Sunday, December 31, 2006

The never-ending fan saga finally comes to an end


fan_saga
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
Some of you have already heard this story, but some haven't so I'll start from the beginning, but keep it brief.

A few months ago the ceiling fan in my bedroom quit working. There was no sounds of bad bearings or slow failure -- just one day it no longer switched on. I've done some electrical wiring for lights, wallplugs and telephone lines in the past, but I'd never done a fan. Plus, I didn't have a ladder tall enough to reach the vaulted ceiling of the bedroom. Plus, I had a home warranty that supposedly covered ceiling fans.

Being kind of lazy about things that aren't dire emergencies it took me at least two months before I got around to calling the home warranty company to get my fan fixed. They referred me to an electrical repair company in my area that would do the repair for the $55 deductible. Well, the first problem was that they don't do repairs on weekends. Apparently the home warranty company only reimburses these contracters for work done on weekdays. That was a problem. Although I was home nearly every weekend, I was working and traveling during the weeks and had no desire to take vacation time to get a fan fixed.

Finally I got a time scheduled on a Friday I had off for an electrician to come out and check my fan. He checked the wall switch. He checked the electric output of the wires running to the fan. He then said, "Yep, you need a new fan."

Well, the home warranty covers replacement of fans. However, what they never told me was that they only pay for "builder level" replacements. That meant that yes, they would put a new fan up there for me, but it was going to be one really ugly, cheap-ass fan. After informing the company what a ridiculous policy this was, I finally agreed to go buy my own fan and let them reimburse me $50 for it, which is the max cost they would pay for a fan.

Fast forward a week. I'm back from El Paso and go buy a fan at Home Depot. I found this really cool-looking contemporary style fan for about $100. I brought it home and everyone said, "Man, that is a cool fan." It had some serious style. Unfortunately, it had LEDs for lights instead of standard light bulbs. I was actually enthused about this because LEDs virtually last forever, put out almost no heat, and draw very little power. At Christmas I gave my dad and my brother-in-law LED flashlights, and we were all sitting around discussing whether you could actually wire a house with LEDs for lights. What I found out though was that LEDs are nowhere near bright enough to light a room.

I did take some precious vacation time Friday afternoon, and the electrician returned to install my new sweet-ass fan. The electrician even commented on the design. It took him about an hour to put it together and get it hung. Then he flipped on the lightswitch. Talk about dissapointment. The LEDs gave off a faint glow comparable to soft moonlight, but didn't light the room at all. The electrician was like, "Wow, I'm really glad I'm not the one who bought this fan." Then he packed up his stuff and left me sitting there in the pale glow of the LEDs to ponder what the hell I was going to do.

I got everyone's opinion on the light. It was suggested that I just get some lamps. I even scavenged one of my brother's lamps out of the garage, but it really still did nothing to light the room. I went back to Home Depot and tried to find a new light kit to put on it. No luck.

I was sitting working at the computer Friday evening and twice I got up to turn the lights on and then realized they were already on. I couldn't see my keyboard. I definitely couldn't read anything by that light. I decided it had to go.

At this point my home warranty claim was closed out. They had indeed replaced the fan. Their job was done. Replacing the new fan fell back on me. Saturday morning I grabbed my 4' ladder, placed it atop the bed, said a quiet prayer for God to grant me balance, and climbed up to start disassembling the new fan.

I managed to get the new LED fan down without incident, but could not figure out how to get it back in the box. I took it back to home depot kind of half assembled and sticking up out of the box. I complained about the LED light and gave me a full refund with no hassles. The guy in the fan section actually told me that on Friday three of those fans were returned. Apparently quite a few people ran into the same problem.

I selected a new fan. It was a rather boring classic style, but it had four nice bright light bulbs. I took it home, climbed back onto the ladder on top of the bed and installed it. I never fell, and I only dropped the fan once.

So what it all comes down to is that I paid $40 a month for a home warranty over a matter of three months before this was resolved. That's $120. Add $55 for the service call deductible. Add $100 for a new fan. Then subtract the $50 reimbursement (whenever that supposedly shows up in the mail). That's $225 to get this fan replaced, and in the end, I'm the one who had to redo all the work. I'm thinking life would have been so much better if I'd just gone and spent the $100 on a fan one Saturday morning and replaced it myself in the first place. I could have even used that $125 I'd have saved to buy a really nice ladder, so I don't have to balance on the bed anymore!

Oh well, at least I'm starting 2007 with a working fan.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Back to the salt mines

Did you ever have one of those days where this just weren’t going too smooth? I stayed home sick yesterday, but thanks to the miracles of modern medicine and the ever-so-powerful Z-pack I was ready to come into the office today. Well, I wouldn’t really say “ready,” but I guess I could say “capable.”

I was excited about wearing one of my new wrinkle-free dress shirts I got for Christmas. Supposedly this sucker never needs ironing … EVER. Of course, it was wrinkled when I unwrapped and unfolded it, so that right there makes me doubt their claims a bit. However, after running it through the washing machine it indeed came out of the dryer amazingly wrinkleless. I even ironed my pants, so that they’d be of the same wrinkle-free caliber as the shirt today. Unfortunately, there is nobody in the office to take note of my pressed appearance. I could have come in my underwear and a bathrobe if I’d wanted.

I was jamming Jack Johnson on the way to work. I need to learn “Flake” and add it to my repertoire. I just can’t figure out how to make the outro bridge sound right with just one acoustic guitar. I was pondering this and was kicking around some new song lyrics in my head as I walked into the office from the parking garage when I heard a loud crash. It sounded a lot like a car wreck, but I looked back out into the garage and didn’t see anyone. Then all the lights in the lobby went off, and the fire alarm started buzzing. The building had lost power. A few seconds later the lights came back on, but the security guards wouldn’t let us on the elevators.

About 15 minutes of waiting around in the lobby we were finally cleared to use the one elevator that was still running on the emergency power. Not less than 15 people sardined themselves into the cab, and we nervously made the trip up through the building (and yes, we had to stop at nearly every floor). Floors 1-8 had flickering lights. After that things seemed normal. My computer fired up, but then I found the server and phones were down. That made being here kind of useless since I couldn’t read my e-mail, make calls, or pull up files to work.

It’s almost 9:00 now and the phone finally kicked back on. The network isn’t working yet though. I should have slept in.

My fan repairman is coming back tomorrow afternoon to install my new fan in my bedroom. I couldn’t find one to match the gold and white one that broke. I couldn’t find anything that looked decent in gold and white. I ended up getting a more modern looking design in pewter with brown blades. The light fixture has LED bulbs, so supposedly you have a guaranteed five years and probable 10 years before they burn out. LED also draw less power and don’t get as hot as regular light bulbs. Ben, Jeremy and I actually had a big conversation about what it would take to convert your entire house to LED lighting just the other day, so I wouldn’t say it was the LED lights on this fan that sold me, but it did intrigue me.

I guess I’m going to clean my office until the network kicks back on. However, I’m setting down a time limit – if it’s not back on by noon, I’m going home and taking a nap.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Down in the west Texas town of El Paso ...


Rosa's Cantina
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
I visited my parents in El Paso for Christmas. El Paso can be a fun place, but I've had a raging sinus infection and nothing seemed fun. One thing I did find interesting though was that Rosa's Cantina from the Marty Robbins song is a real place. It's actually not too far from my parents' house. It was closed when we drove by, but next trip I'm definitely having a beer there.

Another interesting thing about El Paso is the static electricity. It's so dry there the static is overwhelming. I literally had flames shoot out of a lightswitch when I reached down to turn it on. If you walked too close to the metal chains hanging down off the fan in the living room, it would shock your head.

So my parents took us shopping for some new dress shirts and jeans, etc. It was all clothes this Christmas. Clothes are good though.

My brother bought everyone remote control helicopters. Those were a blast. I don't know how many hours we spent flying those things around the living room. I had some great videos of Ben and myself flying helicopters off of our heads, but I accidentally deleted them -- along with all the other wonderful Christmas pictures I had taken. I was so pissed at myself when I did that, but I was feeling so bad from the sinus infection I was making all sorts of stupid mistakes the last few days. I mean, I'm always clumsy, but deleting three days worth of pictures is just stupid. I also managed to drop a framed picture that Kyle made for me and shattered the glass all over her parents' kitchen floor last week. I definitely haven't had my A game.

However, I did have my A game when I beat both Jeremy and Ben at ping pong Christmas Eve. Yes, I am the ping pong champion.

I was supposed to go back to work today, but I felt so bad I called in sick and finally went to the doctor instead. I got a Z-pack for the sinus infection and I'm already feeling better although still tired.

I made it to Home Depot this afternoon and bought a new fan for the bedroom. It's got LED lights. We'll see how that works out. Now I just have to deal with the hassle of getting AHS to schedule installation. I hate AHS.

Back to work tomorrow.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I survived Finland


reindeer
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
Ok, I’ve been totally lazy about documenting this trip to Finland and telling all my stories, but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down at the computer and do it.

Anyway, we flew out Monday -- my first experience with transcontinental air travel. We were on an Air France Airbus. At first I was amazed at the size and the monitors in the seatbacks that had a live camera showing the takeoff, etc. However a few minutes into the flight I realized that the old Indian lady behind me smelled VERY strongly of curry and it was not sitting well with my stomach. Also, the seats didn’t tilt back enough to sleep, and I had to spread my legs to keep my knees from digging into the seatback in front of me. After five hours in this position knees started getting very sore. I wasn’t able to sleep a wink on the 10-hour flight to Paris, but I did watch The Breakup and Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

The Paris airport is a complicated maze, which is even more complicated by the fact that on all their signage the down arrow means straight ahead whereas in the rest of the world an up arrow means straight ahead. So we were trying to follow the down arrows by going down. That wasn’t working out too well, and the airport employees were none too helpful. However, we did make our flight to Helsinki, and while there were no movies on that flight it was a much more comfortable jet.

Once we got to Helsinki, it became very apparent that the Finnish LOVE to drink. The airport is full of bars. Even the coffee shops are actually beer shops. Everyone was drinking. Also you can actually buy taxidermied reindeer and reindeer pelts in the Helsinki airport. How would you bring a taxidermied reindeer back through customs? Do you declare it as livestock? I mean, it’s technically deadstock.

From Helsinki we got on a 20-seat prop plane for the jump to Pori. At this point I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I actually fell asleep on that flight. We landed at the tiny airport in Pori and walked through the cold to the tiny terminal to find that while our clothes did make the flight, the only camera equipment that had made it there with us was the tripod. Everyone was tired and already a ball of stress, so the producer started freaking out a bit, but the one lady who worked the ticketing desk, the gate, baggage claim, and customer information (this airport only had like 4 employees total) assured us that the rest of the equipment would show up on later flights and would be sent to our hotel.

So we got our rental cars, which turned out to be Volvo SUVs and went to the hotel. The hotel was quite interesting. Half of it was on one side of the street and the other half was across the street connected by a tunnel. We checked in on one side, but then were sent to the other side to find our rooms. I also opted to pay for the parking garage. However, I wasn’t told that the parking garage was designed for subcompact cars. I pulled in, and I had to make three point turns to go around the ends of the aisles. Then it took me three attempts in two different spots and an 8-point turn to finally wedge the Volvo in between a concrete pillar and a delivery van.

We left Houston around 4:00 Monday afternoon, and it was already 9 p.m. on Tuesday, so the crew and I grabbed some dinner and started our exploration of Finnish beers. However, having been awake for more than 24 hours we didn’t last long and everyone retired to their rooms.

Now let me describe these Finnish hotel rooms. Imagine Ikea furniture, but 20 years old and even crappier. Each room was equipped with two incredibly small twin-sized beds, and the bathroom looked like the shower stall and the toilet had been taken out of an RV. I guess small plastic toilets are the norm in the rest of the world, I don’t know.

Wednesday morning we got up, and I have to say the Fins know how to put together a really great breakfast buffet. However, the delicious porridge was not the highlight of my morning. The highlight was that I saw a freaking elf!!!!! This guy was about 4’ tall, bald, a little bit portly and had pointy ears. I swear, he was a freaking elf right out of Santa’s workshop. He was wearing a business suit instead of an elf suit though. I didn’t know it at the time, but Finland actually proclaims itself as home of Santa, so it all makes sense now.

Anyway, it was a cold morning despite everyone commenting about how it was unseasonably warm. We got to the shipyard and took a tour of the facilities. Then we filmed two interviews that morning before this thick fog rolled in and the rain started. That pretty much put an end to our outdoor shooting by lunchtime. Then we did one more interview in the fabrication shop before calling it a day.

Wednesday night started out tame with dinner at a family pizza place, but got a little out of hand after the sound guy, the cameraman and myself had wandered from bar to bar throughout Pori for a couple hours. It was remarkable at how many Hispanic-themed bars there were. The hotel bar was called Amarillo’s Tequila Bar and prided themselves on serving Tequila, Corona and Budweiser – not exactly exotic to us.

The crew went to bed, and I ended up alone in the hotel bar chatting with locals. I found out that Pori is considered the Liverpool of Finland because it’s a port town and three famous Finnish bands were from there in the 1980s. It also hosts a huge jazz festival every July. Except by jazz they really mean pop. Apparently Sting was the headliner last year.

I’d had quite a bit to drink, and the hotel bar was very full as the upstairs nightclub opened on Wednesdays. Apparently everyone was waiting in anticipation of going upstairs. I started craving a cigarette, which yes, I know is a filthy habit, but for some reason when I’ve had that much to drink, I don’t care. I stumbled over to this table full of 20-something-ish Finnish girls, and said something that I don’t recollect, but which I’m absolutely sure was ridiculously cute and funny and was promptly instructed to sit down with them. Well these cute Finnish women began plying me with cigarettes and alcohol and asking questions about the US as they impatiently waited for the nightclub to open. However, a group of engineers from Mexico who were there to tour our facilities recognized me from a previous meeting and descended upon the table and the Finnish girls. They also began plying me with many shots. We went upstairs to the nightclub, and I remember dancing with a girl wearing a boa, but not much after that.

Thursday morning I was awakened by a knock on the door. I was in my hotel room lying on one of the tiny twin beds still fully clothed. It was light outside – not a good sign since the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 this time of year in Finland. It was my producer at the door. He said, “Can I have the rental car keys, so we can go do our thing?” I said sure, reached into my pocket and handed him the keys.

I was upset that I had slept through my alarm and threw on my clothes to meet the crew downstairs. But the crew wasn’t there. The car wasn’t there. I didn’t have keys to the other car. Despite the fact that my office had issued me an “international” cell phone, it hadn’t worked since I left Houston and none of the crew’s phones worked anyway. I returned to my hotel room wondering if maybe they just had to run an errand. Thirty minutes later I realized they had just left me.

I was pissed. I mean PISSED. Yes, I overslept, but I’m in charge. You don’t just leave the guy in charge who is paying all your bills. Why had nobody bothered to come find me when I didn’t show up for breakfast? Why had they waited until 9 a.m. to come get the keys? I was going to finish the shoot, then chew them all out and fire them.

I got a cab out to the shipyard, smooth-talked security, grabbed a new hardhat and went to find the crew. I walked up on them discussing a shot, and they looked shocked to see me. The cameraman asked how I got there. Then the sound guy started asking if I was ok … and the story began to unfold.

Apparently they did knock before 9 a.m. Apparently they knocked at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Each time I answered the door. Each time they asked if I was getting dressed and coming downstairs. Each time I apparently mumbled incoherently, nodded my head and disappeared back into the room. I have no recollection of any of this. However, when it comes to black outs, I’m very happy that I simply slept through this one and wasn’t running around naked as alleged by the rumors floating around in New Braunfels.

So Thursday turned out to be a beautiful day. It was bright and sunny, and the temperature got up to I’d guess around the 40s (Fahrenheit). Of course, the second the sun started going down at 3:30 p.m. (The days are very short this time of year.) it got frigid again.

We finished shooting in the fabrication facilities with a wide-angle sweeping shot from a catwalk near the roofline. The cameraman got the shot and declared that it was the best shot he’d gotten all day, it wasn’t going to get any better, and we may as well quit now. So we quit about 4:30 and went back to the hotel. We ate dinner and had planned to have a couple beers at the hotel bar, but at this point the stress, fatigue and jetlag had set in so that everyone was literally falling asleep where they sat. It was only 9:00 p.m., but I could barely hold my head up, so I went to bed. Of course, I woke up at midnight and couldn’t do a thing to go back to sleep. The whole time change thing had really messed up my biological clock.

The next morning we packed up and went to the Pori airport. This time we made sure all our equipment was on the small plane and headed out to Helsinki. We had a three hour layover in Helsinki, so we explored the airport, posed with the taxidermied reindeers, etc. Once again we had a majorly stinky person on our flight to Paris. This time it was just plain BO. It was so bad. Once again, we got lost in Charles De Gaulle. What’s worse is our flight back to Houston was delayed over an hour because instead of finding a plane waiting at our terminal there was a bus. It was a bus that wasn’t large enough for all the passengers of a 777. So this bus would load up and drive a group 10 minutes away to the plane that was sitting out in the middle of nowhere. Then it would go back and pick up more passengers. It would show up every 25-30 minutes with more passengers. That was the longest boarding I’ve ever dealt with. However, the 777 was actually much more comfortable than the Airbus, and I ended up with an empty seat next to me. However, once again I couldn’t sleep, so I had watched Rumor Has It, Cars, and Step Up and spent many hours staring at the ceiling while listening to music before we made it home. (Oh, I also made it to the 250,000Euro question on the interactive Who Wants to be a Millionaire game.) Little did I know all the action was going on behind me.

Our sound guy was sitting next to this big, blonde Scottish girl who had way too much wine. Apparently they hit it off and started making out. Then they decided to go join the mile-high club and totally got busted trying to get into the bathroom. The flight attendants apparently reported this to the pilots, and in response the pilots invited the girl into the cockpit. She was in there over an hour, and came back claiming that they let her fly the plane. I have a feeling those pilots got some big Scottish action. So anyway, she ends up back at her seat and starts drinking with the sound guy again. Well, she has a total freak-out panic attack and starts screaming as we’re landing. At that point, despite the fact that our sound guy is an old horn-dog the crazy was too much for him, and he was desperate to get off that plane and away from her. However, he was proudly showing off the pictures of him making out with the Scottish girl when we got into the terminal.

So that was the trip. I’m sure I’ve forgotten one or two funny stories, but if I remember them I’ll post again. I think this one is long enough on its own.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I'm off to Finland

We got back from El Paso last night. I just finished repacking, and I'm off to Pori, Finland to shoot another movie for work. Don't think I'll have Internet access, so I'm not ignoring you, I'm ignoring everyone.

Be back next Sunday night.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, we made it through Thanksgiving.

Ben and I flew into El Paso Wednesday morning, and arrived just in time for lunch with the parents and grandparents. Then it was off to the golf course. I’m not a golfer. I play maybe once a year – if that. However, Ben loves the game, and it’s turned into my parents’ only hobby, so I stumbled my way through 9 holes with them while my grandparents followed us around on a cart. I actually didn’t do too bad. I think my mom hit a 50, and I hit a 57 – that’s less than one extra stroke per hole.

We grabbed some tamales for dinner. Being in El Paso is a perk when it comes to Mexican food. Then we watched The World’s Fastest Indian. I have a feeling it’s going to be a PG film festival around here all weekend as my grandparents and parents don’t watch R-rated movies. That’s kind of a shame considering my parents just bought this incredible 46” LCD HDTV. Of course, classy as they are, it’s sitting on top of the old 32” CRT TV – you know, one of those big ones with the wooden cabinet? Tonight’s movie was The Producers. Can’t say it was horrible, but I’ve never been much for musicals and this one was REALLY slow paced.

Today started with cinnamon rolls as every holiday did at our house growing up. My mom always makes them from scratch the night before. They were delicious. I’ve been snacking on them all day. My dad spent the morning doing house repair projects, and we helped out between games of ping pong. The shocker was that my mom served whine with Thanksgiving lunch. My parents never drank when we were growing up. In fact, alcohol was demonized in our household – probably why I like it as much as I love the “devil music” of Led Zeppelin. Anyway, we passed around a big bottle of white zinfandel to go with the turkey. (Yes, I know white zinfandel is redneck, but did you not see the earlier mention that the new flat-screen TV is sitting on top of the old TV?)

However, the highlight of the day was Scrabble. I know, sounds lame, but get this. Ben and I are playing on a team (poor Ben can’t spell, that’s why we’re a team), and we’re leading the entire game. However, it gets down to the last round, and we’re at 115 and my dad’s at 105. Everyone else is down in the 60s and 70s. The last play of the game, my dad uses all 7 of his letters to spell METERING and also completes two other words. He scores 37 points for his words, 50 points for using all 7 letters, and then collects the points from everyone else’s hands because we had leftover letters. His final score was 265. It was the most brilliant Scrabble move I’ve ever seen.

So that’s my blisteringly exciting Thanksgiving report. I hope all of you are having wonderful holidays. I’m off to kill the rest of that white zinfandel.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm not wearing a belt.

I forgot my belt. How do you forget your belt? I don’t know, but I did. I feel goofy walking around in slacks and a dress shirt with no belt. I guess at lunch I’ll go find a place to buy a new black belt. I don’t like my current black belt anyway because it has this extra metal loop thing on it that never stays down, and it always sets off the metal detectors at the airport. This is a good opportunity for me to break up with that belt and end our 5-year relationship of mutual disdain. I mean, the fact that I needed something to hold my pants up was really the only reason we were staying together. It’s time to move on.

Speaking of new clothing, I finally spent the $100 gift card to Academy that I’d had sitting around since last Christmas. I ended up getting a pair of low-top Dr. Martens and new Timberland hiking boots. I usually only buy about 1 pair of shoes every 2 years or so, but this year has been quite the shoe year. Oh, I know you’re feeling the same excitement I am. Two weeks ago I had to retire the ratty black dress shoes that I’d bought when I graduated college back in 2000. Then with last night’s purchase I can retire the 2-year-old Converse that fell apart. Looks like I’m set for another 5 years or so.

I’m only in the office two days this week. Then it’s off to El Paso to visit my parents and the dogs for Thanksgiving. Then it looks like Sunday I’ll fly back to Houston, and then turn around and get on another plane for Finland. We’re shooting a video and some interviews there at the company shipyard. I’m really excited because this is definitely the biggest trip I’ll have ever taken, but it’s really stressing me out being gone for two weeks. I’m trying to make sure all the bills are paid before I leave, etc. I’ll have Internet and phone service in El Paso, but I’m not taking a computer to Finland, and I really have no idea if the phone will work. It did work in Canada though, so maybe it will.

I’m trying to decide if I’m going to go to Florida in January to shoot a documentary on this lady who claims to have photographed the Skunk Ape (Bigfoot). I think she fully believes she did, but looking at the photo all I see is a blurry image of a man in a gorilla costume. However, with some jazzy writing and editing it could be a really funny/cute project. Plus, I’ve never been to Florida, and I’d get to camp out in the everglades. On the downside, I have to pay my own travel out there, and I always end up owing taxes, so January isn’t going to be the best month for me. I have to make a decision soon though. Anybody want to go with me?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Guess you know I'm back, eh?

Guess who's back? Back again. Fack is back. Tell a friend. Fack is back. Fack is back. Fack is back. Fack is back. Denananana.

Here's a little story
about Fort McMurray.
It's an oil boom town
with lots of snow flurries.
Flew up Sunday
Froze off two toes
couldn't sew them back on
But that's how it goes.

Ok, I don't know where that came from, but I'm done rapping. Sometimes I just have to flow.

Oh Canada, what can I say about you?

First off, Canada was cold as Hell -- the seventh level, you know, the one Dante envisioned frozen by the frigid winds creating by Satan's flapping wings? That's Canada. The high in Ft. McMurray the entire time we were there was -12 C. (That's 10 degrees fahrenheit for all those of you who aren't down with the metric system. (Freezing is at 32 degrees fahrenheit for those of you who are just plain retarded.)) I was so happy when we made it back to Calgary this afternoon because it was only -2 C there!

So imagine if you will standing outside in the -12 C snow wishing there was some sort of feeling in your feet for about 6 hours supervising a camera crew and listening to interviews to make sure the interviewee is spitting out the right lines, so that nothing violates corporate policies or confidentiality agreements. Meanwhile there's these Canadians standing around watching me watching the crew saying, "Lucked out with the warm weather today, eh?" Apparently it gets down to -40 C at times. I was just standing and shivering. I wasn't even running a camera or doing anything to keep me occupied. Then again, that was kind of a blessing because at least I got to keep my gloves on, so my hands weren't as cold as my feet. Although it was overcast Monday, it didn't snow hard on us, so there's something about the bitter cold that motivates you to get your scenes finished, so you don't have to stand out in the bitter cold for a second day.

So this whole Ft. McMurray region has what they call oil sands. It's oil suspended in sand, so instead of drilling for oil, you strip mine the sand, run it through some sort of process to distill the oil out of it, then put the sand back and refine the oil. Kind of weird because in the oil business up there they refer to mines instead of wells. We were staying in Ft. McMurray, which is a boom town bursting at the seems from all the oil companies importing workers for the mines and refineries. We actually shot our film up in Ft. McKay an hour north of there, but that place doesn't even have a hotel.

Ft. McMurray is small and can't really handle the capacity of people that have immigrated there. The airport is about the size of my house, and there's only two terminals (one waiting room with a door out of each side labeled "Terminal 1" and "Terminal 2". There's no extendable walkways to the jets. They just roll a stairway out onto the tarmack. You're first taste of Ft. McMurray is the bitter cold walk from the plane to the Terminal. There's constantly a line of cars ringing the drive-thru at Wendy's and every restaurant we ate at was out of certain menu items because the suppliers just couldn't keep them in stock. Unfortunately at one place that item was Bud Light, but our waitress sweet-talked me into drinking Molson's Canadian -- which they all had plenty of.

Apparently minimum wage in that town has become around $14/hour because labor is in such demand. However, rent has skyrocketed, so unless your company is paying for your housing, it's almost impossible to find a house or apartment. One thing I did notice is that since all the men are working out at the mines and refineries, the entire labor force of town is teenage to 20-something women. This, I did not mind. Young, beautiful women at the rental car place. Young, beautiful women at the hotel and restaurants. Young, beautiful at the airport. Young, beautiful women at the gas station. It was amazing. I noticed most of them were married though.

Something else I noticed about a lot of these Canadians were big freaking cold sores. That was kind of gross.

Oh, and Canadians aren't extra nice like they're portrayed in the movies. I had to cut one off in traffic, and he made an extra-special effort to catch up to me to honk and fly the bird.

From what I could tell in Ft. McMurray they just refined oil, listened to country music, rodeoed and watched Hockey. Switch the Hockey for football, and they'd be Texans with goofy accents.

Finally, we're building robots of the future

Check out this amazing article about how researchers have created a robot that is actually aware of damage, and can evaluate the damage, reinternalize it's new image and limitations, and then adapt to work around the damage. They said that they shortened one of its legs, and it was able to readjust its gait to keep walking. Pretty incredible stuff -- the very first step towards self-awareness.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15752276/

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This is really crazy

A couple in Brazil are claiming their cat has given birth to puppies after mating with the neighbor's dog.

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/ss/events/sc/111606catbirthdogs

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The robots will devour us all

So the Japanese developed a cute little food-testing robot. It can identify foods and wines. Unfortunately it thinks humans taste like bacon.

http://blog.wired.com/tableofmalcontents/2006/11/robot_identifie.html?rss

Friday, November 03, 2006

What a day

Today has not gone so smoothly. I had to be at work way too early to hit the deadlines on a newsletter I was writing/designing, so I rolled into the office about 6:30 a.m. I got all that taken care of, and then went into video production mode. We start shooting on the movie on Monday at the Houston offices, but I'm coordinating between management and the camera crew, and they have completely different ideas of how this will work. I suggested that we select a group of people to stage some board meetings, video conferences, etc. to be filmed, but that idea got vetoed. Management seems to think that all the employees will be totally cool with us just walking into meetings and offices and flipping the camera on in their faces. Riiiiiiiiiiiight. So then I met with the production crew, and they tell me that they need at least two hours to set up wherever we shoot. I have no idea how we're going to pull this off on Monday. I think it's going to turn into a big disaster fiasco -- a disasco.

Anyway, I did what I could this afternoon and then went to Barbara Bush Library for early voting because there's no way I'm going to have time on Tuesday. There was a line down the entire side of the library and back. It was a 45-minute wait. That kind of sucked, but I really wanted to make sure I got my vote in for Kinky, so stood in line and took advantage of my rights as an American.

I got home about 6:30 to find a nice big wet spot on my carpet. I was like, oh great, the dog picked my room as the urinal. Then I walked into the bathroom to find the matching landmines. I was hoping I'd get a present tonight. What a thoughtful dog.

So now the question is, what the hell do I do with the rest of my night?

Life imitates Robocop

Remember what I said about the robots taking over?

Well Samsung just released this bad boy -- a $200,000 sentry robot with intruder recognition software, infra-red imaging, and a big-ass machine gun.

Check out the video on the Tech Blog website. I love the music. It's so Airwolf.

http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/samsungs-200000-machine-gun-sentry-robot

Supposedly these are being installed on the border between North and South Korea. I'm sure that's going to ease tensions. Could you imagine if we installed them along the border with Mexico?!!!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Does your grandpa have a worm farm? Didn't think so.


farm23
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
Ben and I made the trip up to Oklahoma Thursday to spend the weekend at the farm. Why we decided to leave after work and drive all night, I'll never know. We got there at 5 a.m. It wasn't a fun commute.

We also had Ben's dog Dutch with us. Dutch isn't a real exciting or active dog. I think he might be brain damaged. When he does get excited he just runs in circles and chases his tail until he collapses. Then he's not excited he just lays around wanting to snuggle with people. He also has no short-term memory of who people are. If you walk out of a room and back in, he'll bark at you because he doesn't remember you. Every night when I get home from work, I get barked at because he has no idea who I am until he finally recognizes my yelling. Well, being developmentally disable Dutch is not smart enough to actually go to the bathroom when he's being walked at rest stops. I don't think he ever went the entire trip. Oh, we stopped for him often because we were more and more paranoid he was going to relieve himself in the car -- but he never went.

The weekend was fun. The weather was nice. I spent Saturday lazing around under a tree in a creekbed. I tracked some coyotes and actually came across one that afternoon. I snapped a picture, but he's so camouflaged that you can barely see him.

I ran into the doctor that birthed me and my elementary school librarian. Stuff like that happens in small towns.

Grandpa showed off his new worm farm, which looks a lot like an old refrigerator filled with dirt where they dump their eggshells and coffee grounds. I dug around in it a little, but didn't find any worms. However, by spring it's going to be the perfect place to dump bodies.

Apparently Dutch wouldn't stop barking this morning and drove a neighbor to actually call the cops. I don't know how you train a dog not to bark when he only barks when you're not there. Hopefully the police won't decide to take him out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nothing exciting


halloween
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
I almost lost my glasses last night. I never wear them except when I'm working on the computer or driving at night, so I had them in my pocket driving home from work yesterday. Then they were gone. I couldn't find them all evening. I finally started back-tracking my steps from when I got home, and I realized that I had bent over to pick up the empty garbage cans and carry them into the garage. When I did that my glasses fell out of my pocket. I found them lying in the grass by the curb.

I’ve got to call some repairmen out to the house. A ceiling fan has quit and my refrigerator is leaking water everywhere. Even after I shut the water off to it, it’s still leaking – not fun.

Supposedly we’re going to Oklahoma this weekend to visit the grandparents, so I guess I’ll have to keep mopping up the water until I can be home for the repairs.

I’ve got to teach Junior Achievement today. I always dread that. The kids I teach are very well-behaved, I think I just have permanent ingrained hate for schools.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Gimme a brake ... or four

Not a very exciting weekend here. Since Jace's brakes have been squealing since like January he finally decided it was time to fix them. Let's just say, it took a little longer than planned. When we tried to take the first wheel off, the lugs were all seized up, so we ended up snapping three of the lug studs. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the job. Seven hours later we finally had all four brakes fixed and changed the oil and transmission fluid. Jace hadn't been planning on changing the transmission fluid, but during our lunch break I was like, "I'll go drain the oil." I'd never worked on a foreign car before, so I couldn't quite identify an oil pan. I just unscrewed what looked to be a drain plug on the bottom of the motor. Turned out it was the transmission drain. Hey, he had 130k on the car, it probably needed the transmission fluid changed anyway.

The car can stop on a dime now, but apparently Jace doesn't have much confidence in our ability as mechanics. He freaked out on the freeway on his way home this evening because the car was having a weird vibration. I went to go pick him up, but the car miraculously healed itself and was running normal again by the time I got there. Maybe he'll be more confident when it passes the safety inspection.

We hit up midtown last night. Midtown is midtown. Nothing exciting. I do wish all those bars would turn their music down though. I mean, they're not dance clubs. People aren't really dancing. They're just hanging out, but the music is too loud to talk. You have to yell at the top of your lungs just to tell each other your drink orders. So since the music is so loud, nobody even talks to each other. They just stand around trying to look cool.

Today has been nothing but cleaning. I scrubbed down the kitchen, cleaned my room, and did laundry. I went to the grocery store and got more pumpkin pie.

The autumn weather is finally here. I think the cool weather is making everyone lonely. They want someone to keep them warm. I wouldn't mind cranking up the fireplace and popping the cork on a bottle of wine with someone.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hydrogen is flammable, oxygen helps it burn, yet water puts out the fire.

I’ve been putting out fires all morning. I had to get proofs for a benefits brochure back to the printer, and then get a Chronicle ad written, approved and sent by noon. Somehow it just always works out. It’s a mystery.

I gave up on growing the hair out. As much as I wanted the cool long hair that I’ve never had the patience to grow my entire life, I just couldn’t deal with how horrible it was looking. Plus, taking the time to blow dry it in the mornings just isn’t in my schedule. So I went back to the super short cut on Monday. I shaved off the goatee too. I’m not sure why. I just felt like it.

Supposedly the dog hasn’t had any more accidents in the house. Of course, my brother’s been home sick with it ever since he got it. He got diagnosed with strep on Monday, but then he started throwing up on Tuesday. I’m doing my best to drink plenty of alcohol to kill any germs he’s spreading around that may be trying to invade my body. So anyway, he apparently just sits at home with the dog all day. We still don’t know what’s going to happen when he gets left home alone. Also, I keep coming home to find my brother walking him to go to the bathroom in the front yard. I can’t quite figure out why he can’t just go out in the back.

So word on the street was Front Porch Pub tonight, but I texted one of my friends I hadn’t talked to in close to a year to confirm this with her, and some guy called me back from her phone. I didn’t know whether I should invite him or not since he already knew where we were going from the text. I could just see him showing up and having to introduce him as “the random dude that now has Betsy’s phone number.”

No open mic performance last night as I had a company dinner. None tonight either. Maybe next week I’ll unveil the new songs.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The songs are taking shape

I spent more time in the studio on Friday doing some mixing and editing with Karim. They're still not completely finished, but She's Infectious and Silverscreen Dreams are starting to take shape.
Check them out:
She's Infectious
Silverscreen Dreams

Unfortunately Pawn Shop Guitars is taking much longer and needs more studio time to record more guitar parts. Don't know if I'll ever be able to afford that or if we're just going to have to cut losses there. I'd sure like to have it on my promo disc in the press kits, but we've got too much invested already to spend another $200 finishing it.

At work we got clearance to film in Canada, but we may have to cut the Canadian site because of budget restraints. Kind of sucks because I was excited about seeing the Great White North. We may still go. Who knows? We're meeting with the production company again tomorrow.

I now have a dog. Actually, my brother and his girlfriend adopted a dog together this weekend, but as my brother lives with me, it basically boils down to me having a dog. I don't know what breeds it is, but the best way I can describe it is Rin Tin Tin humped Benji. It only weighs 30 pounds, but it managed to take an amazingly huge dump on the tile in the entryway yesterday. Then this morning I ran into Ben and the dog walking into the kitchen as I was leaving, so I patted it on the head, and it looked up at me and peed on the carpet at my feet. This dog may be headed back to the SPCA unless it learns some bladder control.

That's about all the news. I may be tagging along to Oklahoma with Ben the weekend after next if we're not traveling for work.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

One thing I like about Halloween


One thing I like about Halloween
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
Nobody makes fun of me for drinking out of my pumpkin mug. Best present EVER.

And yes, the eyes jiggle!

And I'm sure the record labels will be calling at any moment


Magik Studio Sessions 10-07-06
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
I spent the weekend at Magik Studios with Jess, Bob, Karim, and Mark. We managed to record the music to three songs in a little under four hours Friday night. Then I went back Saturday to lay down vocals. Karim sent me home with quick mixes Saturday. This week I've got to make notes on what needs the be changed/fixed. Then we edit, mix and master next Friday.

It's been exciting because it's the first time I've been in a real studio, but also scary because I've always chocked up a lot of the shortcomings of my home recordings to equipment. Now I've got to face the fact that some of those shortcomings are actually talent based. I've been working on my singing for years now, and I still have a horrible tendency to go flat.

We ended up recording Pawn Shop Guitars, She's Infectious, and Silverscreen Dreams. I'll post the final results next weekend.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I'm writing this down before I forget it

I had a crazy dream this morning. I was in some foreign country, and I had to use my drivers license to get in and out of all these buildings. Anyway, I was in this park/zoo place, and I went and sat down in what was either a booth or a tram car, but it was right next to the walls of the tiger cage. So the walls on this cage are not very high. The tiger is standing on his hind legs with his front legs over the top of the wall and sticking his head into the booth sniffing at me. Well, I lean back to get away from him and something pokes me in the back of the head. I look up, and it's a freaking polar bear sticking his huge head into the booth from behind me,and I realize the back of the booth is right up against the wall of the polar bear cage, so I lean forward to get away from him, but I'm still trying to stay away from the tiger. Then I feel something yank my right leg really hard. I look down, and the polar bear has found an open slat in the side of the booth and is reaching through with his big-ass paw and yanking at my leg. So I jump up, but there's not a lot of room to move around in this booth because there's a table in front of me. It's at this point, the tiger decides just to jump into the booth. He's kind of timid about it though because he acts like a dog that's been told not to do it, but he know he can, so he's going to try it and test your limits. Well, I yell, "Shoo, get out of here," and the tiger turns around jumps back into his pen. I'm just standing there cramped between the table and the seats of the booth afraid that if I turn my back to the tiger or the polar bear one of them will take a bit out of me over the wall. So then, as if that's not weird enough, the tiger suddenly looks at me and says, "You know I can come over that wall anytime I want, and you're not going to stop me."

So I back out of the booth and make an exit out of the zoo, but as I'm headed to my next destination, I realize that I don't have my ID. I must have dropped it in the floor of that booth, so I get the zoo people to let me back in, and I'm slowly walking back to the booth/trolley car thing trying to figure out how I'm going to bend down and reach under the table to get my ID without ending up with a tiger on top of me and a polar bear grabbing me through the slats.

That's when the alarm went off.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Where's the pumpkin pie?

I had a grandiose plan for this evening. It went like this:
1) Buy pumpkin pie.
2) Rent a movie.
3) Eat entire pie while watching movie.

The problem is, despite the fact that there are pumpkins stacked all over the groceries stores, the bakeries still aren't making any pumpkin pies. I went to Randall's first, and they had apple, cherry, and pecan pies, but no pumpkin. I almost settled for pecan and went home, but I REALLY wanted pumpkin, so I drove on down Louetta to HEB. That was a real disappointment. The only pie they had was a pineapple pie. So then I resorted to going to the frozen foods section. I grabbed a frozen pumpkin pie, and moved on to step 2.

When I got home at 7:00 I started reading the instructions on the frozen pie. You had to bake the thing for an HOUR. Then it said to wait TWO HOURS before eating. THREE FREAKING HOURS! It was going to be 10:00 before I finally got any pie.

Well, I gave in and had hotdogs for dinner while I watched Sin City. Then yes, finally at 10:00 I had a slice of pie. It was delicious, but not quite as delicious as it would have been if I'd had it at 6:00 when I decided I wanted pie for dinner. Why are the grocery stores already pimping halloween, but failing to provide people with ready-to-eat pumpkin pies? I'm filing complaints.

Incidentally though as I was looking at Halloween stuff on the Internet, I did come across an article about how to make sex toys out of a pumpkin, some plastic bags, and a plastic tennis ball container. I may never look at a pumpkin the same way again.

And no I haven't tried it ... yet.

The concert at Swig was a blast. 4Play rocked as always. Hopefully we'll be seeing them back on Wednesday nights. Of course, I'm always at open mic on Wednesday nights, but oh well.

Lots of work tomorrow. I've got a meeting with the video production people on setting up a schedule and budget to go shoot our projects first thing in the morning, and it's non-stop from there. Plus I've got to figure out my lesson plan for the second session of Junior Achievement on Tuesday. This time I've got the kids in the computer lab. Should be interesting.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

It's just sad

I went to see a friend last night. It was his birthday, and he went through a divorce this last year, so I made an effort to go. He just moved into a new place and he had his kids over there for the first time. I hadn't seen them since before my own divorce. Anyway, I could tell my buddy was an emotional wreck and he started drinking. By the time we were grilling he was having trouble walking a straight line, and he actually went down once in the kitchen. That was depressing enough, but then I was sitting and talking to the kids, and they loved my ex, so they started asking, "Where's Ms. Katie?" and that about put me over the edge. It was a really sad night.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jamaica Beach is Clean

I got up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning and picked up trash along Jamaica Beach in Galveston. You would think the most profilic type of trash would be cigarette butts/filters, but they weren't. We picked up more water bottle caps than I could even count. I bet I picked up well over 100. There were so many of those plastic bottle caps, and a ton of those strips of plastic that you tear of milk-bottle type lids to open them.

Anyway, the wind was crazy. I had one hell of a white-boy afro after being out there for three hours.

Oh, and I almost forgot. We found a baby whale stranded on the beach, so we all dug in the sand around it and attempted to make a sort of canal back into the ocean. It was just calling out to us over and over with it's little whale voice like, "arrrrriiiiieeeeee, arrrrriiieeeeeee". After a little help we guided him back into the waves, and into deeper water. As he swam off, he rolled and spouted as if to say, "Thank you." I'll never forget the look in that baby whale's eye.

Actually, that didn't happen, but I did find two dead birds. I would have attempted CPR on them, but ants had already eaten their eyeballs, so I figured it was too late.

Friday, September 22, 2006

$2.14 PRAISE JESUS!

I just filled up with gas on the way home from the Astros game, and it was only $2.14 a gallon. I was amazed. I'm just hoping that it'll drop below $2 again -- at least for a little while. That sure would make life nice.

So I had a meeting with my boss and the Pres today. We have an annual information meeting coming up. These are huge meetings where all the execs discuss how the year went with our 1,500 or so employees. Well, the Pres wants video clips of all our 2006 projects for the meeting, and then he wants a big promo reel with all those project clips spliced together with cool music, etc.

This rules for two reasons. The first, is that I love making movies, and even though these aren't the knee-slapping comedies and award-winning dramas that I wish I was making, they're still fun. The second is that I'm going to have to travel to all the project sites to get the footage and interviews. Let me list a few of the places these projects are located: Louisiana, Canada, Trinidad, Tahiti, Finland -- if this all comes to fruition I'm going to get to spend October just flying around the world making movies!!!

I've got to get up early tomorrow for Galveston beach fall clean up. Too bad there's nothing we can do to make the water cleaner.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Must write hit song ...


DSCF1143
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
My dad metioned to me that this season American Idol is going to have a Songwriting Contest running in conjunction with the singing competition. The winning song gets sung by the winning Idol contestant. I must win this contest.

I was trying to find it online, but all I could come up with was The Great American Song Contest. I'm not sure if it's the same thing. If not, I'll just enter them both. The downside is that for the GASC there's an entry fee of $25 per song. Still, that's so much easier than standing in line for days to sing some crappy cover for Simon, Paula and Randy.

No plans for the weekend. Maybe inspiration will strike and I'll finish my hit song tomorrow.

Side note: I was extremely disappointed in Supernova's selection of Lucas. That guy is such a poser. Dilana was robbed. But then again, it was obvious weeks ago that those guys didn't want a woman fronting their band. Now there's all this legal trouble over the name Supernova. I saw suggestions on various message boards for new names. My favorites were "Wannabe and the Hasbeens" and "Skunk Boy and the Stinkers."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Rockstar Supernova Predictions

Did anyone watch tonight? Good performances all the way around, but Dilana was over the top. Her cover of Roxanne was pretty damn good although I wish it had gotten a little harder at the end. Her original is great too. Of course, they're always spinning her entire album at Acadia, so I've heard quite a bit of her stuff.

Toby by far has the catchiest original song, and I was amazed that Ryan was voted to have the encore because his original blows. I can write a better song than that (and have) in my sleep.

So what do I predict? Although I think Dilana is the best singer in the competition, I predict Toby to win. Magnus just doesn't have the right voice or the right style for Supernova. Lucas spends too much time on his makeup, not enough time on his vocals. He sounds good most of the time, but then every once in a while you're like, whoa, what was that? Did a muppet sneak on stage?!!! Dilana is wonderful, but Supernova isn't going to take a woman -- if they do you can totally call me out and tell me I'm an idiot.

I think the guys in Supernova made up their mind four weeks ago. Toby will be their lead singer. The other three will tour will the house band.

I have spoken. What is your prediction?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows

Thursday night I got to check out a great concert thanks to my friend Jamie. We saw Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows. Both bands put on great shows, and I feel soooo much better about myself when it turned out that both Johnny Rzeznik and Adam Duritz don't sing as high as the vocals on their albums in concert. I've never been able to make it through a cover of "Iris" trying to sing the high parts without my voice cracking. I always take it down for shows. Likewise, for Mr. Jones I always put a capo on the 4th fret of the guitar to bring it into a lower key, so that I can reach that superhigh "Mr. JONES and me" part. Well, neither of these singers even try to reach the highs. They either sing the harmony parts or keep it in the lower register.

However, it was still a great show, and these two hardcore Goo Goo Dolls fans left between bands and we totally scored their abandoned lawn chairs.

On a side note, Robbie Takac, bassist for the band was cracking me up. They guy was jumping around stage like Jack Black and frankly, he looks kind of like Jack Black -- except he was totally serious about his rocking.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dying alone

We had a lady at our office die over the weekend. She lived alone and had no real family. When she didn't show up to work on Monday, a couple of employees went to her house looking for her. They found a note on the door from the coroner stating that she was deceased and that if anyone knew next of kin they should contact the county coroner's office.

Apparently she was able to dial 911 as she had the heart attack, so at least they came and found her, and she didn't just lay there all weekend, but it's still so sad that she didn't have anyone close enough to her to even know she was gone.

That's pretty much why I want to make sure I die in an explosion big enough that it's visible to a 100-mile radius. That way whether or not you knew me, you'll definitely KNOW when I'm gone.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

So we go back to the river, battle the bees, battle the ants, and almost see Bob Seger

So we went back to the river for the weekend. I wouldn’t label it as a disaster, but it wasn’t the smoothest trip we’ve ever taken. Don’t get me wrong, there was still plenty of fun, but there was equal torture for every moment of fun.

As usual we didn’t leave the house until around 9:30 p.m. Friday night and rolled into camp around 12:30 a.m. We tried to camp at a place called Mountain Breeze Camp because it was suggested by my skydiving instructor, but they weren’t too keen on people showing up past midnight. That meant we were headed back to O’Henry’s Hideaway. We pulled in and set up camp, and then had a few beers while we played guitar. That’s when the cute little skunk decided to come visit. He just kind of rooted around the campsite and then hung out under the truck for a while. Then he decided to scurry away. Thankfully he didn’t leave us any scented reminders of his visit.

We got up Saturday morning about the time Cassie and Christa rolled in. They had worked Friday night, so they hadn’t slept at all. The girls went at least 36 hours without sleep this trip. It was ridiculous.

As we got up and started wandering around the camp we realized we had an all new problem. BEES! Lots and lots of bees! There were bees everywhere, and if you didn’t know, bees LOVE really sweet-tasting, fruity, girly drinks. Cranberry vodka? Oh yeah, bees LOVE them. Sure enough, before the weekend was over, Cassie got stung on the wrist, and I got a nice sting on the palm of my hand. Plus, there was that constant fear that perhaps a bee had crawled into your can and you were about to drink a bee!

We headed down to the Comal for a float. The girls had mixed up this huge jug of cherry lime shots to supplement the beer as we were floating. Well, about 30 minutes into the float, someone didn’t get the lid back on the jug very well, and it emptied into the cooler. That was the origin of our “cooler shots.” There’s nothing like just scooping a cupful of alcoholic water out of the cooler and shooting it down. What’s so funny was that the girls started offering people “cooler shots”, and this one lady was like, “Jell-O shots?!!! Thank you!” But then they handed her a freaking cup of cooler water. It was too funny. The lady shot it down and said it was delicious.

We decided to ride the river a second time. Some of us wore sunscreen. Some of us didn’t. Those that didn’t paid the price by the end of the second trip. Jace and Cassie were majorly sunburned.

We decided to grab dinner at The Grist Mill in Gruene. When we got there, we saw this HUGE long line of people waiting to get into Gruene Hall. Once we finally got seated at The Grist Mill we asked our waiter who was playing. He said “Bob Seger.” Well, Jace flipped out because he’s a HUGE Bob Seger fan, so he was like, we HAVE to get tickets! He took off over to the hall to find out more details while we waited to order. We also started getting more and more excited about seeing Bob Seger. Then Jace gets back, and it was actually Bob Schneider, so then we didn’t really care. Not that Bob Schneider isn’t good, but you can see him anywhere.

Meanwhile there was live entertainment at The Grist Mill. This old married couple were playing in front of the water tower, and it reminded me of Will Farrel/Anna Gasteyer as Bob and Marty Culp. Geez they were bad. I need to get a CD and some headshots over to that place, and get some gigs.

So after a chicken fried steak, we headed back to the campground. Unfortunately there was no DJ Shawn in effect this Saturday. They didn’t have enough campers to bring him out for karaoke. That was a real disappointed. So to make up for it we started a big fire, and spent like three hours burning stuff and playing guitar. Good times.

So we finally went to bed Saturday night. I lay down, and after a few minutes I feel something biting me. I find a few fire ants crawling on my legs. That’s not cool, but I figured, hey, we ended up with a few ants in the tent, it’ll be fine. Then there were more bites. And more bites. And MORE bites. And then Cassie woke up over on her air mattress because she had started getting bitten. We turn on the flashlight, and there’s a HUGE trail of ants marching up the middle of the tent. They were freaking moving in. They were carrying their little larva babies up the middle of my tent and making a new nest under my foam pad.

Obviously, action had to be taken. I went and got the OFF, which isn’t actually bug killer, but I figured if I sprayed enough of it on the ants then even if it didn’t poison them they would probably drown. I probably spent close to half an hour spraying ants, squishing ants, and sweeping ants back out of the tent. It was awful. I ended up with at least a dozen fire ants bites on my arms, legs, stomach, back and groin region. They’ve been pussing up all day. It’s real comfortable – not to mention attractive.

So we finally declared the tent ant free and went back to bed. Well, the ants weren’t completely gone, but were gone enough that it was possible to get an hour or two of sleep between bites.

This morning we got up, packed up and headed home. Jace and Cassie attempted a new sunburn treatment which consisted of rubbing shaving cream all over their bodies. Supposedly the shaving cream draws out the heat. My thought is that shaving cream just has aloe and lotions in it, so it’s basically the same as rubbing lotion on it, but hey, that’s just me making assumptions and drawing conclusions. I’m not going to tell anyone not to rub shaving cream all over their body if they want to.

So you’d think, trip over, end of adventure, right? Wrong. We decided to go to McDonald’s on the way out of time. The time was 10:58 a.m. We hit the drive-through – they wouldn’t serve us lunch. I walk in thinking they’re not going to hassle a customer face to face over two freaking minutes, and I’d get my quarter pounder and be on my way. Wrong. They were like, “Sorry, it’ll be a couple more minutes.” So we say, fine, and got sit down. A guy walks up RIGHT after us, and orders a Big Mac – they give it to him. We’re like, screw that, and walk back up, but then this other lady hops in front of us in line. She gets her order too. So we finally order, and the girl gives us our drinks, but no food. Then two more people order and get their food. We’re still waiting on our food. The whole thing was turning into a Seinfeld episode.

Anyway, we finally got our food, got home, did some laundry. Now I’m just chilling out watching the Emmy’s and scratching all my bug bites.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Another incarnation of the General Lee

So continuing with the “modes of transportation painted like the General Lee” theme, here’s a golf cart that was parked outside the clubhouse of the golf course next door to Skydive Houston. Maybe it belonged to Tom Wopat.

Anyone here ever competed in an Ironman Triathlon? You swim 2.4 miles, bike for 112 miles, and then run a 26-mile marathon. I just interviewed a guy that competed in Germany. He crashed his bike and broke his collarbone 15 miles into the second stage, but got back up and finished the biking. Then he had a volunteer help him put his running shoes on since he could barely move his right arm, and he ran the marathon in 5 hours. He said it was the slowest time he’d ever had, but I was like, it was also the only time you’ve ever run one with a broken bone. He made me feel like a wussy-baby.

I’m so ready for the weekend. I just want to be sitting on the river again. There’s no way we could outdo the last trip, so we’re changing it up and floating the Comal this time. Plus, Ben and Jace are bringing their women, so it won’t just be a big testosterone festival this time around.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Do Bo and Luke ride this together?!!!

I heard they do – while wearing Daisy Dukes. I wonder who drives and who wears the “if you can read this the bitch fell off” t-shirt.

It’s been an uneventful week so far. All I do in the evenings anymore is go home, eat dinner, work out and practice guitar. I’ll probably play some Nickelback and some Jane’s Addiction at open mic tonight, which is really hypocritical because I can’t even stand Nickelback on the radio anymore, but then I heard that new Rockstar song, and I thought it was hilarious, so now I want to play it. I’m an idiot.

I’m two-and-a-half weeks into my fitness program for the possible vampire action-movie role. I’m really starting to see a difference, and I’ve dropped about five pounds, but usually the real progress doesn’t happen until past the four-week mark. I guess it keeps me out of trouble in the evenings, but I’m sure going through a lot of Advil.

We’ve decided to take one last float trip before the summer’s over, so we’re going back to New Braunfels this weekend. This summer has been the most fun I can remember in a long time – playing acoustic shows on the patio of The Boat, Lebowski Fest, two trips to the beach, a trip to Lake Travis, a couple trips to the river, and skydiving – it doesn’t get much better than that.

I think we’re going to try and float the Comal this time as the Guadalupe is so low you have to walk half of it. I’ve heard bad things though. Some people say it’s filthy from too many tubers coming through. Some people say the police are waiting for you all up and down the river to ticket you for noise violations, littering, and public intoxication. Then again, some people say it’s all hearsay. I guess we’ll find out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

There were snakes on our plane, so we jumped out


skydiving20
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
We went SKYDIVING this weekend!!! Saturday morning Jace told me that he had gotten his little sister Jessica a skydiving trip for her birthday on Sunday and asked if I wanted to go along. Hell YEAH I did!

We headed out to Skydive Houston Sunday afternoon. It’s located north on 290 out by Hockley. We printed directions from Mapquest, and of course, in true Mapquest fashion, they were wrong. We got a nice tour of the Texas countryside though.

We jumped tandem – a “trained professional” is strapped to you, so instead of having to sit through hours and hours of training you simply sign your life away on several forms, sit through a non-intentionally hilarious video narrated by some guy with a gigantic beard and get about 10 minutes of instruction as you’re being fitted for your harness and ushered off to the plane.

I did notice that the jumpsuits provided for the girls were all actual skydiving suits whereas the jumpsuits provided for the guys were just old Dickies. What’s up with that? I’m bringing my own spandex body suit next jump!

I was thrilled when I found out I was being strapped to the gorgeous 6’-tall tandem instructor. But seriously, how do you impress a girl that spends her weekends jumping out of an airplane?!!!

So we did a lot of sitting around waiting on our turn. We showed up at 2 p.m., and we didn’t actually fly until around 4:30. However, there were plenty of interesting people to chat with while we waited. I actually ran into a guy from my office. Apparently he had already jumped four times and was about to go a fifth. Monetary limitations aside, I’m not sure I could handle that much adrenaline in a day -- I had the adrenaline shakes for like two hours after the one jump.

Our turn to fly finally came around, and we headed out to the plane. It was really cramped with a low ceiling – it felt just like the scenes in little planes in the movies. A couple solo divers jumped before us, but I was the first one from our group to go. To prepare for the jump I had to sit on my instructor Theresa’s lap while she clipped us together and tightened up my harness. I suggested that maybe we should be strapped face to face – you know, for a little extra security (wink, wink) but she wasn’t buying it.

Walking to the door was a little awkward. Being strapped in front you have to lean back with your legs out in front of you – kind of like sitting in a chair, but walking while sitting in a chair. I really wasn’t nervous until we started making the walk to the door. Then, only as I was standing with my toes over the edge of the doorway looking down at the world from 14,000 feet with the cold wind blowing in my face, did I say to myself, “Why the hell am I about to jump out of a plane?”

We didn’t exit with style. I was stiff as a board and Theresa kept tapping me trying to get me to loosen up. There’s something about that feeling of falling. It’s hardwired into my brain to be associated with a hard smack against the water or the ground or whatever I’m jumping or falling on to. The thing about skydiving is there’s no smack – hopefully. Once we were in free fall for a few seconds and I realized there was no immediate smack to be had, I really started enjoying it. I shook hands with the camera man in the air, and he spun us around in circles. It was amazing. The air was rushing over my face at a ridiculous speed. It actually made it kind of hard to breathe just because I couldn’t suck enough air in. Then suddenly, we’ve stopped and we’re just floating over the Texas countryside. It was just total silence as we hung there. Theresa pointed out the Houston skyline to me through the haze on the horizon. Then she let me steer the chute, showed me how to brake, etc. I could have floated all day – drifting in circles on the wind.

Since there were two of us, we had to do a slide landing. Basically you raise your legs and pull the steering cords down all the way right as you get to the ground, and it sets you down on your butt. Apparently that’s the safest way to land with two people because it’s hard to walk anyway when you’re strapped together.

I didn’t realize how much adrenaline I had going until we were on the ground, and Theresa handed me my first jump certificate. My hand was just shaking uncontrollably. The feeling didn’t wear off until at least an hour later when we stopped to eat at PF Chang’s on the way home.

I watched my DVD of the jump when I got home last night, and just watching the freefall section made my heart beat double time. It’s just an amazing feeling.

Will I jump again? Yes. But considering it’s almost $200 a jump, and I'm a poor bastard, probably not anytime soon.

Clements class of 1996 Reunion


Clements class of 1996 Reunion
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
I had my 10-year reunion Saturday night. Unfortunately a lot of the people I actually wanted to see didn’t show up. I’d say the bulk of the attendees were a bunch of girls who had been really popular in high school. They were all walking in with their husbands at the same time I was. Most of them were pregnant. I think they must have called each other about seven months ago and said, “Reunion’s coming up, time to get knocked up!!!”

Lots of engineers. Lots of people “in sales” -- whatever that means. One EMT, one family counselor, and one graphic artist. Didn’t find any other writers.

I did find out that the girl who dated the Brazilian foreign exchange student that lived with us for a year is now lesbian and married to her partner. Apparently they bought a popsicle and had a daughter. Interesting stuff. I wonder if Fabio knows that he turned his girlfriend into a lesbian!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ten years too late

I'm astounded that someone has finally been arrested for the JonBenet Ramsey murder. Seriously, who knew the police were even still working on that. I thought everyone had decided her parents did it. Now some guy says he accidentally killed her while he was kidnapping her. Too weird.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Down on the hippo farm

So here's a little ponderance. When a pig goes to slaughter, it weighs 200-400 pounds. When a cow goes to slaughter, it weighs 400-550 pounds. Now stay with me here. Hippos can weigh anywhere from 3525-7055 pounds. Why aren't we breeding hippos in all our neighborhood drainage bayous and feeding everyone hippo?!!!

Seriously, they look delicious to me. I think this plan is totally going to work.

Jesus was a Rotweiller


Tube Time
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
How do I even start to describe the weekend? We stepped into that weird world of rednecks, retirees, and rock star wannabes that you can only find in resort/vacation towns.

Just out of pure accident did I make reservations at O’Henry’s Hideaway on the Guadalupe River. I had tried getting us into a state park, but they were all booked up. O’Henry’s was just the first place I found while surfing the web for another site. What I didn’t know is that most people go to O’Henry’s due to the fact that the camp quiet time is set much later than other camps. While most have quiet time starting at 9:00, O’Henry’s sign states that theirs starts at midnight. However, the camp really never got quiet before 2 a.m. Another big draw of O’Henry’s is the fact that they host karaoke on Saturday nights.

This campsite drew a younger crowd, which was cool. We didn’t roll in until after midnight and were greeted by a couple girls from Dallas offering Jell-O shots. We had a few beers with them, strummed the guitars for a few minutes, and then headed to bed.

Saturday morning we went into town for breakfast and beer. We pulled into The Skillet for some breakfast as it apparently had a buffet. That was an instant flashback to the small-town greasy diners where I used to go eat breakfast with my grandfather as a kid. Everyone in there was a local, and the majority of them were definitely taking advantage of the senior citizen discount.

There was this booth full of granny-fros behind us, and they got up to leave at the same time we did. On our way out they stopped us and said, “You sure are nice boys. You’re so well behaved, you just don’t see that much anymore. And you never know who’s watching because Jesus is always watching. And Jesus was a Rotweiller, hahahahaha.”

I’d heard the “Jesus is a Rotweiller” joke before. Has something to do with a parrot and a burglar. However, Ben, Jace, and Travis were standing there with this blank look on their faces and this old lady was just laughing her ass off at her own joke that made no sense. Comedy gold if I’ve ever seen it.

We were torn between floating that upstream part of the Guadalupe River near O’Henry’s or going downstream to the more popular part. We also thought about going over to the Comal, but the convenience of not having to drive anywhere from where we were outweighed everything else. We hopped on the bus and got dropped a couple miles upstream.

The river was low and moving slow. The few rapid places were so shallow that we had to walk them. However, the upside was nice people and NO cops. We met some girls from Conroe that were also staying at our camp and floated with them most of the day.

We got back to the camp that evening and Ben and I made a run to Sonic for some food while Jace and Travis took a nap. Then we ate and played guitars until around 9:00 when they cranked up the karaoke.

Now, the karaoke DJ went by DJ Shawn. This guy was like 40 with the big mullet hair, and the belief that he was truly the best singer that ever lived. He kept rocking us with total 80s metal songs. He was sooooo into it. Of course, me being the rockstar that I am, I had to challenge his superiority, so I started getting WAY into my Rolling Stones covers with the hip shimmies and gyrations, etc. I think he was getting a little upset with my prowess. So towards the end of the night, he closes with some total heavy metal something-or-other, and he’s all marching through the whole place fist pumping and gyrating like crazy. We got some seriously awesome pictures of this. That’s about where my memory of the night ends. However, there was an apparent side affect of my karaoke mojo that I wasn’t expecting. This 65+-year-old lady who worked at the camp was apparently coming onto me. There’s now a great picture circulating where she’s hugging up on my back.

So after that we went down to the river, splashed around a bit. Then I woke up in a wet swimming suit on the floor of my tent.

We had planned to float the Comal on Sunday, but everyone was so hung over, and Travis was so sunburned we decided to call it a day and just head home. All-in-all, a very successful weekend -- definitely the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

What?

So did everyone on earth just break up with their boyfriends/girlfriends or file for divorce? Seems like everyone I know has within the last two weeks.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The History of Tubing

In just a couple of short hours, we will be on our way to New Braunfels for a fun-filled weekend of tubes, sun, and beer.

In honor of this event I have compiled for you a brief summary of the history of tubing.

Tubing originated in the Greek Isles. During the celebration Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, the Greek women would swim across a stream fed by the melting snow of Mount Olympus and display their boobies to the men on the other side. The men in turn would take bloated sheep stomachs, and float across the river with wine to seduce the fair maidens.

With the advancements of the Romans, and the adoption of so many customs from other cultures, tubing was continued under the Latin name "bovis venter no." This literally translated to "Cow Stomach Float" as the Romans used the larger, four-chambered stomachs of cows to get a better ride as they floated down the aquaducts that they built to bring water into town.

After Constantine adopted Christianity and the Catholic Church grew in power, tubing was banned as a pagan activity. As you may have read before, many poor souls were burned as witches if they floated the river. Floating in water was strictly forbidden.

It wasn't until the industrial revolution that tubing once again briefly came into fashion as many grist mills and textile factories were powered by water wheels along rivers perfect for floating. However, the pollution of these streams soon put an end to the passing fad as most people who dared to brave the soiled waters ended up going blind or dying of the black lung.

It seemed as if this enjoyable passtime had suddenly become just a footnote in the annals of history -- that is however until the surrender of General Santa Anna to Colonel Steve Austin as Texas won its Independence from Mexico. In the charter detailing the terms of surrender, Santa Anna, a closeted, but avid tuber, added a rider stating that all Mexicans would still have the freedom to tube the Rio Grande for all time. Santa Anna truly believed this would be his lasting legacy to the Mexican people and revenge on the new Texas government. Little did he realize that farmers would soon build so many dams upstream of the Mexican border that the might Rio would soon be reduced to just puddles of standing water for most of the year.

Tubing didn't return as a regular Texas pastime until the year 1861. The Wagon Wheel Festival was held that year, and residents of the New Braunfels area turned out in force for the celebration. They floated the river by lashing several wooden wagon wheels together. On these platforms they then barbecued and drank in a contest of skill. You see, the large diameter, but slender wagon wheels did not balance well, and the last one atop their wheel and still drinking was declared the winner. Sadly, most people of this time period did not know how to swim, so there were more than a few drownings, but alas, it was all in the name of fun.

Unfortunately, it was also 1861 when the Civil War began. This North/South turmoil was on the minds of everyone and tubing was forgotten. However, in 1886, the first car was invented. And with the car, came the first predecessors of tubes as we know them. Once again, tubing was an American pastime.

1935 was another stellar year for the sport of tubing as beer cans were invented. THe use of cans, rather than bottles or frosty mugs on the river proved much safer during drunken brawls. The crushing of cans on the forehead of young males also became a mating ritual which was used to attract nubile, drunken, and easily impressed females.

After World War II, American factories were in full swing cranking out tubes. While these tubes had all been sent to the war effort overseas, they could now be diverted to homeland recreational markets.

Let me tell you why this terrorism scare is COMPLETELY retarded

So I hear there's a giant terrorism alert. Everybody's panicking. The British government has identified some 20-odd people who were supposedly going to take chemical bombs concealed in Gatorade bottles and detonate them on planes.

First off, these guys weren't even in the airport. These guys hadn't even BOUGHT plane tickets yet. When they raided them or whatever these guys were simply online browsing ticket prices. This threat never made it anywhere NEAR the airport.

Secondly, it's been repeated and repeated that they were going to use a chemical bomb in a gatorade bottle, but nobody can quite say what kind of chemical it was, and there's been 50 different reports as to whether they were going to detonate it with a flash from a disposable camera, a battery, an iPod, a radio or what. Do you know what this means? It means there was no working Gatorade bomb. I can say with 99% certainty just from all the conflicting news reports that these guys never finished creating a working bomb.

Thirdly (if that's a word), if there WAS an actual threat from explosive chemicals, airport security would not be making everyone dump their liquids out in a big vat in the middle of a crowded airport terminal. Seriously, would we really have big vats of poisonous or explosives chemicals in the airports? No.

I'm not saying there wasn't a terror plot, but their chances of succeeding were slim at best. The authorities nipped it in the bud (which these guys have apparently been under investigation for months), and there is no actual threat. All this airport security bullshit is un-needed and simply for show. I don't know if it's just to keep the whiney babies and overprotective mothers happy, so that they think the government is being pro-active to keep us all safe or if this is just playing up the terror, so everyone will vote Republican, but it's bullshit. There's no need for security to be putting everyone who's travelling this week through total Hell just for show.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

They said grass would make me more creative, but I'm just itchy


grass
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
Somehow I just went into a meeting to discuss how we need to change two of the links on a certain website to point to different URLs, but came out of the meeting having committed to design an entirely new page? How did that happen? Oh well, maybe I'll get to design it in Flash.

I'm on a major workout kick. It's always interesting to see how long these last. I was in really good shape mid-March, but then I got sick and the new job started, etc. Now I'm back to square one. However, I got a call from a casting agency in California about a vampire action movie. They liked my look, but wanted an updated headshot and resume. I mailed them one with my fingers crossed, but then realized I definitely don't have the abs that I did in the picture. Time to get on that. So now I have a goal to keep me working out. I doubt I'll get the part, but at least it's keeping the dream alive.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm selling the Mustang


My 1966 Mustang
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
Due to lingering costs from my house and divorce paired with skyrocketing gas prices I'm selling the 1966 Mustang. It's a 289 V8 with a C-4 Automatic. First $8,000 takes it home. E-mail me if you want more pictures or details.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Watch this -- front flip!


fredpool2
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
I finally went and checked out the neighborhood pool. I had to show some kids what was up on the diving board. Problem is, I hadn't been to the pool in years and my mind remembers my diving board abilities as if I was still 22, totally in shape, and working at the pool everyday. My body was in disagreement.

I was surprised to find that I could still swim 25 yards underwater with no trouble -- that's the length of a pool. Back in the day I could go 50 yards and halfway back before having to come up for air. Ben could make a full 75. I tried for 50 yesterday, but after making the underwater turnaround at 25 I didn't even make it halfway back the other way before coming up for air.

I went to ju jitsu with Jace Friday night. I'm not sure if I'm going to start training with him every week or not. It would be fun, but it's another added expense to an already expensive life. Maybe I'll just stick to playing music.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm so sick of the car magnets


DSCF0986
Originally uploaded by ffacker.
I thought it was a bit superficial when everyone jumped on the "We support our troops" yellow ribbon car magnets. Then there were breast cancer magnets and HIV magnets -- a magnet for every cause. But now you can even get one to support your favorite sex workers with the new "Support Lap Dancing" car magnet.

The Livestrong bracelets are totally played out too. Plus their causes don't color coordinate to the car magnets at all. That's just too lame for my sense of fashion.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday morning

I'm in a good mood this morning. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because one of our HR ladies brought donuts. Maybe because it's Friday. For the last three or four weeks I've made it a habit of picking up a burrito from Freebirds every Friday after work and just relaxing. Maybe I'm excited about my impending burrito lunch.

Did anyone see It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia last night? That show just cracks me up. I haven't liked a TV show in a long time, but Sunny makes me want to stay home on Thursday nights just to see what zany antics that group of nuts has in store for me. I also saw The Office last night. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'm going to say Sunny and The Office are the two funniest shows on television. I know, it's a big claim, but since we're not putting any money on this, I think I'm safe making it.

I've got to buy new shoes. I've been sporting a pair of black Converse All-Stars for almost two years now, and I'm losing the sole off my right one. Normally, I'd just take $40 and buy another pair, but things have gotten complicated. Jace just bought himself some black Converse. While flattering that he wants to emulate my incredible fashion sense, I now have to find a pair of shoes that are cooler and more Indy Rock than my Chuck T's, so that I can remain cooler than him. I guess I'll spend the afternoon surfing through pictures of concerts on the Internet trying to figure out the footwear choices of succesful rockers. Why can't it just be about the music?

I'm going back for seconds on the donuts.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm calling for a radio revolution

Ok, this is simple. Let's just NOT play Nickelback for a week. Seriously, no Nickelback on the airwaves for seven days. Let's see if anyone misses it. If so, you can put them right back into rotation as every other song on the radio. If not, maybe we can let them just slip into oblivion forever ... please.

Also, no more of that Natasha Bedingfield crap. I know she's hot, but I'm calling for a week-long ceasefire on that song too.

And listen up, it DOESN'T make you clever to start over-playing "Wake Me Up When September Ends" again this year just because we're approaching September.