Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What are my career aspirations for the next five years? In order for you to understand my answer, we need to look back at my history as a working stiff. Funny how I need to look back in order to answer a question about the future, isn’t it?
Earlier this year, I lost my job. This job loss created a lot of stress, and a couple of great opportunities. The stress was a result of wondering how I was going to make ends meet… the mortgage… the car payments… making sure that my children had what they needed. With one pink slip, I was instantly forced to cut expenses and tighten the proverbial belt. Between unemployment benefits and my wife’s salary, we could cover our financial obligations, but with the drastic cut in income, discretionary spending was reduced to zero. I gained something far more though… time and peace of mind.
You see, while I was in the rat race, I made good money, but I gave up opportunities to watch the grass grow, paint and play music, and interact with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I was there for the events that society considers important… school plays, parent-teacher conferences, birthdays and such, but I missed out on many mundane moments. When the kids would call me at work to help them resolve a fight, I was annoyed. When they phoned wanting to know when I’d be home, I was irritated. Didn’t they realize that calling me postponed my departure from work? While I was on the job, my children – my entire family – was a nuisance. They derailed me from the task at hand.
While I was unemployed though, I gained a deeper understanding of what was truly important. I didn’t have a family in order to work; I worked in order to provide for my family. When I was between jobs, I came to the realization that raising my family is my career… my life… what brings me fulfillment. Since losing that well-paying job with all of the benefits, I became employed elsewhere. On an hourly basis, the new job pays better than any of my previous employers. Since it’s part-time work though, I don’t have the benefits of paid vacation, health insurance or a retirement plan. But my wife has all of those perks, so it’s not as important that I have them . What the part-time work does allow for though, is the opportunity for me to take my kids to school when they miss the bus, to be there after school to make sure their homework is done, and to play with them.
When I was entrenched in the rat race, I was always cognizant of the need to balance home and work. I always thought of myself as a good dad, and all of my friends and co-workers agreed. Looking back though, I now understand that the aforementioned balance tipped too far in favor of work. There will be plenty of time for the rat race after the kids have grown. Yeah, I’m sacrificing some future financial security for the sake of time with my family, but it’s a small price to pay. After all, I may not live long enough to enjoy my golden years, but I know for sure that a day will come when the kids have grown up and moved away. I don’t want to look back and wish I was there. With money, you can make up for lost income by working overtime or spending a little less. Time with the family however, is an irreplaceable commodity. (Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron… great turn of phrase, eh?)
This brings us to the main question… my career aspirations for the next five years. You see, I’ve already achieved my career goal of spending more time with my family. Instead of amassing wealth and material gains, I’m spending time. I’m cooking meals, washing clothes, shuttling children, and enjoying a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with my wife. Spending time is far more rewarding than earning a paycheck.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Today started out being a quiet morning. Outside, the snow is gently falling, with just enough breeze to cause the snow to dance and whirl as it slowly falls to earth. Mrs. Evan and the kids are sleeping in, and calm radiates through my body as I take in the winter scenery. Reading the news brought me somewhat back to reality, and I realized that yet again, I've neglected to send Christmas cards. I really should stop beating myself up over this. I've never been very good about sending Christmas cards. If I suddenly started sending them, I suspect that many of my friends and relatives would wonder if I had contracted a terminal illness.
My next thought was that I'd send out a Christmas newsletter (in electronic format, of course), complete with gaudy flashing Christmas graphics, ugly fonts and unreadable colors. My master plan focused on the ugly graphics, which I downloaded from the internet. Unfortunately, when I actually started composing the newsletter, I quickly found out that they weren't animated when added to MS Word. (Bummer.) Not the type to give up easily, I figured I'd try to embed them into an email… after all, the newsletter was going to be emailed anyway. Same problem… the graphics weren't animating. Once again, I persevered and continued with my quest, and wrote an HTML document… forgetting momentarily that web pages refer to graphics instead of embedding them. That was a stopping point.
During my search though, I discovered that MS Word 2007 has a blogging template. And wouldn't you know it, I happen to have a blog? That brings me to the point of today's post… it's nothing more than an experiment to see how things look when I compose a blog post in MS Word 2007 and post it to blogger.
Update: I'm not incredibly impressed. My initial post included a graphic before the text, a test of WordArt after the test hyperlink, and a second graphic at the end of the post. None of that stuff ended up on the actual post. Additionally, editing posts is cumbersome. In order to edit this post, I had to supply my username and password three times...once to access the blog as an admin, once to edit this post, and one final time to actually post the edited test. This method of blogging sucks balls. If Microsoft is going to try to make it easy to blog through MS Word, they need to make sure that graphics get uploaded, and they need to make sure I don't have to enter usernames and passwords so often.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The dinner we had that evening was more accurately called shredded pork soft tacos, and the kid didn't get her enchilada fix. The next day, she was still craving enchiladas, and I was itching to experiment in the kitchen a bit, so I tried something out. The result was a new Evan creation that will definitely be added to my culinary repertoire. It goes as follows...
One small onion
1/2 Green, Yellow or Red pepper
1 Packet of Taco seasoning
1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
Put the pork roast into a crock pot and heat on a low heat. The roast must be cooked until the meat is tender enough to shred with a fork. While the meat is still raw, add approximately 1 cup of salsa and a few pinches of flour. Stir together and let the meat cook for a while.
When the roast is approximately halfway through the cooking process, dice the tomato, onion and pepper and toss them into the crock pot. Let things cook for a while. Once the veggies look cooked (at least an hour before the roast is done though) toss in the packet of taco seasoning and stir the broth.
When the roast is tender enough, pull it out of the crock pot and shred it. Reserve the juices from the crock pot. If the roast is dry, you can add some of the juices to the shredded meat.
After shredding the roast, empty the can of mushroom soup into a bowl that's large enough for mixing. Add about 1/4 to 1/3 can of milk to the condensed soup. Add about 1/3 can of the juices from the crock pot to this mix. Stir them all together and microwave the mixture for about 90 seconds. Stir again to work out any lumps from the soup. The mixture should look thick, but still be pourable. Set aside. NOTE: When I was finished, all of the juices were added to either the sauce or the shredded meat.
Roll the shredded pork into tortillas and place into a casserole dish. (I used flour tortillas, but you can use whatever you prefer). Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 5 to ten minutes. Just long enough to make sure the tortillas and meat are warmed. Remove the casserole dish from the oven. Discard the aluminum foil. Pour the soup mixture over the tortillas and bake for another 10 minutes or so... just long enough for the "sauce" to start bubbling. Add shredded cheese to the top of it all and let it cook for another five minutes or so... just long enough to melt the cheese.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Lightscribe is a direct disc labeling technology that allows you to burn an image directly onto the top of the CD/DVD. It's a great way to use clip-art and your imagination to come up with a very professional design for your home movie DVDs. Right now it's only black-and-white (rather, black and DVD color), but it's a quantum leap forward from writing on the CD. By the way, lightscribe has been around long enough that it's cheap. You can get a CD/DVD burner with lightscribe technology for less than $30.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I went out to see if the roads were passable for us. They were passable, but hazardous enough that staying home was the wiser option. When the kids finally got up, we made them a big breakfast and Mrs. Evan declared the roads clean enough for her to go in to work.
I stayed home and kept the kids entertained, shoveled the driveway and sidewalk, did dishes and other chores. After a couple of hours of playing Rock Band 2, I realized that breakfast wasn't agreeing with me. It ended up coming out of both ends simultaneously. (Thank God I had a trash can in the bathroom!)
Feeling wrung out, a nap was in order. I slept for about 30 minutes while one kid continued playing Rock Band 2 and the other read. I woke up with a still-sore throat, and saw that Mr. Snowplow had been by and filled the end of my driveway with street snow. I asked the kids to shovel that snow.
"I'm too busy reading, daddy," replied the younger Evlet.
"My legs are too sore from playing Rock Band, daddy. Will you give me a massage," asked the other?
It's a good thing I'm not sick with something like pneumonia. I can picture it now...
(Wheezing on my deathbed) "Kids, will you get me a drink of water?"
"Not now dad, I'm too busy reading," the younger one would answer.
"My lungs are too sore from breathing, daddy. Will you run a vaporizer for me," the older one would ask?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Two days ago, she chose not to take the bus straight home from school so she could have a little make-out session with her boyfriend. Forty-five minutes after she was due home, I called her and she informed me that she was getting a ride home from boyfriend. Thirty minutes after that, I called again and she was "still on her way home." Did I mention that school is only ten to fifteen minutes away? For this little escapade, I added four days the grounding punishment.
Yesterday, she got a ride home from youth group... the only activity I didn't take away during her punishment. Not only did she get a ride home, but she got a ride from neighbor girl's boyfriend (neighbor girl is my kid's best friend), and she stayed over at neighbor girl's house for about a half hour. When she came home, she acted as if neighbor girl's mom was the one giving the ride, and as if she had come straight from youth group. The thing is, I SAW what had happened. Oh, BTW, she's not allowed to ride in cars with friends that I've never met! For the second day in a row, she defied my punishment, and then adding insult to injury, lied about it. I grounded her for an additional two weeks and the shit hit the fan.
After the arguing, I started realizing that the additional grounding probably wouldn't have the intended consequences. Instead of learning her lesson, I saw her defying me more. I saw the tumultuous relationship I had with my dad when I was a kid. I saw the end of the special relationship I have with my older daughter, but I was backed into a corner. I had to punish her, the punishment had to be strict, but no good could come from the punishment I had set forth.
I talked to my mom to vent, and I talked to Mrs. Evan for a solution. I finally came up with an answer. She's not grounded for an additional two weeks. Instead of that punishment, she's essentially in isolation until Christmas Day (which is the original month, plus the four days for the boyfriend violation). The isolation means that in addition to being grounded until Christmas, she has also lost computer privileges, phone privileges, and she is forbidden to ride to or from school and youth group with anyone other than the bus or me. This way there are additional consequences, but peace is restored to the family.
This parenting thing can be a real bitch.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I'd love to say it was all me, but in truth Paulius was the catalyst by donating my spiffy new logo. (Thanks again, man!) That inspired me to look at some of the other cool gadgets that can be added to a blog, and wouldn't you know it, I opted for two more that were inspired by Paulius. (Don't worry man, I'm not trying to turn myself into a carbon copy of you. I could never nail the accent.)
In addition to the new logo, I've added my Xbox 360 Gamer Tag and a new visitor map. Speaking of the visitor map, I'd like to mention something. I tried the gadgets that Blogger recommended, but they weren't that good. One, called Visitor Globe, never loaded. The other, called RevolverMaps Lite was okay, but it still loaded slowly, and if you scroll the blog page up and down, the map left artifacts, and the page just looked amateurish. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pro or anything, but...
Being unsatisfied with either option offered by Blogger, I looked at what Paulius is using... a map from widgets.amung.us. It's got better functionality and loading speed than either of the options offered by Blogger. And -- my favorite benefit -- it's still free.
If you want to change your layout, blogger has added some awesome gadgets, but neither map was worth a damn. Go with the what widgets.amung.us has to offer if you want a map that tracks your visitors.
Over the last week or so, while visiting my corner gas station/convenience store, I've noticed that the employees have been wearing a button designed to promote the lottery. The button says something to the effect of "If I don't ask you if you want to buy a lottery ticket, you get a free one." Every day, the clerks dutifully have asked me if I want to buy a lottery ticket, and I have politely declined. In fact, the other day, I asked one of them if she was tired of asking everyone, and she admitted that she was.
I like my little corner store, and I am acquainted with most of the people who work there. So if they had failed to ask me, I certainly wouldn't bust them on it and demand my free lottery ticket. But when I went there today, there was a guy from the lottery handing out scratch tickets. I thought it was pretty cool -- a good way to entice people to play the lottery -- but didn't otherwise think much about it. I got out to the car, scratched the ticket, and couldn't believe it... I had won $17.
I zipped back into the store to claim my winnings, and the dude that handed me the ticket said "Wow! Another winner!" As I pocketed the money, the guy said that he'd given out ten winning tickets today. Today's tale tells me a couple of things...
-The Iowa Lottery must be suffering as a result of the recession. I suspect that as the economy worsens, people are giving up some of their discretionary spending, and the lottery is probably considered discretionary by a lot of people.
-Going with this assumption, the Iowa Lottery is doing what they can to stimulate their sales. When simply asking didn't appear to do the trick, they started doling out free scratch tickets. This could be problematic for the state, because Iowa relies on Lottery income for it's budget. I suspect this means a larger deficit for the state's budget this year.
-You CAN win if you don't play. Hey, I never play the lottery, and I just won a few bucks.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In case you haven't yet inferred this, I hate rebates. I despise them. The depth of my anger toward rebates burns with the intensity of a thousand suns. Rebates are nothing more than a scheme designed to get the consumer to pay more up-font based on the premise that they will get some of that money back later on. Screw that! Give me the best price you can up front.
The rebate is nothing more than a scam designed to bilk the consumer for a few more dollars. The producer can semi-legitimately claim that they have the lowest price, all the while knowing that many customers won't bother to fill out the rebate slips. And for the people who do ask for their rebate? Well, the producer still gets to keep their money for a while... when millions of people purchase a product, that's tens of millions of dollars the company gets to keep, which lets them earn interest on our money.
The long and the short of it is that rebates are a scam. They suck. And when I see a rebate, I think "sleazy vendor" and avoid them. The only way I go with a rebate is if I happen to be purchasing that exact product anyway. And if that happens, I'm damned sure processing the rebate. Otherwise, I avoid rebates and the manufacturers who rely on them. I recommend that you do the same.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
This morning, I received such a gift from Paulius. Gracing my inbox was an email from him, with a picture embedded in the correspondence. Paulius was thoughtful enough to create a logo for my blog. It's the kick-@$$ pic that's now prominently displayed at the top of this site.
Dude, thanks. That was most thoughtful and completely unexpected. I hope your roof-patching job holds up!
Friday, December 12, 2008
With that said, I'd like to look at this bailout from a different perspective. Look, we just handed the government a $700 Billion blank check. My understanding is that they can spend this money any way they see fit. Instead of coming to the taxpayers for more money, I say use part of the $700 Billion to help the automakers. Here's why...
Let's start by looking at this in manageable numbers, and by using an analogy. Things were tough at the House of Evan this year. I talked to friends, neighbors and family, and managed to convince them to scrape up $700 to help me out. They lent me this money knowing that doing so would cause them hardship, and that they'd likely never see the money again. I promptly spent $350 of it on bills, but still have $350 in the bank.
Suddenly, the battery in my car died and I found out that it would cost me somewhere between $15 and $25 to buy a battery charger, so I went back to my friends, neighbors and family and asked for more money. Aren't those people justified in questioning my fiscal responsibility? I mean, come on, I've still got $350 left. Why am I coming to them for more money? And since my car is old and unreliable, aren't they understandably curious why I'm sinking another $15 to $25 into that piece of junk? And my answer? Oh, that. I want to save that money for something else.
Yes, in this case I was the government, and the friends, neighbors and family were the American taxpayers. As a taxpayer, I don't understand why the government is coming to me for more money, when they've still got half of that $700 billion. Bush, in his infinite stupidity, doesn't want to spend that money on the auto industry. Well, part of being in charge is making tough choices and doing stuff that you'd rather not do. Mr. Bush, it's time to do something you'd rather not do... quit asking me for more money, and use part of that $350 Billion that you have left. I, for one, am tired of paying to clean up the mess that you and your fat-cat friends on Wall Street made in the first place. I'm through struggling to make ends meet while you laugh your way to the bank.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Just an observation about the sloppiness of the article.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Our first Christmas tradition actually starts a month or two early, when the first person in the family sees the initial Christmas display in the stores, or when we hear a Christmas commercial on the radio, and we start grumbling that Christmas is coming earlier each year. (By the way, I noticed my first Christmas display a day or two before Halloween this year.) This is nothing against Christmas, but I really love Thanksgiving, which , thanks to our commercialism, is beginning to go the way of Arbor Day or Groundhog Day. I also believe that such a long lead-up to Christmas kind of burns people out on the whole thing.
In relation to this, I also grumble a bit at how many references there are to "The Holidays," instead of calling it what it really is -- Christmas. I tend to keep my eyes and ears open for companies that actually advertise for Christmas, instead of The Holidays, and they usually get my business first.
My first two rituals might make me sound a little humbug about Christmas. That's not the case. I am a little grumpy about the commercialism, but I've been that way since I was in my late teens. I am not, however, grumpy about Christmas in general. Now, on with the real traditions...
-Setting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Once upon a time, I was a hard-core real tree purchaser, but pragmatics eventually turned me to fake trees. I like the fact that I can put up the fake tree the day after Thanksgiving without worrying about the tree drying out by Christmas. I still miss the pine scent of a real tree, but that's a small price to pay.
-After the tree is up, I pull out the ornaments, and hand them to Mrs. Evan and the kids, who place them on the tree. The kids' mom was (and still is, based on my understanding) incredibly anal about how the tree is decorated, so the kids don't get to help her decorate that tree. I prefer the eclectic look of our tree, which comes from letting the kids decorate as they see fit.
-Each year I purchase three new ornaments. One that represents the wife and me, and one for each of my girls. We occasionally purchase more than three, like the year I got my Harley, the wife and kids got me ornaments to commemorate the new addition to the family. We have also been known to buy unpainted ceramic ornaments and paint them ourselves. The point is that our decorations are personalized. We don't have any simple glass balls or anything like that on the tree. When the kids move out, I fully expect them to take at least some of their ornaments with them. The kids' ornaments are more for them than for me.
Mixed nuts. We (primarily me) go through five to ten pounds of nuts between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This year, we've got even more, because I collected fresh Black Walnuts and Hickory nuts. In conjunction with this tradition, the kids put the shells in the same bowl as the nuts, and I grumble about their laziness.
Packing up the family for a drive around town to look at Christmas lights. The trip usually consists of a thermos of hot chocolate, Christmas carols in the CD player, and the kids sporting pajamas in the back seat. We always drive around aimlessly, because the area of town with the best lights tends to move from year to year.
Christmas shows. My favorites, of course, are the slightly irreverent ones... A Year Without a Santa Claus (I love the Miser brothers) and A Christmas Story. (It says fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian.)
One tradition that actually goes back to my childhood is using candy canes as part of the tree's decorations. I had actually forgotten about that part this year. I didn't know exactly why, but the tree didn't look quite right, until Mrs. Evan brought home the candy canes... then it hit me.
Another tradition from my childhood is opening one gift on Christmas eve. I know how it started... my brothers and I nagged my parents about opening stuff early. My parents compromised and said that we could open one gift early. It became a tradition in my family. This tradition was passed on when my kids became old enough to nag me about opening stuff early. Only the kids open a gift early though.
This is a tradition brought to us by Mrs. Evan... each Christmas eve, we re-enact the birth of Christ, using ceramic figurines. It's a very irreverent re-enactment. For example, the Three Wise Men are called the three wise guys, and Joseph is always grumbling about how Mary cheated on him, and how it better have been with God, because if the kid looks like the plumber, he's outta there. It injects a bit of bawdy humor into the story, but it also serves as a reminder of the birth of Christ.
Pretending that I'm too tired to get up early to open gifts. This is my twisted, sadistic way of teasing the kids, because we don't open gifts until everyone is up. In the end, the kids usually jump in bed and wrestle with me until I relent.
Keeping the tree up until New Year's Day.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
She didn't really hang up on Obama per se, after all, Obama doesn't have to make his own phone calls anymore. But in each case, someone called her and informed her that the President-elect wanted to speak to her. She thought it was a radio station trying to punk her, and hung up both times.
On the third try, a democratic congressman called her and informed her that Obama was indeed trying to get through. Oops. She informed the President-elect that she thought she was being pranked, and Obama was apparently a good sport about the whole thing. Fortunately for her, Obama seems to have a good sense of humor.
Monday, December 1, 2008
The article also says that 4200 troops have died since we invaded Iraq in 2003. I'm going to take a shit-load of flack for this, but I'm going to call this acceptable loss. Hey, when we went to war five years ago, the overwhelming majority of Americans had swallowed the Kool-Aid that Bush's administration offered. We were somehow convinced that it would be a splendid little war, with a quick victory and little loss of life. We were half right... the loss of life has been quite low indeed.
As I write this, please let me once again reiterate that I was against going in to Iraq from the beginning... though it was primarily for strategic reasons. Opening a second front in a war has never worked historically... and going into Iraq was doing exactly that. My decision was correct, but I admit that I didn't arrive at that decision in the same manner as most objectors.
Anyway, back to my point. When it comes to the use of force, I am a pragmatist. Being a pacifist is great in theory, but in the real world it is an unrealistic view. And since the use of force is a distinct possibility, it stands to reason that there must be a loss of life. At some point, that loss becomes unacceptable, and we take our ball and go home. Up to that point though, the loss of life, while tragic, is a fact of life. That's called acceptable loss. To put this in perspective, the U.S. lost well over 6,000 men on D-Day. 58,000 Americans died during the Vietnam war. I'm not trying to minimize the loss of life in Iraq, I'm simply trying to explain that the loss of life is significantly lower. In fact, I'd say it's an acceptable loss.