Richard Tocci

Richard Tocci
Just when you thought it was safe, I show up...

Disclaimer

The contents of this blog are my own comments and opinions and do not reflect those of my family, friends, colleagues, clients, employers, or anyone else I may know. Additionally, their comments and opinions are not a reflection of me or this blog. Any links contained in posts are maintained by third parties and are not under the control of this blog, and as such, this blog is not responsible for their content. All links are provided "as is" with no explicit or implicit warranty of any kind.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Hayden and the Daycare from Hell

Hayden and Alex used to go to a school\daycare in College Station where my soon-to-be-ex-wife also worked since I moved out nearly a year ago. I'm not going to mention the name of the place here -- if you want to know, drop a comment or send me an email and I'll tell you who they are. My ex does not work there any longer, along with several other people, and so it makes sense that my boys no longer attend daycare there, either.

Now, everyone knows that Hayden was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy. This means that his physical and mental development is slower than other kids. He's nearly two years old, and has yet to sit up on his own. He crawls, but can't yet pull himself up, though he's figured out how to crane his head up from a frontal laying position to watch TV. But in the last few months, both he and Alex seemed to be sicker than normal.

Now, I know kids get sicker, faster, and easier, when they are stuck in a confined space with 20 other sniffling, sneezing, snot-nosed kids. I understand that. But it was getting to the point where my ex had to take days off at a time to take Hayden home with a fever, or to the doctor (who told us it was nothing more than a "virus", which is another story I could get into in another post), or home to be drugged up and put to bed, to get better in one day, and then go back to school, and have the vicious cycle start all over again. It didn't help that I was out of town and the end-of-year vacation cycle began, so I couldn't always take a day off to help out.

This weekend is the first full weekend I'll have the boys. I had them one night last week, on Thursday as I always do, and Hayden was happy. He was happier than I had seem him in months. He ate without puking. He did not have a nose full of green thick snot. He wasn't coughing his head off like he was a 2-pack-a-day smoker. I don't have to get rid of my dogs! He was FINE!

What's my point? Check your daycare providers. Make sure they are doing things like cleaning the place, with bleach and water, once a day. Toys should be plastic and cleaned in bleach and water every day.

No one is perfect -- I found pink-colored mold in my bathroom a week ago and promptly bleached the shit out of it, killed it, and then mopped all moppable floors in my house. With bleach. Yes, bleach stinks, but it kills things like mold, mildew, viruses, bacteria, and spiders. Yes, it kills spiders -- it was in my way and I didn't see it till the bleach water hit it.

OK, so I call this the Daycare from Hell. It was not a BAD place -- it was hell on Hayden, and now that he's out of the place, I'm happy. You don't know how happy it made me that he ate an entire meal and did not even THINK about throwing up!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas and Rudeness

I was in Target in Bryan a few days ago, doing some sort-of last minutes shopping. The store was not especially busy, but there were quite a few people at the registers, which were moving traffic pretty well. My friend Jeff and I had just picked up a few items and headed to the front.

As I guided my red Target buggy to the registers to buy Hayden an alphabet toy that lights up, sings, dances (depending on its position on the floor), and generally tries to override the football game, I was directed to Register 10 by the wonderful traffic cop in the red shirt and khaki pants.

I really don't remember which register number it was -- go with me here, OK?

I came in behind a family that was discussing some subject of major importance to them, and to them alone. They appeared oblivious to their surroundings, including the 17000 people around them, and decided that, at the time I was approaching the register, the father needed to place their red Target buggy off behind them, which turned out to be directly in front of me. Not only did he cut me off from my designated register -- the register at which he was standing and purchasing his Jackass pants and Idiot books -- but the woman beside me, in another line, had her cart completely cutoff, at the same time, by the same cart.

You've seen my picture -- I'm not a small man. I'm larger than some football players, especially fullbacks. This guy had the nerve to inconvenience not one, but two people in an attempt to convenience himself. I never met this man in my life, and here he was treating me, and others, as if he was God's gift to the checkout line and red Target buggies.

I stared at the man for a full minute, and he didn't budge. He didn't notice I could not move at all from my location without pissing off several other people. The woman whose cart was cutoff wound up having to piss off people to her left and barrel her way through the next line of people to escape the Procession of the Jackass family.

Barreling through gave me a great idea...

I asked Jeff to hold the Alphabet Toy and his items, took my Little Red Buggy, pulled Jackass' Red Buggy, slammed them together, and walked forward toward the Jackass Family. About a foot away from Mother Jackass, I said "Excuse me!" as loud as I could, and they all jumped out of the way. Mother was shocked, Father appeared to be annoyed, which changed to "Oh Shit" when I shot him a look of disgust, and the kids, well, they took the hint and kept their mouths shut and their faces neutral.

On the way back, I shot the parents another look of "Piss off, you stupid bitches", paid for the Alphabet Toy, and left. Never had I run into such rudeness during the Holidays.

Be kind to people during this Holiday season. Please...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Never Enough Time

I had the boys this weekend for the holiday. They spent Thanksgiving Day with their momma, uncle, and grandparents, and then they spent that night and the rest of the holiday weekend with me.

Tomorrow morning, they go back to school and to their mother, and I look back at the weekend and see what all we did. Basically, we watched cartoons, went to the store a couple of times (after the crazy 5AM sales, of course), and to the mall once. Other weekends, I'll take them to the park to kick a ball around with Alex while Hayden watches and laughs. When a show comes to town, I'll book a few tickets so they can have fun. This Thursday, I plan to take them to get their picture taken with Santa at the mall.

It seems the weekend has flown by. I look forward to every weekend I have with them, but it always seems like it's suddenly Monday morning, and I'm packing them into their mother's car to go off to school. And I always wonder -- is there enough time?

I joke sometimes that I'll blink, and Hayden will be in elementary school learning to read and write, and Alex will be eying middle school. Then I'll blink again, and Alex is asking me for the keys to the car so he can go have dinner with his girlfriend, and Hayden looking on in jealousy because he's only in middle school and longs for his license. Then I'll blink again, and Alex is in college, Hayden is asking for the keys, and I'm staring retirement in a few short years. By then, Chris and Amanda will likely have given me grandchildren.

STOP! Stop thinking like this! I need to enjoy the time I have now! Even though it seems short and fleeting, I'm seeing Alex and Hayden grow and develop and give me memories that I can never, ever replace, and if I start worrying about the future, so very far away, it'll be here before I know it and I will have missed everything!

So I'll continue to take Alex and Hayden to the park and the mall and the store and to a show and show them things like the sunset and the birds and the moon and the stars, because one day, they will thank me. Maybe they won't say "Thanks, Dad" directly, but they will thank me, and I'll remember all the times I have now...

God, I love my boys...I never knew love could be this deep...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Breakin'

Mark and Linda Bendiksen celebrated their birthdays today by inviting a bunch of friends and family to the Kurten Church. In true Mark Bendiksen style, it was a night of music, mirth, and mayhem, in delicate balance. Mark is a musician, and as such, the night revolved around music. I won 2 rounds of Name That TV Theme Tune (I named the theme song to Hawaii Five-O in 6 notes -- almost a give-a-way -- while changing Hayden's diaper, and the theme to Dynasty in 3 notes), and enjoyed tunes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Mark also serenaded his wife to Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are", and played Jimmy Buffet's "Pirate Looks At Forty" for himself.

I have the kids this weekend, and they were warmly welcomed. Mark and Linda have 4 children, so they understand. I met up with old friends -- the guy that gave me my first job in College Station, Chris Taylor, and his wife, Sarah, were there, and plenty of people I worked with attended.

Alex, of course, was a bundle of energy, quickly charming many guests easily. In between bouts of artificial flower throwing with several guests and eating birthday cake, he managed many laughs during the evening.

Tim Coones, one of the engineers I work with at Vertafore, told Alex to dance. Alex started jumping in place in the style of Flashdance. Then out of nowhere, he drops to the ground and does a shoulder spin. He nearly pulled off a backspin but could not get the momentum to complete it.

Guests were applauding and asking for more, but I was in shock. Where did he learn THIS? Not that it's a BAD thing -- in fact, I was impressed he pulled off one move, and nearly the second, but it's not exactly something a 4-year-old just knows how to do. This was popular when I was a teenager.

I called his mother and asked her if she knew. In between giggles, snorts, and laughs, she had no idea either. He either saw it on TV or someone taught it to him. I'm guessing TV, but I guess I'll never know.

I can't blame Tim for telling Alex to dance. I might have done the same thing. That, and Tim took one of the best pictures of me and the boys in quite some time. In fact, it's desk worthy, so I have him to thank for that.

Clint Burns, one of my high school classmates, was a Breaker back in the 80s. Maybe I should call him and ask him to tutor Alex. Perhaps there's a career here I never saw...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Edge of the Galaxy

Yesterday, Josie and Doug drove me out to the peninsula where the Makah Nation Indian Reservation is located. The intent of the trip was to take me to see the Pacific Ocean.

The trip was windy and interesting. We took the Edmonds\Kingston Ferry, and then stopped in Port Angeles for a late lunch of fish and chips and dungeoness crap before moving along 101, driving past Lake Crescent (webcam, wiki), right along the edge of the Olympic Mountains (US Park Service Site, wiki).

We made it to the reservation around 7PM, but it was quite dark before then. I wasn't going to see much in the way of shoreline, I figured, but at the least I could say I'd been there.

I was SO wrong about not seeing anything...

We found a spot to park along Hobuck Beach. I opened the car door and heard the ocean roaring along the shoreline. Flashlight in hand, I checked where we were standing so to avoid a costly accident. The shoreline was rocky, the road we drove on butting right up to a huge 100 foot cliff. There were loads of rocks on which to climb down to the packed sandy beach. I was at the water's edge for quite a while, just listening to the ocean waves crashing along the shore, on the huge rocks. I found it quite peaceful.

Then I looked up to the sky. On this beach, there is no light pollution -- light from city streets or buildings or lines of cars or streetlamps. I turned off the flashlight once I was off the beach, and the sky was just magnificent.

When Carl Sagan talked about billions and billions of stars, I never realized what the number meant. With no light pollution, I could see billions of stars -- tiny specs of twinkling light dotting the dark night sky. In the midst of all the stars I could see the cosmic dust and aurora that makes up the disk that is our galaxy. I have never seen that before ever in my life. Doug called it The Edge of the Galaxy.

My head was craned up to the heavens for about an hour, and I never felt any pain. I saw three shooting stars that night, more then I had ever seen in one night in my life. I saw stars between stars, and constellations between those stars. I also never saw that many shades of dark blue, either, contrasting with the shades of white of The Edge.

Time flew by. I was so thankful I saw the sky that night. I still have a goal to see the Pacific Ocean by day, but I was there that one night, gazing into The Edge of the Galaxy, and finally saw how small we really are.

I think I may have gazed into God's eyes that night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seattle

This past week, I visited Seattle, Washington for the PASS Summit 2008 convention. This is the first time I've been to the west coast, and it has been a great journey.

The corporate headquarters of Vertafore are located in Bothell, Washington, just north of Seattle. I finally got a chance to visit and work at the site, which has been a goal of mine for some time. You see, I work with a load of people at this site, even though I live and work everyday physically in College Station, Texas in the Data Center. I finally got to meet people I've talked to on the telephone for the last 8-10 years or so. It was great to hug, talk to, and paugh with these people that have so become a part of my life.

I told a few people I was arriving, but not all people. The surprise factor was definitely on my side when I showed up at a few desks and said hello. I spent the first few hours of my arrival on Monday going around and saying hello to people, explaining what I was in town for, how long I would be, where I was staying, and the lot. Tuesday I was able to sit at a desk and work, but this time with a different group of people.

I have a reputation of, let's say, speaking my mind. I also can be a maverick and even possibly a loose cannon. I never saw it that way, of course -- we never see ourselves from the outside, only from our own perspective -- but I can see how I could be seen that way. So it was funny when one of the analysts I've worked with for so long asked me "So, are you starting trouble?" I asked for 15 minutes time to get something started!

The one thing that has yet to catch up to me is the time difference. Because the company is located on the west coast, it's 3 hours behind the bulk of our customers on the east coast. So, as a result, many people arrive at work at 5AM and leave at 2PM. When I arrived at work at 8AM, I felt like a slacker. So many people had been working for 3 hours already, and here I was, sauntering into the room as if to say "Time to work!" while they have been on the phones or doing other work for hours before, and in some cases before I even woke up that morning.

But the real reason I took this trip was to go to PASS and learn a few things about Microsoft SQL Server. It was a great conference. I even had the chance to catch up to someone I went to high school with. Douglas McDowell was a freshman when I was a senior, and I found out about this conference through him in the first place. We caught up on the last 20 years and had a few laughs. Doug is a charter member of PASS so it was great to see 2 people from the same high school doing so well in the database and computing industry. We are not the only ones -- I know a Windows Admin in the Philly area from our school, as well as a guy that created his own company based on network security.

I did get a lot of information from the conference, and I'll implement some of that next week to figure a few things out in our data center.

Josie, one of my colleagues and a great friend, was gracious to let me stay at her house during my stay. I got to meet her husband and son, and had a great time at her house. Friday night we had a dinner party and invited a few other colleagues and friends, and had a good time. Dino brought his cameras (one of which was a video camera, which I'm sure contains PLENTY of blackmail material!), and toward the end of the night, here's how well it went:


Photobucket

Now it's time for a few shoutouts:

Josie, thank you for inviting me into your home. It was awesome!

Steve, you get me in trouble EVERY time we get together! You are a BAD influence! But I had fun, so that's all that matters. The boy gets me drunk every time we get together...not that it takes a whole lot or that he force fed the beer. And everyone thanks you for the cold!

Kemp, thanks for letting me sit at your desk. Next time you better be here.

Marin, thanks for sharing your beer. You also contributed to my delinquency. Damn you! But thanks for having fun with us on Monday, it was a blast!

To everyone that attended the dinner party, I'll get Dino to post all of the video on YouTube as soon as possible. Parental Guidance is HIGHLY suggested.

(No, we really won't post the video...I just wanted to visualize your reactions...)

(Well, it IS Dino's video...I have no idea if he'll post it or not...)

(Are you scared yet? :))

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Superman, Pay Up...

I finally broke down and bought Superman Returns today, with a bit of trepidation. I'm a big superhero fan, and superhero movie fan, and, like so many others, saw this movie in the theater. I was highly impressed with the newer, updated flying effects, the new cast (Kevin Spacey is just brilliant as Lex Luthor, better than Gene Hackman, I believe), and the story wasn't bad, either. I also like the casting of Brandon Routh -- he's a clone of Chris Reeve and plays both Superman and Clark Kent very well.

If you were keen enough to figure it out early enough, or the big hints hit you about halfway into the movie, you found that Lois Lane's boy is the son of Superman, though he appears to be plagued with all types of health problems. He later defends his momma, Lois Lane, by shoving (actually, it was more like throwing) a piano into a henchman that was smacking his mother around.

What got my head going was child support.

Yes, I thought about child support. You know, here's a guy that flies around saving the world. No one knows who he is, where he lives, what else he does outside of flying around and saving the world, and he goes and gets Lois Lane knocked up, leaves the friggin' galaxy for 5 years chasing his extinct home planet, comes back and simply settles right back into his life. Except now, he's got a kid, and Lois has not told her fiancee that this kid is the son of the most power person on the planet Earth.

How does someone go about filing for child support on Superman? Do you go to social services and file, not knowing the guy's address? No one even knows if he HAS an address. And then, how do you collect?

Superman is supposed to be the upstanding guy, and I'm sure he'd pay up, but it's just one of those things I thought about. Superman flying over to the house, handing Lois an envelope with cash or a check, and asking about taking little Jason for the weekend. So then, Jason finds out about the Fortress of Solitude, and Lois wonders how the hell he paid for THAT thing, and wants more money. Superman starts to do weekend and night gigs at parties, catching crooks and saving the world in between gigs and working at the Daily Planet (where half of his pay check, if you recall from the original Superman movie, goes to Martha).

The poor kid also has asthma and a few other things, that apparently go away once he chucks the piano across the room. Who's paying for THAT?

Then what about grandparents? Poor Martha Kent will never be able to see the kid because that will give away Superman's identity, and it seems Superman doesn't want to give THAT away, even to the woman with whom he had sex and that gave birth to his child.

Superman is also a little creepy, spying on the house with his X-Ray Vision and super hearing, pretty much whenever he wants.

I told you, I just start thinking about this and it just goes on...

There were a couple of things I spotted in the movie this time around, and I think I spotted one of them in the theater. Jack Larson, who played the bartender in this movie, played the original Jimmy Olsen in the Superman TV series of the 50s. He looks darn good being in his mid-80s. Also, in the Space Shuttle, Sir Richard Branson played the shuttle engineer. Later when I looked up the cast, I found Sam Branson, his son, I think, played right along side him. In reading the trivia section of IMDB for this movie, there were more cameos I didn't catch. I love this stuff -- it's all very interesting to me. I also heard Gotham City mentioned, recognized the homage to Action Comics #9, the location where the first Kryptonite was found, and the bit about air travel being the safest way to fly.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Next President

I've avoided talking about the upcoming presidential election. Not that the election is not important -- in fact, I think it's the most important election to come along in quite some time. I just haven't found anything useful or insightful to say about it.

Then I realized I usually think better when I simply write -- just let it come out and see what it looks like. I decided to try that tonight.

The fact is I'm not really impressed with either campaign.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden don't appeal to me at all. They've had a pretty consistent message, but it's the message I don't like. Both say that if I decide I want to make over $250000 a year (the number has changed several times, but that really doesn't matter) then I will likely see an increase in taxes taken from my paycheck.

I want you to take a look at the 2007 Tax Tables for various filing status, directly from the IRS web site. I was pretty good at math when I was in school, and this just bugs the hell out of me. Look at the tables and you will see one consistency -- as you make more money, a larger percentage of money is taken from your paycheck.

A larger percentage!

That makes no sense at all. And to top it off, Joe Biden says you should be patriotic and pay your fair share. What does patriotic have to do with you paying a larger percentage of taxes? And is this fair?

Now, I don't make money in the uppermost parts of those tax tables. But if I took a job where I did, my tax rate goes up by another 10%.

This is not the message I want to hear. You want to be fair? Flat tax rate after a certain level of income would be fair.

So Obama and Biden just don't appeal to me.

Oh, and I'll cheap shot Biden (don't worry -- I'll probably cheap shot everyone by the time I'm done). He talks about how in HIS neighborhood, he doesn't know of a plumber that makes $250000 a year. In Joe Biden's neighborhood, it's a little more exclusive, and more expensive, than most of us live. In fact, I'm not sure that Biden even talks to his plumber that deeply. But that's just my opinion.

Obama is a great orator, but he's not blowing my skirt up at all.

John McCain and Sarah Palin don't really do it for me, either. I like Palin's spirit, and her boots (Facebook friends know what I'm talking about), but there's something about her I don't like.

She strikes me as a fake person. Her mannerisms on stage don't match her body language when she's done on stage.

When she was first introduced as the VP candidate with McCain, I felt it was a good pick, and in some ways still do. Female, husband a blue collar union member, strong personality, great speaking voice, incredible energy. But I watched her as I watched Biden, and maybe it's the fact that Biden's been doing this a LOT longer than she has. But I'm not comfortable with her being second in command. Not now, anyway.

In my opinion, she would have made a pretty good cabinet member, or even a Senator. Maybe I'm wrong entirely. But I just don't feel comfortable with her in the VP position.

A friend of mine at work asked me if I was threatened by strong women. She knew better than to ask me a question like that -- almost all of the women in my life have been very strong women. Both my ex-wives, my sisters, my daughter, my grandmother, and my aunt are some of the strongest women I know. My grandmother tops all of them. I also knew my friend was joking a bit, too. It's not that she's a strong woman. I just don't think she's the RIGHT woman for the job.

I'll tell you who I think would have been a better choice if the Republicans wanted a woman for VP -- I would have courted Condolezza Rice or Elizabeth Dole. Rice is extremely intelligent, and would have done VERY well in a leadership position. She's done a great job, in my opinion, in the State Department. Dole has experience in leadership all of her life -- she was Secretary of Transportation, is now a Senator, and has years of experience working in Washington at many levels.

OK, McCain says he doesn't want someone that's used to Washington -- he wants a Maverick. Two Mavericks, he says, to shake up Washington. I'm all for shaking up the establishment but I'm not convinced they can do it if they don't show a unified front. They disagree on some subjects. Global Warming and ANWAR are a couple of areas, but they think this is a good thing. I don't think it's that good -- it sends a mixed message to voters that I don't think he can afford.

OK, so I haven't cheap shotted anyone else yet. I'll find some cheap shots and post them later.

The core of my message, if there is one (this is Randomness, anyway) is that I don't like either of these candidates, but I think I will be inclined to vote for the lesser of two evils. And I might just do something I've never done before.

I might just vote Republican for President.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Win The World Series

It's a great day to be a Philadelphia Sports Fan! After an unprecedented suspended Game 5 of the World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies won Game 5 4-3 in Philadelphia to take their second World Series title.

The last time the Phillies won the World Series was 1980. I live in Folcroft, a suburb of Philadelphia, and was in the 5th grade. We were all glued to the television for all 6 games of that series against the Kansas City Royals. The school even had a big poster setup on the wall to track the series progress, filled in with pictures and other items from all of the students. We went nuts when Tug McGraw closed that game, jumped in the air with elation, and Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, and Steve Carleton finally got their well-deserved championship.

A few days later when the parade took place, those of us that went to school watched the parade on television -- our teachers were just as excited as we were. I remember that about 1/3 of the school was out that day. The next day, kids returned to school with notes saying they stayed home to watch the parade. It was a legal excuse that day to have "Phillies Fever".

Now, 28 years later, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge took home the Commissioner's Trophy. It was a great night! My father called me, and we talked about the last time it happened, and how great it was to be a Philly Fan. I need to contact my brother, Eddie, so he can mail me a copy of tomorrow's Philadelphia Inquirer.

The parade will take place on Friday so I might get to watch it on the Internet.

Astros fans are likely fuming. Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett played a significant role in this series, and were traded to Philly from Houston this year in a trade to get Michael Bourn. Lights Out Lidge did his job tonight, something he hadn't done in Houston since Albert Pujols whacked a 3-run homer off him in the playoffs. But I think Lidge needed the change and it was obviously a good change.

Two World Series championships -- 80 and 08. Interesting, isn't it? Now it's time for me to shop for a shirt and a hat and overpay for both of them. Maybe I can get my relatives back home to pick me up a shirt and hat and ship it to me.

Now, we need the Eagles to win the Super Bowl....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Random Track Memories

  • Egg Salad Sandwiches and Peanut M&Ms before the 4x800m relay at Districts.
  • Shaving a minute off the 4x800m relay time, and Erbe in disbelief. Made a note to bring a bag of peanut M&Ms to Regionals.
  • "Third and FINAL call? Did anyone hear the first 2 calls?"
  • Cow Stretches!
  • 100m Showdown in Perryville (Holbrook won in tenny's and with a hammy pull...take THAT).
  • The bi-meet in Oxford that suddenly became a tri-meet with St. Marks, and they kicked ALL our asses.
  • Shawn Miller's kick.
  • Paul Bolno's "13-what?!"
  • Trains!
  • "We beat Havre de Grace!"
  • Mark Shreve puking in a trashcan, and then running an incredible split in the relay.
  • Is Lovey high? Yes...it's Lovey!
  • The guy from St. Mark's -- 52 foot shotput, then a 10.2 100m -- is he REALLY in high school?
  • A track team without a track.
  • "We looked like a bunch of pumpkins."
  • 5 miles a day in February.
  • Heidi Strubbe waving to the crowd.
  • "Third and final call, 800m dash!"
  • Who's the Javellin catcher?
  • Tom's spandex.
  • "...the roof is on fire..."
I'd like to have a few more. Please add a comment to contribute.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hacking As A Service

I read a very interesting article this morning that should force professionals like me to rethink the methods and the organization of malicious computing activity:

Researcher finds evidence of massive site compromise

The article goes into some detail about a multitude of web sites that have been compromised by a number of methods, but that was not what impressed me. What impressed me was the author and the researcher referred to the hackers as having a "business model" and using "software-as-a-service"

These are terms typically used when dealing with legitimate businesses. But as crimes go from being curious undertakings to discreet methods, it stands to reason that different organizations would unite on a common cause. They become stronger, and in this case, covert because of their activity.

History shows that large criminal activity run as organized crime (and yes, these people have moved into that area of crime) will eventually subside, to be replaced by another type of crime, but it should be looked at as an organization, and a dangerous one. This type of organization is not a national problem, but a world problem. I believe Interpol should be more involved in this process since they are a world law enforcement agency.

World computing does not need to become an area of fear, lauded over by groups that think they are superior.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Driving

It's September in College Station. School has been in session for over a month and drivers aged 18-23 have descended upon the town to begin another year of study.

One subject that seems to be missing, however, is the basic ability to drive.

I found a website that seems to explain how driving works in Texas, and it seems to be wholly ingrained in the Bryan\College Station area.

I get SO sick and tired of inept drivers that do not know the basics of Right of Way. This subject must NOT be covered in driving school or as part of the driving test.

Section 4 of the Texas Driver's Handbook covers Right of Way. Situation 5 seem to be the biggest problem in my area. I think it should be required reading for anyone that gets behind the wheel of a car.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Personality

Every so often I take one of these so-called "personality tests" that are supposed to tell me what type of person I am. Here's the results of the latest time-waster:

Richard's Personality

I especially like how they say I could be a mafia don, a police detective, or a sales manager...

Here's the problem I have with personality tests -- the longer they are, the more bored I get, and the more I just want to screw with the answers and make the results as stupid and silly as possible. These tests are very good at generalizations.

You can Google "personality test" and you'll find hundreds of them. You'll find Facebook applications that match you to your other friends based on your answers.

They are all silly fun, and I like them. Now that I think of it, I've probably taken more than I should, but I do have down time while waiting for files to copy...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Surviving Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike blew through Texas late last week, causing loads of damage and destruction in Houston and Galveston. It went on as far as the midwest and beyond.

At my house in College Station, I lashed down the trashcans and waited. Early Saturday morning, it began with rain, and then wind, and then a heavy mix of both. This lasted all day Saturday. By Sunday, we got a little more rain, but for the most part, the biggest part of the storm has moved north.

Vertafore closed the College Station site, and we prepared for possible disaster. I was ready to go to our hot site, should the hurricane wrought so much destruction that we would have to declare a disaster and get our customers up and running in 3 business days.

While we were anxious and ready, it was not as bad as it could have been. Houston and Galveston, however, need a lot of work. Some school systems in the Houston area are closed until further notice, while others are not scheduled to open for at least 3 days.

There also seem to be problems doling out supplies to victims, but with a disaster of this magnitude, I don't see how it would be easy.

If you want to give donations to the local Red Cross, go to their website.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Richard Tocci for President








Random High School Band Memories

  • The Impressario
  • The Fugue in g Minor
  • Whistling "The Fugue in g Minor" on the school bus in the morning and driving people MAD!
  • "Ho ho ho"
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Dropping the drumstick into that hole...I still don't know how I did that...
  • Shooting the gun (it was supposed to be a cannon) in "American Civil War Fantasy" (these guys did it with a bass drum, but that sucks...)
  • Hurricane Jane
  • Newlin playing the piano and not conducting the band until a week before the concert
  • Split band class???
  • First Suite
  • Second Suite
  • Folk Song Suite
  • Seasongs
  • A Christmas Festival
  • Procession of the Sardar
  • In a Persian Market
  • College marches at football games
  • Savin' All My Love For You
  • A Sousa March for everyone!
  • Why did the same oboe player make it to All County Band every year I was in high school? Oh, yeah...she was the only one that tried out, so she knew she would make it. And she SUCKED!
  • Cow Stretches (oh, sorry...that's a Random Track Memory...I'll need to remember that for the next Random List)
  • Dollenger -- 'nuff said...
  • "Jada" turned into "Pizza"
  • Cocking the Trumpet (Scott Waddell knows what I'm talking about).
  • "Final Exams"
  • Pissing people off because they needed to do homework, but damn it, I needed to play tympani!
  • Exactly HOW many Mozart overtures did we learn to play?
  • Exactly HOW many overtures did we learn to play?
  • Oboe parts played by someone on the bells...
  • Jazz Band trips to elementary schools, Wipe Out, Black Magic Woman, The Pink Panther, and The Beatles
And last, but certainly not least:
  • RIP, Jim Dudley

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I am a Nerd God!

Well, I'm not sure how accurate this is, really. I know quite a few more people that I would consider Nerd Gods. So, does that make me a lesser deity?

My results:


I am nerdier than 97% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!


Should I be proud? Hell yes! Thanks to Jill and Shannon for turning me to this.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

20 Years

Last night I attended my 20 year high school reunion in Rising Sun, Mayland. It was a great evening, filled with food, laughter, and friends, and it lasted well into the early hours of the morning. I was very proud of our web site and was happy to see it was well received. I was given many, many compliments and enjoyed hearing how, without the site, some may not have attended at all. In fact, I received a few suggestions for the slideshows I posted, so I still have some work to do when I get home.

My high school career was different than most of my classmates. I attended Rising Sun High School from 1984 till 1988, but before that I attended a different school system, just up the road. Cecil County, Maryland is one large school system, broken down into 5 high schools, each with a middle school and a series of elementary schools that feed each high school. I lived in an area that fed both North East and Rising Sun, so, essentially, I had my choice of schools to attend.

My middle school career, while for the most part enjoyable, was not ideal, and I made a choice in 1984 to move from North East to Rising Sun. Bullying and picking on kids is a bigger deal nowadays than it was 24 years ago, and I was, unfortunately, one of those kids that was picked on and bullied more than others. When it came time to go to high school, I felt I would better serve myself, and my future, to start fresh at Rising Sun, and it turned out to be a very good decision.

I still kept in contact with those friends I did have at North East. In my senior year, I attended AP Calculus classes at North East High School, so I saw many of those classesmates throughout the year.

Last night, Jill, one of my Rising Sun classmates (and cohorts in crime building our web site), visited the North East High School 20 year reunion. It was amazing that the two classes held their respective reunions on the same night, and it was more amazing when I showed up to North East's after party at a local bar. Since I did not see those faces as often as my Rising Sun classmates, I recognized some faces, others not, but overall was as amazed, shocked, and excited as I was in Rising Sun.

While reintroducing myself to many people, one stood out. I won't use her real name because it's not necessary, so I'll call her B. When I saw her, I recognized her but like many North East classmates, I had to ask the woman's name, and my friend Dee told me. I reintroduced myself to B, and she hugged me and asked the normal gambit of questions about kids, marriage, residence, and job.

Then, she stopped suddenly and, with tears nearly in her eyes, said "We were mean to you."

I stopped for a moment and started to recall memories I think I either repressed or simply forgot about. B mentioned one incident in particular that was probably the most mortifying experience in middle school -- I was spit on while under the bleachers for whatever reason it was I was under there, and was laughed at while it happened.

B apologized several times over for what happened, and I told her not to worry about it. Kids are mean sometimes -- they do not always accept diversity, and are not very apologetic -- but in time, kids become teens and then adults, and most times they learn from their mistakes. B optimized this belief. After I told her a few times that the incident was forgotten, she explained why she felt as bad as she did at that moment. B now has kids of her own. She told me she realized she behaved in a way that she would not want her kids to behave, nor would she want her kids to experience from other kids. This solidifies the other belief I have -- having kids changes you, too, and in this case, made a person who was genuinely mean to me a better person.

So I want B to know that I value her apology very much. It means a lot to me that someone can look me in the eye and apologize for past transgressions even after 24 years, no matter how small, and even after I have forgotten about it. It means a lot to me because it gives me hope -- there ARE good people in this world, and sometimes it takes a couple of decades for that good to come out. It means I may have made a difference in someone else life, and now someone else has made a difference in mine. That will help ME raise MY children better, and that's one goal I will never shy away from.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What the hell were these kids thinking?

Once again, I am amazed by the stupidity of people. You would figure I'd learn by now, but being an optimist I always look for the good in people. In this case, the good left a long time ago, or never took up residence.

Take a look at this video. WARNING: If you have kids, this video will piss you off.



What the HELL was this kid thinking? Did he think it was funny? Did he think he would get a good laugh from his buddies? It's disgusting to think someone thought this would be funny to do this to such a small, helpless child.

I can't find the original video on YouTube, and honestly, I'm glad, because I'd be email slamming the site as fast as I could.

I cannot describe the angst, the anger, this video creates in me every time I look at it. I stopped looking at it entirely, it makes me that angry. I mean, I did stupid things as a kid. My father did stupid things when he was a kid. My kids will all do stupid things as they grow up. But what possessed this kid to take a toddler and launch him across a room?

And where the hell were the parents in all this?

I have a child with cerebral palsy. I know what trauma can do to a child. This kid is 16 years old, not exactly a kid that can't think for himself. THIS is what he thinks of for fun? And the kid holding the camera STOOD THERE and LET HIM DO THIS!

It AMAZES me how LOW people will go to get a laugh. It's one thing to make fun of an adult, to poke fun at your friends, even to do something physical to someone for a joke. But, for God sake, not to a TODDLER that cannot defend himself!

If that had been my child launched across the room, the police better do something because they don't want me to do something. If that had been my child launching another person's child like that, my kid would understand the meaning of the word "discipline".

On that note, how many times does the media have to show the kid being launched from the cushion? Wasn't one time enough? I understand they want to show the event and invoke emotions in their viewers, but I think one time should have been enough.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"He wants you too, Malachai..."

In my last post I mentioned the first R-rated movie I ever watched was Children of the Corn.

Tonight I got home from the gym, and my oldest son, Chris, was home. He sat down on the couch eating tortilla chips and turned on the TV. On came the SciFi channel and Children of the Corn was on TV. I sat and watched the last hour of the movie, and it was, of course, NOTHING like I remembered. I know it was cheesy, but at the time it was horrifying, especially the music with the children's choir, the minor and diminished tones intertwining to scare the crap out of you.

Chris told me he saw the movie when he was about 10 and it was creepy to him, too. Now it just looks stupid.

The actor that played Issac is named John Franklin, and he's done many roles over the years. He also wrote and directed and acted in the direct-to-video sequel Children of the Corn 666: Issac Returns. He played a short part in "Highway to Heaven" and played Cousin Itt in "The Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values".

I don't have a point to this, other than I mentioned it before. I DID call this blog "Randomness"...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

They...they gave him WHAT??

I grew up in a little housing development between Rising Sun and North East, Maryland called Farmcrest. From 1981 till 1989, I called this place home. Here's where it's located:


View Larger Map

I lived across the street from the Bray family. Larry Bray, the father, was a Maryland State Trooper; his wife, Linda, I think worked for the Cecil County county clerk's office (or some part of county government -- I'll post a correction later if I find I'm wrong); and they had two kids, Kristin and Brian. Where the arrow is on the map, I lived in the house under the arrow, and the Bray's lived in the house above the arrow. In other words, both houses are fourth from the beginning of the road.

Kristin was a few years older than me, and Brian, a few years younger. We all did loads of things together, but mainly I hung around with Brian. Brian was very athletic, and even though he was a few years younger than me, he excelled beyond me in many events. He was fast, too, fast like the wind -- the only way I could keep up with him was to jump on a bicycle.

The first R-rated movie I ever saw was in their living room -- OK, Mr. and Mrs. Bray were not home at the time. The movie was "Children of the Corn." Scared the hell out of me, because at the time, our houses were surrounded by corn fields. I used to run through them a lot until I saw that movie. It took a year to get the voice of Issac out of my head..."He wants you, too, Malacai...he wants you, too..."

We played baseball in my backyard, because it was so huge. I was getting good for a time, and it came to a point where both of us could hit a baseball nearly to the cornfields across the back of our neighbors yard. He was also into football, which I liked but never played well. We all had a good time in those days.

I received an email from Kristin today. Her father found our reunion website, told her about it, and she couldn't resist dropping me an email. I remember a few years back I found her email address and did the same thing, so I was glad to hear from her.

Brian has since grown up, is married with a couple of kids of his own, but that wasn't what shocked me. Brian Bray is now a Maryland State Trooper, just like his father. Brian Bray, a Trooper? They gave him a GUN to carry?

I remember when this kid tossed a dart at my HEAD in his basement and it hit me in my tooth, tossed rocks and anything else we could find or create at each other just to see if we could dodge them. And now they say "You're charged with protecting the citizens of Maryland. Go now, and take a gun to help you. Have fun!" That's just NOT RIGHT! I should make a call to his CO to make sure they KNOW this guy before handing him a sidearm! :)

Seriously, I'm confident he will make a fine police officer, if he is anything like his father. I'm just hoping he doesn't remember the time I chased him around my house with a staple gun, shooting staples at his back, and he's not looking for revenge...

Friday, May 23, 2008

...And The Students Become The Teachers...

This weekend, I have all of my boys with me, and they are all cavorting in the living room having a grand time. Alex is playing with Hayden. Chris puts down his laptop at some point to play with both of them on the floor. Alex jumps on Chris' back, and Hayden laughs his tail off.

I mention I need to begin making dinner, and ask what they would like to eat.

The running joke in my family has always been "Um, I'll have some food, please."

Sarcasm. Smark Aleck. Smartass. Call it what you want -- it's a fine family tradition, handed down from the elders of the Tocci clan for decades. Well, I'm not sure about HOW long it's been around, but I was aware of the skill as a teenager and began using it on my father. Chris started using it on me about the same time in his life.

The torch has been passed, sort of, to Alexander.

So I asked, to no one in particular what everyone wanted for dinner. Chris popped right up and said "Food, please".

Alex did not miss a step, and said "Yeah, I'll have some food, too!"

It was wonderful, and scary. Alex really had no idea that he did it, while Chris had the gun loaded and was ready to fire at a moments notice. I laughed, made dinner, laughed some more, and realized my brood is quickly becoming a Tocci Clan very, very quickly.

So I wonder when Hayden will join the mix?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning Secrets

My oldest son, Christopher, came home from college this past week. It's always good to see him, since I don't get to see him that often. He goes to college in Canyon, Texas, just south of Amarillo. West Texas A&M University is a Division II school that houses an excellent music and music education program. Chris is studying music education, with aspirations of a masters and a Ph.D. in music. This is impressive, and humorous -- this coming from the kid who started to cut his hair on his own at the age of 12, and then wore a Green Bay Packer cheesehead because "it was raining". That, as I've said before, is another post.

So now the back bedroom is littered with a mini TV, an XBox, clothes (clean and dirty all mixed together -- you know how college men are), a laptop computer, and other items. Add that to the younger boys toys (trucks, puzzles, a train set, and several balls) and we have a big fat mess.

Anyway, his first week back was pretty typical Chris Tocci fair. His high school buddies all called him the minute they arrived in College Station and started making plans to get together. After all of the initial festivities were over, I finally got a chance to talk with him.

I remember, as a teenager, doing things I wasn't supposed to do. I egged cars riding down 274, stole christmas trees in North East, shoved a moneybag up the tailpipe of the Saab, and chased a Dominoes pizza delivery guy that thought he was Mario Andretti. I also remember doing things to my parents belongings that I should not have done, and telling them years later. I was quite proud of myself when I found that old Buick of my fathers went into third gear at 83 miles an hour, since he never found out himself.

It was talking about these types of things that got my son spilling the beans on a few episodes. There was the getting drunk at a friends house and the decoration of a house involving Charmin. The pick-up football games against the baseball players that wound up nearly in a free-for-all and his spearing his friend Mike in yet another football game.

I wasn't that surprised, but I was glad of one thing. My son has a relationship with me I always hoped for -- he could darn near tell me anything, even if it WAS months or years later. I know he will continue to do stupid things like I've done, but that's OK, since it's all part of growing up.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flush

Since returning from Reno on business (yes, I was on business, even though 2 of the nights did not qualify as business -- I will post about that at a later time) I had my children stay the weekend with me for two straight weekends, with the third coming this weekend before getting a weekend off.

The first weekend I had the kids, I was still tired from my trip and did not make any plans to take the kids anywhere. I planned to stay home, play with them, and have a pretty uneventful weekend.

Yeah, right...when has THAT ever happened...

Alex has started on his journey to wearing Big Boy Pants. Yes, that's right, he's out of diapers during the day, wearing a Pull-up at night. This has worked out well so far -- in the morning, he's been dry, and during the day, I remind him to use the bathroom on a regular basis. He still asks if he can use the bathroom, though, and I have to keep telling him he does NOT need to ask.

Just after one of these bathroom sessions, he returned to the living room in the buff. Not surprising to me, really; I've heard that when kids get out of diapers, they sometimes like streaking. So I let him streak. He played in his room, ran his trucks into the hall and living room, and didn't make much of a fuss.

I should have known something was up...

At some point, I went into the kids bathroom to look for his underwear. I have 2 bathrooms in my duplex and one is exclusively theirs, so they do not get tempted to play with my toiletries. I couldn't find his underwear anywhere. I looked behind the commode, under the sink, in the tub, and finally in his room, and they were nowhere to be found.

I called Alex and asked him where he put his underwear. He replied, matter-of-factly, "In the toilet, Daddy", and continued playing with a truck.

No...certainly not...he did NOT try to flush his underwear.

As if on cue, he came into the bathroom and flushed the john. The bowl started to fill and rise a little too quickly for my taste.

I grabbed two towels, dumped them on the floor in front of the throne, and did what no parent likes to do -- I dove my arm, up to the elbow, into the bowl and reached up the main tube to find a pair of Finding Nemo underpants. The bowl drained immediately with minimal flood damage.

Alex knew he was in trouble and ran from the bathroom, into the living room, onto the couch, and started making a noise in between a cry and a whine. After giving him a stern talking to about flushing his underpants, I called his mother. Apparently, she thought this was very funny and proceeded to text message and email anyone on the planet that needed an update on Alex's escapades.

The next day, Alex flushed a sign from his train set.

That was two weekends ago. This past weekend, Alex and Hayden both did not feel well. Alex puked across my bed, forcing me to do a months worth of laundry in a few hours (for previous puking escapades, see my post on The Trials of Parenthood). Again, we stayed home -- the last thing I needed was a child primed to puke in the middle of the play area at Post Oak Mall.

Apparently Alex was still bored, even though he has his choice of three cartoon networks, a full library of DVDs, a room full of toys, and 2 dogs that will take any abuse he can dish out. He flushed his toothbrush. I thought he was kidding until I noticed it took about 20 minutes for the toilet to finish flushing.

This problem required the purchase of a drain snake. I've used one of these things before and I hated it, but it did the job. It found the toothbrush so I could, yet again, reach my hand into the bowl to pull it out. That cleared the drain, resuming normal flushing activities.

I'm sure Alex will find something else to flush. I've taken to putting my cell phone out of his reach; I've counted the dominoes several times; and I don't own any books small enough to fit into the porcelain seat.

Between kids and dogs, the toilet is an instrument of fascination. Maybe soon, I will show Alex how to catch up on his reading...oh, wait...that's in his DNA, being a male...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hayden's Challenge

Today we confirmed that our youngest son, Hayden, as spastic cerebral palsey. It explains his slow development in all aspects.

My wife and I visited a pediatric neurologist in Austin to investigate the problem. As you know, he's 14 months old now, and is not yet crawling, and walking has not even been attempted.

He went through an MRI, which is the only way to find cerebral palsey. Children have to be sedated for this procedure because they need to be still on their own, and in a toddler, that's impossible. It was a very strange thing, seeing Hayden lying on the MRI table, completely knocked out with the mobility of a ragdoll. It was the calmest we ever saw the boy. The sedative was chloral hydrate and it knocked him out in less than 5 minutes. The MRI took about 45 minutes to complete.

After the procedure we had to wake him up. On top of the fact that he had to fast to get this procedure done, we were relatively mean. We tried tickling him, carefully moving him, but none of that worked. One of the MRI nurses broke out an instant cold pack, and that did it. One well placed cold pack on Hayden's back woke him up, complaining in a drugged state. He was still in a sedated state several hours later, and we are told he should sleep VERY well tonight.

So now we know what's wrong with him, but the prognosis is excellent. He is cognitive -- he responds to stimuli very well, such as his name, to tickling, to playing, etc -- and his physical skill has increased since beginning physical therapy several months ago. The condition is NOT degenerative, which we are extremely thankful for. This means his condition will NOT erode and get worse over time, and he has an excellent outlook for a normal life. We may have an issue with seizures, but both my wife and I are experienced with handling seizures.

Hayden's Challenge is to live his life, and with his parents help, deal with this setback positively. Now we know what to expect and can do what's best to help him.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Allergies

I recently changed jobs at AMS. I now work for the corporate entity, Vertafore, as an application engineer. This job is very interesting, very busy, and I don't have to call nearly as many customers as I used to. I loved talking to customers, but my new position shields me from most of that. My customers now are my colleagues.

Part of my new job is a Wednesday Night Maintenance period. This is the time when changes are made to our systems that cannot be done during the business day. Items like rebooting servers, adding network connections, changing routers, and other things that would take a set of systems completely offline, and pissing off at least 20 people at once, are handled during this period. The schedule is Wednesday night from 10PM till 2AM.

On top of the fact that I'm a bit tired and have to go into work at 10PM, my nose and sinuses start to tingle. In a span of 30 minutes, I get hit with a blast of sneezes, and I feel like the worst cold in my life has hit me. My throat starts to itch, and I find myself with a stack of napkins next to me at my desk, using one every 5 minutes.

A quick check on weather.com shows the tree and grass pollen count is very high, and will be moderate for the next few days. I am a seasonal allergy suffer, and the first wave has hit.

Allergies are kicking my ass...

I know I have allergies, and living in Brazos County makes it particularly bad on me. On top of that, the weather is going to be rainy for the next 2 days, and after that the pollen will go up again.

Time to stock up on the Zyrtec. It's going to be a rough weekend...

Friday, February 29, 2008

The 3 Year Old Parrot

The moral of this post is:

Watch what you say when your kids are around.

A few weeks ago, I was driving Alex home from the store. There's an exit called the Rock Prairie Road exit, which is getting ready to be closed to make way for a new traffic pattern and a new exit system.

The reason for the change plays right into what happened to me that day. This exit used to be a state and county funded game of Chicken, Bumper Cars, and NASCAR all rolled into one package.

A map of the exit is here.

The exit was designed in a day when the area of not that built up. In a matter of 2 years, this area exploded with growth, and continues to grow. Moderate income housing is all over the place, so a lot of after-work traffic was generated nearly overnight.

The exit was redesigned and is currently in the final stages of that development. In fact, this exit will be closed and traffic diverted to 3 newer, and more logical, exits. But the exit, when I drove into it, of course had not yet been closed.

I rounded the turn, over the bridge, and eased over to the right side. I say "eased" but at 70 miles per hour, it's more like piloting. But I have to get over to the right, and do it at 70, because if I don't, then I will get squeezed, and then I have to drive like Mario Andretti to make my exit. Since I usually call my wife Mario Andretti when she drives, I try not to be the one calling the kettle black.

I'm in my final approach. I'm in the right lane, and get over the bridge and through the curve. I watch incoming traffic from the right, which is essentially an onramp from the last exit, Deacon Drive. This onramp is my offramp, and so begins The Dance.

The Dance is the act of maneuvering your vehicle from the right lane into the merging lane. This merging lane is the offramp for me, and the onramp for those other drivers. The problem is that some people don't use it as either. They use it as a through lane. They have NO intention of getting onto the highway. They are making their way to Rock Prairie Road from Texas Avenue, and instead of using Frontage Road, they use the highway. This is because using Frontage Road will actually slow you down once you get to Rock Prairie Road, because now you have to merge traffic with the offramp drivers, like me.

Recap -- offramp and onramp at the same time. Frontage Road a big cluster fuck for merging into offramp traffic. The ramp is used as a through lane.

You do NOT want to be here at 5PM.

So here I am, driving in from Bryan, wanting to use the ramp as an offramp. And so, I Dance.

I move onto the offramp. I slow down to 60 to prevent rear ending the guy in front of me. He speeds up.

A Suburban comes rushing up my left side, moves in, hits the brakes, and merges in front of me. He had maybe 100 feet before he would have missed the exit entirely. He could have made it easier on himself by slowing DOWN, and coming in behind me, but he had a "Me First" mentality that, frankly, most drivers in College Station seem to have. This is born from the many young drivers in this area, I believe.

So I'm ticked. Alex, in his car seat, will hear me cuss, so I hold my tongue...sort of...

"Yeah, cut in front of me...you ass!"

The last time I took Alex to the doctor, the boy would not shut up. He asked the same question about 15 times in a row until he was answered. The catch, of course, is that he waits all of .02354765 seconds before he repeats the question.

His doctor laughed and said "He's a 3 Year Old Parrot". Apparently, this is a common affliction.

Back in the car, Alex hears my retort, and replies:

"Yeah....ASS!"

It took all of my will power to hold off from laughing.

I almost wanted to give him a saltine cracker.

I had to tell him not to use that word, and I had to keep him from seeing me smile, but it reminded me that everything I say, from this point forward, can, and will, be repeated.

Which means, when I see a good looking woman walk down the street, I should not use the term "Hottie McFineass"...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Howling Winds

Weather in my part of Texas this time of year is very odd. While the majority of the country is essentially still in the depths of winter, central Texas is looking to break free and start summer.

That's right...I said summer. Not spring. Summer.

You see, it's spring right now in this part of Texas. One could go out to their yards and find clover starting to grow, and you need to treat your lawns now with lawn food so it will grow thick my April. Some people even start to plant vegetables outside -- it's likely they started the seedlings a month ago, indoors.

Earlier today, it topped out at 80 degrees. Tomorrow it will barely make it to 55 degrees.

The wind howls right now, deep and ominous. The wind chimes are out of tune. The sky is blanketed in clouds -- the absence of stars makes me feel lonely, and at the same time like something is watching me...

Or, maybe I'm just tired...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Trials of Parenthood

I had a very interesting evening. As you are aware, I am separated from my wife, working on a divorce. It's an amicable decision and dissolution of the marriage.

As such, I get the kids at my home every other weekend. This weekend is my weekend.

This week has been especially difficult, because both kids are sick. Not so sick that they need constant attention, but from time to time, I am reminded of what can happen when the slightest thing goes wrong.

Hayden, my 1-year-old, was attempting to eat dinner. By attempting, I mean I was feeding him, and he was not necessarily eating what I gave him. As I found out later, he was probably still full from his previous meal 3 hours previous, and really did not want to eat.

I fed Hayden an 8 ounce bottle of whole milk, and 3 hours later figured he was still hungry. I started to feed him applesauce, which he was eating fine for a few minutes.

Then, for some reason, he gagged. He started puking up the applesauce, and then what was left of the milk in his stomach.

I pulled him out of his bouncy chair, and he continued to puke. It mostly got on my shirt. But the initial puke, the applesauce, made it right into my hand.

Alexander, my 3 year old, was observing the situation. He saw the regurgitated applesauce and started to heave. He ran out of the room, but didn't make it. A couple piles of fresh toddler puke laid in the hallway en route to the bathroom.

The site of Hayden and Alex both puking made me heave.

We had a case of Chain Reaction Puking, a condition brought on swiftly and suddenly by one person puking with witnesses continuing the chain. I don't think we set a record -- not that I'd like to KNOW the record -- but it was nuts nonetheless.

I called my wife, and she ran over some clean clothes for Hayden. He had puked on everything else Thursday night and Friday.

After the puking subsided, I cleaned up the spills and the towels, and sent the dirty clothes home with my wife. Now both kids are resting in bed comfortably.

I'm the eldest of five children. I don't recall Chain Reaction Puking occurring in my house then, but it would have been a disaster...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rupert Wants in on the Action!

The latest in the Yahoo! soap opera:

Yahoo! reportedly in Talks with News Corp

News Corp, Yahoo In Talks to Combine Web Assets

So this would tie in Yahoo! to MySpace, Photobucket, Fox News, Harper Collins Publishing, and IGN, just to name a few (to see what else they own, click here).

One big happy family...

I think I may have to start my own search engine with advertising. Maybe someone will buy my company one day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Will Microsoft be Rejected?

Looks like Microsoft will be the teenager in the back of the dance hall...

Report: Yahoo plans to reject Microsoft's $44.6B buyout bid

What next? I think they will offer more money. They have it, and they'll spend it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"We're not saying we WILL reject the bid..."

From Yahoo!:

Yahoo Investor Met with Microsoft on Offer

I love this type of article, and it's an insight into how some business works.

Allow me to indulge in fantasy. Here's what I think happened:

Steve Balmer's sitting at his desk in Redmond. The intercom\phone bleeps almost noiselessly. Balmer presses a button.

"Yes?"

A cool but pleasant female voice waifs into the room.

"Mr. Balmer, Bob Jones from Capital Research and Management has arrived for his appointment."

"Yes, thank you. Send him in." Balmer presses the button again, and says the word "Open" to no one in particular. The double doors to his office slowly creek open, into his office, automatically.

Bob Jones strolls in, dressed in a crisp navy blue suit, light blue tie, and a white shirt.

Jones (extends his hand): "You suck at golf."

Balmer (grasps Jones' hand and shakes it vigorously): "Yeah, well, you suck at Poker. Bite me. Sit down." (motions to the black leather, overstuffed couch on the opposite side of the room.)

(Jones sits, nearly engulfed in the black leather. He crosses his leg over the other, and gets right to the point.)

J: "So this Yahoo! thing..."

B: "Yeah, I told you we would do it. Remember? You lost an extra $1000 at poker that night. Now if I had just taken your bet on the Patriots..."

J: "Oh, yeah, hind sight 20-20, yah yah yah, listen, let me ask you a question..."

(pause -- Balmer looks him over, up and down. His mind reading isn't what it used to be, but his Spider Sense is definitely tingling...or was that lunch?...)

J: "Let's say...hypothetically, of course...let's say that the Yahoo board of directors sits down, has a few beers, lattes, or bottled waters, and discusses this bid of yours. And let's say, hypothetically, they decide 'You know...I think we're worth more than $44.6 billion.'..."

(another pause -- Spider Sense replaced by blaring alarm klaxoning in his head. The last time this happened, he started getting I Love You emails from some bitch named Melissa...)

B: "So, what are you saying? You saying you'll REJECT the offer?"

J (standing up...this took a little time...the couch seemed to want him to stay...): "Oh, no...please. We're not saying we WILL reject the bid...but let's say it happens. I mean, it COULD happen. Just because Yahoo started up in a garage doesn't mean we're not out to grow the business, make money, retire to an island in the Pacific, or in the middle of Lake Michigan... But just for argument sake...how much higher would you be willing to go to takeover Yahoo?"

(pause -- Balmer is speechless. Jones makes a mental note of the date, time, and weather...this is history...)

J (taking advantage of the silence, knowing it won't last long...and he DOES have an ace up the sleeve): "Steve, we own 11 percent of Yahoo. We own 6 percent of Microsoft. We're going to make money regardless. We think...well, we think you can do a LITTLE better, after some of the crap you've pulled on us. I mean, come on, what the hell was Microsoft Bob, a sick joke?"

B: "Look, I told you before...someone let the wrong code out to publishing. I mean, that was CONCEPT, not even CLOSE to being ready, but we had to do SOMEthing ..."

J: "...oh, and let's not EVEN get into Vista. Did you feed the developers too much alcohol again?" (Reference for this joke is here)

B (starting to sweat): "Bob, please, I can explain...they WANTED security, and so we gave it to them..."

J (waving his hand): "Whatever, whatever, it was a disaster, and we want some reassurance you're not pulling that crap on us again. C'mon...give me a figure..."

B: "Well, I really don't know...I say we sit down and discuss it over a game of Halo 3. What do you say?"

J (raising an eyebrow): "That's a good idea. But I'd rather stand..."

(4 hours later. Both men have their jackets off, ties undone; empty bowls of cheese dip, tortilla chips, and spent water bottles and soda cans litter the table and floor; Balmer's tie is wrapped around his head, Jones' tie is an armband on his right arm)

B (chucking the controller on the floor): "That was WRONG, man...WRONG...you're not supposed to hide THERE!..."

J: "It doesn't matter WHERE I hide, jackass...it's if you survive the shot...and you didn't...so pony up...that's best of 11. What are you offering me?"

...and the rest...well, we'll just have to wait and see...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Microsoft Bids for Yahoo!

Microsoft offers $44.6B for Yahoo!

Let the antitrust speculation begin:

US, EU Unlikely to stop the deal

I think I saw this coming, some time back, when MSN Messenger and Yahoo! allowed each others users to use each others messengers without repercussion, or signing up for new accounts. Also, a year or more ago, this subject cropped up and then died just as suddenly. The former Yahoo! CEO, Terry Semel, resigned Thuesday, and soon after, the deal was tendered to Yahoo!'s new executives. It's clear the CEO nixed the deal, and the shareholders gave him hell for it. He resigns under the strain, and there's Steve Balmer, waiting for the clock to tick down...

Balmer is apparently not going to back away from this deal, either. He expects it to go through one way or another. Ahh, the sweet smell of a rabid dog! :) But he's always been that way, and now that Bill is retiring from corporate life, I don't see him slowing down at all.

While this merger will certainly create a #2 behemoth in the Internet advertising space, it will most certainly create job losses. Of question to me is which brand will remain - MSN or Yahoo?

It hard for me to see either one go away, really, but I think they will rebrand it with Microsoft in the title.

How does MSN Yahoo! sound? Not as snazzy as FedEx-Kinkos...

Young'un is a Pappa!

I wanted to congratulate my coworker and colleague, Steve Bartlow, and his wife, on the birth of their daughter this morning. I raise my cup of coffee to you. I hope you got some sleep over the past few weeks, because you won't be getting any for about the next 6 weeks at least!

I also hope he followed my advice when in the delivery room:

1. Smile.
2. Hold her hand.
3. Only speak when spoken to, and keep the answers short.

I've worked for AMS Services, a division of Vertafore Inc, for just over 11 years. I've been here a while -- not as long as others but still a good amount of time. Steve is a mere 22 years old. My son in college is going to be 20 this summer, so I always make light of the fact that my coworker is nearly as young as my oldest son. So he became "Young'un", and I became either "Old Man" or "Pops".

Now, I can call him Pops.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fractioned Mind -- Math Professor Wants Fractions Taught Only To Calculus Students

This is about the most ludicrous educational policy change I've ever heard of:

Professor: Fractions should be scrapped

This professor of mathematics feels, due to the digital age, that fractions are essentially obsolete.

"Fractions have had their day, being useful for by-hand calculation," DeTurck said as part of a 60-second lecture series. "But in this digital age, they're as obsolete as Roman numerals are."

I don't agree with him. Fractions are considered basic mathematics across the world. By the time a student is in 5th grade, fractions should be understood and used constantly. It's basic math, which means other math is based upon it.

High school physics is essentially ratio-based formulas. Let's use the Force formula for a moment, which is F=MA (Force=Mass times Acceleration). To find A, the formula becomes A=F\M, which is a fraction and a division problem. Is this guy saying high school physics should not be taught, either, because of its use of division and fractions?

I think methods should be questioned from time to time, to see if they are still viable, but basic mathematics should never be cast aside or delayed. And that's exactly what this is, basic mathematics.

It will never happen, I believe. I don't see the point, and the argument is highly illogical. Many things that are commonly taught in high school would have to wait until the student, according to DeTurck, learns calculus. Now, I'm all for learning higher math, but since calculus contains fractions, I think it's wise to learn fractions before you get to advanced mathematics, like calculus.

Oh, and let's not forget that analytical geometry and trigonometry all contain fractions, too. In fact, all of the basic trigonometric functions are....RATIOS! Ratios are fractions. And you cannot learn calculus until you learn trig.

It's teachers like this, I believe, that make our education system worse.

This argument goes right along with the misguided calculators in classrooms. I never believed students should be allowed to use calculators in classrooms. You'd be shocked at the number of people 10 years younger than me, and even more, that cannot do simple subtraction in their heads because they've relied too much on a calculator.

Calculators on tests, and now fractions disappearing. Look out...addition and subtraction will be next, because they pose a self-confidence problem. Ridiculous...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Catching up -- Happy New Year!

My neglect of this blog was not intentional. The last month has been pretty busy.

To start, my wife and I are separating, to divorce as soon as the paperwork goes through. This has been in the works for some time, but I have not talked about it, except for friends.

Because of this, I've moved out, and I have a new place in College Station. It's still pretty strange to me. I sleep alone now, and the only other beings in the house with me are the dogs. I have new neighbors, and they have dogs, so it's very interesting, and very noisy, when I put the dogs outside.

It's also strange because I am more acute to the noises around the house. I live in a duplex, so I not only hear new creaks, strains, and pings from the house itself, but I also hear noise from my neighbor. It's not that they're terribly noisy (they have 5 dogs and a cat, from what I can tell, so you'd figure the noise would be more than it is), it's just that, well, I can hear the louder noises, like cabinets closing or doors slamming.

I also had the task of getting new items for the house. I took quite a few things with me (which reminds me, I need to get my balsamic vinegar -- she'll never use it), but I had to nearly start over with basic foods and other household items. I don't have a microwave yet, either.

You never realize how much you rely on certain items until you don't have them. The microwave is a prime example. As I was shopping two weeks ago, I wanted to pick up a box of breakfast biscuits. The only ones I've ever purchased were microwavable. Well, without a microwave, that entire aisle at the store is useless to me.

This has forced me to cook and eat less. That's a good thing, though, because I need to lose weight. I have a plan to lose 60+ pounds by the end of the summer, because my class reunion is at the end of the summer, and I don't really want to look the way I do now.

So without a microwave, I can't eat crap like microwavable popcorn, and quickie meals. I can cook, it's just that, like so many other people, I lead a very busy work life, and don't always have time to cook a meal. I'm finding that I have to force myself to do this now.

I will still get a microwave, but I'll stick to my current habits, because it's better for me, and I want my kids to get good habits too.

Speaking of my reunion, I said it was at the end of the summer, back home in Maryland. We just finalized a date, and we need to get people to let us know. Classmates.com is where we currently have our information, but I've been tasked with getting classmates names on an Internet site, and then set up payment methods. Good thing I kept that database all this time.

This will be my 20 year reunion. Some things that have changed since the 10 year reunion:

1. 10 years older. Yeah, no kidding...
2. Divorced, remarried, two more children, divorced again.
3. Less hair on top of my head, more hair around my jawline.

Here's an interesting fact: I work for the same company I worked for when I went to my 10 year reunion. Go figure...

I expect this reunion to be fun. There is also a planned softball game -- my class versus anyone that ever went to my high school and a member of any other class. Class of 1988 vs. The World. I better remember to stretch.

On an entertainment note, I saw "Cloverfield". It was a good movie. The monster was not what I expected, but the movie was most certainly NOT a Blair Witch idea. It's much bigger than that. J.J. Abrahms certainly knows how to keep people watching. I also liked his viral marketing for this movie. Gave me a lot of background on the characters, but I also found it interesting that I really didn't need it. The story stood on its own. Very novel approach. On a 5 star scale, a definite 3 1/2.