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


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

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
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!


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
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.