Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Much Needed Day Off

When asked what I wanted for Father's Day this year, my answer was "A day off." A day that I could go and do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about taking care of anyone or anything. Yes, that would be nice.

What happened instead was a trip to the ER to get Kara's PICC line removed, and the rest of the summer has been like riding an avalanche. So much for Dad's Day Out.

Last Thursday, I finally got my chance. Part of me felt guilty taking a day off while I was on a trip for work. But I still managed to work nearly 60 hours that week, so I made that little part shut up and go away.

My day started with a trip to Ikea with my mom. I've been to Ikea before, but the one here in the DFW metroplex is more than an hour away and involves one or two toll roads. I've only been twice, as for some reason the girls don't like the store. But this Ikea is 15 minutes from my mom's house, so I went three times.

15 minutes - that has a nice ring to it.

Anyway, after Ikea, I went to BYU with my sister. I spent a couple of hours in the library reading old Ke Alakai as research for my highly delusional creative writing project. My sister spent a couple of hours parking the car, as it was Education Week at BYU.

My buddy Jeff is now a professor at BYU, and his office is not far from the library, so we took a few minutes to visit with him before hiking to the hinterlands, where the car had been parked in the last free spot on campus.

I went with my mom and Ed to see Harry Potter V, which I enjoyed. I have to wonder, though - if I hadn't read the book, would I have been able to follow the story? I'm not sure.

Following the movie I had dinner with my dad. We visited late into the evening, which was really great. It's something we haven't had many chances to do lately.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Large Print Edition

Don't adjust your monitor. I made the words bigger on purpose.

Let me know what you think.

Back to School!

We survived the back to school adventure today! Anna's bus comes earlier this year, so she set her alarm for 5:55. She got right up, got dressed, then realized that breakfast wasn't for another 10 minutes and went back to bed. Alyssa got right up this morning, too.

Both girls were excited to ride the bus today, although Anna was the only one at her bus stop this morning. Last year the lady across the street walked down to the bus stop with her son and dog, so I felt comfortable letting Anna just go down by herself, although I would take the time to work in the garage where I could see her. I think the boy is now in middle school, though, so I may need to plan a few extra bus stop minutes.

We missed "Meet the Teacher" day because of our vacation, but Anna says her teacher is nice and it doesn't sound like she'll get too much "extra" homework.

Alyssa's Functional Academics teacher is new to her this year, although we know her quite well from last year. I put Alyssa on the bus, then drove to the school to take her supplies and meet her 3rd grade teacher. I got there right as the bus did. I thought that maybe I just should have taken her, but she loves riding the bus so much I couldn't really deny her that opportunity.

The homework tonight was brutal, and took me nearly 45 minutes to complete. The girls didn't have any for themselves, but they brought home dozens of papers for me to fill out and sign.

Now hopefully the excitement that got us through this morning will be around for a few more days.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Atlanta Airport Scavenger Hunt

I took the grand walking tour of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (with the heavy non-rolling bag). I was looking for my buddy Joe.

Joe is a pilot stationed in Atlanta, although he lives a few hours away in North Carolina. With my various Atlanta trips, we had been trying to get together for dinner. This trip, it looked like we might at least get an hour or so in the airport.

I hiked out to where I thought his plane was going to be at the end of the A concourse, but once they landed they were given a gate at the opposite end of the D concourse. So I walked and took the little train and walked again, then tried to find gate D37.

In the Atlanta Airport, gate D37 seems to be something like Platform 9 3/4. The signs are there for D35 and D36, then jump to D38 and stop. Looking out the window between D35 and D38, I saw a plane several hundred feet out on the tarmac, behind the plane parked at gate D38. That was it.

They had used the old fashioned roll-up stairs to deplane people, but that didn't really work so well for the lady in the wheelchair. So when I got there they were in the process of using the old-fashioned roll-up elevator to get her out. They then removed the elevator and pushed the stairs back so Pilot Joe could deplane.

What we hoped would be an hour or so of catching up turned into a five minute chat between gates. But I did manage to get a picture.

Back from Atlanta

My trip to Atlanta was a success. I was able to fix a few problems with the printer driver, and get a really good color profile. I did have a couple of red herrings to contend with, though.

First was the Mystery of the Small Dots. This printer, like most these days, can print with small, medium, and large dots to get a nice smooth image. My output was a bit grainy, and the person I was working with noticed that the small dots on some prints he did a few weeks ago had much smaller dots than those in my output.

So I tried to find why I wasn't using the smallest dots. I made sure the driver was printing different sized dots (it was) and looked all through the printer's command code manual, but I couldn't find anything.

After about two hours of research, another engineer from the printer company came in and said "Oh, yeah. I think that last firmware upgrade changed the size of the smallest dots to try and get rid of banding." D'oh!

Then there was the Layout debacle. This printer is a large flatbed that prints on sheets, and it is nice with these printers to be able to say where on the sheet you want the print to start. I wanted this for myself as much as anyone else, so I gave up my creative writing time and stayed up way to late Tuesday night adding this feature to the driver.

Unfortunately, the printer doesn't actually use the "move down" and "move left" commands, so I had to manually move the start point for each print anyway.

But in the end I had a working driver and a good profile, and I feel I did a good job with the political part of the visit, which was almost as important as the technical.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tales Of Travel

I made it to Atlanta last night. I had a protein-rich fruit smoothie in Salt Lake for dinner. It did not agree with me, and the disagreement only got worse at altitude. But I survived.

I changed planes in Denver. I had to get from gate 85 to 24, and the pull out handle on my roller bag no longer extends, so I got a pretty good workout.

I was able to try my travel pillow. It was only a two-plus hour flight from Denver to Atlanta, but I made myself try to sleep. The pillow would work better if it were about six inches taller, but in all I think it could be a big help on a long flight.

The rental car shuttle was at the curb when I got there, and I didn't get lost finding my hotel. The room was quiet and I went right to sleep. It was 1:30 am local time, but I didn't have to be to the printer company until around 11:00, so everything worked out well. I was able to do the work I wanted to when I got on the printer today, and I only ran into a few easily resolved issues.

I hope I haven't used up all of my good luck for this trip.

My hotel is right next to a Cracker Barrel, and it was nice to eat there without the girls. Actually, it was boring. But every once in a while boring is nice.

Speaking of boring, I have spent the evening here in my room working on a creative writing project I began about five years ago. At the moment, it is 342 words long. I think I had 500 words written when I started tonight. It has been as long as 15,000 words.

I'm afraid if I keep working on it like this, it's going to disappear entirely.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Flying Friendly to Atlanta

My on-again/off-again trip to Atlanta is on again. I leave in an hour. I get to fly on United, even though both Salt Lake and Atlanta are Delta hubs. With only two day's notice, Delta's non-stop flight is twice what United is, so I get to try out the friendly skies.

It's a late flight, so maybe I'll get to use my in-flight pillow. I arrive in Atlanta after midnight, but with a good rest I should be able to get there refreshed.

Yeah, right.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Drown the Worms!

All eleven cousins spent last night at Grandma's house. Jen and I were here to help as well. Alyssa slept with me. She at first refused to even consider that arrangement - she was going to sleep with her cousins. But when bedtime finally rolled around at much-too-late-o'clock, she insisted on sleeping with me.

At night she seems to grow two extra arms and four extra legs, and they all ended up in my back.

In the middle of the night there were some very loud claps of thunder. I expected all of the kids to wake up, but they didn't. Hooray!

This morning we went to Cabela's for kid fishing morning. The girls got hats and a packet of tackle.

It's a good thing they got the hats, because fish were hard to come by. But that's OK, because the cousins had a great time.

The worms are not expected to recover.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Traveling Circus Goes to Wal-Mart

I went to Wal-Mart tonight. We all went to Wal-Mart. Me and my three sisters and nine of the eleven cousins. We looked like some kind of non-traditional "that's what you get in Utah" family, only nobody was wearing dresses or bonnets.

I got a few things, and then stood in line. And stood and stood and stood. This was Wal-Mart after all. The self-serve check outs were all having problems, and the girl trying to run them was having trouble keeping them going. The next best thing was the 20 items or less checkout, even though the guy in front of us had AT LEAST 100 things.

No exaggeration. There were a lot of small things, but each one had to be scanned. We waited in line, as patiently as nine cousins can.

We survived, and made it home JUST in time for the premier of High School Musical 2.

Did I mention that 7 of the cousins are girls in the prime High School Musical demographic? A basement full of screaming groupies.

That's why the adults are watching upstairs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cousins, Cabela's, and the Bunny

On Sunday, my sister Jen brought her daughters, and the cousins got reacquainted.

Alyssa has been talking for weeks about seeing Quincy, but that's because she hadn't met McKenna yet. I still think of Alyssa as my baby, and when I see her with a real baby, I'm amazed how big she is.

Here is Anna with Adrianne and Sera. Everybody is just growing and growing.

And here is the whole crew set out for dinner.

Yesterday Alyssa went to the dentist. She had one tooth pulled and another got a crown. She had a "purple nose" for doing the nitrous oxide. It smells like grape.

The next time I take Alyssa to the dentist, I think I'm going to need the nitrous!

She was excited to go to bed last night. She said the "bunny" was coming. I explained that the Easter Bunny only came at Easter, and she was expecting a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

Tonight we went to Cabela's. After we took our turns at the shooting gallery, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the camping gear. Anna took the opportunity to announce very loudly that she didn't like nature and the outdoors.

At that point security escorted us from the building.

Not really, but I wouldn't have blamed them if they had.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Making Peace with the Past

We went to church with my Mom today. We are very close to our old home in Lehi, and Anna asked if we could please go to our old ward. The answer was an unconditional no.

I feel bad, because I know that Anna really misses her friends from the old neighborhood, and this would be a good chance for her to see them again. But I'm simply not ready yet.

I have no problem with the people in our old ward. They were great, and they helped us out quite a bit when we were in a very tight spot.

I tried to understand why this is such a problem for me, and have decided that I am just not ready to face such a stark reminder of the events of last few years. I am not ready to go by and look at the old house. I'm not ready to answer questions about our wellbeing over and over and over (as would happen at church), and I'm certainly not ready to face the people who bought our house.

I have nothing against the people who bought our house. We needed to sell, and they wanted to buy, and they gave us nearly everything we asked for. I am grateful that we were able to strike a deal.

But I believe the only way I've made it through the last few years is to grease the skids with a heavy dose of delusion. I've had to simply ignore the indignation and trauma, put on my brave face, and move forward.

I need to keep that delusion in place for just a little while longer.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Weighty Issue at the Airport

I have a big blue suitcase I like to take on trips. It can hold a lot of stuff. Too much stuff, actually.

Several times I have had to unload things from this suitcase into a carry-on or other bag to keep it below the 50lb weight limit. This has happened so often that this morning, I got the bag packed and then put it on the scale.

The bag topped out at 54 lbs. So, I started moving things around and after some serious rearranging managed to get the scale to read 49 lbs. I weighed three times, just to make sure.

However, I told the girls that I needed to weigh my suitcase first, just in case the airport scales didn't agree with ours from home. Sure enough, my suitcase weighed 52 lbs, and I started looking for things that I could remove.

There weren't many small, heavy things left, so I started to get worried.

Then, in one of the outside pockets, I found a large bag of rocks.

It seems that one of my children (who shall remain nameless because she is self conscious about this story) had decided to bring some of our larger fossils to show her cousins and had put it into my suitcase "by mistake."

We corrected this "mistake" right away, and my suitcase dropped down to 48 lbs. I still got an orange "HEAVY" warning tag stuck to my bag, but there was no extra charge.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A New Clue

The charge for the laptop hit my credit card today, so at least that part of the mystery has been resolved.

Now all that remains is who ordered this thing and how did they get my information?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

FedEx Delivers a Mystery

The FedEx lady came today. I thought she was bringing my order of dead birds from Blackwing. But instead, she had a shiny new Dell laptop, addressed to me.

Having FedEx bring a new computer was pretty cool. The trouble is, I don't know who ordered it. Dell says that I did, and the credit card information they gave me (last 4 digits) matches my card. But the credit card company doesn't have any charges to that card from Dell.

I asked my mom if she sent me a new computer, and she laughed. So did my dad when I asked him.

I asked my boss at work, but he didn't think a new computer had been ordered for me. Besides, I just got a new computer in January, and while it's not as small and sleek as the one that came today, it's a much better fit for my work needs.

I have to wonder if someone didn't try to steal my credit card information and buy them self a new laptop, but wasn't quite smart enough to have it actually shipped to them instead of me. But if I was going to use someone else's credit card to buy a computer, I would have bought the top of the line. This machine is nice, but it's pretty much entry level.

So for now, it remains a mystery.

Tales of Woe from a Freeway Garbage Picker

I found a buried treasure yesterday. Then I lost it.

I went to the storage unit to get some things. One of them was a binder full of email. Kara and I, both being computer geeks, had email accounts at school back in the 80s and 90s, and much of our courtship and early marriage was recorded in those messages. We printed them out when I graduated, and they were fun to read every once in a while.

I felt like they would be good to read again, so I looked up the binder on our packing list and found the box. Sure enough, it was in the corner, on the bottom. I probably should have given up at that point, but I really wanted to get that binder.

So I pulled out half of the big Christmas tree and a bunch of other stuff, opened the box and took out the binder.

I had the truck, so I got a bunch of other things that I needed, too. I didn't want the binder to get smashed, so I decided to put it in the cab, along with the first three Harry Potter books (for bedtime stories) and a box of Family Home Evening pictures. But the truck was locked, so I set these five items on the top of the truck to get my keys out.

I got the rest of the truck loaded, put away the little dolly, and headed for home. When I got there, I went to pick up the five items from the cab, and they weren't there. In a panic, I realized I must have left them on the top of the truck.

So I told Kara what had happened, and raced back to the storage unit, hoping they had just fallen off as I was leaving. My wish almost came true. There in the parking lot were the three books and the box of pictures. But no binder.

I looked all around the storage place before finally giving up. I drove slowly, looking for a binder or some papers or something. As I was getting on the freeway, I saw a lot of garbage. Then, in the median I saw what looked like green and white lined computer paper. The old style stuff.

This was a bad sign.

I took the next exit, circling back around through a maze of parking lots. When I was nearly to the onramp where I got on the freeway, I saw a paper blow across the parking lot. I stopped, got out, and recognized it as one of our old emails.

I don't understand how or why the binder stayed on top of the truck for two miles after everything else fell off, and why it had to fall at a busy freeway interchange. But I was determined not to lose all of this personal history.

I walked up and down the frontage road, examining each piece of paper I found. 4 out of 5 were mine. I collected as many as I could until dusk faded to night and I knew it was just not safe to wander along the side of the freeway any more. I think I probably recovered a third of the papers.

In hindsight, I'm glad it was just mushy old emails, (most of them as boring as the back side of the paper) and not credit card statements (I found one of those) or photocopies of checks (I found two of those).

But still, I'm very sad at the loss.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Counting down

We are now within a week of our big trip to Utah, and just over three weeks until school starts.

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

The girls, of course, are more excited about the trip than they are for school to start. For me, the trip and school are two parts of the same blessing. Just five more days, and I will no longer have to endure hour upon hour of children with unprecedented entertainment at their disposal complain about being bored.

They will complain that school is too hard, but that only happens first thing in the morning. And all evening. But the daytime will be mine. ALL MINE! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!


Of course, there is a great deal of work to get done in the next five days - packing, mowing, cleaning, laundering, working, shopping. I'm booked solid from now until the plane leaves Saturday afternoon.

And then there's the little excursion to bring the freezer from the storage unit. It's been there a year now. I really hope it still works. Yak is cheaper when bought in bulk, so we really need the freezer space.

Kara and the girls are in the kitchen making pumpkin bars, and it's probably time I check in with them.

Somewhere I have a business card identifying me as a Quality Assurance Engineer. Very handy when there are cookies to be inspected. Now, where did I put that thing.....

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Breakfast Non Grata

The other day, Kara showed up with what looked like a large tree root - knobby and narled, six inches in diameter, and at least a foot long. She explained that it was a Chinese Yam, and this morning it was breakfast.

She started the yam boiling, which is how she prepares most of her food, and sampled a little piece. It was extremely bitter.

She came to me in a panic, because this was her whole breakfast,
and it was terrible. Is that how it was supposed to taste? I couldn't answer her.

By the time I took a taste, the root had boiled for a few minutes, and it really wasn't all that bad. She tasted a piece that had been cooked, and gave a great sigh of relief. It now tasted more like a potato.

I tried to look up nutrition information, but most listings just described Chinese Yam as an Exotic Pest Plant. Lovely.

While we're on the subject of exotic foods, I ought to tell you that last night I had the "pleasure" of helping prepare a couple of squab. This is the fancy-pants culinary term for pigeon.

Now, of all my least favorite tasks in this world, picking the meat off of a poultry carcass ranks right up there with talking to telemarketers, and the smaller the bird, the less I like it.

So to try and make the job go easier, I sang a little song and did a little dance. It looked something like this.

In case you are curious, squab tastes (are you ready for this?) kind of like chicken.