Thursday, May 29, 2008

School Daze

As of tonight, I'm back in school - and it sucks.

In the short couple of weeks that school's been out, I really got used to not having to go. I've sat with family, played games, worked late, whatever - I could do whatever I wanted to as I didn't have to get to class.

Unfortunately, if tonight is any indication, this class is going to be a continuation of really bad courses at UTD. Starting with last semester, my business courses have been the opposite of compelling. The professors have been bad, and worse, haven't really seemed to give a crap. This class will make it three in a row. I'm in the process of fighting a mistake in a grade from last semester and I can't seem to find anyone at the university that seems to give a crap that a mistake may have been made. Tonight, we met our professor who seemed to think that International Business applies only to India, China, Egypt and Brazil. Not sure how those last two got in there, but they did.

He also seemed to be real keen on reading slides. If I have one major pet peeve it is when a presenter reads a slide to me. It is the number one public speaking no-no and he did it all night. If I wanted someone to read to me, I'd ask Cassie to read one of her books. At home, lots of school - not my idea of a good time. The good thing is that after the first test I'll be able to judge if I even need to go to class. Unfortunately, I really like a class that engages so I can be excited about it. However, being this close to my degree and being so fed up with school, I'll take an easy grade as a substitution, even if the professor takes attendance.

So, if you are looking for me on Thursday evenings, I'll be in class - BA 4371, International Business. Or, I may be home.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm A Slab

This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting a Mr. Oh. He's got a colorful personality, yet likes to lie around and get walked on all day. His full name: Pat E. Oh.

The workers are here ripping up the lawn, capping some sprinkler heads, and hammering wood borders in the ground in preparation for our new patio to be poured. As part two of our home improvements (for part one, click here), we are beginning to focus on the outside. The third part will be a fence, but we are going to hold off on that for a while. The fourth part, which may be sometime next year, or later, would be to cover and screen in the patio so we can enjoy grilling, sitting, an outdoor fireplace, and a hot tub. That will be cool.

Angie picked out a stained concrete sort of rust in color. Today, they border the space (about 25 feet wide by 12 feet deep), lay the rebar, and pour the concrete. In a couple of weeks they come back to stain and seal. I'll probably put up some paving stones to create a nice edge, as well. I'll post a picture as soon as it's done.

It should look nice and we are really looking forward to enjoying our big back yard. We've been looking for some outdoor furniture and also high on my list is a huge honking gas grill. It should be pleasant in the early morning and late at night - but you'll probably never find us out there during the day, at least not until winter.

I can't want to walk all over Pat.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not So Mighty Movie

We were very much looking forward to watching "A Mighty Heart". We had heard good things about it and we were really interested in the story....unfortunately, the movie is as boring as can be.

The story is about the wife of Daniel Pearl, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal who is kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan post 9/11. You'll probably remember, his kidnapping and subsequent beheading were one of the several that had been posted on the Internet. I confess that I saw the video, and I will never forget the inhumanity, the brutal-ness, the evil and depravity, the disgust that I felt. I remember crying after watching it, wishing I hadn't.

With that, I expected to movie to be the riveting story of what had happened. Instead, the movie played like watching a group of people eating dinner at the dining table. At some point in the movie, the three of us (Angie, her mom, or myself) had fallen asleep. I fell asleep early, Angie's mom in the middle, and Angie at the end. If our slumber is any indication, the movie just wasn't compelling.

Too bad, because the story certainly was...


Friday, May 23, 2008

Only Funny Once...

...but once is enough. Enjoy.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Asking For Directions

Face it - guys don't ask for directions. We could be so lost, but we're not going to stop and ask for help. If our wives want directions, they can ask for it, but they better not do it in front of us.

Fortunately, this post isn't about BEING lost, it is about WATCHING "Lost". I've been bitten by the Lost bug, and after four years of avoiding it, I've been taken in. A colleague allowed me to borrow the first season on DVD and I've previously completed the first five discs (20 episodes). The remaining disc (four episodes) was completed on my iPod as I flew back from Washington DC.

So far, the show has been very interesting, if not a little weird. We've got 48 people marooned on an island in the Pacific, we have a crazy French woman and other strangers on the island, an unidentified passenger kidnapping pregnant women, we've got an unidentified monster running around, polar bears, some weird capsule, guys that just stole a child from the island, and a myriad of characters all with their own ghosts and skeletons. And that's just the first couple of episodes. I'm told that by the third season things are running very well. I can't believe it gets even better. I love the way the show bounces back and forth between the island and the characters lives prior to the crash.

I already have season two next in my queue, and next to ship.

Just don't tell me what happens in season four. Just like with asking for directions, I don't want your help.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, America

This week, or at least the beginning of this week, I am in our nation's capital for a conference. The conference is being held at the brand spanking new Gaylord National Hotel. This is the second time that I've had an opportunity to help open a Gaylord resort. They are amazing. More like little cities than large hotels. This one has a huge (read: IMMENSE) window that opens to the National Harbor. It is a site.

On the flight in, and on the drive over to the hotel, I saw the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, The Capitol, and a bunch of other assorted unidentified "monuments". I forgot how beautiful Washington DC is, as it's been several years since I've been here. I'm thinking a family trip is in order within the next couple of years, so the kids can get a glimpse.

While here, I turned 39 years old (Monday, May 19). This is not the first time I've blogged about being on the road for my birthday - a couple of years ago I spent the day in Cincinnati for one day meetings. This one isn't so bad, although I sure would have like to be home for Angie's arrival back to Dallas from Mexico. The reason it hasn't been so bad is because of what I did last night - I had dinner at the Capitol View Restaurant, which is aptly named since it looks at the Capitol Building. If you've never seen the dome, it is awesome. Really pretty, especially lit up at night. We had drinks on the veranda of the 11th story overlooking the Capitol.

The dinner was a vendor event to which I had been invited. The guest speaker was the former White House Pastry chef, Roland Mesnier. Not only did he regale us with an amazing desert, but with funny stories from the past 25 years in the White House, encompassing five administrations. Two of the funnier stories were how Rosalind Carter wanted to hire him, but he wasn't an American Citizen, so he was whisked to the State Department. After answering ALL of the Citizen test questions incorrectly, they asked him who the president was. He knew that, he was just at the White House. With that, he was granted US Citizenship.

The other is a story was about how Ronald Reagan was eating chocolate mousse out of a huge mixing bowl with a large serving spoon. He dropped some on his shirt, and proceeded to eat if off his chest. I'd do the same thing, but to hear the "Great Communicator" do it is very funny.
We had a great meal, good conversation, funny stories, and were given a signed copy of Mesnier's memoirs on our way out.

All in all, not a horrible birthday.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Littlest Lessard - Epilogue

The Littlest Lessard is over, done, kaput!

I've paid my debt for getting badly beaten as Marc and Michele arrived in Dallas at about 4:30pm CST on Friday. Cassie and I were there to meet them and off we were. As a sidebar, it was Marc's third flight...THIRD FLIGHT IN HIS LIFE. His only other flying was a round trip to California on vacation when he was seventeen. That's over twenty five years ago!!! Needless to say, Michele had finger marks in her arm where he was squeezing too hard.

Upon collecting their bags, we returned home to pick up Dylan and Marissa who elected to spend the evening with their aunt and uncle that talk funny. After a quick tour of the house, we had a nice meal at Dickey's Barbeque Pit. We were then off to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo to see the relatives of all the meat we had just eaten. The rodeo was actually not very good that evening, but we had front row seats and had dirt in our pockets. We had a great time, even when Marc came out of the gift shop with a ginormous set of longhorns for me (my mistake for mentioning to him that I had always wanted a set).

We returned home and visited and played Bananagrams for several hours.

Saturday was a bit more sedate. After eating the many crepes that Michele made (hadn't had crepes in a VERY LONG time). We shopped and we shopped. We went to Bass Pro, Boot Town, Chick-Fil-A, Half Price Books, and Macy's. After a little wait, we were off to Pappasito's. Everyone got the DelMar, although Marc ruined his by getting some weird shrimp variant. The meal was OUTSTANDING. I think Marc and Michele enjoyed it as it lived up to its hype.

After dinner, another run to a bookstore, and Cold Stone Creamery we were done. I was literally done. Hadn't slept much all weekend, and I was ready for bed. So, after opening some birthday presents, watching Cassie's video and looing at pictures we went to bed.

We all flew out together. Marc and Michele to NY and me to DC.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Special Delivery

The dogs are going crazy, which can only mean one thing...someone is at the door. I look out the window and the FedEx truck is pulling away. There's an envelope at my front door. It's from New York City and it's addressed to me.

I open it, and there's a business sized envelope within. On one side, it says, "WHATEVER COULD IT BE????" On the back it says, "OPEN IT ALREADY! CAREFULLY! NO SCISSORS! SERIOUSLY!"

Now, I'm thinking I've got a letter bomb but the envelope doesn't have much of anything in it. How about some Anthrax...could be. Whatever it is, I'm a little nervous.

I open the envelope with a letter opener. Inside there is a zip lock worst fears are realized. I'm going to be dead inside of two days.

I pull the baggy out and it contains a strange brown granular substance. I expected Anthrax to be white. On the baggy is ominously written:

MAY 14, 2008

How cool is that? Thanks, Jill. I appreciate the piece of Shea which, after this season, will be no more.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kindergarten Rocks!

Here is an excerpt from tonight's program. Cassie was understandably proud of herself. Apparently, the kids have been working on this for months. Apparently, they'll do anything to get some participation at a PTA meeting.

It's my kid, my camera, and my blog. If you don't like it I can recommend someone elses lame-o site (Joey).


Adiós, Mi Amor

Today something happens that has never happened before. My lovely wife will be boarding a plane without me to take a trip that does not involve me. She is leaving us to visit some friends in Mexico City.

We have good friends that have taken an expatriation package to work in Mexico for a couple of years. Angie and I have wanted to visit them since they've left, but apparently Angie got impatient of waiting for my calendar to clear. So she, along with another girlfriend, are leaving today for five days in one of the largest cities in the world.

Although Angie is free to travel and make plans as she wishes, three things are happening which make this not the ideal weekend. 1) My brother and sister are coming as part of their Littlest Lessard winnings. They arrive tomorrow and depart on Sunday. 2) I leave with my brother and sister (albeit it to a different destination). I have a trip to Washington DC for a conference, so although Angie returns home on Monday, I won't see her until Wednesday night. 3) Monday is my birthday, so I won't get to see my baby (truth be told, I would be on the road anyway, but that doesn't stop me from "guilting" her into better presents).

Actually, I am pleased that she's traveling - it indicates that her fear is being replaced with her desire to go places, see friends, etc. This is a good development for my wanted trip to Europe for a second honeymoon.

Have a good and safe trip, sweetie. See you on Wednesday.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

All Shook Up

I know that when Angie isn't interested in a movie I want to watch (which often involves Vampires, Zombies, or other monsters), I watch it when she's not around. Cloverfield was just such a movie the other day. Dylan saw it in theaters and said that it stunk - he hated the handheld camera thing. I think that the movie was made without much use of a script in an attempt to make it as realistic as possible, since it is filmed from the point of view of a handheld video camera from the participants. If you've seen The Blair Witch Project, you know what I'm talking about.

The result? It is OUTSTANDING! The movie is creepy, scary and really entertaining. You won't see Academy Award acting and you'll need to get past the fact that there are about 100 times in the movie where any rational person would have left the video camera behind, but other than that, the movie is very compelling. The monster is believable, the action is awesome, and you couldn't have a better backdrop than the island of Manhattan. The beginning attack scene with the collapse of the Woolworth Building is reminiscent of the September 11th attacks. The destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge is amazing, the bombing of the monster is very cool, and the monster is shown in much more detail than I would have expected.

I could see why the camera shake could be annoying, particularly on the big screen, but at home it was fine. Really creative, and well done. If you are into that kind of flick, you'll very much like it.

Now, what is up with the name, Cloverfield?


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I Own You

They say that if you want to know who owns your assets, just look to whom the monthly payment is going. With that, as of today, Angie and I own our cars. Not just one of the two, but BOTH. I made the final payments on both of our loans today. We planned the loan durations to be co-terminus - so they are both paid off together. Now, we've just gotten a nice monthly raise in that we no longer have those payments.

Angie's van is a 2002 Dodge Caravan with no bells and whistles. In fact, it has a little 4-cylinder engine and has almost 100K miles. But, the body is in fine condition and we're hoping we can get an additional three years with it. That will allow us to meet our committment to the building campaign at church AND save a years worth of payments. However, she is having some engine trouble, and we may alter our plans to get her in something more reliable sooner than planned - just don't tell her that!

Mine is a 2005 Silverado and has less than 45K miles. Add to the fact that I just don't drive as much as I used to because I get to work from home and I'm hoping I get another ten years with it. Again, we may alter that as mine doesn't have any bells or whistles, isn't big enough in the back seat for two tall teenagers, and may be used as a learning/borrow car for those teens that are closing in on driving age in the next couple of years.

Whatever we do we are going to enjoy not having a car payment for a while. When we went through a budgeting exercise several years ago, getting out from car payments was a big goal. We've reached that, and it feels good. Literally, the ONLY debt we carry is on one credit card (80% of the balance is reimbursible from work) and our mortgage. It's time to redo our budget and now the payment we'll be making is to our savings account.

Talk about liberating.


Monday, May 12, 2008

AMA's Got Vultures?

We've arrived home yesterday with no difficulties. The "2nd Semi-Regular Lessard-O-Rama Slumberfest and Mets Game" is history. The weekend that was "all about Marissa" is complete, and I think she had a great time - even if she did interpret literally a comment from me about my family being vultures and not saving me any chicken parmigiana.
In fact, it was interesting to see how Marissa interprets things all weekend. While we were waiting on line for security, I asked Marissa if she wanted to "cut the line" (or more accurately, use the frequent flyer line). She said no and we waited with everyone else. However, within a minute (and see a couple of other people "cut"), she changed her mind and said she wanted to cut. Things like that were fun to watch. She seemed real interested in understanding the dynamics of my family - something she doesn't get to witness often.

Marissa and I arrived into a rainy NY LaGuardia on Friday night about 90 minutes late. AMA was waiting for us and whisked us home. There was family galore there and we visited and laughed and fought. It was great. We played Bananagrams until 2:00AM which is amazing, since we are all so competitive, games typically result in fighting. That wouldn't happen until the second night of Bananagrams.

The Met game was fun, as we got to watch Johan Santana pitch and David Wright hit. The Mets won 12-6 and we had a great time. AMA, Michele and Jill made loot bags including buttons, key chains, beads, tattoos and Mets scratch off tickets. Who doesn't love $5.00 hotdogs and $8.00 beers? We got a good glimpse of Citi Field, the Mets' new home starting next season. We had pizza and Wright Castles and stayed up late for the second night, as well.

Sunday came and we departed for Dallas. The weekend was fantastic, but way too short.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Meeting My Son-In-Law

Today begins my summer trips with just me and the kids. This weekend is Marissa's turn and we are headed to New York City to see her future husband, David Wright (star third baseman for the New York Mets).

Besides a Met game, we have two family slumber parties ("SlumberMetsFests") scheduled, where 15 of my closest family and I will pack into AMA's two bedroom house. I got dibs on the shower. I'm sure pizza, White Castles (which I will call "Wright Castles for the weekend"), games, and good natured (and some not so good natured) ribbing will be had, as well. I'll blog with all of the details.

Following Marissa's weekend, Dylan and I will be going to Boston in June to see the Green Monster and Old Ironsides.

July will be Angie and I in New Orleans for some food, drink, music, and most importantly - some alone time.

July will also see Justin and I try our luck in Las Vegas. A couple of shows and his introduction to how hard it is to make, but how easy it is to lose will occur.

August will complete my pleasure travels with two trips...a week in Alaska sight seeing and fishing with a friend from work; a week with Cassie at AMA's in NY, while I work.

All of these trips are an attempt to spend some time with the kids (time that I lose when I travel on business) and it is somewhat poetic to use the miles I earn on those trips to be able to travel with the kids.

It promises to be one busy and fun summer.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Who's War is it Anyway?

It is often said that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It's hard to watch "Charlie Wilson's War" and not think that we could very easily make the same mistake in Iraq.

I want our boys to come home, but I don't want to leave the same power vacuum that we left in Afghanistan after we helped the Afghan Mujahideen defeat the Soviets. "Charlie Wilson's War" is the amazing story of Charlie Wilson (played by Tom Hanks) who was a Representative from Texas who, almost single-handedly, helped fund our backing of the Afghan freedom fighters who were fighting against the Soviet Union at the end of the cold war.

It's one of those movies that doesn't hide all of the personal weaknesses and personality flaws of the main character, yet you like him anyway. In fact, you like him because he is flawed and because of his principals. Yes, he may take drugs, drink to much, cavort with any woman he can, but he is also moved by the injured children and the poor women of Afghanistan. You have to love a man like that. Because he acts with passion - both good and bad.

Angie and I enjoyed this movie a great deal. We commented at the end that two hours after starting the movie, we were smarter for watching it.

I just hope that we don't abandon Iraq, and "let the crazies take over" as we did in Afghanistan. If you aren't aware, and the movie touches upon it briefly, it is likely that our abandonment of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the Soviet army is how the Taliban took power and how the country became a training ground and planning location for al-Qaida.

At the end of the movie, after we spent billions helping the Afghans fight the Soviets, Wilson tries to get a measly one million dollars to build schools. He is told, "no one gives a shit about schools". Too bad we were so short sighted.

Let's hope we learn from that history.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

At Least It Was Short

Last night, Angie and I watched "Next" starring Nicolas Cage as a Vegas magician who can see two minutes into his future. I wish I could see 90 minutes into mine, so I could have avoided wasting my time with this movie. Next...


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stone Cold Movie Review

This will begin a new post category - movies. Angie and I love to watch movies, although she prefers the theater, and I prefer home (see my post about the theaters). Interestingly enough, we were supposed to have a date night on Saturday evening and I asked Angie if she wanted to go to the movies. She told me that she won't go on weekend evenings anymore. I guess I'm rubbing off on her. But, that's ok...since school isn't in session, we typically watch a lot of movies at home after the kids go to bed. It's our opportunity to get to the backlog in our Blockbuster queue.

I was up late the other evening watching a movie. I was messing around with my iPod at the same time, and happened to be online because of it. A family member IM'ed me and asked what I was doing. When I explained, she asked what movie. I told her, and she said she hadn't heard of it. In fact, as I thought about it, if it hadn't been in my queue (and thus in my DVD player) I wouldn't have heard of it. I must have seen a commercial and added into the queue without much thought. And, since our queue is so backlogged, I must have added it a long time ago.

Then, when looking at the movie description (upon it's arrival in my mailbox), I couldn't imagine why I added it in the queue. It was full of no-names, save one - Stone Cold Steve Austin. The professional wrestler/beer aficionado, who is NOT known for his nearly winning the Oscar for best actor. In fact, I feared that if his acting is as poor as his wrestling/acting, we would be in for a late night.

However, as I got into "The Condemned" I started enjoying it. It clearly earns its R-rating for language and violence, but the story is complex, even if the acting is not. It's about an Internet guy who "collects" 10 of the baddest dudes and dudettes on the planet (all condemned to execution and living on death row in prisons around the world) and drops them on an island for the most extreme reality show of all time - a fight to the death with the last one alive getting freed and gaining some cash. It's a social commentary about the viewers of such a program (all of whom paid $50 to subscribe to the web broadcast). I admit that I would likely be one of those subscribers, since I love Survivor, Amazing Race and Hell's Kitchen. It's got good action and a compelling story.

Best of all, Mr. Austin isn't asked to speak very much.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Chimney No More

On Sunday I celebrated one year of not smoking. I remember my last cigarette like it was my last...well, cigarette. I had gotten home from a business trip in California (I had not smoked the entire trip) and we went up to a neighbors to say Hi. She is a smoker, and I bummed one from her.

I don't remember enjoying that smoke (it was menthol), and I haven't had once since.

The truth is that it hasn't been as hard as I expected (this is the longest I haven't smoked since I started smoking when I was seventeen - BACK IN 1986)! I quit for nine months a couple of years ago, thought I had it beat, and started smoking again. Not all at once, but one here and one there. Before you know it, I was buying a pack again.

That's the difference between that time and this time. This time, I know I don't have it beat, but rather have it under control for the time being. This equates to not being able to have another. EVER! I can't take a drag. I can't bum one with the belief that I am good to go.

I've gained serious weight since I've quit...and I know that's bad, but I love the fact that I am no longer a slave to my cigarettes. Think about it, I no longer look forward to landing so I can run out of the terminal to smoke. I no longer stink upon my return into the house or the office after having a smoke. I'll get the weight taken care of at some point, but not having that tobacco monkey on my shoulder is a tremendous thing.

In fact, I don't like to even be around it anymore. Not because I dislike the smell...but because I like it a lot!

I guess that monkey is closer than I thought!


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Going Bananas

I've been introduced to a new game, and although yet to play it, I've bought two of them. The game is Bananagrams. It is very much like Scrabble, but with no board. Additionally, unlike Scrabble, the object is to use up all of your tiles first (no scores for the letters). Simply speaking, the player who uses all of their tiles first, wins. Another major difference is that players make their OWN puzzles, instead of sharing one community puzzle like in Scrabble. The last major difference is that your puzzle board changes during the game since you can add OR remove tiles, words, etc.

The game promotes itself as a funner, more flexible version of Scrabble. It looks like a lot of fun and I'll be bringing one (the tiles are stored in a yellow banana bag) to NY with me and Marissa on Friday. You can play from one to eight players.

Now, you may ask how this game became known to me and why I would go buy two of them without ever actually playing it...or, you may just not give a darn and have decided to go look at someone elses stupid blog (to you, I say "au revior" and allow me to recommend the Friday News FeedBlog).

For those that decided to stay, I was introduced to Bananagrams by colleagues of mine that I work with in North Carolina. As you may know, I've spent the better part of the last five weeks in North Carolina working on a couple of high profile projects. The story of Bananagrams has come up several times - both as a personal entertainment device (played with family and friends), but also as a team building device (used to build cooperation and respect for how others do things). Understanding how a stupid little game can be so effective in many different areas (and still be fun) got me very interested. I look forward to playing and seeing if it is as fun as everyone says. I'll let you know in my post about the weekend in NY.

As an aside - the game has already spread to some more colleagues in Florida. We'll see if the family in NY picks it up and spreads it, too.