Friday, March 30, 2007

Thursday Adventures

Well, we survived our adventurous Thursday with much less trauma than initially feared. Kara was able to get an appointment to have her PICC line replaced yesterday afternoon. It was one of those "we'll fit you in" kind of things.

I worked during the morning, and then left around 11:30 to go meet Kara in Dallas. Her visiting teacher Kristin agreed to watch the girls after school, so I wrote up a couple of notes and took them to the schools. I made the mistake of addressing Anna's note to her, and her teacher told her to put it in her folder and take it home to her parents. Fortunately I had let Anna know it was likely (but not certain) that Kristin would be picking her up, and Kristin found her before she got on the bus.

The hospital is across the street from the clinic, but since they are undergoing renovation parking is scarce, so I left the car at the clinic and drove Kara over in the truck. To help with the parking situation, they have free valet parking. That was pretty cool, except that I managed to lock the door as I was getting out. The valet was able to track us down, and Kara still had her keys, so a potential crisis turned into a non-event.

The hardest part of most doctor visits is waiting, and this one was no exception. The waiting rooms, like most of the world, were full of decor and occupants that Kara reacted to. The general admitting waiting room was especially bad, so we found some relief in the hallway. Once we made it to the Radiology room, she did a little better, probably because it was less crowded.

I was able to work for about an hour and a half while we waited, and once Kara got in the replacement went very smoothly. The PICC line enters her arm just above the elbow, and travels through a blood vessel up her arm and empties out right above her heart. The last time she had it replaced, there was some difficulty going around the corner at the shoulder, but this time the replacement went like a charm.

On the way back, I drove through a pretty strong thunderstorm. There were reports of traffic backed up all over the metroplex, but I was very fortunate to have only a few delays.

Looking back, there are so many points where yesterday could have turned into a disaster, but we were truly blessed that everything turned out as well as it did.

More rain and storms today, so let's hope and pray our good fortune continues.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Leak

I was awakened at 3:00 this morning by a wet bed. It's not what you think. I wish it was.

Kara's PICC line has a crack. This is the line that she gets all of her IV nutrition through. A crack is not good. TPN leaking on the bed is not good. It smells.

This has happened a couple of times before, and she has been able to get it replaced each time. We don't anticipate any problems getting it replaced this time either, with the possible exception of scheduling. Being a Thursday, we are praying she can get in before the weekend.

I'll most likely go with her when she has it replaced. The girls are OK with this - they have a list of people they like to stay with.

I'll post more when there is more to post.

UPDATE: It is likely we will be able to get in this afternoon. More as this story develops.

UPDATE 2: The doctor will work us in this afternoon. I need to be there at 1:00. Kara's visiting teacher will have the girls this afternoon. They will either go to a t-ball game or watch thunderstorms through the window.

UPDATE 3: The operation was a success - the easiest PICC line changing to date. There will be no details at 11. I'll be asleep. The full story will have to wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Remembering an Old Friend

My sister Karralee sent me a text message last night asking if I remember Carlene Okimoto. I replied that I did, knowing that I was in for some bad news.This message came way too late to be of the "guess who I saw today" variety.

Details are short, but apparently Carlene died of complications from childbirth on Sunday.

I knew Carlene from high school, where she was a year ahead of me. We were both in the band, and I remember dancing with her at a church dance or two. I never met her husband, Vaughn Mossman, but I ran into her a couple of times at Wal-Mart while we still lived in Utah. She looked good and seemed happy.

The passing of a friend is always a time of reflection and remembering. In trying to find a little more information about her death I came across the Kahuku Class of '85 website. It was fun looking through the pictures, and seeing more old friends.

Good-bye, Carlene. I am glad to have known you.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the official obituary.

UPDATE 2: This is a link to a story run by KSL. It's quite touching.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The One Acre Workout

I mowed the lawn for the first time yesterday. Actually, I mowed the front yard, because I only had an hour. Years ago I bought a Black and Decker CMM1000 cordless electric mower for our 1/3 acre lot. It was perfect - easy start, no emissions, relatively quiet - like a large box fan.

I was concerned about the time it would take to use a push mower on an acre, but then I changed my thinking and decided to look at the job as exercise rather than a chore. Suddenly I have the perfect setup - Cardio because I need to hurry and get done; the steep rise in the lot makes for a perfect Stairmaster; Resistance from pushing a 75 lb mower up and down and all around.

I wonder if my company's gym reimbursement program will cover part of my mortgage?

I got the grass cut (correction: I got the weeds bent over and scratched up) before the rains came about an hour later. There was some thunder and a little lightning, but mostly it was just a constant soaking rain that lasted until bed time. It was the kind of rain that made the gardener in me smile. Until I reminded the gardener that there are only about two dozen plants in the whole yard that are there on purpose. The rest are, um, wildflowers.

Oh, well.

Somehow I managed to end up with both girls in my bed at around 3:15 this morning. Anna came in because she had a bad dream. Alyssa came in because I was there. I snuggled them both as best I could in the little twin bed I have, but as soon as all ten fingers started to tingle I put them back in their own beds.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Q: Did you ever come up with a name for your dishwasher?
A: Yes. We have decided on Pawelu.

Q: Wow, that's not very flattering. Is it really that bad?
A. Well, the top rack comes off track about every fourth job, and the insulated front panel falls off once in every ten times it's run. Also, if the bottom rack is pulled out all the way when it's full, then the whole thing tips out (although this is really an installation issue). Mostly it's just annoying.

Q: OK, so if the dishwasher has that many problems, why not just replace it?
A: Because at the moment there is no room in the garage.

Q: I don't understand what the garage has to do with a dishwasher. Please explain.
A: Well, about six months ago I bought a range, microwave, and refrigerator. As of today, only the range is in the kitchen. The other two are still in the garage, trying to offgas enough so that they can come in. The only reason the range made it early is because it has a self-clean cycle that was run daily for several weeks, helping it offgas faster.

Q: That still seems like an awful lot to put up with from an appliance.
A: Oh, I don't really have to deal with it much. Emptying the dishwasher is Anna's job. Besides, if she's ever going to become a serious actor (and I'm delusional enough to think she might), then she will need to overcome plenty of trauma in her youth to give her depth of character.

To hear her squawk, Pawelu is providing that quite nicely.

I'm the Inspiration :-)

I got an email over the weekend from my longtime friend Nicole. She's been following my blog since the beginning, and has finally decided to cross over into the blogosphere herself. (Way to go, Nicole!)

A little background: I've known Nicole since Kahuku High (or was that Laie Elementary?) and her husband Princeton picked pineapples with me on Lanai. Princeton is currently deployed with the military overseas, and Nicole is holding down the fort at home.

I enjoyed reading Nicole's blog, and look forward to many more posts. While their situation is much different from ours, the significance of the challenge and the methods of coping seem to be very similar. Nicole is able to share her experiences in a refreshing "choosing to laugh instead of cry" style, and if you've managed to stick with my blog this far, I'm sure you'll enjoy reading hers.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Family Movie Night Review - High School Musical

We finally left the Dark Ages and rented High School Musical (WARNING: this link plays music) for our family movie night on Friday. It was, um, musical.

This show was a Disney Channel Original movie that has managed to become popular beyond it's roots. The music was fun, the message was good, and the cast was easy on the eyes. Apparently that's what matters most to the target demographics for Disney Channel Original shows.

There are a few bits of the story that resemble reality, but true to Disney Channel form, most of the situations are not remotely believable. I suppose that's appropriate, however, for a show where entire groups of people sing and dance instead of speak. This is a musical, after all.

My favorite song was where the entire student body sings about keeping the status quo, which they are doing because they don't think the basketball team captain should be singing in a musical. Oh, the irony!

In all, it was a pleasant show, good for the family. Just don't expect too much reality from story.

I did buy the soundtrack, however. For Anna, of course.

Happy Birthday Andrew!

Each day for the last week, I have had the following conversation with Alyssa:

"Dad. Andrew party, today?"
"No, Andrew's party is on Saturday."
"Ohhh! Please?!?"

Well, Saturday finally came, and as far as I could tell it was everything Alyssa had hoped for. Andrew's parents had a big Clifford bounce house and Elmo decorations all over the place. Alyssa was Andrew's little shadow, following him wherever he went and doing whatever he did. They had a great time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Princess Persnickety's New Shoes

Anna, aka Princess Persnickety, had worn out her shoes. Mere days away from duct-tape worn out. It was time to buy some more.

My friends, shopping with Anna is not a task for the faint of heart.

To prepare for this arduous journey, we began with a hearty meal at the Cracker Barrel. This dining selection was the result of the clever marketing campaign that sends coupons for free kids meals home with good report cards. Since fourth graders don't go out to eat alone, one $4 kids meal sucks in an entire family.

Ingenious. I'll have to make sure my restaurant copies this program.

Alyssa ate all her meal and half of mine. Our waitress got a tip bump for preventing Anna from pouring cider vinegar on her pancakes (thinking it was syrup). I was dismayed to find that
Weatherford still allows restaurants with smoking sections.

Once we were fully energized, we began the quest for shoes. I won't bore you with details, but it involved four stores, and at least a dozen pairs of shoes tried on and rejected. We finally found some Reeboks that worked.

These Reeboks are the same shoes that Kara has worn exclusively for at least the last 12 years, so they must be doing something right. Anna's shoes are only 4 sizes smaller than her mom's, though. This is sure to cause some confusion. They both store their shoes in the same place, too - "somewhere in the house." (And seemingly never the same place twice.)

To celebrate our successful hunt we got some ice cream at Wal-Mart and picked up a Wiggles video for Andrew's birthday tomorrow, as well as a couple of other things. We went to the self checkout as usual, and I let the girls scan everything. I usually do it myself when there are people waiting behind us, but last night I let the girls take all the time they wanted to.

It's not that I had anything against the young couple behind us. It's just that I wanted to see if they would ever figure out that there were three other self-serve checkouts with nobody using them.

They didn't.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What-a Wednesday

Here's the run-down:

I resolved what is hopefully the final issue with an old driver for a product release that has been over a year in the making. Working on this project has been a lot like smacking roaches - for every issue I fixed, it seemed there were two more to take its place. The biggest problem was a nebulous product spec that seemed to keep changing (although the customer insists it never did).

Mr. Reyes offered to pay cash for my truck. I don't know Mr. Reyes, but apparently he wants to take my truck to Mexico. He must just drive around looking for trucks. It was like email spam that came to my door. He was very persistent, too. I didn't ask how much, because the truck is the "safest" vehicle we have, so Kara uses it to go back and forth to Dallas. He finally left.

I got to drive the truck for an hour tonight. I got gas and returned a video. I also tried to go to the storage unit to get some stuff to fill the garage back up, but the storage unit keys didn't make the trip. They came off my keyring just before my last airplane trip. No sense in trying to take more metal through security than necessary, I thought. But thinking for myself caused me to waste an hour. It wouldn't have been so bad if I could have driven with the top down.

I finally got caught up on the laundry. I've found that the hot-and-cold weather of spring means that sweatshirts with jeans and t-shirts with shorts all get worn, and I can get away with doing the laundry less often. As long as nobody runs out of underwear.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

DST and the Golf Lobby

I have come across information that needs to be shared with America, and you will only hear this in the blogosphere. You can be darn sure this won't be reported by the mainstream media.

While I have known for a long time that Daylight Savings Time is not really about saving energy, I haven't fully understood the dynamics behind it until now. I had assumed, like many of you, that it was all about politics. Daylight Savings Time was a way for politicians to be able to claim they were helping with the energy situation in this country, while steering away from the difficult decisions that might really do something.

Now, everyone knows that it takes much more energy to get kids ready for school when it's dark outside. And don't even get me started on how much energy it takes to put them to bed while it's still light! No, any energy saved on the bottom half of the clock is quickly used up on the top half.

So clearly Daylight Savings Time is not about saving energy. And it is such an extreme nuisance that I couldn't quite believe it was done strictly for political posturing. And I was right. Today I learned what Daylight Savings Time is all about.


That's right. DST is the pet project of the ultra-powerful Golf Lobby. I have learned from my source, the very reliable lady across the street, that golf leagues throughout America have teed up early this year, thanks to the accelerated start of Daylight Savings Time. Well, maybe not in the golf leagues in the Northeast. But certainly here in Texas.

The Golf Lobby is powerful in this country, and has lawmakers from both parties
planted firmly in its cart. And seated right next to them is the club-swinging media.

Friends, this is a conspiracy that runs long and deep, with a wicked dogleg to keep the average person in the dark.

Until it's time to go to bed. Then the average person is kept in the light.

So whenever you drive past a golf course this summer, just remember that the extra hour of sunlight that's burning up your lawn was caused, in part, by those guys wearing the funny pants.

Back in the Swing of Things

Life is now back in full swing. The kids have started back to school, and I've started back on my diet. The salad thing didn't work. I mean I'm sure it helped, although I still gained two pounds on my trip. What would have happened without the salad thing?

I was a little concerned about getting the girls ready for school yesterday, as it was the first time in over two weeks, and the first time since DST hit. Fortunately, both girls requested they be allowed to get school lunch, and I agreed. Not making lunches saves me about 20 minutes in the morning.

Plus, I understand full well that even an extra helping of love mixed into a tuna sandwich can't compete with pizza.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Religion and Architecture

We met in our new church building yesterday. It's finally finished. No, this isn't the replacement for the one that burned down. The church was already in the process of building a chapel in Azle, the town just north of us. I think it's a Phase 1 building, which means that it was designed for a small ward. The chapel has about 12 rows of pews. To accommodate our rather average size ward, all three overflows were opened.

It's a nice little building. Standard early 21st century LDS. It looks just like so many other buildings I've been in, and after meeting at the Church of Christ for several weeks, it was a bit of a letdown.

Not that it isn't a nice building - it's actually quite a bit nicer than the other church. It's just that it's so unoriginal.

Now, I understand why the church has a little folder full of blueprints that they use over and over again. A
s many buildings as they build, it would be prohibitive to come up with a new design for each one.

But I also believe the old saying about variety being the spice of life.

There are as many churches here in Texas as there are in Utah. Maybe even more. The biggest difference is that most of the churches in Utah are cookie-cutter chapels, and even the non-LDS buildings seem to have come from a similar mold.

Not so in Texas. Around here, church is big business. The competition for attention includes both size and style, and there are some very large, very interesting buildings. And even those that aren't so big have their own individual style. Some are quite nice. Some gaudy. Some are just a trailer with wooden cross bolted to the side. But there is significant architectural diversity, which is refreshing.

Which brings me back to the chapel in Azle. The irony here is that since none of the many other Texas churches look like an LDS chapel, the building designs that are so uniform in Utah actually add to the diversity.

OK. I've decided I like the little building after all.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

From A Child's To-Do List

While cleaning the living room today, Kara found a piece of paper with a to do list written by one of our children dated 11-26-06.

I am not making this up.

Get boredgam from teacher/play at Familey Home eveing
Have Familey Home evening.
check e-mail
worok on England broshur
Ask Mom/Dad if the Crismas Fairy is coming tonight
Dect for Cris.
Preper lesson
Throw a fit because of Cristmastree Decor

A Serious Batch of Lemonade

I managed to make lemonade from some of life's lemons today. It has been very frustrating not to be able to use the kitchen cabinets, especially after all of the time we spent sealing them. But they don't work, and that's that.

So today I worked really hard and got most of them installed along the walls of the garage. I hung three cabinets on the wall, and put lower cabinets underneath them. There is now a lot of storage that I would have never paid for, but these were a sunk cost so I put them to use.

Another failed project was the purchase of formaldehyde-free MDF to use under the bar in the kitchen. This was before I fully understood terpenes, and it turns out that the glue is OK, but the wood fibers themselves are a problem. I had two 8 foot sheets of 3/4 inch board, which I fashioned into counter tops.

This was such a fun project! I was able to use all of my power tools - both drills, the circular saw, the jig saw, the router, and the shop vac. The only tool I didn't use was my new Ryobi rotary tool. It's still in the box. But now I don't feel so bad about opening it, because I have a place to put it.

While any claim that the garage is now organized would be wrong (and laughably so), I can without hesitation say that it is much less disorganized.
And I did it all myself!

There is the small issue of the toes on my right foot, however. It turns out that 3/4 inch MDF is quite heavy, and as I finished ripping one piece longways, both halves fell toward the middle and landed on my foot. The two littlest toes are now an amazing shade of purple. I'm pretty sure they aren't broken, though. And even if they are, my experience with broken toes is that doctors can't do anything but say "Yeah, that's broken. Bummer."

The day ended with Kara's famous St. Patrick's Day dinner. On the menu this year was Irish Stew, soda bread, coleslaw, and Green Goodness smoothie. Yum!

I think I'll go see if there's any more soda bread left.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Our St. Patrick's day has gotten off to a pretty good start. We've managed to dig up some green for everyone to wear. This is very important to the pre-teen crowd, so I'm glad (and a little relieved) we could pull it off.

Alyssa gave me a nice surprise this morning. While I was in the shower, she had gone to my room and picked out some clothes for me to wear - a pink long sleeve dress shirt and khaki shorts. I thanked her profusely, but decided to stick with my green t-shirt and denim working shorts.

The garage is on my hit list for today. I hope to get at least some cabinets up off the floor and onto the wall. We need the floor space to bring more stuff from the storage unit.

The guy FINALLY came to fix the water heater yesterday - only about two weeks late. But it was worth it. The tank was full of mid-Cretaceous seabed, and that had caused one of the elements to short out. Hopefully our new water system will help reduce the sediment problem, but I foresee a number of tank flushes to get rid of the stuff that's already there.

I'm having an interesting breakfast today. It's called a "Nobody else will eat this cereal and I'm tired of looking at it in the pantry" medley.

It's not really worth giving you the recipe.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dallas Day Trip

We took a family road trip to Dallas on Thursday. Kara needed to meet with her doctor and wanted me to come along. With it being Spring Break, we thought it would be fun to make a day of it and bring the girls as well.

When it was time for the appointment with the doctor, the girls and I waited in the waiting room instead of just going back to the exam room like we were supposed to do, so we almost missed the meeting. But I finally wondered where everyone was and managed to find them before it was completely finished.

There is still a movement afoot to shut down Dr. Rae, and Kara was concerned about her TPN as she is still heavily reliant upon it. The current fear is that his license will not be renewed later this year. He assured her that even if his license is not renewed, there are other doctors in the clinic who can keep her TPN coming. Prayers on the doctor's behalf are always welcome.

For lunch we picked up pizza and ate at a nearby park. The weather was great, although the ground was really muddy. Strangely enough, Alyssa asked to go for a walk on the footpath instead of playing on the equipment. This is probably due to a very large white dog that she saw on the walking trail that she wanted to meet up with. There was no hope of catching the dog and its people, but the walk was very nice.

For our afternoon together, I thought it would be fun to take the girls on the DART train. They like riding on the train, and for $2.25 total we could get an air-conditioned tour of Dallas.

I fear I may have been a bit deluded when I came up with this idea.

Due to some questionable accounting practices, Anna felt she had earned enough money to buy a new Barbie fairy. She had planned on making her purchase that afternoon.

I let her know that I did not believe she had earned enough, and that in any case I was not going to waste my afternoon shopping for toys. She spent much of the rest of the day sulking.

The train was fairly crowded until we got into downtown, so we had to stand for a while. This did not help matters at all. We finally were able to all sit together, and I thought it was fun to watch the city go by.

Alyssa was a little more well behaved, but she fell asleep before we were halfway through the ride. By the three-quarter mark, both girls were sleeping on me. Oh, well.

Kara finished at the clinic just in time for the freeways to go into afternoon rush hour stop mode, so we picked up dinner at Panda Express in order to wait it out. I think Alyssa is getting ready to grow - she is eating like a horse.

After dinner we went to Half Price Books. I've seen a couple of their store fronts, but I've never been inside one. The one we went to was HUGE! Imagine a Jelly's the size of a small Wal-Mart. Maybe not quite the same character as Jelly's, but very similar inventory.

I explained to the girls that this was an all-day kind of store, but we only had a half hour. It wasn't hard to find a couple of books for each of them.

We'll have to pay them a visit again sometime.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

The other day, as the girls and I were out looking for fossils and I found my umpteenth petrified sea urchin, I decided that our homestead needed a name. That name, of course, is Sea Urchin Ranch.

"Find your own fossils at Sea Urchin Ranch." It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

I doubt I could charge admission, and I don't really want a bunch of strangers traipsing through our back yard scaring the bunny and tearing up the, um, wildflowers. But friends and family are always welcome. There are plenty of fossils for everyone.

I've never been big on naming things that don't have a face. The one notable exception is Polu Manini, the little Ninja 250 I bought a few years ago to commute back and forth to work. That bike was a lot of fun, and she was really manini with the gas.

I could ride in the carpool lane, which I thought would be a great help. But the lane didn't go all the way to my exit. Traffic usually moved well until the carpool lane ended, and then everything jammed up. Plus I often had to drop kids off on my way to work and/or pick them up on the way home, so Polu Manini spent too much time in the garage.

I hope she is having more fun at her new home in Vegas.

I used to name my floppy disks, back when I used Macs that had a floppy drive. And I used to name all of my music mix tapes. I mix CDs for my kids, but they're all named "Fun Songs." I think we're up to Fun Songs 14 now.

Other than that, naming inanimate objects just hasn't been a high priority. Maybe I should get the girls to help me. I bet they'd have fun.

I think I'll have them start with the dishwasher.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring has Broken

Spring Break is now in full swing. Yesterday was a working day for me, though, so I invited one of Alyssa's friends to come over. McKenna is a little girl that Alyssa knows from both church and school, and Alyssa has been begging us to have her over to play. When they got here yesterday afternoon, Alyssa ran up and gave her a hug so big she almost knocked her down. I don't know that either Kara or I has ever gotten that big of a reception.

All three girls played great together, and I even called McKenna's mom to ask for a time extension. They played trains and blocks and watched a video, and McKenna scored big time out at the "Find Your Own Fossil Farm." (More on that in a later post).

It was a bear getting the girls down last night. Alyssa managed a nap in the afternoon, and neither one of them is adjusting very quickly to DST. (I almost used my own words for the acronym, but then I remembered that this is a family blog...) Alyssa ended up in my bed not once but twice.

I took the day off today so the girls and I could go out and do some things together. Our first stop was the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility, where we saw millions and millions of dollars. It was pretty neat. Alyssa got bored pretty quickly, and kept asking me when we were going to the dinosaur museum. Anna got into it, though.

We got up fairly early, because I thought with it being spring break, the place would be pretty busy. Not so, at least not an hour after opening, which is when we got there. The next tour group was about double the size of ours, so maybe the place got busier as the day went on.

We then went to the Ft. Worth Science Museum, where busy would be a gross understatement. In all the times I have been there, I have never seen even a fraction of the people. There were easily 300 people waiting in the regular line for tickets to the IMax, and another 50 or so in the "Member's Express" line. We waited for about 10 minutes before one of the workers figured out that we only needed the little exhibit stickers, so she went and got us some.


There is a new exhibit, with a bunch of things from the "Attic" that haven't been on display for a while. Anna thought it was great. Alyssa was just upset that the bubbles weren't there any more.

Also today, we picked up the new Barbie movie. I haven't seen it yet, but the others have all been surprisingly watchable. The folks in charge put forth a real effort, and it shows.

Anna was lucky to watch it all the way through, as we got home just before a very heavy thunderstorm cell blew over. I was sure the power was going to go out. The sky didn't quite turn green, but it was an unpleasant shade of aqua. That was one teaching moment I let pass - Anna is terrified of tornadoes, and I don't need her freaking out every time the sky goes dark. I hope she does OK this summer...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Catch Up on the Run Down

Remember that comment from yesterday about having extra time today?

I lied.

I made out a schedule, and somehow I started the day nearly two hours behind. I'll blame it on Daylight Savings for now.

OK. The Weekend Roundup. Last Friday, I finally got to do the prints that I went all the way to Alabama to do - there were hardware issues before that. The computer and the printer were in different buildings, so I ran back and forth with the files on a little flash drive.

I pushed my departure for the airport until the last minute, so I could try and get done what I needed to. Due to a fuel leak with my plane, I could have pushed it a little further. We got out an hour late, but trimmed that to half an hour, so I was able to make my connection in Houston. Even more surprising, my luggage also made the connection.

Saturday was my birthday, and it got off to a good start. Kara made a breakfast pizza which went over very well. We got some work done, but not too much.

Anna had been invited to a birthday party sleepover. I told her my birthday party would be a sleepover, too, but she chose her little friend instead. Maybe if I'd rented a bounce house for my party...

Alyssa and I went shopping to spend some of my birthday money. I got a Ryobi rotary tool (like a Dremmel). I've been looking at them, but could never really justify the purchase. Then we had dinner and I roughed her up a bit. We used to play rough all the time, but Anna's so big that I'm afraid she'll hurt me again, so I don't even try unless it's just Alyssa.

We did my birthday celebration yesterday with a really good angel cake and strawberries, then danced before bedtime. It was fun.

And that's fifteen minutes worth of summary.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Happy Birthday to ME

Yes, my birthday was yesterday. I'm not forty yet, and I can still say that for another year.

I had a good day, and a good weekend. There was no time to post - I was too busy celebrating. Yeah, that's what I was doing.

But tomorrow I will have time to write more. It's spring break, which means the girls won't be getting up until a little later, and I can let them bum around in their night gowns and feed them "snackle pop" for breakfast and basically let them run amok while I work, and that makes my morning much less hectic.

Afternoons are another story...

The New Litmus Test

Forget the economy.

Forget the environment.

Forget foreign and domestic policy.

Forget social and cultural and moral issues.

From now on, I will vote for any candidate who promises to end Daylight Savings Time.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Casual Dining

I went to Chili's tonight for dinner. I knew they'd have a good salad (I chose the Grilled Chicken Caribbean) and some good people watching. Plus, I always like to pick up ideas I can use in my casual dining restaurant chain. The one I plan to open with the proceeds from my ten-book Young Adult Science Fiction series. Yeah, that one.

A couple of nights ago I picked up a Subway sandwich and ate it in my room, and last night I ate at the hotel next door. There were only four other people in the place, and that's counting the cook and the waitress.

So tonight I was feeling the need for people. Not people to sit at my table and expect me to interact - I get to do that at lunch with everyone from the office here. And not little people who need me to cut things and take them tee-tee three times during the meal. No, just people I could watch and enjoy while hanging out in my own little world. I don't get to do that very often, and every once in a while it's kind of nice.

That "once in a while" is just about done, though. As nice as its been to work hard all day and blog hard before a good night's sleep, I'm looking forward to going home tomorrow. I miss my family, and I'm told they miss me too.

Plus, I need to get home before Saturday. That's the anniversary of my 21st birthday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

My Girls

Here is a picture of my girls. No wonder I'm always so tired!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Delusional Workout

One of the few nice things about business trips is they give me the chance to do things I don’t normally get to do. Things like play my ukulele, get a full night’s sleep, and in tonight’s case, get a little exercise. That’s right, folks. I actually used the work-out clothes I brought with me this time.

Not only did I walk both down and up the stairs, (hey – I’m on the fifth floor, OK) but I managed to slog my way through a mile and a quarter on the treadmill. I’m pretty proud of myself. With an historical perspective, however, that was really pretty lame.

But it’s better than nothing.

Several years ago I did quite a bit of running. I ran 2-3 days a week, and did OK in a handful of 5k and 10k runs around the valley. I was even delusional enough to try training for a marathon. Don’t laugh! I made it as far as the 14 mile run before I hyper extended my schedule and had to quit.

But that was two years and twenty (!) pounds ago. I still consider myself a runner – I’m just waiting until I have time to start back up again. And don’t tell me I have to make the time. I’m just starting to make enough time to sleep close to eight hours at night. Without sleep, my motivation’s shot. And without motivation, well, you know.

But I’m trying to be good on this trip, especially with the things I eat. I even stopped at the grocery store this morning and picked up some produce for snacks. Hooray for me! I’m actually delusional enough to think that if I order a salad at every restaurant and eat carrots in the afternoon, I might loose weight before I go home. The rational side of me understands that the best I can hope for is to break even, though. But that’s better than the alternative.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Moonlighting as a Travel Writer

My morning started out bright and early at 0400. Having successfully packed everything last night and still getting to bed at a reasonable hour, I was able to be on the road by 0430. My first stop was historic Dallas Love Field. Being the frugal traveler that I am, I parked in the B garage, which allowed me the chance to enjoy the Garage Pedestrian Concourse Artwork. As a worker in the digital printing field, the image-changing murals are of particular interest to me.

I was counting on long lines at the Southwest ticket counter to give me the chance to get my paperwork in order, but there was no waiting so I had to quickly dig out my confirmation number. When I checked my bag through to Honolulu last December, the girl called her coworker over to see the tag - I guess HNL doesn't come up very often. My ticket to Birmingham today wasn't nearly as interesting.

I remembered to stash my pocket knife in my suitcase before checking it, so I didn't have to throw this one away. I handed the gal at security the wrong boarding pass. It had a large 'A' on it, and the other had a large 'B'. 'A' comes before 'B', right? No, that was my Southwest boarding section assignment.

It was too early for any logic that complicated.

I made sure to go to the bathroom twice before we boarded, because I hate having to use the lavatories on the plane. I boarded with group 'B' and found a nice window seat near the back of the plane, sat down and instantly had to go again.

Fortunately, the flight from Dallas to Houston lasts a whole of 60 seconds - I'm sure the flight crew was wearing roller skates as they rushed around picking up drink cups almost as soon as they were handed out. I'm surprised they didn't just run up and down the aisle with the squirt bottles like football coaches use.

I was excited to fly into Houston Hobby Field. I had seen pictures of the stately old terminal, and I just love the historic architecture. There was a big mural next to Wendy's that showed the old terminal as it looked in the '50s, with a flight crew headed out to an old Martin 404. Ah, the Golden Age of Aviation when only the well-to-do could afford to grace the halls of the airport.

There is a new terminal at Houston Hobby Airport. It's fancy and modern and laid out so that you have to go through security to get from one terminal to the other. You can rest assured that the well-to-do flyer of the '50s would have balked at the indignities of this Federally-mandated hazing ritual.

But I digress.

I soon had all of my clothes back on and found myself working on (gasp!) work while I waited for my next plane. I found that the bathrooms in terminal C are much better than the ones in terminal A, so I guess the odyssey was good for something.

The miles to Birmingham seemed to fly by (so to speak) as I buried myself in my C++ code. I succeeded in breaking the driver that I was working on so bad that it has taken several hours to fix the damage. I'm sure that somehow this was caused by trying to use the silly little pointing stick mouse-thing with my elbows tucked in to my side.

When I got to Birmingham, I was able to retrieve my luggage and get a rental car without much hassle. However, they must have just sprayed the car with some smelly stuff, and after working so hard at building a clean environment at home I found this to be really annoying. So I rolled the windows down to let the car air out. The cool breeze felt nice and the smell dissipated nicely.

When I got on the freeway, however, the noise of the wind was too much, so I put the windows back up. But then the smell got too strong, so I put the windows back down. Then I remembered the earplugs in my pocket that I always use for flying, so I put those in, and that worked. Except that I had to turn the radio up rather loud, and the cool breeze was becoming downright cold, so I had to turn the heater on. This setup lasted for about 50 miles.

I had a really lousy salad at Hardee's for lunch, which I ate with a spoon because it was easier than using a knife, and I only got lost twice trying to find the company I'm visiting, and my hotel room is nice but the wireless internet is flaky, and I had a better salad for dinner at a place called Rosie's Cantina but it's nothing like that place in Haleiwa, and it's getting late and I'm really tired and I think it's time to go to bed.

I hope I can sleep - if not I'll just get up and blog some more.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

School Carnival and Trip Prep

This weekend was the big school carnival at Aledo High School. The girls had a great time. Here's Anna throwing a roll of toilet paper into a toilet. It was a lot of mayhem and smelly little toy prizes. We went out into the foyer once to give Alyssa the chance to "decompress." She's gets overwhelmed with crowds pretty fast. I don't blame her.

She wanted a cookie, but they didn't have cookies for sale at the concession booth. So she opted for on e of the big pickles. I cut her off a bite, which she chewed for about 5 seconds and then spit out like it was bee stinging her tongue. I kind of expected that. What surprised me was when she wanted a second bite. I gave it to her, and she had the same reaction.

I took a couple of bites, but I don't really like pickles. I was only eating it because I didn't want to waste it. Why do we do things like that. I quickly realized that I didn't care about the fifty cents the thing cost me, and in fact I would have gladly paid another fifty just so I wouldn't have to eat it. So away it went.

I'm working on getting ready for my trip to Alabama tomorrow. This means that I have made a list, but probably won't start packing until after the girls go to bed. I sat down to print out all of my confirmation emails, but got distracted by my blog.

See what you made me do?

By the way, I found my emails. It turns out that according to Prism, y'all are a bunch of spammers. That's why the pictures of Uncle Jay's birthday ended up with the emails about fake Rolexes.

Shame on you!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Christmas in March

Alyssa seems to be doing better, but I've decided to keep her home again today. She made it through the night without coughing, but she still managed to make it into my bed sometime. It's usually about an hour or so before the alarm goes off, so I just snuggle her until it's time to get up. (Alyssa snuggles are very therapeutic - just ask any of her aunties or grandmas.)

However, when I woke up stiff from laying in the same position for too long, I decided to check the time - 3:58. OK, that's enough snuggle therapy for one night. I got Alyssa back in her bed then dreamed of trying to get the girl's lunches ready in an office break room kitchen where someone had left a bunch of cheese fries on the stove burner. Fortunately, the alarm went off just as I started cleaning up the mess, so I didn't have to deal with it.

I have enough problems without having to clean up someone else's cheese fries.

I've decided to keep Alyssa home again today - her cough sounds better, but not quite good enough. Plus, there's some really nasty things going around school, and so even if my delusions are right and this is just allergies, she would be more susceptible to everything else that's out there.

Unfortunately, the DVD player has officially bitten the dust, so keeping her entertained will be a little more challenging. I got a lens cleaner at Wal-Mart yesterday, but it hasn't made any difference. I wish we could get the player repaired, but most places won't touch them. Their minimum diagnostic fee is like $60, and a new player can be had for less than $40.

In the meantime, I finally got the VCR hooked up. We replaced many of our videos with DVDs, and most of the tapes we still have are in the storage unit. The exception to that is our bin of holiday videos. That will have to do for now.

Have a Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Vangelis, Hisaishi-san, and Ala Moana

Yesterday afternoon, my iTunes was playing Vangelis. Pre-"Chariots of Fire" Vangelis. The old stuff. In my younger days, Vangelis was one of my favorite musicians, along with Weird Al and Walter/Wendy Carlos and PDQ Bach. But those are artists for different stories.

I became familiar with Vangelis through the soundtrack of
Cosmos, which was a favorite television show from my geeky youth (not to be confused with my geeky mid-life). The soundtrack, which I received for Christmas one year, used several of his songs, and I nearly wore it out. I loved his music, and I wanted more.

But, aside from Chariots of Fire, Vangelis wasn't available at Pay-n-Save. Or Sears, or Longs, or Holiday Mart, or any of the regular chain stores found on Windward Oahu. For something like Vangelis, I needed to go to Honolulu and the House of Music.

There were probably other record stores on the island that carried Vangelis, but the House of Music was at Ala Moana, and that was important, because I could get to Ala Moana on TheBus. Plus, the House of Music carried sheet music, and was next to a bookstore. How cool was that?

Ah, memories.

I went to Ala Moana last December. It was very different. I was pretty sure the House of Music would be gone, but I wanted to look anyway. It was. The bookstore and the coin shop and many other familiar stores were gone, too. In their place are high-end shops that cater to rich Japanese tourists. Ala Moana, the biggest open air shopping center in the world, is bigger than ever. I think it's lost much of its charm. Such is often the price of progress.

It made me sad.

But my trip to Ala Moana in December wasn't merely for sentimental reasons. I was on my way to Shirokiya, the Japanese department store, to buy a CD.

In the last few years, I have discovered the Japanese composer and pianist Joe Hisaishi. I've bought everything of his I could find on iTunes, but there is really very little of this prolific artist available that way. Some of his CDs can be found online, but because they are imported from Japan they are selling for $30-40 each - too rich for my blood.

However, I remembered that Shirokiya had a section of books and music in their store, so I went to Ala Moana to see what I could find. After a few minutes of hopeless searching and a little help from a salesman, I had what I was looking for. At a reasonable CD price.

And so yesterday, as I sat listening to Vangelis and entertaining twenty year old memories of musical pilgrimages, the irony of that purchase suddenly struck me. Even while I was lamenting the
absence of the House of Music, I was once again at Ala Moana looking to buy music that I couldn't find anywhere else.

The more things change, the more, oh, you know how it is.