Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mission Accomplished

At the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to have at least one post per day for the whole year. I did it. I need to think about my 2009 resolution. Maybe something to do with health.

I will keep writing in 2009. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Great Sadness

Within the space of a week, two men here at work who sit in adjacent cubes have lost a grandchild. The first loss was a newborn who had some complications and surgeries. That boy was three weeks old when he passed. The second loss was an eight year old with neuroblastoma, a kind of cancer.

My heart goes out to them.

Ex-poo-sion

In the men's room right now, in one of the stalls, the toilet seat appears to be covered in what looks like the sort of soot you see when Daffy Duck tries to hold onto a stick of dynamite for too long. Someone's @$$ exploded.

New Hobby

GPop is directionally impaired. We've recently been going to some classes, and when we drive together, and he wants to drive, I have to navigate to get him there in a reasonable time. We've now explored several ways of getting to the Children Services building.

For Christmas, we decided not to get each other individual gifts. Instead, we bought a family GPS. We got the Garmin nüvi 205W. It is a fairly basic model, but it does have support for geocaching. We've already gone out and found a couple that are very close to where we live. We may have a new family hobby.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Four Word Movie Review - Burn After Reading

Bad people. Worse events.

Family Health

GPop's mom has been in and out of the hospital for a couple of weeks. She has some kind of infection in her lungs and heart that are causing pain and exhaustion. Some tests reveal that she may have had a minor heart attack at some point in the past, so she's due for several weeks of rest to recover.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Need New Glasses or Something

I was glancing through my work e-mail to catch up before Monday, and I saw an e-mail from our legal group telling us that the "Worker Retiree and Employee Recovery Act of 2008" was signed into law. Maybe I'm precaffienated or something, but at first glance, I saw "Wookiee Employment Recovery Act of 2008."

blink. blink.

Oh.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Illustrated Spoonerism

GPop was drinking a Diet Coke the other day, and he mentioned something about The Pause that Refreshes. I saw this pose a moment ago and thought of this phrase: "The frosh that reposes."




DISCLAIMER: Son is actually in eighth grade, but he will be a freshman soon enough.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Family Time

GPop's mom has been a bit under the weather for a couple of weeks, so we are spending some quiet time with his parents today. Hope your holidays are peaceful and bright.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Favorite Carol

This carol almost always gets me a little misty-eyed. Whether or not you celebrate a religious holiday at this time of year, have a safe, warm, and happy time with the people that are most dear to you.

Through the years, we all will be together, if the Fates allow...

If I send Clothos, Lachesis, and Atropos a little basket of cookies, will they allow us to be together? I can only hope.



Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We the People

Son's social studies teacher is offering extra credit to any student who will get up in front of the class and recite the Preamble to the Constitution. Son really wants the extra points, so I got out my Schoolhouse Rock DVD and found The Preamble.

Reading through the Preamble led me to a deeper appreciation of what the founders of our country were trying to accomplish. The language may seem a little florid to contemporary readers, but one could easily make it into a Powerpoint slide, if Powerpoint weren't one's mortal enemy.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We the People of the United States
The government of the United States derives its power from the people. This power isn't conferred by a foreign or higher power. Neither king nor god gives any permission for the governed to govern themselves. The government exists because of the people.

in Order to form a more perfect Union,
The founders of this nation were writing a new plan for the government to supersede the plan outlined in the Articles of Confederation. The new plan was intended to be better, or more perfect, than the old one. Yes, contemporary use of "perfect" implies an absolute, but there is some beautiful poetry in this prose.

establish Justice,
The early Americans had been treated unjustly by the British king for years, and this explicit call to human justice is really inspiring.

insure domestic Tranquility,
They seemed to be tired of conflict and war, and wanted the interactions between the people of this nation to be peaceful.

provide for the common defence,
But, knowing that it was unreasonable to assume that there would never be conflict, we needed to be prepared to defend ourselves against people and nations that wanted conflict over peaceful relations. I'm interested that this clause mentions "defence" but not war. The founders seemed to want mostly to be left alone.

promote the general Welfare,
I love this. Am I my brother's keeper? In the sense that we live by the social contract, and that our government has a vested interest in providing some basic services for the people of the nation.

and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
I got a little verklempt here. This isn't just about us, but about what we can do for future generations. If we make the world better now, maybe our children can make it better than we were able to.

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We declare this to be so, with the authority granted us by the people of the country that was already called the United States of America by virtue of the Articles. And then we wrote it down.


Whether other people read this the same way, or whether we've done an A+ job of living up to those ideals as I read them is another discussion, but the sentiments expressed are very well thought out and inspiring to me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reader Questionnaire

Was yesterday's Ellen DeGeneres picture too obscure or just not funny?

People Puttin' People Down

The latest nuttery from sunny California is that the Yes on 8 coalition that fooled people into thinking they were protecting marriage have filed a lawsuit to annul the legal marriages already performed in California.

Nothing about this has anything to do with protecting marriages. In fact, they're intending to rip apart about 18,000 marriages that already exist. Of course, by their definition, the relationships they're severing aren't really marriages, but rather an abomination in the eyes of God, so they don't count.

But the people who don't fit
Get the only fun they get
From people puttin' people down

Monday, December 22, 2008

Return Fire!

Today is the last day that I can reasonably be expected to get a Christmas card in the mail and have it get to the recipient before Christmas. We sent out our Christmas cards last week, but if we get any today from people to whom we didn't send on our first round, I'll have to make a quick run to the main post office in Capital City to get the retaliatory card in the evening collection there.

All the Fuss?

Yesterday's post made me wonder why that woman was so afraid of the sinister rampant lesbianism she perceived. It doesn't seem all that scary when you really look at it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Your're not Tolerating my Intolerance, You Bigot!

We attended yet another training class yesterday. GPop and I sat at a table at the front of the room. At the table behind us, there were two couples. Some of the classroom exercises required us to get into small groups and discuss some topic or another.

One of the topics was "Surprising Statistics Taken out of Context." GPop took the lead and mentioned the statistic that 89% of teens use the Intarwebs. I would have thought the percentage was higher, but maybe I'm not accounting for the Amish.

The woman in the older couple rambled something to the effect of, "My foster kids hate me, because I have a little plug-in thing that keeps them off the internet when they download that music and filth onto MY hard drive. I raise these kids in a strong Christian home. Even if I weren't, I'd raise them the same way. I just unplug that thing, and that filth doesn't come into my computer. They get enough of that in the schools with the lesbians in the halls."

I made eye contact with GPop, but then the teacher spoke up and ended the exercise before either of us could respond. I don't think he heard the woman speaking, so his timing was simply coincidence. I'm a little upset at this woman's outrageous statement, but I'm sort of amused at the repeating meme of lesbian gangs terrorizing our country. Thanks, ignorant jack@$$3$.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Guided Imagery Owie

Take a couple of deep breaths. We'll explore a situation together that will only take a moment.

Imagine you're in your kitchen. You bend over to open the bottom drawer to get something. Oh, now your hands are full. You stand up and turn around. You touch your heel to the drawer and push the drawer closed with the back of your foot.

You know those muscles in your butt that you just used to push the drawer closed? Those muscles started hurting A LOT yesterday evening for no reason I can think of. They still feel a bit owie. No, I have no idea.

G Might Stand for Geek

GDad to the rescue!

I had a Popular Science in the throne room, and there was an article about using an old wireless router with DD-WRT to make a client wireless doohickey (technical term = thingamabob) that allows Son to connect his XBox 360 to the Intarweb without dragging a network cable across the doorway to the teevee room.

"Hmmm..." I thought. "I have this old router, and it already has DD-WRT on it, so this ought to take, um... about 5 minutes."

Maybe 10 minutes later, I realized that it was ever so slightly more difficult that that, but five minutes after THAT, we have connectivity. Go, GDad!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sadness

I appear to have lost a follower. Au revior, wherever you are.

Foto Phriday - Cafeteria Chaos

The floor in the kitchen part of the cafeteria in our building has those little nubs that are supposed to provide traction when the floor gets wet. Generally, they're unobtrusive, unless one is in bare feet, which would be pretty disgusting, all things considered.



The "back room" in the cafeteria is actually two separate rooms, for reasons unknown. Because of the mechanics of this setup, things need to go from room A to room B pretty regularly. Of course, the mechanism the cafeteria workers use to transport these items is a rickety metal cart with hard casters. Usually, they pile metal and glass on top so they can make the loudest noise possible when pushing this cart across the room.

There is an older gentleman whose job appears to be the stocker for the refrigerated items. He seems to have experimented with the cart so that he found exactly the right velocity to produce the loudest shaking possible. One day, I was getting my morning beverage with Mandy, and he pushed past us with the cart just as I was getting to the punchline of that day's amusing story. The noise was so loud that I stopped and waited. Mandy giggled. When he entered the door to room B, I took a breath to continue, and another worker emerged from room B with a cart that was even more rickety and louder than the first one. Mandy started laughing.

After I finished my story, we went to pay. As the cashier was opening her mouth to tell me the price, the cart passed by again. The cashier rolled her eyes and said, "I swear he does that on purpose."

UPDATE (8:30 AM) - Mandy and I were just in the cafeteria. One of the customers almost knocked something down, but the cashier rescued it. It still made a loud noise. Mandy and I were chuckling with the cashier when the lady said, "Everything in this cafeteria is so loud, like when they push those carts..." I'm glad I wasn't drinking milk, or there would have been snortage.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Voice Response Question

Voice Response Units (VRUs) are ubiquitous these days. In fact, there is a popular web site dedicated to foiling these customer "service" devices. Irrespective of one's feelings on whether these are blessings or banes, there is one question that has bugged me for a while now.

It's become common practice for companies to advise their customers to "please listen to this entire message, as the menu options have recently changed." I've noticed that some companies seem to have this message for a very long time, or even permanently. Just how long should one keep up the "recently changed" message before people stop listening?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Search Terms

I keep getting the "one eyed kitten" search on a daily basis. The funniest one recently was "thank you one eyed kittens". Thank you indeed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Medicine

I heard yesterday that my great-uncle (paternal grandfather's brother) had a heart attack while in church yesterday morning. He went to the hospital, then they transferred him to as hospital in a slightly larger town. All reports indicate that he did have a heart attack, but the event was over by the time they did tests. Further reports indicate that he is "grumpy and wants to go home."

We're invited up to their place Saturday for a Christmas dinner. It's probably touch-and-go at this point.

Party Picture

This is a picture of the top of Baldo McNerdy's head. The picture was taken at the party on Saturday.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Not Quite Sugarplum Fairies

Last night I had a dream where I was seeing through the eyes of Bart Simpson. The Simpson family was in a position where they had to get a tractor trailer rig from one place to another. The tractor part was broken, so Homer was towing the whole thing with his car.

Grandpa Simpson was in the cab giving advice to Marge, who was steering. He was singing an old trucker's song about how to get past certain things you might see along the road. Some of his advice included the following. In the dream it rhymed.

If you pass by a cliff,
And it has one tier,
Throw ridiculous hammers
Over the edge.

If you pass by a cliff,
And it has two tiers,
Tap it on the side
With your knee.

If you pass by two dogs
Stuck together by their backs,
Get out your stick
And give them several whacks.

I'm not sure if they ever got to their destination, but since the Simpsons episodes usually reset at the end, I suspect everything worked out for the best.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

There'll Be Much Mistletoeing

It's the party season. M&M had a nice gathering last night, and we off to Mandy and Mr. Mandy's this afternoon. Son's Older Brother is coming over tomorrow, and then we've got a birthday party next week.

Quiz Time

Go check out this quiz. I got 31/33 (93.94%) correct.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Foto Phriday - Warm Weather

Here is a picture of some flowers that pop up in our flower bed each year. The plants don't have any leaves. The flowers shoot up, bloom, and die within about 10 days. GPop calls them "surprise lilies." They're pretty, but don't blink, or you'll miss them. This picture was taken on August 14, 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gone By

In high school, I had an English teacher who was either loved or hated by students. I fit in the former camp. He had a policy where he would scan any papers for spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors before reading for content. Each of the first three errors counted five points off. The fourth such error gave the writer an automatic 60% (our grading scale was such that 69% was the highest F grade), and he would draw a red line at that point and stop reading.

He had a wicked sense of humor that he sometimes self-censored, given that we were in a Jesuit high school in the 1980s. A couple of years after graduation, I met him for coffee and had a great chat. I found out then that he had spent some time years ago designing and making costumes for adult entertainers. He was really an interesting guy. He passed away around 2000 or so. The obituary said something about donating to the American Lung Association, so I think I can guess what led to his death.

At the time, teachers could smoke in their department offices. In my junior and senior year, I would sometimes hang out in the English office with some other geeks. They had a couple of computers that we could use to type papers or whatever, so I brought in disks with Infocom text adventures and would play during study hall or lunch with my friend John. Sometimes, we'd see this teacher reading papers or the paper. He'd point to his desk at the refreshments and say, "Coffee and cigarettes... breakfast of champions."

Ah, bygone days...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Missing in Action

In the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, I saw a gossip magazine with the headline

Kevin Federline
MY LIFE WITH BRITNEY.

I think there are three words {qq/my,life,with/} that could be individually surrounded by quotation marks to make this much funnier.

Check out Jen's similar remarks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Just Overheard

Coworker 1: ...and I don't know if you know.

Coworker 2: Do I want to know?

Coworker 1: I don't know.

Truth at the Bottom of a Bottle

I had a dream last night where I was with a group of people in a very long museum. The building was about as wide as a normal building, but it must have been more than a mile long. The building was set up so that if you viewed it from the one side, which was all glass, it would look like the people inside were characters in a platform 2D video game.

The big attraction at the museum was the world's largest glass bottle, which had some weird mathematical properties, sort of like a Klein bottle.

Immortal Libertarians

The only certainties in life are death and taxes. Join the Immortal Libertarians Party!
--Unknown

GPop received a letter from our state's tax department yesterday (Motto: "Just like the IRS, only less efficient and less friendly!"). The letter said that GPop had not filed his 2007 income taxes in early 2008. It told him to respond within 30 days with one of these options.

  1. You filed your taxes with a different SSN. Tell us this and we'll look into it. We promise we won't send the state troopers to your house to arrest you for fraud. Really.

  2. You filed your taxes. Everything's cool. We must have lost the paperwork. We're totally ready to accept this option and admit we made a mistake, as long as you send us copies of every bit of paperwork and provide us with a time machine so we can go back and watch you file back in February or whatever, you big pants-on-fire liar.

  3. You didn't file your taxes, so you owe us a big pile of money in late fees and interest to help us meet our balanced budget requirements for 2009, since our governor and legislature can't work together to balance the budget, given that they appear to have some kind of partisan blood feud going on.
GPop had done the worksheet part of his taxes in H&R Block's TaxCut program. Then he used our state's free online filing web site to file. We received a refund about three weeks later, and we thought no more about it.

When we were investigating last night, though, it turns out that we were shorted $41 on GPop's refund back in March. I don't think either one of us paid any attention to the discrepancy, since both of our refunds appeared on the same day. Also, we can't find any confirmation PDF of GPop's state filing on that web site. When we went to the site to login, it didn't recognize the combination of GPop's SSN, DOB, and mother's maiden name. Curiouser and curiouser.

We'll see what the department says when GPop calls this morning. I expect that we will receive several rolls of red tape as a holiday gift.

Translations

Would the Spanish translation of Cheez Whiz be "queso rápido" or "queso inteligente?"

Por que?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Season's Greetings

I bought Santa hats for my team and passed them out with holiday greeting cards today. I think everyone laughed and had fun. We're doing our holiday party/lunch on Thursday, and I suggested we wear the hats to the bowling alley.

Grading

I know a couple of academics read this blog. This post is specifically for you. In honor of your first term finals weeks, which may have happened or may be coming up soon, I'm going to bring up the issue of grading on a curve.

There's one kind of straight curve where you take the highest scoring test in a class, then add the difference between that absolute score and 100% to everyone's score. So, if Jane was the highest scorer and received a 94% on an absolute scale, everyone gets 6% added to their absolute score. BORING.

Or you could grade on a bell curve and force the majority of the students to receive some average grade in the B to B- range. TEDIOUS.

Why not grade on the more entertaining French curve? FUN!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Training

GPop and I have to attend a certain number of hours of training each year to keep our foster/adoption certification current. This doesn't affect Son's status with us, but it allows us to adopt another child if we want.

We went to a class called "Building Assets: A Positive Approach to Helping Kids Succeed" yesterday. The class was based on information and research from this organization. Unfortunately, the class was only three hours. The first hour and a half was a persuasive lecture to convince us that children in foster care or in an adoptive placement had suffered a traumatic loss. Duh. The second half was a quick overview and small group activity to come up with ways to help children succeed, like "do activities with them," or "listen to them when they want to talk."

I'm a bit torn by this. The incredibly basic level of the class is almost an insult to me and parents I know, but at the same time, some of the parents in the class appeared to be experiencing some kind of epiphany.

The instructor was a counselor of some kind with a Ph.D. D. Min. He mentioned an intriguing fact that now, more than any other time in history, children are placed with grandparents in kinship fostering or adoption, because the birth parents are unable to care for the children. I asked him if we are seeing the trend continue such that if generation 1 is taking care of generation 3, does generation 2 take care of generation 4, or is generation 2 essentially lost as parents, with generation 3 parenting as generation 2 should have. He got a little flustered and told me that he didn't think we knew anything about that. I stopped asking interesting questions.

Also, during the group session, I took The Marker at the Whiteboard. All those years of facilitating meetings really paid off.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Parents With a Great Sense of Humor

Go here. Click on Cary's Bio. I only wonder if he has any siblings named Terrence or Theresa.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Foto Phriday - Furry Edition

Which is creepier, the Furry Junior or the Corporate Furry Lite?

Notice the American Idol toy in the background of the Furry Junior picture, and also notice the "Total Cost of Quality" poster in the background of the Corporate Furry Lite.



Another One?

We went to an adoption celebration last night. There are a couple of organizations that put together a big party each summer and winter to bring together prospective adoptive parents and available children. We were able to meet and observe some children and speak to some social workers and foster parents about our family and whether some of these kids might be a good fir.

Son is very excited. He really wants a sibling in the home. I know he still wishes that Son's Older Brother had chosen to be adopted into our family, but our current visit schedule does keep the boys in touch.

Anyway, more updates as events unfold.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More Stupid Google Ads

The URL says "2 min IQ test". The ad copy says that the test takes 1 minute. I think something is amiss. Click to embiggen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sticker Shock

We took Son to the orthodontist last night for an evaluation of his teeth and a discussion of options for braces. The "sales" lady, named Debi, reminded me of one of the Nora Dunn/Mo Gaffney characters in Drop Dead Gorgeous. Her percussive "HA!" laugh had to be in triple digit decibels.

Son also talked about wanting a dirt bike. After a discussion on good teeth for life vs. recreation for a summer, he backed off a little on that line of inquiry. We may still be open to a used one or something, but the teeth are expensive.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Walmart Bingo

Check out the new little gadget I wrote and installed in the sidebar. It was inspired by a post over at Life on Planet Bill. It's good to know I can still write HTML. I tried to write it as a Google Gadget, using Javascript, but that got too complicated for my attention span on Sunday.

Perfect Comic Timing

At one of the Thanksgiving meals we attended over the long weekend, I was near the grazing table with Brother 1, talking about miscellanea. We were playing a game called "What Will the Dog Eat?" which involves taking small bits of all kinds of food and seeing if the dog will eat it. This dog is the kind of dog that will lick a spot on the floor where food used to be for at least 30 seconds after the food is gone.

One of the dishes was water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and cooked in some sort of magical way until they are bacolicious. Brother 1 dipped a fork into the greasy liquid and let the dog lick the fork. Then he dipped the fork in again to feed the dog more.

I scolded him. "Did you just put dog germs in there?"

He replied that I should just shut up, because a) the things were cold, b) there were only a few left, and c) he had put the fork in the side of the dish where there were no pieces left, and germs don't migrate that quickly. "Just don't tell anyone," he said.

Just as he finished the word "anyone," a relative-twice-removed walked up to the table and asked, "Don't tell anyone what?"

"Oh, nothing."

Relative-twice-removed asked, "What are these?" and popped one of the bacon-wrapped water chestnuts into his mouth before either Brother 1 or I could say anything. I looked out the window and refused to make eye contact with my brother so we wouldn't laugh too hard.

After a few seconds, I told this story about Aunt Wild's dogfood-eating party guest. Relative-twice-removed and Brother 1 both laughed loudly, but I suspect for different reasons. I think I need to do some kind of penance, but I'm not sure what.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bummer

As of yesterday, none of my translations of commonly-searched-for phrases have made a tick mark on Feedburner. Drat.