Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Amazing Bailey!

It's been decided, I'm going to write a children's book titled The Amazing Bailey.

It's going to be about this dog, half Husky/half Lab, who is the Houdini of the dog world. No matter how you might try to keep her in, she'll always find a way to escape.

I can't begin to tell you how many different ways this dog has found to get out of things over the years. Since moving to this new house, and building the fence in the back for her, I feel like I spend half my time trying to devise ways to keep her inside that fence.

I've lined the entire fence with chicken coop wire, about a foot wide and "hooked" over the bottom wires of the fence. On top of that I've placed those one-foot-square paving bricks... 125 of them. To say the least, this is all starting to run into some real money, not to mention all of the time I've spent on it.

To no avail.

She escaped again. I went to my friendly neighborhood Lowes yesterday to get some things for another project and was gone for less than two hours. Upon my return, the neighbors said she had escaped... and they had already put her back in twice while I was gone.

I drove around the neighborhood and couldn't find her. Fortunately, she had wondered into the corn field behind the neighbor's house and they found her.

The darn dog managed to move the bricks AND pulled back the wire from the fence.

This is her, returning to the scene of the crime...

After moving the bricks and wiring, she crawled under the fence....

So what in the hey do I do now!?!

I went and bought 50 stakes that they use in pouring concrete... more money. I'm hoping I can put that in the middle of the chicken coop wire and that it will prevent her from being able to pull the wire back. Plus I'll get some wire and try wiring the wire better to the fence.

Next, I'm thinking about putting mouse traps in some of the areas.... upside down so it won't snap onto her... and see if that will scare her back. I'm doubtful about that one, she'll just see it as another challenge.

Oh, and by the way, she got out a week or so ago by jumping up and undoing the latch that holds the gate closed. It's wired shut now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Savannah set

For those of you who aren't reading all the way to through these posts :-) one of the things I do each year is design a stage set for an awards show at the NCMPR marketing conference. I build it in my garage, load it in a cargo van, and haul it to wherever the conference is that year.

This year it was in Savannah, GA. It's past time that I posted the photos.

It's a stained glass effect, so it doesn't translate well in the photos.
I try to incorporate the artwork and theme being used for the conference. This year it was Marketing Amid the Magnolias.
I transferred the theme and its artwork onto five sheets of 4' x 8' plexiglass.... the finished piece then being 20' wide. I painted the lettering on the sheets and then "cheated" for the stain glass. I was originally going to paint that as well but in the interest of time used a film that you can purchase at your local Home Depot. (Disclaimer: I have no stake in Home Depot... just providing the link for information purposes.) I had to cut and trim it to fit around all the lettering but it was still quicker than painting it all.
The plexiglass is suspended from framing I made out of pvc pipe. Because everything has to be put up in an afternoon... and has to fit into a cargo van... it needs to be easily torn down. The pvc pipe was easy to take apart and haul.
You might also be able to see the lighted pieces on either side of the stained glass. There were several of those on the stage and the floor spreading out from the stage. They are seven feet tall and three-sided... they are made out of white spandex stretched over a pvc frame with three colored lights suspended in the center.
This year's conference is in Kansas City. They're talking about doing a Sixties theme and I'm already excited... I might try doing huge sheets of tie-dyed cloth, draped from the back and over the entire stage... but that might also change in a minute.
I'm waiting for them to finish the conference artwork and then I'll start designing. I really enjoy this... it gives me the opportunity to do something I love doing... and the organization pays for the materials. Everyone wins because I do it for a tenth of what it would cost them to hire a company to do it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let's go Joe!

Back in January, I supported Joe Biden during Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses. I had the opportunity to meet Joe, listen to him speak and shake his hand. I even donated to his campaign which is a pretty big deal for me. You can probably count on one hand the number of political candidates to whom I have made direct donations.

My main reason for supporting him was his tremendous experience. He has visited Iraq and Afghanistan more than all of the other presidential candidates during this past election cycle, Democrat and Republican, combined.

And, of course, I feel he has the right answers to what I see as the nation's problems.

But beyond that, I believe he's a good person. During the next couple of months you'll hear a lot about what he has done in Washington. Democrats will be touting his great experience, Republicans will be dissecting his every vote and telling you how wrong he has been on various issues.

What you might not hear much about is his personal story... that's the part that made me believe that Joe is a regular Joe... he's one of us.

Joe Biden is the son of a car salesman who lost nearly all his money and moved his family from Scranton, Pa., to Delaware when Joe was a boy. As a boy, he struggled to overcome a bad stutter and the nickname Joe Impedimenta.

He was elected to the Senate when he was 29. Six weeks after the election his wife and one-year-old baby girl were killed in an automobile accident. He thought about leaving his political career but, as we know now, decided to stay.

Joe has two sons, ages two and three at the time of the accident and who were also injured. Joe was actually took his Senate oath in the hospital, beside one of his son's beds. For years after the accident he took the train home nearly every night to be with his boys and to be there for them as they grew up.

Family continues to be an important thing for Joe. Even now, his ailing mother lives in an addition to his home so that he can keep watch over, and care for, her.

Joe Biden is a regular Joe who just happens to have the experience and intellect to serve as Vice President of the United States and, ultimately if circumstances lead down that path, as President.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The empty nest

I dropped my daughter off for her second year of college last night.

As parents, we often comfort each other by saying that it's a part of life, that our children are growing into adults.

As I hit Interstate 80, however, it occurred to me that the emotions we feel as parents have as much to do with our own growing up, as it does with our children's growing up. We just don't recognize that.

When the child leaves the home we are, of course, saddened to have them gone... Kristin is my best friend and I miss her every day she's gone.

But much of the emotion we are feeling, and are unwilling to admit to ourselves, has more to do with not knowing what WE are going to do with the rest of our lives.

Much of the identity that we build for ourselves over the 18 years that we are raising our children... our identity as "parent"... just walked out the door and we don't know what we're going to be when we grow up... what we're going to be in the next chapter of our lives.

But what a wonderful opportunity this is! We've just been handed the opportunity to change our lives, given a new life with which we can do anything. Best of all, for most of us, we now have the time and at least a little money in the bank to be able to do it.

Instead of sorrow... we should grab onto the next chapter in our lives... look forward to it with anticipation and realize that we've grown up many times before and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sad day in Mudville -- Chinese edition

It is truly a sad day in Mudville; the USA softball team lost the gold medal game to Japan, 4-1.

I am a HUGE softball fan. My daughter played competitive travel ball for nine years and I did my fair share of coaching during that time. I learned to love the game and truly miss it. The fact of the matter is that my daughter decided to pursue theatre design in college, instead of softball, and she misses it far less than I do.

We traveled all over the country to play ball. I've been to the softball hall of fame, twice. And it's still on my "To Do" list to get to the college softball championship games down in Oklahoma City.

So it is with genuine remorse that I report that USA softball did not bring home the gold.

What really hurts is that Cat Osterman, my favorite player, was the losing pitcher.

Having said that, though, it is not nearly the upset that the media will have you believe. The rest of the world, especially Japan, has been catching up with the United States for some time. My goodness, Japan has had a professional (well paying) softball league for longer than the US.

In the last Olympics, the US had to fight from behind to win and their Gold medal then was nothing short of miraculous.

The sad thing is that the media allowed itself to get sucked into believing that the US team was that much better than everyone else. As a result, they weren't giving them nearly enough credit for their victories and were really taking them for granted.

The truth is that both Japan and the US are great teams and Japan just got the better of it on this particular day. The US had more opportunities than Japan to win the game (bases loaded twice and no runs scored) but didn't get it done.

The truly sad thing is that the ISOC has voted to not include softball (and baseball) in the 2012 Olympics. Part of the reason was due to the dominance of the US softball team in the last couple of Olympics... again, not giving the team the credit it deserved for hard work and determination... and not understanding how good many of the other countries have come to be.

There is a strong push to get softball back into the Olympics for 2016 (and with there being a good chance those Olympics will be in the United States, I certainly hope it happens) but for many of the players on this team, that will be too late... so they will have no opportunity to avenge their loss.

Give them credit, they won the silver and they're a great team. I still love 'em!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Will you ever get married again?

When my wife first died I got that question quite often. Now that two years have passed I don't get it quite so often, but it still arises from time to time.

The short answer is: Maybe.

The longer answer: Maybe.

I won't settle. I've seen many people, we've all seen many people, who suddenly find themselves single and can't wait to get married again. Whether it be a divorce or the death of a spouse, they are engaged and sometimes even married within a year of the separation.

I know one case where a man's wife passed away and his doctor told him not to do anything for a year. So, for exactly one year, he didn't do anything... he didn't date, he didn't get rid of any of her things, he didn't clean the closet or move one single thing that was hers. A year later, everything was just as she had left it. A year and a day later he joined an online dating service and within that next year he was married.

There's nothing wrong with that. If that's what makes him happy, more power to him.

It's not what makes me happy. So what does?

I could tell you my "type," we all have a type we're interested in, that's just natural human nature. But that's not what it's about. How often do we find ourselves marrying someone we never imagined was our type?

What I want is someone who I have a great deal in common with. Someone with whom I don't have to constantly be compromising with.

More than that, I want to be head over heels in love. I want someone who, when she walks into the room, everything stops except for her and me. I want to think about nothing but her all day, to have the wait to see her at night be so great that it physically hurts, to dread the moment in the morning that I have to leave her behind. Someone who can melt my heart with a smile.

Will I ever get married again? Maybe. I believe it's possible... and she's worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Darn, darn, darn, darn, darn, darn

Kelli was auf'd from Project Runway.

Project Runway is my favorite show and we've reached the point in the season where you can start picking your favorites. It was harder for me this year to warm up to any of the contestants but, in the spirit of wanting to "root" for a couple of the contestants, I settled on Kelli and Kenley.

Kelli has a bit of a hard edge with that full sleeve tattoo thing going on and I was just curious to learn more about her. Kenley's all about Betty Page and how can you go wrong with that?... and she has produced a couple of fun things so far this season.

I wish I could complain about Kelli being kicked off this week, but I have to admit that her design wasn't too special... so it is what it is.

On the other hand, I am psyched about next week's challenge. Chris, the pentultimate drag queen and a contestant from the last season, is back... and the challenge is to design an over-the-top drag queen costume. Chris was one of my favorites last season and this should be way fun.

Two other notes... Kenley and Keith's model is absolutely beautiful. Whoever has her as their model has a definite advantage. And, my favorite designer ever was Elisa Jimenez.

Suffice it to say I'm available and if she's looking for a husband, give her my name. Besides being great looking, she has this tremendously quirky personality that's beyond description.

Moving on.....

I'm not a big fan of Shear Genius but it follows Project Runway and so I happened to see the start of it tonight... and was pretty excited because Dean Banowetz was the celebrity judge.

Who? I know I heard someone out there say that.

Dean Banowetz is a pretty big time Hollywood hair stylist. Among other things he has done several of the styles for the contestants on American Idol.

So why do I care?... because he's from the big city of Maquoketa, Iowa.... as they would say on Hee Haw.... saaaaaalute!

Maquoketa is a town of about 5,000 people not far from here. My daughter used to play softball against them in high school. Do I know Dean, no, but it is cool to see someone from a small town, in this area, make it big.

So, way to go Dean!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I claim this backyard...

... in the name of Bailey the Dog.

The backyard project is done... the fence is up, the wiring is around the bottom (to try to keep her from digging too close to the fence) and, drumroll please, the steps are on the deck so we can actually get to the yard without having to go out the side of the house and through the garage to get ot the backyard.

And, as you can see, Bailey is quite happy with things.

For the most part it's your basic set of steps. This is my first attempt at building steps and I'm pretty happy how they came out.

The only unusual thing is the galvanized pipes I used for the railing. My thought is that the railing inside the house is all made from metal cable... the galvanized pipe brings that same general theme from the inside to the outside of the house.

Yes, my guess is that the pipes will rust but we'll see what happens. I may actually like the rusted look when that happens. If I don't, I'll prep 'em and paint 'em a silver color... but I won't have to worry about that until at least next year.

All that's left is to stain the steps and the deck. I'll do that as soon as I re-do some of the steps and railing on the front of the house because I'm going to stain it all the same color. I'm still waiting for the roofers to come and fix the roof... because the pigeons have roosted right above those front steps... and they're using them for target practice.

Until the roof gets fixed and the pigeons move on, I don't want to proceed on the front steps. The contractor was here once... two weeks late... and didn't have the right materials for the job. That was two weeks ago so he's now four weeks late. Arrrrrrrrgh!

On a more positive note, two window blind companies have come through in the last few days and I dropped the check off to one of them just after work today. So, I should have new blinds up in three - four weeks. No more letting the neighbors see in at the peep show inside the house. ;-)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Informercial scams

So I see this commercial for Direct Buy saying that you can get furnishings for less... so I figure "why not check it out?"

Did a Google search for the website... the first result was the Direct Buy site, but the second was

I have absolutely no connection to that website, but I did find it interesting. Direct Buy, among others, were pretty well blasted by unhappy customers... so much so that it appears that Direct Buy has their attorney threatening the owners of the infomercialscams website.

The site isn't too fancy, and yes they are trying to sell stuff...but you don't have to buy anything to read their info. If you're thinking about buying something you saw on tv, you might want to visit this site first. If nothing else, it's kind of an interesting read.

Just a FWIW.

Bring on the circus

Bring out the big top, the dancing bears and the three rings... the circus has officially moved to New York City.

And all I can say is THANK YOU! Obviously, someone was listening to my plea not to send Brett Favre to Minnesota. (tongue planted firmly in cheek)

The Jets can have him, the Vikings don't want him... all is well in the land of 10,000 bodies of water (that would be lakes to those of you less informed).

I actually feel sorry for Brett and the Jet fans. In spite of his celebrity status, Brett has spent his whole career in the warm and fuzzy midwest heartland of Wisconsin. And despite the focus this latest charade has brought upon him, he has no idea what he's getting himself into.

He has gone from the proverbial frying pan to the fire and he has no clue what's coming. New York City, along with possibly Los Angeles, is the biggest media circus in the world. He'll have everyone from sports writers to gossip columnists and paparazzi following his every move for the next four months.

I feel sorry for the Jet fans because they're all excited now, they think Brett's their savior, the QB they've dreamed of ever since Broadway Joe headed west 30+ years ago.

Well, here's my prediction. The media are going to drive Brett, and his teammates crazy, and the fans are going to be severely disappointed when the distractions become too much, Brett tries to do too much in games (as he has almost always wanted to do) and halfway through the season the Jets are struggling around .500 and Brett has as many interceptions as TD passes.

But I don't care cuz I have my happy face on and I'm doing a happy dance.... Brett is not a Minnesota Viking! Yippee, yippee yippee!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New fence! Oh, and Kristin's room

The fence is in, the fence is in!

Ok, so I'm a bit excited. I don't get excited abut much, but I did get excited about this fence. Bailey hasn't been able to go out and run for a month, and that's a long time for a little puppy dog.
As you can see above, she's in her element.

We started putting chicken coop wire around the bottom edge of it last night, and finished it earlier tonight. I'm hoping that will keep Bailey away from digging under the fence... one of her specialities.

The best way to do it would have been to dig up the ground and lay the wire underneath... but, frankly, that's just too much work. So, hopefully, this will work. If not, I'll probably have to do that whether I want to or not... and when I have more time I probably will anyway.
But, the fireplace guy was here two days ago, someone is coming about window treatments tomorrow night and I have to build a stairway from the back deck down to the yard this weekend... planting the wire under the ground will have to wait.
Now, as for Kristin's room... I promised photos of that in a post some time ago and I'm just getting around to doing that.

She finished painting her room before we moved in. (Photos below.) The walls are yellow and the ceiling a burgandy wine red. She took that red paint and added water to it, and then painted her loft with that so that it looks like it's stained.

The crazy multi-colored lamp near the wall in the first photo was a Goodwill find... gotta love Goodwill! Her bed fits on the floor, under the loft and she uses the loft for hanging out in and a reading area. I'm really happy with what she did and how it came out.

Ok.... that was quick.... have to run... the finals of So You Think You Can Dance are on.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No, No, No Favre

I'm a lifelong, die-hard, Minnesota Vikings fan. I'm so old, Alan Page is my all-time favorite player... and I can remember when he played.

I've lived through all of the good years and bad. All of the Super Bowl losses and the Hail Mary that stole one from us.

And I, for one, am hoping that Brett Favre never becomes a Minnesota Viking.

Can you imagine the circus that will come to town if he does? And, instantly, everything about the upcoming season becomes about Brett Favre. Forget Adrian Peterson, forget Jared Allen, forget Pat and Kevin Williams and all of the other great players on this team... it will all be about Brett.

I'm looking forward to an exciting season with stories about the victories, and hopefully not too many losses, of the Minnesota Vikings. I will not look forward to 16 weeks of Brett Favre this and Brett Favre that and Brett Favre won this game and Brett Favre took the Vikings to the playoffs and... geesh, I'm convulsing at the very thought of it.

So, Green Bay, please keep Bretty-Boy... his actions these past few weeks have shown he's just another spoiled athlete. The Vikings will be just fine, and probably better, without him.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pets as family

We love our pets. They become members of our family. I wish I could say that I was different, but I'm not. I love my puppy dog. Bailey is a four-year-old Husky/Lab mix with one blue eye and one brown eye.

This is her, (left) with my parent's dog, Maggie:

When we got her from the Scott County Humane Society she was nothing but skin and bone. She was so thin that she looked like a greyhound. The previous family dropped her off because they said they couldn't afford to feed her. I found that extremely difficult to understand because she was barely five months old when I first picked her out. They couldn't have been feeding her anything at all.
Now... soapbox on... RESCUE DOGS! If you're thinking about getting a dog, go to your local humane society and rescue one. Soapbox off.
The ironic thing about Bailey is that I didn't want her. Our previous dog, truly MY dog, died when she was just eight years old.
Don't get me wrong, I love dogs, absolutely love dogs... but when the last dog died, I knew my daughter would be graduating from high school in just a couple of years and I didn't want the responsibility of caring for another dog. My wife, however, just wouldn't let it go. She constantly begged me for another dog.
So, for that Christmas, I surprised her with Bailey. And Bailey bonded with Connie and was her dog. But, if you've read this blog you know the story... Connie's gone and I still have Bailey.
But Bailey is now very much my dog, my little girl and I wouldn't lose her for the world.
Which gets me to the point of this story... I'm very excited because the fencing company is coming tomorrow to put up the chain link fence in the back yard.... the $2,600 chain link fence that's sole purpose is to provide a place for Bailey to run.
But it's worth it to me. I've been feeling so sorry for her, and guilty, that she's cooped up in the house all day. She's a runner and she's used to having a fenced-in yard to run in... so I can't wait for this fence to be put up.
Bailey has not adjusted well to this move at all. I've pulled her away from her home, she hasn't had a place to run, the neighbor dogs that she played with are gone... and to make things even worse, she cannot get use to these non-carpeted floors. She's constantly slipping, sliding and falling... and walks incredibly slowly, in fear, across them.
You can tell she's a nervous nelly because she's been shedding like crazy. She's literally losing clumps of hair.
So I feel very sorry for her and I am very excited to get this fence built.
Now, if I can just figure out how to keep her in it... she's pretty good at digging under fences and escaping. I'm going to start by putting a foot of chicken coop wire on the ground, next to fence and hope that backs her off it enough. The fence is roughly 270 feet long, so I'm going to have my work cut out for me.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Van Lancker for Auditor

Among my other lives, I'm doing publicity for Eric Van Lancker, the Democratic candidate for Clinton County auditor. For those of you not from Iowa... it's in Iowa.

Eric and I have known each other for many years and when he asked if I would help in his campaign, I didn't hesitate... he'll do a great job as auditor.

The current auditor, Charlie Sheridan, is retiring after many years in the office and has endorsed Eric in the upcoming election.

Now, here's the interesting thing... Eric's opponent in November will be the same person he beat in the Democratic party. His opponent has switched from running as a Democrat to now running as a Republican, just so he can run for election. (There was no Republican candidate in the primaries, so the county party met and selected this guy to run in the general election.) And, I've heard word, that he wasn't a Democrat before he ran in the primary and switched then as well.

Is that the ultimate flip-flop, or what? As Charlie Brown would say.... Good Grief.

If you'd like to know more about Eric, check out his MySpace page or website.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Obama spokesman needs a makeover

Ok, I just have to say this... David Axelrod needs a makeover.... the man looks like Hitler!

I'm watching Good Morning America and Axelrod comes on as a spokesman for Obama and the first thing that pops into my head is... this guy looks like Hitler. I'm not saying he is Hitler or anything like him... obviously he's not... but his appearance!?

He has less hair, but he has a shock of hair that has a tendency to fall down over his forehead... and that mustache just finishes off the look.

In this world where, like it or not, apperance counts, this guy needs to change that look before he goes on the air representing Obama again.

There, I said it.