kv0925: (Default)
(So I can see how DW does with photo posts, and how well they crosspost to LJ as well.)

Amy turned 6 in February, and almost immediately she FINALLY learned how to swing herself. We'd been trying to show her for ages, and then her friend next door told her the same tips we'd been telling her, and that did the trick. And then a week or two ago, the same thing happened with the bike! We'd been trying for ages to get her to ditch the training wheels, telling her how much better it would be, how much faster she could go, how awesome she'd feel. And she was ALMOST getting it--she got to the point where she could stay upright once she got going, but then she and her stubborn streak decided to refuse any assistance, even though she didn't quite have the hang of getting going from a stop yet. And then her friend next door told her the same things we'd been telling her, and suddenly she got it. So since then it's been tough to get her off her bike, which is cool. I'm glad she finally learned!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Sheesh, here it is more than halfway through January, and I see my last post was just after Christmas. I will hope this is not a sign of things to come, but.. I dunno. The week after Christmas is normally the most quiet and tranquil workweek of the year, but this time around it blew up. Some VP somewhere blew a gasket about something, and it's been pretty much nonstop work ever since. Today is quiet for a change, and my calendar is unusually clear, so I thought I'd better take advantage to say I'm not dead. Yet.

Anyway, there's too much to try to actually catch up on, so let's just recap a few things, shall we?

As you can see in the photo up top, Hallie's started horse-riding lessons. Heather found a little farm less than 10 minutes from home, a lady who's really just getting started up, so her prices for lessons were quite reasonable. Only 2 lessons in so far, but I think Hallie's enjoying it! I was able to go yesterday, since I had the day off for the MLK holiday.

Past couple weekends, I've put in a lot of work replacing stretches of our privacy fence around the house. It's all pretty old, and stretches have been threatening to disintegrate totally, so we decided to finally do something about it. I'd planned to get a fencing company to do the job, but I got a quote and it was a lot more than we expected, so I went back to the idea of DIY. So far so good, really, and a lot cheaper. Now my main concern is how to get rid of the old fence! I need to see if the county can come and haul it off, or if I need to make alternate arrangements somehow.

This past weekend I took a break from fencing so we could go visit my Dad, though. We didn't get to see him around Xmas, and then he took a cruise for New Year's and his birthday. Plus 3-day weekends are always preferable if we have a day trip in mind (and he lives about 2 hours away, so that counts). Anyway, it was a nice visit, mostly I did tech support like a good son. :) Perhaps the main thing of note was that he'd gotten an Amazon Echo for Christmas, which we all found pretty impressive. The voice recognition is cool, and we all had fun asking it random questions and asking for it to play songs. I thought it was just very cool! So of course we had to order one. :)

I went with the Tap, though--it's a little smaller then the Echo, and it's not always listening for its name, like the Echo does. But it has a battery which makes it portable, and it also works as a Bluetooth speaker. And we weren't necessarily keen on the idea of a device that's listening to us all.the.time. anyway. :) So far we really dig it. It's fun to mess with, though music is its main function. The girls will put it on the table where they play LEGOs, and take it in their room when they have playtime before bed. And it makes for nice background music for dinner, too. The main drawback is that the default music service is Amazon Prime, which is rather limited. It can do Spotify Premium, or Amazon's new Music Unlimited service, but of course those are both subscription services. I've been paying for the ad-free level of Spotify for some time, since I use it here at work a lot, and at home too when I'm working on the PC. So I'm considering whether to upgrade to Spotify Premium, or stop paying for that and go to Amazon Unlimited. Or neither, I suppose! Maybe I can get it to stream from my home media server instead, and I can add music to that as we find things we want. I'm doing the free 30-day trial of Amazon's Unlimited, so we can mess with that while I try other options.

Speaking of options, it seems like a very hackable device. Out of the box it can do home automation with things like Nest thermostats and Hue lights, and it can control media devices with the right hubs and whatnot. I'm going to try to get it to work with Kodi and/or Plex on my HTPC, and if that works it might be worth it to add a Dot in the TV room for the always-listening functionality (and Bluetooth audio streaming to my nifty new A/V receiver). I found the functionality for general-knowledge questions was a bit lacking since it defaults to Bing, so I found a step-by-step guide on the interwebs to add an Ask Google command instead, which works well. I look forward to playing with it more!

Okay, that can be enough for now. Hopefully the rest of this week will be as calm as today and I can post a bit more regularly! I hope you're all doing well so far this year. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
...has not been wandering, it seems!

I realized I neglected to update on the Amy sleepwalking thing in my last post, and the good news there is that there hasn't been anything about which to update! I installed the latch on the door to the garage after my initial post on the subject, and that seems to have been the end of it. Whether she was actually sleepwalking or doing it consciously and intentionally, she seems to know she can't do it anymore, and that's that. I don't think she's even tried it again in the middle of the night, unless she's going a route that doesn't trip the motion sensor in the living room. Either way, no alarms since then, so that seems solved. She's come upstairs to our bedroom a few times, but that's not unusual (and doesn't set off alarms), so that's okay. :)

Thanks to everyone for your advice and insight on that post!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
A bit odd: I had a 4-day weekend since I took last Thursday and Friday off, and yet I still had to work those days, plus the weekend. Just a little time in the morning to crank out some daily reporting the bigwigs wanted, so not too bad. And a bit unusual, really--it's pretty rare that I have to produce anything over the weekend. Anyway.

Thursday I took the older two girls to Disney's Hollywood Studios. They got enough interest in Star Wars to watch the movies (so far we've seen all but Episode III and Rogue One), and they've enjoyed them, so Star Wars is a Thing for us now. As such, they'd never really cared to check out the Star Wars area and Star Tours ride, so we did that and they approved. Disney is about to undertake a project to turn a good chunk of that park into a Star Wars land, so I guess we'll see if they still dig it whenever that finally opens.

Thursday evening, Hermione's band had a little Christmas concert, which was nice. After that we took a stroll in old Winter Garden, which is beautifully decorated and lit this time of year. And it was a cool night for a change, so that was nice.

Friday the girls had the last day of their homeschool enrichment program, and they put on a little show for the parents for the last hour or so of the day. That was fun. We had decided to not return to the program when it starts back up next month, partly because they raised the (already high, imho) price and the classes they expected to have weren't as good (sewing, for example--Hermione doesn't really care about that, and Hallie's already quite good at it since her mother is such a good seamstress herself). But I guess they got feedback about both, so they not only lowered the price (and added a sibling discount!), they ensured us that the class schedule would be flexible, and there would be an alternate option if a student didn't care for what was on the agenda. So now we're wavering, especially because the people who run the program are really nice, and working hard to get it off the ground--this past semester was the first, and it was done very well. So I guess ultimately it will be up to the kids, but I certainly lean towards having them stay in. It gives Heather a much-needed weekly break.

Saturday we didn't do much, really--went out for a walk in the woods and lunch, but mostly stayed close to home after that.

Sunday I went out in the morning to do some shopping and errands. Got myself a little sledgehammer, so I could bust up some concrete to remove our old basketball hoop post, which rusted through and broke a year or two ago. Hermione's shown some interest in learning basketball, for some reason, so the time is right to get a new post and fix that so she can practice. Plus it's fun to go out and shoot some hoops now and then!

Sunday afternoon Heather's band had its usual Christmas concert at the downtown mall, so we dropped her off for that and I took the girls to a park we like before we headed back to catch some of the show. Beautiful day out, so that was nice.

And today I'm back to work, but it's actually been pretty quiet around here today. I have some irons in the fire, but my presumptive-new-boss hasn't really needed much today. Which probably means he'll blow up my phone when I'm trying to head home later. Tomorrow I'm on the road to St. Pete, assuming nothing comes up to derail that trip, and then I'm taking Wednesday off this week for no particular reason aside from burning up some time. I might take Amy to Disney, I guess we'll see how we feel that morning. I need to go shopping sometime, to get a present for our little Christmas lunch and gift exchange here at work, which is Thursday. Hard to believe December is already almost half over!

Speaking of Xmas, I think we're just about set present-wise. Amy's getting the most since she's obviously still at a toy-centric age. Hallie didn't really ask for anything in particular, so we're just getting her some things we know she's kinda-sorta wanted. And I picked up a nice 3/4-scale electric guitar for her, since she showed an interest in learning. But that was a couple months ago, and really she hasn't seemed interested (though Hermione has!). So I guess we'll see if having a guitar of her own rekindles that interest. I'd give it to Hermione instead since she's actually making an effort to learn, but she's tall enough for a full-sized instrument, so.. yeah. If she sticks with it, I'll be happy to find her one, or give her one of mine. I need to make room for that PRS I've been drooling over anyway. :) Hermione didn't ask for much either, though she did mention wanting a little point-and-shoot camera of her own, so I found a great deal on a refurb camera from Canon. She's also shown an interest in making her own jewelry, so we're getting her a bunch of beads and a tool set, and some books on the subject. I think she'll like that.

Heather and I aren't getting each other much, since we generally tend to get ourselves what we want anyway. :) I sort of impulsively decided I'd like to upgrade our A/V receiver as my Xmas present to myself, even though the old one is really still fine. But it's a few years old and doesn't even have HDMI, and I've wanted to get one that does, and that has room for expansion if I ever decide to get a PS4 or something. So anyway, I found a really good price on the one I want, which made it a little bit of a splurge but not too bad, and pulled the trigger. But it's an independent dealer, and I fear it's a scam. The place says 3 to 5 business days on shipping, which is a bit ridiculous these days but I was willing to wait since the price was so good. But I ordered last Tuesday, and the order status still said 'Processing' today, so I looked a bit closer and saw some bait-and-switch reports from people about the place--like they hold off on shipping so long that the customer reaches out, and then they hit the customer with upsells for shipping charges and extended warranties. Ugh. So anyway, I e-mailed the place today, expecting to get a response of 'Call us to discuss your order' or something, at which point I'd say thanks but no thanks and initiate a chargeback on the credit card. But they actually responded to say the order HAS shipped, and I'll get an e-mail update once it gets scanned into the carrier's system. So I guess I am cautiously optimistic, but still pretty wary. If I haven't got a ship notification and tracking number in hand by tomorrow, I am calling the whole thing off.

Oh yeah, the reason I was able to splurge on the receiver (or try to, anyway) was because we got the pension money last week, a little earlier than expected! So that was nice. It felt good to walk into the bank with a check of that size, even though it's actually a bit of a Bad Thing that they killed the pension in the first place. But anyway, it let us pay off the cars and some other small debts we've been nursing along, so that will still provide a bit more breathing room each month, plus a cushion in savings. I don't want to spend much more of it until we know how our taxes end up looking for the year. But if we come out of taxes with some left, we're thinking of maybe new windows for the house (ours are thermally inefficient, to say the least) and replacing some fencing, which is looking pretty bad in spots.

Jeez, this was a much longer entry than I had in mind, sorry. Good thing it's a quiet day here! Hope you're all well and having a good Monday. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
In other news, you may recall some time back I lamented the fact that the girls weren't as much into listening to music as I'd like them to be, since I think there's so much to learn and gain from a love of music. Well, I'm happy to report that time seems to have remedied that. Hermione especially--she started paying more attention to the music on the radio when we're driving around, and then I got her an alarm clock for her room that included an FM radio, which she and Hallie would turn on while they played in her room before bedtime at night. After a while I got her a cheap little mp3 player I could load up with music, and a pair of computer speakers to plug that into. Since then I replaced that with a little shelf cd system, so they can also trawl through our cd collection in addition to the radio and mp3 player options. Since Hallie and Hermione are typically inseparable, Hallie's picked up on it as well. We're planning a road trip next month, for which the girls are already excitedly packing, and Hallie wants to take an mp3 player and headphones for her own entertainment (luckily I picked up another little player somewhere along the way). So that's a good thing in my mind!

So far their tastes tend to be on the mellow side. When we're all driving in the van we tend to listen to either country (from the aughts or earlier, none of this modern bro-country nonsense) or classic pop/rock stuff. When I take them somewhere in my car without the wife, I tend to go for slightly heavier classic rock and my beloved 80s hair metal. So they dig stuff like Journey, Heart, REO Speedwagon, a little Queen and Def Leppard, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Kansas, Bon Jovi, stuff like that. I'm pretty good with the variety they like! Hermione's been interested in learning to play some things on the piano like Journey's "Faithfully" and Heart's "Alone," both of which she's picked up very well. Hallie plays violin, so she's interested in learning the violin solo part of "Dust in the Wind," which would be very cool since I could accompany her on the guitar. Fun stuff!

One thing that meant a lot to me... "Lost in the World" by Green River Ordinance is a song I love that makes me think of my girls, so I'd put it on their mp3 player. I figured out the gist of how to play it on the piano, and was showing Hermione so she could pick it up too. I sang a little of it as I was playing to show how the piano part fit with the verse (usually I only sing alone in the car, since I'm a bit self-conscious about my singing voice) and Hermione said it was one of the most beautiful things she'd ever heard. So yeah, that was nice. :)

kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I took Hermione and Amy to Magic Kingdom this past Monday. Hallie didn't come because she's not a roller coaster fan (yet, anyway) and we were planning to ride a couple. Space Mountain (Amy's first time on that one), and I finally scored Fast Passes for the (relatively) new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It was all of our first time on that one, because I never see available FPs for it, and the standby lines are almost always 60-120 minutes when we go. And we live here, so we're damned if we'll wait that long for anything! Anyway, I was worried how Amy would do on Space Mountain since it's dark and all, but she'd done Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom with me a few weeks ago and loved it, even though it had more dark parts than I remembered. So no worries, her first words when we pulled into the unload station at SM were, "Can we do it again?" Heh. And then we all loved the Mine Train--that may be the smoothest coaster I've ever experienced, very nice indeed. Other than that we did Peter Pan, the Haunted Mansion, and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party to kill time between FPs. I must say, it's kinda nice to be able to pre-book rides with the FP+ system these days. Even so, I suspect when our passes expire next year we may be done with the Disney parks, at least for a while. I tend to get a pass because I occasionally book photo sessions at the parks and it pays for the pass, but as a family I think the girls are starting to grow out of it, and/or just generally be Disney'd out. Yes, it's possible. :) So maybe we'll go for Universal passes next year, unless I hear we're still doing our company event out there. I rather expect not in the post-merger world, but who knows?

What else.. the wife's parents are coming for a visit. They get in Saturday evening, and leave on Wednesday. I'm taking Tuesday and Wednesday off, though I don't think we really have much planned. They're both Trump supporters, so let's just say it should be interesting. I think politics will be off the table as a topic of discussion.

Thinking about my day in NYC coming up in a few weeks! I haven't really planned too much out since it's just one day--I may end up just seeing where my feet take me. Central Park is the one place I know I really want to spend some time, that's really an incredible place in my mind. I hope to find some of the nooks and crannies and historic bits that most people don't see. Other than that, I think maybe the Empire State Building since the girls and I didn't make it there. Perhaps a little time in one or two of the museums around Central Park. I could do the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, I think I get in there free which is nice. We'll see what happens, I guess!

And then we've more or less decided to take a trip in early November, a drive up to northern Georgia to spend a few days in a cabin and do lots of hiking. I've found some really nice cabins in the area where we plan to stay, now I have to pick one! A number of them have pool tables, which is a big attraction for me. When I was a kid our neighbor had a nice pool table, and I'd go over there to play all the time. And then eventually he gave it to me, so we moved it over to our house. But once I moved out it was all apartments for a while, and I wasn't going to haul around a huge slate pool table even if I had room for it, so that was that. Anyway, I never get to play anymore and I'd love to see how the girls take to it so I like the idea of getting a cabin with one! Just need to talk the wife into splurging a few more bucks for that, but I think that will be easy enough, especially if and when the pension payout info comes. Which I hope will be soon!

Okay, enough babbling for now. Almost time to call it a day. I hope you're all doing well out there in LJ-Land!


Apr. 13th, 2016 04:15 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yeah, I really suck at LJ lately, sorry. But hey, have some photos from the last few weeks as a sort of recap of all the stuff I haven't been posting about. Lots of photos here, and maybe a couple snakes. :)

We went to an open-mic night at Hallie's music school. Turned out she was the only instrumentalist at the thing--everyone else was there to sing, either to piano accompaniment or backing tracks. I'd say she was probably the youngest person performing, too. And she just got up and played all by herself, in front of probably 30 people, no problems at all. She amazes me sometimes.

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Hey cp, what's in the cabinet?
Well let's open 'er up, shall we?
Open Sez-a Me )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Manatees! I'll get to that.

So let's see, stuff to catch up on!

Friday I had a couple meetings with my boss and his boss (our VP), so I got to make a second drive for the week over to St. Petersburg. This is going to be an awesome expense report, I need to get that submitted today! The meetings went well--one was about how the merger is taking shape, and it actually left me feeling pretty optimistic. The big fear, of course, has been that the new company will try to slash costs and consolidate operations as much as possible, meaning lots of layoffs. But it actually sounds like their plan is just the opposite: they intend to leave most of the local operations in place, and not only do they not plan major layoffs, they expect to increase internal headcount by bringing the calls we currently outsource back in-house. Our VP said that when the deal closes, the new company will have 80k employees, and that's expected to increase to 100k as they bring that volume back in. And the company will have a presence in 41 states, so the opportunities for both advancement and relocation will be much better. Not that I'm actively looking to go anywhere soon, but it's always good to have options. Maybe some of what we're being told is smokescreen, but that's not the feeling I have. We'll see, but I guess we aren't expecting any major changes around here until next year at the earliest.

After the meetings, I went to check out a park not too far from the office. I was a little hesitant driving in--the entrance was at the back of a fairly run-down neighborhood, and the first thing you see driving in is a little retention pond strewn with trash. But the park itself ended up being pretty awesome! A nice long boardwalk through wetlands, essentially a huge cypress swamp at the edge of a lake. It was a gorgeous day, so I had a nice walk and saw some good critters: a few juvenile alligators (and one rather huge adult) lounging in the sun, a few armadilloes, the usual birds and whatnot. Nice place. There are a few places over there I want to show the girls, we'll have to make the trek on a nice weekend. Maybe next weekend!

Then I happened to pass by my usual Goodwill over there on the way home, so I said what the heck. I didn't spend much time there, because I quickly found something I couldn't pass up--I've been meaning to get a new ceiling fan for Hallie's room, since the one in there is old and kinda noisy. Found one in the box, not new but in good shape, for $12. I figured that was worth a try. Haven't installed it yet, I'll have to do that some evening this week.

Saturday we decided to go walk around Downtown Disney--sorry, now it's called Disney Springs. Mainly we wanted to see if the LEGO store there has the awesome new Ghostbusters firehouse in stock. They did, but we didn't want to drop $350 on it just yet. Bonus time, perhaps. :) Or I should book a couple photography gigs and earmark the proceeds.

Saturday evening I was excited to go to the rare (for me, anyway) concert! I think I mentioned it before--last summer Def Leppard had a date in Tampa with Tesla and Styx, and I didn't get tickets. Turned out that was a good call, because the venue was an outdoor amphitheater and there was a big thunderstorm which kept a couple of the bands from even taking the stage. So when I found out that same lineup had added a date at Orlando's arena, I jumped on it as a Christmas present for myself. :) So anyway, I headed out, ready to rock. I was going to park in the garage attached to the arena because that's convenient, so I got in the line of cars for that--and quickly saw something was amiss. For some reason they weren't letting any cars into the garage. I rolled down my windows and heard someone say something about police activity in the garage. Hm, okay. Right on the other side of the street were a couple of private parking lots, so I hopped over there instead. But I didn't have the cash and they didn't take credit, so the attendant said no problem, just park and then you can walk down to the ATM and come back. So I did that--but on my way back to the parking lot I overheard people saying the show had been cancelled. I hung around for a few minutes until I was convinced that was the official word, and then headed home. Bummer! I'd heard Def Lep's lead singer had laryngitis, which prevented him from performing on a cruise last week. Sure enough, that was the reason for the cancel. I guess that's just as well, I'd prefer to see them in proper form anyway. They intend to reschedule, and my ticket will be good for that, of course. I just hope they're able to reschedule on a day I can go, and with the same lineup of bands! It's kinda funny, Def Leppard and I seem cursed. Way back in 1988, my step-sister and her boyfriend at the time (later her husband, now her ex-husband) very kindly tried to take me to see them on the Hysteria tour, and his car broke down on the way so we never made it. Now almost 30 years later I try again, and it's the band who's a no-show. Sheesh.

Sunday was another nice day, so we headed out to Blue Spring State Park. In the winter the park's spring run is very popular with manatees, who seek out its warmer waters (the springs around here are around 72F year-round) on cool nights. Park staff conduct a headcount of manatees in the spring run each morning and post it for visitors--a good morning is usually around 150, so we were a bit shocked to drive up and see the count posted at 277! Very cool, though. And we managed to get there early enough that the park wasn't too crowded yet--it tends to fill up quickly on winter days when the manatees are there in force, and on summer days when people come to swim instead. So that was a good time.

On the way home we stopped at a few stores, including GameStop where I indeed sold back that Wii game I found at Goodwill last week. I paid $3, and since they were running a 50%-bonus deal I ended up getting $16 in credit for it. Nice! So I turned around and bought a couple more LEGo Dimensions fun packs. The girls have been enjoying playing that, so I figured it was a good investment. I've already got that compartmentalized container I bought last week almost full!

Today I'm back to work, and a little anxious to see how tonight's caucuses in Iowa turn out. As Paul Krugman put it, the Republican side of the contest is easy enough to predict: "someone horrifying will come in first, and someone horrifying will come in second. The names are less clear." But on the Democratic side, this will be the first chance to see whether the huge crowds and numbers of donations Bernie Sanders has been able to attract can translate to turnout at the polls. It's really up to the Millennials, and whether they will turn their excitement into attendance. If they show up, I say Sanders carries the majority. If not, it's Hillary's day. From the standpoint of delegates at the nominating convention, it matters hardly at all--but the momentum Bernie would get from wining both Iowa and New Hampshire next week would be huge. Similarly, if Hillary handily wins Iowa, it could boost her momentum to make her more competitive in NH, and going forward. And no candidate going back to 1980 has won their party's nomination without winning Iowa, New Hampshire, or both. Definitely going to be interesting, whatever happens.

Okay, have some more photos from the events described above. :)
Clicky! )
That's it for now, thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Been scarce around here for a while! No excuse, really, just life churning forward and me along for the ride, I s'pose. I think a bullet-style entry is the only way to go here.

• Forgive the Upper Midwesternisms of my subject line. Been watching the second season of Fargo, which is awesome. I really dug the first season, but I must say the second is even better. And they recently announced a third, so whoo-hoo! Good stuff.
• Also been working my way through The Walking Dead. Not bad at all, but man oh man is that show an emotional wringer. They have no shame, killing off people I was quite fond of. I must admit I took to cheating on IMDb to see how many more episodes this or that character had in store, or if they continue into the present season. I'm somewhere in season 5 presently. I'm enjoying it, but.. it seems a really difficult concept to sustain for so long, you know? It keeps wanting to settle down and keep the survivors safe and getting going on a new society of a sort, and then it realizes that's contrary to the nature of the show and yanks it all away, rinse and repeat. Anyway. Zombies are cool.
• The photo up top was a chance thing. Hallie's taken an interest in photography lately--something I really need to nurture. She was getting Hermione to pose for her and I was off to the side, and it was too nice an angle to pass up. :) I feel I fall short in teaching the girls the stuff I know, which should be the purview of every good Dad, right? I need to really start doing that. Photography, computers, cars, woodworking, all that stuff should be mine to teach. And guitar, if they want to rock out.
• Speaking of music, both Hermione and Hallie had their first performances last week! Hermione started playing flute a few months back and joined a nice homeschool band, and they had a Christmas concert. Not bad at all! And Hallie's been taking violin lessons and had her first recital. I can't even say what a big deal this is, for both of them. They're both pretty shy and hate to be the center of attention, so getting up on stage in front of people seems totally out of character for them. But they seemed to really enjoy it! It was probably easy for Hermione since she was just part of a band, but even alone, she has no problem playing flute or piano for people. And Hallie was out on stage all by herself (well, her teacher accompanied her on the piano, but still) and she seemed to have no trouble at all. I was really impressed! Awesome to see. :)
• Thanksgiving was good. Heather's sister came over the weekend before, and I took a couple days off for her visit. Part of the fun was a visit to FunSpot for Hermione's birthday, which was a lot of fun. Nice weather for it, too! Turkey Day itself was fine, we headed over to the coast to meet our friends at a park to catch up and play, and then we went to Mom's for a mid-afternoon feast. Good stuff. Didn't see Dad, and haven't in way too long. I think we'll see him around Christmas, though.
• Which is less than 3 weeks away! We decorated the house the weekend after Thanksgiving, as usual. Went a little further than usual with the lights this year, too. I'll have to get a photo to share, and so I remember how I did it next year! We really need a new tree, though. We've been using a hand-me-down artificial tree for years, and though it was a nice one when it was new, it's definitely the worse for wear. Might have to invest in a new one when they go on clearance this year. Present-wise, I think we're in pretty good shape. I always want to get more stuff for the kids, but I'm trying to hold back. The wife and I mainly picked our own gifts, at least the big ones. I have a few small surprises for her, and she's mentioned a thing or two on the way for me as well. It's mainly about the kids at this point anyway, of course. I am bothered presently (no pun intended) because I can't find one of the things I ordered! I know it came, and I know I tucked it away somewhere, but damned if I can remember where! Silly.
• I've been especially political on FB lately. Ugh, don't even get me started. There's the gun debate, which flares up every time there's a massacre--so weekly, at this point. There's Trump going full-Nazi when you NEVER go full-Nazi. There's TIME's Person of the Year, wherein Bernie Sanders very handily won their poll--twice the votes of the next-highest person--and yet was left out of the shortlist (and Trump, who was 19th in the poll, somehow made the cut). The signal boost would have done him some good, I think. It's all a mess. I remain hopeful, though. The first primaries are going to be stressful for me, I can tell!
• Work is okay. I had a really good training last week, a thing about leadership styles. Apparently the methodology began as a parenting strategy that was adapted to corporate management, so it might even be useful at home. Kinda useless at work since no one reports to me anymore. But oh well, still good stuff. Later this week I'm going to a class on Myers-Briggs personality types, which I think will be interesting as well.

Okay, I guess that's enough for now. I'm sure there's been more over the past few weeks, but I can't think of much at the moment. Hope everyone is having a good week so far!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Recently returned to the office--I was home watching the older girls while Heather took Amy to the orthopedist to get a cast on her arm. Yep, almost 11 years into the adventure of parenthood, and it's the youngest who finally broke the first bone. Hell, I've never even had a broken bone myself!

She was rollerskating in the house yesterday evening and took a fall. It wasn't a bad fall per se, but her left arm took pretty much the whole impact. She didn't cry all that much, surprisingly, but it clearly hurt her, and Heather was convinced that her arm looked a little.. bent or something. So we all loaded up and went to the urgent care clinic, where they determined she had indeed gotten herself a small fracture. And the doc today said the other bone in her forearm, while not broken, did appear a bit bent, which I guess isn't too unusual for smaller children whose bones are still growing and haven't fully hardened. So he put on pretty much a full-arm cast, to make sure it stays good and immobile. She went with the bright pink, of course. The good news is that she only has to keep it on for 3 weeks, and then she goes to a splint of some sort instead. Fun times. Poor little girl. She's been quite the trooper, though. Her only concern about going to the doctor was that she didn't want any shots, and we assured her that shouldn't be necessary. :) The doctors and nurses were all pretty amazed at how well she bore the pain and followed directions. She can be a terror sometimes, but really all our kids are pretty darn good.

So anyway, that's the big news lately. The weekend up to that point was okay. The girls have suddenly developed an interest in superheroes: we watched the first Avengers movie recently, and they all liked it quite a bit. So I signed them up for a little SHIELD agent training thing Saturday at a big comic shop in the area, and they enjoyed that. Sunday we really didn't do much, worked around the house a bit, cleaned, relaxed, went swimming, broke an arm, that was about it. :)

I am closely watching the government funding nonsense underway in DC. Reading an analysis now that puts the chance of shutdown at 75%. Goddammit. It would be just my luck if the f--king Republicans cause another shutdown, since it would take effect October 1 and we're booked to visit the Statue of Liberty (with crown access!) and Ellis Island--national parks, of course--on the 2nd. Seriously, how do these people keep getting elected when they so regularly prove how completely unfit to govern they are? And several of the shut-er-down! ringleaders are in the running for the GOP Presidential nomination! The mind truly boggles. Can we at least get a continuing resolution for just a few days? Please, you freaking assholes?

Okay, back to work. Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yeah, this guy. Feeling rather doltish the past couple days, because I royally screwed the pooch.

See, for months I've had a wedding booked. Just a small outdoor affair, maybe 4-5 hours, but we need the money, not least for the New York trip I've been blathering about for weeks. The date for this wedding was fixed in my brain as May 2. I had zero doubt that was the date, and planned everything else around it, from the NYC trip to my various business trips. And since May 2 is next Saturday, this past weekend I figured I'd write the bride to make sure everything is still a go and firm up the specifics. Before doing so, I read back through her e-mails and the contract. And what do I find? It should probably be obvious by now, but of course the date I've had fixed in my brain for months was wrong, and the wedding is actually a week later, May 9. And when's the NYC trip scheduled? May 7-11, of course. These things do not fit together.

So my first reaction, as the bottom dropped out of my stomach, was to freak out a bit. What do I do? Try to back out of the wedding to save the trip? But we were counting on the wedding money to defray the expense of the trip, plus dumping the bride on such short notice would make me a completely horrible and unprofessional person and I would feel awful. Maybe I could move the trip up a few days so we'd come back on Friday the 8th? No, the hotel rates have gone up and we'd be scrambling to get ready sooner anyway.

So really the only option was to scrub the trip, at least for now. The girls were naturally disappointed, as they'd been counting down the days to our departure. But they actually took it pretty well, especially when we started talking about taking a family trip in early June instead. As long as they have something to look forward to, they're good. And Heather was relieved, since the NYC trip was pricier than she expected and she was concerned about the money. I'm looking at rebooking NYC to early October--fall should be just as pleasant (and maybe even more colorful!), and that gives us some time to save up for it. And really, since I can change the flights for free, the only thing I'd already purchased were the Statue of Liberty tickets--I've e-mailed those folks to ask if we can just change the date of the tickets, but if not, c'est la vie.

Still, it's always a bummer to disappoint the girls, and even worse in this case since it was all my fault for not double-checking the wedding date somewhere along the way. I was getting pretty excited for that trip too! More time to save and plan, I suppose, and hopefully book some more photo gigs too.

Okay, hopefully later I'll post a recap of my California trip last week, which was pretty decent. In the meantime, I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Spring is sprung! And pretty much over already, in these parts. The high today is 90F, though (thankfully) we seem to be going down a few degrees after this. Anyway, the butterfly above was a new sighting for me--a Dainty sulphur (Nathalis iole) spotted down by our neighborhood lake. Not shy at all, either--I was shooting with my 24mm pancake lens, which means I was maybe 10 inches away from the critter for that shot. Nice of him/her to cooperate!

Have some more? )
Okay, enough for now. What will the weekend bring? We shall see!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yesterday, my first day back from the trip, the wife and kids thought it would be nice if I took a half-day. And since I worked all last weekend and the company owes me alternate days off, I decided I'd do just that, plus tomorrow afternoon and next Monday as well. The weather looks amazing this weekend, so I am hoping to spend most of it out and about. And my allergies seem better too--I even mowed the lawn in the dry and dusty midday yesterday, with no ill effects. Nice!

So anyway, we were out to lunch at a sub place and suddenly Hallie gets a strange look on her face, and then I see her sorta surreptitiously spit out the bite she was working on. Turns out her other front tooth came out, and she didn't even know it was loose! So now she's missing both of her top front teeth, which might make her look a little funny for a while. :) Heather took her to the bathroom so she could rinse if there was blood, and I grabbed a napkin to dispose of the food she'd spit out. But apparently I also got the tooth and tossed it. Oops. So she wrote a note for the Tooth Fairy to leave under her pillow instead:



Kids are cute. :)

While I was mowing, Heather was raking leaves and a neighbor from across the street came over to ask if they could have some of the leaves for mulch or compost. Uh, yeah, please--want to rake them up too? FEEL FREE. Anyway, he told her that he had talked to the people we think are squatting in that house to see what's what, and apparently--if they are to be believed--they think they're renting the place, and paid two months' rent up front. Which would mean that they're just dumb, and the actual scammer is whoever "rented" them the house. Because it's definitely still bank-owned, and there's no way. As far as I know, the bank hasn't yet sent anyone to inspect the property. But again, at least the people living there aren't doing anything to make nuisances of themselves. Shady stuff, though, and sorry for them if they get stuck in between the bank and their scamming "landlord".

Wow, today has gone by pretty quickly, already almost time to go home! I think I will head out soon and edit more photos, so I can be done with them before the weekend since I'll hope to get out and take more!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

It's been pretty toasty here the past few days, and by all indications we're just about done with spring and heading full-bore into summer. Yay, I guess? As the photo indicates, we went to the beach yesterday. Not swimming per se, just playing in the surf. Fun, though! And then when we got home, the girls went in the pool, even though the water is just now getting up to 70F. That's too damn cold for me, but they sure don't seem to mind.

The beach we went to was Ponce Inlet, which is just south of Daytona Beach. It's home to an awesome lighthouse (the tallest in Florida!), but we didn't do that this time. We did the Marine Science Center there again, that's always fun. Nice little place. And then we parked for a little playtime at the beach, which was also fun. Kind of a boring stretch of beach in terms of unique features or wildlife, but nice and broad with hard-packed sand and a nice long littoral zone. Mostly we saw coquina clams (Dorax variabilis), the tiny little ones I grew up calling periwinkles. I always like to look and dig for sand fleas (actually little crustaceans also called mole crabs, in the genus Ermerita), and I did spot a little one swimming but never saw one after that. Anyway, it was fun!

My allergies still suck because the pollen is still everywhere, but my eyes are much improved. Yesterday at the beach was a good choice--between the lack of oak trees and the steady sea breeze, there was probably not much pollen to speak of. But after we got home I made the mistake of spending some time outside, and my eyes got all itchy again. I'm going to try to stay in as much as I can this week! I really hope we're past the peak of it by now.

And I'll get a break from the pollen later this week, when I head up to Canada! Forecast says it's going to be nice and chilly up there. I need to start packing, I guess. I also looked into some tips on cold-weather photography, and avoiding condensation and all that. Hopefully I won't have any problems. And it remains to be seen how much time to explore I'll actually get anyway.

Did I mention the squatters? There's a house across the street from us, the previous owners were foreclosed and moved out maybe 3-4 months ago, and it had been vacant. Suddenly a couple weeks ago, we spotted a couple guys over there cleaning, and we're thinking okay, maybe the bank hired some guys to come clean it up in preparation for going on the market. But they were back the next day with a trailer of furniture (looked like a bed and not much else, really) moving it in. And these are fairly young guys, definitely not the type who seem likely to buy a house. It seemed very odd to us because there had been no activity over there, certainly no For Sale sign or anything. I'm on the HOA board so I asked around if anyone had heard about a sale, and was told no. One of the other neighbors called the bank to ask, and of course they couldn't give out any information, but apparently did eventually confirm that they did not sell the house. But there's not much we can do aside from that--it's the bank's property, so it's up to them to investigate and try to get the people out. And they apparently said they'd be sending someone to inspect the property and ensure it's vacant, so we'll see what happens there. It's not like they're being loud or obnoxious or even doing anything to call attention to themselves. But it's so squicky, and sad that people need to resort to that sort of strategy. Not that it's difficult around here, I think we're still foreclosure capital of the US, or at least in the top 5.

Last week we got an e-mail from the owner of the company that owns the company I work for, downplaying an unspecified rumor that our company is being sold off. It was the first I'd heard of it, so I dug around and found that sure enough, there were reports that a larger cable company had reached a tentative agreement with our owners to acquire us. It's all a rumor right now, and I think any decision will hinge on whether the FCC approves the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable (though I suspect that will be approved, politics and payola being what they are these days). I kinda hope it doesn't happen, frankly. Currently we're owned by a privately-held company, which is nice because we aren't answerable to the whims of shareholders and all that. If we're acquired by a public company, that would all change and I imagine there would be a lot of downsizing and added corporate nonsense. Not to mention they would probably chop up our service areas and sell some off--namely the ones I primarily support, which would make me a bit redundant. A little scary to consider, anyway. But also still a ways off in the future, if anything happens at all. For now we just keep on truckin'.

Okay, that's all I can think of for now, and it's about time to call it a day and head home anyway. I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Working from home today. Well, sorta working. :) I went in to the office this morning and my eyes were driving my batty with the itching and the burning and the oozing, so I finally said screw it and went to a walk-in clinic. The nurse quickly diagnosed pinkeye, and gave me a prescription for the antibiotic eyedrops. Frankly I was hoping for a prescription for a stronger antihistamine to deal with the allergies making me miserable in the first place, but oh well. Maybe it's the pinkeye making me miserable at this point, so we may as well knock that out before it gets worse. Since it can be pretty contagious, my employee talked me into working from home the rest of the day. So here I am.

It did give me a chance to edit the photos from last night! It was a pretty nice day, so we headed for EPCOT Center after I got home from work. Which probably didn't help my eyes, especially since the Flower and Garden festival is underway. But oh well, we had a good time. I took Hermione and Amy on Test Track--they tried that for the first time recently and became fans. Hallie tried it too, but the look of terror on her face for the last bit of the ride makes me understand why she's not interested in going on it again. :) now I need to drag someone onto the Tower of Terror with me! And Space Mountain. And Expedition: Everest. I think Amy will be up for anything and everything when she's tall enough.

Not too much else going on, really. I'm gearing up for my Canada trip, which begins a week from tomorrow. And starting to pick dates for my next round of work visits. But I've mentioned all that already, so yeah.

Okay, enough for now. I think Heather and the girls are heading to the library soon, which will mean I'll have some time to watch a movie on the tv. Nice! I hope everyone's week is going well, and that your eyes are not oozy like mine.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, weekend was kind of a bust. The weather was pretty gloomy, so outdoor plans weren't really happening Saturday we headed over to visit my Mom, since it had been a while and Amy had been asking to go there. Can't complain when the kids WANT to go to Grandma's house, right? So we hung out there for a while, went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, and had ice cream cake as a belated celebration of Amy's birthday.

Speaking of, did I mention that? Amy turned 4 last week, which seems hard to believe. I neglect proper kid updates here, but they're all doing pretty well. Amy is the one who currently makes us want to pull our hair out, though. She's quite different from her sisters, that's for sure. They were always shy and quiet, for the most part. We had our struggles with Hallie as she went through these ages, but even that seems tame compared to Amy. She's just so tenacious, stubborn and determined. She knows what she wants and she wants it RIGHT NOW, as she is wont to tell us at high volume. Will not take no for an answer, everything is a negotiation, and if all else fails she resorts to name-calling and threats that are actually pretty hilarious. Last week there was an incident where she threatened to poop on our heads, which still makes me chuckle even as I type this. It's hard to maintain the requisite parental authority when your kid makes a threat that cracks you up.

Anyway, I keep telling Heather that it will pass, and eventually these characteristics will serve her very well indeed. Imagine if she always retains this level of stick-to-it-iveness and tenacity! Her focus sometimes is really quite amazing, especially when you consider her age. If she's on a roll, she'll sit for literally hours focused on one activity. I have trouble with that at MY age, and she's barely 4! She started violin lessons about a month ago, and she's amazingly good at those from what I hear. She'll occasionally disengage from the lesson and go over to Heather (who hangs out in the room) and ask when she can be done with the lesson. But then she goes right back to it, does what she's told, and apparently impresses the teacher with how well she does. At home, sometimes she'll head straight for her violin when she gets up in the morning, and she's been equally eager to work through the 100-lesson reading book with Heather. She gets excited to learn the next letter or sound, and it's pretty awesome to see her try to read things around the house or when we're out and about. Again, for someone who just turned 4, it's pretty amazing. But those bits definitely come at a price. :)

So anyway. Sunday there was a good chance of rain again, so we just ran around some stores and planned to spend the afternoon relaxing around the house. But then Heather mentioned that she'd noticed some water in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, which I determined was coming from the garbage disposal (garburator, for any Canucks in the audience). The old one came with the house, so it was probably due for replacement anyway, so I bought a new one and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to swap out. Of course, today Heather tells me that the dishwasher isn't draining, and I immediately realized there must naturally be a plug in the dishwasher inlet of the new unit since not everyone has a dishwasher, and I didn't knock it out. Oops, there's always something. So I know what I'm doing when I get home from work!

Oh, a quick update on my post about gaming and the girls. Tomb Raider: Anniversary has remained a hit with Hallie. We even started watching the first TR movie, and she likes that too. Some parts are tough for her, but she's doing fine for a 7-year-old, I think. I thought Portal would be good too, since it's all about navigating the environment and problem solving (plus the portal mechanics are cool), and she likes that one too, though I think some of the later levels are beyond her until she really gets the hang of WASD+mouse. I played through it myself, and can't help but wonder what took me so long. The humor baked into that game via GLaDOS is just my cup of tea, and I was utterly tickled by the "Still Alive" song at the end. :) So Portal 2 is probably next on my agenda. I also introduced the girls (including Amy!) to Terraria, and they've been having a blast with that one. They love the building and crafting part of it, and mainly play it for that rather than to advance through the game. But hey, whatever! We've been having a little emulation fun on the new HTPC, too. I'll have to see what they think of some Commodore 64 classics next!

Speaking of old video games and computers, have any of you read Ready Player One? I'd heard of it, and it sounded good. A friend gave it high praise on FB so I bumped it up to the top of my list, and wow, awesome read. Just a lot of fun, and irresistible to me. While I enjoy a lot of books, I can only recall a few that really grabbed me and made me impatient to get back to it so I could see what happened next. This one goes on that list!

Okay, better wrap up and get home to fix that dishwasher! I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Since video games were such a great part of my own childhood, and something I still greatly enjoy (yet feel guilty spending too much time on, but that's another topic), I've been glad to inculcate an interest in them in my girls. We play Wii, they play on their computers, and we even fire up the venerable PS2 and Dreamcast now and then, not to mention the MAMEd arcade cabinet I have hiding upstairs. And they're pretty good, I must say! But mainly they play things like the LEGO games, girly dress-up games on the Internet, point-and-click type adventure games, etc. They see me playing first-person shooter type games now and then, and have seemed interested, but obviously I haven't wanted to just drop them into those since most are pretty tough, not to mention M-rated with murder and mayhem and language and blood and guts everywhere.

So it came to mind that maybe the Tomb Raider games would fit the bill, especially for Hallie with her love of Indiana Jones. I'd mentioned it but then dropped it, until this week when Hallie came to me asking me to put a game on her PC, but she couldn't tell me the name or even anything about it. I was thinking it was something she'd already played, but she said no to everything I named. Finally she said she thought it started with a T and was about a girl adventurer, and finally it clicked. So I took a look at the newest Tomb Raider game, but found that it too is rated M with the ultraviolence and adult language, so it's out. But then I thought, what about the old-school TR games? And I found that there's an updated (Anniversary) version of the first one, which is still rated T. So I installed that for her, and so far she's digging it (er, so to speak?). I was afraid that the controls and gameplay might be too much for her (she's only 7, after all), and indeed she doesn't quite grasp the WASD+mouse control setup yet. But she still does pretty well, and I think we can work up to getting both hands involved properly. The game itself is pretty cool--I'd never actually played any TR myself, but so far it's mostly just navigating the environment, jumping around cliffs and ledges and ropes, with the occasional beastie (bats and wolves so far) popping up. So I think it's a fine introduction to this sort of game. Thus far we've only jokingly mentioned the fact that Lara Croft is running around a snowy mountain cave wearing shorts and a skin-tight tank top, so I hope it's not warping their minds too much, you know? At least it's a strong female character so there's a Girl Power angle in there somewhere, I hope.

The only wrinkle so far is that Hermione wants to play it now too, so I installed it for her as well. But I'm using Steam with their family sharing feature, which means only one of them can play it at a time, which is kind of a bummer since they often like to be playing the same thing. I guess we'll see if that becomes enough of an issue to justify me finding a not-so-legal copy to install instead. :)

Do any of you gamers have suggestions for other games they might like, in this or any other genre? I'd considered the Half-Life games as another FPS they might dig, since the bad guys are monsters and mutants instead of people. Maybe the newer Fallout games for the same reason, though there are some human adversaries as well. I guess I'll just see how well TR holds their interest, and if they might want to explore more in that genre. I should find some things to install for LAN gaming, like Worms. Any other ideas?

While I'm on the subject, Amy's taken nicely to having her own PC as well. Though yesterday evening I had to run to the store to get her a new video card. Night before last she was playing and I started smelling a strange odor, which I finally determined was coming from her PC. So when I got home yesterday I popped the case open and found that it was coming from her video card--the fan on the heatsink had seized up, so it was overheating even at idle. Hopefully that also explains why some games would make her PC shut down after a few minutes. Slapped in a new card and so far so good.

Oh, and the other day there was a really good NewEgg deal on a mini desktop PC that should be great to replace the little nettop I've been using as my home theater PC. I like the old one from a size and power-usage perspective, but it's just clunky and underpowered as a PC, and it only has USB 2.0 ports which means the USB 3.0 external hard drive where my movies live doesn't work as well as it could. The new one was only $140 after rebate, and that's with Windows 8.1 included, so I couldn't pass it up. I was hoping it would arrive by Saturday so I could get it set up this weekend, but I guess that is not to be unless UPS is mistaken. Hopefully this one won't take a wrong turn to Abu Dhabi.

And speaking of games, we haven't played much D&D or other tabletop games lately. We've done Munchkin another time or two, and are getting the hang of it, though the last time we played I resolved to be more evil and never got the cards to do so. Maybe this weekend. I also signed on to the Kickstarter for Exploding Kittens, since that seems right up our admittedly-skewed alley. It won't be shipping for a while, but I am looking forward to it.

And that's the latest geeky news in the cp household!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I see some of you posting pics full of some white stuff I am not familiar with. This is what we do in February in Florida!

Saturday we wanted to go to an event that sounded neat on the Stetson University campus in Deland--there's a geological museum there that we've long wanted to check out, and it's usually closed on the weekends. But about once a month they open it up on a Saturday in conjunction with some special presentation for the young'uns. This time it was a lady sculptor of Cherokee ancestry, showing some of her work and then running a little pottery workshop for the kids. Naturally the girls enjoyed that, since they've always loved working with Play-Doh (and more recently, oven-bake polymer clay).

A Few More? )
And that's about it. I came (back) down with a cold or something Saturday and wasn't feeling good at all. Not a whole lot better Sunday either, but I was still game to head to Downtown Disney and the LEGO store. I got the new Detective's Office set, which is awesome. :) And we got to check out some of the work that's been completed on the conversion of DD to Disney Springs, including our first time parking in the new garage. Not bad, I like how it's coming along. Still a ways to go, though, and the traffic still crawls through there. And that was a Sunday morning in the off-season, it must have been a nightmare around the holidays.

Okay, I need to get a little more work done. I'm still feeling pretty crappy today, so I think after a 2pm conference call I'll head home and take a nap. Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

It was a 3-day weekend, but it felt shorter because we stayed busy--the weather was glorious, mostly sunny with highs in the 60s. Seasonable, for a change, and we did not waste the chance to be out and about in it!

Saturday I saw that a B-17 I wanted to spend some time with was going to be at the Ocala airport, which is about an hour away from home. So I suggested we go up there, and check out some new parks in the area as well.

Clicky! )
And that was the weekend! Now back to work. Hope everyone is having a good week so far!

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