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Yikes. I just started a post and went back and deleted all of it because it is stuff for the redhead to say, and not me.

She got fired today. And we're both quite happy about it.

(I think her previous... well, I deleted it once and I should just keep my mouth shut....).

She's happy. She's relieved. And I'm not worried. I said a year or more ago that I finessed my situation to not "necessitate" a second income. It's all good.

The redhead is very happy. That's all that matters.

In other news....

I'm probably going to go to grad school at UIS, where I'm currently attending as an undergrad.

I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses. I'm not making excuses. The people involved in this have their reasons, and they're right.

I'm almost 40. I work full-time. I have two kids (and a damn dog). I have a career. I can't do 2:00 a.m. study groups in the lounge. I don't have the leisure of thinking about nothing but a "theory" for days.

And maybe I'm just not that smart.

"You really think you can do this? Take two of our grad-level classes, and ace them both, and we'll talk."

That's what Dr. Harandi said. Not in those words. But that's what he said.

And I get it. I can't do that. I don't have a year of that in me, much less five years of that in me.

There's a reason that UIUC is the fifth-best graduate program in computer science on the planet. Duh.

I'll quit cheerleading.

Wait a minute. This post was going to be about Betsy losing her job and how cool that was. How did we get back on my schooling?


Things are looking up.


Posted: Tuesday, April 01, 2008, 2:53 am
Mood: Awesome | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Coming Home

So the reason I've been quiet the past few days is because I'm in Chicago right now for some ColdFusion training. And I know that I over-worry about stuff, but there's no need to advertise to the world that momma bear and the cubs are home in the cave by themselves for three nights.

These training classes, while informative, are exhausting. I hate sleeping in hotels by myself. I hate having to drive in and around Chicago during rush hour. And I don't much like sitting in the same spot for 8 hours listening to someone teach. Again, while informative, you can only absorb so much for so many hours straight before your eyes start to cross.

Instead of three eight-hour days, I could go more for two five-hour days. Or something.

(Besides, a lot of this Advanced ColdFusion stuff is really much more complicated than anything I'd need to do at work...).

Anyway. I guess I could un-privatize the posts from the past couple of days.

Hopefully the guy next to me won't be farty today...

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2008, 1:56 pm
Mood: Exhausted | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Tuition and Wrigley

Let me get this straight. The Board of Trustees of our "prestigious" institution (well, I guess it was too good for me, heh) has now raised tuition again so that yearly cost of tuition + housing is over $20,000 (and that's without books!).

And why? Because ever since we've had that creep Democrat for a governor, the University has seen its money from the state dwindle year after year.

And now this same governor is on television telling people that he thinks it is a good idea for the state to fricking buy Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. It'd make people in the state happy, he said.

And people think Bush is stupid? This guy goes beyond stupid. Where are our priorities?

Once again--I want the "old way" back. Dem in the White House, congress controlled by the GOP, and a dang down-state Republican in the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, our state capital, where our current governor refuses to reside.

Anyway. I'm anxious to get this class over with and come back home. I skipped out on going to Grandpa Don and Grandma Carol's house tonight as I have for the past two nights because we got out of class late again, and it's been snowing up here for most of the day. Ick.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll finish up as planned by 3:00 or so and I can sneak south of the city before rush hour starts (and trust me--3:00 p.m. on a Friday is pushing it--there are just so many damn people up here!).

I had a chicken sandwich in the hotel bar, along with a couple of beers, and then I headed back up here because I have an assignment due in my Chinese Century class tonight (we have to post to a discussion board about a weekly topic, and it is always due by 9:00 p.m. on Thursday--I just made it today...).

I was going to stay down in the bar longer but I would have had to pay a charge to use the wireless Internet, and I've already paid once to have it (wired) in the room. I'm a little more responsible with the taxpayer's money than our illustrious governor (or our president, or our mayor, or, or, or--yet I have take an "ethics test" at work every year... Sheesh....).


Okay, I'm going to go watch some basketball or something.

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2008, 1:56 am
Mood: Anxious | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Day One: Finished

Day one of training went as expected. I set the alarm clock by the bed for 6:45 and woke up on my own at 6:42--wide awake and ready to go. I had set the cell-phone alarm as well.

It didn't take long to find the place.

I got there quite early, after having had drive-thru breakfast (I'm going to gain ten pounds over these few days with the amount of really, really crappy food I've been eating--"Super-Sized" indeed...).

The training place was very low-key. In fact, the instructor wasn't even there when I arrived--another instructor told me where to go. If you've never been to "technical" training (or maybe other training--I don't know--I just have experience with, well, what I have experience with) the person teaching the class doesn't work for the company that sells the seats and provides the room and computers. The teachers are usually (from my experience) outside consultants that are hired by the training company. That's why so many training companies have listings for everything from Excel to Linux to Security to Dreamweaver to Photoshop--they don't have hundreds of specialized experts on staff--they just know how to find them "out in the world."

So anyway. The guy teaching our class seemed okay. It irked me maybe slightly (yes I've been drinking red wine so the words are flowing from me as if I had been cut with the thin bit and the words were flowing across the canteen floor....).

Now I've been sidetracked because I was just on the phone with the redhead for 15 minutes.

None of this was important.

I've said it before, of course, but there's no way I could live up here. To avoid I-294 (the "Tri-State Tollway") which sits at a crawl during rush hour but would otherwise be the best route to take to get from the hotel to my dad's house, I took an interesting route through the near northwest and west suburbs--some of which I was very familiar with.

Milwaukee Avenue to Green(something or other) to Central to Des Plaines River Road, down to Touhy, over to Elmhurst Road (that turns into York Street--the "main drag" through my home town, which was Elmhurst). It took forever (maybe 45 minutes to an hour to go about 18 miles?).

I have more to talk about, but it is late, and I'm tired, and I'm chatting with the redhead and not concentrating on this post much anymore. Maybe more tomorrow morning....

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2008, 5:01 am
Mood: Exhausted | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


To be clear--I don't like being away from my family. I don't much like being away with what is familiar, in general, but I can handle that much more ably when the wife and offspring are around. Then I have a job. I have a task. Know where to go. Know what to do. Make sure there is enough air in the tires. I don't know. But when the family is going somewhere, or doing something, I may not have total control of the proceedings, but I have a task.

Being by myself is weird. I'm not used to being by myself.

I just went down to the hotel bar and had a few beers (yes, exactly three--they were four bucks each--sheesh). It's weird to sit and watch people. There were at least two distinctive groups that I could tell--I think they were separate--and maybe a couple of pairs of people as well. It was interesting to see what people were drinking, how they were dressed, etc. I don't know.

I watched the bartender as well, who I interacted with on exactly three occasions (each beer, of course). I'm used to the rural way of drinkin' at a bar. Put down a $20, order your drink, and let them handle the money. The beers were $4, so after the first I got a ten, a five, and a single back. After the second beer I had a ten and two singles left. After I finished my second beer I moved it forward to the, heck, I don't even know what it is called, but the lowered lip on the bartender's side of the bar that has cups of straws, and matches, and is just wide enough to hold a glass. The place where you put your glass to make it apparent that you want another one.

I moved my beer there, as well as the two singles, making it clear that they were a tip. He poured my beer, took then ten and gave me a five and a one back, and then snatched the two singles (thanking me) and stuffed them into his pitcher (or wherever--I didn't actually see) behind the bar.

That bugged me. And the redhead can roll her eyes and get irritated with me, but if it were me (bartending), I would have left them there. Don't worry, dude--you'll get your tip. And I'm sure I'll do better than most of the other people in the room, unless they are totally being cheesy and trying to show off.

It sucks to know everything. Gosh, I'm funny....

I loved running a bar. It was fun. I was good at it. While I can't claim to know more than the average computer geek, I do think I can probably spout pretty well about what and how and why things should happen the way they should at bars.

Who knows. Why even talk about this? Who cares?

I hope I can sleep tonight. I hope I can find this place tomorrow.

It's weird being in the city. Sorry--"near" "the city." It's an entirely different place up here than it is down in the boonies. Sorry, again--It's a whole 'nother place....

I'm from the boonies now too, of course, and I actually really like it a lot. It's just different. The weird thing is that I feel like I quickly turn back into an urbanite when I'm up here.

To get to my hotel from Grandpa Don's house I had to take route 53 to Palatine Road and then I took that east to Milwaukee Avenue, where I exited and my hotel was a few "blocks" later. I say "exited" because Palatine road is one of those weird Chicago things where it has inside and outside lanes and the inside lanes aren't allowed to make turns because they are "express" and you can only get to the outside lanes every so often and if you don't know what you're doing and screw up, it can be a pretty ugly mess--worse even than making a wrong turn in all of the one-way streets on campus.

But I "got" it. Don't panic. It helps that I looked over all of these routes well ahead of time using Google Earth. Heh. Anyway. I need to quit talking about driving in "the city" before the redhead starts giving me grief.

I'm just here by myself, and lonely, and wanted to write about what I'm thinking.

I'm happy that I think I can function up here if need be, but more than happy to not have that happen on a regular basis. I'm probably being overly melodramatic. What else should anyone expect?

I wish this class were one day, and not three.

While I complain about travel, some part of it is mildly appealing. The hotel is fancy. The bar was nice. I got to spend some time with my parents. But I could stand sitting in on the class tomorrow, or maybe half of the class, and then going back home.

And again, this was all bad timing. If I didn't explain why before, maybe I will later. Maybe.

Spring is starting to ramp up down in our neck of the boonies. I'm really, really ready for Spring.

I was mildly looking forward to this class tomorrow, but after multiple re-schedulings, not to mention the crap I've gone through with Adobe for the past few months, I'm really about not in the mood.

At least I don't have to take a test at the end. Hopefully I'll learn a few interesting/useful things and can get back to my family on Friday and all will be good.

Heh. Anyone else still hit the spacebar twice after pressing a period, even if you're a geek and know that in HTML-land an infinite number of spaces still turns into one space? High school typing never went away....

Four bucks for a draft beer--I tell ya'. That'd get me just over a gallon of gas back home....

Hee. It just occurred to me--I wonder if I asked Em to paint something that was a certain dimension, and then if we swapped that painting with one of these crappy hotel paintings, how long it would take for anyone to notice, if ever.

That'd be funny, Earl.

Okay, I should quit this and get some sleep.

I hope this training tomorrow isn't irritating as all get-out. ColdFusion tends to be pretty frickin' irritating all on its own....

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 4:35 am
Mood: Okay | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


Well, I'm in the Chicago burbs right now. I have a ColdFusion training class for the next three days.

It's a long story, but I'm not in the mood to for it to be this week. It has been rescheduled several times, each time because of lack of participants, and now they let me know last Friday that it was happening this week.

Anyway, this Hilton hotel is schwanky.

I had dinner at my parents' house, which was good. I talked to the kids before they went to bed, and talked to the redhead just now before she's going to bed and since I'm not ready for bed, I'm going to go find the bar...

(It's not like it's a RedHat class or anything and I have to take a test afterwards...)

'Twill be interesting to see if my "Mark Private" button works for this (and upcoming) posts, so that I can make them public after I return and not right now. Yeah, I worry too much.

Anyway. Off to the hotel bar!

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 3:07 am
Mood: Blah | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Vote Free or Die Hard

Heh. His name is John McClane, not McCain.

Well, I'm no professional political pundit, but is sure seems to me that (very unfortunately) the awful, awful Clinton woman is gaining momentum, somewhat helped by that ridiculous pastor of Obama's. I still can't get over that people in this country judge a candidate by something done by someone who is a mere acquaintance. Well, I guess it isn't a two-way street, and maybe that's what is frustrating. Bill Clinton is, simply, a crook. What was it with the whole "whitewater" thing? And how many of the people in that are now dead, before they can testify about anything?

I guess I should read up on it before I make a sweeping judgement, but it's not like their "camp" is innocent of the very same thing.

I suppose I ought to walk down to Chuck's house down the street and ask for a John McCain sign for the front yard...

Oh well. And it seemed we were so close...

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 11:18 am
Mood: Frustrated | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Interesting Weekend

How unfortunate that it was almost 70 degrees out on Friday when I was at work, yet it was freezing (literally) cold on Saturday and Sunday. We even had snow yesterday, and the ground was covered with frost this morning. I guess it could be worse--supposedly they got a bunch of snow in Chicago.

I didn't get to golf but managed to play a bunch of Wii golf with the offspring. I don't know exactly what the kids find funnier, my smart-alec comments about incorrect physics in the game, or when I finally blow my lid and end up just smashing the ball as far as I can out of bounds until they make me take a 12 and pick up my ball. I think the boy likes that because I'm usually beating him pretty handily until that happens, and then (obviously) he wins.

I beat his butt at bowling, though. (Which is totally fun....).

The redhead's brother and his wife and kid were in town this weekend and spent part of the day at our house on Saturday. We were supposed to go to dinner on Sunday at my in-laws' house, but I knew Uncle Bill would be there and with the week I've had, I simply wasn't in the mood so I played the spoiled brat and stayed home by myself and watched basketball.

I need to get graduation invitations sent out soon. Dang it.

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2008, 12:53 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Mystic Pizza

And funny how the neurons work, because the reference I was attempting to make is to a different movie, but with a common actress. It was Say Anything where the girl sang all the different songs complaining about her life over and over at the party right? And she was in Mystic Pizza?

Anyway. Yeah, I'm still mad about this grad school business.

I've been a complete ass to my family for the last 48 hours because of this. I'm trying to cope. Trying to understand. I'm just fricking mad.

But logic has me. I understand that much. I lose. And their proposal is fair enough. Take two classes and ace them and we'll talk again.

They are saying "you have no idea just how hard our stuff is--if you think you can play ball, play two innings, and if you survive, we'll talk about the rest of the game."

Which is fair. We all understand that I screwed up college the first time around, and I'll quit with the broken record about going to a not-top-100 computer science program when I'm almost 40 and thinking that counts for something as far as the Big U is concerned.

Yes, I want this broken record to end too. But it's all that plays over and over in my mind these days.

So now we're back into "what am I trying to prove" mode. The redhead and I have a good friend who has been with the University for some time and knows the ropes. She tells me that a graduate degree won't matter for what I'm doing on campus--my work is what matters. (In so many words). She thinks I sell myself short now. My old boss thinks I sell myself short. Everyone scoffs at the five-year plan but me and my current boss.

The five-year plan centered around grad school. That was the "five year" part of it. If grad school is removed, now what?

I admit that I strayed and looked at want ads--only ones related to the UI, of course. Everyone I know is changing jobs and making more money, from friends with graduate degrees to friends that have high school degrees. Screw grad school--how come I'm not on that train?

Part of me thinks that I need to cash in as well. I love my job but why couldn't I apply for a job, maybe interview, and ask for, say, $20,000 more a year than I make now? I don't want to leave my job. I love my job. I'm not leaving it for five grand. And if I'm told "no," then I would have no problem considering it their loss. But some people "in the know" tell me that what I'm suggesting isn't that out of bounds, and that I should start to look.

I don't know. We've obviously seen with these last three days of posts about the same damn thing that I'm better off accepting a status quo than getting my hopes up about anything.

I don't want a PC in a cubicle. I have my "glorious" dual G5 Mac with six gigs of RAM and dual 23" flat panels in an office with two huge windows. There's two Linux servers as well--my file server and my back-up web server (the "real" production servers are in an air-conditioned secure room, of course).

I spent so much time this past year planning on the "five-year plan" whereby I continued to sit in the same chair and do my job while going to grad school. And now the grad school rug has been yanked.

Well, sort of. I understand their final decision, and it makes so much sense intellectually, but damn, this really fricking hurts me right now.

My mind is racing. What about an executive MBA? Would my soon-to-be second Bachelor's in Computer Science be better served (monetarily) with an MBA than with an MCS? After all, I don't want to go design computer chips for a living.

I don't like (and never have) being a help-desk type person. My usual gut feeling to problems I'm asked about is "I use a Mac and I don't have that issue." And some of these situations are from persons that when other persons (not me) complain about their car having problems respond "buy a Honda." Well? That might not make sense.

I'm not going to look for a new job tomorrow, even for $20,000 more. (Sorry, honey...). Let's see how this year plays out. I have several rather large projects on my plate that will be good feathers in my cap. I'll give one of those grad classes a shot in the Fall.

I need to stop being a brooding jerk around the house because of all this. The master plan has been mildly thwarted, yes, but we can still keep eyes open.

My first order of business is to get back off this cloud and get back to making sure I pass my two classes at UIS this semester and graduate in two months.

Maybe I'll e-mail the therapist I used to see and just see if we can have one appointment for me to get this straightened out and out of my system.

Because I am having a hard time letting go. I understand. It makes sense. But this hurts. Gosh, it hurts.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2008, 4:08 am
Mood: Trying | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

It Still Stings

I'm trying really, really hard to keep my chin up. (What sort of dumb phrase is that anyway?)

This hurts.

And no, I don't need any more pep talks about someone who has died and how there are more important things to be or not be upset about. I lost my mother when I was 15--I get it.

I'm trying so hard to be mature about this. To convince myself of what I wrote in my last post--that this might be a better scenario anyway. It's hard. It hurts.

This was going to make up for all those C's the first time around. And I can't help but wonder if all those C's wasn't what did me in this time. I figured we could look past all that as it was 20 years ago. I guess not.

Almost a perfect collegiate career for the past 8 or so years. An enthusiastic letter from my advisor. Another letter from a professor that said I was one of his best students ever. And a letter from my boss, who is an assistant dean of our college.

Again, it's not like I was applying to the computer science graduate program at some tiny school with an average program. But still. I work here. I bust my butt for this University.

Doesn't that count for anything?

Answer: apparently not.

And that hurts.

I don't know. Maybe I assumed that even if I was not quite the caliber of student that they normally accept that maybe they'd give me a break and a wink, wink and give me a shot for being "part of the family." Nope.

I'm having a hard time with this, and having an even harder time that I'm still having a hard time with it, if that makes sense. I thought I made my peace yesterday, yet it is 3:00 a.m. and here I am wide awake and upset about this.

I'm out of my head right now. I'm going in just about every emotional direction.

You know when Governor Arnie manages to knock Agent John Doggett into the molten metal pit in Terminator 2? And he flops around and morphs from thing to thing as he melts, in an utter display of panic and terror? That's how I feel right now, just maybe not as warm.

I'm irritated with my extended family. Hell, I'm mad about stuff that happened when I was running the bar. How in the world am I worked up about that crap?

Is this a function of my getting upset simply because "the plan" has been changed? And if one thinks about it, the plan has barely been modified. I graduate in May, play tons of golf this summer, and take a graduate-level computer science class this fall.

I'm playing the "play in" game to the tournament. Get an A in the fall and an A in the Spring and then we'll sign the deal.

Hmm. But that isn the deal. It is basically that we'll revisit my application in a year if I can get an A both semesters. That's still no guarantee. And with the way I feel right now, I don't know that I'll ever get my hopes up about anything again.

And that's a lot more work that has to happen just on the off chance that they'll change their mind. I already feel like I've invested an awful lot "on the off chance" that I'd get accepted. I don't know how much more wind is in my sails. I'm a dad, and a husband, and a faithful employee. I have a lot of commitments right now.

Yeah, yeah. Cry me a river. We all have commitments. I'm aware of that.

Let me put it this way: It's going to be hard for me to put forth the effort and commitment to getting an A in a class this Fall and the following Spring on the chance that they will change the status of my application to grad school. I realize that they have left it somewhat open-ended. I realize that they left a back door open.

But I think I'm devastated right now? Imagine if I do what they suggest I do and then I get rejected again. If summa cum laude for my current degree isn't good enough, what will be?

And how fair will it be for my family, who is probably already exhausted by my effort, to put up with this for another 12 months on the chance that I'll get in.

Oh, but it sounds like that will be a done deal.

After talking to my boss, and my computer science tutor who has an MS in CS from UIUC and is the head of IT for a college here on campus, and my family, and friends, and everyone else, this already sounded like a done deal. I don't know how much more faith I can muster.

I wonder.

Am I afraid that I'm going to take this class in the Fall and not get an A? Is that it? Have I been challenged to a duel and I'm fully aware that if I don't get an A it will be an "I told you that you weren't ready, padawan" situation? Is that the door that I'm afraid to look into?

Did I think that once I was accepted that the hard part would be over? That the actual "going to grad school" part would be easy? That this was to be my toughest task of the campaign?

I have to prove I'm up to this task.

Or shut up about it forever.

I guess I still feel like I've already paid my dues, and already proven my point, and should be allowed a chance based on that. I don't know that I have the energy to "prove" myself any further.

That's probably what stings.

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008, 8:57 am
Mood: Upset | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


Today has been rough, to say the least.

I assumed I'd get in. My friends told me I had nothing to worry about. My boss, an assistant dean of another college on campus, told me I had nothing to worry about. I worry. That's what I do. And for once in a long time I saw the glass as half-full.

Silly me.

I was blown away this afternoon. The wind came out of my sails. I'm a nerd. I'm going to graduate summa cum laude in two months. I love this stuff. And I was told "no?"

Shock turned to anger. I got mad. Really mad. I'm the "cinderella team" and expect to win the championship. And I got bonged?

I realize that there are people out there that think they are "the stuff' because they "program" in .asp, or .php, or .jsp, or whatever. I enjoy writing web programs. I enjoy programming in C as well. Perl is neat, when need be.

But what I've learned over the past 8 (gasp) years goes beyond that. Anyone can read the PHP manual and write a crappy web application. Hell, installing and updating the server software is trickier than "writing applications."

But let's stop for a second.

Graduate programs in computer science:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

They tie for first.

Who is next?

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Bill Gates comes to our campus every few years to give a talk. Spyglass and the first WWW browser? Started here. Oracle? Larry Ellison went here before he founded Oracle. The Andreeson kid from Netscape? Yep. YouTube? That was us too.

Did I really, really think that they were just going to let me walk into a (albeit on-line) graduate program just because I work here and have a degree (well, in two months) from UIS?

Yeah, I thought that.

I wasn't bonged unconditionally.

Take two or three graduate level classes, not for credit, and if you get an A in each of them, we'll talk again, and then they'll count for credit.

Makes sense.

I did crappily as a "real" undergrad. And although I'm getting almost a 4.0 now, it's not like UIS is a computer science mecca.

I shouldn't *want* it to be easy to get into. The RHCT was hard--I shouldn't *want* that to be easy either.

I'm going to sign up and take my class in the fall. And if I get an A and do the same in the Spring, then I'll ask them to re-evaluate, and tell them that they were wrong about my "skills."

And if that class is awful, then we'll realize that UIUC is freaking awesome as far as computer science is concerned, and that I don't cut the mustard, but at least I gave it a try and didn't have to drop out of graduate school after finding out how hard it was.

We'll hope for the former. I'm going to finish this semester and graduate, and we'll have a kegger, and I'll take the summer off to golf, and we'll go from there.

I'm not really in shock anymore. I understand.

"We're" the stuff. And just like I don't want RedHat to make the RHCT exam easy (which it isn't), I don't want UIUC to dilute the value of their on-line program either.

Whether or not I think I'm a 1337 h4xx0rz.

This fight isn't over. I don't like to lose.

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008, 1:35 am
Mood: Anxious | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Totally Blown Away

"The Department of Computer Science has carefully reviewed your application for admission to the Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree of the Illinois Internet Computer Science program. The Department Admissions Committee is not recommending your admission to the degree program. However, if you wish to take 2-3 CS courses in the program as non-degree, and maintain an excellent GPA (e.g. 4.0/4.0), you may request a re-review of your application. Courses taken as non-degree prior to the review would be transferable to the degree program up to a maximum of 12 semester hours."

And people wonder why I'm such a pessimist.

I never should have gotten my hopes up.

Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 7:07 pm
Mood: Upset | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

I Almost Forgot

Yesterday, while Em and I were in the back yard, and the redhead was taking a nap, and Alex was down in the basement, the Easter Bunny stopped by and dropped off a brand new Wii, along with a sports game that had an extra controller in it.

It's pretty cool. The kids were playing it for most of the afternoon, and I finally got a chance to try the golf game.

Finally a game that I can do better at than my son. And it's because he swings the Wii controller the way he swings a golf club--no matter how many times I tell him not to be bending or snapping his wrists, he does it anyway. It was a lot of fun--I birdied several holes. I wish it were 18 holes instead of just nine, but the kids convinced me that there are other "just golf" games made for the Wii that we can get. Neat-o.

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2008, 1:52 pm
Mood: Amused | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

An Oak, Indeed...

So the trading Thursday for Friday didn't work out so well, but I'm blaming the weather. We were supposed to get snow on Friday, but that didn't happen. Instead it was mid-fifties and sunny. So I hurried home from work and the geerow and I headed down to the golf course. We played five holes, which was nice. We started on the par 3 second hole, and then before skipping the par 5 third I asked her if she'd mind if I cranked a couple of shots off the tee, just for the heck of it. Ooh, that felt good. I hit two balls and killed both of them. Right down the fairway.

The highlight of the day was that the course was still somewhat damp and we got a bit bogged down while crossing the ninth fairway. By the time we finished up the hole and headed home the cart was moving really, really slowly. I figured once we were finished cutting across the grass by the clubhouse that we'd pick up speed again when we hit the asphalt. Nope. By the time we got to the end of our street I hopped off and told her to drive. I ended up pushing the cart about a block and a half. Damn, that thing is heavy. I was totally winded by the time we made it up the driveway. I should have put it on the charger the night before. Whoops.

So Friday ended up "being a weekend" day. And Saturday was as well, of course. I went to Darren and Shannon's house to watch the Illinois basketball game while the redhead and the kids went grocery shopping. I sure am relieved that our sad excuse of a basketball season is finally over with. We have some good recruits coming in the next few years, and it will be fun again when we're winning and Indiana is mediocre again (especially since Eric Gordon is going to go pro at the end of this year...). You know, when Brian Randle is a senior and all any announcer ever says about him is what great "potential" he has, you know that we're in trouble.

Yesterday the weather was nice again and I spent a good portion of the day outside with Em and the dog. I raked all the leaves on the north side of the house, after chopping back the remains of the thin hosta flowers from last year. I also did poop patrol again, burying it all in a hole in the back yard. I raked the leaves in the back yard as well, a lot of which were pretty wet. I gave the hydrangea a hair cut, and burned all of it with the leaves in the fire pit. It looks like two parts of the hacked lilac bush made it through the winter, and I think four bushes that came out of the mock orange will do well this Spring as well. The green ash has a lot more buds on it this year than last, so it looks like my pruning helped more than harmed--we'll see when the leaves emerge how it looks, but I think it's going to make it.

I've been told that I made the "first cut" for grad school, so that's good, I guess. Maybe we'll find something out this week...

Oh, and I got the garage cleaned out Saturday so that weight lifting can commence tomorrow morning.

It's almost Spring!

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2008, 1:25 pm
Mood: Happy | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Planned Outage

Well, my little droogies, there's been a change in plans.

It's 60 degrees out again, and the redhead wants barbecued ribs on the grill tonight. Tomorrow it's supposed to be cold and snowing (I thought we were done with this snow stuff....). How can anyone be expected to grill ribs for an hour or so and not drink beer throughout the process?

So I agreed to a trade. Today for tomorrow. On the condition that we still walk tonight when we get home, and that both of us agree that tomorrow is off-limits (gosh, you'd think we were heroin addicts or something...).

Although, drat. Well, while I don't want to say that I hope we don't have anything to celebrate tomorrow, maybe I'll say that I hope that "a decision will be made by March 15" means that they'll make the decision by then, but maybe not notify people until next week or later? Or maybe I'll get lucky and there will be a big fat envelope in the mail when I get home tonight.

We'll see how it goes.

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008, 8:26 pm
Mood: Hesitant | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Campus Drinkers

Okay, half of the important parties involved have asked the city council to make the bar age 21.

Time to poop or get off the pot, City of Champaign.

And listen to me now and hear me later, I'm sure that they'll keep the bar age 19.

So I don't want to hear ever again from anyone involved in city government or law enforcement (or from Champaign taxpayers either) about how the bar owners are the ones who created this problem.

Seriously--never again. Either make it 21 or shut up about it forever.

Sorry--day four with no beer, so I'm probably turning into an angry little elf (apologies to Miles Finch...).

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008, 6:13 pm
Mood: Irritated | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Day Three: Finished

But once again, I can't sleep. I was tired at 9:00 when the kids went to bed and both the redhead and I went up to bed as well to read, something I haven't done in a while but have enjoyed this week. I started up Cryptonomicon again on Monday.

Tonight, well, last night, was somewhat difficult. It was 60+ degrees outside, and I cooked chicken on the grill, and to stand out on the deck in beautiful (relative to the past four months) weather and not have a beer in my hand was odd. I held fast, however. Before dinner the redhead and I walked a couple of miles, and it was nice today because there wasn't a chilly breeze during the entire walk. I don't mind it being chilly out, but I hate sweating to death on the inside while my ears are cold.

We had chicken for dinner--I guess I said that already--and I cooked everyone's perfectly except that at one point I turned around and there was a huge flare-up and within seconds I had charred my breast to a crisp. I hate our "new" grill. I should have kept the old tattered one. Oh well. I ate a salad and a few pieces of bread and tried to pick around the black spots to little avail. So my caloric intake yesterday was probably the lowest of the week.

Thursday is sometimes considered, for purposes of this beer thing, to be a weekend in our house, much like "Y" is sometimes considered to be a vowel.

But I'm holding out one more day. Yesterday on the deck was tough enough for me that I need to prove this is a "habit" and not the "a-word."

(Although my old therapist, who also treats people with alcohol problems, told me once that detoxification starts within 24 hours, and that I'd know after a day or two whether there was a chemical dependency or not--we're well beyond 72 hours at this point....)

I just wish I could sleep. I guess I'll go back to bed and see if I can't get a few more hours.

It looks like Mr. Hooker and I are going to start lifting weights a couple of days per week as well--we'll have to see how that goes. I'm sore now just from walking.

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008, 7:19 am
Mood: Tired | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment


Okay, not that anyone cares about this, but I just went and tried to figure out how many calories I am supposed to take in per day. 38 years old, 208 pounds, 5'8", light activity. I got anywhere from 2,557 to 3,000 to "maintain." I seemed to get almost a different answer from every on-line calculator I used. However, I got 2,557 more than once, so I'm going to go with that.

Slim 5 at Jimmy John's is 624 calories (although a full #5 Vito has 578 calories--explain that to me...). Small coke is 250 calories. Homemade burger with lean meat is 200, bun is 250, 100 for cheese, and 20 for condiments. All I had to drink other than that was water.

That's under 1,450. Okay, I had a couple of the kids fries as well, but not 1,000 calories worth.

So the difference here is that I normally would have had another 1,425 calories from beer. Yikes. When you put it that way....

I'll keep noting my progress through all of this.

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 1:07 pm
Mood: Intrigued | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Bad Habits and Addictions

Well, we're trying the wagon-and-exercise thing again, sort of. It looks like Spring has finally made it clear to Winter that "it's time for them to go." The past few days it has gotten up into the 50s, and the sun has been out, which has been great. It only got into the upper 40s on Sunday but the entire family (yes, and the damn dog) spent a good part of the afternoon out cleaning up the back yard. I cut back the spirea by the pool, and lopped the 6-foot privet by the deck that the redhead was sick of looking at down to a more manageable 3-feet or so. I raked some leaves out of some corners and was quite pleased as I watched it all burn away. The redhead cleaned out plant containers and removed the remains of some annual flowers. The kids picked up sticks and generally just entertained themselves and the dog, which is perfectly fine. Everything still looks crummy, but we're preparing for the Great Spring Mother to return and turn everything green again, so it felt good. It feels good. I'm happy. I tend to forget just how crummy winter makes me feel when it drags on. I like snow and all, but seriously.

So I'm trying "the wagon" again. But it's a partial wagon, and not motivated by the booze aspect of it at all. I'm up to 208 pounds, which is the most I have weighed ever. Yeah. 200 was bad. Now I'm almost 210. And I feel like I weigh that much. It's tough walking up stairs. I get very winded very easily. My diet is only part of the problem. My main problem, I think, is the 95-calorie pork chops in a can that I have every evening, before, during, and after dinner. I like beer. Sorry, but I do. Am I "addicted" to alcohol? I don't think so. I think I have a bad habit of drinking beer in too great a quantity and definitely too often, but I don't consider myself "addicted" to anything (but the redhead, of course).

While I'm not in a panic about the redhead's job situation (hopefully the U of I job situation will get wrapped up in the next month or so) there are some aspects of our lives that were a bit excessive. And it's not that big of a deal, but there's no reason that I'm not saving a ton more money than I am. I'm wasteful. I eat out every day. I drink too much beer (and wine!). All of that needs to change.

I'm not going to start bringing a ham sandwich every day. That works for about two days for me. I'm not going to quit drinking forever. But I need to lose some weight, and further pad my savings account at the same time. I'm not 28 anymore. I'm almost 40. I don't have high cholesterol, and all of my blood work came back "normal" when it was done last year (and not just barely inside normal--I was in the middle of normal in just about every category). I do have high pressure that my doctor doesn't want to blame on weight (he says I have high blood pressure because, well, some people just are that way).

So the past two days I got a "slim" sandwich from a local sandwich shop (for like $3.50), didn't have any beer in the evening, and on top of it all the redhead and I walked for a mile or so before making dinner. There's no reason I can't do that during the week. I love the alone time to talk to the redhead, and the exercise feels good. It's a bit weird going to bed without being at all under the influence, so I haven't slept well the past couple of nights, but I'll get used to it.

Is any of this stuff I should be admitting on my public blog, whether or not only a handful of people read this? Well, for starters, most people reading this know all of this about me already, so it's not like I'm letting go of some big secret.

I think this will keep me honest. I certainly don't think I'm an alcoholic, no matter what the book definition says. Doctors would like to label anyone that has more than two drinks a week as an alcoholic. I just think they're not having enough fun. I think I have a bad habit. Just like eating McDonald's for breakfast every day could be a bad habit. Or spending $20-$30 on lunch every day could be a bad habit. I'm not craving beer right now. I wasn't last night. I wasn't the night before. And I won't be tonight. Sure, now that daylight savings has started, yeah, it would be nice to sit on the deck and have a beer. But it will still be daylight savings this weekend.

I'm belaboring this point.

I need to lose weight. And get back in shape. And I'm going to do that by having a simple sandwich for lunch, not drinking beer during the week, and walking a mile or so each evening. I'm not giving up Bamba on Friday. I'm not going to start eating soy burgers. I might dust off the weight set in the garage--we'll see. My graduation party is in two months--if I could get to 190 by then I'd be happy (180 would be even better).

In other news...

Barack Obama won Mississippi last night, of course.

And let's go back to what the pundits said before Super Tuesday II (Ohio and Texas). Everything I heard said that if Hillary didn't win both Texas and Ohio, and win big, that she'd be done. She won Ohio. She won the primary in Texas. The caucus results for Texas (they do things weirdly) were just returned the other day. When it is all said and done, Obama got 99 delegates total from the state, and Hillary got 94 delegates from the state. Not only didn't she win, but Hillary LOST Texas. Then Wyoming. Then Mississippi. And she's running around talking about having Obama as her Vice President.

Hopefully Pennsylvania can put the nail in the coffin. If the pundits were paying attention, that nail should have been considered driven last night...

Theoretically I find out about graduate school in two days. It's Spring Break for me at UIS, which is good, because I have a lot of quizzes to catch up on (while we have a quiz assigned each week in my Software Engineering class, none of them are actually due until the end of the semester....).

Well, I guess that's all for now.

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 12:30 pm
Mood: Happy | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Frustrations of a "New" Democrat...

(Mind you, I'm still technically a Republican, even if I despise the evangelical crap, and I really don't mind McCain....)

What in the freaking world is with these people? Okay, I need to calm down and write my words carefully.

Michigan and Florida move the dates of their respective primaries up, so their party tells them that they essentially won't be able to seat delegates at the convention, so Barack et al. don't bother to campaign there. He wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan.

And obviously "the Hill" "won" both states. And now that things are tight (uh, in other words, she's losing) she wants those votes to count. Seriously?

And I've heard more moaning and groaning about how unfair it is to win fewer popular votes but more delegates and how unfair that is to her, etc., etc., etc. I've listened to years of this about how Bush didn't win the popular vote but was still elected. This double-standard stuff is driving me crazy.... The forefathers, of our states and our nation, obviously saw a reason to do things the way they are done. If they are so unfair, we have a perfectly good (heh) set of local and regional and national officials who are perfectly capable of changing the system. Yet they don't. On any level.

There's a set of rules in place. They are, albeit, a rather goofy set of rules, but they are the rules nonetheless and all of the parties involved are expected to follow those rules. When the rules don't go your way, too bad. Convince a hundred more, or a thousand more, or a hundred-thousand more voters that your message is the correct one, and you won't have to worry about the particulars.

And Obama makes that one woman step down for calling Hillary a "monster?" She's a monster. I don't disagree with any of that. Now Bill is talking about a dual ticket, something they shunned way back when but now that Barack is winning they are reconsidering.

We may yet end up with a McCain sign in the front yard.

In other news...

Ever watched the original Airport movie? Not Airplane, but the one it was spoofing. Dean Martin was the captain of the plane. I'd never seen it before. (It was released in 1970, a year after I was born). It was hilarious and mostly because half of the jokes of Airplane made a lot more sense. "Sluggish, like wet sponge." As soon as they asked the other pilot how the plane was handling I looked over at the redhead and said "sluggish."

Wikipedia says that the movie and story were about O'Hare airport in Chicago, but I had a lot of problems with that. They kept talking about "Lincoln" and I'm assuming that's Lincoln, Nebraska. I realize that most of the terminal filming was done in the Minneapolis airport, but even with cues from the movie I was pretty certain they weren't talking about O'Hare. Not to mention the fact that O'Hare has more than two runways. And didn't they pass the air traffic control from Cleveland, to Chicago, to Lincoln? Now, there is a Lincoln in our state, and that's noteworthy because they are the head of our weather and radar information (for us in the boonies) but I can't see that there are air traffic controllers there.

Fine. I'm being difficult. Twin-Ion Engine fighters don't exist either but I have no problems with Star Wars. (When I come tearing into V.G. on Hayes Road and have to go from a highway speed to a city speed I still tell the kids to cut in the sub-light engines as I engage the massive disc brakes of the Aurora....).


I'm still stressed about school. I got a 92% on my midterm for my "Chinese Century" class. Two of the questions that I got wrong were total guesses, and the other two I had a feeling were wrong when I answered the way I did, but whatever.

T-minus one week for the grad school decision. I think I'll be relieved whichever way it goes.

I'm still reeling from what has become multiple discussions about my working future, and how my loyalties might be slightly misguided and how I'm selling myself short. More money is cool, but I really, really like my current situation.

I need to quit (talking) writing about it. My focus right now is to get the redhead on at the Big U and deal with finishing up this semester and graduating and then dealing with graduate school and maybe we'll explore other options for me at that point.

I don't know...

Heh, and now I have to choose a mood. Anyone want to pick? I can create a new one too--that's just how cool of a web developer I am. I have a bridge to sell you as well....

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2008, 3:16 am
Mood: Confused | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Sad, Sad Day

Not only because the Wicked Witch of the East (barely) won Ohio and Texas, but Gary Gygax died.

In other news, I'm sliding into a frustrated funk with regards to both my job and my classes. Oh well.

Posted: Wednesday, March 05, 2008, 2:20 pm
Mood: Sad | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment


Apparently I've used that title before.

I'm very overly stressed right now and I'm not exactly sure why.

Well, I have a few guesses, I guess, but I'm not sure why any of them could be causing, or contributing, the level of stress I'm feeling right now.

I think part of it is school. I have a midterm due in one of my classes in the next couple of days, but I don't know that that's the problem. The midterm is in my class about China (which has been very interesting, and very eye-opening) and while I'm catching up on some reading that I fell behind on, I'm fully confident that I'll get caught up and be fully able to take the test by Wednesday and do just fine on the true/false and multiple choice questions.

I have sort of a weird moral dilemma with my software engineering class, however. Weird enough that I don't want to get into details of all of it. We have a semester group project, and our group has varying levels of programming expertise (or lack thereof). I've done a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff, like setting up an SVN repository, and creating a MySQL database for our project, but I'm also supposed to do part of the Java coding for something I don't understand, but want to learn. And I fear that I'm irritating our team leader, and I'm probably being overly-sensitive about this, and I think that's part of my stress. Also, there's something that smells a bit unethical about what it is we're doing for our final project, but again, I think I'm being overly sensitive about something that isn't a big deal.

The light at the end of the tunnel is so close that I really don't want to derail the train at this point. And nothing that I'm doing is unethical, and the part that I'm having a hard time with is so out in the open which makes me think that I'm being overly sensitive.

I need to talk to the redhead tomorrow about it. Why haven't I? It's not really a computer-related thing. She'd have this cleared up in a few minutes and calm me back down.

Gosh, that is what I'm stressed about. Found it!

I wish I could sleep through the night.

There's some work stuff that has been surprisingly problematic of late as well. I wouldn't say that the main rug has been yanked out from under me, but it feels like there are some smaller rugs that could be reasons for stress. I don't know. I shouldn't talk much more about this. I'm being like my daughter and focusing too much on a few small things rather than reminding myself of the big picture.

Heh. I'm being like my daughter. I wonder where she gets it....

I wish winter would go away already. Seriously. Ice storm last night and about a half-foot of snow expected today.

And my book for my class with the midterm is at work.

Well, do I get in the shower and go to work now, at 5:00 a.m.? Or go back to bed and see if I can sleep for another hour, possibly risking falling back asleep for several hours and getting to work "late."

This post is going in circles because my mind is going in circles. I think I'll go back to bed....

Posted: Tuesday, March 04, 2008, 10:54 am
Mood: Stressed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

The Offspring Have Landed

Well, they were never really up in the air, but I have a hard time coming up with clever titles.

We weren't expecting the children to return until Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, but Alex called Saturday morning and said they were on their way. (They drove all the way from Fort Myers to this side of Nashville on Saturday--about 14 hours straight...).

I called Al Sunday morning to see if they were up and going yet and he informed me they were about 20 minutes from Terre Haute, Indiana, which is like an hour and a half away from us!

The redhead made a huge pot of vegetable soup in anticipation of their return. I knew Papa was going to have to go right to work at the car wash when he got back so I made a hamburger for him on the grill and had it wrapped in foil and nice and hot right when they arrived.

I'm so glad the kids are back, although they aren't thrilled that we made them go to school today (they thought they'd get a day or two to recover, but the state's standardized tests start today, and neither the redhead nor I was planning on staying home, so they may as well just go to school--we're such mean parents...).

After lunch Em and I went down to the golf course to play a few holes, since it was a balmy 70 degrees outside. (Yeah, and it is raining right now, and supposed to drop to 30 by the end of today, and tomorrow we get 3-6 inches of snow--WTF is up with winter this year??). The course was a total swamp. We only played a couple of holes, but it was fun nonetheless. I actually drove the ball well and didn't really feel that rusty. Em needs to keep her left arm straight, and not bend her wrists like she's swinging at a baseball, and keep her head down, and quit lifting up her feet... Basically, both kids need lessons, because I certainly don't know enough to tell them what to do. The redhead wants lessons as well, and I could probably stand to have someone that knows what they are talking about (more than the people I play golf with, that's for sure) take a look at my swing and give me some pointers. So we may hire a person that Betsy used to babysit for 20-odd years ago to coach us as a family (he's the middle son of Alex's teacher, actually--the redhead babysat for all three of the boys when they were younger...).

Anyway. I'm just glad to have the babies back. It was very weird not having them around for almost two weeks. It's hard to walk around a big empty house and not wonder why all of it exists and why we work so hard for everything. The kids are the answer to that question, and when they aren't around, something is definitely out of place. And I'm not explaining that correctly (nor using grammar that makes sense either). I'm just glad that they are back home. The dog is happy too.

In other news, it appears that campus still exists even after the "unofficial" events of the weekend. It's a good thing everyone made such a big deal out of it. A lot of the bars ended up at the last minute voluntarily becoming "21 and over"--what good sports. And, of course, that just moved the parties out of supervised establishments and into apartments and rental houses. DUH.

So, sort of speaking of which, the redhead and I went out for an impromptu happy hour on Friday with Steve and Susan and Tod and Margaret. We went to Jupiter's II in southwest Champaign (well away from any "unofficial" happenings--I was probably the only one in a green t-shirt...). Afterwards we went to Susan's house for a few Blue Moons and then headed back to VG. We then went to a bar right outside VG and actually stayed there until closing (no kids--what else did we have to do?).

Well I have this bad habit of holding grudges against people, and once again, karma has prevailed.

Less than a year after we got married, Papa convinced me to quit the bar job and go finish college. We got married in July and by November I was standing in Scott Cochrane's office watching him read my letter of resignation (he wasn't thrilled, to put it mildly). A couple of chats with one of the LAS deans, and a few weeks later I was out of the bar business and officially back in college, about four years after I had walked away to run a bar full-time. I actually worked my resignation so that I'd finish up before New Year's Eve--a holiday I hadn't celebrated without working since I had become an adult.

I've told this story numerous times over, so there's no sense in repeating the entire thing.

But while I was back in school, I got a job part-time at a bar outside of VG--the same one that the redhead and I were hanging out in Friday night. It's changed owners since I worked there (as a cook--we'll get to that in a minute). And lo and behold, the old owner was in there drinking as well.

Well, when I walked into that place 13 years ago and talked to the owner, who I had not known previously, I told him that I had some previous experience working in a bar and knew a bit about the bar business. He looked at me skeptically and haughtily replied "What do you think you know about the bar business?" So he hired me, and made me work in the kitchen, while more "locally well-known" people worked in the bar area, even if they didn't know their alabama slammer from their tequila sunrise (or sunset--and there's a difference).

But I needed a job as I was in school full-time and had a child on the way, so I bit my tongue and cooked away. Even after I finally graduated in the summer and got my first "real" job at $6.50 an hour, I kept the evening part-time job at that bar. It wasn't until I came in one night and had been demoted to washing dishes that I turned back around and walked out.

So anyway, this guy sold the bar to someone else, and, well, there's little need to get into what's become of him since then. Other than to mention that he was in there when we were on Friday. The redhead was talking to some old friends and I was standing there listening to this guy run his mouth to a couple of other local yokels about what they need to do to reign in "unofficial." I sat there with a grin on my face and finally he looked at me and asked me what I was smiling about.

I couldn't help myself.

"Funny that I ran a campus bar for four straight years but came in here and you asked me 'what the hell I knew about the bar business' and now you're sitting here with all the answers about what should happen up on campus."

He wasn't happy. Not fisticuffs upset, but I could tell he wasn't pleased, especially not being called out in front of the two people he was bragging to. I continued for a few more moments, and let him have it pretty good before backing off.

Childish? Maybe. But if felt pretty good to get that one off my Earl list. And let's just say that the past 14 years have been a little teensy-tiny bit better to me than they have been to him. Maybe the next time you meet someone and they offer genuine experience and knowledge you don't scoff at them and brush them off because you, well, worked at the grocery store in town for a few years so you had all the answers and didn't need any advice from some stupid kid on how to run a tavern.

Anyway. Did I mention that I'm happy the children have returned to the nest?

Posted: Monday, March 03, 2008, 2:43 pm
Mood: Relieved | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment

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