Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waning hours of 2014

I'm having issues with my home network.  It works fine and anyone can come over to my house and connect their apple or android device and connect to my network.  Once I turn on my work laptop and connect, it messes up the network for everybody and I have to reboot everything.  Therefore I'm posting this entry as it is and will strive to write something more profound in 2015.

Today is the last day of 2014.  It's been a long year, that is for sure though it did seem to fly by especially once the twins arrived.  I don't really do New Year's Resolutions anymore.  I just strive to be in a better place each year than where I started, be it physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually.

We managed to get some things accomplished this year such as dealing with the big ugly hole in our backyard and selling my condo.  We also squared away the will and trust for our kids should something unfortunate happen to Nightingale and myself.

We also lost our cat Maggie this summer to cancer.  While I never expected her to grow up with our kids, I really wanted them to meet.  I like to think that at night when one of them stirs, it is because Maggie's spirit has snugged up with them in their crib.


Update on Moose and Squirrel

I did an unscientific measure of their weight by stepping onto a scale without them and then with them and it appears that Boris is 15 lbs and Natasha is 11 lbs. 


Some Stats

According to Daily Mile I've run 374 miles this year.  Even if I had the ability, I don't have the time to get a marathon in to bring that up to an even 400.  Last year I ran 702 miles and coming off knee scoping and wedding planning I managed 495 in 2011.  The truth is I've run less this year because it has been uncomfortable to run.  And when you run less, you lose your endurance in a hurry so that when you do go out for a run, you tend to cut it back from what you set in your mind (5 miles) to what you can reasonably do (3 miles).

I hope to get my knees looked at again next year and see if the doctors can do anything to alleviate the arthritic.  If they can, I will try to beef up my running gradually so that I can attempt a few of my favorite races like the Shamrock Shuffle and the Portage Park Fall into Fitness 5K.

Monday, December 22, 2014

How the hallway coat rack should look

One of my pet peeves is that this coat rack is usually cluttered with purses, bags and several coats even after building the Ikea Bookcase turned Coatcase last February. 


Another addition to the nursery

So this came in the mail the other day (sans the teddy bear).  Ironically we have our nursery set up in a similar manner as this ad.  Nightingale decided she needed something like this in the nursery.  We were using this over-sized chair we got from SIL but it was too big for the space and worked better in our living room, so we swapped with this smaller chair I picked up at a thrift store a lifetime ago.

I was able to get this relatively inexpensively at K-Mart/Sears and used my ShopYourWay rewards to chop off some extra dollars.  Final cost = $136.68.

I should have bought it as soon as I saw it on Brads Deals and would have saved more money but alas I had too much on my plate that particular day. 


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice the longest night of the year

But not necessarily the darkest.  It has been a very long weekend and a very long autumn.There is much uncertainty as we move toward 2015.

At work  I literally have nothing to do.  I drive 22 miles in the AM for 35 minutes, Maybe I dial into a meeting or maybe there is a quick issue that someone else could do if they weren’t being lazy, but otherwise I’m pretty much sitting at my desk and twiddle my thumbs until lunch.  I use lunch to get away from the negative atmosphere and the boredom.  Then I spend the afternoon waiting to go home because I don’t dare leave early for looks.  I get to drive 22 miles for 90 minutes in awful bad traffic and get home just in time for The kids fussy “witching hour” to begin.

It wasn’t always this way but things have taken a dark turn at the office.  I’m positive I saw a Dementor the other day!  I am looking of course but changing jobs isn’t as easy as changing dry cleaners so for the mean time all I can do is keep on going through the motions.
 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Scenes from my commute

Just for fun the other week, I used my car's trip feature to record the exact mileage from garage to parking lot at the office, taking each of the alternative options I have -- I really don't have that many choices.  I take the Kennedy to 294 to 88 on the way in.  I can either get off at 22nd or go all the way to Highland Avenue and double back on Butterfield Rd.  This option adds three more miles but can often be faster than dealing with the road zombies on 22nd/Butterfield who just are not in a hurry to make the next light least they get to work faster.

On the way home I can either take the Kennedy to Lawrence or Austin, depending on what level of a parking lot the traffic is flowing.  Alternatively I could get off 294 at Balmoral and trackback to Irving Park Rd and take that home.  No matter which route I take, my trip is essentially 23 miles door-to-door in one direction. 

When I get off at Austin, I usually take Higgins home and I often notice this stretch of shops that apparently throwback to a more vibrant time. 

One of the shops even has a free piano.  It just apparently needs minor repairs and 3 people to cart it away.  I was able to capture these photos during daylight hours because I'm on paternity leave this week, which will be followed by some PTO, holidays and some extra Appreciation Days off. My company decided to give four Appreciation Days to everyone so that they could supplement the days between Christmas and New Year's without burning through their PTO.  In fact we were encouraged to use enough PTO in order to be off from the 22nd to the 4th.  Speculation at the virtual water cooler is that since most everyone will likely take this time off anyway, it is a good move on behalf of TopFive to get the morale boasting points by giving those four Appreciation Days.

When I was single, I would work days like those because most people were going to take those days off and my workload would be so light, it would be a virtual paid vacation.  If I was feeling like a model employee, I could use the time to catch up on the little things that get tossed aside during the regular day-to-day grind.

These days I opt to take the time off.  My free time is more valuable than ever and there is more that I can do around the house than I can from within the confines of a corporate cubicle.  Especially since right before the babies were born, my boss decided to withdraw my work from home (WFH) privilege.  I didn't get a really good answer why he did it but said we could revisit the decision at mid-year review.  Since he gave his notice a couple weeks ago I have decided if I will request it again or just keep my head down.



Some more Scott Adams thoughts for filler

And even more interesting is the question of whether humans will someday prefer machine-based government over human control. I don't want some human telling me how to live my life based on his belief in magic. But I don't get angry at my ATM for only giving me the amount of money that I have in my own account. The machines will follow agreed rules and be predictable. I want a machine overlord, not some corrupt, drunken, horny, tired human that had a bad childhood.
-- Source

By magic, he of course means religion.  And by corrupt, drunken, horny tired human he can only be referring to politicians and Corporate Bigwigs like CEOs and Directors.

King Austin and his throne


















The greatest criminals who ever lived are not famous. The fact that they did the job so well means they never got caught or even noticed. The reality of crime and society's efforts to stop it is that if people are smart when breaking the law, it's comparatively difficult to catch, prosecute, and punish them. Fortunately for law enforcement and the general public, most people make dumb decisions when breaking laws. They act impulsively or fail to make sufficient plans, and most importantly people who commit crimes repeatedly eventually get greedy. As the dice get rolled repeatedly, the probability of being caught eventually approaches 100%. And people who find that they were able to skirt the law in a relatively minor way eventually get grander ambitions.  -source

I've always thought something similar.  I figured that if there were such a thing as the Perfect Crime the only way it could be perfect is if the criminal(s) could keep their mouth shut.  And the more that are involved the harder it is.  Three can keep a secret if two are dead and all.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How we feel about the Bears this year

Just when you thought the train wreck that is the Chicago Bears couldn't get any worse, they find a way to make pathetic look professional.  I wrote my two cents on ChicagoNow but whoever made this video is a genius. 




 http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Nyck4IP3ec4

Friday, December 12, 2014

Would I be guilty of Dibs?

So our house comes with a drive way, apparently a rarity for SFH in the city.  When we get heavy snowfall, people have taken to parking on the street in front of my driveway.

It was a mild winter the year we moved in so it wasn't a noticeable occurrence, but with last year's Polar Vortex and the large amount of snowfall we experienced, there were several times when someone parked in front of our driveway.

Since the city doesn't plow alleys, it is hard to get out of my garage from the back (I have garage doors on both sides, I know, another perk of the 1%). 

So the problem is this:  if I don't shovel my driveway, people might not realize they are blocking it when they park there.  [it's happened once and I'm gonna give the benefit of the doubt and assume it was because of the late hour -- during the day you'd have to be wearing a special kind of blinders to not notice the driveway you're parking in front of, snow or not.]

If I do shovel, including the street in front of it, people use it as a standing pad to pick up their kids and/or drop people off.  [Even in the summer a dude double parks there even though there is 1) a hydrant spot right next to it and 2) usually other parking a mere 20 yards in either direction.]

I can handle that, but I can foresee a situation were my wife or I are late for work and someone has double parked there while they run inside.  Yes it would likely only be for a few minutes but do I have to endure this because my neighbor is lazy or obstinate?  if I put something to block the driveway, am I guilty of Dibs?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

OverEngineered and Over Reacting

But at least we didn't flood this year:  Living in a 100+ year old house means there is always something that needs fixing, repairing or just simple routine maintenance.   While Former Owner did a lot of updating and upkeep, there are still things that need to addressed sooner or later.  Former Owner was a fire fighter and fire fighters have a reputation for also being part time plumbers, electricians, and other types of tradesmen.   (heretofore known as Tim-the-Fireman for reasons that hopefully will become obvious)

Angie's List had a Furnace Inspection, Cleaning, and Tune-Up  deal and I scheduled the service.  I bought the deal in late September because I figured I'd either need it for the condo since the buyers seemed finicky and likely to ask for it, or I could use it at our place.  Turns out, the new buyers didn't ask for a furnace Tune-Up after all so we got to use it.  Unfortunately, this is heating servicemen busy season so the earliest we could get on their schedule was the week before Thanksgiving.  
Or we'll be resigned to use this more often

This is technically our third winter in this home although really more like our second because we closed two years ago and didn't completely move in until the end of December and that winter was relatively mild.  Even then we noticed that the upstairs was so much hotter than the downstairs, which we attributed to the radiator heat.  I asked Sean the Serviceman if he could figure out the complicated thermostat Tim-the-Fireman installed because we couldn't.  It appears Tim-the-Fireman installed a very complicated zone system with a thermostat that is designed for multi unit apartment buildings, not a SFH.  The zone feature won't work because the radiators don't have the appropriate cutoff pieces and it would cost thousands of dollars to retrofit them.

The less expensive and faster solution is to have the guy disconnect the over-engineered thermostat and replace it with an ordinary Honeywell programmable thermostat.  I wasn't there when Sean made the call but Nightingale trusts him because he spent so much time trying to figure out how to re-program our thermostat on what should have been a short house call.  He even recommended purchasing a thermostat myself rather than pay the markup his company would charge (I checked and it is practically 100%).  I tried getting a wifi one but Sean says those won't work with our furnace so I'll have to go low-tech.  It's a shame because I figured it could talk to my Smart TV and have great debates with the Smart Washer Dryer we will eventually have to purchase.

*******
 There's no such thing as coincidence: A friend I use to know has converted her blog from Public to Private.  I cannot be sure what caused this decision -- maybe too much spam -- but I suspect it was me popping up for a visit last month.  I hadn't visited in almost two years and though my comment wasn't trolly, challenging or controversial (you'll have to take my word for it, because I cannot link back to it) I feel as if she just didn't like me being able to pop over and say hello like the rest of the interwebs.

The one used her blog as an open letter to her friends and she even helped me get this blog started.  But apparently our friendship eroded some time ago and it is much easier to lock the blog down than feign even a modicum of interest in maintaining the friendship.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

As is the custom of his people...

...Austin guards a fresh load of laundry.  Apologies for the grainy photos, it was hard to get a good shot of our cat while our kids were screaming bloody murder in the next room.  For some reason they just wouldn't go down for their naps this afternoon which made dinner plans at Wishbone with Katness and her husband a little hectic. 

And so begins our journey into being the parents that bring kids to a restaurant and have to deal with crying babies.  At least we went early enough to avoid large crowds and I did get up and take the kids outside (well out to their unoccupied tented off but heated area) whenever they were getting too vocal, which was roughly every 13 minutes on average.


























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Friday, December 5, 2014

Cannot wait to make my kids go to this

 CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS WORKSHOP
Prepare for the holidays with the PMA — Saturday, December 13, 2014
The PMA will offer a Christmas workshop on the art of ornament making, on Saturday,
December 13, 2014, in the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America Social Hall.
Morning workshop session – 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Afternoon workshop session – 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Workshop fees, which includes a free admission ticket to the Museum –
Adults: $15 & Children under 12*: $7
*All Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Please submit your payment and reservation no later than December 12th to:
PMA Christmas Workshop
984 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60642-4101
Or by phone: (773) 384-3352, ext. 2102.
Space is limited. Walk-ins may be turned away.
Please arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled session. Free parking available.
 

WARSZTATY OZDÓB CHOINKOWYCH W MPA,
 
sobota 13 grudnia 2014
 
Muzeum Polskie w Ameryce
984 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642-4101
Serdecznie zaprasza na:
 
WARSZTATY tworzenia polskich ozdób choinkowych
 
13 grudnia 2014, w sobotę,
w godzinach od 10:30 do 12:30 oraz od 13:30 do 15:30.
 
Koszt udziału w warsztatach z wliczeniem zwiedzania Muzeum,
osoby dorosłe: 15 $, dzieci poniżej 12 roku życia: 7 $
 
 
 
Prosimy o rezerwację miejsc pod numerem telefonu 773–384–3352 w. 2102 do 12 grudnia
i korzystanie z powyższej formy.
Prosimy o przybycie na 10 minut przed rozpoczęciem zajęć.
 
DO ZOBACZENIA!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Some good Dilbert Quotes

I'm just parking these here for later use.

If you look at the United States as a system, or a big machine, it is lumbering along with nothing but basic maintenance. We have a political system that was designed during the age of horse-drawn carriages and it no longer fits the times. (Or at least it ignores the opportunities of the Internet age.) We need a system that occasionally rebuilds the entire engine of democracy as opposed to keeping the old system dusted and oiled for eternity. 
Source 


I came to my hypothesis that intelligence is just pattern recognition because people who are not terribly bright have trouble understanding analogies. And analogies are just patterns.  
Source


When you are young, the most useful thing you can do is focus on your own health, happiness, and education. The world wants you to be selfish until you don't need to be that way. That's what keeps the system going. But if you maintain a high level of selfishness all of your life, your friends and family might only be pretending to like you.
Source

 I certainly agree with the first two.  The last one is one of those Life Lessons that I think I didn't learn until much too late to really utilize.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dark Times Ahead

So the atmosphere is thick with the funk of deceased morale at the TopFive.  About two years ago top TopFive this head hunter to liaise ...it was clear that he is here to trim waste and reduce headcount. He is a lot like Director Palpatine of the No-Name Software Company -- shiny on the outside, empty and hollow on the inside.


I've seen this movie before and met his type.  He wants to be the top dog and will do whatever it takes to get there but he doesn't have any other hard technical skills and the ones he had a long time ago are now obsolete.

He only says positive things and is very upbeat and positive, but he doesn't really let on to what his game plan is.  Try as you might you just cannot connect with him because he shares very little of substance.

It is starting to feel a lot like my last few months at Big Buck Law Firm 2.0.  The difference being instead of having too much work to do, I have too little.  I'm just not built to sit at my desk for 8 hours with nothing to do but required to hold my post in case something comes up.

It really blows.  I get up, drive 45 minutes to the office.  maybe I have a few meetings.  Otherwise I'm sitting at my desk, twiddling my thumbs until it's time to go home.  Our culture is such that everyone goes to lunch around noon, give or take 30 minutes.  Anything after that and you're simply leaving work early.

My choices are leave early to beat traffic and it looks like I'm sneaking out early, or wait until 5pm and then deal with rush hour gridlock.  leaving early can be the difference between a 40 minute drive and a 90 minute drive.  Even if I sit at my desk during lunch, I still feel guilty because everyone looks at you like you are leaving early.

Think we have enough coffee

Note: this is two shipments worth
Although I canceled my Amazon Subscribe and Save orders, a few managed to ship before the cancellation went out.  Actually, I suspect that wasn't an accident as once I started canceling orders, the email alerting me to the next shipment mysteriously didn't arrive.

No matter, we will definitely use all this coffee and if there is another Polar Vortex driven winter or a Zombie Apocalypse, we are prepared, or at least will be well caffeinated.





Monday, December 1, 2014

Turkey Hangovers and Seven Days of Gratitude

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day if you celebrate that sort of thing.  We had the in-laws and youngest SIL in town to celebrate the holiday and meet the New Kids in the House!

Youngest SIL (cropped out) did the bulk of the cooking
We were just a little beyond our capacity because Nightingale's Auntie Em has been staying with us as interim child support until we can hire one of those many godforsaken immigrants Obama is letting across the border (sarcasm mine).   We only have three bedrooms, ours, the nursery and the guest room which will become Boris or Natasha's rooms when they are older.  The basement is okay for a younger person or two without any back issues to sleep on the furniture for one, maybe two nights but not an entire week.  So we were just a little cramped.






I did exploit the opportunity to utilize FIL to get a few more things done around the house, specifically:

  • put together the 8" drill press
  • finish attaching the hinges to the antique smoking table that will now become a night stand
  • fixed leaky toilet in half bathroom
  • installed window frame in bedroom
  • installed a new gate fence

the last one was huge.  Even though it was essentially just swapping out the old boards with new ones from a fence building kit, FIL was able to re-engineer the doorway so that it works better.  I'm bummed that we had to reuse the old hardware though I suppose that is technically "being green."  It did save me several hundred dollars of paying a handy man to do the same thing, which is good because I'm going to need that money for a new dryer.  Every so many loads something causes the drum to come off the rails and make a sound like an ostrich being sodomized by a Dingo. 


Ten Weeks

So if I was sporadic at posting here before, you can imagine how hard it is to write a meaningful content-filled post now that I have two germy projectile-barfing poopsacks to deal with when I get home.

I've done even worse with ChicagoNow, having only posted a couple of times since the kids were born.  Many of these posts have to be done in piece-mail, with me writing them and adding pictures later, or uploading photos and then writing a post related to them afterwards.

Looking at the stats to the left, I have about 5 posts to go to meet my 2012 number (93) and then another 20 posts to match last year (113). 


I was going to write a little more but I'm gonna add those thoughts to a different post and end with something a friend posted on her newsletter:

Sometimes we can get bogged down with daily life stressors that it can be difficult to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful people and things in our life. Here are a few exercises for the next 7 days, starting with today, that you can use to think about and show your gratitude.
Day 1: If you could re-live one day with someone in your life, what day would that be? If possible, share this memory with this person.

Day 2: When was someone close to you thoughtful? What did they do and why was it meaningful to you? Tell them.

Day 3: Name 3 things that you like about yourself.

Day 4: Do a random act of kindness today.

Day 5: Call someone you haven't talked to in awhile. Tell them why you appreciate that they are in your life.

Day 6: Think of something in your life that at first seemed a "negative," but ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Day 7: Happy Thanksgiving! Who or what are you MOST grateful for? Why?



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

I'm only writing this for banter

I've been listening to AM radio on the drive home, specifically Tom Waddle show.  Sometime just before the Vikings Game, a fan called in and said he still believed the Bears had a chance to make the playoffs.  This was before they beat the Vikings when even the radio pundits felt it was over. 

As much of a die-hard fan that I am, I don't even share that caller's optimism.  In fact, I burned my Bears Flag when they lost to Green Bay two plus weeks ago.  I wasn't so upset that they lost -- GB is a pretty good team and it was at home -- but I was bloody pissed that they played so poorly after a bye week. 



Looking at the ESPN playoff standing screen capture I'm posting, for the Bears to make the post season the following would have to happen:

  1. Bears have to win out the rest of the season
  2. Lions and or Packers have to collapse.

If the Bears win out the rest of the season, that would mean they beat the Lions twice along with Dallas and New Orleans and they would end up a wild card.  I suppose they could split with the Lions as long as they win by more points for tie breaking rules.   Which would be ironic to me because at least twice in my years as a fan they've missed the playoffs with 9-7 records but lost out to tie breaker rules (and I suppose the one 10-6 year that was true too).


Left on the schedule: 
  • This Sunday's trap game against Tampa Bay (aka Lovie Bowl)
  • Then the Lions on Thanksgiving. 
  • Then Dallas and New Orleans, not sure what the order is but if they can catch the Cowboys on their traditional December downswing.
  • Then two more games against the Vikings and the Lions.  

So let's say they are 8-6 or 7-7 at that point.  Presumably the playoff picture is clearer two weeks out and winning out would control their own destiny, something the Bears historically are not good at.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No decisions from Fear

When November began and I learned that it was the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, I thought that this would be a good month to work on my Great American Novel.  Wannabe writers are encouraged to write a novel in the space of the month. Not necessarily a good or even a salable novel, but just a story of sufficient length to be called a novel  (NaNoWriMo uses 50,000 words as a marker, which John Scalzi says is actually slightly short for modern novels — "60k is usually the lower bound".
 
Unfortunately Moose and Squirrel have kept me very busy.  When I get home my mom usually hands Boris to me so that she can return home.  (Natasha usually only wants to be with mommy.)  I've hardly written 500 words let alone 50,000.

I did finally get around to drilling the holes in the secretary desk so that the computer fits in it nicer with the cords hidden neatly.  That one had been on my TODO list for months.  At first I just wasn't sure where the holes should go.  After some time I decided that I could achieve what I wanted with only three holes, two on the inside part of the desk so that they would not be noticeable should we ever decide to relocate the desk in such a way as anyone could see the back.

So this happened


















The other day our dryer started making this noise.  Actually, it made it a week or two ago but it was a one time thing so I didn't give it much head.  Alas the noise came back and it wouldn't go away.

I consulted Google and YouTube and found that video.  The challenge has been finding the time to take apart the dryer and troubleshoot.  As I said, when I get home, I'm usually handed a fussy kid who won't go down for a nap and my evening is consumed. Yesterday I was finally able to take the machine apart and lubricate the drum barrel.  Unfortunately, to know if this works, I have to re-assemble and test.  Very time consuming.

I was going to write a little bit more of a ranty post but then I saw this on a friend's FB status:

It was a good day for the Chicago Catholic Church today.
Any day that calls us to imagine...hope... and love is a great day...isn't it?
Tonight I feel a sense of excitement and hope.
As I reflect on Archbishops Cupich's homily today
I am reminded that love drives the fear out of the "messiness" of life.
I am convinced that when we respond to situations, challenges and crisis out of fear, we almost always make the wrong decision.
Fear makes us timid when we should be bold.
Fear makes us lash out when we should listen.
Fear makes us cling to what we might lose when we should be generous.
Fear makes us focus on consequences when we should focus on faith. Courage rises out of that love
Courage allows us to be able to do what love calls for -
even when we are afraid.
God doesn't let us drown in doubt. God gets in the boat with us.
A ship in a safe harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.
God calls us to set sail and live boldly!




Good advice and I think Nightingale and I need to invoke the No Decisions from Fear thing more.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Holy Karma, how much longer till we're all squared up?

So a day so full of promise and a dozen jokes about Kim Kardashian has turned into an afternoon of annoyance.  Things that annoy me:
  1.  Birth Shamers: There are camps of people who think anyone who gets an epidural or has a c-section is a terrible person.
  2. the cashier who couldn't just give me a quarter back for change for a $9.76 bill she had to give me 24 cents because all those pennies add up
  3. the lady at the podiatrist office who, after entering my info in her computer, is going to make me fill out multiple forms asking the same information because she doesn't have the tools or the brains to transfer the information to those forms; nor the ability to email them to me ahead of time..
First, the lady at the podiatrist office who, after entering my info in her computer, is going to make me fill out multiple forms asking the same information because she doesn't have the tools or the brains to transfer the information to those forms; nor the ability to email them to me ahead of time.

then I had a lunchtime meeting so with my Annoyance Levels already peaked I run downstairs to Halsted Deli and get my usual triple decker (this is one of the better sandwiches they make). The cashier couldn't just give me a quarter back for change for a $9.76 bill; she had to give me 24 cents because you know, all those pennies add up.  I mean I can put up with their higher price on their Egg McMuffin knock off that doesn't include hash browns, and their markup on Chips and Soda.  But making me carry two dimes and four pennies?  Rage Beast!

I asked myself why I get so bent out of shape when things like this happen and it comes down to this.  First, I don't like paying the inconvenience tax for someone else's deficiency.  Second, it makes me feel powerless and not in control of my life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Winterizing the house for winter

Like any household, our 100+ year old house requires some prep work for the winter and we learned the hard way last year that you shouldn't put it off.  Last year I foolishly thought I could wait until Thanksgiving weekend to do stuff with the help of my FIL

Alas November proved too cold to really work on things so this year I vowed to get the deck furniture -- which we have even more of now -- put away early.   Unfortunately with the arrival of moose and squirrel, it's been a challenge finding the time. 
The Goose unfortunately will not return

Ideally, this window is during daylight hours when the weather is warm but not too hot and definitely not raining.

Unfortunately EVERYTIME I had a window like that, we found we were without extra hands to free me up. One weekend the weather was supposed to be great on Saturday but instead the good weather shifted to Sunday, when SIL had to leave.

I was starting to get pissy because it seemed like a giant conspiracy on behalf of the Universe.

Thankfully, this last weekend Nightingale got so sick of me bitching about it that she allowed me to call my mom to come help for a few hours on her "day off".  I was able to get the leaves raked and mulched (with my new blower/mulcher from Woot.com) and all the deck furniture put away.  There's still some trivial stuff to do and I fully expect another round or two of leaves to bag up.  But I got the important stuff completed.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Seeing it a little differently


When I work downtown I have to leave the house by 7:45 to catch a bus to Jefferson Park in order to make it to TopFive Financials' downtown office by 9am.  Unfortunately I had to help with the twins and I was a bit rushed.  CTABustracker assured me a bus was 8 minutes away when I left the house and I'm pretty sure it doesn't take me 8 minutes to walk .2 miles though Google maps show it could take 6 minutes.


The bus blew past as I was about 10 ft from the intersection, with the light against me.  Chasing it was not an option.  I elected to catch the Milwaukee bus going South in hopes of getting off at another El station like Logan Square, California or even Division.  Instead I opted to ride the bus all the way in, which got me to the office at 9:20.

It did give me an opportunity to see Avondale, Logan Square, Wicker Park and a few other spots along Milwaukee Avenue.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sixth week observations on having kids

I want to write a little bit about our time in the hospital before it completely escapes my memory.  We left early Monday Morning and headed to the hospital for a Scheduled C-SectionScheduled C-Section means we knew all along it would be a C-Section and not a vaginal birth, not that the date and time were set in stone.  We actually ended up going in a week early.  Why do I point this out?  Apparently there are camps of people who think anyone who gets an epidural or has a c-section is a terrible person and they birth shame them!

We ended up staying at the Baby Hotel hospital for four days and three nights.  I have no problem being there the first two days/nights.  It's part of the job description.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have insisted that I go home Wednesday after noon to look after the house, spend quality time with our neglected kitty and get things ready for Nightingale arrive the next day.

One of the reasons to be there the first couple of nights, besides general love and support, is to go through Baby Bootcamp where you get use to the concept of no sleep and feedings every few hours.  Which is fine and all but you don't need to go from one extreme to the other.  They have nurses on staff who are there to give you a break if it gets to be too much and you need some sleep to keep from losing your shit. 

Using the logic that "you need to get use to it because there might not be help at home" is like saying you shouldn't use air conditioning because it might break some summer.

The thing is, regular day-to-day stuff doesn't care that you are having a baby and it doesn't get done on its own.  40% of my paternity leave was spent in a hospital room not being very productive.  Especially since as we learned from last year, there is a lot to do around the house before winter arrives and right now, it's not getting done.  Yes I bonded with my kids and changed diapers and such. But at the time I suspected I would be allowed to take the young poopsacks home and the opportunity to bond would still be possible one week later. 

The first nice day of weather we had that fell on a weekend was also the day that SIL had to leave so I couldn't do much yard work.

One of the lessons we learned a bit too late is when people come to see the baby, it's best to schedule that visit in the early evening.  Right now, the kids are at their best behavior from mid-morning to early evening.  And while that's great for visitors, it is also the only time Nightingale can manage them without my help.  So the best time for me to do those things around the house that need to get done. but i cannot do that if i have to play host. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guess they are waiting for the announcement

So we tried to invite our family over for Easter our first year in this house.  I figured it would kill two birds with one ham.  We'd take a major holiday off the rotation and everyone would get to see our new home and check "visited the dark evil city once per decade" off their to-do list.

Unfortunately it wasn't a warmly received idea from various branches of the family because of their feud with my mom.  Basically they don't want to be in the same room as her because something went down the previous year at or just after Easter.  


The following was sent to me a couple of years ago (I have not altered it, even for spelling):

Hi Icarus 
Here I found the protocal for you on baby's birth announcements for the future. When you friends or family have babies.

The phone call is a common response to the birth announcement by close friends and family. This may be followed up by a card, gift or personal visit. Be sure to clearly state your baby’s schedule and your availability. Unscheduled visits can put a new mom into a bit of a tizzy so always say when you want people to stop by.
E-mail responses to birth announcements are common from distant friends and relatives. The new parent may receive a ton of messages on their social networking site or receive responses by formal e-mail. Parents just need to say thank you and acknowledge the e-mail but detailed letters are not required.
No response at all to receiving a baby birth announcement is more frequent that you may expect. Some people either choose not to respond in any way (not common) or don’t realize they should respond (common). Like greeting cards or thank you cards, a response is not necessarily expected or understood by everybody. For people that didn’t send birth announcements at the birth of their own child or are receiving a birth announcement for the first time they may not know how to respond. Don’t worry you won’t notice under the shower of gifts, cards and good wishes.

Hope this helps You and Nightingale 
Morticia

She didn't include a link to the source but I'm assuming she found this out there on the interwebs. The impetus for this was we had been talking about her daughter and I was called out for bad behavior: Failure to Adequately Acknowledge a Significant Life Event.

Apparently, even though we only heard about the birth of my cousin Wednesday's kid through Facebook, we were supposed to...I'm not sure what.  Morticia and Wednesday certainly didn't follow the above
protocal when our kids arrived.  I don't know if they figure that because we didn't follow a protocal we didn't know about, they are excused from following it, or if the protocal only flows in one direction -- like most of the expectations from that side of the family. 

In any event, we made our sincere gesture and it was declined.  I am well past the age where I have any Fucks left to give.

Wednesday and I are over a decade apart and so even though I've tried to have a relationship with her, it only flows in one direction.  By that I mean she will reach out to me when she requires something or she will talk about what is going on in her life until the cows come home, but the phrase "how are you" is seldom uttered.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Last year we had a few friends over to trick O treat in our new neighborhood.  We thought we would do the same thing this year and extend the guest list but alas the new additions to the family prevent us from doing anything worthwhile this year.  Indeed, the little tykes have prevented me from doing any substantive writing in my spare time.

So in the meantime, enjoy a picture of our family from last Saturday when the temperature was a tad warmer than it is today.

Portage Park Pumpkin Patch

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Problem with always being busy at work

Motivation was always low to non-existent
A couple of gigs ago, I worked at the Low-Rent Consulting Company.  It was a basic project, software implementation, break-fix, and support shop.  There were a lot of periods of downtime between assignments and projects.  One particular week there apparently wasn't anything going on that she could assign me to.  This is of course bullshit because you can always assign someone to tag along and shadow another engineer, you just cannot bill for it.  This went against the Fly-By-Night business model of make as much money off a newbie engineer as quickly as possible because they will leave as soon as they gain enough skills to find a better job -- one that didn't treat them like a piece of garbage.

It is really hard to look busy or stay focused you don't have something to work on right in front of you.   I did my best but we weren't supposed to sit on email chat or surf the web unless it was for something that could benefit the company.

This Cracked Article sums it up nicely:

Every waking moment of your working life does not need to be given over to doing something, no matter how unnecessary. That's not how work works. If your job is to sell computers and no one is in to buy a computer, your boss is an asshole if he wants you to clean spiderwebs out of the loading bay. Loading Bay Spiderweb Guy should clean that shit, that's why we hired him. Creepy fuck.

Forbes tells me 64 percent of people surveyed admit to visiting non-work-related sites at work every single day. Those are the people who admitted it, so the number is obviously higher. Various articles over the last five years have suggested that the average worker wastes anywhere from one and a half to two and a half hours out of each workday doing whatever the hell. When I worked at a Staples, I used to look for better jobs on their computer (that'll get you in trouble, by the way), but the point is, people have time during their day, no matter what the job. If you flip burgers, the moment will come when no one is hungry. If you stock shelves, you'll get them all filled. If you sell heroin, everyone is going to be high one day. So then what? Polish your heroin bags? Shut up with that.

The reason most people give for workplace slacking is that they don't feel challenged. Take that out of workplace speak and it means you literally had nothing worth doing, because polishing the doorknob is not something worth doing. When people literally have nothing to do, by making up new tasks for them like they're annoying 5-year-olds that you need to get out of your hair, you're just ensuring that the next website they look at is going to be a job board where they can find a less shitty workplace that doesn't treat them like a lazy maid.
Read more: The 5 Most Useless Motivational Tactics Every Workplace Uses | Cracked.com


The Engineering Coordinator (EC) was never a friend and hardly an ally.  She didn't want me hired in the first place.  By not keeping me busy with work, she was trying to punishing me, and indirectly the person who hired me.

One afternoon that week, I made the mistake of shutting down my laptop at 4:51 pm.  This pissed the EC off because how dare I have the audacity of wanting to leave even 5 minutes early after spending an entire day twiddling my thumbs doing nothing.  What if something came up in the last five minutes!

Change the locks? I didn't

My former Condo Association President Kesha emailed me asking if I knew anything about the lockbox on the gate.  She had already asked me about my realtor removing the For Sale sign from the fence.  Realtors tend to leave their signs up as long as possible for advertising purposes. I sent a note to Gary and Marco asking them if they would like the sign back before it gets tossed in the trash which I understand they did, so if they had a lockbox they would have likely retrieved it as well.

So I sent a note to my contact at Chicago Apartment Finders and to My Former Property Manager just framing it as "hey I sold my condo so I don't care what you do but if that lock box costs what I think it does, you might want to come fetch it before the CA cuts it off the fence."  I of course used nicer language and emoticons.

My Former Property Manager, upon hearing the news that I sold the condo, congratulated me and said he would take care of the lockbox.  No acknowledgement that I managed to sell 1) without his special brand of help and 2) at a higher price than he believed I could achieve (I'm confident he looked it up as he knew my property had been listed and at what price).  

Note:  I wanted to post this Dilbert Cartoon which aptly describes Former Property Manager business model.  Alas there is no way to download it and the image-by-url feature is blocked for copyright purposes. 

I should point out that I am very lucky he was so recalcitrant in his stance in using an Exclusive Rental Agreement contract.  Had he offered an Non-Exclusive Agreement like Chicago Apartment Finders I probably would have just let him find me a new tenant and I'd still be a Reluctant Landlord right now. 

Former Property Manager said that the new owner would likely change the locks.  Well I certainly didn't.  I certainly intended to but that task slipped away from me, both in terms of cost and time.  And I suppose I was hedging my bets that since the former owners bought in Saganash they really didn't need anything from my bachelor pad.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Paranormal activity looking isn't it

This is what the night-vision image from the expensive webcam baby monitor I bought the other day.


We tried using a Dlink webcam which has an app for watching on your mobile devices. Unfortunately, it only remains active for a couple of minutes  before timing out by design.  So I opted for the more expensive BabyPing Webcam that has support specifically for i-Devices, of which our family heavily relies on.

Couple of issues

First, it does not recognize my wireless network.  In fact, unlike many devices out there, it doesn't even scan to see what available networks exist.  You can get around this by manually entering your wifi network SSID like some sort of caveman would.  If that fails, you can use a wired connection.  I have done so, using one of the NETGEAR Powerline Adapters .

And this works fine for ME, especially since I would prefer a hardwired connection on something like this.   [I suppose someone might argue it's not a true hardwired connection but let's not mince words.]  However, many people only have their wireless signal coming from their modem/router and have no idea how to bring the connection across the house.  Because, end user.

Second, the app itself looks and feels like a baby monitor.  I'd prefer it if it worked more like a simple web or surveillance camera as I'd like to re-purpose it for that once the kids are beyond the monitoring while they sleep age.

We have about 25 more days left to evaluate this device if I want to return it and get my money back.  I'm of the mindset that if it doesn't work for us, we need to do that.  Otherwise, I just pissed away $200 that I could definitely use for other purposes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Post Condo Sale analysis

So the condo officially sold after essentially four months on the market.  We listed just after Fourth of July and got an offer after Labor Day so there is something to be said about Real Estate and holidays. In the days and weeks to come I'll either write some more posts about specific components and events from the last four months (probably on the ChicagoNow blog) or just put the whole thing behind me.

How did I do?  Well I sold it for $50K less than I paid for it.  After the transaction costs were paid, I got about $2500 back.  However, it has been vacant since July so that is 4 months of mortgage that I had to cover.  When you factor in all the expenses of being a Reluctant Landlord such as finders fees, property manager fee, vacant months before and after renters, it would have required a sale price beyond what I could conceivably obtain in the next few years to theoretically break even.


I have friends who sold their condos during the bust in order to move onto a SFH.  Many of these friends brought money to the table.  I don't recall any specifics because people usually brag about the good and downplay the bad but at least one friend did admit the amount was five figures. So the fact that I was able to finagle getting a SFH.

Did we start out with too high an Asking Price?  Conventional Wisdom says yes, since it took over two months and two price drops to get a buyer.  So that is on Gary Lucido since he set the price although I do share in that because, as the seller, I did have final say.  There were some comps and we did get enough traffic that the starting price might have been justified but we failed to lower the price quickly.

In the final analysis, if I could change one thing, I would have listed at the sale price in exchange for a quicker sale. All and all it might have saved me one month of lost rent. Water under the bridge at this point.

One question that people have asked is, why not just wait another year to see if you could get a little more?  Well then I have to find a renter and hope that they don't trash the place and move out in time for me to try again. Plus some of the transaction costs are percentage based and not flat fee so though I haven't worked out the numbers, my gut feeling is it would have required more than one more year to make it worth the effort and risk.

My former condo was converted from apartments to condo units in 1998, I do believe.  And to be honest, like many condo conversions the rehabbers took some short cuts with our building, my unit included.  The floors in my unit went to crap over time and really needed to be replaced.  I explored options and I could have gone the cheaper route of sanding and refinishing but that wouldn't have addressed some of the loose and broken boards.  to do it right would have meant replacing the floor
boards entirely.    This was just a cost I could not justify, let alone afford, when I lived there and once the place was a rental/sale, it didn't make sense to put the money in.  The thought was to just discount the unit and let the new owners (I'll call them the Silvermans) deal with it.

The thing is the building itself has some deferred maintenance  In fact the Condo Association finally got around to starting on the long promised tuck pointing which I'm hoping helped encourage the Silvermans to purchase said unit.

At least I didn't have to change this
The other thing is now I have this off my credit report so in theory it ought to be ever so slightly easier  to get a home equity loan for our current house, if HELOCs are ever in vogue again. 

At least Gary and his colleague Marco were easier to work with than Eric Rojas back in 2010.   Once the listing got stale, Rojas bailed like the jerk his reputation makes him out to be. And unlike Gary who acknowledged that we might have started too high, Rojas accepted no responsibility whatsoever for setting our price even though I told him back in 2010 that I could not afford to go lower based on what I owed the bank at the time.  I had stated that if he didn't think it was possible we shouldn't even bother to list. 

This was another reason why I was hesitant to put the condo on the market again and only did so when my tenant moved out.  It doesn't cost a realtor much to list a property at any price.  What they pay in MLS fees and marketing they usually make up for in self-promotion and advertising.  But the property gets a reputation that something might be wrong with it when it is repeatedly listed and delisted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smart Running Decision: Don't Do It

Photo Credit: Robert Horowitz

According to DailyMile I've logged 345 miles so far this year (350 when you add in my run from Sunday).  Given that we are in the waning weeks of October, I really doubt I'm going to close in on 500 miles.  In fact, it will be a larger effort than you'd think to hit 400 truth be told.  Besides not being able to consistently make time to run, when I do run my knees ache and my endurance is toast.


211.8 pounds
The Monster Dash is this weekend  and I believe I'm signed up for the half marathon distance.  While I could certainly walk/run 13.1 miles and maybe MAYBE even do it under two hours, I'm in no condition to do so and it would be a terrible race experience.  So the smart thing to do is to take Nightingale's 10K entry and give my HM entry to Mr Lumpy.

The best thing I can do is rest my knees.  I'd like to think taking a few months or even a year off from
running will revitalize me.   Unfortunately I think I will need to see the knee doctor again and come up with a long term plan. For the time being, I have to also accept that my weight is going to linger around 210 lbs and hopefully doesn't rise much more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SYPP, PHH and the Polish Consulate

Polish Consulate General
1530 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60610
One of my Polish Peeps posted this picture on their Facebook Feed.  Apparently one could go inside last weekend because Chicago was having it's annual Open House. a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to 150 buildings across Chicago.  The selling point being that you will "explore repurposed mansions, hidden rooms, sacred spaces, private clubs, iconic theatres, offices, hotels and more—all for free."

Actually, for this place and I think one or two other buildings, you needed to pre-register for places like this because, security. 


What is the difference between an embassy and consulate?  I imagine size and day to day activity so I looked it up.  While the terms embassy and consulate are used synonymously, the two are very different.


  • An embassy is the larger and more important of the two and is described as a permanent diplomatic mission which is generally located in a country's capital city. 
  • By contrast, a consulate is a smaller version of an embassy and is generally located in the larger tourist cities of a country but not the capital. 
  • There are special cases and several unique situations making some examples complicated. 

I've been inside this building three times; once for a (Society of Young Polish Professionals (SYPP) social event and twice for Christmas Parties.  Not speaking much Polish was definitely a liability in all those cases.  The decor is very traditional and old, it looks like the parlor time forgot. 

And so a post that was just meant to be a picture of the Polish Consulate and some throwaway text becomes a post about a group of Poles I met in the early 2000.  One of my Polish Princess friends tried to start a social group with the intention of networking young polish professionals with the idea that we could help one another start businesses, land jobs and get laid meet a polish person one could take home to mom and dad.  This was before LinkedIn and Meetup and it never really saw the light of day because of a variety of reasons.

Another group called Polish Happy Hour (PHH) leveraged technology, specifically a free yahoo group, and managed to pull off more of what Polish Princess wanted.  PHH petered out around 2009 for various reasons as well, particularly because there was no strong recruitment for new members.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Where was this weather six hours ago

By that I mean it was raining this morning and early afternoon so I had no chance to work on the winter prep chores.   Now it's chilly but otherwise gorgeous.   

The wrong kind of stone pavers

I'd like to give the former owners of my home the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a lot of things around the house.  Perhaps there was a really good reason the kitchen doesn't have insulation in the walls and ceiling.  Maybe different crews finished the basement at different times which could explain why the master light panel is behind the bar and requires one to walk through a dark basement to turn most of the lights on.  In the almost two years we have lived here there are countless times Nightingale and I have asked: "WTF were they thinking!"
Before Power washing and sealing

Our front walk, side driveway and backyard are comprised of paver stones.  They are nicer than asphalt or concrete but do require some maintenance upkeep.  I did my Google and YouTube research and found that paver stones require you periodically sweep in paver sand between the joints at least three times a year.  This keeps them from moving and if they were installed properly (level) then you don't have too many puddles after a big rain.

After: sealed and power washed
Unfortunately, the pavers used by Previous_Owner are not the kind of paver stones that look pretty when power washed like my neighbors.  I have to wonder, was it cost, technology or both that went into the decision not to use the prettier ones.  I can only assume that either they were not available when this project was done or they were hugely cost prohibitive.  

My research yielded a chemical enhancer/sealer that you can apply to paver stones to keep them looking good.  Unfortunately, again the enhancer doesn't do much to my type of paver and at $50 a half gallon, it is cost probative for me to do my entire backyard and driveway, so only the front walk got treatment.  

It might be hard to notice the difference in the pictures.  I meant to take better before and after pictures but it was a very busy week when I did this project and I had a short window between good warm weather to dry the sealer and the upcoming storm.  I got a deal on a power washing on Angie's List so I outsourced that part. 

Driveway