About Me

My photo
I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Kids and Stormin' Norman

Today, as I roamed the forest in my never-ending search for Lyme Disease, I got to thinking of my precious children. I got to thinking of how smart they are. They are, in fact, smarter than I am (not that being so is setting the bar too high). But they are scary smart.
You know how siblings are always fighting? You know how they don't seem to be able to work together to get ANYTHING done? It seems like the wouldn't be able to work together to fill a glass with water if one had the glass and the other was operating the water faucet.

 However, why is it then that they can collectively launch an assault on my sanity on four simultaneous fronts. Their synergistic attacks would bring a tear of pride to General Normal Schwarzkopf's steely eye.

Here's how it goes:
It's a peaceful morning and amidst the omelet, toast, and coffee, there's a sense of karmic balance that can't be surpassed.

Then, the second boy and the girl start fighting over...what? Nothing, really. Peeling that particular onion, it's a “he hit me back first” sort of thing, but I can't get to the bottom of it before the youngest lad drops a plate or some other breakable object on the kitchen floor (which, naturally, is ceramic tile). Now there's a million tiny (nearly invisible) shards of glass all over the place, not to mention the contents of that glass / plate. Gotta go and clean that up.

However, there's not enough time to complete that before the phone rings, though I can't quite get to it in time while trying to clean and arbitrate a fabricated argument (and heaven forbid someone else answer). I am pretty sure that the eldest is dialing the phone and hanging up *just* as I grab the handset. That's when I notice that the young one...who I rescued from the glass shards...is eating my breakfast.

When I'm lucky, my wife shows up and puts me into time out before that vein on my neck pops and bores a hole in the kitchen cabinet like a power washer.

I'm telling you, the simultaneous presentation of half a dozen fights, accidents, and mishaps is nothing other than a well-planned, well-executed, timely attack on my peace.

Sometime during the month, these little monsters PLANNED this event. I don't know how they do it, as they seem so completely incapable of being near each other without fighting, but SOMEone is calling and scheduling a meeting, and SOMEone is setting an agenda, coordinating a trigger or a start signal, and SOMEone is taking notes.

I want to know who this SOMEone is. I want to know where the meeting is, and when; I want to know who sets the agenda, and where they got their criminal brilliance. And I also want to know how it might be that they can execute it better than any military assault, but cleaning their rooms is well beyond their capabilities.

Is it just mine, or do all kids hold these meetings?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Searching for Gifts for the Mrs.

So with the holiday season getting near, I just went out to cyberland to search for ideas for things to buy for my wife for Christmas.

My search: “Gifts for my awesome wife”.

The results:
Gifts from my awesome wife
x-mass gift from my awesome wife
My father's day gift from my awesome wife and kids
TTMs and awesome gifts from my amazing wife!
An awesome gift from my awesome wife
Surprise gift from my awesome wife
yet another awesome gift from my wife!
Gift from my wife
Awesome Gift from my lovely wife
Anniversary gift form my awesome wife
and on and on....

Isn't this an interesting collection of responses? I type in gifts FOR my wife, and I get responses for gifts FROM my wife (not MY wife, but lists from  men who have gotten gifts from THEIR wives). Huh. At first, I was hoping that Google might be a bit dyslexic, but I don't hold out too much hope for that.

But what sort of comment does this make for the husbands of the world? NO ONE has any thoughts? No inspiration for an obtuse bloke?

Admittedly, there were a couple of responses for gifts FOR my wife, but they were advertisements, at the top of the page; it's in that area where they take whatever you type in and they tell you where you can get it, pretty much not matter what you typed into the search engine, so those results don't count.

I just thought this was really odd; thought I'd share it. I suppose it's probably a worse comment that I've known my wife for more than half of my life, been married to her for *this* long, and I still don't know what to get her for Christmas.

/hangs head.

Words on Clothes

 Two of my least-favored attributes are that I am sometimes extremely dense, and I am always a very slow reader. Another one is that very often I'll have to read something (even simple somethings) several times before I understand what that something says. I often will read the same paragraph in a book, for instance, having read it once and realized that I have no clue what I just read.

This combination of attributes is a bit irritating at times, and sometimes I feel as though they get me into real trouble.

To wit: I was at a party once, and I noticed a tee shirt that had a word on it that I was not familiar with. So I read it, and not understanding, read it again. And again (assuming that I must have missed a letter, since this word was not known to me; nope: I had seen all the letters). I thought it might be a town's name, perhaps. Maybe it was the manufacturer of the shirt, like how “Gap” and “Levi's” ends up on clothing. My mind kind of got into it's dense little holding pattern, trying to figure out options that it might be. I don't know how long I stared at this teenaged girl's chest, but it was really too long.

Finally I looked at her, and asked what the word was, and she told me that it was the name of a store where they sold the shirt. That didn't really help me to stop feeling like a lascivious old pedophile though.

So I'm thinking that there should be a rule against young ladies having any sort of graphics or words on their clothing. Especially shirts, upon which manufacturers put the words too high and get us guys into trouble. I would also think that these ladies would feel a bit uncomfortable, no? The old “why are you staring at me like that, you old pervert” sense?

And what's a guy to do, really? The option that occurs to me is to address the lady and ask something like: “Excuse me, I am interested in what your shirt says, but I don't want to seem like I'm staring at your breasts, so could you please take your shirt off so that I can read it?”

How much trouble would I get into for that? Even more for words on pants, eh?

Save a guy: ban words and images from girls' clothes!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How does my wife know...?

My lovely wife is an amazing woman. She really does have an internal chronometer, like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation had. It's a remarkable ability that has nearly unlimited applications:

She tends to call me NOT when I'm sitting in my chair looking for something to watch, but:
  • As I visit the “library”, sometime between getting my ass cheek on the toilet seat and the first tensing of my abs;
  • Right after I've started washing the chicken for tonight's meal (and there's about ten minutes of washing left to do...don't you hate that you have to wash chicken in cold water? Why is that, anyway; you're only going to raise the temperature of the chicken in a few minutes! Are bacteria gong to “get used to” the temperature and NOT die in the oven / grill / roaster?);
  • As soon as Mr. Happy breaches the multi-toothed cavern to exorcise excess fluid from my “guzzattah” system (when I'm at the urinal);
  • 5 minutes after my eyes close....*just* when I fall asleep;
  • When I'm almost home: “Where are you?” “In the driveway”. Actually, the answer is, about 80% of the time “On north street”, which is within 3 minutes of home, but about 5% of the time, I'm just pulling onto our street or into the driveway;
  • As soon as the shampoo is lathered.
I think that she picks the times because she knows when it's most inconvenient for me.

She can even internally set the time when she wants to wake up in the morning. I've witnessed this countless times over the last 20+ years that we've been married: she'll look at the clock as she's going to sleep, and she'll say something along the lines of “I've got Dr. Wantstofeelgood (pseudonym) at 9:15; I'll have to be up by 7:30.” The next morning her eyes spring open at 7:29:35.

When I try to do that, I'll have a meeting for 8:00 am, and I'll wake up at 8:17 am.

It was funny day when she texted my eldest and his text came back that he was in the “library”, and how did she DO that?!?

I suppose I really should have seen this ability of hers coming, even though ever since I've known her she's been a very organized woman who always kept an appointment book and had things written on calendars and such; I'm not sure why someone with an internal chronometer needs such organizational tools, since it's built in. I think that's her way of lulling me into thinking that she's a bit more “normal” and has no super powers.

The real tip-off for me should have been during the delivery of our first child, about 19 years ago. We had been at the hospital seemingly forever. We arrived in the afternoon and went through all manner of voodoo, from walking around the L&D floor, squatting in a ritual fashion at the foot of the bed, rocking to and fro, rolling from side to side, etc.

We were at it all night long (admittedly she more than I, but that's a different blog), with sparse intervals of sleep. Nothing significant was happening. The sun graced the next day with much the same stuff going on. A lot of trial-and-nothing. I decided around 10:00 am to run through the shower.

As soon as I had lather in my hair, the frantic pounding came to the bathroom door. You gotta be frickin' kidding me!! Kid was born at 10:20, and she did that on purpose, just to because she knew it was an inconvenient time for me!! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

When to buy that tool

 I'm a pretty simple fellow, and I like simple rules. I'm also a bit of a cheap bastard, and I don't like spending money that I don't have to. On the other hand, I like to think that I'm fairly self-sufficient, and I hate borrowing things. I hate wandering over to my neighbor to ask if I can borrow a cup of flour, an onion, his car, or that tool that I sometimes could really use. It actually irks me to ask family if I can borrow things...that's how screwed up I am! :)

So when I'm doing a DIY project, there are always times when a certain tool would be helpful, but I don't really want to buy it for a single-use. Sure: if it's a $3 tool, go buy it and even if you only use it once, it saved you an hour and that's worth the money. But what if it's a $50 tool? $100? I object to buying that tool, using it once and leaving it to sit in my mess of a workshop never again to see the light of day. I also object to buying the tool, using it, and returning it. My cockamamie sense of honor prevents me from doing that.

If I've only got this one job to do, I'll typically muddle through, even if it costs me a few more hours and a bit of stress.

So when do I break down and go out and get that tool?

The sentence is: “This job would be a lot easier if I had a             !

If I fill that blank in with the same tool three times in one month, I go and buy that tool.

I like this rule a lot. It's prevented me from buying tools that I don't really need, and at the same time it's forced me to buy tools that really come in handy somewhat often. If I were to need a specific tool once every half a year for five minutes, I might just swallow my pride and go ask a friend if I can borrow one. Or, I'll come up with a way to use not-quite-the-right-tool to get it done.

This rule forced me to buy my Rotozip, my chainsaw (when you need a chainsaw, nothing else will do), brad nailers, and a host of other tools that I really like having on hand. It has prevented me from spontaneously buying impact hammers, hammer drills, a drill press, a bench grinder, and countless other tools that I don't have room for, and that I would have used once and left in my already over-stuffed workspace.

Daylight Savings

As I write this, it's Sunday morning, and one of my chores of this particular Sunday morning is that I just set the clocks back one hour. Sometime in the night we passed back into what we refer to as “Standard Time”.

I must admit that I'm one of the oddballs who look forward to the return to Standard Time (I say “oddballs” because I have never...EVER...run into anyone else to has admitted to me that they look forward to the same thing). I like the night. I like the dark. I like short days and long nights. I've said many, many times to friends and family: “By March, I'm ready for spring; by May, I'm ready for fall”. Here in America they have decided to push this glorious day into November because whiny people want more of Daylight Savings Time. They did this, really just to piss me off.

But that said, I don't, for the life of me, understand Daylight Savings Time. I can't fathom why pretty much the whole planet would go through the semi-annual inconvenience of changing the time that their clocks read.

I went out to the most accurate and reliable store of knowledge that the world has (wikipedia) to try to understand this curiosity. Why do we do this? If there is an advantage to having the clock in one place (ie: later in the day), then set it there and leave it there. Why change it back? I've heard that the point is for energy savings: how does that help to save energy? I've got way too many questions.

Wiki cleared up many of my questions, and if you're interested, I suggest reading that entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time)

Basically, the article tells me that studies have shown there there is NO advantage with respect to saving energy. It tells me that some fellow riding out in the countryside in merry ol' England couldn't understand why people would sleep through the glory that is morning. Let's move the clock, said he, so that people could enjoy more light at the end of the day!

This idea assumes that EVERYONE enjoys the day more than the night, and I assure you: this is not the case. But even if it was, the case, why set the clock back in the fall? Why not move the time, and leave it there? I still don't have the answer for this. Mostly, I think, because a good one doesn't exist.

Every spring we move the clocks ahead and everyone complains about “losing” an hour of sleep. Nurses who work the night shift actually end up working 11 hours and getting paid for 12. (assuming a 12 hour shift, of course). We all spend a few days adjusting to the new time.

Then, in the fall, we move the clocks back and rejoice at gaining an hour of sleep. Nurses (and other graveyard shift workers, I imagine) work 13 hours and get paid for 12. Many folks this time of year start complaining about how early night falls, which again is one of my favorite parts of the fall and winter. Night falls that much earlier because we just turned the clock back.

You get adjustment and complaining at both times. I prefer Standard Time, but what really drives me buggy is the fact that we go through this charade over and over and over. Twice a year, every year. I get to hear folks complain about losing sleep on one hand, and losing sunlight on the other.

My proposal: set the time and friggin' leave it there. No more adjustments, no more “gaining” or “losing” time or sleep. Pick one or the other. If the masses of the planet prefer to have more sunlight in the afternoon, set everyone's clock to what is today Daylight Savings Time, and call it Standard Time and leave it there. If they prefer Standard Time, set it there and leave it there.

It makes no sense whatever to run around changing clocks twice a year and forcing the population to change their schedules. The folks who complain about days getting shorter will continue to do so regardless. We have so many little things to worry about, why add another?

Set it, and leave it. Then, go look at my blog about Long Day / Short Day, and find out what I really think. :)

Long day / Short day...why complain about it?
Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”.

This is the time of the year when things grow cold, nights get long, and the trees are the loveliest. Fall is my favorite time of the year, followed by winter, and then spring. I could do completely without summer. I consider the fact that I live where I live through the summer as a compromise with my wife, who very much likes the summer.

I know: I'm weird.

One of the things that I particularly look forward to is that the nights start to creep in earlier and earlier. I like the night (which is not to say that I like the night life...I'm an introvert). Night is relatively calm and peaceful for me. When we were just married, my wife was working the over-night, and I was unemployed for a year.

We both look back on those days fondly. On nights when she didn't work, we would be together, often with friends, start baking around 1:00 am, playing games through the night. Lovely time. On nights that she worked, I would stay up into the wee hours (like 4:00 am) playing video games or reading. I wanted to have some sleep left in me when she got home from work around 8:00 am. We would get to sleep together, and I would get up around 10:00 am, shop, clean, play, search for a job, cook, get her up around 4:30 pm and start the cycle all over again. The sweet life.

I have always been more comfortable at night.

Now, while I can't understand WHY so many people seem to have trouble with long nights, I can understand THAT people have trouble with long nights. I don't get the Seasonal Affected Disorder, but I know that some people have it. I have the same sorts of thoughts regarding folks who absolutely hate the cold. It's enough that I understand that these likes and dislike exist.

But here's what I don't understand: why is it that people remain where they are instead of going somewhere where they can be happy?

What I mean by this is pretty simple (in my pretty simple mind): if you don't like the cold, if the impending winter puts you into a panic, or fret, or fear...if you absolutely hate the idea of snow, why don't you move to where there's no cold or snow?

If you hate living where the sun sets early, move south, and towards the western edge of a time zone.

IF, on the other hand, you live where you don't like the climate, or where you are unhappy for half of the year because of short days, and you won't move, I don't want to hear it. If you're not willing to improve your circumstances, you don't have a right to complain about them.