Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Well Met, Good Sir!"

My daughter has strep. Somehow the rest of us seem to have avoided it. But it did end up making for a limited weekend. Our Memorial Day plans changed somewhat, our picnic in the park turning into a picnic in the back yard.

But we managed to find some excitement. Like three police cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck visiting our neighbors' house. We have no idea what happened, other than a young woman being brought out on a stretcher. The kids found it all quite entertaining.

I saw "Revenge of the Sith" over the weekend. It was pretty good; very dark and emotional. Not exactly the "feel-good movie of the summer." But quite well done, for the most part. Yeah, I could nitpick, but I won't.

My younger brother recently announced he is buying a restaurant business. Being somewhat concerned, I gave him a call this weekend. Not wanting to show a lack of support by being too critical, I began with a tactful approach: "Have you lost your mind?!?!?!" But as the story came out, it became evident that this really is a good opportunity for him that he'd be nuts to pass up. I think he'll do well.

This week I dive in head-first on my new position. I'll be spending most of the week in meetings; getting to know my team, interviewing new candidates, or in planning for the new team. It'll be a really short week in a lot of ways. As I'm an introvert, I anticipate heavy exhaustion.

It's going to be hard to resist the urge to veg out when I get home each night.

Friday, May 27, 2005

A Darker Shade of Worry

My daughter woke up crying last night. I went to stroke her hair and was surprised to find her hair damp and her skin burning. She'd complained of being cold before going to bed, but I'd figured it was because of the incessant air conditioning. We checked her temperature: 101.1. Not serious, but enough of a concern.

Sickness carries with it varying degrees of worry. When it's me, I'm not that concerned. I just need to stick it out long enough for whatever it is to go away. When it's my wife I worry some: I'm anxious for her, but know that she can take care of herself. When its one of my kids worry gnaws on me constantly.

Children seem so fragile you want to protect them from everything. When they get sick it's hard not to take it personally: where did I fail? Illness is also more pronounced in kids, I think. They're normally so bright and energetic that illness makes them seem like hollow shells by comparison. You worry that they'll never get their spark back.

They're also so honest. They don't--and can't--hide their suffering. It's a constant reminder of just how helpless we parents really are. Yes, there are things we can do to make them more comfortable, to help them recover faster, but ultimately we're not in charge. They're in the grip of Time at best, Fate at worst.

I don't like it. As ornery as she can be, I want my little girl back. And perhaps that's the point. Perhaps it's God's way of reminding us to maintain pespective. Yes, a child who fights with her sibling, asks incessant questions, and sulks over trivial setbacks may be annoying, but if she's not healthy, the rest suddenly becomes unimportant.

She was markedly improved this morning. But that doesn't keep me from worrying. It's in the genes. It's in the job description. And, I suspect, it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Green-Eyed Monster

My son woke up in a very good mood this morning. He came up behind me while I was shaving, and when I turned around he transfixed me with a silly grin and two striking green eyes brimming with mischief, mirth, and the sheer joy of being alive. He was having fun just being.

I defy anyone to see him when he gets this way and not at least smile. Me? I wanted to grab him, hold him close, and beg him to teach me how he does it. But I know better. It's not something that can be taught. Not entirely, anyway. Sure, I could rediscover the joy of playing. But the innocence and unrestrained nature of a child--well, I've lost that forever. Ever since I learned that life is not fair, that there are worse things than monsters under the bed, and that a bandaid and a kiss is insufficient for far too many of life's pains.

But I do believe there is hope for me. Even if I can no longer feel the joy he feels, I can at least appreciate it. I can recognize it when I see it. And it thrills me to no end that he wants to share it with me, that perhaps he even thinks I CAN share it.

I don't know. Maybe I can. Maybe it just takes more work at my age.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Spreading the Love Coast to Coast

One of my first official duties in my new position is to set up a team meeting. Trying to find open slots in thirty-five people's schedules is tricky enough. Spread that team across four offices in three time zones, and...well, you exceed the capabilities of Microsoft Outlook, for one. And I volunteered to be the team communications lead. Silly rabbit!

We had a meeting yesterday involving many of the those who are now on the team, and we opened it up to questions. I should have expected it, really, but I was a bit surprised that not everyone was as excited about the change as I am. I should have remembered that change is not easy for many people. I'm usually an early-adopter, and while I can understand the people who are slow to adopt, I have a hard time understanding those who outright resist the change. Especially when what is being changed has always been a pain-point for everyone.

It has also been interesting to see the eager-beavers come forward. One person on my team emailed me to introduce himself shortly after the announcement went out. Another has written in response to my email that I would be contacting everyone shortly. A third came from someone on another team within the group, but who has a strong interest in some of the areas I'm in charge of. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but it is interesting to note, at any rate.

Meanwhile, my last project reared a half-dead head again today. I've got more work to do than I have time to do it. Hee hee! This is fun!

...for now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Now It Can Be Told, Part 2

Today, over a month after I found out, the announcement came out about my new position. I will be a team lead in a new group that's being formed in our IT division. I'll be over about ten to fifteen people, and working with my fellow team leads to provide structure, methodology, and direction for our group. It's a wonderful opportunity, and I'm excited about it. I'm also very relieved to finally be able to talk about it!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Now it can be told

Yesterday I was assigned as the ward executive secretary, which means I get to try and keep the bishop and his two counselors organized. It also means I get to attend a whole bunch of meetings every Sunday morning. I'm not looking forward to that. Poor Terhi will be holding down the fort. Sunday mornings are usually difficult as it is.

But what can I say? I do believe in God, and I do believe He has been taking very good care of my family. If He wants five or six hours a week more of my time in return I can hardly begrudge. Especially since whenever I do what is asked of me I generally get even more blessings in return. I've pretty much given up ever pulling even.

A friend of mine was called to a position I used to hold--one every bit as demanding as my new one, if not moreso. I extended him my "congrolences" briefly, but I didn't get the chance to reassure him that he'd do fine--and that there would be plenty of blessings forthcoming if he put in the effort. I should take the time this week to let him know.

I have a feeling I'll be looking back years from now and viewing this time as a major watershed period for the rest of my life. And I'm pretty sure I mean that in a good way.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Familyarity Breeds Contentment

My sister and her family visited yesterday. We haven't seen them in nearly two years. The last time they were here our boys were still babies, barely able to move. The three months age difference between Walter and his cousin was quite pronounced. Now it's hardly noticeable.

I'm not sure what my nephew thought of his cousins. He's an only child, and is obviously not used to the level of spasticity my kids are capable of achieving when wound up. He ended up playing by himself frequently while watching the chaos with an expression that was difficult to gauge. Sometimes it appeared he found it all amusing. Other times he seemed to be thinking "What is WRONG with those KIDS?! I hope they don't break Daddy!"

It was good to see them again, even if only for a few hours. We really need to visit them on their turf sometime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Life in a Northern Town

A-hey-am-ma-ma-ma, A-hey-am-ma-ma-ma-heeeeeeey-a!

We live on the desert side of the Cascades, but you wouldn't know it lately. We've had rain at least every other day for the last two weeks at least. My lawn is about two days from being classified "Dense Undergrowth." People are cursing the rain.

In two months from now we'll be burning up in 100+ degree heat and wishing we could see any rain at all. There's just no pleasing the denizens of the high desert.

Summer is just around the corner. The schoolkids are restless. The evenings are fragrant and beckoning (when it's not raining). Mornings dangle the promise of a new day like Willie Wonka introducing "The Chocolate Room."

Ah, to be a kid again, when Summer Vacation meant something. Now I have to dig out "Dandelion Wine" if I want to recapture the magic of a new summer about to be born. I need some new tennis shoes.

Litefoot then, Litefoot!

Monday, May 16, 2005

"The Great Conjunction" Is At Hand!

My mother-in-law arrives tonight for a five week stay. My sister and her family will be visiting for a few days later this week. In a couple of weeks my folks will likely be coming to visit when we have our baby blessed. My new job starts this week. We're putting our house up for sale.

It's the end of everything! Or the beginning. Augra knows! Augra has seen!

There's a Story There

I pass through a school zone on my way to work every day. Ever since I started driving that way the same woman has been the crossing guard. Last week I saw her with another woman, and it seemed evident that there was some sort of training going on. This morning the new woman was there by herself. I wonder what happened to the original lady.

Did she retire? Did she become a paid actor for a Procrit commercial? Did she go on vacation? Did she get the crossing-guard equivalent of a promotion and is now guarding the much-busier Fairview and Cole crossings? I've never been able to resist a good story, and I know there's one there.

All through the winter I was tempted to buy her a gift certificate to the local coffeeshop and present it to her as a passing stranger appreciating her work. I wish I had.

How To Frighten Your Parents...

Overheard this weekend, my 4-year-old daughter to her 2-year-old brother:

"That's very dangerous. Want to try it?"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

If I Do Say So Myself...

I just completed the big, exhaustive project that was standing between me and my new position. No wonder I feel tired. I just completed over 450 pages of test scripts. I hate writing test scripts.

Yet I have to admit I learned quite a bit in the process. It took me several weeks to complete the first 150 pages or so. It took me about a week to finish the last 300 (probably 200 pages coming in the last couple days). Most of the productivity in the last phase was from the extra time I took on the first phase, creating templates and designing strategies. If ever I have to write a test script again (and I really hope not), I'll be much better prepared.

I'm feeling rather satisfied at the moment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

He draws the line SOMEWHERE...

MSNBC is displaying the following headline:

"Culkin denies being molested by Jackson during testimony"

Well of course not, even Michael Jackson knows that would be a little conspicuous--I mean, right there in the court room and all...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

American History In Hindsight

I'm reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton right now that has really opened my eyes. It's so easy for us to sit here today with over 200 years of history behind us and think "well of course things worked out for our country." This book takes place during a time when many people were giving the United States about as much chance of success as many people are giving the Iraqi democracy today.

The idea of a strong federal government was not only new, but openly resisted. People were actually afraid of George Washington wanting to be come a king. And many people not only thought of France as our great Brother in Democracy, but felt that the French Revolution was a very, very good thing--even with its "excusable excesses."

The amount of political infighting among Washington's cabinet makes the rumored Colin Powell vs. Donald Rumsfeld discord sound like a meeting of like minds. Hamilton and Jefferson were absolutely determined to destroy one another, as each felt the other was a serious threat to the country.

And the newspapers! You think we have a problem with media bias and integrity today?! Back then they could--and would--publish anything they wanted, even outright libel, and do so anonymously. Newspapers didn't even attempt to feign impartiality--they were blatant party mechanisms. The political atmosphere these days almost seems cordial by comparison.

I admit to having had such a limited and idealized view of our Founding Fathers and the early days of America, that this book almost reads like one of those "alternative timeline" novels that are becoming increasingly popular. Alexander Hamilton, while hardly an angel, is a fascinating--and evidently unfairly maligned--person.

Drama, intrigue, scandal, rampant capitalism...this book has it all!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Weekend of Wonder

..as in, "I wonder where that weekend went."

We had my parents come to visit, for one thing, which usually makes things go quickly. While I talked with them in the kitchen I mixed up another batch of veggie burgers. Yes, I'm a de facto vegetarian. It's downright un-American of me, but I've decided that a good veggie burger is better than a hamburger, mainly because of the subtleties in taste--and because the veggie burger doesn't sit like a rock in my gut for the next twelve hours or so.

The trouble is, most veggie burgers are expensive, and the cheap ones are...well, cheap. So I got bold last year and tried making my own. I conducted a little industrial espionage and stole the ingredients list from a major fast food chain that will remain nameless (they've since switched suppliers, anyhow). The proportions, however, were all a big guess. They turned out pretty good, but I'm convinced I can do better.

This batch wasn't an improvement, other than taking less time to do. I think I need more vegetables and less filler/glue, but it'll be at least another six months or so before I try again. This batch made enough to last us at least that long.

We got lots and lots of rain this weekend. At this rate, by the time I get a chance to mow my lawn I'll need the weedwhacker.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Expensive Kite

We had a thunderstorm roll through the valley last night, which included some high winds. I decided to check on our back yard at one point and noticed our shade canopy was missing, even though I'd tied it down to our house, a patio pillar and the fence. I stepped outside to locate it and finally found it--hanging from the corner of our neighbor's roof, two stories up.

I finally got it down with some help from the neighbors. Several frame poles are bent, and there's a two-foot gash in the canvas. I suspect it's a write-off. For now I partly disassembled the thing and rolled it up to get it out of the way.

I haven't even sent in for the rebate yet.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Positive Energy

There's a project I'm working on at work that has been just killing me for months. I've started on it about five times now and had to go back or start over to the point where I just hate it. Unfortunately, I have to finish it before I can transition to my new position.

Today for some reason I caught a new burst of energy. I threw myself into the project and was amazed at what time it was when I finally bothered to look up. I'm still not done, but I finished off a major, major chunk today. The psychological victory was greater than the physical one, most likely, and I now have hopes to have this thing wrapped up in a week.

I would have done more today, but I am training people in Boston tomorrow (they're in Boston, I'm not--ah, the wonders of modern technology) and had to crank out a supplemental training manual. I wasn't quite done with it at quitting time, and I found myself wanting to stay late to finish it. So I did. Only half an hour, I was on such a roll. The sense of accomplishment was thick in the air as I dashed for the car. Go me!

Tomorrow will be crazy. Five meetings, and little time to prepare for any of them. But by the time the smoke clears I'll have yet another transition-barrier wrapped up. Woohoo!


Best sentence I've read in awhile, and it comes from a cereal box:
"Have young children guess from a small group of objects laid before them which object was taken away while their eyes were closed."

Sheer poetry! An entire game instruction in a single, grammatically correct sentence. Somebody really deserves a handshake for that one.

Okay, I'm weird. You expected something else?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Negative Energy

It seemed yesterday like everyone around me was fighting or in a bad mood. It's a weakness of mine that I can't be exposed to that kind of emotion for long without soaking it up--even if it's not directed at me. It's something I'm trying to overcome.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to stop being affected by second-hand emotion, but I can change how I react to it, and that's where I'm trying to focus my efforts. It would be best if I could learn not to react at all, but for now I'm trying to channel my energies into at least more productive reactions. It will be an important "growth opportunity," considering my new position at work.

Meanwhile, here's a kudo to my wife:
"Stay At Home Moms Deserve Higher Pay"

I'm glad I don't have to pay her. I could never afford her on my salary. ;-)

Monday, May 02, 2005

On the Doorstep

I took the kids out for a walk after dinner last night to give their mother a little time to relax. It was a beautiful Spring evening, marred only by the fact that it's garbage day this morning, and a lot of garbage was blocking the sidewalk. My daughter is barely learning to ride her bike--with training wheels. Lots of garbage means lots of detours.

But in spite of all that we still didn't take as long as I'd hoped, so when we got home we sat out on the doorstep for awhile. Walter was glad to be outside, and like a young colt, bolted up and down the stairs and all around the yard at breakneck speed. Emma sat next to me for awhile, then went inside to get her magnetic doodle board. Before I knew it we were taking turns sketching items we could see and giving it to the other to guess. Sort of a game of "I Spy" without the verbal components. MagnaDoodles (TM) are not the most accurate media.

Every so often Walter would return, wrap his arms around my neck from behind, and lay across my back. I'd grab his arms, rock forward, and suspend him there for a moment or two. Then I'd let him back down and off he'd go.

The neighbors across the street were having a party, and at the moment they were listening to some country music (It later devolved to heavy-bassed rap that vibrated our house, but for the moment it was enjoyable). The yard was full of flowers, but the stinky mock-pear had lost its blooms, and the air smelled alternately of tulips and barbecue--either way, not a bad smell by any means.

Eventually it was time to go in, and after a few more hours I was about ready to give the neighbors a piece of my mind, but for a few moments, life was perfect.