Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tired of being a wimp

The last twenty-four hours have been stressful.

Sitting down to watch LOST last night, I realized that one of my projects at work was beginning on an incorrect footing. (And its schedule for proper completion is already difficultly dicey.) Needless to say, I was perturbed, but there was nothing to do at home, so I put aside the stuff I'd brought home and watched LOST, trying to put it out of my mind until I could effectively do something constructive.

(And then I was unimpressed with LOST's Jack-centric "tattoo-rific" episode. sigh)

Then I went to bed and hoped I'd get some sleep. Eventually I nodded off, but slept a bit fitfully. I woke up at 4:30 am this morning and I was certain that I wasn't getting back to sleep for another hour and a half, so I got up, ate breakfast, surfed the web a bit and composed a draft email that I sent to work, later to be sent out as the opening salvo in alerting everyone who needed to know about the "problem."

The morning was tense and I was sleepy, dour, and less than communicative . . . as my cube mates can attest, though I hear I'm often that way in the morning.

ANYWAY, no outside response to my problem email arose, so I moved through the rest of the morning, alerted coworkers to the problem at a weekly meeting and discussed possible fixes.

And then I went to lunch, sweet, sweet, uncomplicated lunch with coworker friends. The highlight of MANY a difficult day.

After lunch, I reviewed the problem anew, with some perspective and the thoughts of my meeting coworkers in my head. I saw that the issue was not as sweepingly dire as I had supposed Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. I sent another clarifying email that focused on the specifics that needed resolution and felt better. Some positive email responses increased my optimism. Everything isn't completely fixed (far from it) but a solution is being devised and a way out of the mess is achievable.

So, good for me on that.

BUT, it was reinforced today, as it often is, that I beat myself up needlessly and far too often. Lynda and I talk of this failing in ourselves frequently and point to it as our number one weakness. True, it also helps to be a bit of a motivating factor in our lives, but it causes too much needless psychic stress.

So, I've gotta stop being a wimp. I've gotta give myself a bit of credit and I've gotta stop jumping to the worst conclusion about myself and what I do.

In short . . . I've gotta cut myself some frakkin' slack!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Night Fun?

Got home from work around 5:30. (It's Lynda's turn to pick up the kids early this week.)

Looked through the mail, skimmed a magazine, and ate some pizza that was being kept warm in the oven. (Everyone else had already eaten.)

Cleaned up the kitchen a bit. (The girls and Lynda were playing games on a website in the next room.)

Got ready to watch the Friday night movie with the girls and eat some popcorn. (Then the next door neighbor called and asked if Sarah and Grace wanted to come play with their daughter for a while. Lynda went over to chat.)

So, now I'm alone.

What's a red-blooded American male to do?

What else but crack open a beer and watch today's recorded episode of Kim Possible? (Yep, I'm totally serious. I'm a geek and I love Ron's slacker, impossibly confident cluelessness.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Battle of Driveway 28

The battle started Tuesday morning, 6:00 a.m. The alarm woke me up. I got out of bed, pulled yesterday's jeans on, grabbed a pair of socks, a sweatshirt, and headed downstairs.

I laced up my shoes, zipped up my coat and pulled on my work gloves. Then, with sleepy seeds still in my eyes, I opened the garage door and faced my enemy head on.

The snow was powdery and easy to shift. Simple pressure on my shovel scoop pushed it down the inclined driveway and out of harms way. Yes, more snow continued to fall, but I paid it little mind. I just wanted improved traction for my car as Lynda and I headed out an hour later to go to work. I knew that more snow and freezing rain would come, so I didn't expect driveway perfection.

After I had sufficiently cleared the driveway, wishing for the fiftieth time that our driveway wasn't angled upward at a 35 degree angle, I headed back inside, tossing my damp, snowy outerware in the front room to dry while I ate my bowl of cereal and grabbed a shower.

It was approximately 6:25 a.m.

The house was still dark and slightly chilly. The girls were asleep in their warm beds but Lynda was up and around, drying her showered hair and selecting her work clothes for the day. We checked the weather report and investigated the school's status. Still open.

After a warm shower, the girls were awake and pulling on their clothes. We finished our morning rituals and headed downstairs to get in the car. I noted through the upstairs bedroom window that the driveway was partially covered again. I wondered if the snow was now mocking me.

Downstairs and outside, I saw that the accumulation was more than I was happy with--around a 1/4 inch or so had fallen in the last thirty minutes, more than I wanted to get covered with freezing rain later in the afternoon. So, I grabbed the scoop and quickly began pushing the offensive precipitation out of the way once more. Sarah, who I have discovered is a great fan of driveway clearing, enthusiastically joined in with her yellow handled broom. Lynda also grabbed a broom and soon the driveway and clear enough again. We set off to start the rest of our day.

It soon became clear, once we dropped the girls at daycare and arrived at work, that many people were staying home. But, secure in the knowledge that we were awesome, Lynda and I hit our keyboards running and got to work. The morning was unremarkable. During lunch, we heard the announcement that the building was closing at 1 p.m. to allow employees time to get home. The snow had begun shifting to freezing rain at this point and the roads would become more dangerous as day turned into evening. We gathered our books and the work that was portable and headed outside to sweep off the car.

As we drove out of the parking lot, I remarked to Lynda that I was surprised that the daycare had not called. As if on cue, the cell phone rang. The center director was on the line, informing us that she was letting the teachers out at 4 p.m. (two hours early). We assured her that we were on the way and would be there very soon. We drove up Country Line road, plowed by the constant movement of other cars, and stopped at the Home Depot to pick up some wood (just in case the power went out during the evening). We had the kids and were home by 2 p.m.

But, the driveway was covered again. We parked the car by the sidewalk and I got the shovel out once again. The snow was about two or three inches deep, still a bit powdery but there was the beginnings of an icy skin forming, which made shifting it a bit harder and slightly heavier besides. I don't remember how long it took, even with more help from everyone else, but soon the driveway was clear and we moved the car up the incline and into the garage.

Tuesday evening was fine. No power outages, plenty of heat, and we had a nice dinner and the girls got a warm bath. After Sarah and Grace were safely in bed, I examined the driveway once again, noting that it was now covered in a sticky, icy concoction that had the consistency of powdered sugar but the sticky tenacity of the ice at the bottom of the refrigerator's icemaker. I spent a few minutes pushing it around in the light of the garage bulb and the reflected light from the street lamps. I smelled the wood smoke of neighborhood chimneys. The driveway was not clearing and I was tired. Rationalizing that even if I spent another hour pushing it all around, another three inches of snow would be sitting there on Wednesday morning anyway. So, I sprinkled some driveway melting pellets around and headed inside to warm up and watch TV.

All considering, we were much luckier than many poor souls that evening.

Wednesday dawned with the expected layer of fresh snow. I didn't bother to get up at 6:00 this time, since I already knew that schools were cancelled for the day and work was on a two hour delay. I intended to clear out the driveway once again and get to the office by 10 a.m. I quickly realized that this morning's snowfall wasn't going to be moved as willingly as Tuesday's. The leftover layer from Tuesday evening was sitting under the new layer of powder and was stubbornly refusing to give up it's hold. I chiseled at it for about thirty minutes and then gave up to go inside and have some breakfast. Two pieces of toast, some oatmeal, a banana, and a mug of hot tea later, I headed back out once again.

in my head, I was already giving up the idea of going into work. By now I knew that the county was on a Level 2 snow emergency (drive only if necessary) and that the county immediately on our northern border, which sits a mile from my house and which sits alongside the work premises was at a Level 3 (emergency vehicles only). Besides, the daycare director had already told Lynda that the center was empty of children and was expected to close at any time. We had brought work home with us, I reasoned and so I flipped the switch in my brain that told me to go to the office.

But . . . that driveway was sitting there, all smug. I just had to do something about that. But, how? when?

Well, I decided to clear out at least half of the passage, to allow a car access up and down, in and out. Sarah was willing to help and started to push the snow around up top near the garage while I planted myself at the critical bottom section where the driveway meets the road. Here the level of the roadway and the incline of the driveway meet at an angle, a critical point of snow buildup that can hamper a car that is trying to begin the ascent up a snowy incline. Any hesitation here can result in vainly spinning tires, burning rubber, and the inevitable slide backwards. (It has happened at least five time since we moved in.) Plus, any plowed snow flung from the roadway gets deposited at this point, creating a slushy barrier of thick snow.

So, I set my jaw and toiled, slowly moving the heavy piles of icy, slushy detrius out of the way. Sarah gave up after a few minutes, claiming that her hands were cold and her fingers numb. I forgave her in my head, realizing that she was far too young for this type of warfare, and continued to pound away. Soon, the bottom third was clear enough . . . though still covered by a layer of snow and ice that I, in my obsessive mind was now calling "snice." I pushed the snowy top off the driveway and headed back inside.

But, I couldn't leave it like that. I knew that even if there wasn't going to be any more precipitation, the temperatures weren't going to be any higher in the coming days. If I didn't get rid of the nefarious "snice" it would only tighten its hold. Lynda bundled up and came out to help me, chipping away with the shovel while I lifted and cleared with the scoop. In this way, we made a workable path up the left half of the driveway. Maybe, I thought, if we weren't going anywhere, the driveway didn't HAVE to be totally clear. She placed the last bit of salt on the driveway and we headed inside. As long as one car was given clearance, that was enough, right?

Those, I knew, were the thoughts of a loser . . .

. . . but even a loser needs a shower and a bit of warmth. That I got and so I tried to forget about the driveway. Besides, Lynda had to get some work done on the computer and that meant I needed to divert the kids. I played three games of UNO ATTACK!! with them and then we went down into the basement to play with Barbie dolls for a while. Lynda did her own plowing, typing away at the keyboard and making some phonecalls. Soon, it was close to lunch time. We ate (bratwurst for Lynda and myself, ravioli for the girls) and then Lynda gathered her stuff. She had decided to head to the office for the afternoon, to ensure she could get some meaningful work done without the interference of the children.

But, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I knew that the driveway was still out there, mocking me. And I remembered, as I said before, that if I didn't try to do something about it now, it would be days before it might loosen it's grip.

So, after lunch and after Lynda's successful departure down the cleared half, I set out once again. The girls were inside, playing on the computer. I took shovel in hand, yet again and began to chip away. Things went great at first. The top quarter of the driveway, which flattens out again near the garage door, had loosened due to the appearance of a weak sun and the work of the salt. I could push it aside in chunks without terrible effort. But, as I moved down the drive, slightly losing purchase as the slope began, the ice thickened and dug it. The battle was on!

I tried to keep my mind off the tedium, savoring each small victory when the shovel grabbed under a icy layer and broke the snow into jigsaw pieces the size of paving stones. I gathered them up in my scoop and flung them into the yard, over the bulwark of previously moved snow that now reached about eighteen inches high. As I worked down the slope, some areas of the snice was looser than others and I had dug around a particularly stubborn area that now jutted into the cleared driveway like a sneering peninsula of doom.

Other neighbors were conducting their own driveway battles, but I paid them little heed except for when I paused to rest my back and arms. Every once and a while I shifted hands, pushing with the other shoulder. Surprisingly, this proved very effective and I began to bust into the snice with renewed vigor, chopping it up like some sort of frenzied Paul Bunyan. I let my mind wander as I continued to work, allowing descriptive phrases to float in and out of my awareness, beginning to compose this post as I slowly gained the upper hand on the remaining snow.

Everytime I began to give up hope, I would hit another patch of loosened snice and, feuled by bratwurst--the Midwestern meat of choice--I would jackhammer it into submission, piece after piece, one snowy slab after another being flung into the yard.

Eventually, it was over. The driveway was clear and the black of the asphalt was visible all across the width and breadth of the driveway. I shouldered my shovel and began walking up the incline, acknowledging the silent cheers of the snowbanks that flanked me like spectators to a fifteen round boxing match.

I love the smell of sweat under fleece.

It smells like victory.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

LOST Returns Tonight . . .

. . . and you had better recognize!

I mean, you've got to help me hold my breath and wait to see if the show can regain its footing and get the REAL Season 3 off the ground and recapture the imagination and theorizing part of the American television watchers.

A lot has changed. Thirteen weeks off, now airing at 10 pm, facing ratings challenges from other shows . . . but the people running LOST are still there and the cast (except for those that have been killed off) are still there and I believe and hope that they are committed to making more intense, mind-boggling, kick-ass, (likely) frustrating television.

I know, I've been more critical this year than in the past, but I'm getting my wooden spoon out and am starting to mix the Kool-Aid again.

Maybe I've just accepted the fact that all shows are finite and they all go downhill eventually. Certainly Alias did so, but I've been watching season 1 on DVD (thanks to Christmas money from Mom and Dad) and I realize that early on, shows are exciting, new, different, compelling, more than slightly absurd . . . escapist. LOST can DO that for me and I think the potential is still there. It'll eventually become creaky and (unacceptably) absurd, but I'm gonna try and hold out hope.

To get you ready for tonight's 10 pm return on ABC, read this Q & A with show producers Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse.

(In MUCH more high-brow media news, my prayers have been answered and NPR's "Fresh Air with Terri Gross" is now available in free podcast form. Go to the place that you subscribe to podcasts and sign up now! You'll be glad you did.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


= ?

In a stunning bit of "I don't believe what I just saw . . . !" I ran across this site reporting that the New York Times is trying to claim that the tenor and feeling of the Super Bowl ads were really a reflection of the country's attitudes towards Iraq and the nation's difficulties in resolving the morass therein.

Yeah . . .

. . . huh?

Well, anyway, the original post in which I saw this thesis can be read here.

Or you can go to the NYT source and read it for yourself.

(I would recommend you go to the first link for the funny stuff and then go to the second link to make your own informed decision. Either way, you'll be treated to awesome pictures of an UltraMan-like figure kickin' butt in a way that the U.S. military has yet been able to accomplish--NOT that I am blaming them for this.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Retroactive blogging on Super Bowl ads

But first, my random "Deal or No Deal" thought of the month--

Why doesn't any contestant start their contest by choosing Case #1 and then picking successive cases in order from #2 on up? Why not? The dollar figures in the cases are randomized, aren't they? Wouldn't that be interesting (or at least AS interesting) to watch?

But, back to the Super Bowl . . .

I remember back in the mid 1990s, when I was still living in Georgia and going to graduate school, I would have Super Bowl parties with my grad school friends and we'd pay attention to the ads probably more than the games themselves. But that certainly isn't the case any more, is it?

I think the era of the Super Bowl Mega Ad is over and I think it ended maybe two years ago. It used to be that in the weeks leading up to the big game, almost as much time was spent talking about the ads as the game itself. But about two years ago I noticed that there weren't any stories about how much the ads cost anymore or features about what businesses were jockeying for prime positions in the first quarter of the game.

So, why did this happen? Certainly, companies are still paying premium dollars for any ad time during the Super Bowl, but the idea of the Super Bowl ad as a phenomenon outside of the act of commerce is pretty well over, I think.

I admit, that I didn't even turn ON the game this year until halftime, long past the time that all the "best" ads would have been shown. So, I'm not in the best position to critique the ads themselves. Luckily, there are many other people who either weren't putting their kids in bed or got paid to write on the ads. So, you can read other people's opinions on the ads here, here, and see videos of the ads here.

But, if I didn't put things on the back burner to make sure that I didn't miss the ads, then it's a sure (if conceited) sign that the I didn't miss much on the ad front. Sure, there were some nicely put together spots. (I heard that the Coke ads were nicely put together. . . unfortunately, neither of the spots I heard about were new, so their importance is diminished.) Budweiser had a great deal of ads, but none were that great, I think. Personally, the one that I saw and found interestingly memorable was the Emerald Nuts "Robert Goulet" ad. In fact, I think Emerald Nuts has featured the oddest (and therefore memorable) commercials of the last few Super Bowls.

So, I guess, the era of Super Bowl ads as a "discussable" phenomenon is over. And, I guess that is fine . . . as long as companies don't continue to spend outrageously to grab ad spots in the future.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

An afternoon in the life . . .

Today at lunch, Flipper consoled me while I lamented my inability to see any current movies by reminding me that I have a busy life as a full-time working parent.

And while that is absolutely true, that statement demands that I take a few minutes to break down my typical afternoon to see how busy it is.

3:15--I leave the office. (This is my week to Arrive Early and Leave Early. Lynda and I have worked out a system in which one of us begins work at 7 am and leaves at 3:15--in order to pick up Sarah when elementary school lets out. The other parent is responsible for getting the kids up, dressed, and out the door for breakfast at daycare and busing to elementary school. The second parent usually gets to work around 8 or 8:15 and stays until 5ish.)

Anyway, this week I'm on the 7 am to 3:15 pm schedule. As I leave the office, I feel a slight pang of guilt for "abandoning" my hard-working cube-mates, but hey . . . I was drinking my coffee and reviewing pages at 7 am!

3:35--After listening to too little (always too little) of "Fresh Air with Terri Gross" on NPR, I pull into the school parking lot to gather up Sarah. She's just come outside and sees me walking across the parking lot. She gives me a smile and a slight hug when I reach her. We head back to the car while discussing her day at school.

3:45--We pull into the daycare and head inside to get Grace. I can hear her from down the hall. (She has a rather sonorous voice sometimes.) She's at the computer in the three-year-olds room and all the other kids are gathered around watching whatever she's doing. As usual, one of the younger boys in the room announces the arrival of a parent, telling Grace that "your daddys here!" She leaves the computer behind and immediately begins telling me about the visit from Tommy the Toothbrush earlier today. She's very excited by his appearance, his delivery of a toothbrush, and the song he taught them about brushing teeth.

4:00--Now we've made it home. The girls put their coats away while I get them a small snack and they sit down to watch "Kim Possible" while I take a break to read the TWoP recap of last week's Smallville episode and Bill Simmon's latest ESPN story on Super Bowl week in Miami.

4:30--"Kim Possible" is now over, so the girls turn the TV off and pursue other interests. Sarah begins writing and illustrating a story she began yesterday entitled "Vampires Aren't Teachers," which is a homage to her latest book obsession, The Bailey School Kids books. Meanwhile, I begin putzing around in the kitchen, planning what to do for dinner while Grace is playing with toys.

Knowing that we don't have lots of meat in the freezer and lacking other immediate ideas, I decide to fix breakfast for dinner, which is always a winner with the kids. But I don't expect Lynda to get home for at least another thirty minutes, so I don't dive right into it. I take my time and start getting ingredients out for pancakes, bacon, eggs. Grace senses the beginnings of cooking and immediately gets ready to help. I tell her that I'll let her get involved when I am ready . . . which isn't yet. First I'll take my time cooking the bacon and getting out the electric skillet for the pancakes. I start measuring out all of the dry ingredients for the pancake batter, get the egg, and let Grace put those ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once I measure out the appropriate amount of milk, I let her pour that into the mix and begin stirring.

Once the bacon is all cooked, the skillet is appropriately warmed, and the pancake batter is ready, I begin cooking up the hotcakes and spend a few minutes listening to a brief 10-minute podcast on the announcement of the Harry Potter book 7 release date. As I cook a batch of pancakes, I keep them warm in the oven.

5:15--The pancakes are warming in the oven, the bacon is cooked, and I start scrambling the eggs while Sarah clears her book manuscript off the dining room table and Grace starts getting out the silverware and the napkins. Lynda arrives and helps get the rest of the table set while I turn on the coffee (you can't have breakfast for dinner without coffee!).

6ish--Dinner is done and we're clearing off the table. Sarah begins her homework while Lynda washes the dishes. I oversee Grace playing on the computer for a while. Then I help Sarah finish up her Social Studies homework while Lynda begins making some peanut butter cookies. (We don't have any dessert around the house, which is usually a no no.)

By 7:00, Lynda takes the girls up to get their bath and I start folding a batch of clothes. I also pull out the first batch of cookies and get more on the baking sheet. Once the bath is done all the cookies are baked and cooling on the wire racks. The girls eat their cookie and listen to some books while I begin this post.

8:00--The girls go upstairs to put themselves to bed (yeah, let's hope). Lynda begins reviewing her work and I keep typing while Smallville comes on. I periodically check on the kids who are playing together and eventually get into their beds. They aren't quite asleep yet, but they are on their way.

8:50--Now is now. Smallville is almost over and after that I've got some work to review. I might also watch 30 Rock later. But I also need to check what Sarah's lunch will be tomorrow and it might, therefore be a good idea to make her lunch tonight before I got to bed.

So . . . there it is in all of it's quotidian glory. Is it busy or simply normal?

I'll let you be the judge. After all, if you've read this far, you've probably got an opinion, if not a pulse.

So soon?

Yet another deadline for me to meet.

I really wasn't expecting this to occur this year.

All my obsessions are coming to an end and I am being forced to grow up.