Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas 2006

Theme: Old School

Completed tasks:
- Presents for relatives
- Activity for Stacey and her friends
- Presents for Stacey
- Buy tree
- Decorate tree
- Decorate house

- Present for Roomie
- Present for Mentee
- Wrap presents
- Visit relatives
- Bake cookies

Christmas preparations are going pretty good this year. Most of my present buying was done on Black Friday or before, Stacey and I got a tree Friday the 1st, and we've done a sizeable kid activity recently (nothing big like the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe shindig from last year, just the sleepover mentioned a few posts ago). We should be finished with everything before the trip down south.

I decided to learn how to string lights on my gutter this year, having only decorated inside my house, and maybe hung a wreath on the front door in previous years. It is a simple, albeit time-consuming process: Buy plastic gutter clips, clip one side to gutter, clip the other side to the lights, repeat until entire width of roof is covered, don't fall off ladder. I spent about two hours on this process after I had raked the last of the fall leaves to the curb (which took an additional hour), and I ended up plenty sore the next morning. The day after I strung the lights was when we started to get some bitter cold weather, so I couldn't have timed things better.

For the cold day, Stacey and I worked on decorating the tree. We popped some popcorn and experimented with making a string of popcorn and beads, which turned out OK. The trick with that turned out to be finding kernels of a particular shape that looked puffy, but did not break when a needle was poked through them. Stacey got out some construction paper and glue and made a couple chains of paper garland, and we hung everything with ornaments from my side of the family, and from Grandma and Grandpa in Wisconsin. No lights, no solid color glass bulbs. The result is very traditional looking, and was a lot of fun to put together.

Heidi poked her nose on the tree once, and hasn't been back. I don't know if I can trust her not to eat presents, and I never did get a good tree fence to keep her out... not that keeping out a determined Husky is possible without going completely overboard. I found out during Halloween that she has always been able, for example, to hop the two-foot fence to get into Stacey's playroom, but obliges us by staying out when there isn't constant doorbell ringing and the smell of dozens of sugared up little kids at the front door. Also, after being scolded a few times, she stopped eating remote controls, shoes, and library books, but she still occasionally munches on things with new smells. She's a good dog, but I think I'll have to watch her carefully when we get the presents wrapped and under the tree.

All is well, Grandma and Grandpa are coming down to see Stacey this Friday, which she will be excited about.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving fun

I was all braced for being miserable this Thanksgiving, so my surprisingly good cheer was a welcome relief, if anticlimactic. The ex had Stacey, and all my extended family is out of state right now. I made a choice several years ago when my wife and I split up not to take trips to see family without Stacey, so I planned on moping around the house for the long weekend.

Without going out of my way to plan anything, things just fell into place for the whole four days. Thanksgiving proper was cleanin' day. I caught up on all my laundry, gave my stovetop and countertops the weekly elbow-grease treatment, vacuumed up the week's dog hair (Huskies don't shed as much during the winter, thank God), etc. Thanksgiving dinner was a single can of corn chowder soup. I also snuck out in the afternoon to see a double feature, namely Deja Vu and Casino Royale, both commendable.

Friday I spent at Magic Mountain winning prize tickets at my favorite video game, VRS Marbles. I've written about that particular malady of mine before, and this was my annual excursion to win enough tickets to buy toys to donate. This year my church is sponsoring a "Christmas with Dignity" program asking parents to volunteer in their community to earn vouchers to buy discounted household goods and Christmas presents, and of course AEP is accepting presents to donate to the local Salvation Army. So I won a good number of tickets (6000-ish), and traded them for an array of $5 - $15 dollar toys, and gave half to church and half to AEP.

I also went to the mall on Friday ("Black Friday" in commercial parlance) and finished my Christmas shopping, without bankrupting myself. I usually splurge on Stacey, but I toned down considerably this year. After last Christmas, we talked about the amount of money I set aside for the holidays and where it all went, and we decided that she had plenty of games and toys (and gadgets) to occupy her for a good while, and some of the money should be deferred to her college fund and charity. Good kid, that. It's actually nice to not just go mad and buy everything you think will get a passing smile; with a tighter budget, a lot more thinking about your selections and shopping around is involved.

Saturday my mentee introduced me to his girlfriend, and we all went out to Easton, saw a movie, and hung out in the bookstore for a while. I hadn't seen him in a couple weeks, and I found out that someone had severely vandalized their home -- nice gift to start off the holiday season -- and he and his family were concentrating on getting the damage repaired, hence his being unavailable. So there's my mentee, the before was a pathological liar with anger issues, and the after, a mere 4 years later, gives up a chance at a fun weekend to help his family get their home back in order. It's nice to watch a boy grow into a man.

Sunday was less eventful. There was church, and then rescuing my neighbor's daughter from the boredom that is watching one's younger brother and his playmate climb through tubes at McDonalds. My neighbor, myself, and another member of our home group went out to eat after church, my neighbor with two little boys and one irritated teen in tow. She seemed upset about something (more than just not wanting to hang out with the little brother, and definitely none of my business), so after I finished my chicken sandwich (Ranch, BLT, and chicken, not bad), I asked her if she wanted a ride home rather than wait for the little kids to finish. She and dad both said yes, so off we went. On the way back, she fired off non-stop questions about my car, Stacey's room, where I met my roommate, what I'm planning on doing with the extra space downstairs, etc. It was cute; the stereotypical gabby teenaged girl, suddenly no longer down in the dumps.

She also has parents who live apart, and goes back and forth with her father and mother. Her father also splurges on her and makes time to entertain her and her friends. She also feels the loss of a whole family, like Stacey does. Stacey and she rotate between friendship and acquaintanceship, and she is often a member of Stacey's sleepovers or my trips out with Stacey and the neighborhood kids. Sometimes I think they would have made good sisters, and others I think that as sisters they would spend their time plotting each other's demise.

I spent the rest of Sunday porting all my calendars over to Google (see the Calendar link on the right), which has a pretty good interface. Early next year has some busy weeks, so it was nice to get everything in one place, and such that I could edit it from work or home without any hangups. Among other things, my divorce proceedings are under way, Stacey has several scouts and school activities, and I have been nominated for mentor of the year and invited to the big ceremony at the Statehouse mid-January. Busy busy busy.

See how I just slipped in that mentor thing like it was no big deal? I'm actually as excited as hell about that. I stand no chance of actually winning the award -- no, there's always some maniac who takes a crack-baby and teaches him how to fly fighter jets or something equally as impossibly self-sacrificing -- but I feel good about being invited and being recognized by my own local counseling group as worthwhile. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I didn't get the blues being alone for Thanksgiving, and made good use out of my time instead. The other reason, of course, is that I found 100 excuses to go into Stacey's room for a couple minutes. Hang up some clothes, re-make the bed, line up the flip-flops on the closet floor, take another peak at her remaining Halloween candy to make sure there isn't any taffy or caramel, etc. Each quick visit helping me remember that she is coming back soon, which is always enough to keeping me going.

So today is back to work, and I'm well rested. There seem to be no pending disasters for me to work, and life is getting back to normal.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween fun

Stacey and I kept pretty busy over the last couple of weeks. The ballet teacher who teaches after Stacey's Hip Hop class invited her to stay and "audit" the ballet class for two weeks in a row now.

I'd like to have Stacey in more than one dance class, like most of the other kids are, but things are very touchy right now between me and Stacey's mom. I feel as though everything I do right now regarding Stacey is under greater than usual scrutiny, so new classes will have to wait until things settle down. For now, auditing the class a couple of times and seeing the teacher and getting some refresher ballet information will have to do. When she was 4, I signed her up for a ballet class, and that went pretty well. She had one recital, and then we stopped, for reasons I can't remember.

Stacey had a spur-of-the-moment sleepover on Friday the 20th. Taylor and Krissy's mom and dad helped get the gang to dinner and back to my house, for which I'm most grateful, as there were 7 kids total, and I don't have a van... yet. In attendance were Taylor and Krissy (of course), Shayley, Hayley, Tara, and Sophia. They had a lot of fun, made a lot of noise, and ate all my food the next morning. I've always said one of the house rules for Stacey's friends is "nobody leaves hungry", but I had a hard time pulling that off. I made my usual triangle omelettes, some with ham and cheese, some just with cheese, and a few stacks of waffles. Everything got eaten, and I had to fry up all my bacon, and go borrow a couple eggs from a neighbor to make more waffles. Very harrowing experience. Last year I had a gaggle of girls over for a night, and they didn't go through half as much food. They all must be hitting their growth spurts.

This last weekend, Stacey was invited to a Halloween party thrown by Meghan's dad. He rented out his condo associations community building for the evening, had decorations, prizes, etc. He showed some poor judgment regarding pumpkin carving, though. He ran out and purchased pumpkins at the last minute, and found out that all the grocery stores were out of carving kits, so he bought some steak knives and pairing knives instead, intending to give them to little kids who were up late at night and all sugared up.

Needless to say, I jumped in, as did Meghan's mom, and kept the kids from getting hurt. I think I cut the tops off of about 7 pumpkins in as many minutes. The kids then hollowed out the pumpkins, and used pens to draw the designs they wanted cut out, and the adults then went about butchering their designs. That was the only questionable item, though; everything else went off smoothly. There was bobbing for apples, various off the cuff party games (guess how many pieces of candy are in the jar, a musical chairs derivative, etc.), and the community center had a pool, so everyone went swimming when they were too wired to play games.

Prior to the party, Stacey and I had embarked on our own pumpkin carving adventure. I am usually a traditionalist, just eyeballing a standard Jack-O-Lantern face with big triangles for a nose and eyes, but this year we bought a kit. She chose a pattern that had a bat flying with a Jack-O-Lantern in its claws, and I chose one of a spider. They turned out pretty good, and I think after using the little tools the kit provided within a couple days of using a steak knife to do some carving, that I prefer the tiny saws and the stencil patterns. I've been converted.

And tonight, of course, is Beggar's Night. Stacey and I went shopping for her costume last week, and picked out a traditional witch outfit, complete with latex nose and green makeup. We will be strolling the neighborhood with a group of her friends, and hopefully more parents.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I haven't posted for a few months now, but the world has been turning all the same. Stacey had her 10th birthday party over the summer. This year we opted for a simple ice-skating party, and had about 10 invitees, most of whom showed. As usual, I took the week of Stacey's birthday party off, and she and I brushed up on our ice-skating skills for a few days. I haven't been skating in so long, I was telling the other parents that they could spot me easily at the party:

"I'll be the one in the cast."

Fortunately, Stacey and I got our sea legs in short order, and neither of us ended up with serious injury before the party. The party was fun and simple, and people enjoyed themselves to the same extent as the more elaborate parties Stacey and I have thrown over the last few years.

Also over the summer, Stacey went to the Skyhawks basketball camp, and was one of two girls in the group of kids approximately her age. She caught on pretty quickly, and found out just how sore you can get running up and down a wood floor for a few hours. After day three, her muscles adjusted, and she slept normally and didn't wake up miserable. The first couple days were another story, though. She's always been active and healthy, so it was no big surprise that she toned up quickly.

This is also our first year in soccer. We signed up through "WASA", a local Westerville soccer club, and we had lots of fun getting gear and practicing at the local park. Unfortunately her team hasn't won any games this season, but the girls seem to be bearing that load pretty well. A few of the parents are pretty cool, and the coach seems like a nice guy, and it's nice to see Stacey out running around and having a good time.

I took my video camera to one of the games (and will at the last game this coming Monday). I had some trouble getting the shot to look right. Either you couldn't see which kid was which, or you couldn't tell where the goals were; if Stacey becomes a super sports star or something, I'm going to need to figure out good camera work so she can have some "back when" footage to add to her highlight films when she retires.

Anyway, while I was filming, Stacey looks at me a little flustered, and pantomimes me turning the camera on her. Apparently she wanted me to get footage of her rather than the game as a whole, and we hadn't discussed what I was going to be filming, just that I was bringing the camera. Since I wasn't sure what quality of footage I was really getting, I did turn the camera on her, but I was so amused by her miming a camera and pointing to herself that I had a hard time holding the camera still for a minute.

It was a good thing I turned the camera on her though, as she almost immediately turned up the heat, stole a ball, and dribbled it upfield a little. She didn't end up scoring or making an assist (and I believe we tied that game), but she showed comfort and confidence, and she already knows how to read people. Maybe soccer or a similar field sport will end up being her "thing".

One of the soccer families hit it off well with Stacey and I. She gets along great with their twin girls, and they are both very involved parents and involved with their church. The dad invited me to come fill in on his over-30 league, and the girls and Stacey will probably end up hanging out some weekends shortly.

In other news, we're foregoing tap dance classes this year in favor of "hip-hop", which in dance seems to be less about being a hard gangster and more about having fun. Stacey likes it. I was on the fence for a while, but after she showed me some of her routine after a few weeks of practice, I've got to admit that it looks pretty cool.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How to waste a holiday

This Memorial Day my daughter was with her mom, my acquaintances were with their families (or chose not to invite me to group picnics, which is equally likely), and I of course had the day off from work. So with all my chores done, and no interest in going out, I tossed a ball around with my dog for a while, and settled down in front of the computer. Predictably.

I decided that I was ready to yet again reinstall my auterytech server so that I could get webdav working, and to upgrade to a modern Postfix to take advantage of better security features. I copied off all the content and config files, and set about installing a vanilla Debian 3.1 distro. Damn Small Linux wasn't doing it for me anymore, causing severe headaches whenever I attempted to apt-get anything, and all application logging was dumped by default into the same file: /var/log/messages, making administrative troubleshooting a very messy affair.

So about 2 hours and a pair of tutorials on webdav and php, and I had a working server. After messing around with phpicalendar as a web viewer and Korganizer as a publisher, I was able to get my .mac calendar ported to my home server, and to boot I can update it from work with Sunbird. The phpicalendar app needs some tweaking, and I haven't added RBL blocking or my list of spammer/hacker IP addresses with iptables, so I can still have fun configuring for the next evening or two.

Between that and watching guys wipe out on their motorcycles on Google Video, I successfully wasted an entire day. Yeah me!

In other news, Stacey's grandparents should be coming down sometime soon to celebrate Stacey being out of school, or someone's birthday, or just for the hell of it. All perfectly good reasons to see Stacey. I believe I may have lost the email that had dates and times on it, so if you're out there Don, could you send that again?

Also, it's Habitat For Humanities time again. AEP is sponsoring another house frame building session at one of our lineman training facilities this Saturday. I plan on taking my mentee and two other teenage boys that are brothers of one of Stacey's friends. This will cost me a little for equipment (it's BYOH, so I need to get another hammer or two) and a lot in pain and suffering, one way or another. I could either injure myself digitally due to negligence, or I could last the whole day and pay for it later when I next try to get out of bed.

Lastly, Stacey's glasses seemed to have helped. She is no longer struggling to stay above water with schoolwork, particularly reading assignments. Her improved performance has, I believed, also improved her confidence and level of self worth. That's the way it should be, of course -- an accomplishment, then an increase in self-esteem.

Link of the day: Feed me better manifesto

Jamie Oliver is a pretty inspiring guy. His story has quickened me in my pursuit of opening a child care center, and healthy from-scratch meals will be on the list of improvements to standard child care that Mittens Daycare will provide. (And yes, that's an official, registered name of the LLC I just formed with the help of my lawyer, good friend, and next door neighbor, Eric. Look for more announcements regarding that in the next week or two.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Compare and Contrast

Streaming video will "choke the Internet"

Dark Fiber

The funny part here is that Bell's chief architect has the last name "Kafka", leading to such phrases in the article as "according to Kafka". "Your Internet bill will go up to $112 per month if you want to watch streaming video, according to Kafka." Oh yeah? Back in my day, you could be executed by the state without having the charges against you stated, according to Kafka. You could be transformed into a giant bug in the middle of the night, only to have your manager arrive at your house and demand that you go to work, according to Kafka.

The statements of Bell South's Kafka are no different than the statements by Franz Kafka. The world's controlling entities can enforce arbitrary punishment on the innocent, in this case lining their wallets with money they've stolen from their customers for upgrades that have already been performed.

In other news, last night I watched the first horror movie to severely freak me out since 28 Days Later. The movie was The Descent, which achieved its freak-out factor by the slow paced build-up and incremental escalation of problems. The main sequence of the movie takes place in the Appalachian area in North Carolina. Having lived in NC for a good part of my life, I can accurately say that there really are freaky albino cannibals living in the caves.

Contrast that to a recent popular horror/suspense flick, Hostel, where a premise with promise is completely ruined with bad dialog and weak caricatures who you are unsympathetic with. Go ahead, cut his Achilles tendon, what do I care?

I would recommend against seeing either movie unless you, like myself, learned to read by flipping through Fangoria.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dog hair begone

I swear sometimes in person, but tend to avoid it unless I'm with a small group of people I'm comfortable with (or who are drunk and won't remember). I rarely swear in writing, since I have all the time in the world to think about how I want to say something, and resorting to profanity just isn't necessary to get a point across.

I'm anti-consumerism, anti-commercialism, etc. There is a basic element in advertising that makes me angry, the emotional appeal. Look, it's someone using a product, and see how happy they are? His kid's are smiling at him, his wife is looking at him amorously. You want a happy family don't you? Don't you love your family? Or maybe it's a man in a labcoat explaining facts to you, while in the background is a chart with numbers and icons on it. See how smart you would be if you used our product? Don't you want to be smart? To use these kinds of appeals to make money is no better than running a whorehouse or a casino, preying on people with poor judgment.

So with the above commentary in mind, here is a quick product review of my newly purchased vacuum cleaner, the Dyson DC14 Animal: Holy shit!

My dog, Heidi, is a Siberian Husky, and just got through a seasonal coat-blow, and basically every fabric surface and every collection point on tile surfaces (corners, running boards, table legs) had hair on them. Trying to vacuum it up, I destroyed what I thought was a decent vacuum cleaner, a Bissel PowerForce bagless, which had until then done a stand-up job.

So yesterday I took a chunk of cash and went to Home Depot and grabbed a Dyson. With one simple jaunt around the living room, all the dog hair was gone, as well as the few outstanding Christmas tree needles, and a sizable amount of dust. With a pair of hose attachments, the stairs, corners, the couch, and my bed's comforter (frequent hangout spot of the dog) were all hair free.

In other news, Stacey got her first pair of glasses this week, and reports being able to see loads clearer. Time will tell if this has an impact on her school work, but I believe it will. Naturally, she still manages to look beautiful with glasses on.

We just got back from Spring break in North Carolina, where I spent most of the week bedridden with flu symptoms. I was well enough later in the week for us to run down to Carowinds and ride some rides and win some prizes. I'm better at the water-gun game (shoot the little target with a stream of water until the car drives to the top of the board), and won a pair of prizes that way. My new approach is to aim low, expect a miss, and be prepared to recover quickly from the miss, which worked for two out the three rounds I played.

Lastly, I've taken myself off of Lexapro. The end results were weight gain (30 pounds worth), higher blood pressure, constant fatigue, and slowed mental functions. I can't work at my job as a computer programmer if I'm tired and stupid, and was beginning to fall behind in my work. After the first few days of having a nasty temper (a know side-effect of withdrawal), I found my calm again, and for now it seems like I remember how to be calm and happy, and feel better than before I started taking Lexapro. I may need to revisit psychoactive drugs in the future, only time will tell. Right now I'm just happy to have a working brain again, normal blood pressure, and 8 of the extra 30 pounds gone. With my recent treadmill purchase, hopefully the other 22 (and more afterwards) will be gone in short order.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fun with Postfix

The new web/mail server is online and configured to my liking. I decided to go with Postfix instead of Exim to try something new. It was painless to set up, but shortly afterwards I noticed a spam attack that successfully relayed a message using the server by a complex attack involving a bogus auterytech email address that was denied, followed by a blank from address.

It was a good exploit, actually, but it galvanized me into action, and I spent the next couple of days locking down the server against similar exploits and common identifiable spam headers. Since I don’t actually source any emails from auterytech, I was able to take further action and defer outbound SMTP traffic to a hold queue in case I missed something, and to go for broke I blocked outbound port 25 traffic on that server from my router. OK, relay a message now, Mr. Script Kiddie!

Why don’t I send email from auterytech? What’s the point of registering a domain and configuring a mail server to not send mail? Roadrunner. The IP address range for Roadrunner customers (and other services giving machines semi-dynamic addresses) is blocked on a lot of mail servers. I don’t have the money to pipe in my own T1 line, but I do have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Friday, March 31, 2006


Profession upgrade: IT professional to child care center administrator

I finally took the plunge and hired a lawyer to help me research licensing requirements and grant opportunities to open my daycare. I fleshed out sort of a "manifesto" on child care philosophy, and I wholeheartedly believe that the core beliefs I have about running a business and how to correctly take care of kids will pan out.

My goal is to have funding, licensing, training, and a few possible sites picked out by this time next year, quit my current job by March 2008, and to open the doors on or before June 2, 2008. Here are some basic points that will be at the core of the business:
  • Low staff to child ratio
  • Well compensated teachers (good pay, benefits)
  • Well treated children
    • Be the child's advocate
    • Provide a healthy environment (good food, cleanliness, first aid supplies, etc.)
    • Provide a comforting environment (no prison wardens allowed)

  • Lots of room to play (not overcrowded)
    • Child care is not a market.
    • Play is a child's job

Body upgrade: Adrian Adonis to Randy Savage

I just spent the last of my annual bonus on exercise equipment that will be delivered this weekend. I've been meaning to hit the gym as frequently as possible for some time now, but it hasn't been happening due to both my own laziness, and my not wanting to be away from my kid for any length of time.

This Saturday will be clean out the garage day to make room for the chin-up bar, upright ab-crunch thingy combo, which will also expose my heavy punching bag, which has been surrounded by boxes for about 6 months.

The treadmill goes in the family room. It's light enough to be dragged out of the way (note to self: maybe move bookshelves to living room) when not in use, and if it isn't in sight all the time, I'm going to forget about it and let it gather dust, so it has to stay in a prominent place in the house. The one I bought is like one you'd find in a gym, complete with incline and a fan to blow on you (I can't decide if I think that's cool or silly).

Webserver upgrade: P2 300mhz to P4 1.4ghz

The server sitting in my closet is on its last leg. The ethernet card does not reconnect after a network outage, and ifdown/up eth0 doesn't fix the problem, and it needs to be rebooted every time. In addition, the hard drive is slowly disintegrating, and each reboot has me holding my breath when fsck runs. A few days ago there was an outage and I just couldn't get linux past the boot sequence. It turns out my keyboard was the culprit, and it was not sending my "control-D" or the complete root password when I was prompted.

So I decided to lay the little bastard to rest and use the P4 that has been unplugged for awhile. This was my Windows XP gaming computer in 2000, complete with the whopping 20 gig hard drive and 56k modem, w00t! To turn it into a decent webserver environment, I decided to go with Damn Small Linux, which is a pretty neat distro, and I'm a fan of the minimalist approach.

I just got apache working correctly (e.g., turned on during the boot sequence) last night before I went to bed, and the remaining steps are to install exim, and copy over the (now archived on a third machine after the earlier fiasco) content files. In the process, I think I'll ditch the encrypted journal, redirect calls to the main page to this blog, and just use it for private content and as a host for smaller images and cgi scripts where my low RoadRunner upstream won't be a big issue. (Of course, speed isn't an issue now, as I get about 5 or so legitimate hits a day). I hope to have everything finalized on the new machine by Sunday night.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fork in the road

Judging by what I've seen of her interactions with kids at school lately, whatever slump Stacey was in socially has abated. She seems happy when I pick her up from school, lots of kids say goodbye to her, and kids I don't know are being invited over for sleepovers.

One such example was Haley, who came over with another girl for a Saturday/Sunday sleepover. We didn't do anything fancy, just ordered a couple pizzas and went to a movie. Stacey and the other girls were happy and animated, didn't fight, got very little sleep. It's always nice to see a smile on my kid's face, especially with new friends. As for the staying up too late, they are no doubt paying for it today at school. Fortunately, the week of BS standardized testing is over, so they can afford to only be on their B games for one day.

In other news, I just paid off my credit card, and have vowed to never use it again. I'm struggling now to get my car paid off early, and to increase my emergency account funding from the measly $2000 in there now to an amount that would actually get me through an emergency. If I stick to my budget plan, don't get fired, and the price of gas stays under $5 a gallon for a little while longer, I'll be able to meet all my personal financial goals and still help Stacey with college.

I would consider it easy money, except for the little devil on my shoulder telling me to go take risks. I've been doing some beginning research on day care expenses and crunching numbers, considering everything from liability insurance and taxes to 401k matches and field trips, and I think that I can charge a reasonable rate and still pay the teachers well. Either I'm missing something, or what I've heard about day cares only being able to afford paying teachers kibbles and running a very thin profit line is all a sham.

I want to make my escape from IT and work with kids, which I've been saying for the last 5 years, but I also have financial commitments to my daughter. Her needs outweigh my desires, so I won't take any leaps unless I'm reasonably sure I'll be successful (or at least that I'll be able to recover from). I imagine this is what creates the resentment that some parents have for their children, when they realize that they are the old generation caring for the new, and that their pleasure and freedom has suddenly come to a stop. For me, being wishy-washy about making decisions helps to avoid that potential conflict.

I've been thinking about my escape and future entrepreneurship a lot lately, and will soon make the choice one way or the other to go for it, or to stay secure in the work I know will pay well, or take the unsure road of the work I would much rather be doing. Will I choose the road less traveled by? You know, the one that makes all the difference? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Valentine's day & the talent show

If you really loved me, you'd buy me something from my wishlist, or at least read one of my favorite books for yourself.

Valentine's Day was pretty fun this year, both because I have no romantic interest right now, and also because I attended my kid's class Valentine's day party. I was the only fourth grade father to attend a party, and did my best to ham it up, including sitting at an empty desk with an empty boardgame box (Boggle) patiently awaiting my Valentines, and various one-liners. It was also my job to distribute pizza and pop (Cherry 7-Up, since it's red), so I organized the cups into a heart(ish) shape thusly:

The kids, teachers, and other volunteers seemed to enjoy my antics, which is worth the price of playing the fool.

Friday the 17th was this year's talent show for my kid's school. She was in two acts, one with her friends doing "Do You Believe In Magic", like I talked about last post, and a solo medley of three Disney tunes that she and her voice coach have been working on. Both were great, and I recorded them with my new camcorder, and burned my first DVD with the show's footage. iMovie and iDVD both proved to be pretty painless to use to that effect.

I also ended up with two possible images of my daughter in action to replace my outdated "Action Stace" icon used on The old one was of her when she was 4:

That's been a favorite of mine for 5 years now, but she doesn't look like that any more, so it's time to move on.

A final note on the talent show: Stacey's acts went off without a hitch. The music was loud and clear, and the event was remarkably stress free. Contrast that to what happened last year, which was the final catalyst that sent me to my doctor saying "I don't want to be angry any more". Here is my journal entry from last year's talent show:

February 26, 2005

I felt rage today like I haven't felt for 10 years, and it was very liberating. It also passed quickly and didn't consume me like it would have at 23. But today wasn't about me, it was about Stacey.

Today was the talent show, and Stacey's first solo act. Grandma and Grandpa drove down from Wisconsin. The ex and I sat together and didn't fight. Stacey had a home-made Annie dress that grandma made and sent down, and an official Annie wig from one of Columbus's only year-round costume stores, and make up put on by an official teenager. Her act was well rehearsed, and she was taking it seriously, and sounding better each week. When it was her turn to perform, the spotlight came on, the song intro played, she spoke her opening dialog... And then the music died.

Trouble in the sound booth, since this was a free event and the Westerville South high school students running the sound couldn't get the music working. And Stacey stood there waiting, and looking nervous and confused. And she looked to the stage hand and turned up her hand questioningly. Of course, I thought, the suburban world that has struggled to beat all the happiness out of our lives raised another hateful fist. Of course many of the kids who Stacey thought were friends asked each other to be in duos and trios, but Stacey wasn't invited to join them. Of course since I was a parent that was not a member of the precious elite inner circle of suburban snobbery then it would be Stacey's solo act that would be the one to fail. And my beautiful daughter, who tried so hard to fit in and make friends and be a happy little girl, of course it would be her that would be crushed on her last attempt to make the world see that she was special and worth something. Of course.

And the rage came. OK, I thought, Stacey can have free reign from now on to be as destructive and anti-social to these bastards as she wants, and God help anyone who hints to me that there's a problem.

But as I said, this wasn't about me, it was about her. My rage came, but hers didn't. She waited for the music, and when it didn't come, she sang.

"I just stick out my chin, and grin, and say
the sun will come out tomorrow,
so you gotta hang on 'till tomorrow
come what may..."

My beautiful girl wasn't hurt, and knew the world wasn't trying to beat her down, and she sang her piece a cappella. She sang, and she played with the audience like her voice coach had practiced with her "Raise your hand if you believe, no truly believe the sun will shine tomorrow...don't be shy". And she sang, and she danced, and she was animated.

And they cheered. And they clapped. And they loved her. They loved my beautiful girl, who was trying to make it work, who did the best she could with what she had. They loved my girl, who was always such a better person than me. The girl that keeps me going. My Anastasia, you make me so proud.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Links of the day

No Autistics Allowed :: Beautifully well written articles and letters by Michelle Dawson describing her struggle for increasing the rights and perceived worth of autistics. Her writing style evokes a lot of emotion from me, due to both its clarity and fluidity, and also for the persistence in her struggle.

Webhosting is a market for lemons :: A thoughtful summary of the webhosting market as viewed from a financial/game theory perspective. It focuses on the concept of information asymmetry.

Well, it's tax season again. Even after adjusting my deductions last year, I'm still getting a sizeable return. Granted I'm happy with getting the money, but my goal was to get all the money I had coming to me in each paycheck, and end up with a zero balance on April 15. I'll have to re-examine my deductions again this year.

Stacey and a couple friends from her class are rehearsing their rendition of "Do You Believe In Magic", not the one by the Loving Spoonful, mind you, but the girly-pop remake by "Aly and AJ", whoever they are. Still, the kids are having fun, which matters more than my love of original versions of 60s tunes.

I decided to take Martin Luther King jr day off from work since Stacey will be out of school that day. She's having a modest-sized sleepover Sunday night (probably 3 other girls), and we'll probably all go hit a movie or something Monday. Should be a fun, hopefully low-stress weekend.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Interesting commentary style on arstechnica

The website is, so I believed, a tech news site similar to Wired or any of the Ziff/Davis fare. I rarely surf these sites directly, but instead read individual stories from these sites that are linked to from sites like I read an interesting story today written by Ryan Paul, that contained an unusual amount of opinion mixed in with the normal reporting. The article was on Internet censorship in China, and is available here.

Here are some of the more interesting comments that pepper the article:
  • Like most other communist states, China and its government have very little respect for civil liberties and personal autonomy.
  • Censorship of Internet pornography is rarely effective.
  • I doubt that censorship and oppression in China will end any time soon,

    It's almost as though I'm reading my local paper, The Columbus Dispatch. This article appears today listed on arstechnica's front page under the column "From the News Desk". Despite being declared news, most of the aritcle is either opinion or factual declarations without sources being cited (e.g., "the communist regime has committed its resources to crushing web sites that challenge government authority").

    So my question is, did Mr. Paul get paid for this? If so, where can I submit my stream of thought opinions for some extra cash?