You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2012.

It is not secret that my aesthetic skills leave much to be desired.  Some where in my adolescence I remember the struggle to even understand what that term actually meant.  The subsequent understanding and discovery was a reason to celebrate but it was a bit hollow since I realized that it is a gift that I do no have.

When I am asked about color options or texture choices or combinations to make up a project, I am lost.  Most of the time I guess with confidence just to get the decision done.  Most of the time gifted people look at me cross-eyed and suggest another option to which I whole-heartedly agree.

This technique has saved my bacon on many occasions.  Still my bride asks me for my opinion on apparel, kitchen decorations or options for window coverings.  Arghh!

Over the years I have tried to pay attention when these moments arise.  Keeping cool under pressure is a survival priority in those moments.  Otherwise those who are good at what they do may stumble when they meet a man who doesn’t value what is precious in their sight.

But, the other day I slipped up.  My cool demeanor was lost and my dignity suffered a public meltdown.  I should have been more prepared but I was taken by surprise.

This horrific moment transpired in a department store.  Already, you have correctly assessed that I was not there looking at the latest in camouflage patterns for the varied Texas terrain.  Instead, I was driving my bride on a necessary shopping venture.

Dutifully, following her through the maze of clothing displays and apparel rounds, a vision was thrust against my face.  It was shocking.  The stunning eyewitness accounting made me catch my breath. 

Then, I did the unthinkable.  I laughed!  But, I didn’t just chuckle, I burst out laughing without much retention or decorum at all. 

By now I had the attention of several clerks who happened to be close by. They melted deeper into their departments when I whipped out my camera phone to snap a picture.  It was too late to pretend that I didn’t see anything. 

These mannequins  didn’t have  any heads.  In the past modern units had neutral faces.  Now, they no faces at all, not even a head to put a face on to it.

Instead, the neck of these clothing stands were formed into a pointed conical shape.  Yes, they were cone heads.  Maybe it’s not too weird; afterall, it is Halloween.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

October is a great month every year, as long as there is some baseball to celebrate.  For years I cheered on our Detroit Tigers.  Others had warned me not to do it.

There was no inquiry on why that warning was repeated by so many locals when I journeyed to the mitten state.  Instead, people just told me consistently, “They will break your heart.”  That explanation proved to be prophetic.

At the beginning of each season the anticipation of an improved team was all over the news.  Conversations picked up on our hopes and dreams for a pennant.  Spring training was promising and the young talent picked up during the off-season seemed to fill the holes in our roster.

But, reality set in when the umpire cried, “Play ball!”  There were stumbles and groans.  Mishaps followed other errors.  Trades were made and the new names became no-names.  Another season ended with dashed hopes.

Then, there was a change in the air.  A manager with a craggy face, stoic eyes but a remarkable knowledge of the game signed on with the team.  A fresh face took over the talent hunt for this historic team.  Wins began to mount up and surpassed the losses.

The play-offs were now on the horizon.  We went.  We played.  We won!

For years our Tiger team keeps changing faces but the head guys are still the same.  They are playing chess with pieces to find the combination to win it all.  We have been close but still have not been able to clinch the championship ring in a long time.

But, frankly, I still love my Tigers.  Twice in recent years we have been to the Big Dance but each time have not won.  Instead, we made it a wonderful memory for another team.

We will lick our wounds.  Then we will nurse our aches.  It will be time to rest. 

Then, the braintrusts will get to work.  How can the team adjust to make the chemistry work even better.  We want to get back to the dance again.  But, we want to win it the next we are there.

Until those decisions are done, we will watch the TV like everyone else.  The Giants are celebrating and we are happy for them.  Some day, though, rejoicing with those who rejoice will come to an end.  That’s when Detroit fans will celebrate with their Tigers for a series win one more time.

It is possible to recognize bachelor food.  There are several key symptoms to identify that will strongly suggest that the food you are observing is man-food.  Nothing is guaranteed but at least these clues should help you accurately assess the cuisine that keep men being men.

First and foremost, any bachelor food has to be easy.  Long complicated intricate efforts are foreign to bachin’-it food.  Men want something quick and simple.

Second, bachelor food doesn’t have many pots, pans or dishes that need to be cleaned up.  One dish to heat, serve and clean up is a badge of honor for true man food.  KISS is key: Keep It Seriously Simple.

Third, this specialized cuisine utilizes the microwave for single glassware or a burner if one pan heats up the entire meal.  Single dish combinations meet this criteria just fine. 

Fourth, leftovers works well for a primary ingredient for bachelor food.  Usually, there is a dominant presence of protein.  But, that is accompanied with sauce or flavor-rich topping.

My “for instance” bachelor meal is pictured above.  It is composed of a boiled egg from the day before.  I did a little bit of fancy by slicing it in half.

Then, I added two slices of swiss cheese.  The flavor of good cheese on top of a hard-boiled egg, yum!  Finally, I added some specialized salsa.

A microwave minute and forty-five is all that’s needed to heat up the single dish meal.  This is breakfast at its finest.  Add a glass of water and the meal is done.

Clean-up is a cinch.  I simply rinse out the bowl, put those items in the dishwasher and wash down my meal with a final gulp of sparkling H2O.

One last item.  To qualify as man-food there is no recipe.  There are no cook books.

Also, there are no names for the dishes that are produced.  Instead, items are kept in mind by optional ingredients that can be combined if they are available.

Ingredients like fully cooked chicken wings, frozen tater tots, canned meats all work.  Once I made a bachelor meal by heating up chicken wings, tater tots and dousing it all with cream corn.  It was a memorable meal that is still a favorite memory for my youngest son.

There you have it.  Pass the word.  Reproduce the skill.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

There is a company that I have hired to do a major make-over in our master bathroom.  It is a project that I knew had to be done when we bought our house.  I was not looking forward to it, knowing that it would be a hassel, like most construction projects are.

Nevertheless, we too often put off until we sell the house, any upgrades and never get to enjoy them ourselves.  That thought alone pushed me over the edge to hire out this construction endeavor.  I am looking forward to enjoying this new improvement. 

But, delays followed in constant order.  It happens whenever I have been involved in building anything.  Stuff happens, unexpected stuff.

Patience is the watch word but this project has been more than that.  This has been a lesson in watching management fumble several hand-offs.  Once one deadline is missed there is a domino effect. 

This company does very good work.  The product is done to my satisfaction.  I have no complaints about the work of the crew.

They take good measures regarding cleanliness, courtesy and respect for our property.  The care that they take to do a quality job has met all of my expectations.  As I watch the job take shape I am satisfied.

But, a good product is only one part of good management.  There are three “p’s” for good managers to keep in mind.  They are product, process and promptness.

The process is the achievement of the job is a high value item for the manager to oversee.  This includes the workers who do the job.  Best practices to get the work done all fall into this category.

Our project has scored well in this category.  The workers who have come to our home are diligent.  They have skills in their craft that are satisfying to me.

When they finish up their work, I like what I see.  It looks professional and the visual picture is very good.  The crew are friendly and adapt to those inevitable challenges in any retrofitting project. 

The major problem with the company has been the matter of promptness.  There has been little.  It’s a good thing that I am a patient man.

I understand set backs.  When subcontractors pull the wrong materials and they have to be returned and correctly reissued, I understand that.  But, those matters should be managed so that they don’t happen or at least happen within the scope of a timeframe that makes those allowances.

Bad management of timeliness devalues the product because it inconveniences our customers.  We who watch over the deliver of our excellent product should do so with promptness.  Add to that excellent process and managers who succeed are valuable indeed.

How can anyone who is new to a huge city ever get up to speed on where to live and call it home?Amazingly, we are in a house and happily call it home.  Every day we find ourselves extremely grateful for our house and where we live.  It is in a beautiful neighborhood.

Neighbors are venturing out of their air-conditioned home more these days.  Temperatures have dropped to the mid 80’s to low 90’s so by the evening we peer out our windows, count the West Nile mosquitos and take a chance to visit with each other.  Our neighbors are amazing.

Smiles are generous around here.  They are real signs of welcome.  When they find out that we are new, they offer help, time or contact information. 

Our garage door jumped out of its track and the cable tangled the roll up bar.  It was jammed.  But, my neighbors came over after seeing me struggle. 

Together we were able to muscle the door closed.  They told us about a similar problem that they had and recommended a company to fix it.  Now, the problem is resolved.  What good neighbors!

Most mornings when I’m out for  some fresh air, neighbors are walking their dogs.  We wave, greet each other and the dogs even smile.  One of my neighbors even complemented me on our lawn and said that they want theirs to be as good-looking as ours.  That is a first from any neighborhood that we have called home.

The association takes very good care of the landscape.  Workers are constantly tending to common areas.  Our neighbors are either hiring gardeners or busily doing it themselves.

Pride of ownership is a part of our neighborhood without it getting competitive.  It just looks great around here.  Now, that the summer heat has dissipated we are enjoying the life of warm sunshine as a welcome invigoration of our routine.

The name of our neighborhood is Cinco Ranch.  There is a sign that welcomes people into our maze of houses and easy streets.  One of our neighbors was walking his infant granddaughter, so we stopped to admire her and complement him.  He was popping buttons.

Joggers trotted by our slowing car.  Bicyclists pedaled on the side road.  Children chased each other and the family dog added its barking to their laughter.  Whether it was sights or sounds, it all spelled the same, “Welcome to our neighborhood.”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

I never knew about them while they stayed in the trees.  But, an inevitable moment in the parade of the seasons came with a loud “bang!” on the roof of my truck.  It is startling to be surprised by this unexpected very loud noise.

Suddenly all of those things on my mind disappeared.  Complicated and multi-layered issues stopped.  Major decisions impacting the lives of other people were on hold.

“What was that?” I asked quietly while I froze, wondering, “Is something happening?  What caused that noise?”  Silence was followed by another repetition of that “bang!” 

That’s when I laughed.  I saw the culprit.  It bounced off my roof, rolled down my windshield and cracked off my hood and hit the ground. 

It was an acorn!  I looked up into the oak tree growing in our front yard.  That’s when I saw the limbs laden with other bombs ready to rain down on my pick-up truck.

I backed out of my driveway.  After I threw my truck in the “drive”, I looked at my driveway that was littered with scores of acorns and more were dropping by the second.  To me it was funny how something so tiny could make such a loud sound on the steel shell of my faithful rig.

On my way to work, I revisited the thoughts that occupied my morning hours.  Miles later, I rolled into the parking lot of our campus.  Backing into my spot, the distinctive sound of “crunch” “pop” “crush” followed the movement of my wheels into that parking slot.

Outside the parking lot was speckled with a deposit of acorns.  Several lay crushed under the weight of my wheels.  A few fell while I was gathering my possessions from my truck.

I stepped on one of those little potential oak tree.  It crunched  under my foot.  That’s when I leaped aside, almost as if I stepped on someone’s toe.

Chuckling, I thought how silly it is to worry about an acorn.  Locking up my rig I walked brightly to my office, smiling at my adventure with those cute little seed pods.  That’s when the oak tree had the last laugh.

Unexpectantly, an acorn released from the oak tree overhead.  It was a direct hit.  I looked up with a grin, “Nice shot, girl!”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Our Saturday was full.  Time slipped by quickly just as it always does when you have plenty on your plate.  We wondered if we had planned too much.

Still ahead was an evening out.  We had accepted an invitation to attend a concert.  It was linked to a ministry introduction that our friend was serving on their Board. 

This concert was a bit of a distance from our home.  We checked out the map programs online.  That’s when we knew that we had to allow for an hour to arrive at our destination on time. 

Thankfully we arrived with plenty of time to stroll the grounds of the Lanier estate.  The evening was beautiful, temperatures were inviting and waterscapes made for a tranquil and serene setting. It was the perfect prescription for two very busy lives on a busy day.

Inside the Stone Chapel, we sensed the presence of history.  It was designed after an ancient church.  Stone, paintings, architecture and Greek Scripture on the walls transported us into the distant past.

Acoustics were lively in that place.  Even subdued conversation was easily broadcast throughout the facility.  An atmosphere of quietness shrouded the interior of this gorgeous venue.

The  talent for the evening took her seat at the piano.  Even though the acoustics in the building were amazing, the piano was equipped with two microphones.  “Someone must really know what they are doing to do that,” I thought.

Next, she played an introduction.  The keys responded to her fingers and the music in her soul.  Like a powerful fragrance, the sounds filled the chapel with sweetness. 

She added her experienced highly trained voice to the accompaniment of her excellent piano skills.  The music in this fabulous place was crystal clear, full and rich.  Even the slightest crescendo or modulation were clearly heard.

Next, the director of the Gracewood ministry spoke.  She told us about their mission to provide housing and encouragement to single mothers and their children.  Like a good spokesperson, she gave us the stats, described their vision and told us stories of successes.

Then, she shared her deep painful story of her own divorce.  Suddenly all that she had heard from others was now her experience.  Those in the ministry surrounded her with the love and understanding that she was so generous to give to others.  My bride and I were touched, stunned during this Saturday evening.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Mr. Voss is a teacher.  He has lost something in the later years of his career.  Motivation is no longer there to boil the blood in his veins, pump adrenaline into his cellular structure or light his fire when he sees the hungry faces of his students waiting to learn something in his classroom.

Then, life throws him a curve.  A ornery vice principal gets his goat.  A good friend is facing a lay-off.  His school is threatened with major cut backs to meet budget.

Emotionally, he is ready for action.  He just isn’t sure what to do.  No one else is helping so he launches a hair-brained scheme to raise the funds to save the school music program and keep his friend the music teacher employed.

No bake sales for this hero.  No garage sales for this stud of a man either.  Instead, an opportunity falls into his lap while moonlighting as a teacher preparing immigrants to become US citizens. 

Once an accomplished wrestler 20 years ago, he enters the world of mixed martial arts to win the lowly prize money offered to the loser of a match.  It is crazy but comical.  Hence, the “schtick” around which this movie revolves.

Kevin James is the perfect cast for this role.  He has the persona ideal for this crazy heroic part.  Add the talented Selma Hayek for the romantic and raucous banter and you have a fun movie for us silver screen fans.

Included in this well-selected cast are the immigrant former UFC now aerobics trainer, a Filipino honor student who happens to be an outstanding musician and Henry Winkler playing the music teacher about to lose his job and the energy of the movie keeps on getting better and better.

The movie started off a little goofy and unrealistic.  But, it just kept getting more interesting and very entertaining as time passed.  Layer after layer of people impacted by the life of our star keeps you intrigued, remembering and thinking about how one life that courageously lives for the benefit of others really does touch a lot of people. 

Everyone sees the trailers of new releases.  Sometimes we realize too late that the peeks are the best parts of the movie.  This is not one of those movies.

Here is the movie: Mr. Voss regains the grip he lost.  He is ready when Bella congratulates him.  You cheer when Malia (Charice) sings. 

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

Soon one of our California friends was coming into town for a business trip.  We had excitedly made arrangements to take him to dinner.  But, we are still new to Houston and I wasn’t sure where we should take him.

Puzzling over that dilemma, I had it on the back burner of my mind.  A new local friend wanted to introduce me to his pastor.  I agreed to meet them both at a restaurant that he assured me would be a repeated location for my meals.

The eatery is not far from my office.   In 15 minutes I pulled into the parking lot never having to use the tollways.  Tokyo One is the restaurant located off Beltway 8 and Westheimer.

Three hungry men still couldn’t put a dent in the generous fare.  Japanese and Fusion food was amazingly presented, unforgettably delicious and served by a wait staff that was cheerful and eager to serve.  I wanted to bring our California friend to this place.

When we picked up our guest at his hotel, it was a mere five minutes away from Tokyo One.  We arrived at 5.15PM and had no problem being seated without a reservation.  Smiling broadly, I ushered my wife and guest to the buffet bar.

Their eyes were wild with the amazing fare.  Each one piled their dishes high was fresh and tasty treats.  We were enjoying the meal along with great fellowship.

If the delicious options on the buffet table were not enough, the staff asked if we would like to have our individual lobsters.  Yes, they were included in the buffet.  Surprised but looking for a good time, we heartily agreed.

Soon, he returned with three lobsters for us to enjoy.  These seafood delicacies added to the our table celebration and made us laugh with anticipation.  They were delicious!

Again our staff returned and asked if we would like a bowl of their specialty soup.  Wow!  Of course we would love to have that served to us.  It was amazing.

The owner of the restaurant stopped in for a visit.  He asked if there was anything else he could do for us.  Before we could say no, he offered to personally make a specialty sushi roll for us.  Sure!

He returned with a wonderful looking roll that was fabulous.  We thanked him, complimented him and assured him that we would return.  What a delicious Houston discovery.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Back through the courtyard the sculpture was dominant.  Some where in the back of my mind I had seen a photo of this artwork but couldn’t quite place the significance.  Once we were done inside, we would return and take it in; right now it was too hot to be outside.

Do have those moments when your memory just can’t seem to sift through all of the data that is in its storage cells?  It keeps whispering little chuckles with looks of surprise that you can’t recall the information immediately.  Even going through the alphabet doesn’t jog your memory.

We entered the George H. Bush Library in College Station, Texas.  It was a first for us both; it was our very first visit to a Presidential library.  The entrance into the rotunda was grand.

Overhead was a spectacular hexagon skylight.  Flooding the entry and opening gallery floor with natural light, it welcomed all visitors.  I sat in that area while my bride spent some time in the gift shop.

I struck up a conversation with one of the volunteers.  He was eager to join in a conversation. I saw my chance to satisfy my curiosity about the sculpture.

Casually, I remarked on the horse statues as striking and spectacular in capturing movement in static time.  It memorialized the determination and vigor of stallions on the run.  The fixation of the monument needed satisfaction in my mind.

He smiled and started on a helpful discourse that awakened my memory.  This statue commemorated the coming down of the Berlin wall.  The leaping and running steeds captured the spirit of those who were suppressed in the East now leaping over the crumbled wall and speeding toward freedom.

Then he added, “Did you know that there is an identical piece in Germany?  Two of the same in both countries so none of us will ever forget.”  That fact is powerful.

At the end of our tour of the inside of the library and museum, we exited the building and walked over to view the statue.  Our cameras were popping photos and we marvelled at all that the symbols were portraying.  We were in Scotland when the wall came down.

Our vivid recollection was captured with news reports and constant stories of the celebration around the world.  That was a moment in history when everyone from every nation marvelled at that historic expression of liberty.  We should always remember.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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