Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Dark Is Rising

When I first heard they were doing The Dark is Rising as a movie, I was ecstatic. Susan Cooper's novels are so visual, so arresting, and so subtle that I thought they would translate well and be great on-screen. Plus, with their tie ins to Arthurian legend, I thought it would be a great way to reintroduce those legends on-screen after some duds relating to those legends in recent history. The fact that they were skipping my favorite book in the series, Over Sea, Under Stone, in favor of the four books that focus on Will Stanton, I was willing to overlook.

And then I started hearing rumors about the changes they were making. At first, I didn't think too much about them as all directors and scriptwriters make changes they hope will make the books more "cinematic" (as an aside, it doesn't seem to matter how visual the originating story is-- even when it is a comic book which is practically a story board already).

But then I kept reading and hearing more items on the changes. I started seeing interviews. And now they have changed the title of the movie and have released some previews that, until I looked up the movie on IMDb.com , I didn't recognize as The Dark is Rising at all. When someone who knows the novels doesn't even recognize the story in the trailers for the movie, I think you could say that some red flags were raised.

Without going into detail myself, this blogger has already created an in-depth grid that shows the incredible number of changes they have made.

Link

I was hoping for the LotR treatment; changes made being acceptable even if a tad annoying to fans of the books, in order to make a good movie/series. Instead, it appears we have something closer to Catwoman, a movie that barely shares the name of the original source and is otherwise unrecognizable.

The biggest complaint I have is that the lead in the books has a normal, helpful, supportive family and that familial relationship is pretty much the point of the novels and allows Will to be the champion he needs to be. You would think, in this time of relative moral decay and the destruction of the nuclear family, that filmmakers would want to show us the power of a strong family and good family ties. But, no, the central source of strength and power for the film version of this much-loved character has turned into something unrecognizable, ego-based, and meritless.

And don't get me started on changing Will to American and ignoring the entirety of the Arthurian legend-- it basically means this cannot be the start of a movie series as the remaining books (3-5, for some reason they are ignoring book 1 and starting with book 2 for the films) deal heavily in British and Arthurian legend.

So, this movie has leaped from being in my top 4 list of movies to see this year to not even on the considered list. It will take an incredible number of positive reviews and word of mouth to make me go to this in the theater.

I am sitting here quite literally scratching my head and wondering what the hell they were thinking.

Friday, September 28, 2007

What Our Current Leaders Forgot

Every successful Democracy today was created when the people of the nation in question rose up and fought for it themselves. Those uprisings have taken many different forms, from violent wars to peaceful, nonviolent protests, from slowly smoldering insurrections to flash bomb fast uprisings.

You cannot force democracy on people who are not willing to fight for it themselves. When you do, you get the mess we're in now. Without fighting for it themselves, the people do not learn what it takes to make a nation, what it means to be in a democracy, or create the economic and politic balances that are needed after the change takes place.

America has plenty of internal and external issues that it could be spending money and time fixing without keeping our forces in a country that doesn't want us there fighting for people who will not fight for themselves. Even if we are successful, the people will be reliant on our help for decades afterward because they will not have gone through the growing pains of a new democracy themselves and will not know what their individual roles are in that new nation.

I Hope It's True

If true, this is one of the best things I've heard of recently:
Nickelodeon to Go Dark Saturday
The kids' TV channel Nickelodeon is planning to intentionally go dark on Saturday at noon, with announcers telling their audience, "Go outside and play." The channel plans to remain dark for three hours, after which Nickelodeon says it will air Let's Play Go Healthy Challenge, produced in cooperation with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
I hope it is true. I think this is a fabulous idea and one worth celebrating.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Proper Service

M and I had some issues with the Miramonte Resort and Spa in Indian Wells (south of Palms Springs). These issues included:
  • Not getting the room we were confirmed for upon check-in.
  • Having the manager on duty that night argue with us before relenting when we brought out the confirmation number/letter confirming our chosen room.
  • Room service being late (plus being charged for extra when we shouldn't have been).
  • Cleaning staff barging in when the Privacy note was up.
  • Cleaning staff being very late in getting to the room so that they were still there when we arrived back from things (4-5pm).
  • Service staff who spoke no English or ignored people if they did not understand the request.
  • Being charged an extra $50 for late check out.
One of the reasons people go to "resorts" over hotels is that a resort treats you with personal care. The word "no" is usually not in their vocabulary and they try to work with you to make your stay the best it can be.

This resort made the mistake of sending us a survey on our stay. M forwarded it to me and I filled it out. I tried not to be unduly harsh, but I also made a point of presenting the negatives, too.

Not 10 minutes after I entered the survey, M got an email from the Senior Assistant Hotel Manager for Miramonte Resort and Spa, Monty Crawford. She forwarded it to me and I called him to discuss my unfavorable review.

Monty is a personable guy who was very upset that we had such a poor visit at one of his establishments. I explained in a calm voice what my issues were, the names of those whom I remembered, and why we gave the resort a negative review. He understood completely and responded that our experience was not what the Miramonte expected or how they trained their staff to react to such instances.

He was more than happy to credit the $50 late check-out fee from our bill and he also said he would speak with all four managers who were involved with these issues to reiterate the resort's policies on these matters and the way in which this could have been handled better. As I told Monty, "I don't mind being told no as long as it is politely and with respect. What I objected to was how your staff kept telling me no." His reply is that they try not to use the word 'no' when dealing with customers and apologized for the crude behavior we experienced.

As a last ditch effort to appease me, Monty offered us a free weekend stay at his resort. We will deal directly with him on making the reservation and get the exact room and experience that we were expecting.

Monty Crawford understands the value of good service. He bent over backward to make sure I was happy by the end of the conversation. If only one of the many managers with whom we dealt during our stay had recognized our dissatisfaction and had accommodated us similarly, this wouldn't have gone so far.

Thank you, Monty Crawford.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Some Wedding Shots

To give you a taste (the photog isn't done with them all yet, but here are some samples):


My beautiful bride

The happy couple outside church

Young couple in love

The theatre shot

Friday, September 21, 2007

Jena 6

The facts, as I have gleaned from a variety of magazines and news articles, are as follows:
  • A black student asked permission of a person in authority (one article said the principal, another the v-p) for himself and some fellow black students to sit under a particular tree on the high school campus that a particular group of white kids usually sat under. They were told they could sit anywhere they liked. They arrived the next day to see three hangman nooses on the tree. The white children responsible were punished for the prank.
  • The white students in question took to taunting the black students and possibly threatening the black students. Some minor scuffles occurred on both sides, both on and off the school grounds.
  • At one point, one white student is alleged to have shown a concealed firearm to a black student/group of black students (articles I've read disagree on the number).
  • Possible escalation events between white and black students occur outside of school, at parties, and other non-school events around town. Most appear to have dealt with at the time in an appropriate way and in appropriate measures on both sides of the racial lines. I'm seeing variations and inconsistencies on which are related and which are not in the various sources I'm reading.
  • A group of six black students, one 16 and the rest 17 years old, then cornered one white student, who may have been the one who showed the gun or may have just been part of the group of white students who sat under the tree, and beat him unconscious in what is most often termed a "school-yard fight."
  • The six black students were arrested for attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and the first was tried as an adult and found guilty by a jury of all white people. Unfortunately, that student was 16 at the time of the alleged assault and should (likely) not have been tried as an adult (in Louisiana the age of majority is 17, so only the other five should be tried as an adult unless it is deemed that the 16 year old should be tried as an adult as a special circumstance).
There are a lot of rumors of other behaviors and actions by both sides, but I cannot find more than one source for any of those. The above seem to be what the articles I've read agree on as the main facts of the case. What is most telling is how hard it is to find accurate information on the case; many traditional news sites have surprisingly little on the case and so many articles seem to disagree over the facts.

It seems like the white students were acting stupidly and probably should have been pulled aside by school authorities and given a stern talking to, for sure, but nothing I can see they did was more than threats and intimidation factors, with the possibility of some minor scuffles. The one child alleged to have carried a concealed weapon is the only one who has committed a true crime, and that depends on the LA carry/concealed laws, of course, but it is at best a misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine and some sort of community service and probation.

The black students, however, allowed themselves to be provoked to the point of beating a child unconscious. No matter their ages, this is a much more serious crime than those by the white students and is being charges in a more serious way. Now, I'm not certain that it rates "second degree murder and and conspiracy to commit second degree murder," but when you beat someone unconscious it should be a serious matter.

Why is the black leadership of this country purporting racial bias by the police in Jena, racist treatment by the courts, and a racist result by the jury?

The best I can tell is that the black leaders are wondering why, for what amounts to nothing more than a school-yard fight gone bad, these black kids are being sentenced to such a severe crime and being charged as adults. I'm not sure that you can claim racism in this, although it is a bit fishy. However, it seems like the police may have just wanted to stop any further violence before it started by coming down heavy on the first truly violent escalation in this ongoing disagreement between these groups of students. All the other alleged events were minor skirmishes, taunts, and intimidation on both sides. This was a serious beating by a group against an individual.

Also, some news reports indicate that the white public defender for the first black child charged in this crime did not call any witnesses in the defense of the child and did a crappy job of defending the boy. His are the only actions that strike me as possibly racist; however, he could also be an idiot, or he may have felt that the evidence against his client was overwhelming and he wanted his client to plead guilty to a lesser crime and didn't do the best job he could when the child did not take his advice. He could have been under pressure from his superiors in the law firm  (including, but not limited to, racism on their part). Also, why didn't he fight harder for a jury that was not all-white?

Also, why did this case take so long to reach the mainstream news? Why were so few newspapers, blog news sites, and TV news reporting on this until the black leadership got involved and started alleging racism?

There are a lot of troubling aspects to this case, but I am not certain that any or all of them can be attributed to racism in America. Poor decisions, stupidity, and ignorance seem like just as likely culprits to me. It is a case I am trying to keep my eye on, though. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the coming weeks.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Black QBs

Donovan McNabb, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, recently said that Black quarterbacks face more scrutiny than White quarterbacks. He then was unable to codify his statements, point to specific examples of when, how, or in what way he came to this belief, and when presented with codified comments to the contrary, stormed away from the interview in a huff.

McNabb is an idiot. While I don't doubt there is a small portion of this country that still holds onto such racist beliefs, the majority of all sports reporting is based on what the player has actually done and not some perception. He seems to be discounting that the most vilified QB over the last few seasons is Chicago's Rex Grossman. Eli Manning cannot escape the shadow of his father or his brother, and the press has been branding him as a failure for two seasons now.

I find it interesting that McNabb is having one of his worst seasons in his career when you look strictly at his wins/losses, completion percentages, yards per pass, and other critical QB statistics, yet he feels it is somehow racially motivated when reporters bring that up. No, Donovan, it is because your PLAY is stinking to high heaven. What is funny, to me, is that he has a built-in excuse for his poor play, the knee surgery that not everyone comes back from, yet he chooses to play the race card instead. Gee, McNabb, don't you think it more likely that the reason you keep under throwing your receivers is because your knee isn't fully healthy and you don't have all your strength than the fact that you are black?

There are seven black QBs starting in the NFL right now. Of those, only McNabb is having a truly atrocious season and he is the only one about whom reporters are being overly negative. Coincidence? I think not. After week one, Tavaris Jackson was getting a lot of praise. After week two's relatively poor performance, a few reporters got on the kid a bit for his poor play... I didn't hear him claim his race was the motive behind those comments. Matter of fact, he admitted he played poorly and was not on his A game. Instead of pulling the tired cliche of race to excuse his poor play, he said he would do better, talk with his coaches, and come out stronger next week. He seems to understand that his play is the reason for the comments, not his skin. You are nearly 10 years older, Donovan, why can't you figure that out?

Jason Campbell in Washington has had a heaping of praise in the press for the way he has handled the offense, the pressures of being a young starting quarterback, and for being 2-0 on the season. I have not been able to find anything negative on his performance, but he also has been playing well. If the media were racially motivated, wouldn't they be trying to tear down this successful black QB too?

Vince Young last season had some good games and some horrible games... and reporters only had negative things to say about those poor games and the trends they saw in his play during those poor games. He didn't make any comments that were racially motivated.

If you go on to have a couple of great games in a row, you'll be amazed that the "negative" press will fade away, Donovan. Because, just like most of America, reporters are primarily concerned with how you play and if you win, not what color your skin is.

You have claimed for years that you are all about class and dignity, yet whenever the chips are down and things aren't going your way, you whine like a school girl and cannot accept responsibility for your poor actions. This does not strike me as classy or dignified in the least.

Rex Grossman continues to be under a microscope for his inconsistent play. Eli Manning continues to take the lion's share of the blame for the poor performance of the offense in New York. People are questioning Drew Brees and Philip Rivers over their poor decision making and play over the first two games. I am not hearing any one of those QBs complaining that white QBs are under more scrutiny than black QBs. Each of them is sucking it up and trying to play better, smarter, and harder to be successful.

Why is Donovan McNabb getting a relative flier on his asinine, racially motivated comments? This is the third time in his career that I remember McNabb blaming things on race when his poor play was the real culprit. I can only conclude that the real racist in the equation is McNabb.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Understanding the Ways of the World

Picture if you will that you have just completed your second, but most important, formal ceremony pledging your life and love to the woman of your dreams in front of family and friends and God Almighty. Imagine she looks the most incredible she has ever looked that day and you feel pretty special yourself. Picture the majority of the people that are important to both you and your loved one there, congratulating you and wishing you well. This is the person you want to spend the rest of your days with. The two of you are actively in the planning stages to figure out what that means to you and how you can accomplish it together.

Imagine leaving on your honeymoon, which is a small, short event fit in between activities in your separate, non-married lives. During this time, you spend a ton of time together, celebrate your marriage, and start looking to the future in earnest. You have wonderful, quiet moments to yourself, you see a lot of nice sights, and you continually renew your vows to one another in a variety of spoken and unspoken ways.

And then, a little over a week later, you get to drop off this wonderful woman to whom you have pledged your life at the curb of an airport Departures area, because all of the lots are full and you can't find a parking place, say your goodbyes in the car, and then drive to work for the rest of the day.

Oh, and then you don't get to see this woman again for at least a month, but maybe more, as the two of you try to figure out when next you can see one another.

Imagine that you then get to deal with all of the post-marriage issues separately, like sending out thank yous, changing your name, working on immigration, starting to go through and pack up your life for an eventual move, etc. Imagine if, instead of looking into your loved one's eyes, you got to look at emails, phone receivers, and IM text after this most important event in your life and the loving honeymoon time together.

*sigh

To say that it sucks donkey kidneys is, shall I dare, a bit of an understatement.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Waiting Patiently

I have some friends who accompany their significant others when said SO goes on a business trip somewhere. After this weekend, I'm wondering why.

Maybe it is because I am used to this area, so don't feel the need to explore as much, but sitting around waiting for M to get out of meetings, hoping I get invited along to the get-togethers and other events, and generally not having much to do is boring. Yes, I have the car and can go shopping in the area, but I'm not really a shopper. If it was somewhere new there would be sights to see, but a) there aren't here, as I've lived in the general area for most of my life and b) I would rather see them with M-- which means waiting for her to be finished.

When Matt brought Elysa with him to Germany, that made sense. How often do you get to see Germany? Being such a different place, she had much she could see and do without Matt, and save the really big stuff for when he was available. But when Dorothy goes with Doug to New Jersey, I'm not really seeing the attraction. Yes, it means you are spending marginally more time with your loved one, but it is a place they know well, used to live at, and you still wind up waiting most of the time for that loved one to be done with his/her tasks for the day to spend any time together.

I am satisfied with this arrangement this time, because we are still on our honeymoon and we get to see each other so little right now... every bit helps. I hope next time it is in a location at which I can do a little more, see a little more so I am not as bored.

I am actually looking forward to working from here Monday and Tuesday, just so I have something to do!

In the Desert

Irvine and Orange County are both coastal deserts. The rainfall is within the threshold by which we consider a place "arid" or "desert" by definition. However, because they are on the coast, the ocean has a strong effect on the environment. Still, without a massive amount of water piped from northern California and the Colorado River, the place would not be as green as it is.

Coming out to Indian Wells (east and a little south of Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, and Palm Springs) really shows the disparity and how much human beings have changed the environment. At one point we were driving along with barren desert on our right, starting at the edge of the street we were on, and a grassy verge, trees, and housing on the left side.

This area would not last a month if the water stopped flowing. There is simply not enough in the ancient underground aquifers to accommodate the vast number of people that live here now. Add in that the cost to live in Orange County means a lot of the new people in this area are those who have left the OC to find affordable housing but still commute into the OC for work, and you have tens of thousands of people in an area designed not to have people at all.

If the water stopped flowing for a week, every single lawn would die. Swimming pools, nearly a necessity in a place that routinely gets above 100 F and often hits close to 120 F, would start to dry up from evaporation. Everything nonnative would start to shrivel and die, including the people and animals. Within a month of not having new water delivered, this entire area would be uninhabitable. The relentlessly hot sun would see to it. The desert sands and winds would start to bury everything in short order as it reclaims this land from the lawns and golf courses.

Orange County would last longer, as the ocean makes things more temperate and the average rainfall is higher. But if the water stopped flowing, you can be assured that it would become a lot less attractive a place to live.

I wonder why the OC doesn't put in a high-cost, high-rewards desalination plant in the area. It is a rich enough area to afford it, they could then take back a ton of water from the sea, and they could ship it all over Southern California, likely at a nice profit.

I also wonder why we don't consider putting another damn on the Colorado. The river barely makes it to the sea any more, what with five states sucking it dry along the way. It is one of the best sources for fresh water in the southwest, and, for as beautiful as most think it is, in the end it is just a big hole in the ground. Why not fill it with water? Sure, that would displace a lot of people, but the southwest needs that water badly (and putting another hydroelectric power plant at the new dam wouldn't hurt one bit either).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Quackery

For the immigration process I need a general medical history letter, one to two pages long, from each of my doctors. I called Dr. E about it and, without even signing a release or anything, had a perfect example of what I needed within a week. There was some confusion between me and Dr. L's office staff, and Dr. DS's staff said they would ask her and get back to me.

Today, as I was ferrying M around on her various shopping needs, we were close to Dr. L and Dr. DS's offices, so stopped in. Dr. L's office staff, once I explained what was needed, provided me with dictation that should suffice for the situation at hand and will provide the immigration doctor with the info he needs to further research my case.

Dr. DS's office staff, on the other hand, just doesn't get it and neither does the doctor. I explained what I needed clearly and calmly. The secretary said that I only had one item in my chart, from 2005, and that she could make a copy of that. I explained that I have been a patient of this doctor since 1995 and that I needed the letter to include all of that information; not just the most recent (that's a laugh-- I was in when I came back from Xmas last year, too, and that isn't in my chart) case.

She went to talk with the Doctor and returned saying that the doctor would only provide me with the info if she saw me again.

'Wait a second,' I said, 'All I need is a medical history. Whether she sees me again or not, the history remains the same, right? So why does she need to see me again to provide me with my own history from her own notes and from my old charts?'

Suddenly the story changed a bit as the secretary explained that any"old" info was filed in their archives and not on site; she couldn't provide the history requested without that information and they "couldn't get it."

'Wait a minute,' I said, 'You mean that if I went today to a new doctor, told that doctor that Dr. DS had been caring for me and he requested my history, Dr. DS couldn't provide it?'

'Well, of course she would provide it then,' said the secretary.

'That is all I'm doing now,' I said. 'I need the same history, in a letter and briefly, to provide to a medical doctor who is evaluating my immigration. I do not need to be seen now; I simply need the history she already has on me to provide to this doctor.'

The basic response was "can't do it." At which point I became, while still mostly polite, belligerent.

'Now, I know my rights and I want a copy of my medical history. This is my medical history and I own it. How can we get you to give me my own medical history?' I asked.

'Well, for a fee, you can formally request a copy of your medical history through us. But it can be expensive and we outsource it to another company to get the history.'

'If that is the only way I can get a copy of my medical history, and Dr. DS refuses to give it to me the way I requested it, then I am fine with this,' I responded.

I then filled out the necessary paperwork (which none of my other doctors requested or needed for this same exact procedure, by the way), and left with a promise that the company would be in contact with me in about a week.

Last but not least, the secretary informed me that Dr. DS had already denied my previous phone-in request for the same info a few days after I made it. When were they going to inform me of that decision? The reason we stopped in was, in part, because I hadn't heard anything back from them. Why didn't they call me with the news so I could start this other process sooner?

I could have backed down, signed up for an unnecessary appointment, and allowed Dr. DS to get my copay and see me and then request the medical history from archives. But there is absolutely no reason that I should pay her any extra money for something that is not needed-- my history will not change, her notes will not change, the charts and x-ray and blood work all will not change if she sees me again today for things that happened between 12 and 4 years ago. So why do it? I'm certain most people would just bow to this hypocrisy and get the appointment because it is easier and they just want the letter. And I'm certain my wife would have preferred to wait in the car; however, I could not and would not let these people browbeat me into doing something that gives them more money for no good reason. Call me stubborn or dogmatic, but this just irritates the hell out of me.

When describing the situation to M on the way out (she waited off to the side and didn't catch all of the comments or conversation), she summed it up nicely, 'It's a money-grab, pure and simple. If you go in, she gets a payday. There is no other reason to have you come into the office for this.'

I probably wouldn't be so angry about it, except that it was so easy to retrieve from the other doctors. The staff at those offices understood immediately and gave me just what I needed quickly and easily.

There are many "shoulda woulda's" here; maybe the secretary didn't pass on that I needed this for another doctor or for an important immigration need. Maybe Dr. DS misunderstood the secretary. Maybe absolutely none of my multiple ways of explaining this were understood by anyone. However, I keep coming back to Occam's Razor and what M said-- it is a money-grab, pure and simple.

Guess I need a new GP sooner than I thought.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Honeymoon


Can you believe a mook like me managed to marry talent like this??!!

Monday night it was good to have my friend Judith pick us up from SNA and take us home. Much better to be met by someone you know than a person wearing a Super Shuttle jacket.

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Tuesday we went down to work and said Hello to a few people. Everyone was excited to wish us well and hear the tales of the wedding week and day. Made plans with Robert and family to have dinner on Thursday evening. We went to the brand new CostCo (yes, that means I have one across the street from me and one a 10 minute drive away), the Sam's Club, and a few other places.

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Wednesday we went down to the San Juan Capistrano Mission and did the walking tour. We stood in the oldest (known/non-native) building in California. M got a candle and lit it/prayed in one of the side-chapels and was impressed by the opulent main chapel of the Mission.


The Main Altar


M at the pool in the center of the first area within SJCM


We then took PCH from there all the way up to Long Beach and went to the Aquarium of the Pacific. One of my favorite places to visit. I touched sharks (a skate and a small lemon shark-- really slick and sleek), we spent some time with no other visitors with us watching one of the younger otters frolicking in the otter cage. He was kind of cool-- he knew we were there and would mug for the camera on occasion. Unfortunately, my camera was too slow to pick up his quick actions and the shots are fairly blurry. As the crowds wandered to that exhibit, we moved on and finished our tour. We then jumped on the 710 north and 405 south right as rush-hour traffic began, so M could experience what commuting in LA is like.

We then came home and then dragged ourselves out for some grocery shopping (well, okay, she dragged me back out).

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Today we plan to go to South Coast and Main Place malls to do some shopping. Possibly to get some Prime Rib, too. We meet with Robert and family after work today at Cheesecake Factory (can you say Vanilla Bean and Godiva cheesecakes? I knew you could!).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Safe and Sound

We made it. We're in Irvine.

Now... to bed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Travel Day

One of the nicest things about this trip is that I don't have to be alone traveling home. M is coming with me and jumped through hoops to get our seats together on these flights. It will be nice to have someone to travel with, watch stuff if I need to go to the bathroom or stretch my legs, or whatever.

I will also know the person I am sitting next to, which will be nice. While I've been lucky for the most part with the people I have sat next to, I have had a couple of people who just didn't want to hear it, weren't in the mood, or were having a bad day. Still remember the one guy to whom all I said was "Hello" and his response was "Shut up."

Now, I am not saying that M won't tell me to shut up, but at least she'll kiss me afterward! :-D

Everyone who has a moment should take it and pray for my mother, who left early this morning. I sincerely hope this trek is easier than her trip up. Also, for selfish reasons-- who knows how many flights she might delay with the kind of trouble that seems to follow in her wake!!! ;-)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

So I Got Married... Again

You cannot believe how incredible today was. My wife was stunning; she picked an awe-inspiring dress, had her hair done beautifully, and make up that only enhanced her natural beauty rather than overcoming or overwhelming it. She was something special to see!!!!!

And so many family and friends made it and wished us well. Truly well, too-- I didn't see or hear anything that sounded in the least bit disingenuous. M's family has been incredibly kind in welcoming me to theirs.

People seemed to like the Union Club reception-- and Suzy's cake was superb. Turned out even better than I expected (and after all the oohs and aahs I've heard over the last few years about Suzy's skills in the kitchen, I had some high hopes).

Chris, who hates public speaking, gave a very heartfelt and moving toast/speech. Mark, M's older brother, did a fabulous job as the MC-- we couldn't have picked a better person for the job.
Cynthia also stepped in and had a small but vital role as a photog assistant that she handled extremely well. My sister Mindy did a great job with her reading, as well as handling the "mom issue" previously blogged about, and keeping her brother sane. Special thank yous go repeatedly to Jay-- he absolutely nailed his two readings and then stepped up when we needed someone to give a prayer before dinner. Way above and beyond the call of duty, yet handled with grace and aplomb.

Last but very much not least, Jenn and Stew were incredible through every facet of the planning and day. Simply could not have happened without their help... at all.

Thank you!

I could not have asked for a better wedding. Period.

(Now, I just want to see the pictures so I can remember what happened!! I'm probably forgetting many, many people -- but you can understand... now, back to the wedding night.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

She Made It + Funny Side Story

We picked up Mom at the airport at 8:30 pm today. So, that means she left her house early morning on Thursday and got here about 36 hours later-- a new record for those in my family. She had hell from Air Canada reps getting them to understand what she needed, that she had connections to make, and that it was for a wedding.

However, she caught her first break in Toronto-- her plane in was an hour late (of course), but the next plane was rescheduled and she managed to make it. If she hadn't, we would be getting her about midnight instead (or, frankly, she would have just gone back home... and I wouldn't have blamed her at all).

It is still astounding to me that they told her repeatedly that they could not find a seat for her on any plane from 3 pm on Thursday through 11 am on Friday (Central time) from any airline. However, what they did book her own wound up getting her here, so we can't complain too much.

But I'm sure Air Canada will be getting a very detailed, very irate letter in the mail when she gets home!

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Funny side story-- We drove M's father's Aztek out to pick up mom, then (obviously) back with her. Said goodnight at her hotel while my sister took over and got her inside and to their shared room. M needed to get her car from the garage so I started back home. She suddenly got a phone call from me... as I was swinging onto the on ramp onto highway 1, all electrical in the car died; I lost power steering (on a tight curve!), lights, engine, etc. I came to a very scary rolling stop just at the end of the merge area, put on the flashers, and called M to look for me as she would be moments behind.

I tried the key and it started, sputtered a bit, and then died. Obviously the power was still available because the flashers worked, but at that point I couldn't get it to restart or do anything of note.

M pulled up and put her own flashers on. I tried starting it once more, couldn't get anything at (not even clicking from the starter) and was at a loss. When things like this happen in CA, I call my AAA and have them take me to the nearest Saturn dealership and they fix it. This was a borrowed vehicle, I didn't know if AAA would work, and I couldn't fix it at 10:30 pm the day before my morning wedding. So we called her dad and he and Mark (M's oldest brother) came out. Alex called a tow truck and they told us to go home and try to relax while they deal with it.

Luckily, we are not relying on that vehicle for tomorrow, so we're okay.

All I have to do now is remember everything we went over at the rehearsal, remember to speak clearly and loudly, and smile a lot. I think that is about all I can handle at this point.

Wedding Blues

Everything is actually coming together fairly well for the wedding. We have both tuxes, we have both dresses, most everyone who is going to be here is here.

Our one serious glitch to date is my mother-- she isn't here yet. As of my writing this, she should be somewhere between Denver and Chicago/Toronto-- we're not sure.

She set out yesterday morning from Palms Springs airport. When she got to Denver, made her connection, and then sat on the runway for 2.5 hours because of a serious malfunction with the jet engine on one side. Now, she said the engine fell off-- I don't know if that was hyperbole in order to get across how badly the engine sounded/acted, but that's what she said.

When Air Canada took the people off the plane, they announced that they had a seat for everyone on the 3:55 pm flight. Some things happened and about 6 people wound up without seats. Mom got screwed by being close to the front of the line and ready to get her connection/new flight info and then someone came and took her out of that line and put her at the end of the next line-- and she and those people didn't get seats. What the hell happened between "we have seats for everyone" and the ticketing of said everyone?

They claimed that they had no flights on which they could put her to any airport in Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, or Boston. Anywhere! I have a hard time believing that this is true-- that this major airport with major airlines could not find her a seat going farther east. So, they sent her by taxi to a city 20 miles away to spend the night and then put her on an 11 am flight today. Again, the claim was that they had no other flights to Toronto prior to this one.

One woman was so distraught she was lying on the ground and weeping uncontrollably. Mom said the Air Canada personnel were just ignore her and walking around her when she was in their way.

Luckily, Mom had packed light and hadn't checked anything, so she had all her stuff. The other 5-6 people were not as fortunate.

So, now, she is scheduled to arrive at 8:30 pm tonight-- after the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner!

If and when she makes it, I would not want to be the Air Canada person with whom my mother has the conversation about how poorly they treated her (and the others). She is taking notes and will have a long, detailed list of her complaints (I'm really glossing over everything and just giving the highlights of the conversation).

We have not heard from her today; I hope everything is working out okay an she is somewhere in transit. We will likely cut the rehearsal dinner a little short so we (or at least someone) can drive out and get her from the airport and get her into her hotel.

Note: Everyone else got here with little to no trouble. I guess the traveling gods decided to pick Mom as their whipping post this time around. *sigh

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Last Thing She Needs

M is pretty stressed about the wedding. We're in the home stretch, most things are done or have a plan, but she is still stressed. I'm trying to offer help and assistance when she'll let me and when she asks, but she wants to do most everything herself so that it is done exactly the way she wants it-- and I respect that. Her MoH is helping with this as much as she can, too (which is actually more than I'm allowed, as she understands the intricacies of M's wedding process better than I do).

However, things happen. On her blog, you may have read about her work laptop having issues. This morning, I go to boot up her home PC and it hangs and then a BSOD displays and it reboots itself after about 10 minutes or so. The internet connection I rely on to work from M's house is a bit glitchy as well. While I don't want to stress her out any further, I had to let her know about this as vital wedding data is stored on this machine. And I had to do it right away because, while knowing this will add more stress, waiting to tell her when she comes home from work will just add to her frustrations as she will want to work on more wedding stuff this evening.

There are glitches with every wedding. The event is too important and there are too many cogs in the machine for things not to go wrong. The trick is rolling with the punches, not letting these glitches wear you down or out, and enjoying the day when it arrives no matter what occurs. My hope is that these issues we're experiencing now are the glitches for this wedding and the day will run relatively smoothly.
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Addendum:
Looks like the data is still there and that it may simply be an error with Windows. Was able to boot into Safe Mode with Command Prompt and navigate around a bit... drive is responding in that regard. Might simply need a reinstall of Windows (as this OS is notorious for needing one on about a 1.5-2 year cycle, whether you think you should or not). I've unplugged the machine and set it out in the kitchen; M is coming later to pick it up and take it to work to back up the hard drive and pull data as needed.
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Post Script: M reformatted the hard drive to no avail. I used my work laptop (the only PC we have at the moment) to review Acer online and found something that seemed like it would help. Followed the commands and seem to have a working PC again. It appears that a modem driver might have been causing the issues, as whenever she or I installed the drivers, the problems started and since I have disabled that device, everything appears to be running okay. I have installed all of the Windows updates and we have a new, clean system. Hopefully we can reinstall all of the missing data elements and programs without re-incurring the glitch.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Shower

I had asked for no parties or showers and, as a couple, we asked for no gifts (just donations to two causes near and dear to my heart). I have learned that M's mom's side of the family didn't really care, so Sunday was our shower (with gifts!). I met a nice number of that side of the family (I had met most of them previously, but intermittently and not for over a year). They are all pretty nice people and all seem excited about the upcoming wedding.

The party was nice; we were out on a lake or river at M's aunt Lorna's cottage. There was a nice amount of sandwiches and sweets available, and everyone was happy to get reacquainted with me. M's mom even seemed calm and relatively happy.

M did ask primarily for gift cards to various home stores around the town; we have plans to finish the bathroom in the basement so it is usable, as well as the rooms downstairs. But having a second bathroom would be a huge improvement to start. We did receive a bunch of those. In addition, we got some nice gifts relating to marriage; a set of purple towels, a couple of picture frames/books (one with nice pics in it- thanx Jenn!), a wedding calendar that comes with stickers to mark a bunch of the "first" of the relationship. Lastly, two of her aunts went together and bought an extremely nice, incredibly expensive Bible for us. This is the type of Bible that is generational and heirloom-worthy. It probably weighs around 10 lbs, has gold leaf edges, bound in leather, etc. Very nice gift.

(Yes, they all know I'm not Catholic and I am not converting. But just because I'm not Catholic doesn't mean I don't respect the gift and the quality and the meaning behind it. This is something we could pass on to children or grandchildren, if we have them. It was incredibly meaningful to them to get us that as a gift.)

The great thing about the party was that M was with me. She fills in some gaps I have, including my lack of enthusiasm for parties and get-togethers. So, having her there with me helped to keep me relaxed, happy, and in the moment. Jenn and M both said that I came across as such, too, so it all worked out.

Today is more wedding prep (M is getting some preliminary, womanly things done at the salon to which I was not invited, for obvious reasons, while I am home writing this), including figuring out the seating arrangements, programs, and maybe a few other things.

We think we have driving arrangements figured out for Friday and Saturday, and M has arrangements to pick up or help people with directions for most everyone to get them from the airport to where they are staying.

Everything seems to be coming together.

Weddinmg Trip To

I am a little late in telling how the trip up went. It started on Thursday when I tried to use web check-in, which normally is a breeze and I have never had issue with. When I got to the html page that allows you to change your seating assignment and select the number of checked bags you have, it errored. I called support and the first woman told me that it was because the second leg of my flight was not within the 24 hour period (which was a dumb answer, as I have never waited for that in the past and it has always worked). So, I waited an hour and a half and tried again with no luck; when I got to the seat/baggage screen and clicked Continue, it errored.

I called support back. This guy totally did not understand what I was saying-- he thought I could not get to the main page of web check-in. I explained for the fourth or fifth time that it was on the seat/baggage screen that it errored. He asked to put me on hold and hung up on me.

Called back a third time and received yet another support person. I explained the entire situation again, had her walk me through the process until -- gee!-- I got to the seat/baggage screen and it errored, and then she said that I had to check in at the airport. She couldn't figure out what was wrong.

So I have my braille-driving Super Shuttle person (for those who don't get that reference-- he couldn't keep the truck in the lane and kept driving over the bumps in between lanes and on the sides of the road) drop me at the Air Canada spot at LAX. I walked in and told the person the troubles I had last night. She took one quick look and asked, "Did you change your seating assignment?" I replied that I had, for the second leg of the flight. She said, "That is the problem. Something glitched when you did that and I need to reset it." I got a little irritated and asked, "So why couldn't the online web support figure that out and do that last night?" She didn't answer, but proceeded to type something else into the computer before printing my boarding passes.

Turns out that she added extra security screening to my boarding passes and I got to be the one pulled aside and frisked, and every single piece of luggage opened and wiped down and gone over. The man with the rubber gloves was gentle, but I would prefer he buy me dinner first, you know?

That flight went fairly smoothly. At Toronto, customs was a breeze but security once again pulled me aside for extra security screening. I had plenty of time, so it was not a big deal.

I then found my flight was at scheduled at a gate I had never used before; 126. Normally the flights to SJ from Toronto are on the downstairs area at gates 110-112. I waited patiently, speaking by phone with M for the first hour and then just reading and whatnot until close to my flight's time. However, when I checked the board again after the flight left, it claimed it was going to Montreal at 21:00 instead of SJ. I walked to the counter and asked. The response from the woman is, "Oh, yeah, I should make an announcement about the gate change." I walked down to gate 120 and was nearly there before I heard her finally give the announcement.

Lastly, my flight out was a bit delayed because first they had to resolve some mechanical issues on the plane and then they had to resolve mechanical issues on the luggage elevator onto which you have to place your larger carry-on luggage in order to fit on the CRJ plane that takes you to SJ. Once they had that fixed, they had to find a new crew to load said luggage onto the plane.

Long story made only slightly longer-- my midnight flight did not arrive until nearly 12:45 am. I had a beautiful wife waiting for me, whom I hugged and then to whom I said, "Take me home and to bed!"

All in all, not a bad trip. However, I have learned not to criticize or question the Air Canada personnel. I don't need the extra security probes!