Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just a Minor Episode...

A funny thing happened during a routine doctor visit to refill my prescriptions.  In fact, it was so routine that I left half of my lunch sitting on my desk at work, fully expecting to be back in the office in under an hour or so.  Not wanting to violate any sort of HIPPA laws, I will just tell you that my doctor suspected I might be in the middle of a heart attack or perhaps some sort of PE event.  Okay, I've heard of patients getting "white coat" syndrome, but you could literally hear my sphincter wink several times when he looked at me and said he was extremely concerned. 

Funny, before long I was less nervous than embarrassed when I had to be wheeled out on a gurney from the clinic into an awaiting ambulance.  Note to self: In the future, refrain from looking at people being wheeled out on a gurney to an awaiting ambulance.  
We got to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa at Westover Hills and I got unhooked from all the wiring and tubes owned by the paramedics and swapped over to the wiring and tubes in the ER.  Once I hadn't died or anything, I called my office and asked them to put my fruit cup in the refrigerator.

In the end, the doctor gave me the option of being admitted or going home and setting up a meeting with a cardiologist in the morning.  In spite of the brand new and very clean facility at Santa Rosa and the very nice and professional people there, I decided to come home and get started fresh tomorrow.  Plus, I don't think they have the channel for Rescue Me at that place.

I don't know what could possibly have caused this issue, but surely, it couldn't possibly be related to my consumption of greasy cheeseburgers and general lack of exercise.  That much I'm sure of...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Door...

Eva has been giddy for two weeks in anticipation of the storm door she ordered from Lowe's.  On Thursday afternoon, it had arrived and the folks from Lowe's called to tell her it was ready for pick-up.  When I got the call at work to make a stop on my way home to pick it up, I'm not sure I actually heard the name Lowe's or not in the conversation, so I promptly walked into The Home Depot looking for my door.  Okay, that was slightly embarrassing.

We shop at both places so often; we have figured out who has better prices on cement, 2X4's, garden items and the like, and the fact that they are literally back to back at Military, Zarzamora and I-35, how can you not get confused from time to time?

When I did make it to Lowe's, the waitress at the Customer Service Desk, Jennifer, was in training so things started off a little slow.  But like all the people we have encountered at that particular Lowe's, she was friendly and I didn't mind the short wait for the door to show up.  Have you ever noticed that when people are friendly and offer even the slightest amount of customer interest, the shopping experience is almost, dare I say it, enjoyable?  

I recall we were in another home improvement store - I really don't remember which particular one, and we were looking for a garbage can.  The one that was on sale that week was way up at the top of the shelves and we wanted two of them.  The guy that was trying to assist us had to call his boss to help get the cans down and she was a total complete and utter bitch about the entire ordeal.  At one point, I offered to climb up on the ladder and get it myself, but I think this lady would have preferred to bitch about the fact that a customer was interfering with her important duties. Eva is not generally the violent type, but I suspect it could have come to blows.  She even suggested that once the lady got the trash cans down, we should say "Oh, these aren't the ones we want" and leave.  But they were the ones we wanted, so we bought them. 

But customer service has nothing to do with the new door.
This is what it looks like installed.  I think the idea is that we can open the front door and sort of look outside at our lovely dirt lawn and get a little light in the entry way.  We never really use the front door as an entry just because it is so much more convenient to come in and out from the back door near the kitchen, so really, it is just all about decoration.
I did learn something important about the sun and a big glass door this morning though.  Our house faces the east.  The sun comes directly up blowing rays of fire directly into our new magnifying glass-like, well insulated oven where it sandwiches 150 degrees of Ouch! between the storm door and the main door.  Okay, who thought this would be a good idea?   When I opened the door to walk out and take these pictures, it was like a blast furnace scorching my face and potentially melting my camera. I started to add that I wasn't exaggerating, but I might be embellishing just a little.

At any rate, the door is installed and Eva is happy and we can now mark one more item off the list of expensive but unnecessary items we need for our house.  

Wow, wouldn't decorative shutters look nice on our brick?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

To Pool or Not to Pool...

As sort of a follow-up to yesterday's post about the extreme heat, I should mention that we have repeatedly contemplated the idea of getting a pool.  Someone, please step forward and talk me out of this foolishness now.

There are several homes in the area that have really nice in-ground pools and I have noticed that none of them have what I consider to be required, a fully screened in room built around them.  We don't have a huge mosquito problem, what with all the bats and such, but I keep thinking about how much sand must blow directly into the pool with ever breeze.  When we have discussed the idea of a pool, we keep going back to the amount of work involved and of course, the expense.  For what I want or think is worth the effort involved, it would be quite a huge investment.

When our kids were a lot younger, we bought a small above ground pool for first house.  This is what you might see at Big Lots or Wal Mart, about 36 inches tall and maybe 16 feet round.  It was great for the kids, not so great for liquored-up adults taking turns diving into it.  But we got two seasons out of it and it was probably $150 well spent.

So as we toy with the pool idea, we have been thinking maybe the way to go is with one of these nicer quality above ground pools.  If you get one with the stainless steel panel, reinforced rails and upgrade to a high quality liner, the things can last for years.  And if you decide the pool is no longer worth the effort, get rid of it. 

We went to Family Leisure (of course) and talked with Froy, a highly trained above ground pool salesman who walked us through the drill of what packages worked best, why some of the lower end pools were not going to make us happy and the usual stuff.  It was all very informative, but I just wasn't ready to commit.

When we came home, we measured out an area in the back where we would probably put a pool.  There are many things to consider with an above ground pool.  Certainly, the view is the first thing that comes to my mind.  Are we going to mess with the view we have of the yard from our hot tub?  Do we create a huge obstruction from the back porch?  It isn't all just splishing and splashing, there are other things to consider.  Naturally, a new deck would be required.  You can't just stick a pool in the yard and not have a fancy deck leading to it, can you?

There is one other thing to consider.  Eva can't swim.  

So since we were in the area, we had skipped breakfast and would later skip dinner, off we went to Clear Springs Restaurant for some much needed lunch.   
 If you have never been to Clear Springs, I'll save you some money: order the small onion rings.  There is enough to feed a table full of people.
Just for good measure, I ordered some Stingers - jalapenos stuffed with catfish and fried.  Good stuff.
Eva ordered her usual shrimp.
And I broke my rule of only ordering catfish without the sides.  It isn't that the Cole slaw and beans aren't good, but after onion rings, Stingers and catfish, who needs the rest of that stuff?  Needless to say, we were stuffed!
Perhaps it is a good thing we didn't pull the trigger on a pool.  There may have been reports of beached whales in the greater Natalia area. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Heat, Movies, POA, Snakes...

It is like a desert out here.  What am I saying?  It is a desert out here. It makes you wonder how people settled this part of the country without the benefit of air conditioning.  We are total wimps.  I prefer the heat over the freezing temps of the north, but when it gets to be 108 in the shade, it is time to go inside and watch a movie.  I do continue to wonder about the actual temperature reading.  We all know that when they list the official temperature for San Antonio, they are using a thermometer located at the airport or some place like that.  I have known for years that where I work down by Kelly, you could add at least 3 degrees to whatever the official temperature being reported is.  

Do the thermometers in cars work?  I think they do as long as you are not sitting idle in the sun.  So when I drive by one of those temperatures listed on the marquee in front of a building and it reads the same as what my truck gauge is reading, is it safe to say that my truck is accurate?  I think so.  So when the thermometer goes up as I drive south west and pull into my driveway at it reads 108, I believe it.

And when it is really hot like this, there is nothing I need to do outside.  Last night, we sat down and watched The Last Picture Show.  I am a huge fan of Larry McMurtry, mostly because of the Lonesome Dove series of books.  I love the fact that this movie was made in black & white, and I enjoyed seeing Cybill Shepherd nekkid (if only briefly). Really, this seems like a pretty racy movie for 1971, but I suppose nowadays, it would garner a PG-13 rating.  This morning, I got online with Amazon and ordered the book.  I think it will be even better than the movie.


Once the movie was over and the fireball had begun to drop, we found it safe to hit the hot tub.  I know it doesn't seem intuitive that you would get in the hot tub in the blazing heat, but we have figured out that you don't have to always run the heater.  In fact, I once again appreciate how the people at Family Leisure in San Antonio have helped us out.   

We had been having an issue with the tub overheating and shutting off.  I did some extensive research via the Google and found several user groups discussing the same problem I was having, but the answers didn't seem to click with me.  We were actually putting bags of ice in the tub to try to cool it down just so we could turn it on.  The other day, we called Austin at Family Leisure, and he set us up with an appointment to come take a look, but then, he gave me a little over the phone OJT on how to set things for the extreme summer heat.  He told me that if the tub stopped over heating, then to just cancel the appointment.  Sure enough, I made some adjustments to our settings and like magic, no overheating and we are able to cancel the service visit.
Just when you feel like you are starting to get a little too warm, a breeze blows across the top of the hot tub and cools things off perfectly.  Of course, it also occurs to me that that breeze is whipping our sand lawn into a frenzy and blowing a huge dust storm right into our faces and the tub.  I'd better go clean the filter this morning.

We went to our Property Owners Association meeting on Thursday night at Eatza Pizza.  I had an Italian Sub that was really greasy but delicious.

Anyway, there was a good number of residents, probably 10 anyway, along with the the Medina County Commissioner for our area, Jerry Beck, on hand.  It is all I can do to refrain from jumping in and offering my help with the POA, but I genuinely do not have the time.  Hell, I can't even find time to write a blog more than once a week.  I just feel so bad for the people who have stepped up to volunteer their time and try to keep things going.

The POA we are in has no common facilities, like a pool, park or club house.  So the real costs are maintaining the electric bill for the street lights, paying a property management company, and paying lawyer fees.  That is really it.  I would be shocked if I had not experienced it during my time in The Great Northwest, that so many people think that with their $100 a year assessment, the volunteers on the POA board have some duty to stop snakes from entering people's property.  Yes, a lady actually wanted the board to do something about the snakes on her property.  Hey, and while you guys are at it, what say we lower the temperature to a brisk 96 degrees.

There is a real problem though and you can see people's reason for being concerned.  Some how or another, there are numerous people who moved here without being told when they purchased their homes that they were subject to mandatory POA and deed restrictions.  For the life of me, I don't know how that happens given that our realtor and our title company gave us paperwork and made us sign documents and such.  Be that as it may, I know it has happened and it tells me that a law suit ought to be forthcoming.  But make no mistake, it isn't the POA's fault that a buyer was not informed, it is the seller who must disclose and the title company doing the closing that has to make sure all that paperwork is taken care of.  Sue them, not the POA.

So now you have people who have been basically dragged into the POA and they are asked to abide by the deed restrictions.  Fine; but enforce the restrictions equally.  I feel for someone who receives a letter asking them to comply with something they were unaware of, only to drive around and see numerous other violations seemingly going unnoticed.  Of course, my experience tells me that there is often more going on behind the scenes.  There are a series of letters that must go out, and people have to be given ample time to respond, and their are so many ways around the system that if you were intent on beating the POA, you could.

In the end, most people move out here because they want to be able to live on their property the way they want without lots of restrictive rules, but they also don't want the guy next door building a junk yard.  So, if people just exercised some common sense with a good dose of common courtesy, these things would run themselves.  If your neighbor's dog comes and craps in your yard, don't tell the POA, tell your neighbor.  If the dog comes back and craps in your yard, don't call the POA, shoot the dog or trap it and take it to the pound. If snakes come into your yard, don't tell the POA, kill the snake or learn live with it.

The most informative thing that came from the meeting was Commissioner Jerry Beck reminding people that the deer and the raccoons and the snakes did not move into your habitat, you moved into theirs. Amen

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lunch & Dinner in Las Vegas Report...

On a warm Sunday morning out here near Natalia, we can walk out into the front yard with a cup of coffee and let the dogs investigate the many sounds of birds and animals and things moving in the dry brush on the other side of the fence.  
 There is no sound of traffic or music blaring or crowds of people trying to navigate the sidewalks avoiding the creepy guys dealing decks of calling cards adorned with nearly nude ladies or homeless people asking for a few bucks.  What I don't hear out here is what I really enjoy about being here.  Not that we should avoid Las Vegas at all costs.
My visit was strictly business - there for Blackhat and DefCon, two conferences that exceed my technical skills for sure, but entertaining and informative nonetheless. 
I didn't wear my standard slacks and collared shirt with tie; in fact I was dressed down to the point of shorts and a polo shirt but apparently my idea of casual is a little dated.  But never judge a book by its cover.  These are some seriously smart people, most of whom are able to earn a great living and still wear whatever they want to the office, even if their bosses are somewhat put off by the appearance.  These days, no amount of tattoos and piercings shock me.  I used to think that might take some of the fun out of it, but in reality, I don't think many of these folks do it for shock value. 
Enough about culture, the important thing is the food.
I was with some people who were extremely hungry and couldn't wait for the free food that was about to come, so we stopped in to a place in Caesar's Palace called Beijing Noodle No. 9.  My selection (sorry, no pictures) was a plate of six pan fried dumplings and a glass of water.  Besides being crappy, it was a quick $15.00 that I could have just as easily surrendered to a slot machine and gotten a lot more enjoyment out of.
Gold fish seem dirty to me.  But this was a cool looking tank. It had a sign on it (sorry, again no picture) that said these fish were not for human consumption.  That made me feel better.  I'm the fat guy in the mirror.

Later that evening, a large group of colleagues attended one of the many awesome parties hosted by vendors trying to get business.  I think the business model is that you ply potential clients with loads of food and free drinks and hope that you will remember what a great time you had when they call you the following week.  
 All I can say is that the the suite we were in was awesome, the food was incredible and the bar was open! The company name escapes me, but I'm sure they'll remind me when they call on Monday.
 One of the companies I work with took a small group of us to dinner at a place in the Bellagio called Fix. All I can say is, wow!  This is the kind of place where service is outstanding and the food is awesome.  Be prepared to pay for both.
A guy sitting next to me ordered lobster and steak.  Simply magnificent.  And about $60.00.

I was trying to be a bit more thrifty with other folks money so I settled on the 14oz NYC sirloin at only $46.00.  This steak was so perfectly cooked (medium-rare, of course) that I had to resist the urge to simply pick it up and gnaw on the bone, lest any of it make back to the kitchen clinging to the bone.  The little things on top are fried potato chips.  I know, it takes away from the picture, but they were good.  I added a side of "Very Adult Mac & Cheese" which was incredible. When it came out, I thought they were fish sticks.  Somehow, they deep fried macaroni into little squares and served it with some great dipping cheese.  I have never paid $12.00 for mac & cheese.  Still haven't.
Another place I had lunch at was in the Rio where DefCon was being held.  We stopped into a place called All American Bar & Grill for a quick burger. By Vegas standards, I'd say it was pretty reasonable price wise.  Think Chili's or Applebee's.  
I had the jalapeno cheddar cheese burger that was about $12.00.  I thought the bread was too big, but the burger itself was very nicely done. 

There was other food - lots of it, but I really wasn't there to chronicle my dietary habits (though I tried).  This time in Las Vegas, I stayed at Paris.   The room was comfortable and there was plenty to see and do, but I really hate that they jack up the prices so outrageously for necessities like bottled water and coffee.  I paid $2.95 for a bottle of Gatorade and $2.95 for a bottle of water.  There is something wrong with that.
This was my $10 breakfast Saturday morning.  The coffee was only okay but the cinnamon roll was really excellent.  So soft and delicious.  
If you have never been to Las Vegas, it is a must see place.  You do not have to be a gambler to enjoy it because there is simply so much to do and see, even if you hate crowds.  You just have to go knowing that everything you want to eat or buy as a souvenir will be way overpriced.  Once you accept that, you'll be fine and you'll be sure to have more than a few Tasty Treats during your stay!