hard to do” usually finds its way to my desk. Although I may complain of being given unreasonable timelines and too few resources, it’s rare that we don’t find a way to pull off the improbable or at least reach the 80% solution.

I’m not vain in the conventional sense… all I’ve ever asked for is a little recognition for making the improbable possible. When you’re told you are most worthy of that recognition, but that politically it’s impossible to reach that outcome, well, it gives one pause. It makes me wonder if maybe “good enough” is actually good enough and it certainly makes me question the need to continue delivering on time and on target… or perhaps I’m tilting at my own windmills.

If I seem slightly bitter, there’s probably a reason for that. I’ve never claimed to be entitled, but in head-to-head competition I’ll put my record against anyone and believe it will stand… if only the adjudication and application of criteria is impartial. When it’s not, I have to wonder what the hell we’re doing here anyway.

Sopranos for the 16th Century…

After catching it in bits and pieces several times while flipping through the channels, I finally broke down and bought season one of The Tudors last weekend. Why didn’t someone tell me about this before? It’s like The Sopranos with jousting! Sure, it’s a bit of a soap opera and the historical accuracy is somewhat suspect, but it has lots of violence and gratuitous nudity to make up for that, so what’s not to like?

I’ve had to ration myself to one episode a night just to keep myself going until the second season gets here on Monday. Sadly, I’ve come along to late to jump into the third season, but I’m doing my best to catch up. The 4th season will become a “must see” on my schedule. I just can’t say enough about how impressed I have been with this show… From someone whose usual television watching is limited to the news channels and the Discovery Channel, tuning in for a Drama is high praise indeed.

Couldn’t say it better myself (obviously)…

I was reading this evening on the nature of Memorial Day and came across the text of a speech given on Memorial Day 1884 by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I’ve excerpted the section I found most stirring and hope you will as well. I love the written word and could never hope to put it more perfectly…

“Comrades, some of the associations of this day are not only triumphant, but joyful. Not all of those with whom we once stood shoulder to shoulder–not all of those whom we once loved and revered–are gone. On this day we still meet our companions in the freezing winter bivouacs and in those dreadful summer marches where every faculty of the soul seemed to depart one after another, leaving only a dumb animal power to set the teeth and to persist– a blind belief that somewhere and at last there was bread and water. On this day, at least, we still meet and rejoice in the closest tie which is possible between men– a tie which suffering has made indissoluble for better, for worse.

When we meet thus, when we do honor to the dead in terms that must sometimes embrace the living, we do not deceive ourselves. We attribute no special merit to a man for having served when all were serving. We know that, if the armies of our war did anything worth remembering, the credit belongs not mainly to the individuals who did it, but to average human nature. We also know very well that we cannot live in associations with the past alone, and we admit that, if we would be worthy of the past, we must find new fields for action or thought, and make for ourselves new careers.

But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.

Such hearts–ah me, how many!–were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year–in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life–there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier’s grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march–honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death–of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen , the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

Escape artist or Why buying a steam cleaner was a money saver

Maggie has once again proven her mettle as an escape artist in training. This afternoon she defeated her crate… At least I can say it wasn’t the zip tied sides that failed. This time she sprung the bottom latch of the only door that will open and jammed herself through the gap. It seems like an impossibly small opening when you pause to consider that Maggie is now probably 20 inches at the shoulder and easily running on 50 pounds.

The first time you clean watery poo out of the carpet, it’s all about the poor sick dog. The third time you do it, the sick pup act has lost its charm. Add to that an area rug with its corner shredded and you really begin to question your sanity. We’re reaching the point where something is going to have to give. Poo or no, she’s going to have to stay in her crate while I’m not here. The 3-year-old carpet is in rough enough shape without her helping it along any further… and destroying things is a new trick altogether. I suppose it’s time to start looking at those industrial strength billeted aluminum crates they use for military working dogs. Summer down here is going to be too hot for me to be comfortable leaving a dog outside all day and the garage gets even hotter than the outside during the day. So yeah, I’m not quite at my wits end, but there is a definite steep upwards trend in my frustration level.

Since the zip ties seem to be out of chewing reach (in theory) the next step is adding a padlock on the non-zip tied door. If she gets past that, I’m going to be out of ideas… and that’s not a position I really want to be in.

Excuses…

I know it’s been a while since I’ve mustered enough pith to post. I’m going to blame it all on catching a cold on Thursday last week and nursing a touch of bronchitis and sinus infection this week. The good news, of course, is that after a trip to my doctor who believes there’s a good pill for everything that ails you, I’m on my way to making a recovery and feeling up to getting a few thoughts together for publication again.

So, I’m on the mend, the pups are recovered from their issues of last week and for the time being all is right with the world. Once I’m slightly less medicated, I’m sure I will find things just as annoying as ever… and when I do, you can rest assured that I’ll pass that aggravation along to you right here.

Breaking out all over…

This is the story of a dog. Well, it’s mostly a story of a dog. Let me start off by saying that this has not been a good week for Maggie, my usually good natured chocolate lab. On Saturday night, she managed to knock the drip tray of the George Foreman grill off the counter and lap up most of the still warm hamburger grease. Yep, I thought to myself, you’re going to be sick tomorrow. Little did I know that it wouldn’t take that long. Both Maggie and Winston usually sleep in their crates in the back bedroom and that’s why I was surprised to hear the scraping of a furry little paw on my bedroom door at 6:30 Sunday morning. Getting up to investigate, I was greeted with the nightmare scenario of patches of liquefied poo… in the living room, in the office, and all over the pup’s bedroom. In her efforts to franticly escape the rising tide in her crate, Maggie clearly flailed wildly about… as evidenced by flung poo reaching the six foot mark on the wall.

First step… toss the dogs out to the back yard and open the windows. Second step… mitigate as much of the damage as possible with paper towels and whatever cleaning liquids I happen to have around the house. Third step… wait for Walmart to open at 8:00. To cut a tragically long story short, I came home from Walmart (incidentally the only place open in the entire south at 8:00 on a Sunday morning) with a steam cleaner and spend the next ten hours or so washing, rinsing, and repeating. The evidence of evil past was fairly well taken care and I thought the worst was behind me.

I had been fasting Maggie for 24 hours and after the first post-explosion feeding on Monday, I was happy to see that things seemed a little more solid. You can imagine my disbelief when I woke up this morning to one more round of the craptastic chocolate lab. At least this time she didn’t get out of the crate and the damage was more contained. Still, running the steam cleaner at 5:00 on a Tuesday leaves something to be desired. Happily, I managed to clean and disinfect a bedroom, scrub down a crate, and still made it to work only 45 minutes later than usual. I’m hoping this isn’t a category that I need to start thinking of in terms of building a personal best record.

Before leaving for work, I drug the now clean and shiny crate through the house and made sure it was well wedged onto the linoleum. At least if there was another explosion, it would be easier to clean. Of course that was all before I got home this evening and discovered that through the last three days, Maggie has clearly figured out how to open the door to her crate or at least squeeze between the bars. Thinking it was a fluke, I put her back in the crate when I left to take Winston for his annual checkup (and pick up some drugs for Maggie). Of course when we got back form the vet, she was sprawled out in the middle of the kitchen floor sans crate.

It seems my beloved lab is breaking out all over. Tonight we’ll see if she can beat the marvel of zip ties and a newly engineered lock mechanism. I have a terrible feeling that she’s going to be better at breaking out than I am at keeping in. Wish me luck.

Geek…

It’s probably fair to say that I’m a geek. I’m not saying that I’m a pocket protector wearing, model rocket building type of geek, but still, I know I like geeky things. I like reading and science, politics and technology… and yes, I’m not afraid to say it, I like Star Trek and have since I was a kid watching the original episodes in syndication. That’s well and good when you’re a kid, but it’s something that’s stuck with me over the years, even if not well publicized.

I’ve been watching the trailers for the 11th movie in the Trek canon and have to say that I’m really, really looking forward to seeing it this weekend. Some purists will undoubtedly say that director J. J. Abrams has thrown out 40 years of established lore in the process of remaking the series, but from the trailers, it seems that he gave it a much needed facelift while maintaining most of the key elements. The Star Trek as a franchise has always been about larger than life characters doing heroic, if campy, things – the stereotypical great man for a great time model.

I’m not hung up on the arguments that Abrams has changed too many details and for good or bad, this weekend will be like a visit with old friends. I like that this movie will take us back to the beginning, or a beginning anyway. For those of us who have been around for a while, we’ve always known that with a rip in the space-time continuum, or a wormhole, or a slingshot maneuver around the sun, all things are possible.

So, yeah, I’m a geek. And I’m ok with that.