Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walking is like driving

This is a pretty simple concept.  Once I explain it a bit you should get the title, and why some people frustrate me.

When you drive, assuming you're in the US, you're supposed to stay on the right side of the road.  I think this principle should be upheld whenever possible - on the sidewalk, in an office, or anywhere a clear traffic flow can be observed.

It's not that hard!
I don't know Dave, but I know he can appreciate what I'm saying here.
How many times have you walked around a corner, usually holding a beverage or some sort of food, and been nearly run over by someone taking the corner a bit tighter than they need to?  Seriously, buddy!  Would that extra millisecond you saved by cutting the corner really benefit you?

Unless you are on your way to the bathroom with explosive diarrhea, the answer is a resounding "NO". 

It takes you, according to my math, 9,456,593 tight turns to make up for every instance you nearly run into me.  The reason is simple.  Once you have an impromptu introduction like this you have to stop, sometimes pick yourself up off the floor (because let's face it, not too many people - at least in my office - can come around the corner and collide with my 6'5", 240 pound frame and not suffer some sort of redirection), apologize for being an idiot, probably make some stupid comment about how we need mirrors at each of these dangerous corners, then continue on your way.

Save yourself the humiliation, and probably some precious time, and stay in your own lane.

Do I really need to bring in a roll of duct tape to put down lane lines?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Customer Dis-service

Satellite radio is nice, but it is by no means a necessity.  With that in mind, we cancelled our service earlier this year.  It was easy enough to cancel, but then things got difficult.  I need to vent, so here goes.
Seems about right
April - I called to cancel.  They offered us a two month free usage of their service in an attempt to get us to keep paying for a service we rarely used.  I informed them that if I had to do anything, even as little as call back in to terminate the free offer, I didn't want it.  I was assured that it would automatically end and I had nothing to do. They sent us a refund check for the unused months we had already paid for so I thought we were done.

I was just a little wrong.

June - We got a notice that our subscription was about to expire due to lack of payment and that we would need to make a payment to continue with them.  Knowing that the service would discontinue automatically, I ignored their request for cash.  When we received the third letter I called in and politely asked what the hell was going on.  I was informed that I did, in fact, need to cancel the service...again. 

The less than helpful person on the other end of the line asked me to hold while she transferred me to someone who could cancel for us.  Apparently she had not been trained in the art of closing an account.  She transferred me and their phone system hung up on me.  I called back and the same thing happened.  The third time I called I told the person just to cancel us and be done.  She said OK, tried to transfer me again for good measure, and the phone went dead.

July - More notices.  Not only were we getting at least one a week, now I was getting calls on my cell phone from an automated service telling me to pay up or be cut off. 

August - At this point we were getting about four notices per week, and probably the same amount of phone calls.  I called them again and went through the same disconnecting process.

September - After months of notices they finally turned off the service.  We hadn't used it in the past few months, but did check it every so often to see if they had figured out how to stop it.

October - We got a letter from a collection agency.  We were informed that XM had turned our account over to them in an effort to collect the past due balance.  I called and explained what happened.  They, of course, could do nothing so I had to write a letter and file an appeal with XM directly.

As of the date of this post we are still waiting for XM to reply.  I'm sure they will claim not to have received our letter and want us to pay the past due balance.

Anyone else had issues with XM?  I can't imagine we are the only ones to fight this battle.  I just wonder how many people pay the bill to get XM off their back.  I also wonder if there is some sort of class action lawsuit pending.

Their attempts to squeeze a little bit of cash out of their customers seem to be a bad business practice, if you ask me.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Grocery Shopping/Preparation

I don't consider myself too anal retentive about many things.  I do like organization as I believe I've mentioned before.  I also like things to be clean if at all possible.  I hate to waste stuff.  There is one exception to this rule - I LOVE to chuck old food.

I look at this as an opportunity to create space for new and edible items. 

I don't like it when food goes bad, because there are starving children somewhere in the world that might eat it - though I would advise against eating some of the stuff I've found in the fridge or pantry closet.

Julia and I do the grocery shopping together almost every week.  I enjoy it.  Not only do I get time with my ladies, but I get a chance to sneak things into the cart.  Things that Mama would never get on her own.  And most likely things she will never eat or let the girls have.  Typically, these items don't go bad either.  Partially because I eat them, but more often because they are so loaded with preservatives their shelf life exceeds my own life span. 

We do this on Saturday mornings.  A typical Friday night, obviously, consists of me going through the fridge and making a list of everything we need.  While I'm doing the prep work, I look through some of the old containers and decide what to chuck.  Jealous yet?  I know, right now you're thinking "How cool are they?" 

We are so cool.

Julia hates this.

The typical conversation goes like this:
Me - Is this salsa still good?  I can't tell if this is green pepper in here or mold?

Julia - Whatever.

Me - Are we still planning on using this celery?  It bends, but I'm having trouble breaking it...and it's white-ish.

Julia - Whatever.

Me - If I can stick my finger all the way to the core of a peach does that mean it's bad?

Julia - Whatever.

Me - These chips bend, but they don't crunch.  Are you still going to eat them?

Julia - Whatever. 
Me - This salad dressing expired just after we met.  Is it edible?

Julia - Whatever.
Me - When did we have tomato soup last?

Julia - I can't remember.

Me -  Oh, never mind.  It's actually an apple that sorta melted.
Julia - Shut up and bring me some more wine.

Me - We have a bottle of white in the fridge that has never been opened, but appears to be evaporating.  Is that even possible?

Julia - Never mind, I got it myself.
As you can see, Julia is obviously as excited as I am about getting rid of the old to make room for the new.  Either that, or she is halfway through a bottle of wine and trying to unwind after a long week with the girls.

No matter.  I continue to purge and eventually feed the hungry monster garbage disposal almost everything I've found.    
MMMM, can't believe I threw this stuff out.
With that done, I complete the grocery list with all the necessities like bread, milk, sweet love makin, and eggs. 

It never gets old seeing Julia adding things to the list and then come across one of my "necessities".

Maybe if I had a kitchen like this I wouldn't need to create space for all the new items.  Maybe someday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving...Eve...Day

From us and our two little indians that got into the spirit of Thanksgiving by doing a little tribal fingerpainting bodypainting.

It's not racist or meant to be deragatory...they each have 1/32 Chickasaw blood coursing through their veins.  I don't think the NCAA will come after us, but I will remove the post if deemed offensive and/or challenged in a court of law.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Professor Papa - Part 4

More good teaching and the usual bad things to even it out.

We'll start with the bad and end on a high note today.  The girls now know how to use the drain in the tub.  They don't always let the water out this way.  Typically, they are more focused on splashing it out, or so it would seem.

I started using this to teach them bath time was over.  Nobody really wants to sit in a tub when all the water is gone so it seemed a natural indicator that we were done and moving on to getting ready for bed.  It worked a few times, and then they would start letting the water out when we were only partially done. 

More often than not, we would be rinsing one's hair and the other would become impatient, so she would open the drain. Unfortunately, this means that if you don't catch it in time, the freshly rinsed one would be standing in an empty tub while the other one was being rinsed.

Not the worst thing in the world, but standing in an empty tub after you've been rinsed can be a bit chilly - especially when the one getting rinsed is having warm water poured over her.

The good lesson is a further teaching on a prior post - fist bumping.  I have to give at least partial credit to Mama on this one since she has been working more on it than I have.  The girls have learned to "blow it up" after the fist bump.  Thanks to Travis for recommending the technique.

For those of you not as hip as I, to blow up a fist bump you simply retract your hand immediately following the initial bump.  If you are truly a hipster, you'll open your hand during the removal stage.  For those of you that are even cooler still, you'll wiggle your fingers during the last part.

I would call this adding jazz hands or spirit fingers to the bump, but that probably nullifies all cool points, so we'll avoid that explanation.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Is that really a reason to recall something?

Just for the record, I do believe companies should let the consumers know when there is an issue with a particular product they manufacture.  That being said, most of the issues we've seen have not been real issues in my opinion.  The only recall notice we have received recently which was an actual cause for alarm is the one that said my car may have an issue.  Even that one said you didn't have to so anything unless your car was showing certain symptoms.

Here are the last three we've received.

Sweet ride, but oh so dangerous

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dreaded mail

We don't get too much mail these days.  It seems like the only thing we get consistently are magazines (mostly ones we haven't subscribed to), catalogs, credit card offers, things addressed to "Resident", fliers, and the occasional piece for the people that used to live here and moved out over five years ago.

Every so often we get a card or letter from someone we know, but most of that comes via email any more.

There is one thing we get and can count on getting each and every year - something from the IRS.

Wouldn't this be nice?
It is the one piece of mail I will actually open while standing at the mailbox.  Any refunds we get are done via direct deposit, so this is almost never a good thing. 

My heart rate increases.  I start to sweat and shake a little bit.

What have I done to draw the attention of the IRS? 

Every tax return I have filled out in the last nine years has prompted them to come after me. 

Yes, you read that right.  For the last nine years I have gotten a letter from the IRS stating that I owe them thousands of dollars and I better send in a check because the juice (interest, for those of you not familiar with Rounders or gambling) is running.

This is to signify the juice running.  OJ in this case, not interest.
Every year I then dig up my old return, compare what they have to what I have, and prepare a response. 

For six of those nine years the response has been exactly the same:

To Whom it May Concern,

You've now screwed this up for the last X number of years. Please see the attached documentation (printed directly from the IRS web site and/or copied from the tax code) and let me know, with an apology, that you agree to your screw up. Again.

Regards, Brad and Julia

PS - My wife's name is still Julia, not Julis. Can you change that one more time?

Ok, so I don't phrase it exactly like that, but I would love to.  If I didn't think they would tear my future returns apart in retaliation I might be more inclined to be a smart ass.

I got the fourth letter from them this year on Monday.  This is not exactly what they said, but it's close.

Dear Brad and Julia,

My bad.  We'll send you some money back since you did overpay us as you originally indicated. 

Talk to you next year,

PS - We got Julia's name right, but we'll screw it up next year, intentionally.  This isn't over.
In the three cases that were not like the others only once did I agree with them and cut a check.  For the record, I am now 8-1 all time against the IRS, but that one loss is not entirely true as I disagreed with a few points and they backed off of those.  Maybe I'm 8-0-1, calling that time a tie.

My record, unfortunately, proves nothing.  The only thing it means for certain is that the IRS is due for a big win.

Therefore, I humbly submit my resignation from doing my own taxes and acknowledge that it's time to hire a CPA.

Julis agrees.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update on the book

I really hope this is the first update in a series of ones to come.  For those of you who don't know how this works (I counted myself among you up until recently), let me take a minute to explain. 

You write a bunch of words, send it to a publishing house, they give you lots of money, and publish your book.  Then they send you on all expense paid trips to exotic locations to market the book.  A movie producer comes along, throws even more money at you, and makes your book into a movie.

I'll definitely need a room to store all my gold bullion
Do it again for a second book and continue to do so until nobody wants to hear what you have to say any longer.

Pretty simple, right?

So maybe that isn't actually how it works.

Here's the process as I've gone through it.

I started writing stuff down so my girls could have a little insight into what life was like when they were young.  Julia does a great job journaling, but since my handwriting is nearly illegible, I decided to type. 

When I reached 30,000 words (easily more than I had ever written at one time in my life) I decided to have some other people look at it and see what they thought.  While I merely asked for feedback, one person went ahead and forwarded a copy of it to his agent.

The agent then called and asked the one question he could think of:
Is this it?
I really didn't know how to take that.  His question could mean "I love this so much I hope there's more" or "This is awful, please tell me this is just a joke".  Turns out it was closer to the first. 

He told me I really needed to be at 75,000 words to be something a publisher could work with, so I continued writing.  The first 30,000 words took four or five months, but the next 45,000 only took a few weeks.  Honestly, the girls were so interesting, funny, and educational I didn't have a hard time finding something to write about.

75,000 words is not that many, but it felt like it to me
The agent then told me to start blogging, as I stated here in case you haven't been with me from the start.  I think that basically narrows the list down to anyone other than my wife and parents.

The other thing he told me to do was to create a book proposal.  With his help we did just that.  A book proposal is merely a condensed version of who you are, why you wrote a book, what gives you the right to write it, and how the publisher can benefit from it.

That book proposal went out to several different editors last week to see if anyone is willing to take a shot on an unknown, first time author.

That's all I know for now.  I'll keep you updated as time goes on.  With any luck, my next update post will be about the book being picked up and not something along the lines of "If you want a copy send me an email".

Friday, November 11, 2011

New adventures with Papa

Mama had her first sick day on Monday, as you may have read.

The girls and I spent an entire day together while Mama slept and recovered.  Here are a few new things they did.  Some of them are entirely new, while some of them are just new to me. 

We had a blast so I thought I'd share.

Folding the laundry - the girls worked on folding towels.  Mostly, this means I would show them how to do it and they would them destroy my work.  By the end of the allotted laundry time Hadley had folded a washcloth into a semi-square while Brynne kind of balled it up - they both looked roughly accurate so we put them away as they were.
Brynne does her own thing; Hadley at least watches me.
Putting the laundry away - Hadley would bring me a hanger, on which I would hang their clothes, and then she would put it in the closet.  At first, this meant putting it on the floor, but she soon learned how to hang them up and it went well.  Brynne, meanwhile, was in charge of the dresser.  I gave her a stack of folded pants.  She would then open the appropriate drawer, cram in the pants, and close the drawer before repeating the process a dozen times.  Some of the pants needed to be refolded, but for the most part they went in as she put them.  I only did some touch up work when the drawer wouldn't close.

Hadley perfecting her hanging skills
Why yes, that is a roll of tape in my mouth.  Why do you ask?
Not perfect, but not bad for under two.
Meals - The girls had lost some of their appetite recently and we've blamed it on the medicine.  They found it.  Breakfast was two pieces of PB and honey toast, two more pieces of cinnamon toast, half a banana, and two eggs.  That was just the solids!  They also had milk and OJ in large amounts.  Lunch and dinner were different foods, but the quantity was about the same.

Nap time - I have struggled with knowing when to put them down in the past.  Hadley helped me out on this one.  Brynne was trying to climb the stairs up from the basement and had managed to distract me while Hadley read a book.  When I got her under control, I looked over to find Hadley lying on the floor reading her book.  I called her name and she didn't reply.  I went to her and found her "resting her eyes" as my Grandma Jenkins used to say - that's the grandma they share a birthday with, so it works.  Pretty much, she fell asleep and wasn't in her crib or car seat - a first!

Couldn't get the pic before she woke up, but this is close
In case she hadn't made her point clear she made another move.  I came back to the changing room after putting Brynne down to find Hadley trying to put a swim diaper on over her other diaper.  Either she was: sleepy and confused as to what she needed to wear; ready for a dip in the pool on a 50 degree day; or alerting me that she had too much to drink.  As it turns out, the first and the third possibilities above were true.

Playing - Both the girls enjoyed rides in my old office chair around the basement.  Not too exciting for us old people, but for them it was a thrill. 

Not everything was good.  Hadley did manage to take a header off the couch and landed face first on the wood floor.  A few tears later she was fine.  Had it been Brynne, I'm sure we'd be looking at another black eye, but apparently Hadley has a little thicker skin.  Fortunately, landing on her head is probably about as safe as landing on her feet.

I also caught Brynne with one leg over the back of the couch trying to make it to the puppy dogs home.  She didn't get to them, but not for lack of trying.

Time to get back to work so I can catch up on a little R&R.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Looks like we'll need a bigger house

We (and when I use "we" I am mostly referring to myself) have been so fortunate since the girls were born.  Julia has not been sick one time.  Sure, she gets the occassional sniffle or cough, but nothing that has kept her down for long.

That all changed Sunday night. 

She had been feeling a little "off" over the weekend, but nothing major.  Then Sunday night came and brought with it some stomach pains.  No announcement here.  She's not pregnant and I doubt I'd be announcing it to the world through my blog anyway.  In case you are new to me, I am a fan of misdirection, so I hope the title threw you off a bit.

Lesson here for anyone willing to hear it - be careful what you wish for.

Julia was sitting on the bed and said "I wish I would just throw up so I'd feel better".

Hadley then started coughing in her crib.  I went to get her since it sounded like a cough that might lead to vomitting.  I got her halfway to the cool night air (in an effort to let the coldness ease her breathing and stop the coughing fit) when she let loose a spray of milk, medicine, and spinach artichoke dip.
Looks the same coming out as it does going in
Thankfully, most of it ended up on me.  What wasn't on me was quickly cleaned by the dogs.  After we spent some time outside and she was breathing more normally I took her back in to clean her up.  She sat with Mama for a minute while I dug up some clean clothes.

As I returned to our room Hadley was sitting alone on the bed.  I couldn't smell the vomit on her, but Mama did.  The smell was strong enough to grant her wish.
A variation of the last post about me being sick
I have always appreciated how much she does for the girls during the day, but I never had to swap places with her before.  Man, it is not easy.

Sure, I was operating on only four hours sleep and had a list of things to do while the girls took their afternoon nap so I couldn't rest then, but what a day it was. 

Don't get me wrong, I loved hanging out with my girls.  Mama, apparently, has mastered the ability to let the girls play on their own and even encourages it.  I, however, was their constant source on entertainment.  They always had a book for me to read - eight or nine times in a row - or a toy to play with (and sometimes I was their big toy) or steps to keep them from climbing.

We would play for an hour.  Then I would check the clock and see only fifteen minutes had passed.  I swear the sun set and rose twice between breakfast and lunch.
Good old Flavor Flav
I made a mental list of all the things they did and shared them with Julia.  Of course, she had already seen most all of these things, but there were a few new ones. More to come on that Friday.

The worst part was the weather.  It was rainy and dreary outside so we couldn't even go to the park or a tennis court.

I can only wish the next time this day comes, and I am sure it will, the weather is a little more cooperative.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Professor Papa - Part 3

This is another instance of taking a good thing, and using it in the wrong fashion.

On vacation we had a bit of extra time to kill between bath and bed time.  Mama was tending to Brynne, so Hadley and I were playing in their room.  We were on the bed reading one of their sign language books.  I turned the page to the next sign, which was jump.

She then jumped.  Okay, so she didn't jump like this, but she clearly made the attempt.  With the extra spring in her step provided by the bed she was able to put some air between her feet and the bed. 

It caught me off guard.  I know that she knows the signs for the words in the books, but I didn't realize she knew what the words meant.  Granted, I was helping show her how to jump (as best I could from a kneeling position), but she took right to it.

She was laughing and smiling - obviously as proud of herself as I was. 

Brynne came in (attracted by the squealing of Hadley), climbed on the bed, and proceeded to do exactly the same thing.

The next day we worked on jumping off the ground.  Without the bed springs to supply some much needed lift they were only able to "jump" to their tip toes.  Since then they have been able to get a little lift, so I'm calling that success. 

In my opinion, even if you can barely put a sheet of paper between their feet and the ground it is still a jump.   Once we get a little basketball hoop for them we'll work on layups and dunking, but for now we'll stick with increasing their vertical.

I guess I am partly (or fully) to blame for their jumping on the wrong things.  I am the one who introduced them to jumping on the bed.  They, however, did start jumping on couches, chairs, and in cribs.

It's gotten to the point where if they are on the couch (where they know they are not to stand up) they will stand, jump, and then land/fall on their butts - laughing madly the whole time.

My two concerns are: 

1 - jumping over the back of the couch or off the sides/front

2 - landing on their butts from a jump on a hard surface.

The first one is higher on the danger scale than the second as they don't have as far to go, but it is still a concern.

Obviously it will be a long time before they do something which puts them way up on the danger scale, but even these small falls can do damage.

I'll just have to deal with it, though. Can't keep my girls in a bubble.