Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Missing the Action

 I know nobody wants to read a hundred pleas per year for the kinds of things a dude with a blog is supposed to request. I appreciate your patience with the following paragraphs.

Just a reminder that if you aren't following Mysteries of Life  on Facebook and/or Twitter you don't know what you're missing

There's more to it than a bunch of links to posts. It's a little heavier on humor and lighter on stream of consciousness rambling compared to this site. And I'm obligated to try to boost traffic and build a base of readers and all that stuff. So do it.

It really is hard for me to ask readers to do this, especially since I have already asked in the past.  I have tons of connections on Facebook who ignore didn't see my requests but then turn around and ask me to like their stuff.  Or the friend who likes all those faceless corporations but cannot give a click to me because God forbid it help me out in anyway that doesn't benefit them.  Okay end rant.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Some thoughts on blogging

During the week I often envision myself pounding out several posts here and at ChicagoNow when I work from home on Fridays.  Unfortunately my day usually gets chopped up.  First I have to drop Moose and Squirrel off at daycare.  Nightingale figures that it saves her a few minutes of stress so why not.  Then when I get home there is usually a conf call I need to be on.  Sometimes I want to get a run in and shower before the cleaning lady gets here.  I also strive to do some laundry and other odd jobs around the house that daylight and (now) lack of infants make more optimal. 

We miss Maggie very much
Blogspot, Wordpress and Typepad are full of blogs that have a handful of posts and then the blogger stopped posting.  There are probably lots of reasons for this.  I know a guy in particular who every January re-discovers his blog, starts posting for a few days and then forgets until next year.   Most likely because there isn't any reader interaction or feedback so if you are the type of writer who needs an audience you are going to get frustrated rather quickly.  Blogging, at least quality blogging that will attract consistent and growing readership and reader interaction is hard. 

My goal for this blog this year is to try and hammer out approximately 10 posts a month. That will keep me in line with my averages for previous years. 

I'm trying to avoid writing posts here while at work even though it probably doesn't matter.  They either already have this domain in my internet history or they don't.  But not writing while at work means I can only really write when I'm at home during the few hours that Moose and Squirrel are sleeping and most of those times I'm either scrambling to get things done before they wake from their nap or they are down for the night and we are trying to relax, eat something and catch some sleep before the middle of the night feeding.

So we are on the verge of putting Nightingale 's condo up for sale.  We unloaded mine last fall and the result was for the first time since we got married we didn't have to pay any taxes.  The market seems better this year because a First One neighbor of mine from the condo building put her place on the market and was under contract in less than three weeks.  Her unit is slightly smaller than mine and she priced it accordingly.  She also owned the place for 15 years and unless she did something really stupid with refis and HELOCs, she will do okay if she got anywhere close to ask (which one should assume if it went under contract in three weeks).

Friday, March 20, 2015

A few things to avoid multiple posts

So I had to pass up the chance to run the March Madness Half Marathon on Sunday.  Boris had a 102 fever and was up all night so I didn't get much sleep.  Combine that with the fact that while I did the majority of the training (more than 80% of the mileage), my running form was still not effortless, it would have been a sucky race for me.

Borrowed and Edited from actual finisher
The only part I'm even remotely saddened about is that this year the weather was absolutely perfect and I would have been able to run in shorts.  This happens every few years but is obviously unpredictable. My hope was that my training for and running of this half marathon would provide me with the necessary pseudo training for the Shamrock Shuffle in a couple of Sundays.  I can still run 5 miles but not fast or without stopping.  I guess we'll see.

Boris and Natasha (aka Moose and Squirrel if you haven't already caught on) are waking up at 3, 4 or 5 am and acting like it is time to be awake for the day.  This is not working well for us obviously.  I don't know what to do about it.  Sleep training is a little harder for twins because even if one is sleeping the other can wake them up quickly.

On the nights that my mom is over it is both a blessing and a curse.  Blessing because she deals with them.  Curse because 1) NG still wakes up and 2) my mom talks to them and holds them too long instead of putting them back in their cribs so they have no incentive to go back to sleep.  Sometimes she either doesn't get to them quickly enough or doesn't soothe the one that is crying before the second kid wakes up.  It isn't all her fault but it doesn't help that my mom is the type of person who wears out her welcome rather quickly.

She questions and scrutinizes a lot of our decisions even dumb ones like how much to bundle the kids up on a day that is between warm and cold. 

It wasn't just me

A few Thursdays ago I went to an event hosted by the man who got me the job at the No-Name Software Company.

There were two others from my  No-Name Software days, and a third person from my stint at Big Bucks Law Firm 2.0.  We caught up and talked about the events that caused us to leave No-Name Software Company

On the positive side, it vindicates me that BM was forced out even though he has a much better attitude than I ever did at that place.  On the negative side, it seems like a lot of our "classmates" keep in touch without including me.

Still, each of those persons has been able to find a new job by reaching out to someone we know.  I have done it alone.

Strange Dreams

Thursday morning of that same week, I apparently made a loud noise while in the middle of a dream.  In the dream I was walking with Katness and Monica and I stepped through some snow and ice.  What should have been a small step into some melted snow turned into a deep chasm and I was sinking very quickly.  The water apparently was so cold that I didn't have an buoyancy.  I sank to the very bottom very quickly.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

To live and die in Chicago

Nightingale's sister moved back to Michigan a couple years ago and the running joke has been "when are you going to follow suit."

I've lived in Chicago -- the city proper -- essentially all my life.  There were a couple years in Missouri in college and less than a year in Berwyn but otherwise, city living is all I've ever known.  I always figured I would live in the city for the majority of my life until it was time to move to a ranch on Mars or some other colony world.
Photo Credit: Bill Underwood

What has changed.  Well my social life is vastly different now than it was BM (before marriage).   I don't meet a friend for a beer after work, nor do engage in any of the social groups I use to do when I was single.  And I'm not training for a marathon or even part of a casual running group so I don't even have that social connection anymore.

And that's perfectly fine.  with kids to take care of, I really wouldn't have the time to do those things properly anyway.  So now would be the perfect time to relocate to Michigan or some other place where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is higher.  I wouldn't be giving up my social life because I don't have a busy social life anymore.

While I love our 102 year old house, it does leave a few things to be desired.  The basement is too cold to use in the winter and the bedrooms are a tad too small.  The Kitchen is laid out weird and also lacks proper insulation.  The bathrooms are functional and pretty but not large enough for our needs.  I would prefer a better layout over all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The last of the snow

This is all that is left of the big pile of snow that was Winter 2015, at least in my yard.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

This post written a week ago

A New Plan: So since we started daycare, my wallet has been on financial lockdown because I have to come up with money for our mortgage and one kid's daycare cost.  This is actually a good thing because it has forced me to really watch my spending and cutback on frivolous items.  After all, it's hard to buy something with disposable income when you have no disposable income.

The good news is that I am ~$2000 away from being credit card debt free.  After the flood, my credit cards got a high balance because I had to absorb the cost of repair to the sump pump and I was already carrying a rare (for me) $3K balance from some purchases that I would normally have spaced out (ie pay one off than add the next).  I should have gone on tighter lockdown even then but I didn't because I didn't have to.

And technically I paid off the flood expense a long time ago but other expenses came in so it was really paying Paul by robbing Peter  and beating the crap out of Thomas.

I'm working on a plan to achieve a few things.  Short term goals so Scott Adam's will approve or at least not criticize.

  • Look into paying my mortgage via paypal/credit card so that I can get rewards points for that fucker.
  • buy one new piece of business dress ware each month (daddy needs new suit pants)
  • start accumulating gift cards, ShopYourWay points and other monetary resources (coins in the couch cushions) for purchase of the new Washer/Dryer we will inevitably need sooner or later. 

I'm doing laundry almost every other day and the old machines Murphy left behind are not going to hold up forever.  

This may come back to bite me in the butt:  right now I'm debating whether to buy some Proslat wall panels that WOOT is running on sale.  I cannot afford to buy the entire supply I need for the garage but I could get one section as a proof of concept.  I'm leaning toward no because I am so close to having my credit cards paid off and buying these now would delay that plan.  If only these were posted after the close date of my credit card. 

Woot is offering Proslat 33009 Ultimate Garage Bundle for $249 (plus $5 s+H) in white or $297 for grey.  I'd need 2 so the tax comes out to and $31.56 for the white.  Lt Grey would be good too but Charcoal is too dark for what I'm trying to accomplish and you can always paint PVC if you choose.

In the Bundle:

    (2) 8'x4' wall panels ready to assemble
    (12) 4-inch hooks
    (2) Double 8-inch hooks
    (2) Double 4-inch hooks
    (2) Super-duty hooks
    (2) Heavy-duty U hooks
    (3) 12-inch x 24-inch metal shelf
    (2) 12-inch x 8-inch metal baskets

I'm torn because this is a better deal than Proslat, Home Depot or Overstock ever have, especially since it comes with hooks, shelves and baskets. 

Update:  I opted not to purchase at this time. I will grab them the next time the sale cycles around.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Workplace Reivews are just a zero sum game

so we got our annual mid-terms the other day and I thought about my reviews throughout the years in post-college job as a Paralegal Assistant at Big_Bucks Law Firm 1.0, we had two evaluations per year.  One was a here's how you are doing and the other was For the Money
Corporate America.  At my first

IIRC, the review form was essentially two pages.  Page one was some arbitrary generic questions designed to capture the skillset of multiple positions.  The second page essentially had two questions:

  1. What does so and so do well
  2. What does so and so need improvement on

You can probably guess that most reviewers had more to say for question #2  (the order might even have been reversed).  People tend to try and find something to fill that in because they want to do you a favor and help you improve.  But say something good about you?  well we don't want to lavish the praise for doing your job.

The other flaw as at this job (a law firm) if you screw up big, you're gonna hear about it at run time, not six months later.  So anything that didn't make it to you that way and you didn't hear about until your review there wasn't much you could really do 6 months after the fact.

My first job after G-school was the No-Name Software Company.  My team lead flat out told me that he has to justify a rating above or below a 3 so he is giving me a 3 on everything to avoid paperwork since this one isn't for money.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Life Lessons I've learned so that you don't have to

I'm just going to start listing some of the lessons we've learned.  This will get published once the list gets to more than five, after which I'll probably just update it.

Lesson One:  When driving to Michigan, skip the Skyway.  When returning, take it.  Twice now we've tried to save $8 and paid for it with traffic.  The last time there was a bad accident that shut it down on both sides (gaper block on the outbound).

Lesson Two:  When something happens at my condo, go there in person and see for myself. 

Lesson Three: When having people over for dinner, you will NEVER get the amount of food just right.  You will either have too much and thus have left overs, or you will be short and people will starve -- there is no middle ground.

Corollary to Lesson Three:  Any food left over will consist of a disproportionate ratio of the stuff you like to the stuff you don't really care for, e.g. you'll have some salmon, shrimp or beef tenders left over and a ton of rice or pasta but not enough sauce.

 Lesson Four:  This one requires a little background.  Somewhere out there I read one of those Good Rules of Thumbs for Packing is to always include a set of dressy clothes in case you end up going somewhere extra fancy.  For the last few years that strategy has always been a waste of effort and suitcase space when visiting the in-laws.  So I nixed it one time, only to learn upon arrive that there were two opportunities to wear nice clothes.  The first was a holiday party in a penthouse and the second was midnight mass. 

Lesson Five:  When ordering from McDonald's just get the value meals a and enjoy the extra hash browns or french fries.  If you try to order one value meal and additional sandwiches, it only confuses the people who want to earn more than minimum wage for a job that should be a teenager/college kid's launch into the work place.

Lesson Five, part II:  Going into the restaurant is not necessarily quicker than the drive-thru.  It's the same people working behind the scenes.  In fact I'm almost convinced their metrics are designed to get the cars out of there quicker than the people inside.

Lesson Six:  As much of a PITA as it is, it is important to make grocery shopping a priority.  In other words, if we do nothing else on the weekend, a trip to at least one of the stores that we get food and baby supplies from is essential or it will come back to bite us in the ass.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Starting the week off on the wrong foot

I have 7 more training runs until my half marathon.  Unfortunately, that includes a 6 miler from this

Ironically, when I was single, it was hard to get the weekly mileage in but I had no issues with making time for the weekend LR.  It's the opposite now.

Because we get up so early with the kids now, by the time my mom came over around 3:30 pm Sunday, I didn't have much energy to throw on running clothes and get a six miler in even though the conditions were about as good as they can considering the weather we've had this Feb.  I really should have sucked it up and gone for the run but I also know that I wasn't feeling it and there is little point in doing a sucky run.

However with my race coming up in less than two weeks, I need to get these last couple of LRs in so I have to do something I loathe doing: make up a run.   I was going to try and do the six on the treadmill this morning but unfortunately i had to get up around 3 because both babies were up and my mom needed a hand. 

Looking ahead weather wise, it will be another schizophrenic week with warm snow days then cold freezing days. 
weekend which I did not have time for because of Moose and Squirrel.  My mom didn't come over this weekend until Sunday afternoon which meant I couldn't really leave Nightingale with the kids for an hour.

             Mon    Tues    Wed    Thur    Fri    Sat    Sun
Temp    34        41        19        18       36    41    37
Miles                 2                       5         2            8

So I have a couple of options on how i "make up" the missed LR and also get in this weeks miles while also allowing my rickedy old knees some rest.  The best option is to simply get the six miles in today and then continue on with this week's schedule as if I never missed the run in the first place.

Another option would be to swap Tues 2 mile with the six and then continue with the rest of the schedule, maybe making Friday's 2mil run a 4 miler just to make it worth putting on running clothes.

From past experience i know the best thing to do is get the missed 6 miler completed as soon as possible.  The rest is achievable during lunch treadmill sessions at the office gym or even at home...in theory anyway.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to figure out if a new technology will succeed

Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet” Douglas Adams, (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Douglas_Adams ).
“I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Eric Zorn asked a while back: "Any predictions about what other highly touted devices will be at least short term busts?"

This prompted me to try and come up with a litmus test to evaluate when a technology might fail or succeed.  It seems that when something cannot earn a passing grade in the majority of these criteria:

  • Ratio of Features to user friendliness; 
  • Ability to improve upon/supplement or supplant an existing technology, or compete with a vertical technology; 
  • start up/adoption cost;
  •  compatibility/technical limitations; 
  • infrastructure support.
For instance the HDMI cable replaced the clumsy old DVI and S-video cables.

HDMI cable
  • plug n play allows you to reduce cable clutter;
  • the cost is negligible, unless you're dumb enough to pay $30 for gold platted;
  • TVs and even computers are being made with more and more of these.

Electric Car
burn less fossil fuel
electric cars are still way too expensive expensive
while any outlet will do, a special outlet/adapter allows your car to charge faster. also the battery life and maximum velocity attainable aren't quite there yet.
which brings us to infrastructure: there are not enough charging stations

"Electric cars will not take a large share of the market until two, perhaps three, items are resolved: the range on one battery charge with the attendant recharging time, and the tendency of batteries to lose capacity in cold weather. Until then, they will be urban runabouts, the passenger car equivalent of vocational trucks that always come back home to roost at night, and short-range commuters. Expensive ones, at that."  -daveB

3D TV floundering is a case of the pace of technology exceeding the public's willingness to pay. We've just had the analog TV to digital conversion, HD, and flat screens are finally as thin as the Jetson's promised. People are not gonna scrap all that and buy 3-D TV's, especially with the klunkie glasses you've gotta wear.