Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The End of 2009

Where did 2009 go?

Where did the DECADE go? Damn - that was a fast 10 years.

Seems like yesterday.....In the latter part of 1999 there was a ton of chatter about Y2K and the possibility that when the clock struck midnight on January 1 microchips in computers and electronic devices wouldn't recognize the year 2000 from the year 1900. The computer geeks were seriously stressed out over this.

Personally, I didn't think my microwave or TV really cared what year it was. I just wanted to make sure they both worked and I was able to heat up leftover pizza and watch sports but apparently the banking industry was a tad anxious about this date since interest payments and deposits could get screwed up.

Alas, as our family gathered around the TV set, breathless, we watched New Year's celebrations unfold in Australia, then Russia, Paris, London, NYC and around the globe until it was the pacific time zone's turn....


NOTHING bad happened.

Our TV's kept working, planes didn't fall out of the sky, our cars and power grids didn't fail and the banking industry survived pretty much intact for another 8 years until that finally blew up.

The new year will bring some milestones...

I will turn 50 in 2010. I certainly don't feel 50 and my wife frequently reminds me that I certainly don't act my age (is that a compliment or a jab?). Sometimes my back feels that old, but for the most part each day I'm walkin' tall and feelin' good. I haven't used the magic sleep machine in over 2 months. Sleep apnea? Cured.

Alec will complete his physics degree in 2010. When he get's straight A's in the spring, he'll graduate with a perfect GPA. I gotta believe that's hard to do. I'm proud of his work ethic. Apparently the math gene skips a generation since my dad was a gearhead yet I still can't balance my checkbook. Hmmmmmmmm

Jake will take his handsome mug to the U of Utah and begin the great experience that is college life. Look out world.

Me? I am committed to a return to the ski slopes - frequently. I'll pass on the mogul skiing that took up a good part of my youth but I'm ready for steep and deep powder runs and the beautiful solitude that exists in the Wasatch mountain range.

I'd also like to go see this part of the world....Petra, Jordan.

Oh and I'd like to talk my wife into getting a new dog.

A Great Dane.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Shopping: How it's Done

It's that time of year again. Everyone stressing out about Christmas. Not me. I'm good.

The emotional rollercoaster ride of flying to South America, seeing Jake again, touring Ecuador and returning home has subsided. I'm rested, relaxed and ready for the classic "Days Before Christmas" scamper.

This is when I do my best shopping of the year.

Frankly, most of the stuff I buy is delivered to my doorstep by UPS or Fedex. There is zero hassle in shopping from home on my trusty laptop. I can't even remember all the stuff I've purchased over the past few weeks so it's actually fun for me to open up the boxes to see what I ordered on ambien.

I do however enjoy going to the mall to feel of the holiday spirit although sometimes this goes badly since people are all jacked up on stress or booze or pills and sometimes all three (eg: Tiger).

There are the usual parking lot arguments, long lines and my personal favorite: Screaming kids accompanying an overly stressed mom . These monsters are twisting their moms arm off, snot running down their faces, lying on the floor, germs everywhere. Live theater - the best. I prefer to shop alone....I like being by myself....The Lone Ranger.

I wandered around the mall today and picked up a few things. It was EASY. I also hit up the gift card center at Von's. Check this out: in the past I would race from one place to another picking up gift cards. This took a lot out of me. Last year I discovered that Von's has an area in their stores that have pretty much every gift card you would want from airlines to restaurants to Home Depot to Michaels....I don't even have to set foot inside these joints. I picked up 17 gift cards today and it took me 5 minutes. I believe I have perfected the art of Christmas shopping.....for a guy that is.

It's true. Look it up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Adventures in Ecuador: Seeing Jake Again

We're back from our sojourn to Ecuador. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

There is a sultry smell to South America that is born of heat, humidity, sweat, dirt, car exhaust and the occasional rainstorm. I just couldn't ever feel completely clean once I left the confines of the air-conditioned hotel but that's part of the experience.

Ecuador? It has American power. The electrical plugs were just like back home. No European vacation-like blowing out the circuits. Computers, phones, and Kindles were always fully charged.

Ecuador's official currency? The United States dollar.

What's on TV on Sunday in Ecuador? American Futbol.

Is it just me, or is this country screaming to be the 51st state?

Not only did we have football games on the TV but were blessed to an NFL triple-header that ended with the Eagles beating the Giants to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC Beast. I felt like I was back home just without the HD.

By the time our crew got to Ecuador, we had about 24 hours until we picked up our missionary. Since Alec is fluent in Spanish, we turned over our shopping negotiations to him. By the time monday arrived, Janae was more than ready to see her son again. Me too. The 2pm scheduled pickup took place 23 excrutiatingly slow minutes later. When the door to the office finally opened, there was our Jake. We embraced and in a split second the last 2 years seemed to have past in an instant. First impressions: He was taller than before. Tan. Skinny. Handsome. Seeing him for the first time in 2 years was better than I could have ever scripted it.

Of course the reunion with Jake required a lot of hand sanitizer. Allow me to explain. Shaking hands with a dozen missionaries who shook hands with at least 3 dozen people who had done heaven knows what earlier in the day necessitated my overusage of purell to the point of exhaustion. Once I thought I was fully disinfected, another missionary would waltz in and shake everyones hand. Again. Grrrrr……

Our first stop after dropping off the luggage was to Iguana Park. Riding in a cab through some serious traffic, windows down, I gulped in so much car exhaust that it gave me a splitting headache. That soon passed once we started playing with the reptiles. Iguanas were everyone...in the trees, on the grass, cruising the park for food and posing for pictures with the gringo family from Las Vegas.

We spent a lot of time visiting with some of the families that Jake had grown close to while serving in Guayquil. Just like our trip to Peru a few years ago to pick up Alec, we fell in love with the people we met.

On Tuesday we hopped a bus for a 3 hour ride to Machala. I heard that in the United States some bus companies offer a “frequent rider” program that mirrors airline mileage awards. Do you know how pathetic your life is if you have a frequent rider bus card? In South America, the buses are a necessity - and surprisingly, they run pretty much like clockwork.

I digress.

Machala is the banana capital of the world. Seriously. We were treated to a variety of different bananas. This gringo had previously thought there was only 1 kind of banana....I now stand corrected.

The best part of the trip was providing Christmas presents to Freddy and his family. That a family of 5 live in what is essentially a hut on stilts was, to me, profoundly sad. Their "home" is about 15 feet x 15 feet. 2 twin beds. There is no running water, no toilet, and a single electrical outlet that powered up an old refrigerator. The place reeked too - It took me a half hour to peg the smell. It smelled like the inside of a fishing creel - you know, with dead fish. The 3 boys loved their gifts and were probably the most well behaved 10, 9, and 8 year olds I have ever been around.

The mean streets of Machala required that we take cabs everywhere...even if it was for only a few blocks. A family we visited with insisted we take this precaution. I told Jake to translate the following: "In America, my dad's hands are registered as weapons." Laughter all around. "Take a cab," was their reply.

"Ok. I believe you."

Leaving Ecuador was difficult and not just because of the people we said farewell to....

The airport in Guayaquil is apparently staffed with patients from a mental hospital.
Delta didn’t open the first class check in line so we had to stand in line behind the Ecuadorian circus in order to get boarding passes and check our bags. This took at least a half hour. The sarcasm began to drip from my mouth....sometimes I can't stop it. I am impatient.

Then comes the Ecuadorian extortion part: Another line over to the left is for some sort of airport tax....$28 bucks per head on the way out of the country – cash only. This is not in any travel book. The guy then short changes me by $10 bucks which we corrected on the spot.

Starvin' we had two choices at 10pm; a frozen hot croissant (I know), or a tuna fish sandwich. We opted for the croissant not knowing that the outside would be piping hot while the inside remained frozen. Yum yum. Burp.

Leaving only got worse after that. Going through security I was wanded for the 1st time but was able to keep my shoes on. We were being paged. I was summoned to go downstairs for a luggage check. Hmmmmmnnnn???? Despite numerous international adventures, this was a first: One of our bags was randomly selected to be searched. I was escorted down the jetway, down a set of stairs, walked past a couple of jet aircraft and taken to the bowels of the luggage area. Once there, I was told to select my bag. There were 3 very serious looking dudes wearing cammo pants, combat boots and tight black t-shirts standing by. One of them picked his way through the luggage and sniffed anything that might conceal Ecuadorian artifacts or drugs. I was also wanded a second 2nd time. After 20 minutes I was escorted back to the gate.


Now it was time to board the plane. I was wanded 3rd time; my carry on baggage was searched by hand also for the 3rd time and by now I was really being sarcastic with the patients who were running the assylum. I was in group 1 to board and ended up being the last person on the plane. Alec, Tiffany and Jake were laughing as they passed me taking off my belt, emptying my pockets for the umpteenth time and having steam come out of my ears.

Once onboard I needed a cold fresca...but the lazy-ass flight attendant said there would be no ground service so they could get the plane off faster.

Puzzled look on Keith's face. "Come again?"

Then my headphone battery dies just as plane takes off. 5+ hours of airplane noise. No Led Zeppelin. No Stones. No Tommy Bolin. Uggghhhhhh…….

You know what though? All the hassles of traveling were more than worth it so we could go and see where Jake has spent the last 2 years of his life.

We love having Jake back.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's About Damn Time

It's time.

2 years have come and gone since we last saw our dear, dear Jake. On Friday Janae and I will hop a flight to Quito, Ecuador, spend the night sucking air at 10,000 feet, and then ride by burro to Guayaquil the next day. Alec and Tiffany will be traveling the same route exactly one day behind us due to work and school commitments. I'll leave markers on the side of the trail for them. I love the element of danger that exists in South America. There is something about the quasi-lawlessness that appeals to me.

My brother will be staying at the house and guarding it while we are gone. I haven't fed the dogs for a few days so they will be alert and cranky if any bad guys make the mistake of dropping by the house. Eric's flattop and ink should be sufficient to scare off any intruders as well, but I've set the perimeter alarms and supplied extra ammo around the house sort of how Dr.Robert Neville set up his place in "I am Legend."

We will see Jake on Monday. This will allow us a day to rest up from our travels and scope out the town before we meet up with our son. Jake is SO EXCITED to show us the places he has served over the past 2 years. Having been to South America before, we are prepared for anything. I have packed up the essentials: Beef jerky, immodium and gatorade.

I have always loved the following piece that was written by General Douglas McArthur. He wrote it to his son while in the Phillipines during WWII. It was made
after his death in 1964.

A Father's Prayer by General Douglas McCarthur

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough
To know when he is weak and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid;
One who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat,
And humble, and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds;
A son who will know Thee – and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here, let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those that fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."

I am proud of both my sons. You rock.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretzel Logic: What's Wrong Wiff the BCS

For those of you who aren't football fans, BCS stands for Bowl Championship Series. The member conferences of the BCS are the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and Big East.

Somehow these conferences conspired together to create the BCS and in the process aced all the other conferences in the country out of the big money bowl games that are held each year after the college football regular season winds down. These so-called "elite" conferences or "power conferences" made the big money grab of alltime..... and no one stopped them.

All other NCAA sports whose teams compete for a national title use a playoff format that consists of more than 2 teams - which is the current maximum # of BCS title game participants. You read that correct: 2 teams make the playoff. Even Division II and Division III football programs have a playoff in order to ensure that every qualified team has a shot at the title. The games are thrilling to watch.

The lucky participants of the BCS title game are decided by computers that are as sophisticated as those used to launch the space shuttle. Two teams are selected. And make no mistake, 2 great football teams WILL meet at the Rose Bowl on January 7, 2010....it's just that another 3 or 4 teams, maybe more, have LEGITIMATE arguments to also be included in that very game.

Every single year there are at least a couple of teams that should be included in the discussion of who should play for the national title. Last year it was Utah and Boise State, this year it's TCU, Cincy and Boise State....again.

Why the NCAA FBS schools can't get together and figure out a better plan is annoying has hell.

Arguments for maintaining the current system are laughable:

Many BCS proponents wish to maintain the integrity of the bowl games. This is BS. Bowl games sold their soul and with it their integrity 2 decades ago to sponsors waving wheelbarrels of cash. The younger crowd doesn't remember this, but the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl" was once just called simply "The Fiesta Bowl." Players wore sombrero's and panchos instead of snacking on tostitos scoops or Tostitos Restaurant Style Chips with Hint of Lime.... The Fedex Orange Bowl was once, you guessed it, just known as "The Orange Bowl." It was played in a rickety old stadium that was named, guess again, The Orange Bowl.

Really, who cares about all those meaningless bowl games - and they are all meaningless except one of them. A playoff would provide instant credibility to EVERY BOWL GAME since the loser goes home. What better motivation is there for kids having to play in Las Vegas in cold and windy December than the winner gets to move on and play the next week in Orlando? Or Miami? Or New Orleans?

Arguments that school administrators use like "keeping kids in school" are laughable. These very same schools HOLD THEIR BREATH while the NCAA Men's Basketball field is picked HOPING their school gets an invite - no matter how much class the kids miss. A ticket to the big dance means money and prestige. It's the golden circus ticket.

For once I would like to see an Athletic Director decline a NCAA tournament bid based on the grounds that the kids just can't miss any more classes. That'll never happen. Never, yet they use that argument against a football playoff all the time. I'll go out on a limb and say that football players are, generally speaking, smarter than their basketball counterparts so if any group needs to stay in school for class, it's certainly the basketball players.

2 years ago Ohio State played their last conference game 51 days before playing for the BCS title. Not only was the product on the field lousy after not competing for nearly 2 months, but many saturdays were wasted on meaningless Pointsetta/GMAC/Bell Helicopter bowl games. These games meant nothing.

So why does the BCS continue to operate and essentially freeze out all of the other conferences except those in the BCS? Shouldn't "National Championship" mean that all schools have the opportunity to play for the title and not just the SEC, Big 12, Pac 12, ACC, Big East, and Big 10 schools?

What if, for example, the same logic was applied to the men's basketball tournament? Schools would freak out if the BCS template was used in basketball yet somehow the BCS supporters most of whom are fat, white, crazy, old, plaid jacket-wearing, skirt-chasing dinosaurs don't want to pull back from the money trough. They are blinded by greed. to the detrimant of the entire system, the BCS lives on.

It's time to blow up the BCS for good. It's time for a college football playoff. Hey Obama, alittle help here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why I Need a TV Show

3:15pm Tuesday

"Uh oh... Houston....We have a problem."

That was the first part of the text message from my wife.

My first thought was that we hit a snag with the Christmas party that is scheduled for this Friday.


The rest of the message spelled out the problem thusly:

"Basement flooding, Pedro on the way."

The connotations that come to mind when the word "flooding" is used are always scary. And in my mind, the entire pool had emptied itself into the basement. As usual, my brain tends to think in extremes.

I tossed my laptop into my bag and sped home. Images of water lapping against the basement steps and a lot of sparks emanating from all the electronics downstairs swirled around inside my head.

As luck would have it Coco had sent her son Javier to the basement to store some boxes when he noticed the floor on the east end was taking on water. The room is used for storage and of most of the stuff down there is kept in rubbermaid containers...even the gun safe is raised up just a skosh to prevent water intrusion. Javier hollered something in Spanish and Coco and Co. rushed downstairs to begin immediately mopping and cleaning up the water.

The Spanish got even faster and louder at that point.

Apparently, as one of the pool pumps was being worked on, a ghost in the machine turned the system on and water began spewing out of the pump against the house, which soaked the ground and seeped into the places that water goes and finally wound up bleeding out of the lowest part of the house - the basement.

No one was manning the pool equipment when it turned into a water feature as Pedro was en route to get a part for the pump. I think I MAY have switched the system from "Service" to "Normal" at some overzealous point last night. Okay, so maybe I was partially to blame for this circus. Partially.

After the pump was shut off, the boxes were cleared out of the room and the floor mopped up, it was time to survey the damage. The good part is that we live in the driest climate in the country. The walls, floor and ground will dry without question. Mold? This word has taken on such dreadful meaning in the past few years but I am convinced that since the pool is filled with chlorinated water we won't have an issued with mold. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it. Mold has been around forever - deal with it.

From this little hiccup I sped to church. Cleaning time again. Once again I pulled bathroom and toilet duty. Wearing rubber gloves I can clean anything so it wasn't a big deal plus the other people there to help clean weren't really the cleaning types. Sure then can wave a duster around, or vacuum. When the ox is stuck in the quagmire you do what you gotta do. Me? I can clean.

We had signed up a few weeks ago to feed the missionaries on this particular evening and like the other times we have done this we ended up ordering pizza and wings since we ALWAYS find ourselves double or triple booked when we offer to provide dinner.

The sister missionaries met us at church and followed us home. They were from Salt Lake and Milwaukee respectively. We talked, they ate. An hour passed. By now, the activities committee had started arriving at the house....more people. More meetings. More things to plan and review.

9:30pm and the last guests were leaving....

They were admiring our Christmas lights....

Janae let the dogs out....

Ray Ray raced to pee on his favorite tree....

That had lights wrapped around it

Lights Out.

This. Is. My. Life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My 50th Year

I was born in Nashua, New Hampshire 49 years ago yesterday. Lying in bed this sunny morning in Las Vegas, Nevada I realized that my 50th year on this planet has commenced. Half a century. Tick tock tick tock. Jake turned 21 the day before - on the 27th. Our baby. Twenty-one years old.

Aging...everyone is doing it.

Jake called from Ecuador yesterday to discuss our arrival there in 2 weeks and that was the best birthday gift of all.

We are all very excited to see him for the first time in nearly 2 years. Alec and Tiffany were here at the house so Jake was able to talk to all of us and fill us in on what to bring along on the trip and what to leave at home and exactly how we would locate him once we got there. Of course the trip begins by plane and we'll spent a night in Quito before journeying to Guayquil. Then comes the bus, the burro and the river crossing - although I'm told not to worry since the pirahnna's are usually found further south. We'll wade through the current, backpacks held high, and then begin the trek on foot. Hopefully our guide will locate the mission outpost before dark.

Jake seemed unusually serious about our leaving the good stuff back home; ie watches, diamonds, rubies, gold...you know all the baubles. But really, I mean, it's Ecuador....I have more weapons at home than their military has combined. Plus all the hand-to-hand combat moves that we have watched on TV over the years and practiced on ourselves - Ecuador? Ha! I'm not worried. I know for a fact that we are going to have some screwball adventures that will make the blog highlight reel...or maybe even CNN.

The long Thanksgiving weekend ALWAYS means that the Holiday decorations get busted out. Now the maddening thing is the size of our house and the fact that only two of us live there yet....WE STILL NEED OFFSITE STORAGE FOR OUR STUFF. We just have a lot of stuff. Christmas stuff. Halloween stuff. Valentines day stuff. 4th of July stuff. Ton's of coolers (where are my coolers Ben?). Luggage. Luggage. Luggage. What is it with luggage?

Even though our stuff is stored indoors at a site a few blocks from Chez Runyon, the fierce Las Vegas dust storms have a way of coating everything with a thin layer of fine dust - it's everywhere and even INSIDE the tree bag and rubbermaid boxes. Grit everywhere. Big sigh.

Since this is another "Big Year" with Jake's return, the house has to be just right. The outdoor light crew was supposed to start last week - they didn't. As of today, only a few trees are wrapped. One guy puts up a strand of lights and then takes a smoke break. At this rate, we'll be lucky to have lights before we leave. Every year we go Clark Griswold-style and we've used the same guy for years so you would think he would be organized. He puts up the lights. He takes down the lights. He stores the lights. This year? Chaos. Tension. How can I tell? 3 day growth of stubble. 1am text messages and his truck parked sideways with it's ass end sticking out in the street. Skidding-in style. The guy is buried plus his girlfriend/manager dumped him. No girl = no organization. Even I know this.

Under Janae's supervision I artfully hung the mall balls at the intersection of the entryway and the main hallway. We love the mall balls - unique.....mall-like but in a home. Each year I sweat my ass off putting those up since I'm about 12 feet up in the air and hot air rises.....plus I have to space them just right. If you know what I mean. This year I only had to put them up twice.

The next project was the tree.....er...I mean TREES. We put up three of them.

Tree #1

The one in the game room was NEVER taken down from last year so that one's already up. I need to jiggle the lights, add some ornaments and what not but we're good there. Lazy but good.

Tree #2

The living room tree was given away last year so we need a new one. I think we are going LIVE for this year only. I'm not sold on all this "Going Green" crap either. The problem with the old tree was the lighting. Prelit trees are sensitive and everyone KNOWS how if you mess up one teeny light on any strand you are SOL. The entire tree goes dark. Janae also didn't like the fact that upon close inspection, someone might just notice that it's a fake tree. I have no opinion one way or another on this matter.

Tree #3

The best for last. This tree was moved from the storage unit to be erected on a spindle in a place of honor in our home. Alec and I lugged the tree into the family room, set up the spindle and began to assemble the tree. Our job nearly complete, I put the top part of the tree on and it promptly flopped over sideways - broken pole. Ugghhh. By now, I had white flock all over me. What to do? I did what any straight guy would do: I balanced the top part - sort of gerryrigged it if you will - climbed off the ladder and beamed to everyone, "That oughta do it."


Janae was already on the phone to Paddock. Apparently the tree has a 15 year warranty so they replaced it. This is a FIRST. Usually I miss the warranty period by a day or two....we were 12 years EARLY on this one!

Tree #3 is up. Slightly tilted but up. I need to work on the spindle part tonight. The motor is wheezing under the weight of all the stuff (there's that word again). May need to call in Pedro.

And so we begin our 2009 holiday escapades.....

Stay tuned. The funny stuff is coming.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Silly Season


Thanksgiving means that The Silly Season has officially commenced. Actually, it started a few weeks ago with all those oh-so-sappy jewelry store ads on TV.

Zales, Jared, Kay Jewelers each produce such incredibly lame commercials they make me laugh out loud and mock the ad.... in an English accent no less. This makes me laugh even more. I DO crack myself up.

We opted to go eat at Canyon Gate and avoid blowing up the kitchen which is what usually happens for any Thanksgiving feast to occur. Eric and mom joined us and the four of us had a nice time; we laughed, stuffed ourselves, and enjoyed the incredible people watching. I realized I had eaten too much meat which would be a rare occurrence but the triple offering of pork loin, prime rib and turkey was just too much for me to resist. My vow of giving up red meat except for steaks, roasts and hamburgers remains intact though.

We spied a rather odd thing at the club that made us go, "Really?" A lady seated at the table next to us brought a large zip lock bag and was loading it up with everything but the cutlery. Hmmmmnnn?

We drove home with the top down since it was a beautiful 70 degree day in Las Vegas and got home just in time to take the turkey out of the oven that Janae cooked. What's a weekend of football without turkey sandwiches?

Black Friday? I don't do that. Glad to have the kids in town for the long weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On My Way to the Cell Phone Store....

As one who likes to avoid life's speedbumps I seem to be a magnet for interesting encounters.

I have been an AT&T customer for as long as there have been cell phones - 20+ years now.

In a utterly futile attempt to replace a broken iphone, I have been 86'd into cell phone outer darkness for months now. The screen on my beloved iphone had shattered and instead of just getting a replacement screen (which seemed like a perfectly normal request), I was told by some grungy looking dude at the Apple Store who was dressed in baggy pants, a too tight tee-shirt emblazened with the saying "Not All Hero's Wear Capes" and a two day growth of stubble on his face and with bags under his eyes that I had to buy a new phone....as he twiddled it around in his fingers and stared at it like I had given him a moon rock.

"How did you do this?" he asked.

I didn't answer this question on the grounds that I have zero patience with stupid people.

To me this was the equivalent of needing new tires and being told I had to buy a new car. To replace the phone I couldn't pay the "new user" fee of $100, $200 or $300, but instead something like $400 or $500 bucks for an older refurbished model. This is Applespeak for essentially getting my old phone back with a new screen and having the memory wiped. It's a great, great business plan for Apple by the way but as far as customer service, I think we can all agree that it sucks.

iphones are self-contained units and this means customers can't replace the battery either. Hmmmmmm....self contained....except that it allows a one-way path for liquid to mysteriously creep inside while the hippie clerk says definitively,

"You got water in here - phone is shot - THAT'S NOT COVERED."

His look of disdain goes much further as if to say, YOU HEAR ME? THE PHONE WON'T WORK YOU IDIOT. The LEAVE ME ALONE vibe is very strong. Most people just mutter a few words under their breath and with a feeble look on their face say, "Okay." And Apple's stock keeps rising one more new iphone at a time.

To make matters more interesting, my shattered, de-energized-and-unable-to-hold-a-charge phone was coded under National Accounts. Neither the Apple Store or the AT&T store would replace it nor allow me to change the number. "Where else is there to go?" I asked.

More staring. More moon rocks.

The only way to solve this problem was for me to get a new phone and a new phone number. This however presented it's own set of problems. Security at any AT&T store is tighter than Fort Knox. The real issue is that no one wants to look customers in the eye. Clerks/Team Members/Associates/Friends/Shareholders (whatever name some think tank charged AT&T a few million bucks to call their staff) are trained to stare at a computer screen, type fast, avoid eye contact and not smile or engage the customer in any manner. A brick wall would provide better service. Me? I can be sarcastic. Wife calls it the verbal machete.

After spending an hour of my life to establish a new phone number, obtain a new phone, I was allowed to leave after providing the necessary passwords and various other secret information.

But I still had problemo #1. My old phone number still exists. It still gets calls. It still gets emails and it still gets text messages. I couldn't kill it. They wouldn't allow me to kill it. According to the manager moving this number would take several hours. The number would move from one National Account to a newly created National Account. We would then move my wife's current number to said account, THEN transfer the numbers back to my personal account.

WTF? Did I miss something or did AT&T get bailed out by the government and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs are running this unit?

Alas, the old number now exists in a dead phone unable to transmit or receive. Did the battery die before the screen cracked?

Try discussing THAT at the Apple or AT&T store.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Remodel Fun

Since we've had nearly 2 years to re-do Jake's bedroom and found ourselves at the 30 day mark saying to ourselves,

"We REALLY need to get going on Jake's room."

"And the bathroom" I piped in, "teenage boys have been peeing in there for a decade, it all needs to be ripped out before the EPA shows up to fine us."

And so began another house project. Runyon Home Projects don't involve a simple coat of paint and maybe some new fixtures although those are included in our work. Nope. When we decided to take on a job, we're going all out and the building code be damned.

The pool was going to a simply creation - rectangular. Zen like. Calm. We ended up with a big-ass pool connected to a littl pool (aka the chicquita pool), connected to a 25 person hottub and enough concrete formed blocks and arches that will stand forever like the pyramids.

The kids from church call our yard the Indiana Jones pool. I need to get some blow darts for next swim season - that'll really freak 'em out. But it's a great family pool and we get a great deal of satisfaction from hosting parties and seeing the kids jump off the superstructure, do flips off the tree and spin around on the rope swing but.....but let's not kid ourselves -it was hard work getting it done and it took A LONG TIME.

The basement remodel a few years ago was also a project that nearly never was.

First mistake: We started it ourselves the night after dropping Alec off at the MTC, and after demo'ing only the easy stuff (knees height to shoulder height), we called for the work crew early the next day. As I have aged, I'm good at starting projects and bad at completing them. Just ask my wife.

The crew had the rooms gutted in no time however to this day, there remains a small portion of the project that remains unfinished. I tick off the to do list every time I walk downstairs. Drives me crazy. Need more medication.

So the thought of another household project always holds the prospect of blowing up into something big and unfinished.

Right off the bat, we had a tile issue; the tile wouldn't cooperate and fall off the wall with a little push from my brother's chisel. Eric and I decided to rent a power chisel from Home Depot. Like the guy with the jackhammer on the McDonald's commercial who says, "I rented this all day, mind as well get my money's worth" Eric went at it. Janae was out of the house for a few days taking care of her sister so I had full reign over the demolition. After Eric was done with the power chisel, we were down to the studs which is always just a wee bit scary. The fact that a pile of debris was 3 feet high in the bathtub was only part of it. Now the plumbing was exposed, the insulation was exposed...... it's the ugly side of construction that most people don't see.

Fear not readers, I am expereienced with this sort of chaos, disorder, mess and, yes, comedy. Hitting my thumb with the 3rd swing of the hammer produced a string a moderate profanity. I handed the hammer back to my brother. I'm better with a golf club in my hand, or my mitts flying over a laptop keyboard. Hammertime? That was 20 years ago - literally.

Next came the floor which was also difficult to demo. Eric tells me that since the flooring compound sticks to the concrete slab it too has to be chiseled up after sitting around for a decade. It's supposed to be hard to chisel out. Luckily for us, the bathroom had only 70 square feet of floor tile.

Ugghhh....I thought to myself, wait'll Eric and Pedro have to take out ALL the tile floors in my house and replace them with handscapped wood ones......I may have to send Janae out of town for a month inorder to surprise her although I doubt she would mind being a gypsy for a few weeks. THAT will be a mess.

Pedro and I hit up a few of the granite and marble stores looking for something nice to throw down. I picked the 18 inch Jerusalem gold marble at Rio Marble and Tile, purchased some backer board for the shower, and all sorts of attendant little construction shit that you need but never get quite enough which require at least 4 or 5 daily trips to Lowes or Home Depot to pick up yet one more item. Maddening. My pockets are full of receipts and change. I hate change.

After 9 days of work, I'm proud to report that as of Saturday afternoon, the job was completed. Eric and Pedro knocked out all of the work in the bathroom and bedroom AND were able to paint the master bedroom from ceiling to baseboards while Janae was gone. What was once a small little job - a little bit of paint here and there - turned out to be a fairly large gig - but it was done right. Jake will return home to a very nice pad if only for a month before he head off to school in mid-January.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Going Postal

Most people can identify with government run entities and conjur up in their minds long lines, rude employees, 2 stations open when 6 exist but the other folks are on a break and so on.

Since my wife was out of town, I was entrusted to mail Jake's birthday packages to him in Ecuador. This isn't like going to the UPS store that is a franchise and owned by a person who smiles when they greet you and provides excellent service. No, I had to go the United States Post Office to handle this task. Customs forms were needed to be filled out and I was told to expect "a long line, but it moves fast." For as long as I have been on this planet, I don't do lines. I don't have patience to simply stand there. I'm not wired properly to handle this sort of thing.

I only know of two post offices close to home - the one on Rainbow and one in Summerlin next to one of those European-style roundabouts. I opted for Summerlin.

The parking lot was full and I considered for a second leaving. Wife would not be happy. I found a spot in the north forty lot and walked to the building only to be overwhelmed by the humanity inside. The line was snaked back and forth which wasn't the worst part....it was all the kids crawling around on the floor while their mommies stood in line. I could actually see germs floating in the air. The coughs, wheezes, sneezes, and wet fingers were everywhere. I kept hearing, "Sssshhhhhh....get up off the floor......get over here NOW."

I walked to the far corner to fill out the customs forms, located only one when I needed three but found, to my utter shock, a very helpful lady that ran to the back and brought me the forms I needed.

Is this THE United States Post Office I said to myself?
By the time I finished filling out the damn forms in triplicate, my hand ached and was prepped to stand in a long line with sick people.

To my surprise the line had dwindled down to just a few hundred people....er.....a few dozen. I stood there like a circus animal shuffling along not unlike the security line at any airport. Finally, I was next in line for service at the window. I lugged my 4 packages to the counter and was greeted warmly and with a smile.

"Sorry 'bout the wait. It's been busy today."

Again, I had to catch myself from making a wisecrack. Most times I just can't help myself. I bit my tongue.

Verna was stamping away - one stamp for the customs form and two on the package. I looked down and said, "You know Verna, your datestamp is wrong. It's the 12th not the 10th." Apparently Veteran's Day had thrown them for a loop.

"I been stampin' all day and no one has noticed that until you did."

"I'm weird like that Verna."

Laughter all around. Good crowd.

I paid the bill, walked out and thought to myself...wow, if the Post Office can turn things around, maybe, just maybe, there's hope for the million other government agencies.


Who am I kidding?

Monday, November 9, 2009

All Creatures Great and Small, Part Two

We had another Animal Planet episode on Saturday with our 16 year old cat Hider. Of the four felines, Hider is the oldest, crankiest and, in his mind, baddest cat on this 1/2 acre plot of planet earth. The other male cat in our menagerie is Snowy, who is 8 years old and has aspirations of becoming the next Alpha cat. The other two cats are females - they are lovers not fighters.

Here's the tale of the tape on the two males: Hider can't hear anything. He's 100% stone deaf. He can't hear the car start or the garage door roll up. I've come thisclose to running over him dozens of times. So much for a cat only having 9 lives. A few years ago he came home after having his ears cleaned but the procedure somehow sentenced him to a life of eternal quiet bliss.

That is until.....

Dunce cat Snowy goes on the prowl. This happens weekly. Some fights are knock down drag outs and some are over before they start - some hissing, posturing, and a quick jab or two and it's over.

Snowy's greatest affliction is that he's deeply retarded. The same vet that wrecked Hider's hearing also nearly killed Snowy when he was neutered as a kitten. Snow-Snow nearly died from the anesthesia and came out of the procedure with roughly the brain of a dog - this is not good for a cat but makes for great comic relief.

Snowy routinely breaks the first rule of the Kat Kingdom by coming to me when I call him. He will lay on my lap, or on my bed. He will beg for food without humiliation and in general sort of lopes alongside dogs Zeus and Ray Ray who inhabit our life with us. Snowy is usually benign and lovable until he and Hider take their business out on each other - usually in the middle of the night.

The latest and so far greatest of all their many fights ended up with Hider's ear needing surgery, a drain tube inserted, intravenous fluids, bloodwork and 24 hours under the watchful eye of Dr. Matt. Oh, and he's home wearing the dreaded lampshade now and bumping into pretty much everything. Damn cat nearly died last night by falling into the toilet trying to get a drink of water at 3am and the lampshade thingy was stuck under the seat. Janae wrestled the cat out of the potty and promptly jumped into the shower.

This is my life.

The twice daily medicine applications are also interesting. This act requires 8 hands but I only have 2. When Janae helps there are 4 mitts which is better, but not the minimum recommended number. The pink stuff that needs to be refrigerated is for fighting off infection. He gets two doses a day - each time I've wrestled with him I have dropped the syringe multiple times, dripped medicine all over me and him, fought off his fangs, been scratched by his rear claws, listened to his roar and ended up with cat hair in my eyes, up my nose and all over my clothes. The pain meds? Forget it man - he just has to deal with it. I'm not getting into the ring again.

I was instructed by Dr. Janae to pull on the tube in Hider's ear to promote better drainage (per Dr. Matt who looks like he is 17 years old). After I yanked on the bandage/tube doohickey and dabbed up blood, Hider, of course, had to shake his head back and forth spewing nice little blood droplets that rained down upon me. Nice.

Alas, we are down to only 6 animals now. I doubt that we'll ever get back to the 13 that we once had and I'm sure the number will drop eventually to only 1 or 2.

I am reminded daily of the following quote by Alexander Pope; “Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.”

It's true. Look it up.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quick Post

Leaving for Ecuador in 34 days with Alec, Tiffany, and Janae to pick up Jake. Yeah, hard to believe it's been nearly two years since this beautiful young man left home to serve in the Guayquil South Mission in far away Ecuador. I am so proud of Jake's service and his compassion and loyalty to others. Finally, after 4+ years of missions, the family will all be reunited.

Have spent the past few days here watching juniors tennis action with the Foote family who are dear longtime family friends from Salt Lake City. Especially neat was seeing matriarchs Norine and Angie get together last night after 35+ years....kids and grandkids all around... is life great or what?

Shoulder is 100% healed and never sore even after rounds and rounds of golf.

More later.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shaking Hands with the Pig Flu

There is a lot of talk going around about the H1N1 virus and how to curb the spread of it. I'm not too worried about the swine flu - it's a flu. If you get it, stay home and get over it. Another tip - wash your hands. Frequently.

I was sitting in church today and was all at once freaked out and amazed at how much people coughed, sneezed, wheezed, burped and no doubt farted during the sacrament meeting. The guy behind me was sneezing and coughing to the point where I was holding my breath in order not to breathe whatever air he was recyling.

When church lets out I make it a point to race home and the first thing I do is wash my hands like I'm going into surgery. Think about all those handshakes at church. The Bishop shakes EVERYONE'S hands - all those sweaty, meaty hands that covered up coughs, sneezes, and burps....and wiped their kids snotty noses and changed their babies diapers....I mean, is there a place anywhere with MORE germs than church? A daycare center, elementary school and airport come to mind.....and any Walmart. If you shook your Bishop's hand, then you essentially shook everyone's hand too.

Blowing your nose? What is the deal with people who blow their nose and then look at the inside of the tissue with that curious look on their face like, "What the hell is THAT?" Just don't peek. Cover that stuff up man and throw it away - don't look at it. The people who pick their nose while they in their cars? Same advice, don't do it - the windows may be tinted but it's not one way glass. Pick a winner, not your nose.

Here's a lesson for everyone: Use your LEFT HAND for your personal business. That's right, sneeze into your left hand or better yet, your left sleeve. Cough into your left hand. Don't be germing up your right paw and then spreading your germs by shaking hands.

Oink Oink

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dough Boy

It was a cool Las Vegas fall evening when I arrived home from work and the Vikes were just about to get it on with the Packers. That Brett Favre had changed teams and now played for Minnesota made for a "Can't Miss" evening of Monday Night Football.

It had all the promise of GREAT evening....until...

Janae walked into the kitchen and said, "Uh oh."

Of the 16 dough balls she had left on a tray on the lower oven to rise, only 7 were left. This meant only one thing. Ray Ray had himself a snack. A big snack of yet-to-rise bread dough.

In typical guy fashion, I scoffed at her concern with a "he'll be FINE" quip and was glued to the game.

"No, this isn't good. The dough will expand in his stomach. We need to call the vet."

Of course all I could see was dollar signs and, again, in typical guy mode I said,

"You know, in the wilderness if animals swallow something they shouldn't, they will just hack it up."

Used to this sort of debate she was already on the phone with the animal hospital. And not just any hospital..... The ANIMIAL EMERGENCY HOSPITAL. More dollar signs flashed in front of me.

I had already googled "Rising Dough Dog" and the results were all the same: Get to the Vet's office.

"Uggghhhhh....." as I took the phone from Janae and waited for the attendant. I explained the situation and was told to bring the dog is ASAP - of course they are going to say that. $$$

Meanwhile Ray Ray has already started to whine - the canine equivalent of the feeling one gets right after Thanksgiving dinner. Ray started to walk around in circles too - like a toddler that needs to go peepee. Time to go.

Just then, Zeus runs in the room, panting, all 9 pounds of kick-ass Maltipoo.

"Did he have any dough?" Janae says.

"Uh.....I don't know, but since I'm going, I'll bring him along too."

When I arrived at the Animal ER (can you believe this?), uniform clad attendants scurried out like on ER but for the dogs. I half expected the word "Stat" to be used (it wasn't - thankfully).

They took the dogs in the back and asked me a bunch of questions. An hour later, Zeus was discharged - they induced vomiting which I'm sure went over really well with him and found no trace of dough.

As I figured, Dough Boy Ray Ray ate all the rolls. 9 of 'em. The Vet walked in with a plastic baggy full of bread dough that Ray regurgitated by himself. They needed to keep him overnight she explained since the dough already digested would emit ethenol and we'd have a drunk dog wandering around. Plus they were going to give him a diet of ice chips to stay hydrated and, I guess, cool down any residual bread dough. If things went south, I had to pre-authorize a doggie IV, x-rays, etc.

Thankfully, when I picked him up at 7am today he was fine.

And I did catch the 2nd half of the MNF game. Life is good.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hail to the King

My wife and next door neighbor, Michelle Jones, decided to toss a homeowners association party so we could chat and mingle with our new and not so new neighbors. We've been in the cul-de-sac for 7 1/2 years, some have been here a longer time while others have just moved in.

Even though we've been here a number of years, I only knew the people on my street and not the ones who live on the other cul-de-sac that makes up our HOA - we are sort of wishbone shaped.

The party was a success and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting everyone from both streets-all were different and all were very, very nice. So nice in fact that they elected me President of the HOA.

Now getting 20 people to agree on anything is impossible and our charge as a new HOA board is to spiff up the entrance of the community, re-seal the streets, possibly replace the gates and constantly keep an eye out for nefarious behavior. I am armed and ready for action - bring it on.

Fortunately for us, we have a neighbor who hails from the great city on the planet, New York. Carmine humbly told everyone he didn't want to serve on the board, but simply enjoyed his role as the...uh... enforcer (his word) who walked the neighborhood each day, "You know...keepin' an eye out fo whateva..."

I was quick to point out to the group, "Paisan, with a name like Carmine you can do whatever you want." Bada boom bada bing.

Nervous laughter all around.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fear of Flying

I was reminded the other day why I once disliked flying.

Back up, it's not really the flying part that I feared, it's the crashing part that made my palms sweat and cause perspiration to bead on my forehead. This in turn also inspired teasing from my better half.

"Hee, hee, look at you! Relax!"

In fact, I was so freaked out about flying with my wife that I insisted on us taking separate planes when we went on vacation together - just in case the plane went down our boys wouldn't be orphaned. That's how far I took my anxiety of flying and I took a load of shit for it over the years but every single time another young father hears my reasoning for the wife and I taking separate planes, they ALL say,

"That's actually a good idea."

Howie Long and his wife had the same flight policy while their sons were young. If anything, I'm practical.

Nowadays do we still travel separately? Nah, I got over my fear of flying and with the boys being older, I figured that if the plane we were on ever did go down, they would be old enough to remember their mother and father and have a pile of money to split up. I could spend eternity living with that logic. See you on the other side and all that.

So the other day I was on a business trip with a young man from my office. We hopped the company jet (Southwest Airlines) at 10:30am for a short flight to Ontario, CA. Our return was delayed since our client was very talkative and absolutely loved our presentation so we took the last flight of the day home from ONT. It was on this flight home that rekindled albeit for only a short time the reasons why I once hated to step inside an airplane.

The flight is only about 40 minutes so it's not like we hunker down and watch a movie - we go up for 15 minutes and then start the landing procedure. Strange. But it's a 3 hour drive with traffic if we took a car and I hate driving more than I hate flying - so flying simply became the lesser of two evils.

On the way home, at minute marker 30, the plane suddenly dipped, twisted, and porpoised - sort of a roller coaster ride for an aircraft, for about 10 seconds. I looked out the window and I watched the wing go way up and then it bounced way down - a few times. A rubber seal came flying from the ceiling and a guy 2 rows in front of us literally lost his drink in mid-air. For those precious few seconds, the pilot and I were both passengers on the same plane and I didn't like that at all.

At that moment, I seriously thought that the plane was going to break into 2 pieces and that I'd be in the part without the steering wheel or jet engines. Memo to Self: Make sure to pack parachute next time.

Thankfully the plane survived the rough air. We landed in a moderate crosswind (the culprit of the turbulence was high winds) and were no worse for the experience.

I remember what Robert, a retired 747 pilot told me years ago, wings are meant to go up and down just like they I watched them do - if they didn't, THAT would be bad.

It's just that that phrase I first heard as a kid has been bouncing around upstairs lately.....If man were meant to fly he would have been born with wings.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One of Those Days.....

It all began with the dogs barking. Their barks woke me up - turns out that Tony was making the rounds spraying for bugs.

He's smart, he knows if he shows up early we'll be out cold and we won't invite him to spray the inside of the house - saves him money. The dogs must have heard his footsteps when he slid the bill inside the garage door - then they went beserk. As usual. Uggghhhh....only 7:30am.

At lunchtime I picked up my brother and gave him a pep talk on our ride to his job interview. I dropped him off and went to grab some lunch at Panda.

Always the gentleman, I opened the door for two ladies who approached the door when I did and who would soon torment me.

I dislike waiting, lines of any kind annoy me. Traffic? Can't stand it. People who can't make up their mind? The worst.

Friends and family tell me I'm impatient....I'll concede, but really I'm only intolerant with stupid people.

And so the ladies who I tended the door for wander up to the line at Panda. The girl behind the counter says in somewhat broken but discernable english, "How can I help you?"

"Uh.........What are you going to have?" the loud one says to the other.

I could tell right then that it was going to take every ounce of patience in my body to not walk out right then.

"Which is better....heehee"

I hate this question. What I like may be the complete opposite of what you like. I'm already past being impatient.

A few more "which is better" comments and giggles about the Mandarian chicken or the egg rolls and Lucy and Ethel had managed to make their way around the bend and to the cashier. I had every reason to believe I was in the clear. Home free.

That is, until I got to the soda machine for my delicious diet pepsi juice. Lady #2 was trying multiple sodas and snapping her lips together, loudly, like it was a national on camera taste test. I actually thought she was doing it on purpose - a sort of Candid Camera meets Punk'd. Nope. She just stood there blocking all access to ice and sweet carbonated soda.

I filled up my cup after she wandered off and was nearly knocked over when she stopped suddenly (like people do in the airport - this is also VERY frustrating for Keith) and spun around - forgetting utensils.


She was almost wearing my rice and orange chicken. By then I had pretty much lost my appetite. I had a few bites and took off - diet pepsi in hand.

I got home late from work and was reminded by my wife that it was our night to help clean the church.

"Uh, huh...." I croaked.

Cleaning our own church? How bad are things going to get? When is Obama going to turn the Las Vegas switch back on?

We met up with the other family at the chapel and assignments were made. I felt a lot of eyeballs on me when the "Bathroom and Toilet" assignment was tossed out.....

"Okay, I'll do bathrooms and toilets."

There, I said it. Gulp.

We were prepared however. Janae had tossed 1/2 dozen disposable gloves in the car on the way over. I was glad for this. I pulled on the gloves and went to work.

The smell hit me first.

What is that SMELL?????

The kid emptying the trash cans twisted up his face and went, "eewwwwwww, that stinks."

"Amen to that brother."

I propped open the door and went to locate the cause of this putridness. To my surprise, the toilets were all spotless. Thank goodness. I mean, I'll clean the restrooms as long as they are already clean.

But seriously, what is that smell and where is it coming from?

Hunter located the culprit.

Trash can.


From Sunday.

I told him to empty the trash into a larger bag and get outside as fast as you can.

We had the same problem in the ladies room only it was WORSE. More diapers and it two separate trash cans.

The last time I was in a ladies room was when I was 21 or 22 so forgive me for not remembering that women have special little compartment in their stalls that also need to be emptied. I laughed like hell about this for really no other reason than the fact I was doing it.

The cleanup complete and I have to say, the restrooms have never looked AND smelled so good. I got those rooms aired out in no time.

Memo to those with little kids: Take out your smelly diapers.

And don't slow me down.