Wednesday, August 27, 2014

College experiences overwhelm those of us who are unprepared for them

This time of year I often think back to when I first went off to NMSU in Kirksville, MO.  Fellow CN blogger Walter Michka wrote a post called Back to School Lessons Learned on Monday (Walter usually only posts once a week on Mondays so he has consistency going for him). It's about dropping off his last kid at college and he had this to say about his own college experience:
My college experience was a tad… different. I never “took” to college....After two semesters, I had twelve F’s and one D. I spent the rest of my college career playing catch-up: first at a junior college, then a 4-year school downstate, majoring in the opposite of engineering.
I didn’t make new friends there, didn’t join a fraternity. I didn’t forge bonds with young men and women who’d become my life-long soul mates as we journeyed into our collective futures. I was homesick most of the time and only made one “friend,” a girlfriend… until she dropped out, broke up with me, and moved back home (not in the order). My mother died at the start of my final year, making everything worse."

"I finally got through college; I have a degree. It took me longer than planned but I graduated. I even learned a few things. I know I didn’t get anywhere near the experience I should have out of school. And I know there are no do-overs. But I can now see how this time in a child's life is supposed to go when I watch Kid #1, Kid #2, and now Kid #3 dart off and swim away.

 It only took me one semester to get my act together.  While I was hopelessly, hilariously under-prepared for higher education and being away on my own, I did adjust and course correct a bit quicker than Walter although the academic damage was already done.  The emotional damage took many more years to recover from.

NMSU had forgiveness so if you retook a class, the better grade trumped.  unfortunately you take both grades with your transcript when you transferred.  I spent the rest of my college career not playing catch-up so much as trying to finish ....majoring in the opposite of engineering as well: journalism, or at least the UIC equivalent -Mass Communication.

Unlike Walter, I did make a lot of friends at NMSU, many of whom I'm still connected with through Facebook.  But like Walter, I do feel like I had no where near the experience I should have had in a small college town during my late teenage/early adult years.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Communication Conflicts and Volunteer Organizations

 Rinse. Wash. Repeat:  I've seen a pattern when it comes to getting involved with volunteer organizations. The newcomer shows up and is fresh with ideas. The long-standing members don't want to give up too much power and, also having been in newcomer's shoes, have a sense of what will work, what won't work and what has failed before.

The newcomer either gives up and moves on or conforms with hopes of some day being involved in calling the shots.  Eventually the newcomer gets their chance only by that time they have lost some of their creative edge and energy. 

The conflict comes in the communication.

When I was in Europe for the Prague Marathon, one of the gentlemen I talked to at the Expo referred to our activity as jogging.  Runners don't like it when what we do is called jogging.  Call it our dark little prejudice.  In the states we equate jogging with that fad in the 70s where people wore jogging suits and did something just slightly less goofy than power walking.

Here's the thing:  That gentleman wasn't talking about that jogging when he used the word.  He was using the word jogging to be the English translation of whatever word is "running" in Check or Lithuanian or Romanian.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Late Sunday Post with a chance of Sunset Picture

amount of sunlight/shadow 3:35 pm CST 

It’s a hot, humid and sunny August Sunday, I’m in my office/parlor, listening to the window AC unit that the previous owners left us, blow cool air (and poisonous freon most likely).  My plans for the evening: Spend it with my wife and mother who is on a 4 hour pass from the Nursing Home.  And also maybe get ice cream after I mow the small patch of grass in the back once the sun moves far enough in the West behind the garage to cast a shadow on it.

While I have been whining and complaining and stressing all week, Life is still relatively good. I think it’s worth noting that it is, and that I’m appreciative for it.

This blog post inspired by this one.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Week 32 and a half Pregnancy update

So we are between Week 32 and Week 33 (Monday will be Week 33).  From here until Week 36 we are still in the NICU Zone, that time where if the babies come early, they will most likely have to spend some time in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).

  • Week 35 is average half twin babies come before, half after.   
  • Week 36 is early but odds are decent that we would avoid NICU.
  • Week 37 is early but odds are even stronger that we would avoid NICU.
  • Week 38 is our target, we make it there we should be good to go.

Anything after it technically risky for twins.  And frankly, Nightingale is ready to have Moose and Squirrel out already.  She cannot move quickly.  She cannot sit for long periods of time. 

She has been having trouble sleeping a lot more lately.  The pattern is usually not sleep well on Monday, not sleep much on Tuesday.  On Wednesday she is irritable but hesitant to take any sleep medication because she wakes up groggy.  On Thursday she might finally give in and take the sleep medication which means she is okay on Friday and catches up on sleep over the weekend and then we repeat the next week.

Last night she seemed to discover that her waking up is related to being hungry.  As soon as she had something to eat last night, she said she fell asleep right away.  Who knew.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another Post Featured on the ChicagoNow front page

While I strive to take an act like you've been there before attitude, It's always kinda cool when a blog post I wrote gets featured on the ChicagoNow home page.  With the recent revamp of the Chicago Tribune I don't expect to ever be featured in the one slot allocated to ChicagoNow on the online edition again.

Clickable Link Here

Some of my fellow CN bloggers wonder how to get featured on the ChicagoNow front page so this is as good as any place to jot down what I've found.

  1. Content is still King:  Write something good and make a decent attempt at SEO headline and the Powers-That-Be will feature it.
  2. In Lieu of that, publishing just before 7 in the morning or noon in the afternoon can help catch the PTB attention.
  3. There isn't much activity during the weekend or holidays so that is a good time to post as well.
  4. Ask:  If you really want your post to be featured, I've heard asking will get it done.  Note: use this judiciously of course.
There you have it. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quick Update on Various Things

Update on my mom:  So last Thursday, my mom was transferred from a hospital room to a Nursing Home.  Medicare will apparently pay for up to 20 days stay here.  She was very against the move but when we went to visit her Friday her tune had changed.  She seemed to be okay with being there for a short amount of time.  We suspect they either gave her a happy pill or put something in her food.  Either way, we aren't complaining, we just want a year's supply of it.

Will's Wedding Fun Run
Update on Condo:  alas it is looking like it is time to give up on selling and get a renter again.  This will not make the other owners in the building happy and I'm worried that any tenant will be a nightmare unto itself.  Unfortunately I cannot afford to keep carrying the mortgage.  The unit was
empty for July and August and I'll likely have to pay a finders-fee for Sept if I act now.  If I miss the September window then add one more payment.  ugh!

Week 32:  it's getting closer and we are not nearly as ready as we hoped we'd be.  We still need to get a second crib and the challenge, other than the other COWs in our life, is that we got the first one for free so it's hard to pay full price or even discounted price for a second one.  That's not to say we won't bite the bullet and get one.  On the plus side, I do believe we have all the *things* we need as far as clothes, car seats and other items the cave people didn't have but modern society needs to keep a child alive for at least the first few months until they discover Disney Cartoons. 

Update on Feline:  Our cat Austin has had very high sugar readings lately.  It's no surprise since we are missing the 12 hour window a little bit with all the other distractions going on right now.

Social Maintenance:  Over the years I've been part of many different running groups.  I don't just mean official CARA groups either, though that is the main source.  For almost every marathon I've trained for I've had the privlege of running with a slightly different set of runners.  From season to season there are always new people among the returning veterans.  One of the many fringe benefits of training for a marathon is you find people who run at your pace to run with you off-season when you are not training for anything in particular. 

So this weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's Pre-wedding Fun Run and Cookout.  Even though it's been a few years since I ran with the Clock Tower Runners, I made an effort to show up for Social Maintenance.  While I knew a few people and managed to make a few new acquaintances, I was very relieved when the opportunity to help man the grill came along.

 There was one guy who was trying too hard to be part of the group and kinda failing at it.  I recognized myself reflected in his effort.  I use to be that guy: trying to engage someone but coming off as a bit of a jerk.  I felt pity and gave him my extra burger.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Comcast isn't the only one

As I've mentioned before I have several posts in my draft folder on this blog.  Often I will flesh out an idea and either post it in raw form here or if I think I can leverage it into pagehits something more in-depth I will go ahead and post it at ChicagoNow.  I did so with a post about Respecting the Run, you should click and check it out.

If you've been paying attention to the news you might have heard that Comcast pissed off a particular customer last month and he had some fun posting the audio of the support call.  Amidst all the related posts was a piece that talked to former and current Comcast customer service reps.

we need customer service training as much as technical training
"first call resolution" which translates to: "Make sure the customer doesn’t have to call again to fix the problem." In practice, it was difficult to achieve. I believe we didn’t have enough tools to guarantee first call resolution. There was almost no offline time to work. So you didn’t have time to do follow-up checks on their services, or whether the technician arrived at the scheduled appointment, etc.  Source.

Comcast isn't the only one.  When I worked at the No-Name Software Company we were encouraged to fix the problem on the first call or at least keep the escalations down and the time to resolve as low as possible.  It was hard to document the call and work on the issue because because the calls kept coming and the number of call takers was hopelessly, hilariously inadequate.  We also had practically no offline time to work on the issue and at our pay level, no one was going to spend significant amount of time after hours to continue researching and troubleshooting.  Even if you wanted to, you were spent by the end of the day and many had families to get home to (also our remote dial-in capabilities weren't as robust as they are today -- it wasn't as easy for everyone to remote in at night to work on a few emails as it would be today.)

On paper we had the headcount, of course.  But when you eliminate the Director Palpatine's hand-picked band of merry asskissers who somehow got to work on issues that got them off the phone, we were really almost always running at 50% capacity.  And finally, there wasn't much done to manage the expectation of customers.  They could walk all over us and treat us poorly and there wasn't much we could do about it.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Various and Sundry August

Monday was Week 30 of the Icarus Expansion Project, so we technically have 10 more weeks to go though Twins come on their own schedule, the average being 35 weeks.    Ideally, we want to get as close to Week 38 as possible so we can avoid the NICU.  It looks like our family might be celebrating Nightingale's birthday, our wedding anniversary and the birth of moose and squirrel all in the same week.

We had to admit my mom to the hospital on Saturday because she has been ill for over two weeks. 
Tie fighter pilot without the mask
When she didn't come to our baby shower we knew something was up.  She was texting that she wasn't feeling well but downplayed how severe her malady really is.  A neighbor reached out to me on FB and let me know that she hadn't been seen outside her house in a while and was too weak to come to the door.  We rushed over and brought her to our house.

At first she seemed to be getting better but the forward progress didn't match the amount of time she was sick so we took her to a clinic (she only has medicare A) but they wouldn't take her without proof that she was denied Medicare B so we had to take her to the emergency room.  We choose the hospital closest to us because I figured we'd be spending a lot of time going back and forth and also because it was Lalapoolza weekend, Nightingale knew from experience the Northwestern ER would be overwhelmed with drunks.  In hindsight, we should have sucked it up and taken her to Northwestern because 1) the quality of care is noticeable better and 2) if you're gonna stick a hospital with the bill, it should be one that makes as much revenue as Northwestern instead of the poor understaffed and underfunded community hospital we ended up at.

So in the words of Nightingale:

The abscess was surrounding her liver and her kidney! They drained a liter of pus out and will eventually need to do surgery. Thy also want to do a colonoscopy to check for a leak that may be causing this. She also has pneumonia in her right lower lung with some excess fluid around the lung-probably from the infection.

Finally, my condo is back on the market.  I really don't like talking about it here because there really isn't much to talk about and I'm not gonna share a link.  My tenant decided to move out at the end of June so we listed it with the hope that we either get a quick sale or re-rent it in time for the Sept/Oct market. 

The good news is that we seem to have more showings than we did in 2010.  The "bad" news is that, just like when you are looking for a job or a life partner, until someone gives you a contract (or a job or puts a ring on it) you don't have anything to show for it.  Updated:  We have a very short window to work with before I have to try and get a renter in there again and since people tend to go house-hunting on the weekends, it takes a week or so to get good data and buyer feedback.