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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

In just the last hour or so, I’ve learned quite a lot, which is surprising, considering that I wasn’t trying to learn anything, and the activity I was involved in is not typically considered educational. The things I noticed, though, have been bouncing around in my head, so I thought it important to get them all down on paper (so to speak) before I forgot. So, if you can pardon the personal nature of this, here is my list:

  1. Winter time is not the best time for a pet to die. If you own a pet, you should try to plan their demise so as to avoid the winter months.
  2. Frozen ground is about as easy to dig up as your living room floor (though I don’t recommend trying it to find out).
  3. Shallow graves are not always easy to dig. Sometimes they are just a necessity.
  4. The first 3 inches or so of digging are the worst. That’s where the ground is frozen the hardest. After that it’s just hard-packed clay, pretty typical.
  5. If you don’t have an excavator or other such power tools in your shed, just give up and wait until spring. As far as I understand it, that’s why freezers were invented. Even a pick ax wouldn’t have helped much. But you definitely shouldn’t attempt this with a little three-foot garden shovel. Ever.
  6. If you’re trying to pick a nice, peaceful resting ground for your child’s recently departed and are thinking that a nice shady spot under a tree would be nice, you are thinking like a parent instead of an undertaker. Stop it. Roots grow under trees. Lots of them. Lots of really thick ones. The kind most people buy chainsaws for.
  7. I have a better understanding of the pain that the pioneers must have experienced trying to bury their loved ones in the frozen plains. I was hurting after about 5 minutes, and only had managed to clear the leaves away from the spot and chisel a few shavings of dirt off the surface. There was an extra helping of pain knowing that there was no way to get out of this by whining to my wife about how hard it was or how tired I was. It just had to be done. And they had many more, significantly more profound feelings about the people they were burying than I did about my son’s hamster. It must have been torture. I will definitely look at the pioneer graveyard in Winter Quarters a whole lot differently the next time I am there.
  8. Little boys are not that into eulogizing the deceased, even though it broke his heart to learn that it was his hamster that had died.
  9. Finally, little boys love to dig holes.
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I don’t think I’d be tapping into ancient history if I asked you to think back to the UPS ad campaign that featured the question, “What can brown do for you?” I feel just a little bad because I have been on both the shipping and receiving end of brown’s services many times, but I’ve never really stopped to consider even thinking about reciprocating. So today, it’s all about what I can do for brown.

You see, recently, we ordered a crib from an online retailer and were told it would be coming via UPS. We liked this prospect because the lab I order my prints from always ships via UPS and they’ve proven themselves very reliable and careful with my precious cargo.

Once the order was processed and updated in the retailer’s database, they sent us an email with tracking information and a link to UPS’s website. The tracking information indicated that our crib would be arriving on the 7th, which was not totally unexpected, but still a bit longer than we would like. However, since we only paid 97 cents for shipping, I guess we got what we paid for.

We clicked through to the UPS site, just to check and see where it was coming from, more out of curiosity than because of some actual need to know, and discovered that it was coming from Hodgkins, IL–basically from Chicago. That’s good news because we know that it’s only about an 8-hour drive (or so) from here to there. Best of all, UPS indicated that it would actually deliver on the 6th. Hey, great surprise! Brown comes through for us again!

As time drew closer to the actual arrival of the crib, on the 5th, I believe, we went back to check on our (big) little package’s progress, and were a bit surprised by what we had seen:

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(Okay, no laughing about the “delivered” bit…I didn’t capture this until after the fact).

What, you don’t understand? Let me show you.

The package left Hodgkins, IL, and traveled to Kansas City, KS. No problem.

From there, it went to Salina, KS. Feel free to click the images if you need extra help with visualizing this.

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It left Salina and went to Lenexa, KS.

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From Lenexa, it took a trip to Manhattan. See the problem yet?

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From Manhattan, they finally decided they could take it out to us, after making a grand total of THREE trips past our home.

Here’s the way Google breaks it down:

  • Hodgkins, IL, to Wamego, KS: 625 miles, 9 hours and 34 minutes
  • Hodgkins, IL, to Kansas City, KS, to Salina, KS, to Lenexa, KS, to Manhattan, KS, to Wamego, KS: 1011 miles, 15 hours and 48 minutes.

That means UPS went 386 miles out of its way, which should’ve added an extra 6 hours and 14 minutes. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the way that UPS did it actually added over 77 hours to the trip.

I guess Google doesn’t account for bathroom breaks and fast-food stops.

So, because I don’t want UPS to think that I never did anything for them, here‘s what I can do for brown.

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Michelle: Young lady, if you don’t (insert desired behavior here) right now, I’m calling Santa. I can still tell him not to bring you any presents!

Chloe: That’s ok, Mom. I don’t need presents; Christmas isn’t about presents.

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I went to sleep at 9:30 last night. 9:30! That’s unheard of for me. We got up at 5:45 this morning because we had a rather busy morning planned and wanted to get an early start.

Here’s what our schedule looked like:

  1. Vote–The polling place near us, the Senior Center, opened at 7 this morning, and we knew we’d need to be there at 7 to be able to take care of all the other stuff we had going.
  2. IHOP–Ok, this wasn’t so much of a had-to-get-done as it was a necessary stop for food. It could have been anywhere, but our friends had a discount card that would get us a free entree, so we decided it was as good as anything.
  3. Ultrasound–This was the real reason we were going to IHOP. We were planning on keeping the kids home from school for the morning so we could bring them to Michelle’s ultrasound this morning. We wanted to make it a special day, so we added a nice breakfast in there. However, since the appointment was at 9, we had little time to vote, make the 20 minute drive, eat, and get to the appointment.

We expected voter turnout to be good, but we didn’t expect it to be this good, this early in the morning.

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We brought the kids along, but didn’t expect the wind to be so cool. They made do just fine with a blanket from the car.

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Voting took 30 minutes (once we found out that our side of town had a much shorter line than the other side of town) and then we took off for IHOP.

Doing our part:

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And then we were off to the ultrasound appointment. It was a lot of fun. The baby was active, moving around, not modest at all (which is helpful for the lab tech), and absolutely adorable. While I don’t have the ultrasound pics scanned in, you might be able to find some helpful hints here.

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This year, I really wanted to get into the spirit of Halloween. I only do this for all of my international students, of course. So, I decided to put together a really scary costume that I could also wear around campus without making people think I was a freshman. Or lonely. Or a fantasy reader.

So, I turned my hat backwards, put on a polo shirt, jeans, and a fake press badge for Jimmy “Pop” A. Razzo, staff photographer for the National Reporter. I grabbed my new camera, the Canon 40D, set it to high speed burst mode (6.5 frames/second), put a flash on (set to the lowest level for the fastest recycling time and lowest battery consumption), and set out to terrorize the campus.

Ok, mostly, I just terrorized my fellow teachers and a few students. And a random guy dressed as a Lego man.

Seriously.

Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the photographic evidence to prove it (except that my badge is flipped around backwards):

I can’t tell you how many times someone asked me if there was any film in the camera. I’d just shake my head in a reassuring way and say no. Then, when they relaxed a bit, I pointed out that it was digital and unloaded the Canon at them.

At the end of the day, I had over 1200 images, 8 exhausted (rechargeable) AA batteries, and a lot more enemies.

Oh, and a video:

I think many people would agree: definitely a scary costume.

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Do phrases like “mortgage-backed securities,” “credit default swaps,” or “naked short-selling” make your mind spin? Trying to decide if you like the idea of a $700 billion bailout of the people that caused the problem to begin with?

Back in May (I believe), the fine folks over at This American Life (a really interesting show that I highly recommend) did an entire hour-long episode devoted to explaining the housing bubble burst and how we all got in so much trouble to begin with. The episode was so popular, due to its crystal clear, jargon-free explanations of the financial mechanisms that are bringing this country to its knees that the producer, Alex Blumberg, and the NPR correspondent that he put that show together with, Adam Davidson, decided to start their own daily podcast covering the ever evolving nature of the crisis from a neutral, still jargon-free perspective. They call it Planet Money.

They’ve got a blog, a podcast, and a twitter feed, too, all of which have really illuminated my understanding of what is going on.

Just this past week, as the bailout plan was passed through Congress, they teamed up with This American Life again to do another hour-long show about the economy, which is currently available, free to download, through Sunday, October 12th, here. After that, don’t complain to me when you have to cough up a whole $0.95 to download it; I’ll just tell you to stream it free from their website.

So, go check them out, and let me know what you think.

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Sunday night, after the baths, I got an itch that I needed to scratch. So, I broke out my studio lighting set up (umbrella, light stand, wireless triggers…you know) and threw a make-shift studio together in the living room with the dark dining room behind. I frantically looked around for volunteers, and since we’d already bribed the kids with candy, they were willing.

We had way too much fun. Me playing with my camera, the kids playing with their faces:

Of course, I had to get in on the fun, too.

Why the mean face? Well, it was part of a theme for the night, the highlights of which you’ll have to check out here (and believe me, they really are the best in show for the night). Michelle’s entry has, unfortunately, been disqualified by the judge, Michelle, as being too scary realistic embarrassing. I, of course, will just post them later.

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