Monday, February 28, 2011

The Weekend Review

This weekend was pretty busy, all in all. We didn't have much scheduled, but ended up spending a lot of time with family and friends.

Friday night we had a few other couples and their kids over for dinner. One of them happened to bring over a fun party game for the Wii called Just Dance 2. The premise of the game is that everyone who is playing holds a remote in one hand and has to shake what their mama gave them just like the silhouette on the screen. Most of the songs were uppity rock/techno stuff (some of which I had never heard of), but there were some other older songs on there (like Jackson 5 stuff). It was pretty fun, and after everyone got hot and sweaty, we definitely worked off all our overeating from dinner.

Saturday was spent hanging out with family and running around to practice singing for church on Sunday. Wifey's grandma was speaking in her church, and Wifey's aunt decided that it would be a good idea to have some of her kids and grandkids come to sing before she spoke. We obliged. How can you say no to Grandma?

Wifey had a molar bothering her a bit on Saturday, but didn't end up mentioning anything to the family dentist (and brother-in-law) when we saw him at a preparedness fair (on storing food, preparing for natural disasters, and pinching pennies) where my mother-in-law was hosting a booth. We went home to retire for the evening, and Munchkin and I quickly fell asleep.

Wifey, however, wasn't so lucky. She ended up having her tooth keep her up all night long. She tried all sorts of different things—baking soda mixed in water, a hot bath, sitting upright, a cold washcloth—to no avail. When I woke up in the morning to get ready for church, she told me she had been up all night. Not fun when you have to spend a couple of hours in front of kids ranging from 4 to 12 to get them to sing. But she put on a brave face and went anyway.

After we got home from church, Munchkin crashed for a nap, and Wifey headed over to the our brother-in-law's office. After a few x-rays, we figured out that there wasn't a whole lot of decay in the tooth, so he just filled the cavity in hopes that he wouldn't have to do a root canal.

And luckily, Wifey has been doing better today. Her mouth still hurts, but not enough to keep her up. In fact, she is napping right now. It helps that the pain medication makes her drowsy, but at least she is catching up on her sleep. A pregnant woman needs all the rest she can get, so hopefully she will be out for the whole time Munchkin is napping.

The singing went pretty well, despite my cold. Fifteen minutes before we got up to sing, I was hitting a low E-flat (below the staff). Normally, I am lucky to get an F at the bottom of the staff. Then I went up and started singing high tenor for this song. Thank goodness for falsetto!

Also in good news, our tax returns came in last Friday, making us feel less destitute. The city water company also informed us that we were going to get about 40% of our water bill back for January. And more would be coming back for February's bill as well. We had a bit of a pipe fiasco that I don't believe I shared here, but it ended up that we had a leak in our irrigation system that increased our water bill for the month about 500%. Looks like we won't be having to pay our bill for a few months, as we have a credit on our account now...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Night on the Town

Wifey and I decided to splurge a bit tonight, so we went out to dinner. We headed over to the mall about 3:30 after Munchkin woke up from her 2.5 hour nap (hooray!) and started walking around. Munchkin loved being out and about in her stroller as long as we kept moving. It gets really boring when you are a toddler who is stuck in the middle of clothing prints, no matter how colorful.

After a couple of hours, we ended up heading over to the food court. I'm sure some of you are thinking in your head hey wait a minute. Isn't this guy pretty much unemployed? Where is he getting enough money to buy dinner for a family in the mall food court? And you would be completely right. The fact is, we don't have money to throw at a mall food court, no matter how reasonable it might be. That is why we decided to go the gourmet route—we brought our own food.

Dinner consisted of homemade sandwiches (two for me, one for Wifey), chips, yogurt and mini muffins for Munchkin, and drinks from our water bottles. I am pretty sure that the employees of the various stores in the food court were hoping that we would come up and buy a dessert from them. Wifey and I both approached the counter of Orange Julius at separate times, but it was only to nab napkins.

We even brought dessert, which consisted of Nabisco snacks that had chocolate on them for one reason or another.

So, next time you really want to go out to eat knowing that your budget doesn't agree, just do what we did. Find a slow Thursday and eat in the food court.

We were punished by the mall gods though. On our way home we ran into terrible traffic because of a four car pileup on the Interstate. The fifteen minute drive became an hour, and I spent a lot of time singing songs to Munchkin to keep her entertained. She was a good sport and lasted about 45 minutes, and then we caved and gave her a binky and Monks, her stuffed monkey. I felt bad that the mall gods had to take it out on four other cars, but I think we got the better end of the deal. They did tempt me to want to go into the Apple store in hopes that I could catch a glimpse of the new MacBook Pros, but I decided I had better avoid it and save my coveting for another day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The End Is Here!

It happened.

My dad officially signed up for the Internet.

This might not mean a lot to you, but it is almost as shocking as the time that my parents bought a brand new car. It had gone all my life never riding in a new car that my parents had owned, and once I was out of the house they went out and bought a brand new car.

Dad has been worried about getting viruses on his computer. In all actuality, I don't think that he has ever been to a site that might give him a virus, or even adware. He is very strict about his computer usage, and will not bend or break to the whims of the Internet.

At least, not until yesterday.

Now that he jumped off the edge, he had all sorts of questions for me tonight. How do you set up a wireless router? Do you need a wireless router? Can both of the computers connect to a wireless router? Could his iPhone get WiFi through a wireless router? Do I know of any antivirus software for his computers?

I fielded the questions as best I could, but I can tell he is nervous. He made the decision, but is still acting leery.

This is where Mom comes in. While Dad was in playing with Munchkin, Mom let me in on the fact that Dad signed up for the Internet. Then she told me how excited she was to be able to have Internet access in her home. She said that she would probably even start looking at things like blogs more often. Who knows, she might even become a blogger herself.

Okay, she probably won't go that far, but I can see her thoroughly enjoying the fruits of last century's technology.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


It appears that I am soon to be grossly outnumbered. We had our ultrasound today and found out that we are having another girl. Wifey is pretty excited that she is going to be able to use all the cute clothes she got for Munchkin yet again.

I must be following in my uncle's footsteps. When he and his wife got married, he had a name picked out for their first boy. They had three girls and no boys. I guess when we have our next baby, I'll have to see if I am really following in his footsteps.

Now I'll have to think of a clever nickname for said new baby. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm a Centenarian

Well, at least in blogging years.

This marks the 100th post on my blog. I didn't know if this blog would last this long, but it has. I'm glad it did.

You might have noticed that I have been slacking a bit on my posting recently. I have been frantically trying to find a job, and I think I have landed one. It is only part time, and I don't know if it will ever turn into a full-time gig, but for now, it will probably pay more than unemployment which happens to pay less than $9.00 an hour. Not the best wage to support a child and a pregnant wife. But, I can now say that I am employed. I am going in to finalize the paperwork on Wednesday and receive my first assignment. Hopefully many more will follow.

The funny thing is, I was introduced casually to my boss about six months ago. She is the niece of one of my co-workers, and happens to have her own business. I met her one day, and didn't think twice about it. When my co-worker told me that she was looking for someone last week, I jumped at the chance, and the timing just happened to work out perfectly. It must be all about who you know.

In other good news, I have decided to learn more about programming and web design. My dad has been volunteering during his retirement for our church over the past five plus years, and his volunteering time will be up in November of this year. Because he knows that my mother will be painting once they finish up, he is trying to find new hobbies.

He has been interested in the iPhone and Apple products for quite some time. He has an iPhone, and once had the audacity to ask me if it was an iPod as well. It just goes to show you how much he really understands the device. He is a smart guy, but doesn't realize how far technology has come in the past ten years.

With that being said, he heard about some boy who wrote the most downloaded iPhone app, and how he taught himself to program it by reading a book from the library. Dad bought the book, which is causing him to probably get the Internet. He has been begrudgingly avoiding it at the risk of getting viruses (plus he doesn't want to pay for it), but I think he is beginning to see the light. He actually asked me to give him a quote from a few different ISPs, and what it might run him. Mom is a bit astounded, but she will run with it.

My parents have been out of town for a few days, so Dad suggested (read strongly recommended) that I take a look at the book. While the book doesn't read like a novel, it isn't too bad for a technical book. It describes most of the basics of the program, but leaves out the background on the coding, which makes it accessible to the masses. Not being part of the masses, I could use a bit more explanation regarding some of the code snippets. I'm not asking for a thorough discussion, but I could use a bit more meat. I'll just have to find it elsewhere, as the author considered it out of scope for this book (and thankfully warned me, else I would have been one angry book borrower).

I am about a third through the book, and have yet to do any programming/app creation. I'll get started on it shortly though.

After Kathy from Well Placed Words stopped by and left me a comment asking who Munchkin was, I decided that I had better create a page with a cheat sheet defining the who's who of Journeys in Journaling. With that being said, I think I'll put that information here in a separate page for future readers/newcomers, but I think it might be a good introduction to creating apps on the iPhone/iPad. I have a few other ideas I would like to include, but I don't want to give away all my secrets in case I figure out that I am terrible at creating apps and end up creating something that kills your iPhone.

And because I will have to be creating lovely graphics to go along with this app, I'll probably be giving this page a refresh as well with my own personalized graphics. As much as I love my jaundiced blog, I think some better graphics could help spice it up a bit.

I'll make sure to let you know when I get it done. In fact, I'll probably have a link here to go get the app (which will be free. I hope no one is dying to buy an app that is all about me and my life, and if they are, I would be interested to see if they want to create a new position for me in their business).

In short, if you see some new things popping up on the blog in the next few months, please don't be alarmed. It is probably intentional. But then again, since I am a beginner, parts of it will be unintentional. If something looks awry, please let me know.

Happy hundred to me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

National Honey-Do Day

Did you know that today is National Honey-Do Day? If not, sorry, you missed out on your chance to have your spouse/significant other do all those things you wanted them to. Better luck next year.

For this year's celebration, I had three projects.

"Vintage" Entertainment Center

We got an old entertainment center from a thrift store for $25. While it isn't the most amazing piece of furniture we have, we have kept it around because it is functional. It holds our DVDs, VCR/DVD player, and our TV. Our TV fits on the top though.

In fact, I wonder if TVs were ever made to fit in this entertainment center. The previous owners had removed a section from the back that was about a two foot square so that their old TV would fit. And I use the term fit loosely. It was probably hanging way out the back.

While Wifey was catching up on The Bachelor (blech) and Munchkin was asleep, I spent my time sanding and painting the thing black. We got a new back for it a few weeks ago, and I just haven't had the time to get it on yet. It still isn't on there, but the thing got pained with the help of Wifey (after her show was completed). We are going to go touch it up in a few minutes. After it is done, I'll have to put up a picture of the finished product.

Garage Sale Steal

About six months ago we noticed that our neighbors across the street that we had never officially met were having a garage sale. We saw a bunch of baby stuff, so we went on the prowl. We ended up leaving all the baby stuff for other people and buying the Lane cedar chest for a mere $40. I had seen these things go for a couple hundred dollars, and I knew that there would be a catch. No one who buys a cedar chest would part with it for only forty bucks. Well, they would if their mother-in-law had ended up putting a couple of layers of paint on the top and the feet. What a travesty.

With the help of my dad and a strong smelling chemical stripper, we were able to get (most) of the paint off the thing. The stripper claims that you just have to put it on and in about thirty minutes you scrape something over it. While it worked pretty well, some of the pigment worked its way into the wood, so sanding will be required. Because we want to restain the thing instead of adding another three layers of paint, I will be doing some extensive sanding on the thing.

The sanding will have to wait for another day though, because I had to take care of project number three.

Planting Autumn Bulbs

We got some bulbs quite late in the season for a really good price. Probably because the ground was already frozen and the snows had come. These hyacinth bulbs were already supposed to be nestled snugly in their flower beds, but instead sat on a clearance shelf in a store waiting to be bought. So we obliged.

When I looked at them yesterday, I realized that these bulbs were being quite happy and growing without the aid of dirt. They all had green mohawks popping out of them. The weather has been getting warmer, and the garage has been even warmer than that, so these miniature Mr. T's were ready to be done with their days of nudity and jump into the ground.

While this wasn't officially on my honey-do list, I figured I would throw in an extra one while I was waiting for the stripper (chemical, not the other type) to do its thing. So now the bulbs are snug in their spring beds and ready to pop out of the ground. I hope their dark homes won't throw them off too much.

When they grow and start spreading their spring happiness, I'll take a picture of them too.

Miscellaneous Side Notes

While I say that I'll put pictures up, I can't promise anything. I sometimes forget my blogging promises.

I called up an old acquaintance today to ask about a job, and even though the job was filled, he said that there is a possibility that they are having a secretary position open up. I threw my resume into the hat.

Another reason why you probably don't recognize this holiday is because I just made it up. It seemed like a good title to explain what I did today. Feel free to instigate it with your spouse/significant other if you so choose. Just make sure that you have them read this post later to let them in on the secret. Note that I didn't say how much later you would be required to tell them, so you can be sneaky if you like.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Blogroll I: A Historical Slant

Within the past few years, my oldest sister decided to go back to school get her Master's degree. She wasn't sure what she wanted to at first, debating between astronomy/astrophysics and history, but she ended up landing on history.

After taking some of her courses, she found herself writing a lot. Even before she started her second degree, she enjoyed writing, so this didn't come as too much of a shock. I think she had a bit of shell shock with the amount of writing that she had to do.

Because she knew I was a writer, she asked me to look at some of her papers that she deemed more important than others. While I am no expert, I have spent quite a few hours writing and editing things. And after getting to her last course, she found herself writing a thesis. I told her I would be happy to look at it for her, and she accepted (with a bit of a sigh of relief, I think).

I'm happy to say that today I edited the final draft. She will be doing a few tweaks on the paper, and then submitting it before Monday. Over the past few weeks, a lot has been going on in her life, but she plugged through it. Some of her kids probably thought she was crazy, especially after she locked herself in her bedroom and read the whole paper (around 100 pages) aloud. But she felt a bit vindicated when I suggested it to her. In fact, you might even say she dangled those words over her kids head with a bit of a crazed look in her eye.

Needless to say, she has come a long way in her writing. Her final draft was very well organized and written. I know that she will do great, and that there will be no problems getting the thesis through all the hoops that come along with a Master's degree. I'm quite proud of her.

But the most fun of the whole thing (for me, and possibly for her) is the fact that I got to learn about some misconceptions that I had believed all my life about the birth of our nation. Even though John Smith and Pocahontas got married, and the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, there is part of our history that never gets talked about. This is the influence of the Dutch on the New World.

The Dutch were the actual founders of New York, and many of the traditions that they brought to the New World are actually what has shaped the American Dream to what it is today. You can thank the Dutch, and not the English, for creating a place that encouraged diversity and equality (even among women). They also created the entrepreneurial spirit that can be seen in New York City today.

So, if you want to get a bit more of a taste of this, or learn more about it, feel free to visit  my sister's blog and learn some more. While right now, she doesn't have a whole lot detailed on her findings (as the thesis isn't published yet), I hope that this will encourage her to get back in the swing of things on her blog and writing again. If you would like to learn more about New Netherland (the real name of New York), then feel free to send any and all questions her way.

I am of the unbiased opinion that she is quite the expert on the subject. When her book comes out, I'll let you know. Remember, you heard it here folks!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Same Old Song (Now There Are Six)

I went back to the second job interview, and the second day wasn't nearly as bad as the first, which I am guessing is partially because I knew what I was getting into.

Gratefully, the ventriloquist was not singing when I came in on the second day. There were twelve of us there, and only one of them was from the group that I interviewed with. This let me know that they really were culling out people during the interview process. It was much of the same, but they actually showed us the product that we would be selling. I'm not going to lie, the product is pretty darn cool. If I ever can scrape up an extra $2,500 dollars, I might just get one. Until the time that I have that extra money lying around, I'll still be without.

Now that I knew what I was getting into, I realized that they really don't want you push a sale. They were very hands-off when it came to pushing a sale. I appreciate that—mainly because I am not inclined to be a salesman. While the presentation was going on, I had to laugh. The presenter told me that I am really hard to read. I'm not the type to really show my emotions or express myself until I have felt out the other people in the room, so when a guy came in to present the product to us, I wasn't ready to jump in and interact. I'm much too cautious for that.

Some of the information they were giving to us was a bit gimmicky. Some of the statistics were clearly scare tactics, and some of the logical arguments could have been easily discounted. But as I was not ready to jump in and participate with more than a one or two word answer, I didn't open my mouth. Plus, I didn't want to be contrary to a potential employer by telling him that his logic was flawed.

So, there I was at the end of a three hour interview where they didn't really talk to me again. They had me fill out another sheet of paper and asked me a few more questions. One of the questions they had on there was, "In what ways can you be a value to our company." I answered truthfully and told them that I really didn't know, because they didn't tell me much about the needs of the company, so I couldn't address that question. I did tell them that I had learned a lot about presenting information through my education, and I guess that was enough to get them to bite. I got invited back to the Management Training Program on Wednesday.

When I got home, Wifey asked me how I felt it went. I told her that I still wasn't sure, because I hadn't really had an interview yet. I had just been given training and asked to fill out two simple questionnaires. She asked me if I was planning on going back to the training, and I didn't feel strongly either way, so I thought that I had better. Maybe the Management Training Program would be better.

And so I went. And the training was better. There were seven of us there. A few more had been culled from the group, including the very vocal guy who was digging the ventriloquist act from the first day. I was the only one from my original group.

The training had us interacting more, and they finally told me what was expected of me should I be hired on as a manager. One of the things that made me consider this position was the fact that I didn't have to go sell to my friends and family. I don't think that personal relationships should be used for business purposes (most of the time), and I have never felt comfortable using my relationship as leverage to get someone to buy something.

We went through the training on how to generate leads in an appointment. And things seemed to look alright, because you just asked the people you were with to give you leads. I felt a bit uncomfortable that you had to have them pull out their phone right then and there and call the people to set up appointments after you had only been with them for about ten minutes and they didn't even really understand what the product did.

While we were practicing, a little flag went off in my head. One of the things they do to entice more leads out of people is give them free stuff. While the stuff is pretty good, they ask you to put other people's names and email addresses into their system (without their prior consent) to get some of this stuff. My flag kept waving when they told me that my homework was to go and use their online system to register myself and those that I knew who were qualified for their product into their system.

Knowing that I wasn't going to do this, even if it was "just to practice" on my family and friends, I realized that the position was not for me. After the presentations of the day were over, I went up to the trainer and told her that I really didn't think this would be a good fit for me. And it was really easy to say no.

And now there are six in the training program.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Job Interview + Vintriloquism = ???

Monday I had a job interview. I have to say that it was the oddest interview that I had ever participated in.

I had a suspicion that the job might be sketchy from the start. The posting online didn't tell me much about the company, but they had a wage that would hold us over for the time being until I can return to my other position. I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be a sales position (blech!), but they also said that there were managerial positions available, so I figured that I might be able to sneak in under the radar.

I reported to the appointed place about fifteen minutes early. The receptionist greeted me and informed me that I was early. Duh. I planned on being there early to scope out the place a bit.

I had to fill out some paperwork and bring a resume along (even though my resume was pre-screened through an online process). As I was walked back to another room, I head the sounds of laughter, finding about five other people who were probably informed that they were early. The room was relatively large, and there were about twenty chairs set up facing a big screen TV that rested on a raised stage. And there was a ventriloquist act on the screen. After I sat down, I noticed that there were boxes of things (which I am pretty sure are prizes for selling stuff) like knock-off Pyrex and Tupperware. There was also one of those money machines that fans the money around you when you try to grab it.

A woman who represented the company came to the front of the room and turned off the ventriloquist act. She apologized for turning it off, because one guy in particular was really getting into it. I felt a bit thrown off by having to have entertainment before an interview. I was here to work, not to be entertained.

She ended up giving us a spiel about the company (in which she really didn't explain a lot), followed by thorough instructions on how to pass the personal interview. Really? Not only did I have to watch a singing ventriloquist, but I also had to be led by the hand on how to interview? After about a half an hour, it was my turn to "shine" (her words, not mine) in the personal interview.

And to tell you the truth, I was a bit disappointed in the interviewer. She asked me three questions:
  1. Have I been in the area long?
  2. Did I think I could handle the work (which had not been thoroughly explained to me yet)?
  3. Did I realize that there wasn't a lot of opportunities to learn new technologies (because most of my experience has been technology-based)?
Really, is that all you needed? I was dismissed and told to call back at a number that same day in about an hour and a half to see if I had another interview.

So I did. Surprisingly enough, I passed the rigorous interview process and made it into the second round. I could have told you that, because she ended up putting check marks and plus signs on the paper work that I handed to her as I was standing there talking to her. Those are pretty universal here in the States...

I'm heading back for another set of interviews/presentations today. We will see how that goes. I am not sure that I want this position—mainly because I don't think that this company (that focused on being an educational company) educated me enough to know if I want the job. The interview process is a courtship, not just a series of questions. If I don't like the answers (or lack thereof), I can easily back away. I'll let you know if I learn anything else about this company today that will let me know exactly what would be expected of me.

But on a good note, I know that they could use a professional writer. I noticed a few typos on the information that they handed out to me, plus it wasn't very concise...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Celebrating Joblessness

My furlough has officially arrived. I haven't heard much from work. I had a few people call me to say hi, but other than that, I haven't heard a peep.

And the world is still turning (just as I thought it would).

To celebrate my lack of a job, I decided to go push chunks of raw turkey into cans. Doesn't sound fun? Well, to tell you the truth, it really wasn't that enthralling, but it was for a good cause.

One thing that I appreciate about my religion is that there are plenty of opportunities to serve other people. There is a cannery down in Garden City that is run by volunteers. Each church unit in our area are assigned different days throughout the year to have people go volunteer. It ends up that each person goes (in theory) about once a year for a four hour shift.

We ended up doing turkey chunks. They take frozen turkey breasts, put them into a grinder that moves them up a conveyor belt into a hopper that feeds them into the cans (with the help of people) that goes down the conveyor belt to fill up the cans with hot water and seal the cans.


There is another area where they pressure cook the meat, put the labels on the cans, and box them up.

I ended up being put in charge of making sure that the meat was pushed down into the cans. I didn't realize how tired my hand would get when I had to force the chunks into the cans. I went and did this on Tuesday, and my tricep is still pretty sore today. As I was standing by another volunteer, she commented to me that she would be completely fine not eating turkey for a while.

I would have to agree with her.

There were times when the meat was warm and slimy. Wifey would have never made it. During her pregnancy, she has had a hard time cutting up a chicken breast to cook. She doesn't particularly like raw meat normally, but she would have died during her pregnancy.

After I left, I smelt a bit like the frog I dissected in my eight grade class.

I was willing to do this because of what the cannery does. You can buy the goods if you want. A bulk of the food gets given away at little or no cost. People can receive assistance from the church in the form of a bishop's storehouse. It is like a supermarket without any cash registers. You get an order filled from your bishop (hence the name) before you head there, and then they give you what you need and send you on your merry way.

Another place where this food gets sent is to the sites of natural disasters. They get all this food on hand, and then when something goes wrong, the church has a the means to get the food to where it is needed.

So even though my arm is a bit sore and the idea of eating turkey is still repulsive, I was happy to help.