Yearly Archives: 2008

Blogging and tamales in 2008

This has been a great year for blogging.  Kelly started a private girl’s blog. Christian started a tech blog.  I found all the entries from when I started blogging in 2004 and was able to add them to the front end of this blog.  We are even going to spend the evening with our good friends Troy and Youngin who started their blog just this month.  It is one of the best blog starts I have seen with very interesting posts on their recent trip to Argentina.  One of them features a list and beautiful pictures of the many different birds Troy saw while he was there.

We are getting together with Troy and Youngin to finish out the year making tamales.  How much better does it get than that?  Lorena bought all the ingredients yesterday and was hard at the preparations last night with more to follow this morning.  I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but marrying this particular Mexican woman was not one of them.

Picture of tamale stuff Picture of Lorena
Tamale stuff Mexican wife

Update: Oops. I just got the following note:

Good morning! Not to be picky or anything but… I started my blog in 2007, and I don’t know if you should link to it. But I don’t think anyone could get into it anyway could they???? Because it has a password and all that. Anyway, just a heads up. Happy New Year’s Eve! Love, Kelly

I am WAY sorry I got the date wrong! No one can get into it. It is password protected with a good password, but it will be a good idea to remove the link.

Update II:  One more time.  Kelly writes saying, “And Christian started his in 2007 also I think.”  He did.  Sorry Christian.

Update III:

Making tamales 1 Making tamales 2
Dad gets a lesson on how to cook tamales

School as preparation for life

I had about a two hour conversation last night on the telephone with our good friends David and Rebekah in Texas.  They homeschool twin boys who are just between the ages of Kelly and Christian.  They do an absolutely stellar job in their homeschool.  One idea they tried that we are going to implement for sure is their planning method.  Currently, I make out the schedules one or two weeks in advance.  I list all the things the kids need to accomplish each day of the week, then they figure out how they will get things done for each day.  The new method will be to provide weekly goals, let the kids make their own schedule that meets the goals, review the schedule before the week starts, then follow the progress of the schedule as it is implemented.  It is a great progression.  Another idea they brought up was the possibility of getting certain certifications that require fairly short-term efforts, but that allow the holder of the certificate to work in interesting environments.  The two that were brought up are those required for pharmacy and EKG technicians.  I am going to look into these and several other great ideas we discussed on the telephone.

Christian and I continued work on the ham radio kit last night.  We got all the resistors soldered into place.  We plan to continue on to the next set of components tonight.  We still have a couple of nights of reading in our evolution book before we can move on to the intelligent design and radio theory books we are going to read aloud next.  We also read a novel aloud, but will not read further in that until we go on our homeschool trip to Tennessee in January.

We finally start the radio project

When we returned from the library on Saturday, Christian and I decided to work on our ham radio project.  We hauled one of our rectangular plastic tables up to the bonus room so we could spread out all the materials.  We have two rectangular tables, a big circular one, and two small circular ones that we got at CostCo in Albany.  We use them for projects, get-togethers and that sort of stuff.  We actually got them for a potluck we had at our house.  We thought they were too expensive at the time, but we are surely glad we got them because we have used them a lot.  At any rate, we hauled the table upstairs along with a couple of chairs and organized all the capacitors, resistors, switches, and other radio parts into some little plastic bins we had sitting around.  It was pretty amazing, because I think we have all the parts, even after the radio kit sat in the garage for several months.  There might be one or two that we will have to order, but that is it.

After everthing was organized, we realized we had neither the right kind of solder nor the right kind of soldering iron.  Christian and I hopped into the pickup and ran down to the Radio Shack in Fuquay-Varina where we picked them up.  We followed the instructions and inserted all the resistors into the circuit board.  We then realized that we did not have wire snips, so we decided to wait to start soldering until we pick them up.  I hope Lorena has a chance to do that today.  When we could not go any further, I got out the the study book I had purchased to go along with the project.  It is titled The Electronics of Radio.  It was written as a college freshman level introduction to radio electronics specifically for use with the NorCal 40A radio kit we are assembling.  We have decided we will start the book as soon as we finish Explore Evolution in the next couple of days.  After that, all of us want to try to get our General Class Radio License.  I think it would be fun to learn Morse Code, too, even though that is not required.

Update:  When I got in to work today, one of my buddies, David, told me he cooked up a lamb crown roast for Christmas dinner.  He said it was absolutely excellent.  He said the thing to do is talk to the butcher at the grocery store and get him to order one for the day you want to cook it.  He said he would forward me the recipe he used, too.  I think that would be an excellent thing for the kids to do for New Years Day dinner.  What do you think kids?

Update II:  Make sure you do not embarrass yourself by yelling “Happy New Year” too soon.  Check this out.

Saturday at the library after the Christmas

We are sitting at the Holly Springs, NC Public Library right now.  I am drinking a cup of coffee (free because we had enough stamps on our card) and Lorena is reading magazines while Kelly and Christian look for books.  What a great way to end the year.  Yesterday, we took Warren downtown to the North Carolina Museum of History.  We had never been there before.  It is really quite good.  We did not see it all, so we have a good excuse to go back.  After that we went to Barnes and Noble by the Crossroads Mall.  I guess we tend to be a bookish family.  No one ever objects when we decide to go to a library or a bookstore.  Sometimes Lorena goes shopping while the kids and I read, but mostly she sits and reads with us.

We decided to try to go to Mexico for Christmas next year.  Our family in Monterrey sent us a bunch of pictures–all the cousins are just the age when Christmas is the most fun.  So this year we have two Mexico trips planned.  One for Kelly’s quinceñera and one for Christmas.  We hope a bunch of them make plans to visit us in North Carolina, too.  We decided, also, to try to get together with more of our homeschool friends.  We are going on a trip to Tennessee with four homeschool families from this part of the world over the MLK three day weekend.  We want to get together with the Larsons and a few others again this year, too.

We truly enjoy taking the time during the holidays to reflect on what we want to do over the next year.  We have talked about diet/health, homeschool/college, hobbies/projects, and a lot of other stuff.  We have uncompleted projects we want to complete, the first being the radio assembly project Christian and I plan to start today.  We have CLEP/ACT tests to take.  We have to decide which language to study next.  We are thinking either Russian or French.  This is a very fun time that we enjoy very much.

The holiday starts tonight

Christian and Kelly have specific goals to meet before they start their holiday break.  They should be able to get all their work done to meet those goals by the end of the day today.  When I finish work today, I will not have to come back into work until Monday of next week.  We have everything we need to cook Christmas dinner.  Warren should get here by mid-day tomorrow.  I think we have never, ever, been this ready for the holiday.  Our friends Karen and Ethne from Texas left yesterday afternoon right after I got home from work.  It was great to see them.  We look forward to the break.

Shopping, puzzles, and company

I am scheduled to work straight through the holidays.  I really do not mind.  My work is interesting.  There is a lot to break things up and keep it interesting for Lorena and the kids, too.  We have at least three, one or two day visitors between now and the end of the year.  There is a special meeting for all the churches in the area on December 28 so we can get together with some of our friends.  We plan to go see a play.  We bought and got started on our second 750 piece puzzle last night.  It is all good!

Yesterday was a very fun and eventful day.  I found a new diet book that describes a program that is very similar to what I am doing now.  Like most good books about diet, it describes lifestyle and habits more than just weight loss and losing inches.  It incorporates a lot of recent (and not so recent) research on the influence of different kinds of fats on appetite and LDL/HDL cholesterol.  It has lots of interesting recipes, success stories, and useful data.  The name of the book is Flat Belly Diet.  Kelly read the first couple of chapters aloud in the car on the way home from CostCo yesterday.  The book advocates a fairly structured 32 day program to get started.  Kelly and I are going to try to do the things recommended in the book between now and when we go back to school and work after the holidays.  Then we will want to strictly follow the 32 day program to see how we do with it.

In that regard, I am going to check with my weight-loss death match buddies (Bryan, Brad, Lyle, and Warren) with the idea that we will finish the first (2008) chart and leave it posted with a note on how everyone did fir the year, then start a new (2009) chart so we can all start afresh.

Company, camping, and puzzles

Yesterday afternoon we got a note from some of our friends from Georgia, a homeschooling family of five.  They are organizing a three day, homeschooling weekend at a cabin in Tennesee.  We signed up to go and are very excited about it.  There will be four homeschooling families there with the point of the whole weekend being nothing more than to hang out together in a very cool place.  It is a five or six hour drive to get there, but even that looks like pretty nice.  We have figured out that the confinement of the car on a long trip is not such a bad place to get caught up on homeschool and Betty Blonde comic strips.  We also read aloud a lot.  Lorena does not participate so much in the reading aloud–she would much rather listen to Kelly’s iPod.

This morning we got a note from Karen, a very dear friend from Texas who has just started homeschooling her youngest daughter.  She is coming east for some other reasons, but has set aside some time to come and visit us.  It is a long drive out of her way to get to where we live, so we very much appreciate that she is coming.  It will be fun to talk to a new homeschooler.  Lorena is a particularly big fan of Karen because she always made the effort to come by for a visit when we lived in a small apartment in Dallas, Texas.  To this day, every time she talks with Lorena, she asks about the twin cat sisters who were just kittens when Karen met them.

We finished the puzzle last night and we were in a festive mood so we took some pictures.  We particularly liked this one of the twin cat sisters.  The inset is of Kelly and Christian modeling their puzzle putting together outfits.  It was a little bit of a challenge for us to have a right attitude again last night, but  we did much better than the day before.  Ruthie made a timely comment that reminded me of a book we read when we first started homeschooling.  It was Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s homeschool classic, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook and we highly recommend it for anyone who is thinking about homeschooling.  My big take-away from that book was that if you are overly stressed about something to do with your homeschool, you need to change it–whatever changes you make will still be better than government school.  It probably did more for me with regard to burnout than any other thing I read.  I think that stress advise is equally applicable to work, weight loss, and a plethora of other topics.

Tonight is the company Christmas party.  I expect it to be a quiet affair and a good chance to socialize a little with the people with whom I enjoy working so much.

Homeschool time management can be difficult

Yesterday was one of those days that did not quite work out like we had planned.  I expected to come home, correct some math and science, adjust the plan for today based on those corrections, then sit down with the family to work on our Christmas puzzle.  After Christian’s guitar lesson, Lorena and the kids went to the YMCA to do their normal workouts, so they did not get home until about 6:00 PM.  By that time, we were all hungry, so I did our read aloud while Kelly drew a Betty Blonde comic, Christian worked on the puzzle for a bit, and Lorena made dinner.  After we ate dinner, it was already 7:00 PM.  I started correcting the math and science, but both Kelly’s geometry and Christian’s algebra and science were pretty tough, so it took a little longer than usual.  Kelly had to do some unfinished piano practice and Christian had to do some unfinished CLEP studies, so, while I worked with one of them, the other one kept going on uncompleted homeschool work.  We did not finish until around 9:00 PM.  We did not do particularly well on what we did and we did not get everything done that was scheduled.

One of the things that is hardest to describe about homeschool is how difficult it can be to get everything done in a day.  We have specific materials we want the kids to cover to be prepared for college in a few years.  We learned early on that participation in too many activities outside the house did not allow enough time for them to finish the studies they require to know the material.  There are all kinds of great opportunities to participate in science, math, language, art, drama, writing, robotic, and every other kind of workshop and class imaginable.  There are many, many sports opportunities:  football, baseball, basketball, running, swimming, soccer, ping pong, and even lacrosse.  Still we want the kids (and Lorena) to get out of the house at least once a day to get some exercise, break up the day, and interact with other people.

In that regard, we no longer worry at all about “socialization”.  Our own experience with socialization parallels the results of the studies we read when we started our homeschool.  It is really government school kids who bear the greatest social handicap of years wasted in the artificial environment of a traditional school classroom.  Their social interaction is limited to associations with twenty or so children of their exact same age and only one or two adults, all confined to the same room for months on end–something that rarely, if ever, occurs in the world they face when they leave school.  By contrast, homeschool kids tend to interact with people of a broad range of ages in church, at the library, in music, art, science, and language lessons, on sports teams, and homeschool group field trips and get-togethers.  Like everything else in this fallen world, homeschool is not perfect, but it is considerably better than anything else we have available to us.  Nevertheless, because socialization is such a strength in the homeschool setting, we can bias our time toward completion of academic goals.

We were all a little snippy when we started working on the puzzle for a half an hour before going to bed.  We enjoy listening to one particular music channel at this time of year, but when we turned it on, all we got for the entire time we listened was the platitudes of an inane sports interview after an inconsequential game of preseason basketball.  We went to bed late.  Some days are like that.  Maybe tomorrow will be better, but I do not hold out much hope because we all have our biannual checkup with the dentist.  It is hard to get homeschool work complete while waiting in the dentists office and it is hard to deal with a grumpy dad correcting that work after he has been to the dentist, too.  Thankfully, Christmas vacation starts in just one week.

Shopping is complete, we are working on the puzzle

I think I have figured out why it feels more like Christmas season now than it did at this time last week.  We finished our shopping (or the vast bulk thereof), part of which was the purchase of a 750 piece puzzle.  Last night, when I got home from work and everyone else got home from their workout at the YMCA, we ate a dinner of black beans, white rice, tuna, and pico de gallo all mixed together–food does not get much better than that.  After that, Lorena talked to Grandma Conchita on the phone while Kelly, Christian, and I corrected school work.  Then, we gathered around the coffee table in front of the fireplace in the family room, listened to music, and worked on the puzzle for over an hour.  It was absolutely a great time.  It dawned on me that the puzzle pulls together all the things we associate with the Christmas season:  We have done this every year at Christmas time since the kids have been big enough to work on a puzzle so the memories and feelings of Christmases past are brought to mind.  We are together to do something that also allows us to talk to each other and listen to music which adds to the atmosphere.  It was pretty wonderful.

The only problem is that I think we are going to finish the puzzle this weekend and we really want it to last through the New Year.  Last year, the same thing happened when we did a 500 piece puzzle, so we ended up doing a second 500 piece puzzle after we finished the first.  The kids are only a year older, so I do not think their ability to work on the puzzle has improved that much.  Maybe it is their focus this year.  At any rate, I think we are going to get another 750 piece puzzle when we finish this one.  1000 piece puzzles just seem to tedious and small.  Also, the likelihood that the twin cat sister will foul everything up before we get the thing together seems to increase dramatically for a puzzle with 1000 pieces.  I have found that Good Earth Original Sweet & Spicy Tea & Herb Blend tea with a good dolop of molasses is particularly well suited for drinking while putting together Christmas puzzles.

Leaf pictures

Ruthie is one of our favorite readers and commenters.  In a recent comment, she described and interesting and beautiful phenomena that is taking place in her part of the world in California.

The weather here has been cold, but devoid of wind or rain. We have experienced a little drizzle here and there, but no blowing rain storms. This has led to what I have affectionately called “the phenomenon”. The leaves have had extra time on the trees because of the mild weather (mild, meaning no major rain or wind storms), and have had an extended time to transform and show their magnificent colors. Because there has been no wind to speak of, when the leaves finally drop of their own accord, they waft downward and land beneath the canopy of the tree. Usually, there are rain and wind storms that force the leaves off the trees before they are allowed to show their full splendor, and because the wind has knocked them off, leaves of many different trees linger together on the ground, and sometimes, even, you can find a leaf to which there is NO tree in the neighborhood that would claim it. But, “the phenomenon” has left each tree with its own leaves beneath itself, without mixing with the leaves of any other tree. It almost looks like someone used a leave blower and blew all the leaves back under the canopy of their respective trees. So, aspen trees that have yellow leaves, have only yellow leaves surrounding the trunk, etc. And if you have a row of the same type of tree, there will be leaves under one tree, then a break of grass without leaves, and then another tree with its leaves directly below its own canopy. Very Stepford Wifish, if you know what I mean. I have never seen it before. It is pretty amazing.

I said it would be really nice to see some pictures of that so she took some for us. They were so nice I wanted to post them. They really ARE amazing. Thanks Ruthie!

Christmas shopping and an ACT essay

So we went Christmas shopping on Saturday!  I think this is the 4th or 5th year that Dad and Mom have let Christian and I shop for gifts for each other and for them. It was fun as it always is! I would tell what I got for each person, but that would ruin the surprise so I’ll just wait for another 11 days. 🙂 I can say this safely though: Each gift is absolutely perfect for it’s corresponding recipient! Also, every year we put together a puzzle for Christmas, and we have discovered that the 750 piece puzzles are just the right size for us. So Dad and I also went to Michael’s and picked up our annual puzzle. They only had three 750 piece puzzles there. Two were of four American pop culture icons (Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and James Dean) and the only one left was one of 5 cute little kittens and pretty flowers. Which is fine! But you know, kittens do look a lot alike. So do flowers. So it’s a challenge.  Hopefully I’ll take a picture of the finished puzzle and post it up after Christmas before our cats get to it.

In school… I wrote my first practice ACT essay last Friday.  I did better than I thought I would, but it was much too short, rather badly thought out and had several more flaws that I noticed when I typed it down.  But here it is, unedited. Please don’t cringe!  (The prompt was second chances)

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s absolutely unavoidable to do or say the wrong thing. If it weren’t for second chances, then we’d all be leading lives of regret and guilt. Thankfully, there are some situations where we can turn around our own faults and make things better again.

Some are opposed to too many second chances. They say that second chances breed bad behavior and allow people to perform their misdeeds over and over again. I agree to a point. Some people obviously don’t want to change or make good. But many people have an honest desire to learn from their mistakes and do the right thing.

Because of this and because of my own personal experiences with second chances, I believe that society should soften it’s heart and learn to be more compassionate towards others. We’re all human after all, and who can honestly say that they’ve ever despised a second chance when it’s been given to them?

Troy and Youngin go to Argentina and Tios Lauro and Jorge

Tomorrow, Troy and Youngin will leave for ten days in Argentina. They recently started a blog and tell us they will try to update it with pictures and commentary from internet cafes while on their trip. If their postings from Argentina are anything like what they have put up so far, they should be a very interesting read. You can find their blog here. They are a recently married couple who have been in the Raleigh area about the same time as us. The go to Sunday morning meeting and Wednesday night bible study with us. Lorena and Kelly think Youngin is just about perfect. They will even be more impressed when they see what Youngin knitted for her new (not yet born) niece. I am totally amazed. When does she have time for all the stuff she does? Is there nothing she does poorly? The particularly cool part of all this is that she never says anything about any of the stuff she does, you just find out about it when she does it. For his part, Troy is an engineer (by birth, but soon to be by degree, too) which, of course, is just about perfect as far as Christian and I are concerned. We have a special appreciation for those who can not only do the math, but they are interested in it, too.

Tio Jorge, Tia Mari, and primos Jorgito, Valeria, and Brandon plan to visit us from Mexico in the next two or three weeks. Of course we are very excited about the visit. I called yesterday to talk to Jorge about the timing, but ended up talking to Tio Laurin for about half an hour. He is the one that has lived, worked, and traveled throughout South America for the past ten years or so. He was excited about Troy and Youngin were traveling in Argentina. He marveled at the beauty of the country and the inexpensive, really good food there. He thinks it would be awesome fun for all the family to meet in Buenos Aires for a vacation in the next couple of years. I am going to talk to Uncle Doug and see if I can get something worked out. Be sure to check out one of my favorite pictures of the beautiful Valeria and her favorite uncle.

Miss Turbone is coming for Christmas

Warren is my long-time buddy/roommate from college.  We lived in several different places together and have stayed in pretty close touch since I first got to know him over thirty years ago.  I even went to visit him a couple of times when he lived on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean.  We broke what has been a fairly long running family tradition when he did not spend Thanksgiving with us this year.  We were all happy when he called us yesterday to tell us he would drive over from Nashville to spend Christmas with us this year to make up it.  The kids call him Miss Turbone.  All those of you who have read Louis Sachar’s book Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes will understand exactly what motivated them to start doing that.  The big event for the visit will be our turkey stuffing cookoff.  Warren is famous for his stuffing, but Grandpa Milo taught us a new way to do stuffing when he came for Thanksgiving, so we are going to have a big turkey stuffing death match.  You might have noticed we are big into death matches around here.  We always have lively discussions when Warren is around.  We agree on most things, but I think he is strongly supports Lyle’s view of the whole football/academics thing I wrote about yesterday.  We are going to see if we kind find a play to go see while he is here, but most of the time will be just hanging out, playing the guitar, cooking, walking in the neighborhood, and solving the worlds problems.  If only they would listen to us.

This weekend looks like it is going to be a heavy shopping weekend.  I am thinking of making everyone sit down for the reading of a few chapters of one of Dave Ramsey’s books about the importance of not spending money you don’t have so we can make it a light spending weekend, too.  I ususally lose in these kinds of situations.

Update:  I almost forgot.  Our friend Lester helped us find a new little laser printer.  It is an OKI B2400n network laser printer.  It only prints black and white, but that is all we really use.  We just plugged it into the ethernet hub and it worked.  We can now print from all the computers (Linux, Windows, and Palm) in the house directly to the printer without going through another computer.  Very cool.

College football helps academics?

This morning on my way into work, I listened to one of the most inane conversations I have heard in a long time.  The “Sports Director” at the WPTF radio station, a guy named Taylor Zarzour, talked about the great help winning football teams provide to the academic programs of universities like Duke, NCSU, and UNC.  He explained that not only do the television networks give the universities two or three free minutes to say anything they want about their schools during the course of a football broadcast, but they build great academic infrastructure like the new study facility inside the sports training complex at one of our local universities.  What is the purpose of that study facility?  To give the student athletes and only student athletes a place where they are required to study with mandatory tutorial help.  His thinking is that kids on the football team are not as well prepared for the rigors of university academic life as the kids who come to the university for purely academic reasons.  Wow!  So the universities are somehow improved academically by helping football players limp through degrees in communications studies, sociology, and psychology on their way to the NFL or, more realistically, into jobs as high school football coaches?  My mind is boggled.

Our whole educational system is broken.  Children leave the government schools with an abysmal education.  Thomas Sowell wrote an article for about the absurd fact that amateurs do a much better job than professionals when it comes to the education of their children.  After high school, we push kids into college who really should not be there.  Charles Murray writes of people with IQs of 100 or higher in a Wall Street Journal article, “Today’s simple truth is that far too many of them are going to four-year colleges.”  Read the article.  He makes a very cogent case for more vocational training and less university training.  So we should use football to attract people to the university who would be better served somewhere else?  In my experience, those attracted to the more rigorous academic disciplines such as engineering, math, physics, and chemistry seem to go to the best school that will accept them without regard to the quality of the football team.  None of them have much time to watch football anyway.  They are busy studying at the dorm or in the library.

Surreal moments in homeschool History and Psychology

I ordered three new CLEP preparation books for Kelly and Christian last week:  Biology, Psychology, and Sociology.  They were sitting on the coffee table in the family room last night, so Kelly picked up the psychology book and started reading it.  She read for a short bit then stopped and started laughing.

“I found Mom,” she said.

Then she went on to read a short section that said one of the signs of obsessive compulsive disorder is that those who are so afflicted check several times to assure doors are locked, the stove is turned off, excessively wash their hands, etc.  I am sure Mom does not have OSD, but it was still pretty funny.  Since Kelly just finished her CLEP Spanish test, we needed to decide which book to study next, so we sat down to take a look at the books and mull it over.  We were a little surprised that the Psychology and Sociology study books were so thin and did not look particularly difficult.  When we went through the Biology book, we saw that Kelly’s Apologia Biology program covers a lot of the material that is represented in the test questions.  We decide to hold off on the Biology until the end of the year to use both as a review and a way to get three more college credits.  Since Kelly had already started reading the Psychology book, we decided it would be next.  She will prepare for that test starting today.

We have noted that the U.S. History and Western Civilization CLEP tests require a lot more work than any of the other tests for which we have study materials.  Christian and I talked about that shortly before we went to bed last night.  He told me he was studying Charlemagne.  He recently learned that Charlemagne’s empire was contemporary with the Byzantine empire.  I did not know that.  I asked when Charlemagne lived.

He told me, “the 700’s.”

I mentioned that the play Pippin had something to do with Charlemagne.

He said, “Pippin the Short was Charlemagne’s father.”

He told me a bunch of other stuff about this era and it was quite interesting so I looked the thing up on Wikipedia.  Pippen the Short (born on my birthday in 768) was indeed Charlemagne’s father, but the play Pippin was about Charlemagne’s son.  Charlemagne’s Frankish empire was contemporary with the Byzantine empire.  He lived in the 700’s.  It is necessary to learn a veritable ton of interesting facts to pass those CLEP history tests.  I think Christian is on track to do well.

Special Note
:  The Robert and Eric to which Betty Blonde referred today are our ministers who are staying with us for a few days.

:  There was another big layoff at the old company (ATS) where I worked in Corvallis yesterday.  Many of those laid off were engineers.  We are very thankful to be in North Carolina.

Thankfulness for interesting work

I have been enjoying my work very much over the last little while. I am working on an interesting (hard) new problem that will take our product to the next level. I am quite pleased that they actually pay me to do this. It is a little more challenging with a nasty cold hanging on, but DayQuil Cold and Flu is amazingly effective at helping me work through the congestion and other symptoms. My only frustration is that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things that interest me. The older I get, the sadder I am that I did not keep my nose to the grindstone more when I was younger, both as a student and as a young engineer.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.” He also said, “I have wasted my hours.”

Even though what I am doing is trivial in comparison to the accomplishments of someone like da Vinci, I very much sympathize with the sentiments. The funny deal is that he really understood the life of an engineer. He lived from 1452 to 1519, but he precisely captured what I do for a living when he said, “Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” What a great guy. It surely does not seem like he was too full of himself. I wish I could be more like that.

Kelly’s Cookie Klatch

Well the cookie swap was a big success! You can see a few photos here

Today has been a very busy day so far. Mom took me to my piano lesson this morning.  My teacher usually has it scheduled on Tuesdays, but she had a dentist appointment so we had to go earlier than normal.  We are having the workers over tonight so I had to clean my closet (big job, believe me) and Mom has been tidying up all around the house!  Also at 7:35 this morning, I learned that one of my favorite radio talk show hosts is quitting her job in two weeks to spend time with her family.  That news deserves a sad smiley face 🙁  So it really has been quite a day. 

Last Saturday we went to the library and I got another typical batch of books. I (unfortunately) did not think to check that list of books that y’all wrote down for me a while back so I got 5 mystery books (one Agatha, one new one, one Father Brown, and two Mary Jane Clarkes) 5 teen girly guilty pleasure books (Which I refuse to share the titles of, for fear you might laugh) a knitting book, and a Tintin comic book. Thankfully, I have some cerebral reading to keep me company after I’m done with my guilty pleasures. I have re-discovered the world of Jane Austen!  Pride and Prejudice here I come!!!

Time to eat lunch!


I have a bad cold. An aggressive deadline at work that has caused us to dramatically adjust our holiday plans. It got cold enough last night that I struggled to get my pickup windows scrapped/defrosted to the point of numb fingers this morning. The Beavers will play Pitt in the Sun Bowl in El Paso which is a huge comedown from the much hoped for Rose Bowl. To top all this off, when I got on the scale this morning, I found that, due to Kelly’s fabulous, first annual cookie party and my like of discipline, I have gone backwards on my diet from down 40 pounds to down 25 pounds.

It is not all bad, though. Our ministers, Robert and Eric, called last night and will come to our house after gospel meeting tonight to spend a couple of nights with us. That is always good. I called my buddy, Eric the Luddite last night and we had a great and uplifting chat, as always. That is always a good thing, especially because he has not updated his blog since mid-October. I noticed that the weight loss death match chart was updated with most of the guys weights when I posted my staggering new weight gain. That is a good thing, even though the new, svelte Brian was NOT one of those who was faithful in posting his weight.

Friday afternoon plans

Kelly’s cookie exchange (first annual, she claims) will take place this afternoon after work.  Christian and I were told we were not necessary.  So in the spirit of this awesome blog post, we have chosen to love the idea of a dad/son night out.  We are going to head out to do something as soon as I can get home to pick Christian up after work.  I think two or three of the husbands will be at the cookie exchange, but before we knew that, we had already decided that we were going to do something cool together even though we are still not quite sure what it will be.  I am sure it will include, at least, some technology, books, and food.

Yesterday, I guy at work brought in a pen computer.  It was very, very cool.  I saw a million uses for the thing.  One of the coolest uses is to draw comic strips!

Kelly’s first annual cookie exchange tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the day of the big cookie exchange! Yesterday night, mom and I made these maple-pecan cookies.  So far on our list of cookies we have coconut macaroons, date balls, butterscotch cookies and two different kinds of chocolate chip cookies.  Today we went to Target to get a bunch of cellophane treat bags and normal gift bags to package the cookies in. We also got sprinkles and pre-made, pre-cut sugar cookie dough for decorating cookies during the party.  Sadly, it did not really occur to me until now that pre-cut cookie dough would not be good for cutting again with Christmas-themed cookie cutters.  Fortunately we have a bag of sugar cookie flour in the back of the pantry somewhere, so I think I’ll just pull that out and make a batch.  For drinks we are having sparkling cider, coffee, and a unique kind of cranberry tea. When we lived in Oregon, there were always these two cute little craft shows in our area every year.  One was located at the local grange and they sold things like embroidered pillows, candles, art, homemade jam, cute things to put on your wall or on your desk. It was really cozy and old-fashioned.  The other one (The Vintage Roost) was in a small shack on someone’s property.  It was very pretty inside, and it was different than the first craft show.  They sold things that were more unique.  Anyway, the lady that owned the place had a big pot of homemade cranberry tea for all the customers.  It was SO good.  She gave mom the recipe, but we hadn’t tried it until now. 

OK, so I’m obviously looking forward to that.  In other news I passed my CLEP Spanish exam yesterday!!! Dad already has the details on that below, but it’s a big thing for me, so I don’t think it’ll hurt to mention it twice in one blog. 🙂  Now I’m studying my head off with the CLEP US History 2 book.  It has an obvious leaning towards one side, and that’s not really helping the going get any easier. And taking notes is not my forte anyway. But I’m almost done and soon there’ll be another few college credits to put in my pocket!!  So I’m happy!

Well I’d better go and draw another Betty Blonde. I’m behind schedule!!! :O