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Archived Entries from September 2004


I mailed the last of the checks on Tuesday. It's all gone. (Well, sort of...). The house appraisal came in where we wanted it, so after all of this is said and done I still have 10% equity in the house. The cars are both paid for. And everything else has been paid off. All I have now is a house payment. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.

I think it is going to be like graduating from college. After going to school for year after year after year and then finally finishing, it is hard to get it through that there are no more term papers. There aren't any upcoming tests. There is nothing looming. I'm going to have a very hard time with the non-looming part of all of this. God forbid I might actually calm down for once.

I just got back from opening a savings account. I haven't had a savings account in years. I'm totally excited. Instead of lamenting as I slowly try to fill in a huge hole, the ground is now flat and I can start building a mountain.

I'm excited. And very, very thankful that the wife talked me into this whole home equity thing. I'll never doubt her again. Well....

And I get to take tomorrow off because the kids are home from school for a teacher's institute. And I bought the Star Wars DVDs yesterday. Guess what we'll be doing from the time we get up until mom gets home from work. Tee hee....

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004, 4:17 pm
Mood: Ecstatic! | 3 comments | Article URL | Post a comment

School Mascots

Yes, it was only a matter of time before I blew my lid about the whole Chief Illiniwek issue here at the University of Illinois.

I read a letter to the editor today in the Daily Liberal, oops, I mean the Daily Illini that said, and I'm totally paraphrasing, but the point will be made:

"There is so much division on campus. People need to have a good dialogue. Much needs to be discussed. People need to get together and talk about this. There needs to be a common ground. This needs to be worked out....

....because it is so painfully obvious just how wrong the people are who support the Chief."

Of course, Chief supporters outweigh granola-eating fruitcakes about 10 to 1 in the state. And I'm not just talking the non-college-degree-holding locals who work in and around the university (and seriously--I'm not making light of the fact that they didn't go to school here--it's the non-Chief people who try to mark supporters as "uneducated"). I'm talking about those of us with degrees from our wonderful institution. The anti-Chief folks try to take the "we're more educated than you" stance, and that's just a bunch of baloney. It's insulting, and it's unfair.

If I agreed with all of this tomfoolery, and were to waste energy worrying about sports symbols/mascots/whatever, here's how my list of offensiveness would go.

1. Cleveland Indians.
2. Atlanta Braves.
3. Washington Redskins
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Notre Dame "Fighting Irish"

Then somewhere down the line might come good ol' Chief Illiniwek of the University of Illinois.

Note: are any battles being waged over the use of Cleveland Indians? I sure haven't heard about any.

Redskins? Of course, last night on Monday Night Football the camera showed an old black fellow in the stands wearing a full headdress and facial makeup. Now let's sit back again and talk about this all being "racist." For crying out loud.

The entire gamut of political correctness needs to check itself.

People march around as Trojans and Spartans and the stupid "Fighting Irish" without the notion that there are people who have descended from those races of people, and nobody gets up in arms about that! "Oh, it's not the same thing." No? The zealots say that the dance by the Chief isn't authentic. Some of the moves are made up. While most of the costume was actually created by Oglala Lakota indians, some of it isn't as it was years ago.

Leprechauns? Are you kidding me? Yep. All people with Irish blood were Leprechauns. Green hats. Dancing around like drunken idiots. Oh, but that's not the same thing.

Anyway. I shouldn't be getting so animated.

If there is a point, it is this: the minority who claim that the Chief is racist always talk that there needs to be a "discussion," yet they never want to discuss. They rant and rave and carry along a pretentiousness because they consider themselves more "educated" than everyone else. THEY are the ones who will not compromise.

The Chief no longer makes any appearance other than at halftime of football and basketball games. No parades. No Quad Day. No mall openings. Nothing. Just the games.

The "I" is no longer drawn on his forehead because it wasn't authentic, and that point was agreed upon.

The Chief logo no longer appears on the football field nor the basketball court.

Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and many of the rest of the midwestern states are named after Indian tribes. Is that racist? I mean if "Chief Illiniwek" is racist, then surely "Illinois" is. Do we need to rename these states?


Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 12:56 am
Mood: Aghast | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


The Nerdrium was offline for the better part of today, it appears. Sometimes you get what you pay for. And that's all I have to say about that.

My day today started in the bestest of ways--getting two teeth drilled at the dentist's office. What fun. Now theoretically this should be the last thing I should ever have to have done to my teeth, other than twice-a-year cleanings. Ever. Theoretically.

I've had oral surgery several times. Once to extract some baby teeth that still had huge roots on them. Two more after that to pull the eye teeth that were up in the roof of my mouth out of there and into position (where those two baby teeth were that didn't want to leave). That was pleasant. Then I had two years of orthodonture. Oh, wait. Two years before our orthodontists kicked the bucket. Dr. Karl von der Heyt. You know how everyone in the world has either a) metal bands on their teeth, with a wire in front held in place by little rubber bands, or b) the little parts from the front of the bands in a), but glued on the teeth and attached to the wire with little rubber bands.

Not me. Nope. I had bands, and then the wire, but the bands were special. Okay, picture this. Ever had a model train set? Like, a pretty involved one? Or have you seen one like that? Rather than using nails to hold the track down, hobby stores sell these teeny-tiny little nails that look like railroad spikes. They are about a quarter-inch long, and are shaped like an upside-down L, like a railroad spike--not like a nail with a round flat head. Anyway, that's how the wire was held to my braces when I was a kid. And each of those little railroad ties was put into place by an old German guy who had so many problems that he couldn't even walk--he sort of moved around half-on, half-off of a stool with wheels on it. And each of those little spikes was put in with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Yeah, none of those things EVER hit/scraped/pierced my gum. I'm in pain just thinking about it.

So anyway, I suffered through several years of this medieval torture, and then it happened. Time for me to lose the braces. Yay! Oop. No. That isn't what happened. Instead, the good old doctor kicked the bucket. And I was only halfway finished.

The good news was that he wasn't the only person left in the world that still did braces that way. The bad news was that we lived in Illinois and the only other orthodontist in the U.S. that did do braces that way was in New York.

So I got to start over. What fun! All new plaster models had to be made of my teeth (where they stick that damn thing full of goop in your mouth to make a mold and I gag every time they do that--yuck!). New orthodontist. And yes, this time I got bands and a wire and rubber bands like every other kid I knew.

Well, after a couple more years I survived that bout with braces and moved on to retainers. Gross-ass plastic one with the wire for the top, and two bands with a hidden behind-the-teeth wire for the bottom. And then it was off to college and never to see an orthodontist again.

I lost the upper retainer, of course, and because I hadn't had my wisdom teeth pulled, and my mouth is so damn small, the lower wisdom teeth pushed the rest of the teeth outwards, and of course normally what would happen is that the front four teeth would turn sideways and look like one of those fold-up fans that old ladies in the Wild West "cooled" themselves with. But not me--I still had that damn bar. So when I would bite down, all that happened is that gradually my two front upper teeth started to part ways...

A few years after the wife and I got married, I had had enough of the lower bar thingy and got a (don't read this if you are squeamish) hammer and screwdriver from my toolbox and into the old bathroom I went. Tink, tink, tink. Surprisingly it came off rather easily. Phew!

Then a few years later I finally had decent dental insurance and went to see the local dentist. Got a good teeth cleaning, information to the effect that I had a cavity in the back between two teeth that were jammed together, and a lecture about how I really needed to get my wisdom teeth yanked.

So into oral surgery I went again. This time it was pretty easy. The drugs actually worked! No more back teeth, and no more tension headaches--cool!

Today was the culmination of all of this--now that the teeth are where they should be, my dentist was able to get to the between-the-teeth cavity and drill it out and fill 'er up.

And hopefully, that's the last thing I'll need to have done other than a good cleaning. Sheesh.

Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 12:20 am
Mood: Relieved | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


This will be short.

I think most of us have seen the commercials for the new "Freedom Tower" coin from the U.S. Mint (or wherever it is from).

I've had a few glasses of wine. And something that has struck me from the first time I saw this commercial has now pissed me off enough to gripe about it.

"Clad in silver that was miraculously recovered from ground zero..."


Several thousand people died that day.

Reclaiming shiny metal from an underground vault is hardly a miracle.

I appreciate the efforts to build the new tower. I think this tragic event should still serve as rallying call for our divided country.

Recovering silver, however, is not a miracle.

I can't imagine how I would feel if I had a family member harmed by that horrific event. "Miraculous." My goodness....

Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2004, 5:00 am
Mood: Irritated | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Corvette Summer

Busy day!

I had to leave work early this morning because of the local high school's homecoming parade. You see, my in-laws currently have a foreign exchange student from Brazil living with them. And along with the homecoming court kids, she was asked if she wanted to ride in a car in the parade. And that car is my father-in-laws' 1977 black Corvette.

I think this thing has seen the light of day about twice a year for the past 10 years or so that my father-in-law has had it. My kids got permission to get out of school and ride with us, which was fun (although there isn't much room inside one of those things--fortunately Giovanna rode sitting on the roof so there was room for my daughter to be in the front passenger seat).

I have made lots of jokes about Corvettes over the years. I am one that tends to equate need for sports cars with lack of, err, endowment. I won't speculate on my father-in-law's reasons, but suffice it to say I'm sure it is an investment thing more than anything--I mean, it isn't like he drives it around all the day winking at girls or something. Okay, let's get off that train of thought....

My point is that it really is a pretty cool automobile. Sure, it's old, but my goodness does it speed up fast. I remember my 1969 Camaro that had a 350 cid engine, which is what this Corvette has, but my Camaro never accelerated like this thing! And it had been deemed the "Batmobile" by my son when he was only a few years old, and now that I (finally) got to drive the damn thing, it sure seems like I had the perspective that was presented in the Batman movies! All-in-all, pretty damn cool. I look forward to driving it again. Next year's parade maybe...

My son is having two friends stay overnight tonight for his birthday, which was earlier this week. We ordered pizza and the redhead had a Harry Potter cake made at the grocery store, and they've been, well, bouncing off the walls. (One of his presents was this set of nerf-like air-powered guns that shoot soft dart things with suction cups on the end of them---TOTALLY cool....).

Anyway, my daughter has been not thrilled with the situation, to say the least, and that is expected. But I've been grumpy about it--my patience level at the end of a pain-in-the-neck week can be rather short.

So anyway, kids were downstairs and the wife and I turned on a show that I guess I knew about but never sat and watched--"Austin City Limits" on PBS (we actually get two PBS stations--one from Eastern and one from the U of I...). The artists tonight were Jason Mraz and Fountains of Wayne. And let me tell you--I need to get out more. What a neat, intimate setting. And while I feel "medium" (as my dad would say) about "The Remedy" by Jason Mraz, I really, really enjoyed the other three or four songs he sang. Really. And was almost as impressed with Fountains of Wayne. I think I have two CDs to purchase next week.

I wonder if my good pal Lorenzo Goetz will ever be on Austin City Limits. He and his band are actually getting ready to release their third album and go on a tour of several cities on the East Coast. I don't know that he'll ever hit the mainstream (I don't know that he wants to), but it sure would be fun to see. He's played sets at our last three Fourth of July parties, and after the one this summer, upon news of the upcoming new album and tour, I said to him "and just think--you're going to get famous and I can say 'This is the guy that used to play my Fourth of July parties.'" His reply: "You mean the guy that still will play your Fourth of July parties."

Now, honestly. How cool is that?

Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2004, 1:05 am
Mood: Cool | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Borderline insomnia?

It's almost 5:30 a.m. The house is cold (the way I like it) and I'm faced with a decision. Get back in bed, which will be cozy and warm, and get a couple of more hours of sleep, or hop in the shower and head off to work and get a good jump on the day.

Now that the days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting chillier, it ends up being a lot harder to choose choice number two. I'm pretty much caught up at work, especially now that I've coaxed the silly webserver to let me create new directories on the fly and allow people to upload their grant proposal parts to their own directory. I still need to write the part that lets the reviewers have access to the proposals that they are supposed to review, but I'm guessing that's going to boil down to another simple database table and probably an administrator page where my boss can assign grant proposals, by their number, to the various reviewers, and then, of course, the page where the reviewer has a list of the files he/she can download and review.

But I don't know that I feel like writing that today. I may do some old-fashioned static html pages today instead. Ho hum.

Here's a cool thing, though. For the section of the IPM Center website that focuses on Sudden Oak Death, I was asked if it would be possible to make a page where people could log in with a username and password (easy--PHP page that calls itself using a DB table and a form), and then have access to download a powerpoint file. I didn't really pay attention to what the powerpoint file was, but suffice it to say that they wanted it set up so that people could post comments about it after they had downloaded it and looked it over. "Can we do that?" Not only can we, but I already have the code written that allows for posting of comments. I just had to make sure that during all of my cut-and-pasting that I took out all references to the Nerdrium.

Maybe I'll see if they want custom smilies on their website as well....

Hmm. I think bed wins over shower. Yawn.

Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2004, 10:33 am
Mood: Accomplished | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Better the second time around?

The kids and I started Episode II last night, and stopped about halfway through because they had to go to bed. (I think I might have fallen asleep before that point because where they said we needed to start tonight was a lot later in the movie than the point I thought we needed to start at...).

Hayden is still a terrible actor, but honestly? I thought the movie was pretty cool. With far fewer expectations, and sitting on my couch with a beer instead of in a gross theater seat, I was pretty darn well entertained. And of course, that's even taking into account that I knew what was going to happen.

The plot twist seems so much more sinister now than it did when I saw it opening day in the theater. Interesting how everything is working its way into place.

I don't have high expectations for the movie coming out this May, but I think it will be interesting to see how this whole flip-flop is going to happen.

Anyway. Thinking about Star Wars sure is more fun than thinking about money. Thank goodness.

Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2004, 2:07 am
Mood: Wired | 3 comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Today's the day...

In less that four hours this whole mess with the house will be over and done with. I can't wait. And after today, all my extra consulting money will finally be just that--extra money. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.

I stayed home yesterday with my daughter, who faked being sick. I knew she wasn't sick. But how do you prove that someone's throat isn't sore? She had her first piano lesson Monday evening, and has been practicing ever since (which is also why I think she wanted to stay home yesterday...).

I dropped one of my two classes late last week. I'm just too busy with work to deal with more than one class. Oh well. I'm not in any hurry.

Is it Friday yet?

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 12:34 pm
Mood: Anxious | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


My eyes have been itching like mad for the past couple of days. Finally this morning I went to the grocery store before heading off to work and bought enough Benedryl to supply a small meth lab.

The package says "1 to 2" tablets for adults.

Um, how 'bout we start with four instead. And two DayQuil caplets. And five Advil. And a couple of bottles of Mountain Dew LiveWire thrown in to keep me awake.

Wheee. I don't know what it is like to be on crystal meth, but I can't understand why they would take this stuff and cook it and mix it together (or whatever it is they do with it before they inevitably blow themselves, and their trailer, to smithereens). I'm feeling pretty durn silly right now just taking this stuff plain.

I'm still irritated that the "Dew U" promotion ended and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt. Such is life. Maybe I'll order myself a Nerdrium t-shirt for my birthday.

In other news... I dropped one of my two classes. I have too much on my plate right now to deal with learning to program Java right now. (I guess I should say, learning how to program it better, since I already sorta know how to use Java...).

Today is my boy's birthday! I can't believe he's already nine years old. I need to skip out of the office early today and see if I can find the Lego version of Boba Fett's "Slave 1" ship. Grandma couldn't find it at Wal-Mart yesterday, but I bet Toys 'R Us has it.

I'm getting him the DVDs for Episodes I and II as well. I need to replace my surround speakers though, since I blew a couple of them last year. Well, actually the explosion of the Klingon moon of Praxis blew them. That's what I get for getting a new surround receiver and using old speakers. I think I found some white ones, which would be cool because they'd be even more inconspicuous than the black ones are now (I ran the wires inside the wall behind the armoire and up into the attic over the living room and mounted each speaker up near the ceiling so there are no exposed wires...).

Okay, I need to get back to work and get the Fruit and Vegetable newsletter posted.

Posted: Monday, September 20, 2004, 1:06 pm
Mood: Uptight | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Oscar the Grouch

When I was a little boy, my mother used to refer to me as Oscar the Grouch when I was being a grumpy little kid. And I sure felt like that today.

Too much to do, too little time to do it, and you know what? I turn 35 in a couple of weeks. On the surface, I can't possibly understand that I'm grouchy because of that, but the mere fact that I am aware that it might have something to do with my mood makes me thing that, well, it might have something to do with my mood.

On the upside, I got about $300 worth of consulting jobs done today, and even got the front yard mowed to boot. Well, and I watered the new trees in the front yard, and they desperately needed it.

Oh, and the Bears won. I only watched the last ten minutes or so, but beating the Packers is always cool. See, I told them to quit picking up 40-something has-been quarterbacks and just go with a rookie and build a program around him. Aren't I smart? Of course, a change in coaching has made a big difference as well.... Perhaps Mr. Guenther will figure that out by the end of this season as well. *cough, cough*

I can tell that fall is starting. My eyes have been bothering the hell out of me--probably a combination of all the dust that the farmers are stirring up and the pollen and crap from everyone's yards that have turned to weeds. Or maybe I'm the only one with the weeds...

I need to get some antihistamines tomorrow. Of course, doing so entails being investigated for having a crystal meth lab, so I'll have to wear a disguise and use an alias.

You know what? I realize that it is 3:30 in the morning, but I think I'm going to go make some biscuits and gravy.

Posted: Monday, September 20, 2004, 8:29 am
Mood: Grumpy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Illinois 30, W. Michigan 27

Our football team isn't very good, and hasn't been, for several years.

After losing last week and falling to 1-1 on the season, I'm sure that ticket sales for the third non-conference game we're going through the roof. So, realizing that they were going to have to take a bath on the tickets anyway, but perhaps hoping to still sell hot dogs (at $3.50 each) and Cokes (at $4.00 each) the University administration offered a pair of free tickets to each employee under the guise of "You guys all did such a great job last year during the budget crunch--here, have these tickets." But what the heck? I'll take them.

I took my son to his first ever University of Illinois Fighting Illini Football game. And the seats actually were pretty good, to be honest. He asked a lot of questions and I did a lot of explaining, not only about what was going on with the football game, but also about the band, the traditions, the stadium, and the people around us. It was a pretty good time.

We left at halftime, of course, although I told him we weren't leaving until after the band performed the 3-in-1 and we got to watch the Chief do his thing.

And this is so cheesy, but I do get all choked up singing the Alma Mater, "Hail to the Orange." Every time I sing it the memories rush back. Being a wide-eyed 17-year-old and coming to campus for the first time. Years of fraternity parties and other idiocy. And how I almost stupidly let the whole thing slip away from me permanently until my newly-aquired father-in-law sat me down and gave me a good talking to. It was a harrowing ride, and one that by all accounts I was lucky to finally finish. But I did finish. And I don't even want to think of where I'd be if I hadn't finished. And that I'm an alumnus, albeit a somewhat-embarrassed one considering the circumstances, I get to sing that song at halftime. And if I can get through it without the people around me realizing that I'm crying, that's a good thing too.

All in all we had a good time, although I did manage to get sunburned on my bald scalp, of course. My boy says that he really enjoyed it, and wants to go again sometime. No matter what papa says, there's more to life than basketball.

Well, methinks the day today will be spent catching up on my consulting work. I'd really rather spend the day outside, but money is money.

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2004, 11:42 am
Mood: Fortunate | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

What a wonderful Friday

Well I rewarded myself for yesterday's mind-numbing hard work by playing hooky today. Well, actually I did clear it with my boss yesterday, but it's more fun to pretend I was getting away with something. Or something.

The wife went to work, I took the kids to school, and then went to the grocery store and got some chicken livers.

You see, I really love to fry them up for breakfast. They are so juicy, and.... Oh, they're gross. Blech. I wouldn't eat one if it meant I'd starve to death otherwise. But you know what does like chicken livers? Catfish like chicken livers. And I like catfish.

So off to the old reservoir I went. I made my way through the underbrush to my favorite spot.

I figured I wouldn't catch anything, especially since the water is colder now that fall is quickly approaching. I usually fish with two poles--one with a chicken liver on a treble hook with no bobber, and I just leave the spool open on the reel, and one with a bobber, small hook, and part of a worm. Most of the time the bluegill are too little to be of any use, but it is fun to catch them and it passes the time between false alarms on the catfish pole.

I say false alarms because there are a lot of turtles in the reservoir, and they happen to like chicken livers as well. (Made turtle soup once--blech!).

Well, as luck would have it, the first time the line went running out of the catfish pole, I set the hook, and it actually felt like a fish! However, it quickly swam to some underwater brush and wrapped the line around a log, and I had to cut the line, which sucked.

So I caught a few bluegill, and a crappie that was so big I thought it was actually a largemouth bass at first! I had a couple more false alarms where I either didn't set the hook, or something managed to get the chicken liver off without getting stuck, or something.

After putting a third chicken liver on the hook and lobbing out, I didn't even have time to re-cast the bluegill pole before line started shooting out of the spool of the other pole! I leapt up, closed the spool, and hauled back on the rod. And set the hook! "That's a fish" I thought to myself. And it was.

And of course, I didn't drive, so I had to lug the damn thing back home. I told my wife that I'll have to walk to the reservoir more often, if it means I'm going to have to carry a big fish home each time.

I think an evening on the deck drinking beer is in order!

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2004, 10:20 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Building Rome in a Day

One of the functions of the organization I work for is that we accept grant proposals once a year and fund a bunch of projects for people--several hundred thousand dollars, if not millions--I don't know exact figures. Anyway, I think during a normal grant-proposal period, 70 or so proposals are received, and I think they review 3- to 4-dozen of them each year. That entails 20 copies of each proposal, each of which has 16 forms. The grad student lab ends up being filled with huge piles of these proposals.

Well, several years ago the USDA decided that all of the regional centers needed to be accepting these proposals completely on-line, no later than 2005. The database geeks in Washington got working. Or something.

I found out a few weeks back from the directors of our regional center that they wanted us to take this job upon ourselves and be prepared to handle incoming proposals *this* year. Well, the deadline to start accepting the proposals is October 5th.

And guess who is responsible for writing all of the web and database stuff to get this to work? Yep. Me.

I thought October 5th was going to be an almost unmanageable deadline. Do they have any idea what goes into creating something like this? It's going to be set up that people can submit a letter of intent on-line, then they get a username and password, and a directory is created for their future files on the server. Then, after October 5th, they'll need to be able to log on, and submit their completed forms. They can do all of them at once, or do one now, a few more later, etc. My bosses envisoned a system whereby the user would log in and see their progress--green checkmarks for the items that were completed, and red Xs for items that remained to be submitted.

And all of this has to be kept track of in a database, of course, because after all files are uploaded, reviewers will have access to them for review, and the directors will need to be able to see just what is there in a simple and easy fashion.

Did I mention that this has to be in PRODUCTION in about three weeks?

Well, I thought about it a bit earlier this week.

Today I leapt out of bed before the crack of dawn and headed to work. A few bottles of Code Red, several database tables, a half-dozen or so PHP files (created with BBEdit, of course), and hundreds and hundreds of lines of code later....

And I'm finished. Wheee.... I have one small glitch to take care of, and we'll be all set to go. And let me tell you, this is some pretty slick stuff. I've impressed even myself.

So, I'm taking the day off tomorrow. I'll take the kidders to school, putz around the house (probably fix that glitch as well), and I think maybe get a bucket of chicken livers and go hunt some catfish at the old reservoir.

Life is good. But I'm exhausted. Phew!

Well, I think I'll go outside and throw around the orange and blue Illinois Nerf football with the kids.

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004, 11:11 pm
Mood: Beat | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment

I hate insomnia.

It's probably my own fault this time, however. My son was sick and stayed home from school today, and when he was sleeping I took it upon myself to take a nap as well. It was a good nap, but probably too good, because now I can't sleep.

I think now is as good a time as any to break this silly blog down into smaller chunks.

I hope my boy feels better tomorrow, not only because I don't like it when either kid feels bad, but also because I really do kinda need to go to work and get some things done...

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 7:43 am
Mood: Wired | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Stupid people

My wife and I had a nice dinner tonight, as usual. We listened to what the kidders did at school, ate our steak and drank our wine, and enjoyed ourselves.

After we finished, one kid went to take a shower while the other got to watch the basement television by themself. In a few moments the roles were reversed, and in no time, both of the chitlins had bathed and were in their pajamas. How wonderful.

The redhead and I, for some reason, got on the subject of irritating bosses. Mind you, I love the job I have, and couldn't ask for a better situation--I'm not speaking of the present.

But way back when.... I was broke. And in debt. And getting ready to drop out of school. I was working two jobs--one as the Display Advertising Coordinator (neat title, eh?) at the Daily Illini newspaper, and one as head doorman of a bar in campustown. And I still was low on money. And I ended up starting a chapter that I hide way back in my memory and loathe even talking about.

But, I've had a couple glasses of wine, so I think I'm safe to bring it up.

I got a job at a pizza place. Garcia's Pizza in a Pan. I really actually liked eating there. Their schtick was pizza by the slice--they made cake pans with pan pizza cut into eight rectangular slices. Good stuff!

Anyway, when I finally sucked it up and applied, they had just had a management change. And the new manager was in the process of proving that he was "the boss."

What a tough S.O.B. he was. Everything was so strict. Show up on time, use only a certain amount of cheese, make sure you didn't try to eat more food than was offered for our dinner waiver (down to the cent...), and this jerk even got on me about how I was pouring a beer for a customer. Mind you, I worked in a bar. I've poured a beer or two.

He used to stand over my shoulder every time I poured a beer. It got to the point that when someone ordered a beer, I'd go find him and have him pour it, which pissed him off. I don't like criticism, especially when it isn't deserved. Fine. You pour it then. "Well, we're going to need to teach you how to pour a beer." Listen, you jerk, I know how to install beer lines, and glycol units, and how an air compressor coupled with a tank of carbon dioxide pushes the beer through the lines and fights the beer going flat at the same time. Grr.

What a jerk.

Now, skip forward a few years. Okay, maybe around 11 years.

I went back and finished college. I married an absolutely wonderful woman. We now have two kids who are brilliant and very, very well-adjusted (which is more important than the brilliant part, if you ask me...). Oh, and they have good posture as well. I have a fabulous job. We have a wonderful home.

And I don't like to brag, even though there is plenty to brag about.

I apologize.

My point: that jerk that I worked for is STILL running that pizza place. The franchise is going bankrupt--the store on campus (which used to be one of three and is now the only one) has very little business. Have fun, jerk. Drink your coffee and smoke your Marlboro Lights, and treat college kids like they are morons.

I really don't like oppressive, uneducated trolls. I realize they are over-compensating for their own personal foolishness. Don't take it out on me. Or anyone else that has a chance to make something of themselves. Wallow in your misery by yourselves.

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 1:58 am
Mood: Grouchy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Lazy Monday

Okay, so "lazy" isn't exactly a mood. But it's my blog and I'll do what I want to.

I'm so sore from cutting trees on Saturday. I took two naps yesterday--I was exhausted. And today I'm just not motivated to do, well, just about anything.

This shouldn't be a bad week at work. The bosses are going out to DC for most of the week. I'm quite glad that I don't have to go.

Here's how bad our football situation is here at the U of I: the interim chancellor sent out an e-mail to all staff offering a pair of free tickets to this Saturday's game. Unfortunately the redhead has to work. Maybe I'll take one of the kids, or my father-in-law. Actually I'd just give both tickets to my father-in-law, but I have to be with him (I assume I'll have to show a staff ID at the entrance to the stadium). Anyway. Not much else to report today.

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004, 4:28 pm
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True to my promise, yesterday I squeezed the kids, and kissed the wife, and made sure I let everything else go away.

How wonderful. Really.

I spent Saturday cutting down trees on a parcel of land that my father-in-law purchased last year. I had to trim some walnut trees as well. I'm totally worn out, but it was a bunch of fun.

My pal Steve showed up to help trim trees and cut up stumps, etc. Then we pitched tents and let the kids run around and had a small fire and roasted weenies.

I actually think that I stopped and relaxed for a bit. The stars were beautiful and numerous and we picked out constellations quite easily. It was a wonderful end to a busy day.

Then some stupid punk-ass kids showed up at 2:00 in the morning. "How ya' doing?" they shouted from their car several times. It woke me up, of course.

I tried to go back to sleep. They showed up again. This time yelling obscenities. Then peeled out.

I did what most 34-year old responsible dads would do. I went back to sleep.

Oop. No I didn't.

I hopped into the Aurora and peeled after them.

I caught up to them, partially because the Aurora is a really fast car and partially because they were dawdling. They pulled over to the side of the road (and this was a country road that is about as wide as a single car...).

Dumb move. Strategically, of course.

For starters, if you want to block my path, and then proceed to kick my ass, just STOP. Don't pull over to the side.

They pulled over, I went around, right as three of them hopped from the car. Each around 5'7", 140 pounds.

For pete's sake. What are you going to do? Beat me up? Kill me? Stupid gritball kids.

I just drove right around them. After getting their license plate, of course.

I could have had a gun. I could have been nuts. There could have been six huge badass dudes in my car. And these stupid 16-year old kids thought they'd hoot and holler, and then pull over and hop out of the car to kick some ass. Fortunately it was just me harvesting a license plate number.

I remember being a stupid ass kid. And I was never that stupid.

I told the wife that I was going to go to the high school parking lot tomorrow and leave a note on that car--"I had a gun. Be glad that I didn't stop. Don't be idiots, because there are bigger jerks than you in the world...".

She told me not to do that.

And no, I don't own a gun. Probably a good thing.

Still--a WONDERFUL weekend. I'm quite relaxed and very, very happy.

The whole money baloney happens this week, and payday is Thurday. I can't wait to finally reach financial freedom. *Sigh*

*Note: While I don't want to censor myself, I did remove some of the swearing from this post to tone it down a bit....

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004, 2:53 am
Mood: Peaceful | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Calming down, I hope?

At least it is Friday, I guess.

Supposedly this whole mortgage mess will be behind us early next week. I hope so--I'm getting tired of not sleeping.

I installed a secure certificate on my server at work today, which was pretty cool. It really isn't as complicated as I thought it would be. I guess I was almost stunned by how easy it was.

Next week is going to be unusually busy as well, even though two of the bosses will be in D.C. for the better part of the week.

I got to take the in-laws' Mercedes to work today, which was fun. Actually I had to take it to the auto dealer to have some repairs made. Piece of junk... (Just kidding...)

Tomorrow I get to play lumberjack with my friend Steve. I can't wait. Cut some trees, drink some beers, burn some branches, cook some weenies. And most importantly think of how wonderful it is that we have this thing called "freedom." And I won't kid you that I'll be able to spend the day tomorrow not realizing just what day it is.

I've spent the past two weeks worrying about money, and work, and my car's fuel injector, and school, and money, and work, and the appraisal, and the basement floor, and work, and anything else you can think of. Tomorrow I shall wake up, and squeeze the kids and not let them go. And kiss my wife and think of nothing else during that kiss. And I promise to calm down. And relax. And enjoy everyone and everything around me.

Because it sure could be a whole lot worse....

Posted: Saturday, September 11, 2004, 1:40 am
Mood: Unruffled | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


I'll really be happy when all of this home loan baloney is over and done with so I can get some sleep. I even drank a half a bottle of red wine last night and now it is 3:00 a.m. and I'm WIDE awake. Grrr...

I found out today that the great big on-line grant proposal system that I thought I had to have up and running by next year instead has to be working for *this* year. Um, that means I have to have it done in the next couple of weeks. I was a PHP-coding phreak at work yesterday, with much more to come today and over the weekend. Basically there are 16 forms each of the prospective grant award recipients have to fill out and upload to our server, and I am using a database to keep track of what has and hasn't been filled out for each person. I'm creating directories on-the-fly for each proposal, and having a system where when they upload part of the their stuff, they get a green checkmark on their master list to let them know what parts they have and haven't completed.

It's really not that tricky, programming-wise, but all of the error checking that has to go into this sort of thing is what takes forever. I spent hours today just on naming conventions for their prospective directories. I stuck with 8-name directories just to be sort of consistent. I took their name information (one field for title, if used, first, and last name), exploded it into an array of space-separated words, reversed the array, took the first word (theoretically should be the last name), made it all lowercase, then truncated it, if necessary to 8 spaces. That's their directory where all their stuff will go.

But then I had to check and make sure there isn't already a directory with that name. And go back and start truncating, if need be, and adding numbers to the end. Already a "greifenk"? Then we try "greifen1". Then if we get up to "greifen9" we get to truncate two characters and go to "greife10". But if your name is less than 8 characters, like, say, "fox", you don't get truncated--you become "fox1", etc.

And now, of course, I think I've thought of a glitch. I bet if you have a seven-digit last name, and get through 1-9 (meaning the same person, or persons with similar names, have sent several proposals--a total of, well, 10), that the 11th directory (number 10, because the first one doesn't have a number) will be 9 characters. So if your last name was "Penguin" and you did "penguin1" through "penguin9", I bet that rather than "pengui10" would instead be "penguin10." Oh well. The length of directory really doesn't affect anything.

I just need some damn sleep. What was I just yammering on about??


Posted: Friday, September 10, 2004, 8:18 am
Mood: Stressed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Happy Day!

I just talked to the mortgage company. We didn't appraise exactly where I hoped we would, but we got close enough. Yay!

Closing is next week. And then my life, and my stress level, will be much, much better. I'm thrilled beyond words.

I told my friends that if this happens I'm going to invite them all over for a ribeye dinner. I'll get a keg of beer and a case of red wine too. And I'm tickled pink that I get to go through with it.


Posted: Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 10:28 pm
Mood: Ecstatic! | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment

Still Waiting...

I still haven't heard from the mortgage company yet. Hopefully there will be a message on the machine when we get home this evening.

I have a freelance job to work on tonight, but I'm really not in the mood. The weather has been so nice--I'd much rather sit out on the deck and drink beer. Oh well.

Not much else to report today. Lunch was good, if that matters for anything...

Posted: Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 6:50 pm
Mood: Indifferent | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

I love eBay

I just spent under $20 (including shipping) for a new hard drive and new CD-ROM drive so that I can revive an old Dell Optiplex for my mother-in-law's classroom.

Our local school is quite small and has little money, and what money they do have is wasted on the silly football team (who got a new pressbox built this year, by the way). Small minds--grrr.... Anyway, all of their computer equipment is quite dated, and the addition of a Pentium I 200MHz processor with the maximum of 128 megs of RAM and Windows 98SE will be a godsend for her and her students. Hmm. I wonder if I need to get her a monitor as well. Fortunately 15" monitors are still huge for their purposes and they are quite inexpensive for my purposes.

After Rocky II last night I've still had my mom on my mind all day. I can tell that I'm still rather emotionally exhausted. Oh well.

Hopefully this week of work will be easier than last week. I can certainly stand to take it easy, even after having a relaxing four-day weekend.

I suppose I ought to break this blog down into months or by some other format (number of posts, etc.) now that I'm well into a new month. I wanted to mess with it today, but we spent the day at the in-law's house, riding the golf cart around the farm, eating too much, and just plain relaxing. Maybe I'll get to it this week.

Posted: Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 2:05 am
Mood: Relaxed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Labor Day

I think I'm finally starting to wind down, emotionally anyway. It has finally started to sink in the my basement remodeling job is complete, which is nice.

Today the kids and I are headed out to see the wife and bring her lunch (she got stuck with having to work today). Then after that we're headed to the nearby state park to do some hiking and nature watching, which will be fun and relaxing, hopefully.

I watched Rocky II yesterday afternoon, and of course, ended up having a dream with my mother in it last night. She loved the first couple of Rocky movies. In the dream I knew that she was dead, but I could see her and touch her. At one point I remember resting my head on her shoulder in exhaustion. Oh well.

Posted: Monday, September 06, 2004, 3:54 pm
Mood: Content | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

Nothing to do, and it sucks.

I have spent so much time working on the house the past several months that now that the basement laundry/bath remodeling is complete, I don't have much else to do. Of course, I'm totally wired, pretty stressed, and just plain anxious. My processor is bouncing away at 100% but there aren't any tasks running. No fun at all.

I'm sure part of this is stress from having to wait until Tuesday for the appraisal results. Speculation seems to change from good to bad to good and bad and back again. I don't like this sort of waiting game...

Maybe when the family gets up for the day and gets going I can go outside and mow the back yard and get to work on some landscaping chores to occupy me for the rest of the day.

Posted: Sunday, September 05, 2004, 12:08 pm
Mood: Anxious | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


So I closed the pool today. Did I mention that? It has been so cold for the, well, the last month or so. And we got a bunch of rain about a week back, something happened to the chemistry of the pool and I wasn't paying attention, and it went from crystal clear to murky green in a matter of 24 hours. Whoops.

Now, I could spend a bunch of money, stock back up on chemicals, and fix it. But I'd still have to close the pool in a couple of weeks.

So I rounded up the wagons, called in the troops, and decided that it is time to close the pool. We'll cut our losses and hope for a warmer 2005.

But I need to share a story first....

I emptied much of the pool water last night so that the wicked bitch to our east wouldn't be up to gripe that "her yard" (my property on the other side of my fence) had water on it. Anyway, this morning, bright and early, I went out to finish my task (long story--I have to suck all the water out of the underground lines, replace it with marine antifreeze, pull the plugs from the pumps, etc., etc., and then cover the pool with the big tarp thing).

There, floating in the murky water, is a mouse.

I scoop him out of the pool with the skimmer, being the compassionate conservative that I am, and he (or she, I guess) quickly takes off into the grass. Fair enough.

I didn't care if the damn thing drowned, but getting it out of the pool somewhat ensures that there will be one fewer dead, er, whatever, that I have to fish out of the pool next spring.

So I drain the lines, and fill the antifreeze, and unroll the tarp, and unscrew the brass hook-things for the tarp, and begin to attach the tarp and start to cover the pool. Halfway through all of this I hear a "blurp" and wonder just what the hell fell into the pool. Guess what, er, who it was?

So I grab the skimmer again. As soon as I got the little bastard above the water level it leapt from the skimmer and back into the water.

All right.... The next time I will not fail. I will walk up to the six-fingered man and say "Hello, my name is...." (Mike shakes his head and tries to get back to the subject at hand).

Let's just say that the mouse is out of the pool, and, er, rather far away from our yard, and likely won't be making his or her way back into our sovereign waters.

My wife claims that the tail is too long for it to be a mouse and that it is actually a rat.

It wouldn't surprise me if the bitch to the east was keeping rats in her house. "Come here my little pretties!" Just make sure you don't put any water on the lawn.

Posted: Saturday, September 04, 2004, 2:34 am
Mood: Relieved | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment


Well, the appraisal is over. It seemed pretty harmless. I don't think we're going to appraise at the amount I want to, but such is life. At least it is over with. The pool is closed, the basement floor is finished, and the house is the cleanest it has been. I think we're even going to order pizza tonight so we don't have to get the kitchen dirty.

Now we just wait.

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2004, 10:48 pm
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Important Day

If I had to create a list of the five most important days of my life, today would be on that list.

We're having the house re-appraised in three hours. If all goes as planned, we'll end up getting rid of private mortgage insurance (PMI) in the deal, as well as being able to tie up all of our other loose ends and be out of debt. Forever. It's been a mad scramble this week--I finished up the laundry room project where I removed all the old wallpaper and flooring and painted and replaced the floor. My wife has been cleaning like a madwoman the past few days. I decided yesterday to give up the fight with the pool and just close it. After several days of rain a week or so ago the pool filled up with algae and turned bright green. It's been too cold to swim for several weeks now, and while I would have loved to show off a crisp, clear pool to the appraiser today, I don't think it prudent to spend $250 on more chemicals to struggle to get that bastard clean again, just so I can close it in a few days. So the tarp goes on today.

I don't think I can express just how stressed I am right now. Today could end up being one of the best days of my life, or one of the worst. Sometimes being a pessimist sucks.

Two hours, 59 minutes to go....

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2004, 10:27 am
Mood: Overwhelmed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment

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