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 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.

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.  

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.

 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 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 nightstand
  • 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 handyman 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 afterward.

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?

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