Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday photo: car graveyard

This is what the backyard of a house that is on Lawrence just west of Milwaukee looks like.  I only saw it because it is opposite the back of Pete's Garage where I have spent an unexpected amount of my time this month. 

Fortunately my car has finally reset all the emissions monitors so hopefully I will never have to set foot there again. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Looks like January, feels like March

We have had one of the more mild winters that I can recall in my 4+ decades in Chicago.  And I don't mind it one bit. It suits me just fine now that I'm working 100% from home and doing the SAHD thing.

Part of me wonders if it would have been better to have this weather last year when I was driving to OBT and last year's weather now since I'm home and don't get to leave the house for days at a time.  But then I think about how problematic it would be for my mom to get over here with the snow and realize this is the better sequence.

If the weather were a tad warmer, I could take the kids to the park or let them play in the yard.  But hey at least we now have the MSI.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tales from the Paralegal Corridor

Supposedly Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” I definitely do better with those last two but I didn't have the self-awareness to articulate it back in the early post-college years.

My first post-college job was a  Paralegal Assistant at BigName Law Firm 1.0. Our role was to do all the little things that had to be done but couldn't honestly be billed back to the clients

One of the problems with this gig was you didn't learn anything unless someone showed you.  The only way you got to do anything remotely KSA advancing was when the shit hit the fan AND then it was "okay we're gonna ask you do something you've never done before and it has to be done right but no pressure."

Yeah we could have had you do it last week but we didn't trust you, didn't want to teach you, didn't want bother.

To be fair, this wasn't, though should have been, baked into their job routines. In all fairness, the culture was different then.  There was no mentoring, no shadowing and no desire to implement better work flow processes.  Also, I was definitely not the best JRP because I felt like if I have this education I should be using it better than just putting labels on paper.  Back then, work flow processes and job responsibility, along with employee maturity, were in its infancy. 

We were supposed to be there to do all the little things that had to be done but couldn't honestly bill the clients for or roll into other billable activities.  But if you don't take the time to show your PA how to do something than you cannot hand it off to them. 

In practice this lead to two other common practices:
  • The paralegals would complain that that they had too much to do but when you offered to help, they said they couldn't give it to you because you don't know how to do it (and couldn't take the time to teach you or couldn't let your name appear on the billing form or dinosaurs.)
  • They would show you how to do something so bizarre and one-off that it not only took longer to show you than do it themselves but it would be over a year before you would even have the opportunity to do it again such that you obviously retained no memory of how it was done.

Most of the tasks we were given were mind-numbing mundane things that were obviously given to as busy work to get us to go away whenever we asked if they had anything for us to do.  Because the paralegals had asked for assistants to help with the work they couldn't ethically bill a client for but had to perform (what would be called Administrative Overhead today), the paralegals were responsible for our workload. I don't think they understood the concept of headcount justification.  They wanted these things called PAs to be available when they needed us but then wanted us to go away when the work was done.  There was no team building or skill training or even friendly bonding.

Now your pool of candidates for JRP were recent college grads because this was an entry-level (barely) position that paid $17K a year.  Secretaries with a high school education were starting at $23,000.  This is a very good recipe for resentment.  Anywho, when you are getting paid the same whether you are doing something easy (control labeling) versus something hard (running to court for a last minute filing) the smart JRP will find ways to avoid court and milk the labeling.

Alas, I was definitely not the best paralegal assistant because I felt I should be using my education for better purposes than just counting sheets of copy paper.  It's one thing to have to pay your dues. But these paralegals were content with us paying our dues until the Second Coming. The only way you got to do anything substantive was when the shit hit the fan AND then it was "okay we're gonna ask you do something you've never done before and it has to be done right but no pressure." Yeah we could have had you do it last week but we didn't trust you, didn't want to teach you, didn't want bother.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Books, Museums and weights

The first month of 2016 is just about over so how did you do with any New Year's resolutions or

As of today I've run 29 miles which is  6 more than last month.  Barring any unforeseen schedule conflicts or other complications, I should be able to get two maybe even three more runs in to  reach 35-40 miles. 

I also finished reading The End of All Things (Old Man's War #6).  I actually started reading this in August 2015 when my autographed copy arrived in the mail but I couldn't make the time to read it consistently until very recently. That's partly due to my life but also due to the fact that it sometimes take a while to get started on a Scalzi novel. It seems like the first 50 pages took me months to get through then I couldn't put the book down and finished it in less than a week.

But it counts toward my goal of 20 books in 2016.  I think I can handle reading two books at once, one via Kindle when I'm out and about and staring at my iPhone and the other perhaps a hard copy at home. Currently I'm reading Down at the Golden Coin which is a book written by fellow ChicagoNow blogger and mother of twins Kim Strickland.  This is another book that has been in my library for a long time (over two years now) that I'm finally getting around to knocking off.

And the weight thing?  today I weighed myself twice.  First measure was 207.7 lbs.  I stepped off the scale, turned it around and moved it one foot on the bathroom floor (to the more traditional spot I use to weigh myself from) and weighed myself again.  It was 205.8 lbs.  Given how good I was yesterday with working out, portion control and eating healthy, I think it's safe to say I'm in the 206 range.  That still leaves 5 lbs in 8 days which would be easily doable if I were running my old 40 miles a week instead of per month.

We took Moose and Squirrel to the Museum of Science and Industry yesterday and invested in a family membership.  We have to go back at least two more times this year to break even but honestly, I'm altruistic enough to be okay with our donation expenditure even if we don't go back again.  To be clear, I have every intention of going back as much as possible.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Car Sagas continue

So after accumulating exactly 60 miles (by coincidence, not design) I took my car back to the repair shop to test the monitors.  Unfortunately two of the self test emission monitors had not reset yet.  So the mechanic is like go drive another 30-60 miles and come back.

I wasn't about to give him my story about having two screaming clingly projectile-barfing poopsacks at home that make it difficult to get out of the house outside of limited situations.  Nor was I going to point out that even if I could get somewhere were I could accumulate 60 miles, it would take an hour to do so assuming the speed limit allowed.

It is possible I screwed myself in this situation.  If I had taken the car in while I was driving out to Oak Brook 4 days a week, the Drive Cycle might have been enough to clear the converter and pass the test.  Or not.  I'm going to tell myself that I would still needed to get a new catalytic converter.

I also have to get Nightingale's car touched up.  There is a shop around the corner that will spot it out for no more than $100 which is probably what I already spent going to two different places looking for appropriate touch up paint.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Really boring post about my car

you can fit a small yacht in here
January's Crisis of the Month is dealing with my car.  I have to renew my license plate sticker.  But
before I can do that, I have to pass the vehicle emissions test, which I have officially failed.  My car has an expensive catalytic converter and apparently very fragile because the check engine light has been on for over a year.  Apparently when it was replaced (because some asshat stole the original) the mechanic did a hack to save me some money.  It was a perfectly legitimate solution but the downside is that over time, the oxygen sensors break.  Or something like that, the mechanics have explained but I drown all that noise out just like others drown me out when I speak computer geek.

Anyway, I had to get a new catalytic converter and this time opted to do it the right way which means basically $1100 left my pocket.  Along with the $750 for the new mattress  and suddenly I have credit card balances.  I should be able to pay them off next month but the last time I had that much cc debt, our basement flooded.

So now we have to drive my car 30-60 miles before I take the test.  Something that would have been easy to do if I were still working in OBT but I've switched to a full time remote worker.  On top of being a Stay At Home Dad.  That means I can only really sneak away during nap time while my mom watches the kids or trade vehicles with Nightingale so she can get my miles.  However, it was freezing cold the last two days and her car has seat warmers, mine doesn't.  #firstworldproblems.

In other news, I need to run today and it's just warm enough that I can run outside.  The problem is I cannot leave the house stuck at home until the Salvation Army truck shows up to take our old mattress and the cable guy shows up to fix our internet connection. The longer I put off a run, the less likely I will get it in.  With my luck the two will show up at the same time.

UpdateComcast came at 10am (window was 8-12) and fixed the slow internet problem.  Salvation Army came at 2 (window was 2:30-5:30) but refused to take either the mattress or the filing cabinet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An example of how a post goes from here to ChicagoNow

Previously I wrote that sometimes a post starts out here and ends up here.  An example is this post I wrote called My Star Wars: The Force Awakens theory on who Rey is.  It started out as a couple of sentences because I wanted to write something about this video.  I noticed a hesitation at around 3 seconds, Ben Kenobi says "I was once a Jedi Knight..."


Once, as in no longer.

Of course once I started fleshing it out, it grew to a post more suitable for the other platform.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Photo: Winter in January

Compared to recent years, we haven't had much snow at all.  Today is the first above 40 day since last Monday's snowfall and with the intermittent rainfall, I expect much of it to melt away today. 

When we got back from Grosse Pointe last Monday, I should have dealt with all the snow before it froze in place.  But after an over 8 hour car ride (because of this very snow) I had nothing in the tank left for shoveling snow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Painters not movers

Speaking of mattresses, here is the only picture I can find of our first mattress.  Before moving the majority of our furniture in this house, we had it professionally painted.  We had a few boxes, some smaller furniture and of course this king sized mattress and box springs had already been delivered.

Some people might sleep this way

What you see pictured is how the painters put the bed back in the bedroom after painting it.  I get that they are painters and not movers.  But how back breaking of a task can it be to put the box springs down first and then lay the mattress on top of it like it was? 

These painters did a few other little things that annoyed us like not remove the light switch covers before painting the walls and they got a little paint on a door knob here and there.  Nothing devastating but enough that I wouldn't hire them again or recommend them to anyone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 Getting Back on Track DietBet

So I decided to accept a friend's challenge and joined this DietBet game. When weighed myself this morning I was exactly 210.0 lbs which means I have to lose 4% of that i.e. get to 201.6 lbs.  I think that is realistic if I

  1. watch what I consume, 
  2. get a good run in every other day, 
  3. cut back/cut out the alcohol and 
  4. do all of that consistently in the month of January.

 It has been my experience that Winter is the hardest time to lose weight because we seem to be designed to store fat, not lose it.

I purposely didn't try to keep my weight down between the day my friend challenged me (last week when I weighed in at 208) and Monday morning when I submitted these photos for weigh-in.  It wouldn't have made a substantial difference in the amount of weight I'd need to lose, but I think there is something to the psychology of the numbers.  It is easier to go from 210 to 201, versus 208 to 199.

New Tuft & Needle Mattress arrived

Three years ago, almost to the day, my wife bought a king sized mattress. One of those feature rich luxury mattresses similar to the one JT bought. It was fine for a while but after the first year, my wife started complaining about the diminished comfort.

Flash forward to the present and it is absolutely horrible. There is what I can only describe as an crater sized indentation in the middle of the mattress. We are well beyond the statue of limitations for returning it. What's more, we paid a lot of money for it. I don't recall how much.


So at the recommendation of my chiropractor who apparently purchased one herself, I'm going to try a Tuff & Needle. The reason I am willing to take a chance is because of the price point. while $750 is nothing to sneeze at, If it doesn't work out I won't feel like I wasted thousands of dollars and am no better off than I am with our current mattress. 

What does the warranty cover?

The Tuft & Needle warranty covers manufacturing defects like body impressions or sagging, cover defects such as unraveling stitching, or flaws in the foam causing it to split or crack within 10 years from the original purchase date. Feel free to read the terms of our warranty here.
We don't cover changes to your mattress that are caused by or the result of normal wear and tear. Also, of course, we don’t cover changes caused by or resulting from circumstances or uses that go beyond the intended use of a mattress—namely, reclining and sleeping. For example, don't take your Tuft & Needle for a ride down the river.

As long as the mattress doesn't fail within the first year or so, I'll consider it a win.  I'd like it to last much longer than that of course.  One year is the minimum threshold, which means I paid $60/month for the mattress. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 and 2016 in perspective

I'm not a big New Year's Resolution kind of person.  One of the few shining moments from my mid-twenties was the ongoing resolution to be in a better place each year.  Be it physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually (I'm not sure if there really is a distinction among some of those,but why not). 

So then resolution-like goals in no particular order.

Run More Miles
According the Facebook Memories, I ran about 1100 miles in 2009, 702 miles in 2013 and 300 miles in 2015.  Obviously there are a lot of variables involved in those years.

Realistically, if I ran every other day in 2016, even skipping a run or three, I can log 40-45 miles a month.  That would bring me to over 500 miles by years end.  I think that is a reasonable goal.

Weight Reductions
I was oscillating between 210 and 215 until I was able to bump my running up a bit this past fall.  Now with the SAHD thing, I'm oscillating between 208 and 212, because carrying a 22+ lb baby on your hip is a good calorie burner.

Read More Books
I don't read nearly as much as I use to b,ack in the day, which is pathetic for a wanna be author.  Therefore I joined the GoodReads challenge to read 20 books this year.  I figure I should be able to hammer out two books a month, give or take a rough month or two.
Write More
I want to write for, and so my goal is to get at least one article published there in 2016.

I also need to get cracking on that book, which means I should be writing something everyday, even if it's just a 100 words.  More realistically, I will devote 1 hour a week (at first) to writing that novel.