Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Key West Pets

Doing my blog on the road as the missus and I are vacationing in sunny Key West presently. Note that sunny doesn't mean warm. In fact, the day we got here the low temperature set a new record. Wonderful.

Anyway, our hotel is in a part of town called Bahama Village where chickens freely roam. I thought that would be quaint, seeing free range chickens in the flesh, er feather.

And not ever having lived on the farm, I thought roosters only crowed at the break of dawn. Wrong. At least one rooster in our neighborhood is like a malfunctioning snooze alarm that goes off every few minutes beginning at 2:30 in the morning.

After one night of this, I decided that this chicken must die. And his carcass tossed into the street as a lesson to all the other chickens in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, before I could locate the suspect, I found out that chickens are protected by law in this town.

What??!! Is this like in India where cows are sacred? C'mon. Wonder what the fine is. I could probably handle it.

Key West is a very friendly town if you're an animal. Cats roam freely as well. We visited Ernest Hemingway's old Key West mansion here and learned that Papa Hemingway kept a whole lot of cats. Their descendants, numbering about 40, still roam the property.

So . . . don't the cats in the neighborhood ever go after the chickens? It would seem natural. I saw a mother hen with a brood of chicks walk right past a couple cats. Any self-respecting cat I know would have been on those chicks like a lion on a wild pig. But the cats didn't even pay attention. Key West is such a laid back town.

You can also take your dog into many establishments, including restaurants, without even incurring a second glance. I guess so long as he's on a leash. I overheard one exasperated middle-aged gentleman complain after finally finding his lost female companion that he went up and down crowded Duval Street looking for her white labrador, figuring the big dog would be easy to spot in a crowd.

"Then I find out he can go into the shops. That's why I couldn't find you." he sighed.

So the vacation continues for another few days. Then I can come home and get some sleep. At least I found out the answer to an age-old question: why did the chicken cross the road? He's headed for Key West and sanctuary.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bringing Christmas To Work

They've had a Christmas decorating contest going on at work the past couple weeks. Some pretty creative folks we have in our building. Not me. My modest contribution is represented in the photo below.

Maybe if there's a Charlie Brown Christmas decorating award, I might win. My work team had created a Michigan snowman in a previous year, so we put that up as well. I contributed the Michigan bag the snowman is holding. It plays "Hail to the Victors" when opened.

This did not sit to well with my supervisor, a Michigan State fan. The morning after I had pinned my bag to the snowman, someone had rolled the large recycling container shown in front of the snowman, so that nobody could even SEE the Michigan bag, let alone open it to hear it play Hail to the Victors. Must have been Scrooge.

Different areas had different decorating themes. Below is an area that featured a green and white motif. Except that I see a big of red there. Santa's red suit perhaps?

No it's the flag of the English soccer team Arsenal. Hmmmm, wonder whose cube this could be?

Below are some more photos from around the building. The last two represent the contest winners who re-created Santa's workshop including a world map with Santa's route traced there.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ghosts Of Xmas Letters Past

I finished up the "dreaded Christmas family newsletter" yesterday. I know many people are not fans of these holiday missives but I try to keep mine blog-like, light with a tad bit of humor.

Since I've discovered the power of my digital camera, the last few letters have included a collage of pictures. I'm not sure how some people feel about my mailing unauthorized pictures of them to my friends and such but some family members might object to my using any picture of them in my newsletter. So I don't ask first.

Afterwards, I put a copy into a notebook that contains about 20 such annual newsletters dating back over 20 years. I thought it might be interesting to re-print a few paragraphs to highlight some of life's goings-on during the past couple decades.

1989: I did fulfill one goal when I ran in the 8K St. Patrick's Day Race last March. Didn't mind plodding along with the retirees and the Weight Watcher drop-outs but when that pack started pulling ahead and fading from view, it was discouraging. If I run again, I not only want to cross the finish line, I want to beat someone there.

1992: My only computer now is my Commodore 64, which doesn't work that well and does not telecommunicate. I have been planning to purchase an IBM compatible but there always seems to be other priorities (new car, furniture, shoes for the kids).

1994: MOST TERRIFYING MOMENT OF THE YEAR FOR WENDY--When we woke up one morning to discover our pet rat Splinter had escaped from his cage during the night. He was re-captured without incident, however.

1995: Greg led the mourning for the passing of Splinter, our first family pet. Wendy didn't shed any tears. She had been pointing out ever since Splinter had escaped from his cage one night that he was living far longer than the average rat.

1998: My parental authority does seem to erode daily with my boys. I asked Greg to help move boxes one day recently and he snapped that if he interrupted his homework to help out, he wouldn't be able to make his bed-time. When I replied that he could stay up the extra five minutes it would take to move the boxes, he chastized, "Don't get smart with me, dad." My other son Scott has gone beyond stealing my lines. He actually says he IS "Mr. Talaga" if he is alone at home when a stranger calls.

2000: Wendy and I celebrated our 20th anniversary at Disneyworld with an elegant dinner at the California Grill, then dancing at Pleasure Island till the wee hours of the morn. Well, past midnight anyway. I spent the wee hours of the morning walking the grounds outside the Disney hotels looking for Greg and Scott who had gotten off at the wrong stop on their busride back to our hotel.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Give It To Me Straight

Beware the bureaucracy. Catchphrase of the new millennium.

A friend of mine had an interesting story to tell. He has power of attorney for his rich 91-year-old uncle. When the uncle felt he had to make an urgent trip to the hospital, he called my buddy . . . who told him to call 9-1-1 instead.

When he learned that an ambulance would come to fetch him, the uncle asked, “Now who’s going to pay for this?” Now that’s how rich people get and stay rich; they’re always looking out for the bottom line, even when they’re nonagenarians in medical distress.

Anyway, the story doesn’t end there. It’s just beginning. My friend was too busy all week to check on his uncle, but decided with his wife to make a trip to the hospital to see how he was doing this past Saturday.

When they arrived at the hospital, staff told him that his uncle was discharged on Thursday. My friend figured he must have made a speedy recovery and found a ride back home. Good for him. Then he got a call from his uncle’s daughter, who lives far away in Canada.

She had been trying to get an update on her father’s condition on Friday, the day before, but hospital staff refused her request, citing privacy restrictions. What?? The daughter was the uncle’s only remaining immediate family member. The daughter persisted and demanded to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor came on the line and finally relented, telling her that her father had passed away the previous day.

My friend was a bit perturbed at getting this news, particularly after having been told at the hospital that his uncle was merely discharged. To add to his consternation, besides having power of attorney, my acquaintance was the emergency contact.

Makes you wonder about the bureaucracy in this day and age, doesn’t it?

My wife and I had been waiting for a phone call of our own this week. They measured for our carpet, my son Greg and I tore out all the old carpet and we moved furniture in preparation for the arrival of the installers, then the installer left a message saying they would be in touch as soon as they received the carpet.

That was all last week. I had already informed my boss that I might need a day off this week when my new carpet was to be laid. On Tuesday, we arrived home from work to find a message on our answering machine.

It was from Home Depot where we purchased the carpet a week and a
half ago. Giving us an update, they told us the carpet was to be manufactured on Friday and would be shipped out next week. The earliest we could expect it to be installed would be between Christmas and New Year’s?

What??!! You mean when we placed our order, not only did they not have the carpet in stock, it wasn’t scheduled to be produced for another two weeks. Do you think this was news we could have had when we were originally in the store??!! That may have affected our purchasing decision, especially when we told the salesman that we wanted it in for Christmas.

Puts one in a very un-Christmaslike mood. Except in one regard. Our family room with bare floors, a few mean sticks of furniture and a Christmas tree will very much look like the Cratchit family home from a Christmas Carol.