Monday, December 8, 2008

Oral Hygiene

I don't even remember how I discovered this one. I wonder if this will catch on? It looks like fun AND may help prevent cavities. Make sure your volume isn't turned up too high before clicking play...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanksgiving Big Bash Blow-out Pictures

OK, so it wasn't THAT big of a party, but it was GREAT having a bunch of family over for Thanksgiving dinner! I also enjoyed the prime rib and yummy yams. Here are the pictures -

First of all - there was a whole lot of cookin' goin' on! I didn't take many pictures, but trust me, it seemed like we were cooking for two days straight!

There were so many people, we had to set two separate tables. That's Nick and Sandra's friend Patrick in the background -

Did I mention that the food came out pretty good?

Lots of family were on hand to help celebrate everything we have to be thankful for!

Greg & Tracy's moms - Mickie and Judy -

Tracy's sister Sandra and her daughter Whitney -

Sandra's son Joey -

Tracy's cousin Marshall and his wife Amy -

Marshall and Amy's littlest one, Addia -

Tracy's dad Richard and others around the dinner table -

And the Swans -

I didn't get any good pictures of my dad, or Addia's sister Chesney. We had a great time! We should be rested up and ready to do it again in about 3 or 4 years!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fixing Your Pictures

You know how you can click on a picture on a Blogger blog, and it will open the picture at it's full size? Did you ever discover that your pictures on your blog won't open like that? I just did. It took a while, but I found out how to fix it. Here are the instructions that worked for me -

I just knew that everyone was asking themselves this question, so I thought I would satisfy your curiosity and post this answer!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving - Thankful Pie

We played a game on Thanksgiving. Tracy and Linda Stephens invented the game. Tracy said, "Why don't we have everyone write down something they are thankful for on a piece of paper, then we can read them before dinner". Of course I'm always looking for someway to up the ante, so I said, "Lets call Linda, the 'Game Queen' and see if she has any ideas along those lines". Linda said, "Cut the pieces of paper into pie-shapes, then you can put all the thankfulness together to make a pie!". She got that idea from one of her son's school projects. So that's what we did! Somewhere around noon, I thought, "Hey, why not invite all the other family members across the country and around the world to participate via e-mail?" So that's what I did. Here are the results!
Now you can play a game - see if you can guess who is thankful for what! You'll probably need to click on the picture to open the image so you can zoom and rotate if necessary...

Pie Number 1

Pie Number 2

Pie Number 3 (we had a lot to be thankful for!)

12/3/08 Update - re-linked pictures so you can click on them to open a large version.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

YouTube - "Star Wars" - an acappella tribute to John Williams

I found this posted on Facebook by Scott Norvell. I've loved John William's music ever since seeing Superman in 1978. That was the first movie music album I ever purchased (it was an 'LP'). I didn't know how many movies he has written the music for until I looked him up on Wikipedia just now. It's amazing! He's 78, and still writing music (the latest being Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Here's the Wikipedia site if you're interested -

If you go to YouTube to view the video, click the 'More info' button, there is a lot of interesting info about the video. And now, the video...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yosemite in 'Hi-Rez'

If you like Yosemite and photography, check out this web site (link below).

My Dad sent me this hot piece of cool tech.

What you need to know - The program, Silverlight, is needed to be able to view the images and you will be asked to download it if your computer does not already have it. When using a mouse with a middle roller, first click anywhere on the image, and then roll in on the graphic until you see pictures in various locations. Left click to move the images and continue to roll in on a picture to understand the detail involved. You can see people on the top of Half Dome!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Salmon Dinner Night

Nothing much going on in my life lately, just busy with work, and the usual tasks at home. So I'm reduced to blogging about dinner. Let's hope I can keep your attention! Tracy is gone this weekend, so I was cooking for Nick and myself.

I discovered a unique Teriyaki sauce a month or two ago at Trader Joe's. So far I've used it on Salmon, with some tasty results. Here's what I do... (Keep in mind, the most advanced cooking I do is eggs and bacon for breakfast, so this isn't going to be complicated.)

First of all, I go to Trader Joe's and get some fresh dinner fixin's -

This afternoon I picked up two fresh Norwegian farm raised salmon patties with citrus butter and an Organic Whole Grain Loaf (plus a couple other necessities). I know, farm raised salmon isn't as good as wild salmon, but that's the salmon I got. Next time I'll look for wild salmon.

I threw the citrus butter away, and marinated the salmon in a bowl of Trader Joe's 'Soyaki' sauce. This 'Soyaki' sauce isn't the most healthy part of the meal. It has 490mg of sodium and 4g of sugar in every tablespoon. But I'm just marinating the salmon in it, so I'm certainly not ingesting any more than 1 tablespoon or less (at least that's what I like to think).

The Organic While Grain Loaf looked good. It has 'Organic Millet' in the list of ingredients. I think that's what's in the bird feeder hanging in front of the house... hmmmmm? Oh well, we are Swan's after all!

I have a gas bar-b-que, so the grillin' part was pretty easy. A friend of mine (Mike) taught me a long time ago - put some olive oil on a paper towel and rub it on the grill just before you throw the meat on. That helps prevent the meat from sticking and seems to keep the grates nice and shiny.

I read in a little brochure I picked up at Save Mart a month ago - you're supposed to put the Salmon on the grill with the skin up to begin with. That's because the fat is in the skin, and that makes the fat drizzle down through the meat. And as you know, Salmon fat is a 'good fat'. That is, it's loaded with healthy stuff like Omega-3 fatty acids (which may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease). Since 'I is smart', I put the salmon on, with the skin up!

Back to the kitchen to make the rest of dinner. I've been getting into salad lately. I buy these bags of lettuce at the store - it's so easy! You just cut the bag open and throw the lettuce into a bowl. The '5 Lettuce Mix' is pretty good. I buy another bag of spinach so I can be strong like Popeye. I also like English cucumber and tomatoes. I mix it all together and then, following my step-mom Angela's lead - I use extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground pepper for a salad dressing. I know, I know, more salt won't help my blood pressure, but I have to have some salt, right? After all - Sodium is the main component of the body's extracellular fluids and it helps carry nutrients into the cells. Sodium also helps regulate other body functions, such as blood pressure and fluid volume, and sodium works on the lining of blood vessels to keep the pressure balance normal.

Quick - back out to the grill to turn over the salmon! Just in time - it didn't burn...

Back to the kitchen. Next I painstakingly slave over the preparation of the peas. I cut open the bag of frozen peas, pour a few into a bowl, add water and pop them into the microwave. Did you know Clarence Birdseye invented the process of flash-freezing food? That's right, quick-frozen vegetables, fruits, seafoods, and meat were sold to the public for the first time in 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts, under the tradename Birds Eye Frosted Foods®. I'm starting to sound just like Cliff Clavin sitting at the bar in Cheers. That's what the Internet will do to you...

Then I noticed the bread said it was 'slightly underbaked' and I should 'Crisp in a preheated 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, for a crisp crust and moist interior'. Well, everything was just about ready, and I didn't have time to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. So I just threw it on the grill.

That would have been a good idea, if I had pulled it off the grill in time. Unfortunately I didn't. So it turned out to be more of a 'Millet toast' rather than nice moist slices of 'Organic Whole Grain Loaf'. They were still pretty good with some butter.

Time to open the wine. I got a bottle of 2005 Cool Fish Chardonnay from Monterey for $5.99. You can tell it's a good wine just by looking at the label. I mean just check it out - it has all kinds of different cool fish on it. And - it's from Monterey. And - it was only $5.99. So it has to be good! (Actually it is pretty good for a six dollar bottle of wine).

And now, the final result!

Notice that no food touches the other food on the plate. I'm pretty sure there is a command in the bible that says, "thy peas shall not touch thy salmon, thy salmon shall not touch thy bread, etc." So you see, I'm just trying to be obedient. One thing to note - Tracy made the cool Fall table runner - that was way more complicated than cooking this salmon.

Nick's plate was a touch different, notice - no peas, he takes after his mom! And he doesn't go for the healthy salad dressing either. Oh well, some day he'll go for the healthy stuff!

I've noticed the salmon is very moist when it's grilled this way. The Soyaki sauce gives it a great flavor, and no other sauce is necessary!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Not Into Politics

I've never been into politics. For some reason, politics haven't been of much interest to me. Maybe it's because there seems to be an inherent competition (us vs. them; democrats vs. republicans), and I'm not very competitive.

So today, I want to explain why I'm voting for McCain and Palin. I am simply directing you to Randy Alcorn's recent blog entry where he explains a viewpoint that I agree with. Here's a teaser quote from one of Randy's recent blog entries -

What would you think if a politician said "I'm not pro-rape, I'm simply prochoice about rape. And though I would not choose to rape a woman, I believe that every man should be free to rape a woman if that is his personal choice." And what would you do if that politician promised the rape lobby that if he is elected president, the "first thing I would do" is to sign legislation that would invalidate all the state laws that restrict rape in any way?

Well, I think I would say that man is pro-rape, wouldn't you? But technically, no, he is simply prochoice about rape. Well, okay. Be prochoice about whether someone should eat Mexican food or Chinese food, or cheer for the Phillies or the Rays. But don't be prochoice about whether men rape women or kill children. Because that is to be pro-rape and pro-killing.

Did that get you interested? Here's Randy's blog entry - Why I’m Voting for 98% Pro-life John McCain rather than 100% Pro-legal-abortion Barack Obama

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What's Wrong with This Picture?

I'm sure some economics guru has the answer to this conundrum...

Every day at work I hear someone talk about how they don't have enough staff to get all the work done. I hear this from people in other departments, people in my own department, people working for other companies, and I've even said it myself a time or two!

Every day at work I hear someone talk about how we need to cut back on staff because we can't afford to pay for all these employees. I hear this from my bosses, from other peoples bosses and bosses in other companies; however, I've never said this myself!

Every day I hear that the jobless rate is climbing and that is bad for the economy. I also hear about how companies are striving to automate their processes to reduce the number of employees they have so they can save money.

There's a basic problem here, shouldn't we be seeing something about this on the 6:00 news?

The Perplexities of Working with Government Agencies

Here's a bit of irony. I work in a large hospital. I take care of patients records. Three years ago, we began scanning the patients hand-written chart documents so they would be available on all the hospital PC's. We have two California state government agencies that pay us for certain health care services we provide. Let's just call them MCal and CCS. To decide if they are going to pay us for the services we have provided, these California state government employees need to review the patients records.

CCS is adamant that we provide full access to ALL the scanned patients records for their review. They are unhappy that we limit their access to ONLY the patient records they NEED to see. They don't like that because the way the system limits their access to only certain patient records makes getting to the patients online record a little more cumbersome. They say if they don't have full and unencumbered access to records, it will slow them down and cause their payments to us to suffer.

MCal on the other hand does not want to use the computer at all to view records. They want us to print out all the records that we have scanned and provide large stacks of paper to them each day for review. We've recently had some success getting them to review some records online. But they complain that the computer is too slow, and if we required them to use the computer instead of paper, it will slow them down and cause their payments to us to suffer.

To recap -

CCS says, "We need the records online, and since you can't provide them to us the way we want them, your reimbursements will suffer."

MCal says, "We need the records to be paper, and since you can't provide them to us the way we want them, your reimbursements will suffer."

Keep in mind these are both government agencies. I'm not trying to bash government agencies, but I think you can see my frustration! What is the world coming to?!?!

Monday, September 29, 2008

September in South San Francisco at Six Sigma Training

Six Sigma Training? What's Six Sigma? Yeah, that's what I thought until today.

I arrived at the Residence Inn last night at 8:00. It's not so bad. I'm in a "Studio". Here's the kitchen... A refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, pantry and bar. OK, maybe I can handle this.
There's a nice little sitting area with a fireplace. Nice artwork...
I can sit at the desk, enjoy the fire and watch Monday Night Football... I could get used to this.

Here's the view out the window (Ok, it's the window by the elevator, not the window in my room) -

Look at this office building. These workers can go out their office back door, and stroll along the walking path next to the San Francisco Bay. What a life...

So what's Six Sigma anyway? I'm glad you asked. In today's class, Jeff taught us that Six Sigma is a process improvement business strategy that began at Motorola. It has changed quite a bit since it was first used at Motorola.

If you really want to know what Six Sigma is, read what Wikipedia says...

"Sigma (the lower-case Greek letter σ) is used to represent the standard deviation (a measure of variation) of a statistical population. The term "six sigma process" comes from the notion that if one has six standard deviations between the mean of a process and the nearest specification limit, there will be practically no items that fail to meet the specifications.

Taking the 1.5 sigma shift into account, short-term sigma levels correspond to the following long-term DPMO (Defective Parts per Million Opportunities) values (one-sided):
One Sigma = 690,000 DPMO = 31% efficiency
Two Sigma = 308,000 DPMO = 69.2% efficiency
Three Sigma = 66,800 DPMO = 93.32% efficiency
Four Sigma = 6,210 DPMO = 99.379% efficiency
Five Sigma = 230 DPMO = 99.977% efficiency
Six Sigma = 3.4 DPMO = 99.9997% efficiency"

'What?' Yeah, that's what I said. Jeff didn't explain it that way (and I think you can see why). He actually did a great job teaching us how we can use Six Sigma at our businesses to improve our processes, be more efficient, save money, and make our customers more satisfied. Now that's what I'm talk'in about!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Great Front Door Experience

I finally did it! Our new front door has been standing in our garage for the last 5 months. It's taken a while, but I finally scheduled a day to install it! Here's a 'before' pic...

That's the original 45 year old door.

I got up at 6:18 yesterday morning and went right to work. This is me at 6:29 AM - somehow thrilled and ready for action (very un-characteristic). Notice the open door behind me - it's still dark out.

Here we go- first I tear the stucco off because I'm replacing the entire thing - the door AND the side-light.

The side-light window is out, and I'm ripping out the frame.

About this time (the sun is just on the horizon), a young couple is walking down the street in front of the house. I can hear that they are arguing. Then the girl starts walking up my driveway. She asks if she can use my phone. She kept asking the guy to give her cell phone back, and he wasn't cooperating. I said, "yeah, sure you can use my phone". So I went in and grabbed the cordless phone and brought it out to her. She began to call various numbers, and apparently there was no answer at the other end because she never did talk to anyone. The entire time she was crying and asking the guy to give her, her cell phone. Being the 45 year old man of wisdom, I figured it was time to get involved. So I asked the guy, "do you have her cell phone?" That obviously irritated him because he then started to get all puffed up and ask me why I was sticking up for her and getting into their business. I had a hammer and a small wrecking bar in my hand, so I wasn't too intimidated. Plus he was probably only 5 1/2 feet tall. I said, "hey, I'm not sticking up for her, I'm just trying to help the two of you". That gave him the cue to launch into a long explanation of how bad things had been going for him and why I should feel sorry for him. He said something about her hitting him in the 'privates' and she said that was because he was touching her and she didn't want him to touch her. I told the guy, "relationships are hard huh?" He said, "YEAH". It was obvious she didn't want anything to do with him and he didn't want her to leave. I told him, "look, you can't force her to love you. And if you did, what kind of love would that be?". I said, "It's the same thing with God, He doesn't force us to love Him. And a lot of people run around ignoring Him, but He doesn't push Himself on us." He seemed to think about that and talk a little more, then he finally handed her the bag he was carrying and pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and handed her that too. That was all she wanted, so she was out of there. He started to walk the other way, then he turned around and started to follow her and ask her to stop and talk with him. She kept walking and I hope she kept on walking.
So that was my counseling session for the day, back to the front door!

Now I'm ripping off the drywall on the inside.

Just one 2x4 left!

8:48 AM - Ouchy! I got a splinter! I hate it when that happens. So I put my 'scientist' goggles on and performed surgery. No cause for alarm - I got it! Back to work.

Demolition done! Time to prepare the 'rough' opening for the new door. But first...

9:45 AM - It's going to be a long day, so coffee and donuts are a well deserved mid-morning snack! Nick liked that part too!
Here's an important part - the 'sill'. That's right, a door has a 'sill' too (just like a window). I learned that from the guy at Home Depot. I got this one weather-proofed, perfectly sized and ready to go, then... the first set-back. I discovered that this 2x6 sill would be too tall - Argh!

OK, no use crying about it. I just need to find a hunk of wood that wasn't quite so thick and move along. Fortunately I had just such a piece of wood in my 'spare wood' supply.

All I had to do was rip the board to the right width, give it a couple of coats of weather-proofing stain, and I'd be ready for action!

Oh - look at the pretty flowers! Hey - there's a job to do! Quit messin' around with the camera and get back to work!

3:40 PM - The rough opening is finally ready! I had to add a 2x4 on one side and a 1x4 on the other, and of course the set-back on the door-sill cost me a lot of time. But finally, I'm putting the new door in place! That's Nick's arm sticking out from behind the door. He was too shy to actually show his face.

Time for shims! This is actually the trickiest part - getting the door straight, level, and not tweaked. I learned a lot about all of that on the side door a couple of months ago. That helped a lot, this part didn't take too long!

I was a little worried about the heat, since I was going to have a large gaping hole in the front of the house all day. Fortunately it didn't get that hot! And the house only got up to 80 inside.

5:00 PM - The first screw! Yeah - I'm starting to put screws in - that's a major milestone in my book!

6:12 PM - Been at it for almost 12 hours now. All the screws are in and the shims are cut off! It seems like I should be done by now, but wait... do I want to be able to lock the front door before I go to bed tonight? If so, I'd better put a door knob and deadbolt on. Next task...
I thought the door sill height was a set-back!? It turned out, the door hardware was fraught with issues. The door manufacturer did a poor job cutting the holes. The holes in the door didn't line up with the holes in the door jamb, and there were other problems. I had to do a lot of chiseling, dremeling and adjusting to get all the hardware to fit correctly.
About this time, I did my next 'good deed' of the day. We live by Fresno State, and Saturday night was the big game - Fresno State Bulldogs vs. the Wisconsin Badgers. The local ABC affiliate said it was, "Perhaps the biggest home game in school history". Lot's of people walk past our house to get to the stadium on game nights. A rather large group of people was passing by when I notice on guy split off from the group and head straight towards me, working on the front door. He had obviously been very careful to prepare for the game with many libations. He asked, "I was just wondering, can I use your bathroom?" Being very sympathetic to his situation (I've had a few moments of desperate need in my day), I had no problem showing him the way down the hall. Didn't his mom teach him to go before he left the house? He was very grateful, and ready to run catch up with the group after, 'the pause that refreshes'.
Next order of business...

7:46 PM - Tracy prepares a DELICIOUS dinner! New York steak, green beans and spinach salad with strawberries! You can just see Tracy and Nick thinking, "Isn't he done with that stupid door yet?!"

8:40 PM - YEAH! I'm snapping on the final piece to the doorknob hardware! I'm done! It's finished! I can't stand this door any more! I've been working on this thing for 14 hours now! Can't I go watch TV? No, I have to clean up - nuts!

Did you ever try Corona mixed with Limeade? I can attest - it's pretty good, especially after you've been working on your front door ALL DAY LONG!

That's the story. The major work is finished. Next I have to insulate and figure out just how to do the trim on the inside and the outside - another tricky part. But the door is finally in, and I've reclaimed that space in the garage! Counselor, Construction and bathroom Concierge, it was definitely a full day.