Monday, January 26, 2009

Update, Chickens

An update on our own urban chickens...

The coop remains unfinished as we've had some rain this week. I need to buy a roof and finish the actual hen housing area. Then, trim, maybe spruce up the floor a bit/etc. Still, if I had all the materials on hand, I think I could finish everthing in an easy weekend.

The chicks are growing so fast! It's only been a week but they have really grown! So far, the kids are doing a great job with the birds. We clean the cage every morning before school, and they (so far at least) haven't started viewing it like a "chore" --

Me: Hey kids, hurry up, we still have to do the chicken cage before we leave!
Kids: Yay! We get to clean the cage!
Me: Really? Er, I mean. Yay!
Chicks: Peep!

Our neighbors are getting close to building their own coop. Looks like they're going to build the coop and run separately. I hope they let me help, I had so much fun building ours. Also, I think they'll take my left over lumber off my hands.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's That Bug Doing in My Cereal?

This morning I opened a brand new box of cereal (Smart Start, if you must know) and poured myself a nice bowl. I reached over to grab the milk and something caught my eye. A movement caught my eye. Yes, something was scurrying in my cereal bowl! A silverfish!

Of course, the kids just HAD to see it. My older daughter plugged her ears, of all things, upon seeing it and it took us several minutes to get her to eat her own bowl of (completely different) cereal. Of course, the younger daughter, or Salamander-Jo as I've been known to call her lately, thought it was the coolest.

I kept staring at it, wriggling around in the flakes. What to do? I wasn't really angry, but I sure as heck wasn't going to eat that new box of cereal.

"I know!" I shouted. "The chicks! They'll love a bug for breakfast!" I grabbed the bowl, ran over to the chicken's cage and scooped the bug right in there amongst the pine shavings.


Ok, so they aren't the most observant animals when they're young like this (<2 weeks). So I tossed in a flake or two from the bowl and the birds began trying to peck them. Much better! Suddenly, one of the chicks starts making these incredibly excited "Peep! Peep! peepeepeepeepeep!" noises and lunges down and grabs the bug!

Instantly the other other chicks converge, but it's too late, that bug is breakfast!

Now my daughters hope to find more bugs for them to eat. I just hope they don't find any inside the kitchen!


After the salamander in the armpit event, something reminded me of the "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" song as my wife and I were working in the back yard. So I sang "Just put a newt up your sleeve, Steve, and let yourself breathe..."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Tale of the Brave Kid and the Salamander

I spent the weekend building a chicken coop in my backyard. The kids are incredibly excited about the prospect of keeping chickens so they're trying to help when and where ever they can. For example, part of the coop project involved the family teaming up to remove a planting bed. The four of us attacked it with shovels and saws. At one point we lifted a large chunk of wood and found a salamander hiding beneath it. My 7 year old quickly rushed over and said "I want to pick it up!" My wife and I exchanged puzzled-yet-proud looks, as typically our kids don't rush to volunteer to pick up things like salamanders (this one happened to be an Aneides lugubris or Arboreal Salamander).

Anyway, we needed to move the guy/gal to a safer part of the yard so we let her come over and pick it up. She bent down slowly and expertly scooped it into her hands.

And it promptly scooted up into her sleeve! My poor brave daughter was laughing, screaming for help, and crying all at the same time. She was trying to hold her other hand against her sleeve in order to stop the salamander from wriggling even further up her arm, but at the same time, we're telling her to be careful not to squish the poor thing.

"It's up my sleeve! It's up my sleeve! Help! Now it's in my arm pit!!! It tickles! HELP!"

It may have taken me an extra second to rush to her aid as I tried to hold in my own laughter.

Eventually, the poor animal found its way out and fell safely into a nice bed of leaves where it scuttled out of sight.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My House Is Worth What???

We got a letter from Wells Fargo on Friday, informing us that our Home Equity Line of Credit was suspended due to the falling values of homes in our area.

On Saturday, we got a letter from the city, informing us that the improvements we made to our house (using the HELOC...) caused the value of our house to rise, and so our property taxes will now go up.


Good thing we don't need to use the HELOC to pay our new property taxes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Points of View

Last night during my slow readthrough of my 2008 nanowrimo novel, I noticed that I abruptly switched viewpoints for absolutely no good reason. I had been keeping the story in third person limited -- the world through my main character's eyes. But there, apparently "just because," I switched. It stuck out like a sore thumb. And what's more, my nine year old daughter called me on it.

"Wait, how did she know what the other person was doing? Wasn't she in the records room at the library?"


The odd thing is, the main character's viewpoint was the more interesting at this point in the story anyway, so why bother switching?

Well, honestly, it had to do with a minor bout of writer's block in mid-November, and in order to plow on and get my 1,667 words per day, I cheated a bit.

I've been playing with viewpoint these last few nanowrimos. My first two were third person, but where I jumped from character to to character to give viewpoints. Next, I took a stab at first person. That was difficult because of how much it limited what I could expose to the reader.

But I liked the restrictions a bit, I admit. So this time, for 2008, I went with the limited third person.

So, will I try second person next time? Maybe. I actually already have an idea for that, but almost think that reading a second person story would be harder than writing one.

Orson Scott Card wrote a great book about writing: Characters & Viewpoint

Monday, January 12, 2009


I have a few goals this year. They are not really resolutions though, merely things I'm working toward -- things like raising the quality of the time I spend with my kids. Things like adding one or two workouts to my week and finishing several projects around the house/yard. Oh, and of course the Nanowrimo book.

Another goal is to assume more responsibility at my job. Some might call it "taking things to the next level" and they'd be right, but I'd still mock them for saying it.

Anyway, my boss is incredibly enthusiastic and helpful, a true enabler. Which would be good... If I could just get back to really loving my job. I'm close, I know I am, I can feel it brushing my fingertips. I'm trying to find ways to prolong the process so that I can stall until I'm happier. But my boss is a no nonsense person, so she's not having any of my BS.

The thing is, she's absolutely right. And if I don't step up, and soon, someone else will and then I'll really have a reason to be unhappy at work.

Depending on how things go, these next few weeks could be crazy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This is the year!

Okay. That's it. This is the year. For sure, this is the year.

This year, I'm going to admit to myself and the world that I want to take writing more seriously. This year, I'm going to put myself out there, make a real effort. Of course, I suppose I've told myself that before. Heck, I've even submitted a short story to a magazine and kept (framed) the rejection letter. Ah, but this year... This year is different!

No really! I have a plan! I have motivation!

Here's my plan. I had a great idea for a short novel last year, and I bashed out a quick 50k words in nanowrimo. Now, I'm taking that draft and really working on it. My plan, my hope, is to clean it up and then submit it... Somewhere.

I've already started -- I'm reading it slowly, out loud, and taking lots of notes. Once I've done the read through, I'll do a round of editing and then pass it along to another person to read through.

So that's, uh, my plan. So far. After that...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Active, Exciting, Mysterious, and Dangerous Vacation!

My younger daughter's second grade teacher pulled me aside this morning as I waited in line with the rest of the parents and kids for the classroom door to open.

"I need to show you something."

Oh jeez, great. My mind immediately assumed the worst. What now? I wondered.

I don't like dealing with the teachers at school too much, I don't like the way they're always surprised to see a dad drop off a kid.

But today: good news. She wanted to show me the story my daughter wrote in class on Tuesday.

"You have to see this. She did a great job on her writing."

I said "Is it neat?" and the teacher said yes, but I think she meant neat like "interesting" where I meant neat like "I can read it?" because sometimes my daughter thinks faster than she can write and then all bets are off and the page ends up looking like something I wrote. (Which is bad. Another reason I'm not a fan of teachers, they were always down on my writing...)

But this story was neat and so was the writing, so it's all good.

The title of her story is: "My Active, Exciting, Mysterious, and Dangerous Vacation!"

Wow, I was with her just about every day of her vacation and I never once felt like I was in danger, so I'm thinking she's employing a little poetic license. I felt like the old lady at the diner in When Harry Met Sally -- "I'll have the vacation she had!"


Yesterday at work, I overheard some people talking about the chickens they were raising in their yards. I know these two people. They don't live on farms. They live in the heart of the city. Turns out that several people here at work raise chickens, and the more I asked around and the more I read about it online, the more fascinated I became.

Suddenly, I'm considering raising chickens in my backyard. It's legal (no roosters!) where I live, and I know the kids would love it. I know my wife brought it up in the past, but I gave her the ol' "Heh, cool." noncommittal reply and considered the sticky situation sufficiently dodged.

Now I'm bringing it up to her:

<badgerpendous> hi
<sweetwife> hi
<badgerpendous> chickens!
<sweetwife> sigh

But raising chickens means a lot of work. And, to be more specific, it would mean a lot more work for me. My wife is too busy as it is. I feel bad that she doesn't have enough time to herself. But mostly, honestly, I think that's because I feel guilty -- I seem to have plenty of time...

So, watch this space -- who knows, in six months, I might be drinking egg nog, eating egg rolls, and making egg timers!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm trying to fall back in love with my job

I'm trying to fall back in love with my job.

We actually faced the "worst case scenario" here a couple of months ago and I'm sad. And mad. I'm angry that he's gone, and I think that's why I fell out of love with my job.

I used to really, really love my job. I would smile on my way in to work every day. Is that sick? I mean, I actually tell people that. "I smile on my way in to work." I tell friends that, I tell interviewees that. I even sent an email to the CEO saying that.

Man, I really am sick.

But that was the old me. The pre-Thanksgiving me. The pre-Friday night call me.

The new me, the "now" me, well, let's just say that I haven't sent any mail to the CEO recently. I don't smile as I walk by the empty cube every morning, either.

But today... Today on the way in to work I caught myself *almost* smiling. I felt, inside, the briefest flash of... what? Inspiration? Anticipation? I asked "Why now?"

Is it the new year? Is it starting fresh, clean slate in hand, eyes forward, onward, upward?


Today I have to start working on his projects. I put them off for six long, procrastastic weeks, but today... Today I have to sort out his files, find where he kept stuff on the server, what's still checked out in source control, what's missing. For the last few weeks I've told myself that I was dreading the actual work of digging through the electronic debris, the detritus left by his unfair departure.

But I don't dread it. I just stopped loving my job.

Today I will start.

I will start working on his files. I will start doing his work, my work. I will start trying to love my job again.

Ok, maybe just "like." Baby steps.

Monday, January 5, 2009

7 Little Words

I've noticed recently that I'm using a lot of three letter "words" these days. Or, more specifically, when I'm emailing, twittering, or IMing, I tend to use one of my seven "go to" phrases rather than bother with all that pesky typing to convey my current emotions. Oh, sure, I'm happy to bust out the wordy phrase-ology, and I'm known to make up words at the drop of a hat if I can't seem to find the right one in my wordrepository. But on any given Sunday I'm more likely to go with the familiar, the comforting. Yes, my precious stable of three letter words is the comfort food of communication.

Of course Twitter actually encourages this abbreviated behavior, limiting your witty rejoinders to a paltry yet delicious 140 characters (finally lending street cred and purpose to the spate of url shortening sites on the intertron). But I began embracing truncation long before Twitter's first comehither tweet. No, I realize I've been working on my seven word scale for years, shrewdly preparing for this moment, this communication confluence.

So I'm saying that now is the time when we need something comfortable around which to curl our aching typing fingers. Now, when we're facing an electronically chatty blitzkrieg. Now, when we're pulled in so many attention stretching directions and constantly bombarded with electronic updates, micro, real time, and even old school. Now, when we've become homebodies on the home row.

For, really, how can I be expected to post witty comments on Twitter, fire off thoughtful email, and carry on stimulating IMversation simultaneously? At some point I need to do other things... Things like work, eat, pet the kids, pick up the cats at school. Etc.*

Ah, but I've got an ace up my sleeve. I have the sharks with friggin' lasers. And, here for your perusal and enjoyment, and yes, maybe even mockery is my list in order from positive to negative from top to bottom:

Ugh (or Guh, same diff)

With this list I can generally and quickly convey most of the standard gamut of feelings I find myself, well, feeling, during my busy days and evenings of participating in webs 1, 2, and 3.0.

And, yes, I noticed that they have unique first letters and that I could, theoretically, therefore, reduce them to an even more fingersavingly small list: YAHMU(G)IE. Seriously, though. I'm not an animal.


And now perhaps after perusing the list you cry foul, noting a missing favorite. My only defense is that this is MY list of seven three letter words, words I use all the time to convey my feelings about a specific thing, person, situation, etc. I said you could look at it, maybe even borrow it, but please, no judging!

I could have added one more: Hee. But I left what is arguably my favorite one off the list on purpose. I use "hee" a bit differently than most. I add or subtract 'e's to indicate just how amused I am. For example, a tired pun about """"" may only garner a "hee" or even a "he" as a response, while a sly comment about "Notice how they're getting downright lazy over at the pharmaceutical companies these days? Legadril? Really? I want some 'elbowprofin'" may be rewarded with a four, five, or even a six "e" hee.

Oh, and another gem: etc. could have been included, even if it typically doesn't convey emotion. But alas, it requires a fourth character, the period, so it's disqualified.