Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Ups, More Downs

For once in I don't know how long, it looks as if I failed to give my ex enough credit. A couple of nights ago, I talked to the ex about the kids' living arrangements. I approached things by pointing out that sexy wife and I could offer better conditions than the kids would get with the ex, and made what I considered a very reasonable recommendation. Normally she gets the kids on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend. The Mrs. and I have them Mondays, Wednesdays and every other weekend. I suggested that the kids visit the ex on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but spend those nights here. I added that they should come back on Sunday evenings too. In other words, school nights should be spent here.

I've brought this up in the past, and the ex went ballistic, so I was expecting the riot act and quite frankly I was planning to go to court. It was actually my attorney who asked me if I'd talked to the ex before filing any court paperwork. I was stunned when the ex agreed, lock, stock and barrel.


More truck problems. On my way home last night, I noticed that the transmission was slipping. As I returned to the truck from a stop at the corner store, I saw why... a puddle of transmission fluid was accumulating around my front passenger tire, and the puddle was rapidly expanding. Fortunately I was able to make it home, and based on the location of the puddle, I think a line blew, so it should be quick, easy and relatively inexpensive to fix. (I'll know more on that today.)


Check out my new toy. It's an XV6700 smart phone. It's not the latest and greatest, but it's the first time in a couple of years that I've had a smart phone, and I've got to say I've missed it. My last phone ran the Palm OS, and I've got to say that I like the Windows interface a little better. Some of my favorite features...

-This synchronizes with my work email, so I'm more on top of things.

-I can VPN to work from home, so I can use my phone to reset passwords, reboot servers and so forth.

-The internet is surprisingly fast using EVDO technology.

-I can listen to music, watch movies, and so forth.

-It's got wi-fi too, which allows me to sign on to the internet anywhere there's wireless broadband access. Great for working out in the plant.

-Voice-activated commands allow me to launch programs and call people with simple voice commands.

-Graffiti feature allows me to actually write with my stylus, instead of using the small keyboard.

I missed my smart phone!

Monday, January 28, 2008

One Savvy Kid

When the ex told the kids about being evicted, they naturally wanted to know where they'd be staying. She told the kids that they'd be staying with her best friend. Before I get into the story though, I need to digress for a minute about the living arrangements. The ex's best friend is married to my best friend. I still get along with both of them, but my friend is fiercely loyal to me and despises my ex.

The ex and the kids are moving into the basement of the house, which is a small place, built in the 1930's. The living area in the basement is approximately the size of a standard bedroom, and my ex expects that all three of them to stay in that small space. To complicate matters a bit, the basement was an overflow storage area. This meant that my ex expected the kids to spend the weekend turning the space back into a livable area.

My younger daughter was all about spending time with mom, even if it meant spending the whole weekend cleaning the basement. My older daughter is starting to realize how messed up her mom is and wanted nothing to do with this arrangement. The older daughter spent Friday night at the neighbor girl's house. She spent Saturday evening there too, but came home (to our house) "feeling sick." She stayed at our place until around noon on Sunday and was scheduled to spend the night there Sunday. Around midday, I got a call from the ex, asking me to take the kids Sunday night. We agreed for me to get them around 8:00.

An hour or so later, the older kid called me and asked me if I could pick her up at 6:30 because she had "a lot of homework." I picked them up and we immediately started the homework. It was one simple math problem and she didn't need my help. She's no idiot. That was her excuse to come back to our house.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Stupid Dog

My stupid dog spent the majority of yesterday in her kennel, eating her blanket. Yes, you heard me right, she was eating her blanket -- as in chewing and swallowing. Towards the middle of last night, I heard her making the barf sound from her kennel, but when I looked, I couldn't find anything. A little later I heard it again. This time I found a chunk of chewed up, barfed up blanket. She slept by my bed last night, and every so often I was awakened to her not-so-cute barfing sound. Throughout the night I carried three more chunks of blanket to the garbage, and have tossed yet another three that were barfed up this morning. I tossed out the rest of the blanket this morning... what remains is about the size of a shawl, and it started out big enough for a twin bed. What a stupid fucking dog. She ate her blanket! I can't imagine how she fit that much in her stomach, and I can't fathom why she ate it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Life Is Beautiful

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

This is an excerpt from the song "Life is Beautiful" by Sixx A.M. The band was formed to accompany Nikki Sixx's book The Heroin Diaries. When I first heard about this, I thought "Great, another rock star's autobiography about rising to fame, crash of self-destruction and return from the ashes." But I love this song. It's really cool. If you haven't checked it out, do so. I've got to say, if these guys tour, I'm there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ups and Downs

First and foremost... it was 4 years ago today that I met my wonderful wife at a wine tasting party. Little did I know how much happiness I'd get from a simple glass of wine and a little conversation.


It's been a hectic week here at the castle. It all started on Monday evening when I received after-hours support calls on my job. There were a lot of sporadic problems on the network and I spent about three hours working on it... or more appropriately... band-aiding it.

By the time I got to work Thursday morning, the sh!+ had hit the fan and the entire network was essentially inoperable. Production was virtually at a standstill. As my cohort and I spent the first two hours trying to wrap our brains around the problems, supervisors were stressing, workers were slacking and managers were nagging us for status reports -- all the while failing to realize that every minute we spent giving status reports was a minute taken away from finding the solution. Then, after the impromptu status report, we lost another five minutes as we got back to concentrating on the task at hand -- fixing the network.

We ended up calling in a consultant, and we were glad that we did. I know that we would have eventually fixed the problem, but I suspect it would have taken us about four to six hours longer than we needed with the consultant's help. The guy knew his shit!

There were three separate, unrelated problems. The first problem is that our core network switch was malfunctioning. The second was that an electrician tried to troubleshoot a computer issue and ended up plugging both ends of the same ethernet cable into the same switch. This caused a network communication loop, which severely degraded network performance. The third problem was another network switch, located in the plant. The uplink port went bad, causing a broadcast storm... slightly similar to the communication loop.

The only human error was on the part of the electrician, but I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. I know the electricians, and they try to do a good job. I don't want to get into a game of finger-pointing and causing bad blood. So I'm going to send out a few under-the-table comments to the electricians, letting them know what happened without making a big issue of it. No supervisor involvement and no blame-storming.


The heater went out in my truck... during the worst cold snap that I can remember. It's roughly zero degree Fahrenheit, and since I had no heater, I had to drive with the windows down in order to prevent the inside of my windows from frosting up due to my breath. That was some cold sh!+. The worst part is that I had to put up with it for a couple of days because I was too busy at work to schedule the repair. The cool part is that it was only $100 to fix it.

**Note to internet researchers***
The heater stopped working on my 2002 Dodge Dakota. I turned the fan switch to all four positions and no air blew from the vents. I originally thought that my blower motor had burned out, but it turned out to be the fan switch. Not the switch on the console, but the actual resistor located next to the blower motor. The quote for the motor was $400+, including labor, but I took the truck to a mechanic that I trust -- my local Dodge dealer. They got me in and out the same day, and promptly and accurately fixed the problem, costing me significantly less than I had feared.
**End note to internet researchers**


I already mentioned that my ex got evicted. I'm really not surprised by this. The big downside is that I was the one who handled the fallout with the kids. The ex called and asked me to keep the kids last night (her scheduled evening), but neglected to tell the kids. I got home, and the kids asked if it was time to go their mom's.

"Nope, you're staying here tonight."

"But why." I wasn't prepared for this. I had figured that she'd already told them. I was speechless for a minute.

"Why dad," they continued? I thought about my options. I could tell them everything. I could make them call their mom, who would sugar-coat everything. I remained silent as I continued formulating my answer.

"Dad, if we can't stay with mom, we at least deserve to know why."

"Okay," I finally answered, "your mom got evicted from her apartment."

The were understandably upset. "Where will we live? Why does she keep screwing up?" I really couldn't say anything, because I'm not a non-interested third party. All I could do was offer them some hugs and tell them they would be safe and could stay with me. This, of course, didn't fix things. They were (understandably) focused on how this would impact their life with mom. My wife and I were frustrated. Once again the ex screws up, throwing the kids' lives into chaos, and we were the ones left to handle the fallout. My game is the long-haul. I know that one day the kids will realize that it's really my wife and me who are there for the kids... who sacrifice for them. But in the short term, my game can certainly be frustrating.


The wife's Grandma passed away this weekend. She had Alzheimer's and cancer, so this wasn't unexpected. But it still sucks to lose a loved one. My father in law is an only child and lost his dad about a year ago, so this is pretty rough on him, which impacts her. I feel for them.


Last night, I got my older daughter's midterm grades. She's getting a D in science and phys ed. (How do you get a D in phys ed!?!) She got a D in science last semester and sexy wife and I told her to bring up her grades or start losing privileges. Last night she lost her cell phone.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

She Can't Even Live in her Car

When it comes to my ex, I'm constantly reminded how glad I am that I got out when I did. My most recent moment came yesterday, when she informed me that she got evicted from her apartment and asked me to watch the kids.

The thing is, she can't even live in her car, because that was repossessed when she was arrested a couple of months ago. Since she was driving without a license (etc, etc), her car was impounded. The state eventually seized the car and auctioned it off, because she didn't pay the fines and reclaim it within the allotted time.

Someone close to me compared my ex to Britney Spears, but I don't like that analogy, because that would make me Kevin Federline.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Made My Mommy Cry

My mom had been yammering on about it for months and months now... about how 2008 is a very important year for her...

"Do you realize that your father and I will have been married for 40 years?"

"I'm turning 60 next year."

And then came the guilt-laden "You know, nobody has ever done anything really good for us in our entire lives."

I got the hint and talked to my brothers.

Yesterday was their anniversary, so I called them up bright and early. When my mom answered the phone, I started off by saying "You know I was thinking this morning about how really old you and dad are.

"Oh shut up, you poop bottom." (My mom's a little lacking when it comes to witty retorts.)

"But mom, you really are old! Come on... think about it... You've been married 40 years today." There's a little silence as it sinks in that I remembered their anniversary.

"You little stinker, I thought you'd forgotten."

"Is dad awake?"

"Not yet. Should I wake him up?"

"No. Let him sleep. After all, it's his anniversary too, and I know he likes to sleep in. Are you sitting down?"

"No, I was getting something to drink. Why, should I be?"


(After a short pause) "Okay, I'm sitting down."

"Well, your other boys and I were talking, and we decided that we'd like to do something special for your anniversary." (Another pause... I'm letting the suspense build a bit, and mom's afraid to ask what it is.) "We'd like to send you on an Alaska cruise."

I thought the phone was dead, until I heard the sniffle. "Are you kidding me?"

"No. I'm serious."

"You're not joking?"

"No mom, I'm not joking."

"Oh, son!" (Okay, she used my full first name.) [Sniffle] "This isn't a joke? Because if this is a joke, then it's the most cruel joke you've ever played." After a few more minutes of this, she finally understood.

I think the moment it sunk in was when I said "You know mom, we were thinking about making you wait until your 50th anniversary to do this, but we decided there's too much of a chance that one of you won't make it that long."

We chatted a bit more, but she was kind of blubbering, so I don't know exactly what she said. "Do you want me to have your dad call you when he wakes up?"

"Yeah, why don't you."

"Can I tell him, or do you want to?"

"You can tell him."

"You know he's not going to believe it, right?"

A couple of hours later, I get the call from Dad. "Thanks, boy. What are the particulars?"

"Just decide when you want to go, and we take care of the rest. The longer the lead time, the better." This was hours later, and I could still hear my mom blubbering in the background. I passed the phone around to the wife and kids, so they could extend the Happy Anniversary wishes too. Sexy wife told my mom that this was all my idea. "You know, your son arranged the whole thing."

"That's not true," I quickly rebutted. "We all discussed this, and we all came up with this together. I'm not going to take credit for this." Truth is, she was kind of right, but I didn't want my mom to know this. I want my mom and dad to consider this a gift from all of their boys as equals.

I thought about taking the family up to deliver the news, but with mom's busted ankle and the crappy weather, I figured a phone call would do. I was right.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tartar Removal Device

Yesterday, I went to the dentist for my semi-annual cleaning. While the hygienist was scraping the tartar off of my teeth, I asked her "Is this tool specifically for removing tartar?"

"Yeah," she answered.

"So it's a tartar removal device?"

"Yeah. Where are you going with this?" She knows I'm a smart ass.

"Well, you could call it a TRD (pronounced turd) for short."

She laughed and said "I don't think that's politically correct."

"Yeah, but it gets worse. You could even say to your patients 'Hey, how do you like that TRD in your mouth?'"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Perfect Day

Yesterday I experienced something I haven't had for quite a while -- a perfect day. It all started by sleeping in, but not sleeping so long that the day was gone before I even woke up. The next hour or so consisted of ingesting my morning coffee and surfing the Internet.

After that, I spent a little time playing Halo 3 online, where I was pleased to find that Microsoft may have finally fixed their Xbox Live Connectivity problem. (I won't say that it's fixed for sure though. One single problem-free day doesn't negate three weeks of problematic connectivity.)

Sexy wife and I had a quiet, peaceful afternoon where she read a book and I noodled on my guitar for a while, and then we went on a double date with my former roommate and his significant other. We hit the movies and saw I am Legend, a movie that pleasantly surprised me. Don't get me wrong, I like Will Smith and knew it would be a good movie, but I was happy to find that the movie wasn't a cookie-cutter Hollywood plot.

Following the movie, we all went to my favorite Mexican restaurant and had my favorite Mexican meal. Their fajitas are the gold standard for fajitas, the service is top-notch, there is almost never a wait for seating, and the ambiance is cool. My favorite location was a bank at one time, so you can imagine how the marble and engraved ceilings add to the atmosphere.)

Once we finished eating, we came back to mi casa, where our friends were introduced to the Xbox 360, featuring Rock Band and a brief introduction to Halo 3. As expected, they were a little disoriented by Halo 3, but Rock Band was a hit. Mrs. Former Roommate was very shy about singing, but we all had a blast. The game is a lot of fun for beginners and experts alike, and the default three-person configuration allowed us all to take turns resting and playing each instrument.

After they left, the Mrs. and I kept playing Rock Band for a while, where I made her jealous by getting two 100% vocal performances in a row. Adding insult to injury, one of the songs features a female vocalist, and in both cases I was just goofing around... improvising humorous lyrics, and making an all-around fool of myself.

These days don't come around very often, so I make sure to savor them when they do. The spell was shattered this morning when I got a work call at 6:58 AM. Oh well, back to reality.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In Support of Scouting

For no particular reason, I awoke this morning thinking about outdoor activities I enjoy, such as camping and canoeing. While thinking about how many months it's been since I've done anything outdoorsy, I also thought about how long I've been doing this kind of stuff (longer than I can remember) and where I learned my love of nature and the outdoors. I learned it courtesy of the Boy Scouts.

As I say this, I don't want to discount or dismiss my parents' contribution. One of my earliest memories is going fishing with my dad, and I also remember family vacations where we spent a week camping throughout South Dakota. (We even ended up in Sturgis during bike week, but that's a story in itself.) But it was scouting that really refined and cultivated my love for the outdoors.

I don't want to come across as a scouting fanboy though. I have one major beef with the Boy Scouts of America, and that's their intolerance for gays. I get that scouting provides an opportunity for predatory gay pedophiles to prey on innocent young boys, but being gay does not automatically make one a pedophile. With that said though, I believe that scouting has many more positives than negatives.

Scouting taught me a lot more than canoeing and camping though. I also learned how to swim, learned first aid skills, gained leadership and teamwork skills, and was taught preparedness and survival skills. (I've forgotten most of my survival skills, but have excelled on preparedness.) I went camping year-round (many, many camping trips in freezing weather, some were below-zero), hiking in the spring, and canoeing in the summer.

By the way... I never made Eagle Scout. Scouting gave me a lot, but I didn't get the self-discipline needed for some of the requirements until later in life.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Oh, I get it... the RV is a Metaphor for my Life

I had a weird dream last night. An old friend of mine dropped by for a visit. I hadn't seen her in years, and she was driving her RV across the country. After introducing her to the family and asking her if she wanted to see the local sights, we packed up the RV and were soon driving through the countryside.

Next thing I knew, we were driving along a winding road next to the river and I was suddenly driving... only I wasn't really driving. I was still in the passenger seat and the steering wheel was too small and sensitive - almost like a joystick with the sensitivity set too high. The scenery was bouncing by as if we were on a cheap soap opera TV set, not like real life. I was uncomfortable driving, but was able to maintain control. I ceased enjoying the scenery and focused intently on keeping the RV on the road as the curves became progressively tighter. As we rounded a bend, I pressed the brake, but the RV didn't slow down. The scenery continued to bounce, and the family began to get tossed around in the back of the RV.

I looked over at my friend, who was still sitting in the driver's seat, complete with a steering wheel and all of the normal driver's controls, and told her that the brakes weren't working and that I needed her to press on the brakes with me to slow down the RV. We both pressed on our respective brake pedals, yet the RV maintained a constant speed.

Suddenly we rounded another curve that double-backed on itself and I was unable to keep the RV on the road. We went off the road and into the river with a splash. As the RV began to sink into the water, I helped the wife and kids out of the RV. Fortunately the water was only knee deep, but it was cold. This also kept the RV from completely submerging, but we were definitely stuck.

Next thing I knew, we were all on an island in the river. The sun was warming us, we were in summer attire, and there were beach chairs for each one of us. I briefly focused on getting the still-stuck RV to shore and back on the road, but soon set that aside as the family urged me to let it go for a bit and enjoy our day at the beach.

I generally don't remember my dreams, and on the rare occasions where I do, I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on them. I do, however, believe that dreams can occasionally offer some insight that the conscious mind misses. In this case, I think the RV is my life, and my dream was a reminder that even if things get out of control, the consequences aren't going to be as bad as I fear and that no matter what, I've got my family with me. And my friend? Well, she was simply the person who delivered the metaphor.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Snap to It

When it comes to cleaning my house, I have a cycle. This cycle is a result of an ongoing battle with the kids. You see, I like a clean, tidy home, but the kids don't care. I've tried talking, yelling, begging, pleading and bribing, but nothing will get them to clean up after themselves. The result is my cleaning cycle.

The cycle starts with me getting so neurotic and uncomfortable with the mess in the house that I go on a cleaning binge. I usually feel the binge coming on, so I tell Hot Wife that it's coming and she happily volunteers to get the kids out of the house for the day. I get the house cleaned, the wife and kids get to shop, and they don't have to clean house. Everyone's happy, except that I inevitably throw out lots of stuff and it always includes something that someone wanted kept. But hey, if they'd have put it away in the first place, it wouldn't have been tossed.

During the next phase, I follow the kids around for a while, nagging them about every little cup, plate, piece of food, school bag, and item of clothing that's not immediately put in its proper place. "I spent days cleaning this house, and you can't take a few seconds to clean up after yourself?" I remind myself of my mother when I do this, but I can't help it. (Incidentally, my mother eventually lost the war of cleanliness and now has one of the dirtiest, most cluttered homes imaginable. I hope that I don't end up like her.)

Over time, I tire of the nagging and accept that a certain amount of clutter is inevitable. This is the beginning of the end, as the acceptable amount of disorder is directly correlated with time. The more time that's passed, the more messiness I tolerate. I try to do spot cleaning here, but eventually realize that it's not worth it and eventually the house becomes a den of disorder.

Once the clutter hits, I try to find one small space in the house that I can keep clean and tidy, but eventually that small space disappears and I find that I can't relax in my own house. Then I snap, kick everyone out of the house and the cycle starts over.

The cycle started on Saturday. I kicked everyone out and spent about eight hours cleaning Saturday, and another three to four on Sunday (though I didn't kick everyone out on Sunday). I threw out a garbage can full of junk, donated two large boxes of household items to Goodwill, vacuumed up enough dog hair to create several boys' wigs (my dogs have short hair), and swept enough dust bunnies to effectively create a dust-St. Bernard.

But I feel better. I wonder how long the cycle will last this time.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Scanner and Camera Wizard

A while back, my Scanner and Camera Wizard broke. This really wasn't a catastrophic problem because I knew many other ways to get the pictures from the camera to my PC, but I must admit that it was a little frustrating. Every now and again, it got frustrating enough to actually try and fix the problem.

Today was one of those mornings, and the answer came quickly. After reading his entry, I suspect that we had the same problem, caused by the same registry cleaner. I attempted to thank him directly, but he's got a hella spam blocker on his blog.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Too Much Influence?

Today is the Iowa caucuses, and I, for one, am glad that it's finally coming to a close. I'm really tired of the unending barrage of commercials, unsolicited phone calls and junk mail from candidates asking for my support. And true to form, my (admittedly limited) experience with the candidates shows them making broad, sweeping statements designed to appeal to the masses without discussing how they plan to accomplish these goals. But that's not really what I want to discuss today. I'm more interested in talking about the hubbub from the media, claiming that Iowa and New Hampshire have too much influence in the election process.

The premise for these claims that Iowa and New Hampshire have too much influence, come from their small population size and lack of ethnic diversity. At first blush, I thought these were reasonable arguments, especially as I ran across statements saying stuff like "Iowa has more influence than California," and so forth. As I did a little more research though, I'm no longer convinced that Iowa holds an undue amount of influence. (I won't speak about New Hampshire's influence, because I didn't really research this aspect.)

One reason people are squawking about Iowa going first is that people from Iowa are always first to voice their opinion, and as a result, candidates that Iowans don't support may drop out before a more populous state has a chance to support him (or her, or it). Yeah, true that. But don't you think these politicians (or aspiring politicians) know their chances of winning -- or at least making a good show -- before deciding to drop out? This argument fails to consider that a candidate will certainly do their research before deciding to throw in the towel.

I'd also like to point out a Wikipedia article [sorry, I lost the link when moving this post], which undermines another argument against Iowa going first... the "they always pick the winners" argument." To make a long citation short, this provides statistics showing that the winner of the Iowa Caucuses doesn't automatically win their party's nomination... and in some cases, the "winner" ran unopposed. That's not exactly a win in my book. Even more ludicrous is a fast one that Jimmy Carter pulled in 1976. The majority of caucus-goers remained undecided (effectively saying 'none of the above'), but since Carter was second, he called himself the "winner." This shows that statistics can be manipulated, and that there's always a deeper story.

In conjunction with the "Iowa always picks the winner" argument, I'd like to say something else. If you don't agree with Iowa, then vote your opinion, don't follow them like a bunch of sheep because you want to say you voted for the winner.

At the end of the day, I really don't care if Iowa loses its first-in-the-nation standing. I'd be quite happy if states took turns. As for our mainstream media echoing the typical "not fair" cry of other states though, I'd really appreciate it if you'd report the whole story or just shut the fuck up, instead of parroting all of the whiners. By the way, since the Iowa caucuses will be over tomorrow, I expect you to be out of Iowa by sunrise. After all of the press, commercials, junk mail and unsolicited phone calls, I kind of miss the relatively mild irritation of the Enzyte commercials.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ready to Return

I've had a good vacation, but by the time I got to bed last night, I was ready for my return to work this morning. I love time off, but I was going a little crazy by the end of my holiday. Staying up late, sleeping in, too much food and eggnog and general laziness took its toll on my normally energetic self.

I think the worst part though is my messy house. Between general laziness on my part, missing a garbage day, and clutter from Christmas, I was a neurotic mess after a few days... almost to the point of getting a nervous twitch or something. Unfortunately I was also overwhelmed to the point of paralysis and got nothing done. On the good side, garbage night is tonight, which will allow me to clear out tons of garbage and start getting rid of the clutter.

Returning to work is also my excuse for a return to structure. I will get back to normal meals and a reasonable bedtime. I still dislike getting up to the alarm, but hey, I've got to take the bad with the good. Before I know it, I'll be ready to return... to vacation.