Thursday, May 31, 2007

Becoming Legal At Last

Prompted by the fact that the truck's Utah plates expire in 14 hours, I have finally made the leap and gotten it registered in Texas. While I was at it, I got my Texas driver's license, too. A few days past the required 30, but that's all behind me now.

Let me tell you, I was shocked - SHOCKED! - at how smoothly this whole process unfolded. The total time for this little adventure was 75 minutes. That includes filling out forms at not one, but two government agencies, thirty miles of driving, and a clandestine stop at a convenience store for a bottle of liquid stamina.

The only real downside to this whole thing is that I had to give up my Utah license, which had a much better picture than I could ever take now. This is due to 20 lbs of stress baggage that, while no longer growing, isn't yet shrinking as it should. (Sigh)

I also chose not to get the motorcycle endorsement on this license. It was an extra $15, and that's just more than I was willing to pay for something that provides little more than vanity at the moment.

However, if they would have offered to transfer my old picture to the new license, I would have paid $30 for that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Delusion With a Fake French Accent

Near the end of "The Pink Panther" (the 1963 original), Inspector Clouseau is being cross examined in the trial of The Phantom.

"How much does a police inspector get paid? Enough to buy your wife a $10,000 mink coat?"

"No, of course not."

Then "We know for a fact your wife spent at least $30,000 on clothes during the past year."

To which, in all sincerity Clouseau deludedly replies "Sir, my wife is very frugal. She saves out of the housekeeping money."

This little exchange cracks me up every time I hear it. Unfortunately, it sounds an awful lot like my plan for the summer.

Somehow I'm going to keep two little girls entertained all day while fulfilling my obligations to my employer, keeping up with a house in perpetual remodel, and maintaining an acre lot with a battery-powered push mower. All of this is in addition to sleeping a full eight hours every night, spending quality time with my wife, and taking a few hours each week, just for me.

I'm going to do this by frugally scheduling my time.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How Soft Are YOUR Paper Towels?

Passive Aggression

While running errands yesterday, I found myself at the grocery store. After buying the things we needed (and a few that we didn't), Alyssa and I made our way back to the car.

I was extremely annoyed to discover that a minivan had taken the spot next to ours, and the driver (who will remain free of adjectives because I'm trying to watch my language) had parked at such an angle that their rear passenger tire was completely inside our spot, and there was no way I could have backed out straight without hitting them.

I toyed with the idea of backing
out straight anyway, but I had every reason to believe that our car would receive the greater damage. Deflating the tires was considered, but with my luck such a discourteous driver (oops, that's an adjective, isn't it) would probably also be inattentive, and they would get on the freeway, lose control, and roll the van into a school bus.

So I opted for opening Alyssa's door hard. Really hard. Then, since it was difficult to get the door open very far, I bumped it while getting Alyssa in her seat. Then bumped it again. And again.

I closed Alyssa's door and took a second to admire my work. I was disappointed to see that the resulting scratch-and-dent would probably never get noticed. It was plenty big - the biggest on that side of the van. But it was also just one among many.

As I sat down in the driver's seat, I thought again about deflating a tire (I could have done it while sitting in the car) but decided that I needed to let go and move on.

Move on so I could get home and write a blog about it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Movie Review: Shrek the Third

Today was early out day for the girls, so I took the afternoon off and we went to see Shrek the Third. I present now a review from not one but three points of view. (How deluded is that?)

The Computer Graphics Geek in me loved this movie. Technically, it was amazing. The quality of the graphics was stunning, and the characters were more life-like than ever before. I remember being this impressed with the first Shrek movie, and again with the second. The effort Dreamworks puts in to improving the technology behind each new film is obvious, and in this they succeed completely.

This movie adventure also marked my first trip to a theater with digital projection, and the quality surpassed anything I have ever seen in my admittedly sheltered life. Now that I have experienced digital projection, I may never watch a movie on film again.

The Aspiring Writer in me was less impressed. The first Shrek had a great story to go along with the technology and humor. I felt the story in Shrek II was not quite as strong, but still pretty good. The story in Shrek the Third was downright weak in many places. It should have been much, much better.

Probably the most important review, though, comes from my Father of Young Children alter ego. Watching the movie with my Daddy Hat on, I thought it was really good. Not great, but worth the time, effort, and expense of taking the girls for an afternoon out.

In spite of the weak story, the show had plenty of entertainment value. Quite a few good laughs, exciting action, and nothing inappropriate (in my humble and deluded opinion) make this a worthwhile show.

I'm sure we'll add it to our DVD library this Christmas.

How People Find My Blog

Today someone found my blog by doing a Google search on how to get onto webkinz world without a webkin.

Shame on you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rambo Fairy

Anna's home sick again today, so she had me go to the 50% off book fair at her school to buy some books that she wanted.

She made a list. One of the books on the list was "Rambo Fairy." I finally figured out that this was her creative spelling for "Rainbow Fairy," but the mental image just would not go away.


The Latest Distraction

I have come across a fantastic website called chordie. It is loaded up with chords and lyrics for what looks like thousands of songs. If you play a fretted instrument, you need to check this out.

Not only does this site provide a large quantity of songs, but it shows chord diagrams for nine(!) flavors of guitar, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. In addition, the chords are in a format that allows for automatic transposition, which is incredibly helpful for a fat-fingered beginner like me with a lower-than-average vocal range.

Now instead of "Six Little Ducks" all the time, we can all sing Weird Al's Yoda.

Stay tuned for details on my new CD, The Deluded Ukulele: A Collection of Non-standard 80's Standards.

(Release date not set.)


Update: Chordy.com has Tom Lehrer!

Time for the Bus

It has been a goal of mine all school year to get Alyssa to the bus on time. She gets a special bus on a dedicated route, and it comes right to the end of our driveway. At 6:45 am.

This has not been easy.

However, during the last week or so, I have finally managed to have her ready for school and out in the driveway when the bus arrives. Now that there are 11 days left in the school year, we have it figured out.

Alyssa likes to run up and down our driveway, pick up the pill bugs and throw them into the grass. This is what she was doing this morning when I heard her bus coming, so I called to her to come. She came, with her hand on her crotch. "Tee-tee," she said.

Now, the bus ride is 45 minutes long (I'm told she sleeps both ways) and so there was no way I could put her on with a bladder that needed to clear. So I explained our situation to the bus driver and packed her into the house like a sack of potatoes.

We took care of the business at hand, but just as I was about to help her finish up, I heard the word that strikes fear into the heart of every parent in a hurry.

"Poop."

This kid has the best timing! But, as you can see by the picture, we finally got everything taken care of and sent Alyssa off to school for another exciting and educational day.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blame it on Allergies

It's a quarter past seven, and both girls are sound asleep in their beds.

I'm not surprised by Alyssa. Taking a nap just in time for dinner has been one of her favorite tricks for quite a while now.

But Anna, that's another story. She stayed home from school today with a low-grade fever and a general not-feeling-well sensation. Her nose is a little runny, and there's a little congestion in her chest, but not really much more than that.

I've also had a bad case of the grumpies - the kind usually reserved for when I'm 2-3 hours short of sleep every night. But I've slept well the last few weeks, meaning I've gone to bed on time. I really don't feel sleepy. Just tired and run down and ambivalent and apathetic.

Fortunately, Kara made plans to stay home this week when I thought I would be going to the southern hemisphere, and even though I'm not traveling she's decided to stay home most of the week, anyway. Which was a big help today with Anna.

I'm hoping it's just allergies. I've concluded that some very interesting (and not necessarily pleasant) experiences I had last time we lived in Texas were probably allergic reactions to the many microscopic things that fly around in the air. Experiences like dizzy spells and panic attacks, which went away when we moved and never came back during the ten years we lived in Utah.

At least this time around, we know an allergy doctor.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The thing about big kids

From Anna's Words of Wisdom -

"The thing about big kids is their shirts have more room to write things on."

Friday, May 18, 2007

You Look Like a Spitter


It was field day for the Aledo ISD elementary schools. This is where all of the elementary school kids from the three schools in the district (two grades at a time) all gathered at the middle school field and played.


Second and third graders came in the morning. I found my way over there to see Alyssa. She was having a great time with Mrs Yates, who helps her most of the day at school. I stayed to watch her play a quick round of Yard Golf.

She golfs like her dad. "I'm going to hit this ball as many times as I can."

The bigger kids took the field in the afternoon. Here's Anna with her teacher, Mrs Riley.

I didn't just go to field day to take pictures of my kids, though. I went to help out.

A note came home on Wednesday, begging for volunteers for the afternoon shift. I'd worked some long hours earlier in the week, so I decided I could take some time and help.

I was assigned to the Seed Spitting game.


I didn't tell Anna I was coming, and she was very surprised. She managed to send her seed 18 feet!

This wasn't the most popular of events, so I had to put my best sideshow caller routine together, and coral up some participants. I hope I don't get sued for calling non-spitters "chicken."

So, how do you like the bright orange shirt? A couple of years ago my company modified our logo, and the marketing department was giving away all of the trade show shirts with the old logo on them.

Amazingly enough, there were a lot of the orange shirts left.

This orange happens to also be the official color of the Aledo Independent School District. Which means that when I wear it, I'm no longer the solitary nut wearing bright orange.

I'm one of several hundred nuts wearing bright orange.

More Disappointment and Relief

We got an email yesterday telling Anna that she was not cast in the Miracle Worker. It was a very kind rejection note with good, constructive feedback.

Neither Anna nor I were surprised or upset by the news. It could have been a grueling schedule, especially if I actually end up traveling for work this summer.

As it turns out, though, it was a good (inexpensive) learning experience in many, many ways.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go

I had been selected for a trip halfway around the world. I got an email telling me so.

The email came from my boss's boss, so I knew it was legit. He's too busy running a large development team to send out spam.

But something about this offer didn't quite seem right. I would be going to help out at a trade show in Australia and do some training in Taiwan. However, I'm an engineer who writes printer drivers, and there was no driver development work associated with this trip. Not that I have any problem with trainings or trade shows. I just didn't think they would want me to stop development work for a week and a half to do these other things.

Turns out I was right.

Now, a big trip like this comes as a very mixed blessing. It's hard to be away from home for a week or ten days, and the work that needs to be done doesn't go away. But it is nice to have a break and see new places and do new things.

And the 31 hours of total flight time had a certain appeal, as flying allows me to indulge my ultimate delusion.

But, alas, it wasn't to be. And just as the trip would be a mixed blessing, having the trip canceled is both a disappointment and a relief.

I hope I get another long trip someday, so I can report on the inflatable flight pillow I bought with the rest of my birthday money.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jump!


Here's the other half of Saturday. Alyssa had a birthday party for a girl in her class at school. After Anna's callback, we ran to Whole Foods because it was sort of almost kind of close by (closer than it is to our house, any way).

After that, we went shopping for a birthday present at the storage unit. We got a few George Foreman Play-Doh Grills on closeout a couple of years ago, and Alyssa thought it would be perfect for this little girl.


The party was at Jump-X-Treme, and both Anna and Alyssa had a great time.

Here's Alyssa with her teacher. She didn't want ol' dad to help out - only teachers and friend's parents.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Auditions and Call-backs

Contrary to popular belief, I have not decided to just rest on my laurels now that I have 100 posts in my blog. Quite the opposite, actually. This week has been among the busiest in a long time.

The irony is that with so much to write about, there is so little time to write.

One of the big things to happen this week was Anna's audition for a part in the Miracle Worker at the Artisan Center Theater. This is not the same theater where she had her class, and it is actually kind of far away - 30 miles or so.

But I came across the announcement for the audition, and I thought Anna would really enjoy it. If nothing else, the process of auditioning would be very good for her. I gave her the audition notice to read, and I expected her to be very excited and jump all over the opportunity. Instead, she was very unenthusiastic, which I didn't really understand.

I finally talked her in to auditioning. We went for the open auditions on Wednesday night, and nearly got washed away by a tremendous cloudburst. One bolt of lightning struck so close that Anna thought we had blown a tire.

There were several parts that Anna could have read, but she chose not to for one reason or another. While other kids were reading three and four times, she only read once - the scene with the blind girls in the school.

I was quite disappointed in her lack of enthusiasm, but tried to remind myself that this was for her, not for me. I figured that we would chalk this one up to experience.

However, I got a call on Thursday asking Anna to come for a callback Saturday morning. I talked to her a little bit more about the play, hoping to build up her excitement level a bit. Turns out she didn't really read the audition notice, so she had no idea what the play was really about. Once I read it to her, she was (almost) as excited as I had thought she would be.

She read two scenes for her callback, and then we left for a whirlwind Saturday of which I hope to post more later. I think she did pretty well, although there were quite a few other girls that also did well.

I think if they double up the roles (there are 17 total performances) then she has a pretty good shot. If not, she's got some experience that will help her at the next audition.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fired!


Every eight hours, Anna can do a job in Webkinz World. She uses the Webkinz Money she earns to buy things for her Webkin, Cecilia.

Virtual things, fortunately.

This morning she didn't have time to do her Webkinz job, because I had her unload the dishwasher.

Could I please do her Webkinz job, she asked?

Sure.

My job was to make hamburgers that matched the picture. I though I saw two pieces of lettuce. I kept trying to add two pieces of lettuce. My burger kept getting rejected.

I got fired.

Sorry, Anna.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

100 Postings of Delusion


When I submitted my first blog posting 120 days ago, I had no idea just where this whole thing would go. I had simultaneous visions of awards, acclaim and thousands of readers, and the whole thing fizzling out after three posts.

T
he results have been somewhere in the middle, as they usually are. While I haven't posted every day, I think I've done a pretty good job at highlighting the important aspects of our lives as well as putting out some general thoughts and musing.

This marks the 100th posting to the Fifteen Minutes of Delusion blog, and to celebrate I'm going to take a cue from self-important sitcoms and issue a retrospective. I've picked 10 posts that have some significance in the evolution of this blog, and present them for you now in the order in which they were written.


1. The Hazards of Being Fast. After reading this blog posting, Anna was extremely angry with me, meaning this is the first posting with any controversy.

2. Sometimes the Solution is Hard Liquor. This post has had quite a few hits. And it has come in handy for quite a few people, which is one of the many reasons I started writing in the first place.

3. Vangelis, Hisaishi-san, and Ala Moana. I worked very hard on taking a very abstract idea and putting it into readable form. It was a good exercise for me, if nothing else.






4. Moonlighting as a Travel Writer. I got quite a few comments on this post, although most of them were verbal. I think anyone who has ever taken a trip can identify with this one.

5. Dallas Day Trip. The reason we're here in Texas is so Kara can get well and we can be together as a family. This post describes one of the little payoffs in this adventure.




6. Remembering an Old Friend. Many people were caught off guard by the sudden and unexpected passing of Carlene Okimoto Mossman. I was very touched by the number of people who found their way to my blog by searching for information about this great woman.

7. Return of the Crunch. I have as yet to earn any money from my blog, but by writing about my activities in this blog I got an idea that saved me quite a bit.

8. Al Qaeda Children's Cartoon. This was just a little joke I thought up, but it got quite a reception.

9. A Texas Tradition. I've been working very hard trying to help my girls appreciate Texas, and pictures in the wildflowers goes along way towards that end.







10. Anna's Tuesday Adventures. Anna worked very hard at her acting class, and that hard work really showed during the performance. I was very proud of her.


Of course, there are ninety other posts that didn't make this list. If you have a favorite that isn't listed here, let the world know by posting it in a comment!

Report Card Bragging

Anna came home with a landmark report card this Friday. All of her grades for the past six week period were 90 or above - that includes spelling!

Anna's spelling grade has been just in the passing range. She is very creative, and her spelling reflects that creativity. She comes by it honestly, through her father and grandmother (at least.)

I'm reminded of the words of Andrew Jackson, that great man made famous by the $20 bill. He said “It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word!”

Fortunately, I have technology to nudge me with little squiggly lines under non-conforming words, and a simple right click will give me all kinds of good suggestions. Fourth grade spelling tests don't allow for such luxuries, and so we've implemented a study and practice regimen that Anna has followed faithfully.

She's worked hard and made me very proud.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Open House False Alarm

The expected visitors to our house never materialized. The girl is in even worse shape than Kara at the moment, and was up sick all night and in no shape to drive the hour from Dallas. No matter, though. All of the work that we did was sorely needed. We even got the upper hand in the girls room, although it required a tremendous effort, and a significant number of tears were shed in the process.

The girls had their fair share of play time, though. They had a lot of fun making a "bubble" out of a fitted sheet. Anna would flip the sheet into the air to fill it like a parachute, then set it down on the ground. The resulting bubble lasted for a full minute or more, and was good for quite a few laughs.


Alyssa is actually under the bubble. Anna could also do it where both of them got underneath.

With today being Cinco de Mayo, I thought we should have a nice Mexican menu for dinner. After all, we have a special dinner for St. Patrick's Day, and Kara is always asking us what we want to eat.

Now granted, there's a lot more Irish blood in this house than Mexican, and Kara wasn't sure how well she liked the idea. But she soon came around.


The menu was a way north of the border interpretation, with Mexican Haystack filling stuffed into taco shells, with cornbread. On the slightly more authentic side (I think) we had a great cucumber jicama mango salad and guava nectar, which Alyssa loved and Anna didn't.

When it comes to eating, those two can be so different. It makes menu planning quite a challenge.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Quick! Take a Picture!

While it's clean, I thought I should take a quick picture of the bathroom. I really like the way this room turned out - especially the tile. This is the same tile we have in the girl's room - we had enough left over.

The Delusion of Discretionary Time

A month or two ago, I set up a schedule for myself. It starts at 5:30 am, when I get up to get the girls ready for school, and goes until 9:30 pm. From 9:30 to 10:30, I complain about how I'm supposed to be in bed already, but I don't need a schedule to tell me to do that..

My part of the day is scheduled for the hours between 7:30 am and 6:00 pm. At a minimum, eight of those hours are set aside for work, leaving me at most 150 minutes of discretionary time to do things like shower, eat,
blog, run errands, keep the washer and dryer fed, pay attention to the yard, and clean the house.

Now, naturally some of these tasks spill out into the after dinner time, but for the most part if I really want to get anything done, I need to do it during that so called discretionary time.

Today, my discretionary is being eaten by the steamer.


You see, I printed out the pictures of our house for Kara, because she wanted to show some people at the clinic who are in a situation similar to ours. As a result, we are now hosting an informal open house tomorrow.

Given the fact that I only have 150 minutes of discretionary time during the day, and I spend some of that blogging and some eating and some taking a shower, in the end the house cleaning doesn't always happen as often as it should.

We're not ready for visitors.

Kara does quite a bit of house work while she is home, and I give her credit for the fact that the house hasn't fallen into complete chaos and disarray. She does a great job at tidying and organizing, but when it comes to things like cleaning the bathroom, that's my kuleana.

So as I write this, the steamer is in the bathroom building up steam. It's a wonderful tool, and does a great job at cleaning without chemicals. But Kara still reacts to the hoses and attachments, so I will need to run it while she is gone. Like now.

I suppose it is a good thing that these people are coming, as my current time management system is based on Crisis Management Theory. The house really needs a good steaming, and now that it's a crisis, it's actually going to happen.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Look at the Kitchen

In honor of the fact that Kara took pictures of the kitchen last night, I thought I would post them, even though it is still a work in progress. It will continue to be a work in progress for a while, as most of the work still left to be done is cosmetic and therefore bumped in line behind some more essential tasks (like blogging).

First, a look at the "before" kitchen. Really, not too bad, except for that hideous wallpaper. But the cabinets and counters are nice, and the pantry was functional. But for our needs, it had problems.

The counter tops were laminate on pressboard, which doesn't work. The shelves in the pantry and trim were pine, to which Kara is very allergic. The oven was nice, but the stove top had open coils, which emit an odor when they run. And although we worked very hard to find a house with solid wood cabinets, and spent hour upon hour sealing them with a safe sealant, they just didn't work. So now they are in the garage.

Bear in mind that the changes we made were done for health reasons, and not aesthetics. However, I've tried my best to make things look as nice as I can.

The new kitchen features a green paint that wasn't quite the color we thought it would be, but it's going to be a while before we are able to repaint, if that's what we decide to do. The cabinets have been replaced with wire racks and shelving from the Container Store. They are working out much better than I had originally thought, at least so far.


The new counter tops are solid-surface DuPont Simplicity (like Corian). Strangely enough, this acrylic material is very inert once it is formed, because it is baked at such high temperatures. We also looked at concrete and granite, but we weren't sure about the concrete sealers they would use, and granite all contains some amounts of uranium, so that idea got vetoed.

In the end, I'm glad we went with the solid surface, as it was originally installed on the cabinets, and it was hard enough to take off and move to the racks. I'm sure the other materials would have been much more difficult.



The new stove is a Frigidaire glass top range. I ran it through several dozen self-clean cycles before Kara moved in, and it's working out great. This is the same range we had in Lehi, so I knew we would like it.

Of course, I have to wonder what kind of people we are, with an oven made by Frigidaire and a refrigerator made by Hotpoint. (Just a little appliance humor there...)

Still to be done - tile on the walls behind the lower racks, put the bar in place (it's laying upside down in the living room, where Alyssa uses it as a track for her trains), install the microwave/vent hood, and touch up the paint here and there.

And figure out how to keep Pawelu in his place.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Anna's Tuesday Adventures

Anna's Tuesday started out the way it usually does - with a CD playing in her clock radio. For the last few days, it's been Elmo. I heard her moving around, and heard Elmo singing, and was concerned, because my alarm hadn't gone off yet, and I'm supposed to be up half an hour before the girls, so I can get breakfast and lunch ready.I checked my cell phone/alarm clock to see why that was.

The clock said 12:14 am.

By the time I got to the girl's room, Anna was halfway dressed, and had already been in the office to check her email. Alyssa was fortunately still asleep.


A quick look at the clock showed that alarm 2 had gotten turned on, and was still set to the default 12:00 am. Why does the alarm always default to 12:00 am? Why not 6:00 am? That would make more sense.


Anyway, I convinced Anna that it was NOT in fact time to get up, and she should go back to sleep. She informed me that the internet wasn't working, and could I please fix it.

No. At least, not until after breakfast.


But an alarm clock false alarm could not dampen Anna's May Day. It was recital day for her class at Casa Manana, and it was great. Her class performed Charlotte's Web, and Anna was cast in the role of Fern. She did an outstanding job - the whole group did.

There were five classes that put on short (10-15 minute) performances, and Anna's teacher, Miss Christi, had taught two of the classes. The other class was Pre-K and Kindergarten students, and I was very impressed at how well they did.


One of the students in that class is the sister of Alyssa's friend, Andrew. We saw Andrew and his family in the parking lot before the recital, and they were both very excited to see each other. Alyssa sat between Andrew and I through the whole thing.