Friday, December 24, 2010

Capture Christmas

I found this post today at QuietFish that had a fun challenge to capture Christmas: take a picture each hour during your day on Christmas to capture your celebration. If you want to participate, feel free to head over to QuietFish and let her know that you will be participating. I look forward to seeing everyone's posts. Let me know if you are going to participate as well so that I can peek into how you celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas for Munchkin

We have been a bit lax with Munchkin's Christmas presents this year. We have seen something that we want to give her for Christmas, and since she goes everywhere with us, she normally sees us purchase the gifts. In fact, she usually plays with her Christmas gifts while she is sitting in the cart so that we can keep her occupied in the store. I don't know if other kids are like this, but Munchkin does not like riding in a cart where she can't be facing forward.

Here is an example. Munchkin loves getting Wifey's clutch out of the diaper bag. It has so many interesting cards, pictures, and pockets that it is quite irresistible. The bright red color also helps Munchkin to quickly locate it. We happened to find a smaller wallet for her the other day. She grabbed it from us and started opening up all the pockets and sticking her fingers inside. It was a winner, and being close to the same red color as Wifey's clutch, we were hoping that her imagination would go a long way.

To add to the illusion, we went through our wallets and took out all the old cards that we don't need. We came up with enough to fill up the small wallet, and now Munchkin has her own little wallet that was supposed to be a stocking stuffer, but she still plays with it. It is still going to be a stocking stuffer, but she won't be as surprised when it comes out of her stocking on Christmas morning.

While the surprise factor has worn off, we did find a way to use all those old cards (and any subsequent credit card offers that might come our way).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Loud Mouth VI

Wrinkly Rena

The last Loud Mouth currently works about two cubes down from me, so I have to be quiet. OK, she has no idea that I blog, so she has no idea that this post will be about her.

When I first started working with this woman, I thought she was in her mid-fifties. She walked very carefully, complained frequently about back problems, and didn't think twice about letting others know of her daily work woes. I worked wither her every once in a while, but until I recently brought it upon myself to demystify some internet mumbo-jubmo at work that no one else wanted to take the time to demystify, I didn't have to worry about hearing about her woes.

Then we moved, and because we both worked on the same mumbo-jumbo (she is in charge of inputting the rules that drive the mumbo-jumbo), we were strategically placed relatively close. While this is convenient, it has also become a bit of a distraction.

You see, Wrinkly Rena's mother is at the point where she needs some additional help and can no longer live by herself. This means that Wrinkly Rena (and slothful siblings) are spending their time trying to get their aging mother comfortable in her new location while going through everything in her house and consolidating. There have been some interesting things I have learned about antique costume jewelery, cars, and her family, but I don't think I was supposed to learn these things. (I did learn on purpose that Wrinkly Rena is only in her early 40's.)

Wrinkly Rena has a very good friend that she shares a cube with. Because they are such good friends, they share a lot with each other. Wrinkly Rena's sharing generally happens at a volume that is not in a confidential tone. There are times when I roll my chair back and look at my co-workers just so I can see their reactions to the TMI that is going on over the wall. Generally I am greeted with wide-eyed deer-in-the-headlights type looks, accompanied with a bit of a grimace. Other times, we end up putting our headphones on and turning up the volume so that we can meet our deadline.

While Wrinkly Rena is quite competent at what she does, I often wonder if she knows how much of her conversations we actually overhear. Being in the middle of the row, I think that a lot of people don't have to ask her personal questions, because they get the answers to everything they want to know (and a whole lot more) without ever having to ask.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Loud Mouth V

Mr. Eleven

The person who fought the most with Hacky was someone who was about 135 degrees away from her, should you have drawn a circle around me. His name is Mr. Eleven because he only had one volume level.

I would have loved to hear Mr. Eleven sing. He had a very rich baritone/bass voice that carried quite well. I think—considering that he wasn't tone deaf— that he would have probably been a pretty desirable singer. His voice had great resonance, and I am pretty sure he could get some of those low notes with power.

The problem was the fact that his primary responsibility was to offer phone assistance to corporate customers. This meant that he was on the phone for most of the day. When I first moved into my location, I found myself standing up and trying to discreetly locate him by his voice. I thought that he was standing over the wall from my cube where the community printers were located to pick up a print job while talking on the phone. When I would stand up, there wouldn't be anyone there.

I finally caught his lips moving one day while I was coming back from a leisurely lunchtime walk. I was amazed to find that he was across the aisle from me, as well as three cubes in. This means that his voice was generally carrying out of the top of his cube, over two other (very patient) people, past the twelve-foot aisle, and over my cube wall.

Yeah, Mr. Eleven is right.

He didn't bother me after a while. I just got so that I could drown out his raspy voice. It became kind of cathartic at times when I was on a call that was completely dis-interesting, or when something was being explained for the fourth time (because at least one person who should have been listening the first two times didn't start listening until the third time, and then proceeded to ask questions that were asked the first time, leaving the presenter no choice but to think that the rest of us on the call were completely lost).

Getting Coal in Your Stocking?

There are those out there who have been naughty this year. You know who you are. You might have done any of the things in the famous song "Somebody Snitched on Me," or maybe you were original and did some other nasty things that weren't listed there.

If you fit into the previous category, then the Onion is going to be your friend this year. You can let Santa know that, due to budget limitations, your stocking will not be accepting coal this year.

And it is probably best that you don't get some coal for Christmas anyway. Read this story by Lemony Snicket to figure out why.


Do you really want this guy creeping around your house?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Full of Surprises

Last night, Wifey was feeling a bit bored. She had recently finished reading a handful of books that she really enjoyed (including the complete Harry Potter series and selections from the Anne of Green Gables series). She was in a reading mood, so I encouraged her to look through some of the old books that I had loved as a kid that are sitting there on the shelf, eagerly waiting to be read by our kids.

I read a lot of Lynne Reid Banks books as a kid. I was fascinated with the Indian in the Cupboard series. It got a little bit boring after the third or fourth iteration, but I liked the way the author wrote, so I started picking up a few other books of her's from the library.

As Wifey was browsing the selection of tween literature, she came across this little gem:
The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks

I'm pretty sure that Wifey was influenced by the picture on the front. The idea of a girl with Fairies flitting around her can be pretty appealing to a woman in her mid-twenties. She set the book down to get some other stuff ready before she nestled down into the book, and that is when I noticed it.

There was something between the pages of the book.

That something happened to be seven whole dollars.

I am sure that I had hidden this money away from prying eyes to get at a later date. I can distinctly remember putting money in books that I thought my brother wouldn't look at, just in case he went rummaging through my things for money.

These seven dollars were probably quite a bit to me back then. I had a job that made me a whole $20 a month where I would go feed my neighbor's horses. They had two (Bucky and Tradzoan) that weren't the most patient of horses, but they offered me an opportunity to make a bit of money. I saved about 75% of what I made, hoarding my money in the bank or in my books.

It seems like I forgot some of the hiding locations as I grew older. Maybe I'll have to thumb through all the old books I have on the shelf to see if I can't make some more...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Loud Mouth IV

Hacky

In my current workplace, I used to work in another building on campus. There was a woman who sat three double-rows away from me, but that didn't stop her from being the resident Loud Mouth.

I believe that Hacky was a smoker. She could often be heard having coughing fits. Most time the coughing fits would come, I could swear that everyone around her needed a biohazard suit. From three double-rows away, I could hear the rattle of phlegm in her lungs, as well as the wet spittle flying from her lips. I was surprised that I never heard anyone walk over and exclaim, "I need a medic. Hacky has officially coughed up a lung!"

I could picture her lying prone on her desk, eyes glazed over, fingers twitching uncontrollably. At least one of her lungs would be protruding from her mouth, heaving in and out while trying to assimilate the air around it.

The worst part about Hacky is that these attacks happened multiple times a day. It was never just an every-so-often thing—it was a regular (and sometimes hourly) occurrence.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Loudmouth III

Mrs. Sunshine

My next internship put all of the employees (except the office manager and the two company creators) into a common work space. It was drafty, well-lit with natural lighting, and offered no privacy. That didn't matter much, as most of the company spent its time comparing episodes of South Park online. The desks were in three O's, each having a small opening. Four people sat in each O, facing the outside of the O. In my O, Mrs. Sunshine sat right behind me.

Mrs. Sunshine was a pleasant individual. She lived with her husband (bowling alley chef extraordinaire) and two dachshunds that she treated like children. She was in her late 20's and called everyone by the same term of endearment: honey. If you were really lucky, you would get called sweetie. But she was one of those people who could pull off using terms that are generally reserved for southern belles and greasy spoon waitresses. She fit more into the latter mold.


"What can I get you, Hon?"
Graphic from www.desertusa.com/larasroad

I learned more about this woman's personal struggles than I wanted. I'm not talking about financial struggles, or marriage struggles, or family struggles. I'm talking about medical struggles that most people would feel uncomfortable discussing in a clinical doctor's office behind closed doors. She would openly discuss this information with another married man (awkward) as I would do my best to turn up my headphones or find somewhere else to work.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Avoiding Christmas

I got a call today from Wifey while I was at work. She had just gotten off the phone with her mother. Wifey was pulled over on the freeway with Munchkin in the back, waiting for her mom to come pick her up because of a flat tire. Chalk one more thing up to add joy to the holiday season.


Photo by lissalou66
I realized today that I have been avoiding Christmas. It wasn't a conscious decision, but after looking back, sometimes I wonder if it wasn't. I have purchased one gift (if you don't include the other gift that I purchased on behalf of my mother so my dad wouldn't know what it was). That is all. And I'm not planning on getting a whole lot more. Mainly stocking stuffers and the like.

I've also been avoiding the Christmas music. In fact, at this point, if I hear a Christmas song, I have been changing the station. While it is impossible to avoid the music entirely (because Wifey has it on in her car and if you go anywhere, it is cheerily reminding you to buy presents in a guerrilla tactics kind-of-way), when I have the option to change it, I do.

I'm just not feeling very Christmasy this year. Maybe I am just being a scrooge, but I'm just not feeling it this year. It is almost as if my Christmas wagon has a flat tire, and is waiting on the side of the highway while all the other cars zip by.

Now that I have told you this, I am sure that Wifey will have all sorts of activities for us to do in order to change my flat tire.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Loudmouth II

Mr. Folk Rock Engineer

The next corporate position I had was as an intern for a locomotive company. There were four of us interns crammed into two cubicles set up in a portable office. Down the trailer hallway, we had an engineer who happened to love 70's folk rock. By love, I mean he had to have the speakers cranked to 11 in order for him to enjoy the music. While I don't mind some of the music from this era, there were a couple of songs that quickly became infamous for our group of interns.

These special songs would lead to immediate walks, trips to floor to watch manufacturing processes, and nervous glances to see if any of us had gone insane yet. All of these songs generally had at least one intensely repetitive section. The one that still comes to mind has an introduction played on a harmonica that went for about four minutes and seventeen seconds before any words were used. You can only blow in and out of a harmonica so many times without moving your mouth before it becomes annoying.

You can't see it, but this guy's brain is oozing out the other side of his head after listening to that song.
Graphic from 304biztips.com
Needless to say, I didn't last very long at that internship. Part of it was the music, while the other part of it was the fact that our supervisor wanted us on the floor during the whole manufacturing process. That was great and all, but when the process went on 24/7, it was kind of difficult to get all your information from the guys on the floor and do something else (like type up the procedure). While I learned a lot about trains, I didn't learn very much about writing. It could have been the fact that after I had something I could write, I knew that I was going to have to walk back into my cube to vie for a position, followed by being tortured by Mr. Folk Rock Engineer's music.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Variation on a Theme: Loud Mouth I

Today I realized that there is a common phenomenon that is going to occur everywhere I will be employed—unless I somehow manage to score an awesome office somewhere. I would like to dub this phenomenon the "Loud Mouth."

Introduction to the Loud Mouth

If you have ever worked in a cubicle farm, Murphy's Law requires that you are going to have an important task to complete, and to assist you in this process you are given an individual somewhere near you who talks too loud. They might not be right next to you, but they are close enough for you to hear their every conversation. And it seems like most of their conversations are not business-related. They make no effort to be considerate to their peers and just keep talking, ignoring any subtle (or not so subtle) hints.

I'll dedicate some of my next posts to some of the Loud Mouths I have known over the years. If you have any to add please feel free to post them in the comments!

Ursula

When I worked at BSU as a student, I worked for the Student Union Building in the Operations Office. I spent my workdays in an office taking reservations for the Student Union Building meeting facilities while trying to keep on top of the phones and avoid gossip. Down the hall was the Student Union Director's office. Farther down the hall and through a closed door was another department. Their director was the Loud Mouth.

The Director of the other department would hold impromptu events in her space in the Student Union. There were a few offices in her space, but there were also common areas for students to sit and discuss upcoming events and ways that student organizations were interfacing with this department. Neighboring Director was generally very nice to your face, but she really liked to have a good time. Good time in her book was the same as loud. If you didn't get her everything (that she didn't reserve, but swore up and down that she did) for her impromptu party, she became Ursula the Sea Witch when she had hold of King Triton's trident.


*Not to scale
Image from Cracked.com
On a weekly basis (yet never at the same time or day), Ursula would hold impromptu karaoke contests. Because she thought that everyone wanted to hear her staff create new inharmonious melodies to semi-popular songs from a few years ago, she would open the door between our offices and her own. The Operations Director's secretary would quickly get up and close the door, but it was amazing how much sound carried underneath the door, down a hallway, and around the corner into our office. There were times when I had to struggle to keep my eye from twitching while I was talking to a customer when hearing the mixture of bat shrieks and cat fights.

Just as depicted in the Disney's The Little Mermaid, the seas would froth and the storms would brew when she had an issue. This seemed to happen quite frequently. When the SUB Director would pull her into the office to diffuse the issue. It usually took a bit, but I could hear between through two other offices or down the hallway when the thunder was still rolling from these conversations. And generally, the thunder only came from one storm cloud, not both.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Make a Paper Airplane

I have a friend who is studying to be an ESL teacher. She was supposed to give a presentation to demonstrate how to do something in another language. Because 95% of the population in Boise who are studying to be ESL teachers speak Spanish, it makes for a pretty unexciting class. Can you imagine trying to learn lessons on how to teach something in another language when you completely understand the language? A bit counterproductive? I think so.

This is why my friend got up the idea to ask me to help her out. She knows that I can fake my way through a bit of Finnish. While my grammar isn't completely perfect, I was pretty happy with how it came out. I figured that no one would really understand a word I was saying, so I didn't worry about my pronunciation slip-ups. After all, I haven't had the opportunity to to speak conversational Finnish with anyone in about eight years.

Here is the video I made. Feel free to laugh. Especially at the end.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Like Grandma, Like Grandma

My maternal grandmother was someone that I never knew very well. She lived in another state and was well over the hill by the time I came around. We would make a yearly (if not more frequent) procession to drive down to Hyde Park, Utah and move in for the duration of our stay. My parents never told her that we were coming, because if they did, she would fret herself into a tizzy, but enough food to feed Wifey's extended family for Thanksgiving, even if we were only staying one night.

Grandma was also hard of hearing, and also had trouble seeing well. For this reason, she had a fire bell above the telephone that would let her know that someone was calling. If that wasn't enough, she also had a light that would flash. Often, that wasn't enough. I wondered as a child if I inherited her eyes. Because of my interest in music, I prayed that I didn't inherit her ears.

Grandma had an intriguing house. Everything was compact except the living room that greeted you when you entered the main doorway. When I think back on it, it had a bit of a European charm to it. She collected blue glass of most shapes and sizes, and these could be found displayed proudly throughout her house. While I am sure that these pieces were well crafted, I wasn't too interested in glass cups and vases at the ripe old age of 10. I wanted the toys.

To get to the toys you had to walk into the very back bedroom (which was generally poorly lit) and open the door to a closet. This closet was my own personal doorway to Narnia. All of the toys there, including board games, seemed to be relics from another age. There were some I recognized even though the illustrations were completely foreign when compared to the versions at home on my shelf—for example, the Monopoly guy looked less affluent, but still quite well-to-do. Grandma had actual Tinker toys, old dolls whose eyes shone brightly enough to be creepy, and wooden toys that were most likely hand-made by a skilled craftsman who was trying to earn a few extra dollars in a time preceding any I had known.

The thing I remember most about Grandma's house was the food she would make. She always toasted a whole loaf of bread for breakfast, even if there were only six of us. If we were there the next day, she would throw the same pieces of bread back into the toaster the next day. I think she couldn't see well enough to tell if it was toasted. She always had pineapple juice as well. We would always search for the pineapple juice. I remember one particular night that my brothers got in a bit of trouble because they were rummaging around to find it, and she happened to get up to use the restroom. Since the only restroom in the house was adjacent to the kitchen, it was kind of a dead giveaway.

But the thing that will always go down in infamy was Grandma's cereal. She would stock up on all sorts of cereal because she found a good deal at the store. While she was very frugal, living through the depression, she kept quite a bit of food on hand so in case she needed it, it would be there.

The funny thing was, I don't think Grandma ate cold cereal. I remember one particular time when I was eating a bowl of Rice Cripsies. I always liked to read the back of the box to figure out what I could learn, and happened to run across the copyright date on the box. I was probably about 10, and was shocked to see that the box had been printed before I was born. Even more shocking, it was best used by the date before I was born as well. I think I mumbled something about not being hungry, and drank my milk so that Grandma wouldn't feel like I was wasting precious food.

Which brings us to the point of the story...

While we were over for dinner at my parent's house the other day, Mom was making a meal. I told her to sprinkle a little bit of garlic in it to see if Dad would notice. Dad and garlic are not good friends—well, Dad and spices in general aren't good friends. Mom only uses half as much taco seasoning in the meat when she makes tacos. And even then, he drowns the meat with other condiments and hopes that he doesn't get heartburn.

Mom nonchalantly told me where the garlic was. I pulled out the battered container of McCormick brand garlic, and was brought back to her mother's house and that bowl of Rice Crispies.

Age-ripened garlic

My first thought was, "Wow! This is really old," followed by, "Mom really doesn't use a lot of garlic, does she," followed with a smirkful, "I bet Dad is happy about that."

And then I got the idea to turn the bottle over to see exactly how old the jar of garlic could be.

Aged-ripened circa 1981

Yes, this garlic label was printed the year I was born. I could not find any marks imprinted into the paper to tell me a best-if-used-by date. I don't know if those things were even in place when I was born. If they were, did spices fall into that category?

Before I let myself go too crazy with all of this, I walked over to the pot of simmering spaghetti sauce and sprinkled a dash or two in.

The best part of it all was the fact that both Mom and Dad mentioned how good it was. Dad didn't even get heartburn. I'm starting to wonder if the Ph.D. has some unresolved psychosomatic issues. But you know what they say—it takes one to know one.

I'm Too Old to Wet the Bed

This weekend we went over to Wifey's parents to help put up Christmas lights, as per tradition. We generally get them up the day after Thanksgiving, but due to the dump of snow we got this year, we didn't get them up. We got them all up, and went in for lunch. At this point, I wasn't feeling so hot.

Later that evening I was able to view my masticated lunch, due to the flu bug that had decided to invade my body. I think I had a bit of a sinus infection as well, because the backs of my eyes felt sore. If I moved my head too quickly, I could feel my eyes protesting.

I slept like a baby Saturday night, feeling slightly cold in spite of the extra blanket that was covering my half of the bed. I woke in the morning, still feeling under the weather, so I stayed home from church with Munchkin. She happened to be up in the middle of the night not wanting to sleep, despite the 13 ounces of milk that Wifey fed her in the middle of the night.

Sunday was all about laying low.

After falling asleep Sunday night I woke up drenched from head to toe. I could tell that my fever had broken because of a sudden surge of energy. It always amazes me how your body regains its faculties and you immediately feel better after a fever is gone. Because I was drenched in sweat, I quickly pulled the blanket off of me, hoping to cool down a bit and fall back asleep.

I could tell that Wifey was stirring a bit, so I was trying to lay as still as possible. After a short while, she ended up returning to her normal breathing pattern that comes with sleep.

This morning, I was talking to Wifey about how my fever had broken. She immediately started telling me that in the night she had brushed her hand against me and thought that I had wet the bed. Being in the sleepy stupor that she was, she didn't end up saying anything to me. Instead, she just thought how gross I was for peeing the bed and scooted over farther to her side of the bed.

But this started a vicious cycle. She would scoot over, wanting to keep the warmth of the covers. This in turn pulled the covers off my side of the bed, leaving me exposed to the cold air in the house (it was 55 degrees when we woke up this morning). Because I was cold, I would scoot closer to her. Even though I was no longer sweating from head to toe, she still thought I had wet the bed, and scooted farther away. And there is only so much scooting to be done on a queen-sized bed.

I'm back at work today. My ears don't bother me, and if I move my head too quickly, my eyes still protest, but all in all, I am pretty much mended. Good thing that I had a weekend to recover. Now, if only I could have a weekend to make up for my weekend of recovery...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Crunch Time

Once upon a time there was a young squire who earned his keep in the castle by tidying up other people's things. When the squire was hired, he knew that he would only be employed for two years. He figured, "Hey, I have two years to find another castle to tidy up, so I'll just enjoy the time I have here."

During that time, some of his fellow squires moved on to other castles. While the young squire was sad to see them go, he was glad that they found other castles that suited their needs. The young squire began to get nervous, because he realized that his time was coming up. He started inquiring at other castles to see if there were other tidyist positions available. He figured that certainly he would have a position by the Great Feast. After all, he was quite a good tidyist, and worked hard tidying.

But the Great Feast came and went while the young squire still toiled at the same castle. He thought, "Oh no. It is most certainly crunch time."

And so it is.

While I don't have another position lined up yet, I still have one promising lead. What I would love more than anything is to have a Christmas present of a new position. I am craving change right now, and a position would offer me something new to learn. It would be fun to get something that had to do with the Internet, because it is so diverse and ever-changing.

This is my plea—please let this young squire know if you have any job leads in the Boise, Idaho area for writers of any type—technical writing, marketing, editing, curriculum development, or any other types you might think of. I'm a quick study when it comes to new opportunities. I actually thrive on that kind of thing.

Keep your ears open for me. I'm asking people I know who they know that is a writer. Even if you know of a writer, but only know the name of the company they work for, I will take that too. I can do the rest from there.

Faithfully yours,
The Young Squire

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cheap Paternity Tests

Wifey just called me at work. She tried to get some cute pictures of Munchkin out in the snow (since we have about 6.5 inches at this point and it is supposed to rain later this afternoon and melt it away. Pity.) and here was the result:


In short, Munchkin doesn't like snow. I am not sure that she is my daughter any more. I mean, sure, she has the cowlick smack dab in front of her head like me, and our chins are similar shapes, but really? How can you not like snow and be related to me? She is only one, so maybe I'll give her a few more years before I threaten to disown her if she doesn't like snow.

But should I need it, please let me know where I can get a cheap paternity test besides the Maury Povich show.

I'm Not Dead, But I Might Die Soon

It appears that I took the week after Thanksgiving off.

Because I took a week off, I am easing my way back into things. I feel that it is only right. After all, the world is plotting against me lately. I found out that I was turned down for another position (but at least now I know); my 15 minute commute home from work took me 45 minutes last night due to snowfall (which I was very excited for snow in December); my brother-in-law got in a minor fender bender because of the slippery driving conditions (luckily no one was injured or ticketed); my iPod lost its charge Monday and I forgot to charge it that night, leaving Tuesday utterly devoid of music; and when I went to the cafeteria today to get a fork to eat my lunch all the forks were gone. Have you ever tried eating a frozen burrito with a soup spoon? I don't recommend it.

By the way things are going, I fear that soon, I'll be dead.

*cue growling, thundering, low brass fanfare of doom*

If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a peek at the following video. The text is written by Lemony Snicket, the author of the popular Series of Unfortunate Events books. I don't know the composer, but by the title of the video, it doesn't look too good for him either.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Fun

You know that Thanksgiving is a great time to spend with family. We were planning to see one of my brothers and his family, but they had a few hitches which didn't allow them to come up from Utah. Hitch number one happened to be a "blizzard," and yes, I do use the term loosely. There was supposed to be a really bad snow storm. Granted, it did close one of the passes for a day or so, but it ended up being a lot weaker than El Nino. Hitch number two happened to come in the form of a sixteen year old girl who couldn't put down her cell phone to stop texting and just happened to be surprised when she ran into a minivan.

Oops.

Interesting tangent—the three car seats all had their belts cut after the crash by authorities. Evidently if a car seat has been in a crash it cannot be put back into a car, and this is how it is enforced. There were no injuries, so the crash wasn't that bad, but I hope that the young lady who was driving the other vehicle realizes her mistake and doesn't text anymore while driving. It's poor form.

My sister-in-law's parents were going to come too, but they ended up having unexpected company, so that left four people (and one Munchkin who spit out every piece of turkey that was placed in her mouth, even when veiled in things she really liked) to attempt to polish off an 18 pound turkey. We gave it our best, but ended up taking home quite a bit of turkey for ourselves, as well as leaving quite a bit for my parents. I wonder if we'll have turkey with them on our meal next Monday?

We had a very nice day with them. Munchkin wasn't feeling that well because she is teething again. We have found that she is drooling a whole bunch. With her other six seven teeth that she got, we didn't have to worry about the front of outfits being wet. But the drool is really coming on with the pointy ones on top. My brother-in-law who is a dentist might correct me the next time he sees me on what those teeth are actually called. Canines, maybe?

But back to the day.

Munchkin took a short nap, dinner was delicious, and Wifey got her Christmas fix by putting up the Christmas tree with Mom while Dad tried to teach Munchkin how to say, "Bah Humbug." By the end of the day, she was able to say, "Bah," and Dad was putting up the lights on the tree.

Munchkin didn't know what to think about the tree at first. My parents have a fake tree, and when we pulled out all the pieces and laid them on the floor, she started scowling and complaining. I think she got the impression that we were taking up the space where she normally plays, and she didn't like that. After the tree was up with all the ornaments, she warmed up to the idea. She walked around the tree and touched, with one tiny outstretched finger, each of the ornaments that were hanging low enough for her to investigate. The more fragile ones were hung higher, but the wooden ones were down where she could explore.

At the appointed hour, we left to go have dessert with Wifey's extended family. I felt bad on the way over there, because as we were leaving, I noticed that Mom was a bit misty. I think that it was just one of those times where she really didn't want the day to end. She was having a good time, and with most of her kids grown and moved away, she doesn't get the opportunity to see them as much as she might like. In less than a year, they will probably be traveling the world to go see the kids and grandkids. We are glad that they are serving where they are, but we know that sometimes it is hard for them to not be able to see family.

So, on this day after Thanksgiving, I can say that I am grateful for family. We had a great day with my parents, followed by a great evening with Wifey's extended and immediate family. It is a pity that not everyone can experience the joy of family. As Christmas approaches, take the time to make sure that you are able to get your family near you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Teach for America and Effective Teaching.

For all of you education types, here is a very interesting (yet long) article on what makes effective teachers. I found the second page quite interesting. It made me wish that I had instructors who would have taken the time (and energy) to engage me in the same ways that this instructor does.

I guess it isn't all bad though. After all, I learned to engage myself.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ruffled Feathers

This kind of stuff just ruffles my feathers. This must be why now that I am making more than Wifey and I did combined in college that I still wonder where all my money went.

Makes me agree more and more with Warren Buffett.

Free Music from Amazon

Do you have a few songs that you have been eyeing for a while, but feeling a bit guilty about spending the money? Amazon is giving away three bones to anyone who wants them to apply to downloadable mp3s. I have my money tucked away in my account, so I think I'll do some shopping tonight.

It is just enough money that you can get a taste of a CD, but leaves you wanting the whole thing. I'll be glad to fill up some holes in some already partial CDs.

Happy Purchasing! Please let me know what you ended up getting from your three free dollars!

Why I Like Apple

Could it get any simpler than this?



Talk about making it easy to share! While I know that a lot of people don't like Apple because of how restrictive they can be with their devices, this might be an argument as to why they keep things this way.

All I need now is an iPhone 4, and iPad, and an Apple TV, complete with some sweet speakers that will connect as well via AirPort. I can handle the rest from there.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sara Bareillis: Kaleidescope Heart Tour Concert Review in Boise

We had the opportunity to go see Sara Bareillis in concert on Friday night. A good time was had by one and all. And I was quite impressed with one of the opening acts too. I just wish she had played a bit longer.

The first opening act was Holly Conlan. She is a lot like Sara Bareillis in that she plays the keyboard, sings like a siren, and wears large heels. I am pretty sure that the boots she was wearing had about six inch heels. I noticed because as she was walking out I had two thoughts running through my head—how in the world do girls walk with shoes that big, and how is she going to use her damper pedal with those huge boots? I just didn't get it. She started playing on her little synthesizer, and she started with "You and Me," which was a fun number. The rest of her too short set didn't disappoint either, including backups from a member of Sara's band playing guitar and accordion. I also recommend "OK."

I was captivated enough that I cam contemplating adding her CD to my Christmas list this year. I have a feeling that I will enjoy getting to know her better.

The next act up was Cary Brothers. The main singer's name was Cary Brothers; there were no familial relations involved. I wasn't quite sure what to think about this group. While they were pretty good, I couldn't really understand the words (which is a big deal to me when I am listening to music).

The lead singer did a pretty good job, but I couldn't keep my eyes on him because of some of the supporting members of the band. The first distraction was the drummer. He is quite skinny (not that there's anything wrong with that), and came out with a v-neck long-sleeved shirt that showed of his slightly hairy chest. He was in the early stages of balding, but wants to hide it, so his hair just fell over his forehead looking stringy and a bit greasy. We wore a glower through the whole set, sitting on his drum throne with shoulders hunched slightly forward. He really reminded me of Smeagol in the early stages of transitioning into Gollum. It is hard to take your eyes off an angry Smeagol who is getting paid to pound on things.

The second distraction was the bassist. He was the epitome of a dude rocker. Not the hardcore deathmetal rocker, but more of the guy that has shaggy hair that lives down the street that when he plays his music, he looks a bit like a train wreck but he sounds great. He had well-kept hair straight out of the 70s, and had a big grin plastered on his face during the whole concert (when he wasn't pursing his lips while feeling the groove and poking his neck out like a velociraptor). He also occasionally would sing along with the main singer, but here's the kicker—he was the only one on stage who didn't get a mic. Smeagol, the rhythmic guitarist, and the lead singer all had mics, but the dinosaur bassist didn't get one. He was also wearing a shirt with a unicorn on it that was peeing a rainbow that said something I couldn't read on it. I have a feeling that I am better not knowing.

They played a bit too long for me. I think they did about 10 songs. For a show that was standing room only for a group I had never heard of that only mildly interested me, it made for a really long set.

And then The Silence began. We had to wait 30 minutes until Sara and her band came on. I am not sure why. The stage was cleared and set up for her in 15 minutes. Yet we waited...and waited...and waited. It made me not so happy. And I think during the end of the previous set Wifey got a bit of beer spilled on her arm, which didn't help our patience. Luckily she was able to wipe it on the back of the girl who was standing in front of us as she was dancing around.

The Silence offered us some time to people watch and compare notes. Right next to Wifey, we had Tone-deaf Daddy who came with his daughter. He sang throughout the Sara Bareillis portion off key and off beat. Luckily I could sing much louder than him, so I could drown him out. His daughter could have been Narcissus, had she been a boy. She was quite petite, and every conversation I overheard coming from her loud mouth had an undertone of her superiority in everything. She talked about a new sushi place that she loved, and how she was a connoisseur of sushi. And later of wines. And later of business.

Most of her conversations were with a pair of roommates who we have run into before at the Brandi Carlile concert last time we saw her at the same venue. Coincidentally, they were standing in about the same place, as were we. One of these two ladies struck up a conversation before the show started asking if we had been to the Brandi Carlile concert, remembering us as, "that cute, young couple." Speaking of Narcissus, I was glad to know that Wifey and I still have it.

To our left, we had a group of younger college kids. They were the ones that were there for the drinks. I am sure they enjoyed the music, but they were there more for the scene than the music. They seemed like the type to remember how many drinks they had that evening while listening to the music than to actually experiencing the show live. Their conversation revolved mainly around different drinks that they were going to try, or shots that they liked. Not exactly my cup of tea.

And then there was the polygamist teens. There was one unfortunately geeky-looking guy that could have used a haircut that was there with three girls. Throughout the whole night, they were were hugging on each other. The boy cuddled with one girl through the first set, and at the end, he was cuddling with another one. The girls didn't seem to mind, because if they weren't cuddling with the boy, they were cuddling with each other. It was quite awkward, and I wanted to take these kids (who could not have been more than 14 or 15) to their parents and ask them if their kids went to high school or someplace more seedy. These kids were all over each other, and it was quite awkward. If they were this physical in public, I didn't want to think about what happened in private. I was just glad that they were behind us so that we could ignore them while we were watching the music.

Sara et al finally came on stage about 9:45. And she lived up to expectations. There was a lot of audience participation, and she seemed like she was having a ball. I was a bit disappointed that she happened to do an introduction to a song that contained multiple f-bombs, especially because there were children in the front row. I realize that she is an adult, but these little girls look up to her. I know kids hear that kind of language every day at school, but that doesn't mean that they should be hearing it from role models.

Sara has a lot of messages for girls that I think are worth talking about—she is a bit of a feminist in the fact that she wants girls to stand up for themselves. Before singing "Fairytale," she talked a bit about how little girls are often told stories that a prince will come save the day, but that sometimes the princess can save herself. There is a lot to be said about that. Girls are every bit as capable as guys, and I think we need more of that encouraged, especially in the fields of science and technology.

The concert was everything that I had hoped for, and more. There were fun lights, wonderful music, and a lot of energy in the room. We had to take off about 11:00 so that we could go get Munchkin from Grandma and Grandpa's house. No one has ever tried to put her to bed away from our place besides us, so we weren't sure how she would fair.

We arrived to find our little princess passed out on their bed listening to a choral program on the TV. We bundled her up and got her home, safe in her bed. She woke up a bit disoriented, but once she realized that she was in her own bed, she was fine with it. All in all, it was a successful evening. We'll have to do it again some time...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is Marriage Dying?

I ran across this interesting article today that talks a lot about marriage and how people view it. It is kind of sad to me that people don't find it as important as it once was.

While I realize that times change, it makes me wonder what other changes we will see over the course of the next forty years. Will that number jump another ten percent over the next forty years, showing that half of the US population doesn't think marriage and families are important?

I think of all the things I would miss out on without a family, and it would be a lot less fulfilling. Sure, having a family can be hard at times, but it can also be very rewarding. Without a family, I wouldn't have a little girl who is excited for me to pick her up every day when I get home. Without a family, I would have someone to go everywhere with when I need a friend. Without a family, I wouldn't have a full-time confidant.

You might be saying that you can experience all of these things outside of a family, but I beg to differ. I think that you can get close to experiencing these things, but that they won't be as fulfilling without the framework of a family to be the underpinnings of everything we are. Family shapes us, whether we want it to or not. It has been my experience that friends come and go, but that family is always there.

I love you Wifey!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Thankful Bah Humbug

Last weekend, I was driving around and happened to turn to a local radio station because all the other ones were playing dumb songs. I was shocked (and a bit appalled) that they were already playing Christmas music.

I am not anti-Christmas by any means. I enjoy that time of year (especially if we are graced with enough snow to play in), but I always am a proponent of having Christmas be smaller. I am fine with the fact that we have lots of family coming and going, as well as having to jump from my family events to Wifey's family events since we are lucky enough to have them both in town. I am fine being out among the hordes of shoppers. What really gets my goat is when people start celebrating the holiday before Thanksgiving.

We have a holiday that is based around being grateful for the things we have. I have a hypothesis that if people really spent the time to remember what they had (instead of what they want) that they would be a lot more content. This is why I get so up in arms that people overlook Thanksgiving so much. I think that the Spirit of Thanksgiving is actually what people are looking for when they so frequently reference the Spirit of Christmas—being kind to others and including others. Thanksgiving is about remembering what is truly important. If you remembered what was important to you, you might be a bit more giving throughout the year.

But enough grumbling.

Because that month between Thanksgiving and Christmas always seems to get sucked into some time black hole, I always enjoy ways to simplify Christmas. I am not always good at those things (like getting shopping done early), but I do like figuring them out.

This is why I was delighted to find a blogger who makes a non-traditional advent calendar each year. Instead of having a candy to open each day, you get an envelope each day that tells you something to do. You can fit it in to your own schedule and do things that are meaningful for your family. It struck me as the perfect way to reclaim some of your time from that cosmic time black hole.

To make it even easier on you, this blogger has links to templates to make envelopes to make. I am sure that everyone who has ever been involved with crafts can find some scrapbooking paper lying around. Plus, you get an opportunity to take some time with your family.

If you are looking for something to do besides watch football while you are lounging around Thanksgiving afternoon, this project might be a good alternative.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Mom's Eyes, I Can Do Everything

Every once in a while I get myself in trouble. People think that I am a technical guru—not because I know a whole lot about everything, but because I know a little about things, but a bit more than they do.

Yesterday will give you a perfect example of what I mean.

We generally have dinner with my parents every week on Monday nights. I get home from work, we get Munchkin in the car, and we head over there. We eat dinner, and while we are getting dessert ready, Munchkin starts to get antsy. She gets calmed down a bit when she gets some ice cream or whipped cream, but Dad generally scarfs down dessert because Munchkin starts to reach for him.

This week, I got home to find that my parents had brought dinner over. Dad doesn't have the Internet at his place (for fear of viruses), so his iPhone is synced to my computer. He had some updates that he needed, so we hooked it up after dinner to get all his updates.

Mom was also interested in altering some pictures from our most recent vacation. I had played with Photoshop a bit before, and told them that I might be able to help. Mom, being the woman she is, just expected that I would be able to do everything and anything she wanted with the picture right then and there. While the iPhone was updating, Mom and I started in on the picture.

The main thing she wanted was to remove a few pictures from the background. I figured it would be easy enough. I started trying to use the filter and extract them out the right way, but I couldn't figure out how to fill it back in (because I wasn't playing with any other layers besides the original. After messing with it for a while, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to get it to work with what I had. I left it up overnight just in case I was wrong (but I wasn't).

So tonight I decided to start anew. I remembered that layers were a good thing, and so I was able to get the pictures out without it looking too terrible. I realize that this doesn't look perfect, but I was having fun, so I decided to replace three heads as well, just to see if I could.

Here are the results. Let me know what you think.

Before, including four pictures, two distracted babies, and one squinting father

After, including some very sloppy edits, but I'll pass it by Mom and Dad to see if they notice...
If you have any hints to help me make this look more realistic, please let me know. I played a bit with the blur tool and did the best I could to recreate missing hair/body parts. The true test will be when they blow it up to hang over the mantle...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Clash of the Titans

With the recent spat between Google and Facebook, I found myself with a sour taste in my mouth towards Facebook.

I was one of those individuals that was very leery to join Facebook. I am a relatively private person and have never liked the idea of putting my life online. If people want to get in contact with me, they have my phone number or email address. If they don't have either of those things, then I probably don't want them contacting me.

I also don't like the idea of not being able to manage what is online. If I post something online, I feel like I should have the right to alter or remove it. Not with Facebook. Once it is in there, it is stuck.

The tipping point for me to sign up for Facebook was when a lot of the people I had met during my time in Finland were interested in getting in touch with me. It gave me a way to keep tabs on people who really didn't keep contact with me.

At first I was quite vigilant about friend requests. If I hadn't really had a meaningful relationship with someone in high school, I didn't allow them to be my friend. The idea that if you don't meet in person with someone that you won't meet virtually with them either seemed pretty on target to me. I have become more lazy now, and have quite a few people that I don't really care to keep tabs on who are my friends. I am needing to go back and purge my friends list to people who are more than an acquaintance I knew over ten years ago.

I took a class in college on business intelligence. It was the only business class I really liked. We talked a lot about web presence and how you want to be perceived on the web. While I don't mind having Facebook to keep in touch occasionally, I don't want Facebook to use the data that they have mined from my account to make a buck from me. I realize that all these free sites need to make money too, but I am one of the freeloaders who wants to give them as little as possible unless I find a lot of value in the system.

If I had to start paying for Facebook or Gmail, I would probably drop both of them (because I don't really need Facebook and there are other free alternatives for email, even if I don't like them as much). But I would think twice about dropping Gmail. It makes my life easier, and I have grown quite accustomed to their way of organizing my life.

I Must Be Silly

Saturday morning I was taking care of Munchkin while Wifey was out practicing for a children's program we had at church this week. Munchkin was sitting in her high chair, refusing to eat the generic-brand chocolate chip instant oatmeal that I had made for her. She used to love the stuff. Now, not so much. She has decided that certain textures are not approved.

After eating about five or six bites in quick succession, I was a bit startled to find that she firmly clamped her lips closed. Upon a second attempt to get the oatmeal to her mouth, she tried the arm swipe (which I quickly dodged) accompanied by a head nod. I felt a bit like the mother from the Incredibles trying to feed Jack Jack. Drawing upon her inspiration, I started making funny faces and asking Munchkin to say, "Aaaaah."

"See-yee Daddy," Munchkin retorted.

A bit surprised, I attempted again to insert the spoon into her mouth with a plea to say, "Aah." And again, she told me I was silly.

I didn't know Munchkin knew that word. Evidently she has picked it up and learned when to appropriately use it in context. While her pronunciation could use a bit of work, she clearly knows what it means. I can tell this because when I asked her if she thought I was silly, she smiled and looked at me with the smug satisfaction only a one-year-old can muster.

In other related news, Munchkin can now say, "No way." At this point it is more of a parroting, as she hasn't used it in context. Her pronunciation, however, is impeccable.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Letters: Part I

I have recently been dabbling in other genres that I normally don't read. I tried out some things my parents had recommended, as well as a few things from co-workers. Some I have liked, and others I have not really cared for. This being said, I found a book that was recommended by both my sisters on the bookshelf yesterday for a very reasonable price in hardback, so I couldn't pass it up.

The title of the book is quite a mouthful—The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I know a little bit about the book, but the most intriguing part is that it is written as letters. I believe the whole book is written as letters.

I am quite partial to handwritten letters. There is something so personal about them that really makes them special. I enjoy email and the modern technologies that are so convenient, but there is something thrilling about receiving a letter in your mailbox. It means that someone has taken the time to think about you enough to take the time to go through the motions to create something that has their real fingerprints all over it. It means that you get to see the idiosyncrasies of their penmanship. It means that you mean something to them.

One of my sisters recommended this book to me in a letter she wrote to me. I still need to write her back. She has taken the time to invest in me, and I need to reciprocate. I'll have to carve out some time. Maybe I can get started sometime this weekend, even though it is going to be a very busy one. I only have meetings on Saturday as well as Sunday for church things, plus a few concerts I am singing in for church as well. I am glad that Thanksgiving is coming up so that I can catch up on lost weekends.

Now, I just have to finish a couple more books in the Wrinkle in Time series until I can give this new book a try. I need to sneak it in before Christmas because many of the items on my list are going to be books.

Need a New Favorite Artist?

For those of you who know me well, you know that I don't advertise things unless I truly enjoy or believe in them. So here is an advertisement.

In case you are interested in finding a new favorite artist, I would encourage you to check out Brandi Carlile. She is a true musician who is very under-appreciated, in my opinion. She is great on her CDs, but she is even greater live. We have been to a couple of shows by her, and enjoyed them both immensely.

If you don't care to take my word, take a moment to watch Austin City Limits this Saturday (Nov 13). Showtimes vary depending on your locale, but you can find out when she is playing (and on what station) in your area here. I think I might have to tune in on Saturday night at 7:00 (or again at 10:00).

If you would prefer to hear some of her stuff without running elsewhere, take a peek at some of my favorites.

The Story



Turpentine



Dying Day



The Heartache Can Wait



Now that you have had a taste, tune in.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor

I was reminded of the famous poem by Shel Silverstein whose title I borrowed for this post tonight. We went out shopping with Munchkin tonight, looking to pick up a few things for Christmas. We went to one local shop in hunt of a shopping cart for Munchkin, as she is loving containers at this point. If you can put something in it, or take something out of it, Munchkin is hooked. We didn't have any luck.

Instead of calling the night a total bust, we decided to go to a book store on the way home. The store has a decent children's section, but at this point, the main draw for Munchkin is this round rack of stuffed animals. Last time we stopped there, Munchkin grabbed a siberian tiger (a good choice, I might add) and carried it around with her for about 45 minutes while we browsed through various shelves.

Tonight she found the same tiger in a different color. She picked it out of the rest of the items immediately and started carrying it around, but lost interest after about five minutes or so. I guess it is safe to say that Munchkin likes black and white more than tan. As she was looking for other options to play with, I found a stuffed snake that was probably about four feet long. I put the snake around her neck like a feather boa, and she thought that was pretty great. Some kids started to come over and look at books, so she got quickly distracted. With her distracted (and with Wifey's approval), I snuck away to look at some things besides kids books that might catch my eye.

After about a half an hour of perusal, I headed back to find Wifey and Munchkin to see how things were going. I saw Munchkin meandering her way through some racks, so I ducked behind a shelf and waited until I could ambush her. As she drunkenly stumbled my way (while looking the other way as she is currently prone to do), I growled and jumped out. She squealed with delight and started running back to her mom.

Munchkin kept running around through the empty shelves, giggling as I was walking behind her and occasionally pinching or tickling her shoulders or sides. Munchkin kept looking over her shoulder to make sure that I was following her, and if I started lagging behind to take a peek at a book, she would slow down as well to do the favor of letting me catch up. I didn't see any patrons perusing the aisles, but in hindsight, maybe they were scared off by the squeals of delight of a little girl and the over-dramatic roars of her father.

After Munchkin navigated multiple different paths through the aisles and returned repeatedly to her home base (Wifey who was now finding books for Christmas for Munchkin), I could tell that Munchkin was getting a bit tired. She was easier to keep up with and wasn't peeking over her shoulder as much. Hoping to distract her, I steered her toward the stuffed animals.

And the best part was the fact that Munchkin read my mind.

Munchkin immediately grabbed a snake like I had grabbed earlier and attempted to arrange it around her neck. After some help from me, she walked around the same aisles for another fifteen minutes babbling happily and proudly displaying her boa draped over her shoulders.

It was getting late, so we had to put the boa back on the shelf. Munchkin immediately started to complain, so I picked her up and tried to distract her with something else closer to the front of the store. As I scooped her into my arms and bent down to whisper something in her hear, I realized that the side of my face was wet from her sweaty brow. Driving home, Wifey informed me that Munchkin was walking or running around the whole time I was browsing on my own. that means that she definitely got her aerobic exercise in for the day.

We got home, changed a soggy diaper, put on jammies, fed her a bottle, and she was ready for bed. She didn't get to sleep with a boa constrictor tonight, but I have a feeling that she might dream of one who accompanies her through the jungle tonight.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tsunami Warning in Idaho

Tonight I wished I would have listened more to the radio. The skies were quite overcast this evening on my drive home from work. I had the radio on long enough to hear that there was going to be a winter storm warning issued in the higher elevations of Idaho, with some other (and much less severe sounding) storm warning for the valley. After grinning a bit to myself at the possibility of snow, I turned off the radio and called Wifey to let her know I was on my way home.

Sometime between the time we finished our grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner (can you ask for a better meal on a cold, overcast day?) and about 7:00, the rain started to come down. It didn't come down very hard, as Idaho is a desert region. In fact, there wasn't even that much of it. Little did I know, there was going to be a tsunami coming my way in a few minutes.

Wifey asked me to go give Munchkin a bath. She is one who enjoys her bath time. You can say things like, "splish splash" and watch her lightly tap the water. An occasional drop might escape the tub, but Munchkin doesn't like to be splashed in the face, so it is pretty calm. But tonight was different—she must have been feeling her oats.

It all started with the filling of the tub. As the water was pouring in, I placed her into the tub. She scooted close to the stream of more than tepid water coming from the faucet so she could stick her hand in it. She just kept turning to me while smiling and babbling, getting a kick out being able to play in the water. The water went off, and she started her normal exploration of the various floating toys, going from foam blocks to rubber ducks to bath books and back again. Then she landed on the container that we use to wash her hair.

This is one of those plastic containers that looks like something you might fill an iron with before pressing your shirt, although much more colorful (unless you are ultra chic and have some modern iron that is more of a design piece than an iron). Ours came with the baby bath that we used to use. It has a nice spout and holds enough water to wash off the soap, so we still use it.

Anyway, Munchkin picked up this container and started to pour water out of the spout per the usual custom. After several attempts of mimicking a waterwheel, her arm was getting tired. Being the smart cookie she is, she decided that she needed to use both hands. She picked up the full container as it proceeded to empty directly on her face.

This is the first time I have heard Munchkin let out an audible gasp. I think it startled her to have a small deluge of water directly on her face. I was interested to see if she would cry because she was startled, but beyond the gasp, I didn't get any reaction. She didn't even look my way. Little did I know, she didn't look at me because she wanted to start the mischief.

Now that her face was completely splashed, she really didn't have any inhibitions in the tub. The normal coaxing from me, "splish splash" was accompanied by larger arm windmills than I had previously seen. Pretty soon, she was turning circles in the tub while flailing about. I could tell she was having a good time, but the water was starting to get colder, so I laid her down to start the washing process.

Then the tsunami hit.

Munchkin likes to kick in the water. Tonight, she started kicking the second I laid her down. I got the washcloth soaped up while the tide started to rise. It subsided momentarily while I attempted to get one leg at a time soaped up, returning twice as strong after both legs were covered in suds. A dull roar, much the same as you might expect when approaching a class five rapid while rafting, roared in my ears. As I started working my way up to wash the rest of Munchkin, she started opening her eyes and mouth very wide while speaking in a very excited, low voice. For those of you who don't have the opportunity to hang out with Munchkin, when she gets excited, she pulls out her husky, low voice to let you know of her glee instead of a shrill, girly noise. It is pretty funny. That voice was working just as actively as her turbocharged legs.

She was even so enthralled tonight by her tidal wave abilities that she let me wash her hair without any protest—there was no pulling away, no batting at my hands, no trying to pull the washcloth from me—nothing. It was amazing.

Needless to say, I wished that the National Weather Service would be a little bit more descriptive in their less severe storm warnings to include exactly what I might expect to see. It is nice to know that a storm is coming, but if the National Weather Service would have let me know that I should expect a tsunami warning instead of a downgraded winter storm warning, I might have dressed in a slicker instead of a long-sleeved sweater.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Can I Escape Their Clutches?

After applying to multiple positions (quite unsuccessfully) and never hearing back from them, I finally had someone call me back. The response was, "We can't hire you now, but maybe in the future."

While this doesn't help my current predicament of searching for more permanent employment, this is a better response than I have previously received. Evidently there are pretty strict procurement rules for some companies, especially when you are a contractor working for a different organization that you secretly hope to escape from as quickly as possible.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy to have a job. It pays the bills. But I know that I am being taken advantage of by my current organization. Here are some reasons why:
  •  When the tax laws changed in 2008 in an attempt to stimulate the economy to allow individuals to get a larger piece of the pie, my pay went down. Instead of getting my piece of the pie, my company took it. They let me know with a form email that I could either accept the new pay rate (about a dollar less an hour, by the way) or quit my position. As I needed a job, I found the first option to be less of a difficult pill to swallow.
  •  When I send an email to my agency, I most often get a response from someone besides the person I contacted. I had a recruiter that was very communicative at first when they were looking to fill a position to make some more money, but when I have a question, they are slow to respond (if they respond at all).
  •  I have been told by the treasurer of the company that they are not making any money on my contract. My BS Meter starts going off when I heard this. If this company wasn't making any money off me, then why are they supporting my contract? See also my first point.
  •  I was also told by the same unprofessional treasurer of the company that sometimes people in professional positions such as mine work overtime and do not receive overtime pay. If I were in a salaried position, I would have accepted that fact. As I am an hourly employee, I don't buy it. This undermines their authority in my opinion. An agency should go to bat to make sure that employees are being paid for the work that they are doing. One of the perks of being an hourly employee is that I get paid overtime.
  •  In the same conversation with said unprofessional treasurer, I was informed that my contract did not support overtime. Right after I was informed of this, my employment was threatened. After researching my contract, I have no mention in the materials I was given that mentioned anything about overtime. If I don't have access to the particulars of my contract, why do you expect me know this information?

I could go on, but as I need to get back to work. Maybe I'll write a few follow-up emails first and hold my breath that I'll hear back from someone with an opportunity to have an interview.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Can I Get a Bite?

I have never been much of a math person, but I can wade my way through it when needed. That being said, I took many a business course where they started throwing out all sorts of statistical terms (even though statistics was not a prerequisite course) which confused me. After approaching multiple professors during office hours to ask questions about material that was recently presented, I was generally brushed off. The professors generally tried to push me to their TAs. What is the point of having office hours if students aren't welcome during them?

I get the whole idea of teaching a man to fish vs. feeding a man with a fish. I found it frustrating though when I would come with basic (to them) questions that would help me to identify fish, but my instructor would not give me the time of day to answer my question. It was almost as if the lecture was the end-all of their job. They spouted out the information, and I was to take notes and fill in the gaps without any assistance.

And this happened on multiple occasions with multiple teachers.

Needless to say, I quickly soured at the thought of taking business classes. I took just what was needed, and escaped slightly scathed.

After getting a job, I found that I was in a business environment where people helped you out. They had a job, but they were happy to help you understand your own. Queen M was one such person.

Queen M is a very proper woman (she kept a bone china tea cup and saucer at her desk for when she needed a pick me up) that I learned a lot from. She is the perfect professional—smart, perceptive, level-headed, thorough, personable, and many other things.

Because the current position we were in was a contract position, she found another position with a company that hired employees instead of contractors. It was quite a blow to the agency I work for, but they were able to find a great replacement from another contracted agency. While I was glad I didn't have to train someone new, I wasn't glad that the impact of Queen M leaving was greatly dismissed because of her replacement.

I got an email from Queen M today asking me if I was still looking for a position. I (of course) said yes. The company she works for is looking for a business process analyst. She provided me with a brief description of the position, and it seems like something I would enjoy. I never thought that I would consider working in a position whose title contained the words business and analyst, as I REALLY didn't enjoy any of my business courses in college. I learned from them, but I didn't really like them. I think that most of this spite came from the teachers, but a bit from the subject matter as well.

I guess we will have to see if being a business process analyst will be as bad as my my mind has made it out to be. I am thinking that I might be in for a pleasant surprise. Now, just to get an interview. With Queen M referring me, I don't see how I won't.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Get Writing Yourself!

So, since I have attempted to get some people to write with me during November in lieu of participating in NaNoWriMo, I am finding it quite hard to get writing myself. At work, I spend all day in front of a computer editing and typing text. When I get home, I have marvelous Munchkin and wonderful Wifey to keep me occupied. I try to sneak some blogging in before I go to bed, but beyond that, I don't really care to write.

I am using this work week so far as a scapegoat. I have had one of the busiest weeks I can remember, as well as one of the more stressful ones at work. I have projects that aren't getting done on time, computer systems that aren't cooperating (making deadlines seem even more out of reach), and more items waiting in the wings for when I get these ones done. All in all, I have had to decompress quite a bit on the drive home so that I don't let my frustration affect Wifey and Munchkin.

So far, so good.

And today helped out a bit. I was able to take a walk during lunch while the weather was wonderful. It has been unseasonably warm here, the sun was shining, the leaves were falling, and there was a gentle breeze. It felt like a nice spring day with a hint of the bite of autumn. It was enough to make me not want to go back inside and work, but I did anyway.

But back to writing. I have about three paragraphs so far. I have already reworked a few of them. I can watch the video in my head, but at this point am getting too caught up in creating good prose to get the story fleshed out. After taking multiple courses in writing, I realize that this isn't the way to go—there is always time for revision later. But I still find myself wanting to write a first draft that is the final draft. You would think that I would know better by now, but I don't.

I take that back. I do know better. I just have a hard time remembering that while I am in the thick of things.

Now I need to figure out what I want my characters to say. They are still a bit nebulous at this point. I have some defining moments mapped out in my brain as well, but I don't know my characters enough yet to know how they might react to such situations. I want to spend time with these individuals, but need to make room for it in my thinking time.

So I am off to go drafting again. I can capture at least this snippet of a character's life. It will probably be cliche and trite, but at least I am writing.

How are things going for everyone else? Updates help to motivate me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grrrr and YEAH!

Today was one of those days at work that you would just prefer not to have. I found out that a project I was working on was not getting the results the project manager wanted, and she was waiting on me, while I was waiting on her. I thought I had my point across, but I guess not. I thought I understood the project, but she had a bit of a different take on it. Oh well, you learn from your mistakes, right?

To make the day better, we went out to dinner tonight with my parents. It is Wifey's birthday tomorrow, so feel free to drop by her blog or say hi to her on Facebook. I am sure she would like that. She is big into birthdays.

Dinner was at Chili's, which was delicious. Both of my parents polished off a half rack of ribs (individually). I had the steak fajitas, Missy had the chicken tenders (because she can get corn on the cob with it), and Munchkin had a few goldfish crackers, a graham cracker, some minor shavings from a crayon, a fry or two, as well as a healthy dose of ice cream. Munchkin loves her ice cream, and Grandpa loves to feed it to her.

We are going to have the big hoopla tomorrow with the dessert and the presents and such, but I just wanted to give her a little something to be excited about tomorrow when she reads this post.

I am glad that I was able to be lucky enough to marry someone as great as Wifey. Although we can be polar opposites at times, we fit together as well as two adjoining puzzle pieces. She puts up with my craziness, yet shares a bit of her own. She drags me to things that I don't want to go to, but helps me to have fun in spite of myself. She does an AMAZING job with Munchkin, and I know that there is a reason why kids have moms—they couldn't do very well without them. It is fun to come home to have Munchkin excited to see me for a few minutes, but as soon as she knows I am sticking around, she is more than happy to go back to her mom. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am grateful that Wifey wants to be a housewife. In a world where being a business woman is sometimes more important than being a mother, I am grateful that she finds being a mom important enough to sacrifice a career for the welfare of our children. It is something that I always hoped that my wife would want to do, and I know that she wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks for all you do, Wifey!

I love you!
MR

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Get Writing!

For those of you who think that writing is for weirdos, you can stop reading now. Either that, or just accept the fact that I am a weirdo, along with a lot of other people in the world. If you didn't know that, you probably didn't know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

I have been wanting to write something creative for the past little while, but am not ready to write a novel in November. I just don't have the time to devote to that at this point, and it is much easier to play with a cute little Munchkin than it is to ignore her smiling face when I haven't seen her all day. To do my small part, I have decided to take a bit of time to set up an important point in a story that occasionally flashes into my head. It comes from a lyric that has been running through my head from a Sara Bareilles song called The Light. It goes a little something like this:
In the morning it comes—heaven sent a hurricane. Not a trace of the sun, but I don't even run from rain.
While some of you might be thinking what a downer and rolling your eyes, I immediately start thinking what in the world would cause someone to get down to such a level of despair? And I don't have an answer at this point. So I thought I would try to write a piece of fiction to see if I could figure it out this month. My only rule was that I use the lyric as a prompt.

To encourage a friendly internet neighborhood writing, I am tagging Daily Characters and Did You Have Juice to see if I can't get some more writing churned out. I would love to tag more people, but have yet to find other writer friends online. If you would like to be such a friend, feel free to leave a comment in the appropriate location. Everybody knows the Internet needs more writing. And if you don't know this, you should.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Glimmer of Hope

This post is an update to Busy, Busy, Busy.

Instead of getting a call on Tuesday from the person my co-worker had me contact earlier this week, I got a call from one of his colleagues on Wednesday and had a quite informal interview asking me very basic questions. I think it helped that I was able to tell them that I am working daily in the computer system that is required for the position. In fact, I have written parts of the manual for it. That tends to put interviewers at ease.

Well, that, and the fact that his mother-in-law's dog was barking and he was embarrassed while conducting the interview. I am glad that a dog can break the ice.

I just got a call from the person who I thought was going to call me on Wednesday. He asked me a few questions regarding my current position, because there is quite a strict procurement policy, as companies generally frown on people jumping ship. Business is business, and if they lose a contract, they lose money.

Now he is on the hunt with his legal department to see if I can't be hired on. Keep your fingers crossed that the lawyers can work some magic...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And We Were Dancing

I might be slightly influenced from the Madeline L'Engle series (see the last post as well), A Wrinkle in Time, but I am really looking for ways to be more connected with everything around me. Today I had a fun connection.

Today I ended up taking part in a dance festival on my lunch break. I didn't expect it, but it was just one of those things that spontaneously happens. After a particularly busy morning, I decided I needed a midday meander. As I peeked out the window, the sky was a bit overcast, and the wind was whipping the trees around. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go for a walk, but needed to get away, so I decided to brave the weather.

As I got outside, the clouds parted. With the sun on my back and my iPod plugged into my ears, I started to walk. The wind began to blow, and the dance began.

All the leaves that have been falling from the trees for the past few days litter the parking lot. Because the wind came, they started to stir. The wind was outlined by the leaves lilting across the parking lot. They swirled, swished, spun, pattered, and pranced around my feet. Had I had the opportunity to be alone, I probably would have thrown my hands behind me and swirled right along with them with my face extended toward the sun. Since there were people driving their cars out to go get lunch or run an afternoon errand, I refrained. But my physical restraint didn't stop my eyes from enjoying the waves of leaves lapping at my toes.

If you happen to find a leaf beach, please let me know, because I would love to go walk through one with my toes bared to the beach.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

As I have been reading the A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeline L'Engle recently, I can't help but contemplate time travel. I feel like time has been slowing down at work recently for me, mainly because I don't know how much longer I'll be there, making my work more of a drudgery than it really is. This week has been completely different, and I am trying to figure out why.

Yesterday seemed to zip by, helped along by a couple of meeting strewn haphazardly throughout the day. Today also brought a few surprise meetings, including one very interesting walk with a co-worker.

My co-worker sent me an IM asking me if I had a moment. Being one who enjoys having distractions a majority of the time, I was happy to oblige. She then asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. This was a bit out of character, but I thought that I could use a stretch, so we headed for a stroll around the campus.

She informed me that there was a position opening a few cubicle rows down that might be worth looking into. The position is with an agency relatively new to the Boise area, but I am sure that they are trying to break into the markets here. The catch is that they would hire me on as a full time employee for their company while I worked through their contract with the same company that I work for, but in a different capacity.

I jumped on the opportunity. I was hoping to hear from the recruiter today, but haven't heard anything yet. I think it is safe to assume that I won't hear anything today.

The thing that surprised me most about this situation is that I wasn't sure if I was going to like working with this individual. She is very literal and straight forward, and I wasn't sure if it would be a problem, as the person she replaced was very proper and dignified. The woman wore scarves to work and drank her tea from a bone china tea cup, for goodness sakes. How much more proper can you get?!

But I have found that I really like working with the new girl. She knows her stuff, and she is good to her word. She has had a lot of good ideas that have helped us to make our part of the organization more important to the business, which is something that I struggle with at times. I have learned much from her by only having daily interaction with her for a few months.

Having said all of this, I was not quite sure how to read this colleague. While she is very literal, she can also have a biting, sarcastic sense of humor. Sometimes it is hard to tell if she is joking or venting. This is why I was surprised to learn that she offered to recommend me to the recruiter without even having to ask. Needless to say, she has made a friend of me, and I will be glad to have her as a colleague, no matter where the wind might blow the two of us.

I am finding more and more that the people that I have had the pleasure to work with are often quite different, but they are also very talented. I have made it a goal to learn a little bit from each person I work with. I figure if I do that, I will still be marketable and in the business in thirty or thirty five years by the time that retirement comes around. It makes the idea of working all my life a bit more manageable.

Sisters

I always knew that there was something special about sisters. But one thing I didn't know was that you are happier if you have one. Don't believe me? Ask the New York Times.

I have a double dose of happy in my life, as I have two sisters. They also served as surrogate mothers at times. If ever I got in trouble with my mother, I knew that I always had a sister or two to go be around to make me feel better. I can remember my oldest sister getting married when I was only six, and not being sure if she would still be my sister. Luckily, she married someone who was willing to adopt me as a little brother and introduce me to all sorts of fun fantastical things.

My not-so-oldest sister ended up sticking around with her family in Boise until I was in college. I can remember going to lunch with her right before they moved my freshman year in college and wondering if all my siblings would move away to another place.

So far they all have.

But one thing is sure—whenever I get to spend time with my sisters, I treasure that time. We don't have to talk (although we usually do), but I am glad to have two great sisters who I know will always be there for (and in spite of) me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Soaking It In

It is kind of odd, but I am feeling quite content right now. Things are a bit crazy with the upcoming job uncertainty, but I am enjoying things. Work has seemed a bit slow for me lately, but I have established why.

Recently the team that I work with ended up getting this book where you to take a test online to see what you strengths are. Not wanting to be left out as a lowly contractor, I bought the book for myself as a birthday present (with Wifey's permission). After reading the short introduction to the book (about 20 pages that took me all of 10 minutes to read), I found myself skeptically getting ready to take an online test. What worried me most about the test is that I only had 20 seconds to answer the questions. I am one who likes to think things through, so after mentally biting my nails down to nubs, I pushed the "Start test" button.

I was glad that I didn't exceed the time limit on any of the questions. But I was even more glad that I was able to find a test that took me less than a half an hour that told me a lot about myself. Because I overthink these things, I tend to get scattered results on personality tests. I start to answer a question, but then I change the scenario in my head, and then start weighing which of these two scenarios come up most in my life, but then a third scenario comes along...

Well, you get the picture.

But this book pegged me to a "T." I was pleased to find out my top five strengths, and they seemed very valid to me. While these strengths might not be the most glamorous of strengths, I found it useful information to have. It helped me to understand better how I work, and why I enjoy some tasks while I loathe other tasks. Wifey was reading a book while I was taking most of the test, but the few that she did see, she told me afterward that she would have chosen the exact opposite of what I chose. I must be Type B (when we were dating, she told me that she had dated one type of guy. Then she told me that I was Type B. She was right.).

One of my strengths that I was happy to find was that I was a learner. I have always known that I loved learning, but I had never seen that as a strength. But it does explain why I had such a hard time picking a major in college. I went through ten majors, and I wondered why none of them kept my interest. Now I realize it is because I had learned a bit about the subject, and after I had become semi-fluent in the new language, I became disenchanted. It wasn't because I wasn't competent, but that I just lost interest.

Looking back, I probably just should have picked something and stuck with it. But I thought that there was something intrinsically wrong with me. If I frame it as a strength, it makes me feel much better.

As you might have guessed already from my synopsis of previous personality tests, my strongest strength was being deliberate. I had never seen that as a strength, but I guess that being methodical is a good thing. And the way that the book explains it really makes sense to me.

Now that I know this stuff about myself, I am more likely to look on it with a fresh perspective. Instead of saying, "Man, I am dumb for being this way," I can now look on things I do and say, "I'm glad I'm this way. It makes me unique."

One thing that really stuck out to me in the book was the fact that we often spend our time looking to see our weaknesses and trying to improve them. While there is something to be said about that, there is also something to be said about spending your time where you would really shine. I know that I am not going to enjoy being an accountant, so why would I spend time looking into accountancy skills? Instead, I can use the skills I have to better my situation or reframe it.

So, in the mean time, I am going to start taking a different approach to life. I am going to start trying to find ways that I can use my strengths to fix problems instead of ways to improve my weaknesses to fix problems. Soak in the good, and leave the bad out.

Now, to find a job that will let me do that...