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.


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


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!