Thursday, June 30, 2005

Road Warrior

I'm back at my desk at work today for the first time since Monday morning. And no, I haven't been on a business trip. I've just been spending all my time in other buildings in the company. I work in a building about three miles away from the main campus, and so I usually schedule my meetings so that I don't have to travel back and forth any more than necessary. This week has been quite the marathon.

I'm obviously not very important in the company yet, though, as I only had one voice mail awaiting my return--and that was logged this morning in regards to my 8:00 am meeting. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Maybe it's just that people have learned I can't be reached by phone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Statistics Lie, and Liars Use Statistics

I was sitting in the employee lunchroom today when a news story came on about the heir of Sam Walton who died yesterday in a plane crash. I couldn't hear the sound, as I was too far away, but I figured out the general thrust of the story when they started showing pictures of other dead celebrity pilots, like John Denver and John F. Kennedy Jr. The connection is obvious. Celebrities have a much higher chance of dying in plane crashes.

Or is it that celebrities tend to be worse pilots? We have a local CEO who is a stunt pilot and crashed his plane while shooting a video for his company. He and his passenger walked away from it, but only because they were extremely lucky.

Or is it just that celebrities are more likely to have the money to own and fly their own planes? Naaaaaaaah!

Not that I need to worry. I'll probably never be a celebrity. And if I do become one I'll probably not become a pilot. Take up skydiving, perhaps....

Monday, June 27, 2005


We had a few days of harsh heat last week, but we're back to cooler weather and rain. It's almost like the weather is saying, "I heard that. You want warmer weather, do you? Well, do ya Punk? Do you remember what hot weather feels like?! Try THIS!! Okay, now do you really want hot weather? I didn't think so..."

Our strawberries and raspberries are loving it, and I prefer cooler weather, so this is great by me. But I still can't seem to catch a break long enough to spray our weeds. It's either raining or blowing, and neither one is good for using Roundup. But all in all, it could be much, much worse. Like 110 degrees.

We watched "Miss Congeniality" over the weekend. Cute movie, though we probably spent more time trying to figure out where we'd seen "Miss Rhode Island" before than we did laughing. (Incidentally, the answer is "You've Got Mail.") Still, not a bad movie. Sandra Bullock is always good for a smile.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Anyone Got A Problem With That? Besides Me?

I cry over movies. And books. And, in rare cases, televisions shows. And yeah, I'm not exactly keen on letting people see it. It's okay when I'm watching a movie at home with my wife. Chances are she'll be needing the Kleenex box too. But when I'm out with "the guys" watching Revenge of the Sith and I can't talk afterwards because I'm sobbing inside...well, I'm not opposed to displaying emotion, necessarily. It's just sometimes my level of emotion seems out of proportion with the subject material. I mean come on, it's not like the ending was a SURPRISE!

Fortunately I was more or less alone when I watched the final episode of Babylon 5 the other night. Talk about heart-rending! It's not just that the series was ending--I barely got misty over the ending of ST:TNG. But these are characters I cared about, people who taught me a lot about myself during the course of 110 episodes. I was a wreck by the end.

And then last night I went back and watched it again with the director's commentary track. I still cried, even when I could barely hear the dialogue or the soundtrack. The director's summation(and indeed, much of the cast's) was that shows like that don't happen very often. The level of synergy was incredible. The show deserves every award it ever received and then some.

I've never had the chance to see anything J. Michael Straczynski has produced since then (which, checking at IMDB, isn't much), but I suspect it would be rather difficult to top Babylon 5. I'll probably lose my geek card over this, but if I could only own one Sci-Fi series on DVD it would be Babylon 5, hands down. Not that I don't love Star Trek or Star Wars, but as a cohesive whole, B5 holds together better than the others and has more to say worth listening to. Babylon 5 transcends its genre, even its medium.

And that's worth a tear or two.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Things I've Learned From My Kids...

- Bananas are nature's perfect food.
- Cheerios are the perfect manmade food.
- A two-year-old boy can not only survive an entire day on half a cup of Cheerios, but can derive more energy from them than an adult can from three full meals.
- "Why?" is the best response to any statement or question.
- "Because" is only an acceptable answer when coming from a child.
- Even when there are hundreds of toys to choose from, two or more children will always want the same one at the same time.
- "Because someone else is" is always a good reason to cry.
- Anything is a good reason to cry.
- No matter how many times momma leaves and comes back, she might not this time!
- Not reading a book the same way every time will upset the cosmic balance and doom us all!
- Any unknown object/substance should be identified by tasting.
- Toys go in does not, unless bananas or Cheerios.
- It doesn't matter if something tasted good last week or yesterday, it might not today and is therefore suspect.
- Any new food is guilty until provent innocent.
- Cats make good toys.
- Even if I sit on you, DON'T TOUCH ME!
- The desire to have Mommy or Daddy do something again will increase in direct proportion to the effort required by aforementioned parents.
- Everything should be repeated as rapidly and loudly as possible until the parent in question shouts their acknowledgement to be heard over your repeating everything as rapidly and loudly as possible.
- Time-out is excruciatingly painful and never justified.
- Commercials are the only important parts of any program. The parts between commercials are for playing/fighting as loudly as possible.
- Bees are scary, and everything that flies is a bee.
- Children are beautiful little angels when sleeping and at other random intervals.
- A smile from a two-month-old can cause temporary amnesia.
- "I love you, Daddy," is a powerful phrase, and extremely fun when used just as Daddy reaches the peak of frustration.
- Lawnmowers are as fascinating as they are scary.
- Children's ears are "far-sighted." They can't hear you when you are right next to them, but can pick up a whisper clear across the house.
- Children do not require air to speak.
- What they don't tell you in diaper commercials is that diapers operate quite differently when occupied.
- The volume, stench, and "spread" of a diaper will always increase in opposition to the amount of time you have to devote to clean-up.
- The act of getting ready to leave the house triggers bowel movements in children.
- I still wouldn't trade being a parent for anything.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...

Our house is back to its originaly occupancy (I was going to say "our house is quiet again," but that's NEVER the case, even at night, as the two cats like to play "impersonate a rampaging buffalo herd" at all hours). My mother-in-law should be home by now, and we're readjusting to three kids and two adults in the house. I suspect my adjustment will be much easier than my wife's.

Our baby surprised us last night by going to sleep by himself and at least an hour earlier than usual. I must say the extra sleep was nice. I'm not expecting tonight to go as well, though. I guess that makes me a pessimist, but I prefer to think of it as "managing expectations." You have to say this for pessimists: their only surprises are pleasant ones.

With Mom gone we've now concluded our "social calendar" for the year. This Spring was pretty well packed with various family events, but now there's nothing. The only thing hanging out there now is the ever-ambiguous "get a bigger house." Not much to look forward to for awhile. I'm definitely looking forward to the Fourth of July, though. The next couple weeks are going to be killers at work. Even if the day off will just mean I have to compress the same number of things into a shorter work week, I'll enjoy being away for an extra day.

My little boy is two months old today! It's amazing how the time can seem simultaneously so short and so long. So much has happened. They say the older you get the faster the time goes. In that case it won't be long before I'd better just sit down and watch everything get blurry.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Star Trek 24: So Very Tired

I was in a meeting yesterday where the facilitator asked us to introduce ourselves by stating our name, position, and where we'd like to be instead of in that meeting. Everyone else listed off numerous exotic or fun locations. I said "anywhere with a comfortable bed and no one to wake me up."

I've got very little to complain about, really. It's been a good, productive week. But if the kids could all manage to sleep in tomorrow morning I'd feel extremely blessed.

It's Father's Day this weekend. Our church tends to have a lot of auxilary meetings on Sundays. When it's Mother's Day we usually cancel most or all of those. When it's Fathers Day we don't. It could be a double standard, or it could be that since it's the men who generally call the meetings, we'd feel guilty canceling them in order to celebrate...ourselves. In any event, I don't foresee a Fathers Day Nap in my future.

The Fourth of July is right around the corner. What a concept. This year is flying by. I'll get that day off, but what I'd really like is to have the next day off so we can all recover from being kept awake all night by our local chapter of PWMMTB (Pyromaniacs With More Money Than Brains). Its nights like that that make me wish I had one of those police trucks with the anti-riot water cannons. Now THAT would be fun! Try lighting your illegal rockets NOW, sulpher-breath!

Yeah, I need to get a grip.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

UnHollywood Babylon

Thanks to my son I'm making significant progress through Babylon 5 - Season Five. I have to admit that things are really picking up now. The first half of the season seems to be setting things up for the last half, and the whole "telepaths" arc was something dramatic to slide in there to keep us interested while the larger arc unfolds.

At any rate, the last episode I watched last night, "And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder" was one of the best episodes I've seen in awhile. The "farewell" scene between G'Kar and Delenn was one of the best moments of the series.

The other poignant aspect was the continued relationship between G'Kar and Londo, and now their inextricable linking of destinies. They are both headed into a long, dark night, but yet they are world apart. On one hand we have Londo, marching headlong into the abyss. All through the series he has allowed circumstances to rule him--very rarely has he shown the independent will to choose a path other than the path of least resistance. His mantra for the series has been "I have no choice."

On the other hand we have G'Kar. Early in the series he was Londo's counterpart in every sense. He was just as reactionary as Londo in the beginning, yet along the way he learned that he has a choice--and he exercises that choice. As a result, his life becomes very, very different.

And now, as the series winds to a close, we see both men on a path that will end with their eventual deaths. Londo lacks the will to avoid this fate. G'Kar has every opportunity to avoid it, but exercises the will to embrace it. There is something majestically tragic about them both.

The morale to Londo's tale is quite clear. But I'm still deliberating on the point to G'Kar's end. He's already played the Christ Figure. He's saved his people through great personal sacrifice. Is Straczinsky elaborating by pointing out that to sacrifice openly for millions is noble, but to sacrifice in obscurity--and in vain--for just one person is every bit as noble?

I don't know, but it's powerful stuff. And such is the appeal of Babylon 5, I believe. Yes, it's sci-fi. Yes, it's aliens and spaceships and wars and petty differences. But it's also about something much, much larger. It is naked morality. It is, as Straczinsky posits, the Universe trying to figure itself out.

And that is why my staying up late taking care of my boy so my wife can sleep is no sacrifice at all. I get to watch B5. It's not mindless entertainment. It's a nightly exploration into the essence of humanity and character. It's not television. It's Literature, by any other name.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I Am Manager. Fear Me.

I wish I could say that things are completely different from last week. But it's not. I run all day, go home, play with the kids, get them to bed, do more work, then help get the baby to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's not a bad life, but I'm going to need some variety before long.

I am at least starting to make some progress, though. This position is very demanding, but it won't last. We're starting from the ground up, and that takes time. But eventually it's got to get into a routine. Getting to that point presents a significant growth opportunity. As ma' momma always tol' me, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Since only one thing will ever kill you, everything else is good for you, right?

The up side of all this chaos is that I'm appreciating the little things more, as that's all I have time for. Our baby has started to smile, and it's amazing. Playing in the sand can be fun and therapeutic. Weinernougat candies in my lunch are like a ray of sunshine. Snuggling up to my wife for those few minutes between when the baby goes to sleep and wakes up again is a rich reward. A few seconds of enjoyment here and there can keep you going.

There is so much that isn't getting done. We hadn't planned on growing a garden this year, but we hadn't planned on growing weeds, either. But we are, because my few free minutes and the weather haven't connected to where I can spray weed killer. But it's not the end of the world. Life will go on. We have sparrows nesting in the patio rafters outside our back door. And that's cool.

Another unexpected gift: I found out today that our company's goal-setting year matches the fiscal year. All the goals I had set to complete by the end of the second quarter are not due until the end of next month. What a difference a month makes. I have a fighting chance now.

Day by day. One step at a time. We'll get there.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Laptop Therapy

I got a company laptop today. And of course all my meetings cancelled, so I haven't had a chance to try it out. So far the only difference is that I have a box sitting ON my desk instead of UNDER it. That's okay. I intend to take it for a test drive this weekend.

I've been getting more chances to watch Babylon 5 lately, not necessarily by choice. Our baby is having a hard time getting to sleep in the evenings. My wife feeds him to overflowing, so that's not the issue. So I stay up with him until he crashes while she gets some sleep.

Thank heaven for DVD! At that hour I don't want to make any noise, so I just turn on the English subtitles and read the show. At this rate I should be through with the fifth season by the end of the month, though, so I hope this problem is short term.

Unfortunately, B5's fifth season was not their best work. Since J. Michael Stracynzky didn't know the show would be picked up for the fifth season, he wrapped up as much as he could in the fourth. As a result he didn't have much to cover in the fifth, and since there was nothing beyond that anyhow, he couldn't really afford to open up any new long-term plot arcs. The "telepaths" arc just doesn't grab me. The "teeps" remind me too much of the type of people that hang around comic book and game stores for me to feel any real empathy for them.

About the only plot arc still worth watching (I'm sorry, but Captain Lockley just doesn't do it for me. Too bad Ivanova had to go) is Londo Mollari and G'Kar. We get to witness Londo's long descent into hell, and it's not fun viewing. Other than that, the other characters show up too seldom to keep me caring about them. It's all a rather hollow ending to the series, in my opinion. Maybe it'll get better.

The weekend is almost here. I'd say I really need one, but I don't know that my weekend will be that much to talk about. Who knows. The world is always more dreary when you're tired.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Welcome to the Jungle!

The foothills are green. I've never seen the foothills so green for so long. Usually they're green for all of a week in early Spring. Certainly not by June. They're usually a baked, dusty brown by now.

My lawn is getting shaggy yet again. I may get to mow it tonight if I'm lucky. It will probably rain again. Well, at least it's good for the flowers my wife planted. And we've never had this many strawberries this early in the year.

The weather is just plain screwy this year. I blame the Bush administration. There's got to be a connection to Halliburton somewhere.

Monday, June 06, 2005

More Laptop Envy and Feelings of Inadequacy

Last week is a blur. And I'm getting a laptop. I spent much of the week away from my desk, and I got nearly nothing done beyond meeting my team members. Which is good, as that was my primary goal for the week. But I'm farther behind on everything else. A laptop would have helped, and I was seriously considering asking for one when my manager noticed I don't have one. The order went in the very next morning.

One thing I noticed last week is that nearly everyone on my team is more experienced than I am. So either they had no interest in being a team lead, or IT experience was not the primary criterium for my position. It's a bit intimidating at any rate. But I suppose it can't be any harder being the administrative leader to a dozen people than it was being the spiritual leader of a couple dozen. Just as in the latter case I have to assume that I'm where I am for a reason and just go with it. And just like Smith Barney, I'll have to gain trust the old fashioned way: earn it.

This week is looking a little less frantic. Fewer meetings, for one thing. I'll have more time to get my ducks in a row to the point where I can start delegating a little. There is no way I can do this all myself, and there's no reason why I should try. I've already got more than enough work to make me feel invested in the team. I should spread it around a little and let my team invest some of themselves, too.

Which is possibly a sneaky way to learn a few more things about them, too.