Too many choices.

  Today Jean and I took another step forward in our wedding planning. We selected and purchased our invitations. We should be getting the proofs back on Friday or possibly as late as next Tuesday. We like them a lot, and it’s nice to have another part done. A few more steps to go…

  I’ll be heading to Alabama in another three days, and I’m pretty excited about it. I will be watching the first Crimson Tide game of the year with my grandfather, and I’ll be able to see my two nephews (Truman for the first time).

  I have also been doing more planning on the Guatemala trip with Dave recently. I think we’re close on knowing what we want to do about our flights — looks like an open jaw (fly into one city and out of another) from LA into Flores, Guatemala, and then overland to Honduras before heading back from San Pedro Sula to LA. We’ve decided to basically visit two major Mayan sites, Tikal in Guate and Copan in Honduras. The rest of the time will probably be spent relaxing with a book or sipping cold beer while looking out over a lake in the middle of Central America. I can’t wait!!

  I need to hit the sack now because it’s getting late. Oh yea, my boss is gone until next Wednesday. He’s getting married this weekend at a winery down in Temecula. I hope they have a great wedding and that he’ll be really happy together with his new wife. My boss is a good guy and has proven to be a very helpful mentor for me thus far. I also tried to talk my buddy Jim into going down to Tijuana this week to visit one of our customers, but he was pretty hesitant; if we go, I’ll be sure to take the camera.

g’nite

Glendora Hyundai has killed my car.

As I mentioned last week, my truck just went over 100,000. I decided to try to prolong it’s life by getting the 90,000 mile service/tune-up from a Hyundai dealership. I had gotten the 30k and 60k services when they were due. Instead of going back to Romero Hyundai because they had tried to screw over me when my check engine light came on last year – wanting to charge me diagnostic fees even though there were two alarms and the cause of one was under warranty, I chose to take the Santa Fe to Glendora Hyundai. This is the same place that sold me the windshield wiper pump after Big-O destroyed it.

When I dropped my car off on Tuesday evening, the service guy said it would cost about $310 for the 90k mile service, and asked if I’d had my spark plugs and timing belt changed. I didn’t know, so he told me he wasn’t working the next day but if I called in first thing and spoke to the manager of the service department, Jeff, that they’d be able to do the 90k service and the additional work if I decided I needed it done. He told me twice that he strongly recommended that I have the timing belt changed if it hadn’t been done because “these things blow up if the belt goes” and he said “a new engine in one of these will run you about $7000”.

I went home and checked through my old paperwork and found that I’d had the spark plugs changed at 60k, but not the timing belt. The service department opens at 7am, and at 7:03am on Wednesday I called Jeff and told him I’d like the timing belt changed. At around 9:20am “Rocky” left me a voice mail saying my car was ready. I called back and told him I was surprised that they could change the timing belt that quickly, and he said he didn’t know he was supposed to change it, but they’d get right on it and have it ready by 4pm. Jeff dropped the ball.

Sometime before 3pm on Wednesday I talked to Rocky again. He called to tell me they found a crack and leak in my radiator’s tank and they’d repair it for the bargain price of around $300 (on top of the $310 for the 90k service and the $550 for the timing belt). I told him “no”, and he said I could keep the rental car again at their expense because they weren’t done yet, so that’s what I did. On Thursday, I left work around 3pm and headed straight to Enterprise Rent-a-Car and turned in the little Dodge hatchback loaner. I waited for about 20 minutes before they were able to take me back to the dealership. I was finally dropped off at Glendora Hyundai, and as I walked up, Mike said “Oh man, I’ve been trying to call you”. I had no voice mails on my work phone or my cell phone, and they had both numbers. He then told me he had bad news – when they were working on my timing belt, the tensioner came off and broke the valves.

Immediately I was upset and he said “it’s a good thing for you because you get a rebuilt engine and we’re gonna cover it”. I didn’t see it this way. I brought in my car with an engine that was working perfectly, and they talked me into getting the timing belt by saying there would be significant damage if it broke. They caused the new one to break and therefore presumably did significant damage. They called Enterprise to come pick me up again, and just before leaving after another 20 minute wait, I asked the manager, Jeff, how long it would take. He acted irritated that I would ask and said “we won’t know how much damage there is and how long it’ll take to get the parts until we get it pulled apart”. I told him that I planned on leaving town next Friday and he said “then we’ll have it done by Friday”, to which I said I had to leave by 9am and he said “then it’ll be done by Thursday”.

I called Friday around 4pm to find out if they now knew when I’d be getting my car back and what kind of warranty I’d get with it. Mike said they didn’t know yet but they’d know by Monday.

Today, after they’d had my car for 6 days and managed to kill my engine in what should otherwise be a standard 5 hour service job, I called again. I was blessed with being able to talk to Jeff (manager) again. He said he didn’t know when they’d have it done but they’re shooting for Friday. I told him I had a flight at 9am on Friday, to which he again said “then we’ll shoot for Thursday”. Jeff also said that I’d have a 1 year, 12,000 mile warranty on the engine work. A perfectly working engine that they destroyed is now only warrantied for 12,000 more miles.

I talked to a buddy of mine at work and he agreed to call Glendora Hyundai to find out what happened so he could explain it to me. After he talked to them, it appears that when the timing belt fell off because they didn’t setup the tensioner correctly, the pistons fired at incorrect times which caused one or more piston heads to slam into the intake/exhaust valves and break them. Glendora Hyundai claims there was no damage to the pistons, rods, or anything else other than the valves which they’re replacing.

I’m really worried about this and not sure what I’m going to do. I think I may call and tell this rude manager that I am going to require a signed statement that there was no damage done to the pistons/rods/cylinders/rings/spark plugs and sign it. Or, I may call and ask to speak to the General Manager of Glendora Hyundai so I can explain my dissatisfaction about this situation. If you have any suggestions for what I should do, PLEASE tell me.

Hopefully Jean and I can purchase some wedding invitations she found over the weekend tomorrow. Also, here are a few pictures I took at the plant this weekend while I was on “weekend duty”:

  The first picture was taken alongside the Pickle Line, looking towards the 5-Stand mill. The second picture was taken in the “Cold Sheet Mill”, of a temper mill. The third picture was taken as I was walking back to the Tin Mill from the Cold Sheet Mill after doing my rounds up there – the building to the left is Hot Strip Finishing, and the tall building in the center is the #1 Galvanizing line. A mechanical contractor in Hot Strip Finishing told me 3-4 times how happy he was that I was coming by to check on things because he’s worried the craneman in there on the weekends is going to have a heart attack. The last picture is a view I see many times every day, the “P&O shipping bay”, where Pickled and Oiled coils go after they come off the pickle line so they can be loaded on trucks and shipped to customers. My buddy Dave’s office is just outside this bay on the right.

Down in the doldrums would be an improvement.

  More good news to report: my truck’s engine has been destroyed by the very people that insisted I needed a timing belt change to ensure it’s long life. Also, the two teeth that my dentist suggested I should have existing fillings replaced in because they “look like they could use replacement in the near future” are hurting when I chew now that he performed this preventive maintenance.

  This has been a bad week… I’ll give more details when I get home later today. I’m just about to leave to go to work because I have weekend duty.

Down in the doldrums.

  This week hasn’t been too great. The good only news so far is that the wedding planner received our deposit. The bad news:

1) The wedding planner’s bank took some fees out so the full amount was not received, and I’m not sure what I will do about this because I don’t feel like her bank’s fees are our problem.

2) My truck has been in the shop for 2 days now, and with a bill of nearly $900 coming tomorrow, I’ll have most fluids filled (not flushed though because that costs extra) and a new timing belt.

3) As usual, the auto repair shop “found something”, and says my radiator’s plastic tank is cracked, and they’ll repair it for “only $300”. I plan on seeing how bad it is and either putting some sealant on it myself or replacing it with my buddy Dave’s help.

4) I have a full day of “orientation” tomorrow at work because I’ve been unable to attend the past two sessions, so now I’ve been there for a year and a half and will be doing the new hire tour around the plant for 4 hours in 105+ heat with guys who’ve been there for 3 months…

5) I have weekend duty coming up.

6) I got a bill for about $160 for 2006 taxes on my truck, owed to the state of Kentucky. I had told them last year I wasn’t going to pay because I moved to California in February, and I had paid for a certified copy of my title to be issued so I could transfer it to CA. As with most government things, I’ll have to take care of this thing in triplicate before they decide to leave me alone.

7) awww hell, I think 6 is enough…

  I’m ready for next weekend, when I’ll be going to Birmingham. Not only will I be able to visit with family, but it’ll be the beginning of the college football season!! I’ve already started checking to see if anybody at work wants to go up to Vegas for a couple of weekends to sit in the sports book areas and bet on some games and watch on the 150+ screens. No takers yet, but I’m hopeful.

  On another bright note, the housing market continues to implode. Hopefully house prices in SoCal will continue to drop for the next 18-24 months, which will give Carolyn and I enough time to really know the area we like best and also to save more money for a down payment.

100,000 and counting

  Another boring Sunday. We got up, went to get breakfast, drove into San Bernardino and Highlands, and when we got back Jean headed to church and I fell back asleep. Jean went to a bead store with the refund I got from her new cell phone.

  As I’ve mentioned before, it seems like I notice more frequent stories about places once I’ve visited them. This past week there was a huge earthquake in Peru, near Lima. There was also a recent story about how tourists continue to flock to Paris even though the US dollar continues to drop in value against the Euro.

  On our way to breakfast, we saw some guy doing his morning ritual of rummaging through a dumpster. Then, on our way to San Bernardino, my truck finally rolled over the 100,000 mile mark. I bought the SUV brand new, so I’ve put over 100,000 miles on it in 4 years as of September 14th (I bought the truck as a birthday present for myself – actually the day after my birthday). I had wanted to drive out to SB (Rialto actually) because I’d read that the inspiration for the caution cone hotel in the Pixar movie “Cars” was the Wigwam Motel on Foothill Boulevard. Foothill was actually part of Route 66, and we drove past this gem and snapped a couple of pictures (here is one and here is another).

  We’re about to sit down and watch Carol’s new movie, Terms of Endearment. Charlie and Tank will probably just lay there.

  Hopefully we’ll get our wedding invitations purchased this week. I have to work next weekend because it is my turn for weekend duty once again. Hopefully I’ll make more progress on the Guatemala trip too.

Here comes the bride!

I haven’t posted anything in about 4 days, and we’ve done quite a bit since then. We paid our deposit for our wedding, Jean finished her swimming lessons, I got into a fight with a co-worker, and Carol is about to break into the jewelry business.

After over a year of planning, Jean and I have finally put a deposit down on our wedding. We decided to get married in a French chateau, and we had started planning this well before Tony Parker and Eva Longoria got married in one. This is the chateau where we’ll be getting married, and here is the room where the ceremony will take place. We also decided to have some live music (viola) during the ceremony.

Carol-Jean finished up her two week swimming course, and even though she can do about a half-lap freestyle without taking a breath, she still needs a floatie to even attempt doggie-paddling in the deep end. She wants to keep going to the pool to practice treading water, so hopefully she’ll have time.

A local jeweler in Upland or Claremont (I forgot which) asked Jean if she would like to sell her bead projects out of their store after taking a look at one of Jean’s necklaces. I can’t wait for Jean to show off more of her work to this lady and get some out there so it will start selling. Jean puts a lot of time into her hobby and her stuff looks good even to this completely fashion backwards southern nerd.

Tomorrow I’ll give some details about my argument with this Italian schmuck at work. I don’t feel like writing the whole story right now.

Here are some pretty good articles about the housing industry’s bubble bursting:

Mortgage Applications Dip
Mortgage Delinquencies Spreading
Mortgage Fears Drive Up Rates

I went to work today so I can take the last Friday of the month off since I’m flying to Birmingham for Labor Day. I love working on the weekends because I can get lots of stuff done since nobody is there… I did stop by and talk to my buddy Dave for a while about our trip to Guatemala. Dave changed his schedule to Tuesday-Saturday because of our “energy schedule”, so he was in his office all day.

I have been struggling to come up with a decent birthday and christmas gift for Jean this year, and I finally came up with 1/2 of her birthday gift yesterday. I told her about it since I have to give it to her before December 19th, so here it is: Kenny G. Jean loves Kenny G because she played the sax in high school. Carol has never been to a single concert, so I decided to take her to a concert to see Kenny G. Normally this is not anything I’d be interested in, but you do crazy things for your “wife” (which she’ll be very soon). We’ll probably be staying at the casino that night so we can really cut loose and enjoy the show.

It is raining space rocks.

  Jean and I went to see the Perseid meteor shower over the weekend, and it was incredible! We drove all the way up to Joshua Tree, and watched the show for about an hour and a half. Usually you don’t see many people on the roads in JTNP, but we passed by a bunch of cars parked along the road, and the people were out on top of their cars or sitting on the curbs looking up. We headed to the first big parking lot you come to after entering from the northwest gate (off Hwy 62). There were probably 15-20 other people there watching.

  I would say we saw around 35-40 meteors in the 90 minutes we were there, and of those, 5-6 were awesome! The few really spectacular ones would run the entire distance of the sky and leave huge burning trails behind them, but the majority looked basically like shooting stars — really fast lights zipping by over a short distance. When the big ones would happen, you’d hear all these people say “oooooohhhhhhhh!!!!” at the same time. The almost two hour drive each way was tiring, but worth it to see the shower, especially since there was a new moon and basically no light pollution at all, making the sky very clear and dark.

  I tried to get some pictures, but digital cameras aren’t as easily configurable as your run of the mill 35mm SLR. I wasn’t able to over-expose the shots, which is basically leaving the shutter open for a while to let the little bit of light (millions of tiny stars in a sea of blackness) into my lens. Instead, here are two pictures taken earlier in the day of Charlie in her favorite spot and wiggling on the rug.

  I haven’t stepped on my immigration soapbox in a while, but here are two recent articles that are worth a read: this one shows how we can amazingly control this problem when the government actually enforces the law, and this one makes me absolutely sick… The second article basically says our government needs to provide Mexican migrant workers with housing because their illegally obtained US paychecks won’t cover anything decent. They spread their own country’s squalor up into the US and then have the audacity to say American taxpayers should foot the bill for them to be here, like the $0.30 savings per pound of grapes is worth the extra $200 per year you’d be paying to put them in a house. Why don’t we help the poor and destitute Americans before worrying about these criminals?? Aren’t there plenty of people who still have nothing or equally crappy housing down in New Orleans after Katrina? Why don’t they get these funds instead of the “poor migrant worker”? The poor migrant worker committed a federal crime coming into this country, stole my social security number to work illegally, and then doesn’t pay taxes to cover the education and healthcare of their 15 children…

  Enough of that… It makes me sick to think that our government was pushing really hard two months ago to choke a bill down the throats of Americans that would have made these 12 million criminals legal and then entitled to more benefits at the expense of the American taxpayer. We need more politicians with balls, like Tom Tancredo. The article at that link is about Barack Obama getting the Pakistanis upset because he said we’d take care of terrorists on their soil if they wouldn’t, which is both cavalier and stupid, but the real hero of this article is Tom Tancredo who gets a small mention for his quote on what needs to be said about the real issue — we will bomb the holiest sights in the islamic religion if there is another terrorist attack on US soil. Finally someone says in a public forum what the real problem facing the world is, Islam, not radicals, not al-Quaeda, not Iraqis or Syrians, but all followers of Islam. They need to teach differently and dissuade these “jihadists” from doing what they’re doing instead of telling the world it is some fringe element of their religion. They get up in arms if a Dutch paper runs a cartoon about Allah, but say nothing when innocent American journalists are beheaded on television.

  For more good news, it looks like my trip to Guatemala in February will require a little more planning given their current political situation. Dave and I think we’ll be flying into Honduras now, instead of Guatemala City, and only going into Guate briefly to see Tikal.

  Jean has dinner ready now, so I’m going to have to finish this venting. We did sign and fax the wedding contract tonight, and will be making the deposit tomorrow, so we’re excited about that. We also never felt the recent earthquake, so that’s a plus!

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump…

Yesterday didn’t quite work out like Jean planned. She had wanted to go to this bridal show in Redlands, and then to the pool so she could work on her breathing techniques from 1-4pm. She didn’t leave the house until about 11am, and then around noon she called me from Redlands. She was sitting on the shoulder of the 10 underneath an underpass with a flat tire, just before the Tennessee Ave exit in Redlands. She said the “thump thump thump” sounded like a helicopter at first.

I was really worried about her, thinking that someone could accidentally hit her stopped car from behind, or something like that, but she told me 3-4 times that she didn’t want me to come get her. She called our insurance company, Progressive, and they had a wrecker service respond within 45 minutes, and they changed her tire for her. Jean headed on to the Big-O Tire out there, and found out what I’m getting her for her birthday. Her early birthday present was a brand new tire! 🙂

She finally made it to the bridal show and said they were only selling the frilly traditional kinds of dresses, and that’s not what she wants. Carol missed going to the pool, but spent the rest of the day “shopping” by going to a bunch of bridal boutiques and eventually the mall.

I played on our computer, scanning documents that I can now throw away. I also balanced my checkbook and talked to some friends and family for a while on the phone.

  I am trying to setup a trip to Mexico for a few of my old college buddies. Most of us don’t talk to each other regularly, or at all in some cases, any more. My only college friend that I regularly talk to is Phil. Phil called our friend “Backwards” (Matthew Barksdale), and I called our friend Kyle Feltes. Backwards most likely won’t be able to make it because his dad has lung cancer and just had surgery in the past week. Kyle said he wants to go, but needs to save up some money because he just recently changed jobs. Phil and I are thinking about going in late October or early November.

I would like to go further south than Ensenada, like San Quintin or El Rosario, but Phil wants to stay at this place where we stopped for breakfast on our last trip into Baja. The breakfast place is on the Pacific Ocean side, just south of Tijuana. The food is good and cheap, the beach is beautiful, but I didn’t really see any hotels. Phil’s main reason for wanting to stay there is to surf.

Hopefully on this next trip we will be able to either go fishing for shark or at least catch some yellowtail or dorado. I would throw back any bonita because they were just too oily and fishy to taste very good. I’m also looking forward to some fish tacos, cold Tecates, carne asada, and even some margaritas if we get really adventurous. The saying “fortune favors the brave” did not hold water on my last brush with Mexican margaritas. I ended up with something very close to cholera and spent almost 48 hours either in front of or on top of the toilet in a Chihuahuan hotel.

Next year maybe we’ll be able to take a longer trip into Baja and go down to Loreto or La Paz. I just can’t take off any more days this year after my two and a half month vacation to do the RTW trip. Even though Ensenada and sportfishing in the Pacific are a lot of fun, my favorite trip down there was riding through the desert along the other side (Sea of Cortez), and camping on the beaches with Jean. I think I need another one of those sometime soon.

Jean is going to be waking up soon to go to church, and I think I may go see either the Simpsons movie or Transformers. I had planned on going out to the desert (east Joshua Tree or north towards Barstow) in the middle of the night early today, but flipped my alarm clock off. I wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower that’s been all over the news. It comes along at the same time each year as Earth moves through a patch of debris (rocks) left in space from a comet. The debris creates a “meteor shower” as we pass through it. They say you need to get far away from light pollution, so I instantly thought of Joshua Tree because I’ve never seen the night sky as filled with stars as I have when we’ve been camping out there. Supposedly tonight (1am-just before dawn) is the best time for viewing the Perseids this year, but I don’t want to be exhausted for work, so last night would have really been better.

In a final note for today, I think it is strange that I had only had 1 flat tire until about 3 months ago. I have been driving every year since I was 16, except for two years, so I have 1 flat in 12 years on the road. I’ve driven across the country, and made many 400-500 mile trips over the years. I will have put an entire 100,000 miles on my truck within the past four years as of this next week. In the past three months, I’ve had two flat tires and Jean has had one. I suspect foul play, and if we experience one more flat in the next 365 days, I will do something to try and catch Linda, errrr, the culprit. Video cameras, police reports, whatever is necessary.

And the plot thickens…

  It was late last night, so I forgot to mention anything about what happened in the show’s plot in my blog post. I don’t remember ever watching Two And A Half Men, so I had thought it was a family sitcom, similar to My Two Dads from the 80s. It is certainly not suitable for any families with children under 18 because it’s filled with sexual innuendo and double entendres. I was surprised at how bawdy the show actually was…

  The premise of last night’s show was that Charlie Sheen was trying not to spend time with his over-sexed mother while trying to sleep with the wife of one of her clients. Jon Cryer’s character was trying to hook up with J Garofalo, until she freaked out after they slept together. The “Half”, Cryer’s son, was only in 2 short scenes where he helped the two brothers try to avoid going to a dinner party with their mother.

  They told us the shows usually appear on the air 3-4 weeks after taping, so watch CBS on Mondays at 9pm and you’ll hear Carolyn and I laughing any time they opened their mouths. In fact, we sat behind a girl that continued laughing every time the crowd stopped, in an attempt to be able to recognize herself when the show plays. They told us not to do that at King of Queens, but didn’t give any kind of instructions on what not to do at this one…

  I’m not sure what I’m going to do today because Jean will be gone for most of it to shop for a wedding dress and go swimming. I may go to a movie.

Charlie Sheen deserves another Emmy!

Well, we just got back from the taping of Two And A Half Men. We had a lot of fun, and we were glad we went.

Jean and I got home right after work and took showers and then headed for the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank. We stopped at Burger King to get something to eat, and then spent the next hour and 25 minutes creeping along down the 210 and 134 freeways.

As we pulled through the security check going into the WB Gate 3 parking deck, two guards told us we had to leave cell phones and cameras in our car. We parked and went downstairs and stood in a line for visitors waiting to see TAAHM (Two And A Half Men). A security officer came up and checked our driver’s licenses against our tickets and then stamped our hands. Another lady came up and took our tickets and gave us a “WB Shuttle Pass”. I ran off to the toilet and next thing I know Jean was knocking at the door telling me to hurry. If we hadn’t joined the group headed into the WB complex right then, we would have had to wait in the parking deck for another 20-30 minutes for the next group to be escorted to the TAAHM sound stage.

We crossed the road and a security guard used an ultra-violet light to check the stamps on our hands, and then we went through a metal detector and were told no cell phones or cameras. We followed the escort down a long street through dozens of huge sound stages and saw the WB water tower. We noticed signs on the different sound stages that told what movies and shows had used each one. We saw the one where Oceans 11 and Oceans 13 were filmed, and we saw the one were Friends was filmed.

When we made it to our building (next to a mock city, with tons of “small town America” buildings with nothing behind them), Jean went to the bathroom and I listened to a new security guard tell everyone that cell phones and cameras were not allowed yet again. I went through another metal detector and waited until Jean joined me before heading inside. When we got to the seating area, it was already packed, even though we were an hour and twenty minutes early.

The comedian who keeps the crowd “warm” was pretty good. He gave away prizes like candy, signed photos of the cast, and copies of the show’s script. He also did magic and joked with a lot of people. At one point he had all the foreigners come to the front and sing songs in their native language. Our favorite was the twenty-something German guy with long hair who belted out O Tannenbaum. There were three Swedish girls who did a pretty good job too. He also made fun of two surfer kids that were good spots (he told one it looked like someone blew up an M-80 on his head because his hair was all over the place). Jean’s favorite part was his magic tricks.

For about half of the show we weren’t able to see the actors because they had big screens in the way, along with all the crew. They had about 4-5 large TVs hanging from the ceiling amongst all the microphones, so we could at least see what was being filmed. After a while, those screens moved and we were able to see the cast. I’ve always thought Charlie Sheen was a good actor and just generally a cool guy. I loved Platoon and Lucas, and own Wall Street. It was also cool to see Duckie from Pretty In Pink, Jon Cryer.

I think the best surprise was that Janeane Garofalo was guest starring on this episode, so it was neat to see her.

They fed us pizza at this taping, whereas when we went to the taping of King of Queens last year they only passed out miniature candy bars. The taping didn’t end until around 10:30pm, and it only took us around 35-40 minutes to get back to Mountain Ave, but we stopped for groceries and dinner at McDonald’s.

I’m off to watch some episodes of the Simpsons now. G’nite.

Blogging from the skyteam chopper over the 10.

I mentioned a study published recently about the 25 cities with the worst traffic, and here most of them are:

#1 – Where we currently live
#2 – Where I went to high school
#3 – We live 40 miles from this one
#7
#8 – We live 80 miles from this one
#11 – We just moved from this one to #1
#17
#19
#21 – Where I lived for a summer

It would appear as though I love metropolitan areas with ridiculous amounts of traffic… That’s odd.

Today was fairly uneventful except that the fix-it guy was supposed to be here after canceling Monday and again on Tuesday, but he never showed or called. Jean went swimming and we watched Big Brother. Kail is finally gone after 3 weeks on the block. I’m glad Evel Dick is finally on the run.

Tomorrow we’re headed to Burbank for the TV show taping, so we’ll be out late, and Jean has plans for Saturday, but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing.

Olympic gold in the 100 meter breast stroke.

I had the honor of taking Jean to her swimming lessons tonight and I am so proud of her. She goes in there like a champ and excels at it. Of the four girls in the class, two did nothing but hug the wall while another girl alternated between holding on to the wall and practicing her kicks. I watched Jean for 20 minutes and she was swimming back and forth to the center of the pool the entire time. The wall huggers only watched in amazement as Jean did the breast stroke for 20 solid minutes. She needs to work on her breathing though because her distance is limited by her lung capacity at this point. She refuses to come up for a breath and just hauls ass until she stops completely and comes up gasping for air. She’s planning on practicing her breathing tomorrow at her lessons and then again this Saturday when she heads to the pool for a little practice without the class. Jean rules! I am seriously so proud of her for having the guts to join an adult swim team and learn how to swim — that takes something I wish I had more of…

Here are a few pictures I was able to capture from my perch in the grand stands next to 3 mothers watching their children run around or swim:

  The blur you see in the far right picture isn’t Mark Spitz, it’s Jean hoping back into a breast stroke to the side where the wall huggers were hanging out. If I make it back to another one of her classes I will try my best to get a shot of the wall huggers hanging on for dear life to the concrete, hopefully with Jean in the foreground kicking water into their faces as she zips off into the deep blue depths at the center of the pool (aka, “No Man’s Land”).

In other news, it looks like we’ll be going with an adder on the wedding for a voila soloist so Jean can walk in with some music. I am so happy the other deal ended the way it did because the current planner, Celine, is awesome. She wants us to stay in a hotel near the chateau the night before the ceremony so she can go over last minute details with us, whereas the last company weren’t planning on coming at all. The last lady also said the chateau didn’t have a place for Carolyn to get dressed, but Celine assured me that they’d have a private place there so Carolyn doesn’t have to wear her dress in the car on the way there.

Do you ever feel like after you do something or discuss some particular thing that you suddenly notice it everywhere? Sometimes I’ll talk about a car I’ve never thought about and then see 500 of them on my way home. That has been happening since our RTW trip because I can’t recall even hearing of Macau before planning for this trip and I’ve seen 2-3 front page articles on the place since then. Here’s a recent one about Lake Titicaca, where we stayed for a night on our trip in April.

In case you’ve ever wondered what our nosy neighbor looks like, here she is breaking the San Bernardino County leash law by letting her daughter’s two huge dogs rest unrestrained near the ivy she clamis our dogs have made stink of pee.

Finally, Jean and I braved the LA rush hour traffic after work to find Warner Brothers Gate #3, and after about 50 minutes of driving west we found it. It was across the street from Gate #2. The traffic leaving LA, headed east-bound, was ridiculous. The same 50 minute drive took almost an hour and 45 minutes.

Farewell crappy contract!

Jean mailed our wedding contract off 19 days ago, and it sat in a FedEx office for two weeks due to an “incorrect address”. Supposedly the wedding planner didn’t provide an incorrect address, but FedEx was unable to deliver the package because they didn’t have the entry code to get into the building. Thank the Lord. The wedding planner has proven herself to be VERY flakey, so I’m glad it never made its way to her. Today I got the contracts back and destroyed them.

Tomorrow I’ll be asking the first company I spoke with back in early June to issue a contract for the same package, plus give us a quote on a viola player or quartet, to play music during the ceremony. She’s going to match the price for what the other company was going to include. Hopefully by next Monday we’ll finally have our deposit in place for the wedding. We can’t wait!

Jean went to her second day of swim classes today and they worked on breathing techniques. Jean’s pretty pumped up about this because her excellent skills were once again pointed out by the teacher to the rest of the class. I haven’t been to watch her practice, but by my estimation she has now moved from the Tadpole classification into the Minnow group. Go Jean!

Big Brother was on tonight, and I feel sorry for Eric because he was put up on the block. I think Evel Dick has put himself in a bad spot by constantly berating everyone in the house except his own daughter, and the tide is about to turn against him. Even Dustin suggested to Danielle (Dick’s daughter) that she put him up for eviction.

Tomorrow evening between the time that we get home from work and when Jean has to be at swim class (7:30pm), I’m planning on us going to the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank. I just want to make sure we can find the correct gate on Friday afternoon when we head down there for Two And A Half Men.

G’nite,

Matt

Things are finally coming together.

  After a month or so of seemingly everything going wrong, today things started to look up. From my windsheild wiper pump going out after a botched oil change, to death threats from a French wedding planner, and from wedding contracts not being received due to incorrect addresses to letters from nutty neighbors demanding I fill them in on who’s visiting me. Today FedEx finally notified me saying the contracts for the wedding will be returned to the condo no later than 10:20am, a different wedding planner who was very helpful back in June agreed to offer the same package at the same price, Jean went to her first swim class tonight, we signed a new year lease on the condo, housing prices are falling quickly, and I was able to buy a REALLY cheap ticket for Jean to go to Birmingham!

  I know there are peaks and valleys, but it was starting to feel like a gorge instead of a valley. Hopefully this peak will turn out to be Everest, or at least Mt San Jacinto.

  I also just read a travel blog about this Chinese-American guys trip through DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), and it was insane. That is a place I do not want to go to…

Enjoying the smooth tiles.

  The fix-it guy showed up and re-grouted the tile in our main bathroom and now it looks and feels much better. He is coming back this afternoon to put a sealant over the groute and then we can mop up the dust and it’ll be complete. No more chances of cutting our feet.

  Jean found a dress she really likes, but it was a brides maid dress and only comes in yellow. I wonder if she can show that dress to a seamstress and have it made in the color she wants?

  Last night I bought Carolyn a ticket to fly home in November so she can go to her aunt’s birthday party. She’s pretty excited about that. I couldn’t believe flights from Ontario to Birmingham were only $238 on Delta. We still need to buy flights from Prague to Paris sometime soon.

  We watched Big Brother, and I am starting to hate Evel Dick. He is obnoxious and rude to everyone. I can’t believe nobody in the house calls him out and gives him some of his attitude back. It looks like Eric will be going home next because someone paid for an airplane with a banner saying he was a liar to fly over the Big Brother house and during the veto competition they all saw it and they’re on to his scheming now. I bet the show’s producers were furious.

  I gotta get ready for work now.