Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Holy POP!

   I have been quite busy for the last month. My employer for the last ten years, "merged with another sign company*".  Part of this deal was my former bosses liquidating basically everything that wasn't nailed down in the old store (and some things that actually were literally nailed down), as the new owners already had everything they needed to run a productive sign company.  Our two wide format printers: gone.  Three 4'x8' work tables: gone.  Shelves, ladders, tools, everything.  Gone.  I won't say the last day was bittersweet, because there was nothing sweet about it.  I really loved that place, and I didn't want to leave on that last day.  Although it's only been two weeks, I still wish every morning on my way to work that I was going to work for Bill and Diane.

But that's not what this story is about.

Part of what was sold in the aforementioned liquidation was the plotter, all of the vinyl stock, and a computer with design software.  Yeah, that part was sold to me and my brother-in-law.  Actually, that very computer is what I'm using to type this right now, after a night of design and a little production work in my basement's former-band-room-turned-production-workshop.  We have started a business called POP! Graphics, and while things are not going nearly the way I expected them to, I couldn't be happier about the whole thing.

My idea was to, for lack of more sophisticated words, come up with silly car decals, find one or two that became amazingly popular, and sell a million of them (not unlike the "stick figure family" idea).  As my brother-in-law Andy became involved, he saw much different opportunities within the local athletic organizations.  Seems every kid's mom has one of those clear, plastic, screw-top tumblers.  Most of them have something cute on them - polka dots, an initial, something.  Well, what if all of these moms had tumblers with their son's football team logo on them?  What about their full name?  What about their son's name?  What if we could offer anything they want on these cups?  What if... what if we offered anything they want AND offered it for about half the price of the competition?  Hell, it's worth a try.

 We came up with the name and a logo.  We started a Facebook page (if you haven't already, go check it out at  We ordered 100 tumblers.  We then made a few samples.  We (my sister-in-law, Kristen, really) took those samples to a football game, and the moms started noticing it and asking questions.  Then, just like that, the orders started coming in.  We have been talking with team mom coordinators and setting up fundraisers.  Word has started spreading in the "Football-Cheerleader-Baseball-Dance-Mom" circles.  In a week and two days, we have sold like 98 of the initial 100 tumblers, and our second shipment of 100 should be arriving by the end of the week. I knew we'd sell some of these things, but I am amazed at the rate we have been selling.

We're not getting rich off of this thing - far from it, actually (remember, we're selling these for half the price of the competition).  We still have our initial investment (the equipment from my former employer) to pay off before we actually can take any money from it.  However, at the rate we have grown over just this short period of time, it is exciting to see just how successful we can make this operation.  More than anything, though, I'm having a blast.  It's so much fun to have, for all intents and purposes, a sign shop in my basement.  During the day, I'm an employee for a local sign company.  But by night, I'm a small business owner and my own boss.  That has a nice ring to it.

And I'll eventually come up with my own personal "stick figure family".  It's just a matter of time...

*My bosses retired and sold the business - but not the actual assets (equipment, etc), just the customer base and design files.  Keeping the same customer base, the new boss wanted to keep the name as well.  Thing is, he wanted to keep his previous customers, so he kept his name, too.  It's really kind of confusing.  I now work for a company that has two interchangeable names.  It doesn't make much sense, and it confuses some of our older, slower customers.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I was flipping through the iPod this morning, looking for something I could be in the mood for listening to on my way to work. I came across a band that Anthem used to play with years and years ago. The band was called In Stereo (and had previously been called Lights Out). I had one EP from each of the band's incarnations. I listened to each of them on the way in, and it threw me back in time about 9-10 years. I loved that band back then, and I still love the songs today, even though I'm sure the band is long gone.

It made me wonder if those guys had any idea that anyone still listens to their recordings and enjoys them. Then I wondered if anyone still listens to Anthem's music occasionally (other than actual members of Anthem, that is). My guess is probably not.

I stated a year or so ago that my only real regret with Anthem was not pushing more, playing more shows, trying to tour, etc. I believe I have changed my mind on that. My real regret is not having recorded as much as we could/should have. We have plenty of recordings, and they're certainly fun to listen to and be nostalgic. All of those recordings, however, are of a fairly poor quality and were done by beginners who were still learning the ropes.

That's one of the things I love about The Last Chucks. We record in a real studio with professional gear by someone who has enough experience to make the stuff sound awesome in the end. Granted, this costs money. Thankfully, this is money that does not come out of my pocket, because if that were the case, this would not be able to happen. To Mike, who pays the man, I am very grateful.

I just want to have something I can listen to in the future and pay attention to the song itself rather than the sound quality. Thankfully, with The Last Chucks, this is the case. Sadly, with Anthem, it is not. Maybe Jason (from Anthem - who, over the years, has become one of those aforementioned experienced studio guys) will get a wild hair one day and decide he wants some quality recordings of past Anthem songs, too. Maybe we'll get together just for fun and put something down. Maybe not. Who knows...

Oh, also it occurred to me this morning that Anthem has now been broken up for longer than we were together (more than 6 years).

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I was at the Mall of Georgia yesterday measuring a wall. The wall was over 50 ft long, and the tape measure I had wasn't half that distance, so I would have to measure as far as I could, mark my spot, then measure again from the mark, and so on and so on until I knew the total width. When I neared the end of the wall, I had somewhere between 6 and 8 feet left to measure, so I held the end of the tape measure out, hoping to hook the end of it to the end of the wall. The tape measure kept giving out under its weight and falling limply to the ground. After the third try, I was about to give up and try a different method, when an older man happened to be walking by. He picked up the end of the tape measure and hooked it to the wall, thus allowing me to get my final measurement.

I thanked him, and I thought that was going to be it. His response - He slapped me on my butt and then - holding out a limp, droopy finger - said "Yeah, that tape measure reminded me of ma' dick".

Nice old man to creepy old man in 1.5 seconds. That has to be some kind of a record, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rumble at the beach

Sorry kids, it's a long one...

Last week we had our annual Swanson Family Vacation. Almost every year I have been a part of the family, we have gone to Myrtle Beach, SC. This year, however, we decided to do things a little differently. Instead of the 4 bedroom condo in MBSC, we went with a house in Destin, FL. This house, coincidentally, is about a mile and a half from where Kimberly and I stayed on our honeymoon (awwww).

This story isn't about the vacation as a whole, though. This story is about our first 5 hours in Destin.

We arrived at the house at 3:30 pm on Saturday. Kimberly's dad (Kent) and the homeowner had established that we would arrive between 2:00 and 4:00. When we pulled up, we were surprised to find three cars and a number of beach chairs in the driveway. Standing there a little confused, we tried to understand what exactly was happening. Kent called the homeowner, who actually lived in a second building that was attached to the house by a walkway. Within moments he was standing in the driveway with us, and this was his story:

Guys, I'm so sorry. We had a huge storm, and the electricity has been out all day and actually just now came back on. The people in the house right now are packing up and they should be out soon. Then we'll go through and clean, and we'll get you right in.

A little weird, but okay. I mean, why would the power being out delay the departure of the previous residents by hours?

It was around this time (Kent, Rosary, Andy, and I were standing in the driveway with the homeowner) that we turned around to see 5-6 people in swimsuits walking up the street. They walked past us in the driveway, up the stairs and into the house. Our house. These people didn't look like they were getting ready to go anywhere. The homeowner (Keith) by this point had stepped out into the street and was trying to (or attempting to look like he was trying to) call someone and get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, a couple of people came out of the house and were talking to Rosary. They explained to her that no, they were not leaving. They had signed a contract and paid Keith to stay an extra day, leaving Sunday. If this is true, then we (nine of us, including three children ages 6, 3, and 2) have nowhere to stay for the night.

When presented with the news of what the residents said, Keith responded with a disgusted look on his face - "No, that's not true! They never signed a contract to stay an extra day!" It should be noted throughout the duration of this ordeal, Kent had his signed contract, along with copies of all correspondance with Keith, in hand. For reasons we couldn't really discern, Keith just wasn't walking over to the other residents and giving them the boot.

By this time, almost an hour had passed. Keith was going back and forth between us, the other reesidents, and his cell phone. There was no resolution in sight. He just kept pacing, looking nervous, and going back to his story about the power being out. Despite the other residents' insistence that they had signed a contract to stay an extra day, they were yet to produce actual proof of this. They seemed like nice enough people at the time. When we had been there for a while, Ashlyn had to go potty, so the let us in to use the bathroom. Also, they brought out popsicles for the kids - it was freaking hot outsite! On the surface, it appeared that Keith had double-booked, and even if it was an honest mistake, the situation was his fault. Also, during a conversation with these people, Rosary was told that the house was not really up to snuff. Of the 5 or 6 TV's in the house, only two of them actually worked - plus Keith was really strange and had people coming and going constantly during the week, and at one point, he actually knocked on the door and asked them to give him a ride to the store (all of these claims were found later to be grossly exaggerated).

At this point, Keith told us if we can just go out for a little while, check out the things to do in Destin and just mill around, everything would be resolved by the time we got back. Kent told him we'd give him two hours, and we walked across the street to the beach. Well, all of us but one. Rosary wasn't having any of it. She parked herself on the curb and waited for the resolution.
We sat on the pavilion by the beach for a while - I have no idea how long. We kept the kids entertained with sno cones. Finally, Kent got a call from Rosary. The previous residents were being kicked out and currently huffing and puffing and hastily throwing their things into the car.

By this time I'm guessing it was around 6:00 pm. This was good news in that we no longer were worried with the possibility that we may have to go out and find a hotel for 9 people for the night (maybe longer, who knows). The downside was that the house still had to be cleaned before we moved in. The cleaning crew had been contacted and was on their way. They arrived promptly and got started. At that point Kimberly, Kristen, and Rosary went to the grocery store while Andy and I put swimsuits on the kids and headed to the beach killing more time until the house was actually ready to be occupied.

At last, sometime between 8:30 and 9:00, the cleaning crew was gone. The groceries, some Domino's pizza, 6 adults, and three children, and all their luggage were in the house. The only real casualties were 5 hours of the afternoon and the key to the neighborhood pool (which we believe was taken by the previous residents - Keith got us a new key a few days into the vacation).


Keith definitely seemed a little "off" in our conversations with him. We learned that about ten years ago, his fiance, twin brother, (and father? - I can't remember) were killed in a plane crash. That apparently gave him some emotional and psycholocial problems that he is still dealing with. Additionally, three years ago, he was in a motorcycle accident in which he suffered some form of brain damage. Before all of this, he was apparently a really bright guy who earned a lot of money from an invention having to do with microderm abrasion (not sure exactly what).

He really is a nice guy. What likely happened was that he felt so bad about the power going out, that he told the people they could stay for a little while longer, probably meaning a few hours. They took it as "Stay as long as you want". From what I heard over the course of the week, this group of people are among a larger number of people who have tried to take advantage of Keith's situation over the years. They were completely willing to use that guy's courtesy to them as a tool to essentially force a family of nine to either make other arrangements at a much larger cost or turn around and drive 7 hours back home (which actually was discussed at one point).

But, everything turned out quite well. After the first day's conflict, the rest of the week went without a hitch (with the exception of the mishap involving my dog back home, but that's another story for another day).

Funny side note, later in the week I had a conversation with Keith and Sonya (a woman he referred to as his manager). Keith, again, was profusely apologizing for everything that transpired on the first day. I told him not to worry and that everything is fine now, and we love the house. We discussed what time on Saturday we would be packing up and leaving. Sonya mentioned that Kent had told her 10:00. I said that it will likely even be earlier than that. Keith's reply was "Oh, well, I mean, stay longer if you'd like! The next people aren't coming in until late, and as long as we have just a little while to go through and clean, you guys are welcome to make yourselves at home for as long as you want!"

It's a good thing we're nice people...

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I have two confessions to make. One I will make now, and the other I will make momentarily.

Confession #1: I'm a huge baseball fan (gasp!)
I know, I know. I have hidden it so well for all these years, right? I'm one of these guys that just finds something pure, something beautiful within the game. It doesn't even have to be a Braves game (obviously my team of choice). If there isn't a Braves game on, I'd gladly watch two other teams duke it out. Earlier in the spring, I took Cohen to a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide, despite not liking either team (or school), just because it was my first chance of the year at seeing real, live baseball.

I have been somewhat of a "Baseball Purist" for most of my life. I didn't want to mess with tradition. Lately, though, I have had a revelation of sorts. I was watching the Blue Jays and Red Sox play - both American League teams.

Okay, before I go any further, I will (try to) breifly explain for anyone who doesn't follow baseball at all. Just to be safe, I'll give the "for dummies" version. Major League Baseball is divided into two leagues - National and American. There are few real differences between the two, but there is one glaring difference: the Designated Hitter (DH). The American League uses the DH, and the National League (in which the Braves play) does not. The DH takes the place of the pitcher in the batting lineup. Therefore, the pitchers do not bat. The DH is usually a player whose defense isn't necessarily up to snuff, but who is still a good batter. A lot of fans (Purists) are adamantly against the idea of the DH, if for no other reason, because it flies in the face of baseball tradition. It changes the rules that have always been in place for the sake of making the game more exciting.

Anyway, I was watching the Jays and Red Sox play a few days ago. It was starting to look like a blowout. After 3 innings, the Jays were up 7-0. Then, the Red Sox started to come back. Going into the 9th, the Jays had a 9-7 lead. I wondered what part of the lineup was coming up, and whether the pitcher's spot was soon in the lineup, and then it occurred to me - there is no pitcher's spot in the lineup. These lineups were both loaded with offense. It made for a very exciting 9th inning.

Then it hit me. Other than an unreasonable sense of wanting to hold on to something "because it's what we've always done", what good reason is there to not have that same thing in the National League?

Confession #2: I'm in favor of the DH
It almost hurts to say that. I've been against it my whole life, but I can't deny it anymore. First off, it makes the game more exciting, plain and simple. Literally, it's the idea of taking your worst hitter out of the lineup and replacing him with a much better hitter. What's not to like?
Secondly, it is simply a proven fact that Major League pitchers cannot hit as well as position players. I do not know why. My assumption is that they spend all their time concentrating on pitching, and neglect hitting. Regardless of the reasoning, the DH rule has proven to be a good thing in the American League since it was adopted in 1973.

Whew. There, I said it. I really feel better. I know I'm going to catch a lot of flack from my baseball purist fans, but I think I'm prepared to deal with it.

Now, if we could only increase the use of instant replay....(dun dun dunnnn!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cruise Blog 2: The food

Everything I ate over the course of the cruise was good. Everything, from the dining room to the buffet upstairs, to the pizza bar.

Every morning, we headed up to the buffet for breakfast - Scrambled eggs, omelettes, bacon, sausage, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, grits, donuts, bagels, English muffins, toast, cereal, fruit. Really, anything a person would normally want for breakfast was available. Oh yeah, and baked beans(?).

At lunch, I think the buffet changed it up a little from day to day. I know there were various chicken and pork options. Plus there was the guy carving beef every day. There were always coldcuts available for sandwiches. There was a decent selection of sides, breads, and desserts, too. None of this mattered to me, though. They had a hamburger bar. And the burgers (and hot dogs) were good. That being said, I really had a hamburger and a hot dog every day for lunch...with the exception of our day at Coco Cay, where I had a hamburger, a hot dog, and a couple of pork ribs. The fries were amazing, too. Thicker than McDonalds, but thinner than Five Guys. Crispy as crispy can be. Delicious.

Dinner was the star of the show, though. The atmosphere was very nice and upscale, and the food reflected that. I don't remember what dishes I had on what night, but over the course of the week, I had lamb, roasted duck, escargot, shrimp and mahi mah...wait, what? Escargot?

Yes, I ate snails. Actually, we all ate snails. They were served in a delicious garlicy, buttery, crusty goodness. Kimberly first bit the bullet by ordering it as an appetizer. When our waiter saw that we were all trying it, he took it upon himself to bring each of us an order of our own. I'm pretty sure every last bit of it was eaten.

Please note above that our waiter took the liberty of bringing us all extra dishes. This was common throughout the week. If you couldn't decide between the steak and the shrimp, well, just order both! It's all included in the price we already paid. Two appetizers? No problem. Two entrees? Go ahead!

One would think that you'd gain a lot of weight on a cruise. I'm not going to lie, it is entirely possible, but 1) While there was a good bit of lounging on this trip, there was also a good bit of walking. We took the stairs more often than the elevators, and 2) We danced. A lot. Good exercise.

So, to wrap it up, the food could not have been better.

Next time I'll get into the people we encountered on this trip. There were quite a few characters.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cruise Blog 1

Kimberly and I just finished a 4 night Bahamas cruise with Kristen (Kimberly's sister) and Andy (Kristen's husband). There were enirely too many cool/fun/hilarious things about the trip to put into one blog post, so I'll break it up into sections. First section will be the ship:

From my understanding, the Monarch of the Seas is small in comparison to other ships. It houses about 2,000 guests (along with the 800 crew members). I have heard that other ships hold around 4,000 to 5,000 guests. Regardless, having never been on a cruise, I was still impressed by it. Most of the ship had 11 floors, with the exception of one end, which went up to the 14th floor, where a circular bar could be found.

In the middle of the ship was a large, multi-floor lobby. From this lobby, one could easily reach the dining rooms, the collection of duty-free stores, the casino, and the piano bar.

The staterooms were nice. Small, like everyone told me they would be, but nice nonetheless. No difference - we were rarely in our room. It had two beds that had already been slid together to make one queen-size bed, an adequate closet, a tiny bathroom, a tiny TV, and that's about it.

There were two pools on the (second from the) top deck. Both were saltwater pools that we learned were filled with ocean water pumped through a filtering system. We spent most of the pool time lounging on the balcony deck that overlooked the pools.

There were two clubs: Boleros and The Circuit. Boleros was where the bulk of the people hung out. It was where most of the games, karaoke, and dance lessons were held. The Circuit was more the late-night dance club. If one has enough to drink and lets go of the concept of embarrassment, one can have a really good time dancing at The Circuit. That party usually started around 11:00pm and was still going strong at 2:00 or 3:00 when we decided to turn in for the night.

There were two main dining rooms (that I know of). Each party generally was assigned one of the two. There was also the Windjammer Cafe next to the pool that housed a buffet that was open almost all the time, only closing overnight and shortly between meals to prepare for the next meal. Inside the Windjammer was also a Pizza bar that was open just about any time someone had a hankering for pizza. It should be noted that the Windjammer had a soft serve ice cream machine, and I never knew until this week how much people LOVE soft serve ice cream. There was almost ALWAYS a line.
The food - ALL of the food - was good. I'll get into that in another post, though.

That I'm aware of (there are probably more that I never saw or that I don't remember), there were no fewer than 9 bars. In addition, there was ALWAYS a server walking around that was more than willing to bring you a drink. If one wanted a beverage of any kind, one would never have to wait more than about 5 minutes. Alcohol was extra, but when you aren't paying for food, it doesn't seem that bad.

I'd really like to try another ship next time, but to be honest, my experience on this one was so good that I don't want to mess with a good thing. We'll see, though, as my wheels are already turning for making another cruise happen.