Wild Life Of A Little Monster

Others are scared of me because of all the fun I have. Considered a vigilante by my Eponine.

A Saturday

6:15ish - turn off alarm, decide to sleep in.
9ish - get out of bed, do stuff at home.
10:50 - drive 23 miles to Overland Park
11:15 - attend basketball watch party with college alumni.
11:25 - have cup of coffee.
11:40 - enjoy cup of chili, a few Diet Cokes, and some boneless chicken.
1:15ish - watch Cowboys lose, yet again, by two points.
1:30 - run errands.
2 - purchase engagement gift items.
2:40 - arrive home.
3:15 - blog, watch basketball, do laundry, pay bills.
4:30 - run downtown to mail bills.
4:50 - arrive back home, fold clothes.
5:30 - run to liquor store because I thought of more for the gift.
6 - arrive back home
6:10 - write note for gift.
6:25 - write note again.
6:30 - pull out clothes from closet, iron.
6:45 - decide to alter note, write it one more time.
6:55 - seal note, package gift.
7ish - receive phone call from friends in Oklahoma.
7:08 - get in shower, get ready.
7:38 - back out of garage to go to engagement party.
7:42 - honk at cars that won't get out of my way.
7:49 - arrive at engagement party, hug folks, smile, visit.
8 - enjoy glass of wine, smile, visit more.
8:31 - grab two cookies, leave party, drive to Kemper Arena, eat cookie.
8:42 - park, run into arena, watch Pussycat Dolls do one song.
9:00 - intermission starts, purchase beer and popcorn.
9:23 - curtain rises, Christina Aguilera enters stage.
9:30 - she really belts it out, I stand, wiggle tush.
9:45 - listen to screaming folks, wonder if ears are being damaged.
10 - get really into awesome concert.
10:30 - watch Christina don 50th costume, feel ears hurting.
11 - stand more, listen to more screaming, wait for encore.
11:04 - encore starts, see 100th costume adorned.
11:22 - concert ends, notice that feet and legs ache, ears pound.
11:34 - leave parking lot, wait in post-concert traffic, eat second cookie.
11:57 - stop at downtown bar for a drink.
1:18 - arrive home.
1:22 - brush teeth.
1:26 - pass out, snore.

Mud Slinging

Kansas City's primary election for mayor is Tuesday, February 27. A two-term, fairly popular mayor is not able to run again because of term limits. She's been a decent mayor. Lots of development, advancements and "improvements." Also lots of debt, promises that people/tourists really will support things, and that the resurgence of downtown is just around the corner.

The field is wide open this year. There are 14 candidates. Five different times today I answered the home phone and was greeted by a wonderful auto-dial campaign message. Always so nice to receive.

Checking my mail after being gone for several days, the box was stuffed full with a dozen or more campaign fliers. Interesting, two were negative pieces on why I should not vote for Mark Funkhouser. He's the only candidate at which I've seen folks slinging mud.

Talk on Sunday morning's political show on the local PBS station indicated that Mr. Funkhouser, Alvin Brooks and one other person that I can't remember were the only candidates not slinging mud.

Hmmm? For whom should I vote? One thing I learned back in junior high, the "smeller's the feller." I'm fairly convinced the name I'll mark on my ballot is of a person who isn't pointing a finger.


Hesitate to post this information knowing it likely only provides further proof of my high nerd quotient. Not that anyone needs more evidence. Anyway.

It was late and I was tired while flying home last Thursday night. However, I couldn't seem to doze off for a quick nap. My mind kept wandering to a variety of matters and issues. In due time, the pilot announced we were about 100 miles out and should land in Kanas City in 30 minutes.

I wondered if it really would take 1,800 seconds until landing. My countdown began. I closed my eyes and started ... one ... two ... three ... four ... and so on. I didn't stop counting until we pulled to the gate. The final count -- 1,828.

Mind Reader

Recently purchased a little hand-held game called 20Q. Took it on the flight. In between reading things for work, this game helped make the travel time pass by very quickly.

To play, you think about something. Then, the device asks you questions. After 20 questions, it takes a stab at guessing what you are thinking. It's uncanny how accurate it is, or close. But its misses are pretty darn funny too.

In honor of my favorite lawyer, MegMacB, and other lawyers near and dear, I focused on some legal topics for a portion of my flight. Below are my thoughts and then what it guessed, followed by its second guess after 25 questions.

Lawyer - race car, celebrity
Lawyer - (2nd try) waterfall, angel
Brief - receipt, diploma
Deposition - war, exam
Trial - smile, e-mail
Judge - elevator, UFO
Court room - lighthouse, pyramid

I also tried flight attendant. The resulting guess was Smurf.

Click here to go to the 20Q website and to learn more about this simple but fun toy. I bought mine at Walgreens.

There's No Place Like Home

Back in KC. It's nice being home.

Growing up, American Airlines was one of the largest employers in the Tulsa area. American's maintenance base and accounting base were in Tulsa. I don't know if that's still the case. American had many daily flights. With just a hop to O'Hare, DFW or LaGuardia, someone from Tulsa could go anywhere in the world. Back then, I considered this fact exciting.

I became very loyal and, to this day, still fly American before any other airline. However, this last trip to DC the cheaper fare and the best times were on US Airways. Except, while on the plane they said "Provided by Republic" a smaller airline.

I'm pleased to report the direct flights to and back home were very nice. There was a more-than-hour delay coming home, but once up in the air it was smooth sailing. KC was out the window before I knew it. I'll easily consider flying them again.

Let It Snow!

Everyone has their ideas of what is a perfect day. Today was one.

After tossing and turning and having a hard time falling to sleep, the 6 a.m. alarm came too soon. It only took two snooze-button slams before I was out of bed taking care of the morning duties. Even read a few headlines in my complimentary copy of USAToday. Was walking down "I" Street and on my way to the conference hotel with time to spare before the 8 a.m. ET start. Felt all smart wearing the suit I purchased while in San Antonio. Wore an orange tie.

Lunch included an order of gnocchi served at a nice Italian restaurant. While dining, I wrote several postcards to friends and family. It was beautiful in D.C., with temperatures in the 50s. Still much snow piled on the ground, but it was pleasant and sunny. It felt good.

Meetings were interesting and non-yawners. Much happenin. Much to learn, much to decipher, much to master, much to share. An introduction for one speaker included "Appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger." There's something funny in that statement.

Speakers often refer to the "gorilla in the room." Usually I hear 600 pounds, but one person today said 1,000 pounds. Funny that no one ever talks about the mouse in the room. Seriously. In this fancy D.C. hotel, a little mouse scurried right by and ran under the head stage. A few folks yelped. The lady next to me kept her feet up on her chair through the rest of the session. Occasionally, we could see him under there. I swear he smiled.

The rest of the meetings went well, ending with a nice happy hour and some very good lettuce, chicken and avocado wraps. I had more than my share.

Stopped by Macy's (formerly Hecht's) on 12th. Was asked three times by folks if I was an employee. Funny thing, the sales associates were visible, friendly, quickly greeted me and were helpful. Picked up two new ties and then scurried by Cafe Mozart for some sweets. This place is to-die-for good. You have to visit if in D.C. It's on H Street NW. Not far from Metro Center or McPherson Square Metro stops.

Just writing about it and I want to run over and get another cookie. Thank goodness Idol is on and capturing all my attention.

Zuleme recently noted how much she and her little monsters love snow days. A snow-covered day is perfect for them. Covers everthing and makes it new. Craig Wilson must somehow be a close relative of their's. His "Final Word" column in Wednesday's USAToday describes his perfect day.

Hope your day was fantastic!

Party Hardy

Fat Tuesday is fascinating to me. The whole concept of "sinning it up" since Ash Wednesday starts the next day is interesting.

I intended to take to the office some red beans and rice to treat co-workers but didn't get it done. Good intentions I had! Zatarin's in a box is my favorite. I doctor it up quite a bit, though, to make it extra spicy. It's a pretty good mix on its own. Maybe I'll whip it up and take it in next week.

Hope you had a great Fat Tuesday. I think if I ever get picked again that "Fat Tuesday" could be a fun name for a little monster. Or Herbert. Maybe Henrietta for a girl.

Only 40 days until Easter.

Just Curious

What are your thoughts on the Dixie Chicks and their song "Not Ready To Make Nice"? This likely is an old and tired subject, but I am curious what you think. Were you surprised they won so many Grammy awards? Do you think Grammy voters were making a political statement or was it really the best song/record/album of the year? Do you like the song?

While on the Grammy subject, I was pleased to see Carrie Underwood honored as "Best New Artist." That's cool for an Oklahoma small-town girl, American Idol winner. She's really had an incredible few years. I hope she continues to have much success and a long career.

While on the AI subject, wasn't overly impressed with any of the 12 guys performing on American Idol Tuesday night. All seem like good guys, but none really wowed me. I watched the show while working, sitting in my hotel room, eating a salad from McDonald's. I bet the ladies will up the ante Wednesday night.

A Tad Overwhelmed

Seems like there is much happening. The to-do list at work goes on and on and the stuff for me is piling up. A check mark here and there shows up as something gets done, but they remain few.

Create a page, write a summary, attend a meeting, get an oil change, get the do done, work on taxes, get my evaluation, start a mentoring program, fly to D.C., write another summary, update everyone about everything, get the laptop fixed, vacuum, pay bills, read a 1,200-page document ... you get the picture.

Some other random thoughts:
- Gas was $2.03 Monday morning but was $2.12-2.15 by Monday night.
- Went to lunch on Monday with a co-worker, aka Lurker, at Applebee's in Raytown. It was a business lunch. We had a great discussion. The walnut apple salad was tasty too. Small world, our server was someone I interviewed and almost hired for a job about eight years ago.
- My OSU Cowboys are on a downward spiral. From being ranked in the top ten earlier this season to no longer even being ranked now, it's a sad decline. I hope the team pulls it together, wins the majority of the last five conference games and gets a decent seed in the NCAA's.
- Still haven't had time to get the laptop fixed. Have a loaner now. Scared I'm going to lose many digital pics. Stop reading right now and take a moment to back up everything saved on your computer.
- Was switching out the wreath by the front door at home and discovered a bird relaxing. I felt guilty and decided to leave it be for now. That St. Patrick's Day decoration will have to wait.
- Took the cover off the daffodils this morning. They've been covered for many weeks. To my surprise, they are peeking. An inch or more out of the ground. I can't wait for them to bloom.
- It was around 57 degrees Monday. Heard it could be around 70 on Friday. Maybe I'll return home to all the snow melted.

Something's Afoul

Laptop is on the fritz. I'm hoping it is nothing too serious. Of course, did not purchase the extended warranty and haven't had time to call the charge-by-the-hour tech support to see what they can do to assist. Sure hope it is nothing too serious.

Other quick updates:
- Daphne had an extended stay with me while her folks both were away. Sexy Lady's dad had surgery and continues to recover, while Army Boy was abroad doing his army stuff. Daphne and I partied, walked daily, snuggled, ate treats. Loads of fun.
- Was in Tulsa the last few days for work meetings. Much to learn, much to do, much to accomplish. And will it all matter in a year or so? More on work stuff some other day.
- While in Tulsa, had a great dinner with Mom and The Niece. We went to Hideaway Pizza. The place is a Stillwater, OK original and a fave hangout for this Cowboy. They have sinced opened places in Norman, OK and in Tulsa. The fried mushrooms and Canadian bacon/pineapple pizza was out-of-sight good. The chicken pesto was too.
- Did you know the world's largest McDonald's, reportedly, is over I-44 near Vinita, OK? Also, did you know that Sonic first started in Oklahoma?
- There's a store on Memorial Avenue/Street/Drive in Tulsa called "Cowboy Petes." Everything you can possibly imagine orange or with an OSU or Pistol Pete on it. The place also has rooms/stores for OU Sooner stuff, Arkansas, U of Tulsa, Oral Roberts U, and a few others. I never got out of the orange section, though. Left with boxers, a little squeeze coin thing like my grandpa had, an outlet cover, magnet, and chap stick. All orange.
- It's VERY cold here. Snowed four to six inches while I was in Tulsa. It was 9 degrees this morning. Like around 11 or 12 degrees now. I think I'm ready for spring.
- SAK's birthday was last Saturday. Mention it here because she's a good friend.
- Received a Valentine from JMc in Oklahoma. On the cover it asked, "When do you know it's true love?" Pictured were hearts, a beet, a mule and a Mexican dude. The inside said "When two hearts beet ass Juan." It made me laugh. And the thong card from SAS. The e-mail from Miriam was extra nice. While MegMacB sent me one about old ladies in Tulsa being abducted by aliens. It's making me laugh just thinking about it.
- Happy Valentine's Day (a day late, sorry) to all!!

Free Tax Advice

Did taxes for a friend's two sons this week. Both of the sons are young, with one still in high school. While working on their taxes I discovered great information on the IRS website.

Free Tax Preparation & e-Filing
Tax filers with an adjusted gross income of less than $52,000 a year can utilize a free federal tax preparation and electronic filing program. Seriously, it's free! However, there are fees involved if you want a state return completed.

This is a link to details on the IRS site. According to the IRS, 70 percent of all taxpayers – 95 million taxpayers – can take advantage of the "Free File" program.

According to a recent article in The Kansas City Star, about 62 percent of taxpayers pay someone to do their tax returns. Additionally, about 26 percent purchase software to do taxes on home computers. Lastly, on average, tax preparers charge $72 to do a 1040EZ or a 1040A. The leading tax preparation companies reported that last year's average collected from clients was $155.21 and $177.65, respectively.

For my friend's sons, I went through the list on the IRS site and randomly picked one of the companies. Entered the information and e-filed it all to the IRS. Boom. It's done. Mind you, these two had simple forms. However, I checked out the sites and they can handle even complicated tax filings.

Telephone Excise Tax Credit
Almost everyone filing can claim a one-time credit on their 2006 federal return. Essentially, if you paid a long-distance telephone bill in the last three years, you are due a refund. The one-time payment is to refund previously collected long-distance telephone taxes. This excise tax was established in 1898 to fund the Spanish-American War.

There is a standard refund taxpayers can claim just by filling out one line on their forms. The standard refund is $60 for a family of four or more, $50 for a family of three, $40 for a family of two or $30 for a single filer (me).

This is like being given a case of beer from the IRS just for filling out one line. On the electronic form, you just have to check a box. Even those who don't file taxes can claim the refund by utilizing a form 1040EZ-T. This form is only for people who are not required to and do not file an individual income tax return.

The other option is to find all the old phone bills and total up from each bill the actual amount of tax paid. In that case, a Form 8913 is required to claim the refund. Of course, the IRS is watching out for abuse and will audit those claiming unusually high amounts.

Hot Time In The City

Smoke over Kansas City's downtownThere was an explosion/fire Wednesday, Feb. 7, at a chemical plant located about a mile northeast of Kansas City's downtown. From what I've heard, there were no fatalities or serious injuries. That's always good news when there is an event like this.

Smoke over Kansas City's downtownTook these two pics while taveling west on 210, just in front of the Cerner Corporation. The plume of smoke billowing over Kansas City provided for a very eerie sight. The local newspaper had a very dramatic picture as part of all of Thursday's headlines.

Two More Pics

Washington MonumentIncluding some action shots. They were taken while the photographer was in action, riding in the backseat of a cab to Reagan National Airport. I can go to D.C. over and over, but each time I find the sites fascinating. It is the "Oklahoma small-town kid" that permanently resides in me.

Jefferson MemorialConsistently, D.C. cab drivers are courteous, helpful and willing to point out sites of interest. They also love to honk. Which I appreciate in my own way. Back home, I always get huge, mean, horrid stares from suburbanites when I honk. Like I'm being the rude one. Geez, they're the ones holding me up!

Simply put, cars should move forward when a light turns green. More important, turn if you're going to turn. Especially in the suburbs. It's like they can't decide if they want to go to that Target/Lowe's/spa/McDonald's/Starbucks or the other one a mile down the road.

Two bits of advice: Keep moving, merge later. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Otherwise, you might hear a honk. If it's me honking, be sure to wave in return. :)

High Anxiety

For whatever reason, fluctuating gas prices catch my attention. As a single dude who travels and eats out a bunch, I don't notice when things like milk, bread or other stuff are more expensive. However, I sure notice when prices are higher at any one of my favorite breakfast places, Mexican restaurant or Chipotle. I also notice higher prices on coffee beans. And gasoline prices.

Funny, years ago I was a business writer and covered market trends on fruits and vegetables. Like tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and kumquats. Crazy. That seems like a zillion years ago.

A buck eighty was the lowest I saw just a week or so ago. Recently prices were mostly $1.89 to $1.93. Tuesday, everything was $2.05.

I remember the first time that I saw gas prices rise to $2.05. Hurricane Katrina slowly was approaching, with expected landfall the next day. When I left for work everything was around $1.93. That night, with Katrina near, even my nearby Shell was at $2.05. I zoomed about a mile down the road to the 7-11 and filled up at $1.97.

Today, seeing prices over $2 barely even shows up on most of our radar screens. Just like that, we are desensitized. We know prices could go higher. I hope not.

I think it's always the unknown that leaves folks unsettled. How high will prices go before we will see them lower again? Will they ever get "back to normal?" Wondering what will happen tomorrow always leaves me a little shaky. Eventually, though, things become normal. One day, one moment, one instant at a time.

It Is D.C.

Derby is right again (see comment on post below).
The greeting sign on the house where Lincoln died.Historical marker on the house were Lincoln died.

Ford's Theatre where Abraham Lincoln was shot. Jitney was showing.The White House, pic taken from Lafayette Park