kv0925: (photo lens)

So I finally got that Yongnuo 35mm f/2 lens I mentioned a while back--it took the slow boat from China, literally! I made a point of trying it out over the weekend, so I thought I'd share some of those photos with a little review and some notes on the lens' performance.

So the short version first: if you can score it for somewhere near the $65 I paid, it's a great value. Even the MSRP of $120ish is reasonable, really.

As I'd read, it does *feel* like a cheap lens--it's mostly plastic (with a metal mounting ring, which helps), and there's simply a cheapness to it. If you've ever played with Canon's (or presumably Nikon's) low-end 50mm f/1.8 lens, it's a lot like that in design and build. When I shake it, there's a very slight rattle from the focusing ring, that sort of cheap. Even so, I'm not concerned the thing will fall apart or anything like that, at least under normal circumstances.

But the optics are what matters most, and really I have no complaints there. Reviews I read noted softness away from the center, but since I'm still using crop-sensor bodies I'm not really seeing that. Center sharpness, and even overall sharpness, look fine to me. I can count eyelashes when I zoom in on a well-focused portrait like the one above, and that's good enough. I'd say the autofocus is also plenty quick and snappy, though there's no full-time manual, and the focusing ring itself is small and not-ergonomic. Those things aren't a surprise at this price.

Some more images and notes under the cut!

Clicky! )
So yeah, for $75 or so, assuming you're not in a hurry to get it, I would definitely recommend one of these. It's a nice walkaround focal length (more or less equivalent to a 50mm on a crop-sensor camera, and a bit wider full-frame), and the f/2 makes it more useful indoors as well. Worth checking out!
kv0925: (Default)
So my gaming life lately has been rather focused on The Last of Us. I mentioned I picked up a PS4 back around Christmas, right? I played through Uncharted 4, which was amazing, and then went back and played the first two games in that series (having also picked up the Nathan Drake Collection). Hallie was playing through them at more or less the same time, so I thought I'd play something else while she catches up and finishes Uncharted 2. So I popped in The Last of Us, which was actually a big reason I wanted the PS4 in the first place, having heard what a great game it was.

And it is. It really, really is. The gameplay is fun, a very well-crafted mix of FPS, stealth, exploration and survival, with some RPG elements tossed in too. But the story, and writing, and performances.. man. It's all linear, of course, which puts the whole game on rails and removes the choice factor. There were a few times when I felt forced to do things I would have chosen not to do, because they were required to progress the story as written. But still, on the whole? Just an amazing experience, and one that will stick with me. Once I got through it, I played through the Left Behind DLC, and then almost immediately started back through the main game to try to find all the collectibles and see other things I might have missed or not fully appreciated the first time. And it's just as good the second time, and actually even better since I knew what I was doing in the early parts of the game. So yeah, if you get a chance to play this one, I do recommend it. And I will be very much looking forward to the sequel next year. I almost never pre-order a game, but that one I absolutely expect to. After this one and the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog have earned my trust for sure.

Otherwise, on the PC I've been playing Mafia III. I enjoyed the first game in that series, and loved the second one, so I had high hopes when 3 was announced. Reviews were not exactly glowing when it came out, but I saw a good price and figured it was worth a try. And it's not a bad game, not at all. As an open-world shooter, it's very adequate. But that's the thing. There was something special about Mafia 2, some bit of magic and serendipity, which took it up a level in my mind and made it more than just the sum of its parts. It had its weak points, but it was just plain FUN. Mafia III seems to have missed that magic, somehow. I still want to get back to it and go through it, but.. yeah, the second one is a lot better.

I've also been playing some Alien: Isolation, which is very good, but somehow hasn't sucked me in like I expected it would. I actually started it quite some time ago, and dropped it, so this time I started over again. Hopefully I'll stick with it this time.

Also spent some time with a game called The Flame in the Flood, which is pretty fun. It's a wilderness survival game reminiscent of Don't Starve, though not quite as cartoonish. Your character is traveling downriver on a wooden raft through a flooded area, stopping at dry land here and there to forage for supplies, craft, hunt, cook, etc. It's nicely done and I dig the art style and music. It's a fun diversion if you find it cheap.

Speaking of finding things cheap, a while back Amazon had the SteamLink on sale for $20, which was a price I couldn't resist. I could already stream from my main PC via the Steam client on my HTPC (which is itself rather underpowered for gaming, of course), but I figured having the dedicated device might make it even easier, and maybe more robust. And it's a pretty nifty little device, for sure. I use it with a pair of wireless XBox 360 controllers, and it works very well. My only issue is that it doesn't seem to wake up when I fire up the first controller--I have to connect the second controller too. Not that big a deal, but it seems like unexpected behavior, which I should get around to researching. ETA: I researched and it seems I might just not be giving it enough time. People say it takes the SteamLink 15-20 seconds to wake up, so I probably fire up the first controller, wonder why it isn't waking up right away, then fire up controller 2, at which point the 15-20 seconds has passed and it wakes up. I'll have to test that to see.

In other news: TGIF!
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: (Default)
(And also a test of crossposting from DW!)

-I've been in a real photographic slump for a while. I stopped advertising so my side-business really fell off, apart from my few annual repeat clients and friends. And I stopped traveling for business, which was a big source of photographic adventure. And our family trips have been a little fewer and farther between as well. I still take the camera when we go to interesting places, but I don't shoot as much as I used to, and (probably as a result) I'm not as happy with the shots I produce, which probably reinforces the whole downward spiral, because why bother if I suck? But I feel like that might be coming to an end. I've felt a little more excited about getting back into shooting more, and I even have a couple of paid shoots coming up (which I hope won't suck, but even out of practice I tend to do okay with those). With my current employment coming to an end, I'm hoping these sessions will boost that spark and inspire me to put some effort into the business again. Not that I expect to go full-time with it or anything--I'd never make enough to support us and pay for health insurance and all that. But as a side-gig and a source of extra money, it was always nice to have.

-I even bought a new lens! Well, really it was a deal I couldn't resist, a Yongnuo 35mm f/2 prime lens for like $65. It ships directly from China, so I haven't actually gotten it yet. But it seems to compare pretty favorably to the Canon 35mm f/2 it clones, at a fifth of the price, so.. why not? I was hoping to get it before the shoot I'm doing Saturday, but it'll probably still be on a boat somewhere. Whenever it finally arrives, I'll have to play with it and do a review post. Maybe I can fire Shutterbuggery back up as inspiration.

-Speaking of the employment situation, no real change there. The wife and I talked about the Tampa thing some more, but she wouldn't budge. And that's okay, I know she's thinking of the kids, who aren't all that social, so she doesn't want to remove them from the friends they've spent so long making. Besides, the severance deal I should get here is pretty sweet, and doesn't even preclude me from being re-hired if something else opens up here (or they realize what a mistake it was to let me go). So I may as well take the money and run, but not run far. :) I've been looking around and seeing a few positions that might be good fits for me--the question will be whether they pay as well, and aren't crap jobs. I actually applied for a management job out at Disney yesterday. I don't have high hopes for it--my skillset overlaps the requirements of the position quite a bit, but it isn't quite the same, and I know Disney management most often comes from within--but who knows, maybe it's an esoteric gig that they won't get many applicants for. I'm hoping to at least score an interview. The commute would be a lot longer than I'd like, but if the pay and benefits are good, might be worth it.

I'm sure I can come up with more, but let me stop here and post more later. I need to boost the post count anyway, after seeing my LJ-iversary stats!


Apr. 13th, 2017 10:56 am
kv0925: (Default)
Big decisions are the pits, aren't they?

Talked with my old boss yesterday, about the manager position he has open which I was interested in. I'm sure the job would be a good fit for me, I know and like my old boss, he knows and likes me, and all in all it would be a known quantity, which certainly has a strong appeal. He told me that if he knew I was good to go with the position, he wouldn't bother to interview anyone else, because he knows I'd do well and he knows I am in need of a position. So that all sounds good, right?

But the bad news is that, while he says he's still not 100% certain, it seems that the location of the job will be in Tampa. From where I live now, that office is 97 miles away--about a 90-minute drive each way. And that would be a big No. I asked it it would be possible for me to still work from here, and maybe go out there once or twice a week. He said if it were up to him, absolutely--but the higher-ups want the team to all be based out of that office, no ifs, ands, or buts. So to take that position, we'd pretty much have to move to Tampa, sooner or later. I could maybe do the commute for a few weeks, or work something out for a month or two. But long-term, no way.

And the wife has pretty much said no way to the idea of moving. But it seems like a knee-jerk response to me. She's thinking of the fact that we like our life here, which is true enough, and she's thinking of her impressions from the small amount of time we've spent in Tampa. And yes, selling our house might be tough, and buying a new house could be stressful, and of course moving is a hassle. And we'd be giving some things we all like up by moving over there, for sure. But there are some significant positives, too. Like:

-Her sister lives over there, and being close to her would be nice. (Though this is tempered by being further away from my Mom and Dad, not that we see them all that often as it is.)
-We love exploring new parks and museums and stuff, and there are loads of both in the Tampa area that we've never been to.
-She doesn't like the busy-ness of downtown areas, but the new gig would actually be in the suburbs, like we are now. We could surely find a house that offers the space and quiet that we like.
-We like our current house, but it's.. quirky. The design is custom and a bit strange in places, with smallish bedrooms and space wasted elsewhere, and it's starting to show its age. And we could use a bit more space too. So getting a newer, larger, nicer house appeals to me.
-We also bought the current house near the peak of the 2007 bubble, so we've been underwater almost since day 1. That could make selling it difficult--we're not AS underwater now, but a short-sale might still be necessary. But if we could sell, whatever new place we find would almost certainly be a lower monthly payment, plus it would actually earn equity, which is still a distant dream for us now. So overall, we could end up in a far better financial position if we can sell and move. Plus the company would offer relocation assistance, so moving (and maybe selling/buying homes) could cost us nothing.
-I might also be able to angle for a raise with the new position, if I say it's another condition of relocation. And hey, more fun money every month (and more travel money!) is always a Good Thing.

So while the severance package would be good, and could offer us a similar (if temporary) financial boost, assuming I can find a new job quickly, I dunno. I waver back and forth, but the idea of taking this known and stable position definitely appeals to me, since it would remove the unknowns of job hunting. And I'm already starting to feel the stress of knowing I HAVE to find a good new job to support the family, since that's my responsibility. And hey, with the right attitude, moving could well be an adventure that turns out great for us in the long run, though it certainly has its own unknowns.

But it's all moot if the wife is dead-set against pulling up stakes. I'd ask the kids too, though I'm sure they'll say no because they don't like change and don't appreciate the magnitude of the decision at hand anyway. :)

So.. yeah. Any thoughts?
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I am not even going to look up the date of my last post, because I know it's been forever and confirming that would probably depress me. So I'll just pretend that I haven't been a stranger here, okay?

So yeah, we got a puppy! She's actually a foster-puppy. My wife came across a place near us that trains service dogs to assist disabled people to be more independent, and the girls loved the idea, so she applied to foster and I guess we impressed them because the whole thing moved along pretty quickly. We got the puppy last Wednesday, so today is one week. Her name is January, I guess because she was born early on January 1st, and her Mom's name is April so I think there's a theme there. So that makes her about 3 months old. Ignore the green tinge to her ear--they get an inside-ear ID tattoo, and the ink stained her fur a bit and it's taken a while to fade. So far she's a very good pup. The first few nights she whined and yipped a lot at night, but for the past few nights she's been nice and quiet, and has even been going the whole night without needing to go out. So that's nice! She hasn't interacted much with our dog or the cats, but that's probably good. Our dog is pretty shy and skittish, so we're hoping her getting used to being around another dog will be good for her too.

Otherwise things have been going along pretty normally. Work has been a bit of a madhouse since right after Christmas, seems like, so that explains my LJ-hiatus. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though it may be a train: I've been told my current position is temporary and will end by the end of June, most likely. My current boss is in Connecticut and wants his managers to be located there too, which I guess makes sense. I'm not really able or willing to make the move, so he'll have to find someone else. I'm going to look around for another opportunity within the company, of course--I happen to know my old boss is opening a few manager positions, one of which I actually already put in for, so we'll see how that goes. I wouldn't necessarily be averse to leaving this company on general principle, but it is nonetheless a scary thought, for a variety of reasons. But there's still some time on all that, so we shall see.

Better keep this short for now and get my nose back to the grindstone. I hope you've all been well!
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)
Good article: http://mentalfloss.com/article/58230/how-tell-whether-youve-got-angst-ennui-or-weltschmerz

I hate to be a downer on an already-somber day. And I agree that 2016 has overstayed its welcome. But really, can we expect 2017 to be any better? Celebrity deaths aside, you know what's slated to transpire on January 20, right? An author whose blog I often enjoy is Chuck Wendig, who penned this gem: "I mean, 2016 wasn’t a blip. It was the beginning of something. All the bad news that’s arisen isn’t isolated. It’s part of a pattern. This shit is just getting started. The bump that was 2016 isn’t a hill we’re climbing over. It’s the top of Cthulhu’s head as he emerges from the deep."

I hope that's not true, of course. But all signs point to Not So Good.

I just feel bummed. It's the time of year when reflection and introspection and resolution are all on the agenda, of course, which doesn't help. I just feel, all too often these days, like some hollow shell stuffed with all manner of bad things, and a heart that's lost its way, if it ever had one. I need to change something. I need to change everything. I have no idea where to begin.

Anyway. Sorry. Somewhat-happier post planned for tomorrow, I hope. For now, time to go home!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yeah, so this post will be about my new A/V receiver, and maybe some more about the Playstation 4. If neither of those things interests you, feel free to skip and you will miss nothing. :)

So yeah, the receiver. The retailer came through, despite the delay and my doubts, and it's a genuine and factory-fresh Yamaha RX-V681, no concerns there. And it's awesome! Now and then a piece of equipment comes into my grubby hands which makes me say, "This is how this SHOULD work, how did I never know that before?!" And this thing is one of them. Coming from a non-HDMI, audio-only, dumb receiver, I really had no idea how thoroughly devices could communicate over an HDMI connection these days. The Yamaha can identify the devices I connect, turn them on and off, tell the TV when it should mute its internal speakers, and even pass along remote-control commands. I was amazed that I could use the receiver remote OR the TV remote to control the PS4 menus. And when the receiver is on, any remote that can send volume control to the TV gets seamlessly passed along to the receiver. I power up a device like the PS4, and the TV turns on automagically. And the on-screen display to configure things is lovely. It's like a whole new world and it's just awesome how it serves as the nerve center to make all these devices behave like one organic whole. Color me impressed, for sure. Oh yeah, and it sounds pretty decent, too. I still need to finish running a couple more speaker wires for the surround back channels, and make sure the subwoofer connection is clean, and then run the speaker calibration routine and find the processing modes that I like best. I also haven't even tried the network functionality yet, I'm looking forward to that. Generally though, yes. Very cool.

The girls and I decided to head over to GameStop last night to look around. Kind of a mistake, because the closest GameStop to us is pretty small, and it was packed (not that it takes a lot of people to achieve that). So we ended up not getting anything, but got to spend some time looking at the PS4 games to get an idea of what we might want to get. I have my list, of course, and it's already too long. Hallie was very interested in the horror games, because that's kinda her thing. On one hand I dig it because hey, that's one of my things too! But on the other hand, she's a bit young for a lot of the games along those lines (pretty much all of which, of course, are rated M), and of course I don't want to warp her little mind too much! The wife's main complaint would be the language, though of course she's not a big fan of the violent blood-and-guts stuff either. She's indulged it thus far, and I think we've slipped a little under her radar when she plays on her PC, like the Telltale Walking Dead games, since Hallie usually plays games with the sound turned way down. But since the PS4 is right out in the TV room, Heather will definitely notice what we're playing on there. :) So I'll have to stick with T-rated stuff, at least for now. Aside from maybe Diablo III, which is rated M but I think mainly because of the imagery (which is smaller in scale to begin with). Or am I just a terrible parent for encouraging an interest in this type of thing? I'm not sure what age I was when I started reading Stephen King, but it couldn't have been much older than Hallie is now. And I'm.. well, not exactly okay, but not THAT bad. :)

Okay, enough for now. Gotta get some more work done before I can call it a day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
The new A/V receiver was supposed to be delivered Saturday. It was coming via FedEx, who typically come around in the late afternoon, and the delivery notice said "by end of day," so I figured that would be the case. Heather's band had a concert that morning, so the girls and I decided to go to EPCOT for a walk around the world. Heather figured she'd be home by 11:30am or so, and I figured no way FedEx would come before then. But of course they did, apparently about 5 minutes before she got home. The package is signature-required, so since no one was home they couldn't leave it. And for some kooky reason they only do home deliveries Tuesday through Saturday, and their website isn't giving me a pickup option, so the soonest they can redeliver is tomorrow. So that gave me a sad.

Heh, I just checked the FedEx site again to see if pickup was an option, and it's not--it says the package is still on a truck and out for delivery, even though the scheduled delivery date is tomorrow. So maybe that means it's just getting a joyride around town today? I guess we'll see. The wife is home, so if they do swing by someone should be there. We shall see.

So anyway, since I was temporarily denied the receiver, my mind turned to getting something else instead. The new receiver gives me an extra HDMI port, which my brain figured might be handy if I ever decide to get another gaming console. The girls are all gamers like their Dad, I'm proud to say, but we mostly play solo on our PCs since PC options for couch co-op games are a bit limited. Our only current video game console is the WiiU, which we like, but since it's Nintendo it's mainly for cutesy family games since I/we generally prefer to use the PC for other stuff.

But I was in Costco the other day and saw that the prices on the current-gen systems had dropped to a reasonable range: in particular, I saw they had the PS4 with Uncharted 4 and a second controller for $250. I've vaguely had my eye on the PS4 because The Last Of Us looks really good, and then I looked at Uncharted 4 and it looked like something we'd also enjoy (especially since a couch co-op survival mode was recently added, or is about to be). So when the receiver didn't come Saturday, I got to thinking, why not get the PS4 as an early Xmas present and enjoy that? I could even basically pay for it with the money I got selling some old audio gear last weekend, and selling that Tool cd/dvd set. So I ran it by the wife and she said fine, whatever. :) So now we have a shiny new PS4 slim, and Hallie (who is turning out to be our most serious gamer) and I have been enjoying Uncharted 4.

So now, of course, I'm looking at what other games I'd like to get for the PS4. If any of you have the system and have suggestions, please chime in! As a general rule, if a game is available for both PS4 and PC, I'd get the PC version since I have a preference for the PC controls. But anything that's a PS4 exclusive, or which offers an especially good local co-op experience (since we aren't really into online multiplayer) is fair game. My list so far:

-The Last of Us (PS4 Remaster)
-Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4 Remaster)
-Destiny: The Taken King
-Little Big Planet 3
-Until Dawn
-inFamous: Second Son

Now I want to go home and play, but alas, I'm stuck at the office. :)
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)
Some updates on stuff going on!

The A/V receiver seems to be on its way--matter of fact, FedEx reported it arrived in Orlando this morning, though it's not scheduled to be delivered until tomorrow. That was a little bit of an ordeal. I ordered it last Tuesday, and had heard nothing, so I e-mailed the retailer on Monday asking for an update. It's shipped, came the response, and I'll get an e-mail once the carrier scans it in. A bit light on details, frankly, so I kinda looked at it as a delaying tactic. But I still wanted the thing, and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I waited. Wednesday rolled around with no shipping notification, though. So I wrote again and said look, I need a valid tracking number by the end of the day or I'm canceling the order and reversing the charge. That seemed to do the trick--they passed me on to a guy who both e-mailed and left a voicemail, promising a tracking number, and sure enough I got a FedEx notification not too long after that. It could be a box with 22 pounds of rocks in it, I suppose, but at least SOMETHING is on the way. I'll believe it when I see it, of course.

I'd also ordered a new basketball post and hoop/backboard from Amazon, and they'd been dragging their feet on shipping too, until today. It did say the thing was out of stock with more on the way, and it's Amazon so I wasn't worried. But that finally shipped today, which is nice. Not set to arrive until Tuesday, for some reason. I'm hoping it gets here over the weekend, I could knock out that installation.

I finally almost finished the book I've been reading forever! Sheesh. I say almost because there are some appendices and footnotes I want to look through. Weird, though--usually if I have trouble getting through a book I just ditch it and move on to something else. Life's too short to slog through a book, you know? But this one.. it wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, or even that the writing style wasn't good. It's just.. the author liked to take 4 pages to say what he could have done in 1, which made 800+ pages out of what should have been 300 or so. Fascinating book nonetheless, though--it's They All Love Jack by Bruce Robinson, about Jack the Ripper. The guy took like 12 years to research and write the book, so it's definitely thorough. His premise is that there was never really any mystery about the identity of the Ripper, or at least there shouldn't have been. But because the Ripper was a Freemason like much of the establishment of Victorian England, the police effectively looked the other way and buried evidence to keep him from being caught. He also identifies--convincingly, I would add--his candidate for Jack the Ripper, which (spoiler?) was a man named Michael Maybrick, who was a musical star of his day. He can't prove it conclusively at this far remove, especially since much of the evidence has been lost or--oddly--remains under official seal even 125+ years later. But he certainly makes a good case for it. Interesting stuff if you're of a mind--just be prepared for a long read, with lots of rage against the Ripper himself as well as the men who conspired to see him go uncaught and unpunished.

Man, I am just incapable of making a short post, even when that was my intention. But oh well, most of you have been around long enough to expect that, right? Anyway, have a great weekend. :)
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. :)


Nov. 30th, 2016 03:28 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Mentioning Hermione's new snake the other day made me realize I hadn't mentioned it before, which makes me think I've never covered our current menagerie, or future critter plans. So let me do that.

At present we have: 1 dog, 2 birds, 4 cats, a handful of fish, a guinea pig, and now a snake. I think that's it. In more detail:

The dog: Scout, she's an almost-8-year-old (already!) black lab mix. We got her at the animal shelter. Scout's not an odd dog name, but it is odd for a female dog, I think--we named her after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird, probably just because we'd recently watched the movie. She has her issues, but overall she's a pretty good dog. She doesn't bark unless there's actually something to bark at, she's not destructive, she's on the shy/fearful side but reasonably friendly, definitely not at all aggressive.

The cats: The eldest is Ood (nonsensically named by Hermione when she was a toddler, so she's about 10 now), who is your typical lazy lapcat. She's a good egg for sure, very affectionate and social with people. The other cats are Marion, Fiona, and Alice, who are varying degrees of antisocial. Most of them are friendly with the girls, but steer clear of me. I'm okay with that, really.

The birds: Hallie decided on a parakeet when she got old enough for a pet of her own, so we got one, and after a while we decided it was probably a bit lonely so we got it a cagemate. Hallie named the first (blue) one Cauliflower, since that was her favorite vegetable at the time. So when we got the second and it was green, it only made sense to name it Broccoli.

The fish: We started with a standard 10-gallon aquarium and moved up to a 20-gallon at some point, which contains a handful of freshwater tropical fish. Mostly zebra danios at this point, I think.

The guinea pig: Hermione's pet choice when she got old enough. This is actually our second one. The first, Gingerbread, got sick and basically died before we even realized how sick it was--apparently guinea pigs go downhill quickly when they get sick. After a bit she decided she missed having one, so we got this one, Cookie.

The snake: Since she's always done well with the guinea pigs, we told Hermione if she wanted to get a snake she could, since she's considered it for a while. So she decided on a Kenyan sand boa, since they stay relatively small (hence can always live in something like a 10-gallon aquarium) and are quite docile. We just got it a few weeks ago, hence the recent adventure with trying to get it to eat! I think we'll get the hang of it, though.

Future plans: Well, Amy always says she wants a kitten, but I'm not so sure about that since we already have 4 cats. When she turns 7 or so we'll probably let her pick something if we think she's responsible enough (which at this point I kinda doubt). In the meantime, though, Hallie was considering asking for a puppy until she read something about how most service dogs live in foster homes while they're in training. So we looked into that and found that there's a place quite close to us that does exactly that, and we applied to be a foster family. No idea how long it takes to go through the approval process and actually get a dog, but that should be interesting if and when it happens. And I could see us getting another reptile sometime--I kinda dig bearded dragons, or chameleons are pretty awesome. :) Or how about a tarantula?

So yeah, I guess we're a pretty animal-friendly household. All that is in addition to our porchlight frogs (there's usually at least one tree frog hanging out around our front door, since the light attracts bugs at night), the billion anole lizards in the yard, the butterfly garden, birdfeeder, squirrels, geckos, and other assorted creepy-crawlies. I kinda like that about us.

Okay, that's enough time wasting. I'm just running out the clock on today, since I'm off tomorrow!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So Thanksgiving is behind us. Already! This year, for all its nonsense and loss and horror, has at least flown by for me. Seems like we were just celebrating the New Year and looking ahead to an interesting election year. Who knew then that 'interesting' would so quickly and drastically take on the Chinese-curse parameters?

Anyway, the long weekend was good. The quick rundown:
-Thanksgiving Day: We started out with a quick trip to a park for some play and a short walk, but otherwise I stayed home with the family, since the wife had already bought a turkey to cook and Hermione was still getting over the cold she had (and which unfortunately put a bit of a damper on her birthday last Tuesday, poor kid). So it was a nice, quiet day, really.
-Black Friday: We tend not to plan on much BF shopping, but I did run out on a little adventure to procure a new (artificial) Christmas tree. Our old one was handed down to us by my Dad at least 8 years ago, and for the past few years we've wanted to retire it and get a new one since it was starting to disintegrate. The room our tree goes in has vaulted ceilings, so I wanted a taller tree, and I also wanted to go with a pre-lit (LED) tree. So I found a nice nine footer on sale at Home Depot. I went first to our closest location, only to find that the inventory of 1 indicated on the HD website was the display model, which was already spoken for. Our next-closest HD also showed 1 in stock, so I presumed that might be the same situation, and instead headed to the east Orlando store which showed 4 in stock. Sure enough, there it was, so I grabbed that and also a new pair of lighted deer for the front of the house, since our old ones were on their last legs too.

We'd also seen that our favorite big comics/collectibles shop was having a storewide Black Friday sale, so we headed out for lunch and to stop by there. We found some good stuff there for Xmas, so that was nice. On the way home we stopped at the exotic pet store to buy a pinkie mouse. Did I mention Hermione got a pet snake for her birthday? She'd wanted one for a while, so we went ahead and got that when we got back from our trip. Anyway, it wasn't taking the frozen pinkies we'd tried feeding it, so we picked up a live one to try on our way home, and that did the trick. Though Hallie had already named it and everything by the time we got home. She didn't take it too hard, though. :) Then we put up the new Xmas tree and decorated it.

Saturday: I had a photoshoot scheduled in the afternoon, so we stayed close to home. I spent the morning putting up the outside Christmas lights, which went fairly well and looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. We might go a little further and do our driveway/island too, we'll see how ambitions I feel about that!

The photoshoot was at Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney). The client was looking for Christmas decor, and could only do it Saturday, so I suggested Disney since I knew their decor would be up and lit. But of course it's a madhouse at WDW this time of year, and she wanted afternoon, so the place was packed and that made it tough to work. It was the lady, her husband, and their 18-month-old son, and they were all nice enough, but the kid (while cute and generally well-behaved) was very easily distracted and tough to get to look at the camera. So I haven't even looked at the photos yet, but I'm a little worried I might not have gotten a great set. Ah well, it is what it is. I'm sure there are some decent shots in there, at least.

Sunday: We headed over to the coast to visit my Mom, and also meet up with some friends at a park. That was a pretty good time, really. The lowlight was when we stopped by mi sister's house. Ugh. She's so totally different than me. They had a Trump sign (still) in the yard, a Trump sign (still) in their front window, and a big yellow sign saying "Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight" and something about the 2nd Amendment. Just.. ugh. They just got the house a few months ago (a HUD home, because they both live on Social Security Disability, so their agitation for the candidate and party who loathe government handouts is supremely ironic), and it already reeks of cigarette smoke, so badly that Hermione could only stand to be inside for a couple minutes. Just ugh. I hate to say it, and I don't really want to tell Mom this, but if we can just pretend she doesn't exist next time I come for a visit, that would be swell.

Anyway. While we were there we stopped at a thrift store we like to go to when we're in the area, and found they were having a weekend-long BF sale, 50% off of everything. So we found a few things, including a jigsaw puzzle of the little town in Georgia we just visited! But the real gem was a little cd/dvd box set of the band Tool's 2000 album, Salival. It was 50 cents after the sale discount, so I snagged it because I like Tool well enough, but also because it looked like it might be a collector's item. And sure enough, I looked it up when I got home and found that not only is it rare and out-of-print, the first printing was even more rare because it contained several typos in the booklet. I checked, and sure enough, this one has the typos. Looked like the misprint version sells on eBay in the $75-100 range, so I think I will resell that for a tidy profit. I love finding things like that!

Today I'm back to work, but so far it's been a pretty quiet day--I think a lot of the muckety-mucks are still on vacation. So in another consumer coup, I looked around for a compact point-and-shoot camera for Hermione (who just recently mentioned wishing she had one of her own, which was good timing because we were a little stumped on Xmas presents for her this year) and found a steal--a refurbished ELPH camera direct from Canon (which means the full 1-year warranty) with a free memory card, $60 and free shipping. Not bad at all! It's last year's model so it doesn't have WiFi, but that's not a dealbreaker by any means. 12x optical zoom with IS, so that should be pretty versatile.

Okay, enough of this nonsense, time to get a little work done. I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!


Nov. 23rd, 2016 03:35 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Okay, look, LJ. It's not that I don't love you. I just don't know what we're doing anymore. It's like after all this time, I hardly know you. Maybe we've changed. I WANT to post more, I want to share, I want to interact, I do. But the time flies by, one day after another, and it just doesn't happen. It's not you, it's me. I feel like I need an LJ reboot, somehow. So to that end, last week I combed through my flist and removed a whole bunch of people. Most were people who abandoned the LJ ship years ago, but who I still kept listed in case they ever come back. But they aren't coming back. I know that now. I accept it. I also removed dead communities, and a few people who are still active but who I never really connected with, and/or had otherwise been meaning to remove--absolutely no offense intended, all the best to those folks. My LJ has always been 99.5% public anyway, and I don't really expect to change that, so feel free to follow me if you like. But I kinda want to get my friends page down to just the people I feel a real connection with, if that makes sense. So that's what I'm going to try as this year winds down and the new one rolls in.

So hey, my last post was November 3--what's happened in the world since then, anything noteworthy? Ahahahahahaha, I kill me. I'm not going to belabor the horrendous new world in which we woke up on November 9, enough has been said about that everywhere else, and if you actually want my political ramblings we should connect on FB. Suffice it to say that I was not pleased, and every day of this transition period feels more and more (to borrow a Glen Phillips lyric) like a train wreck, that could have been avoided, in a third-world country, by a long stretch of farmland, where the waters had run high and run the topsoil down the river so that next year there would be no crops. But it is, as they say, what it is. Now we resist, now we defend those who find targets on their backs, now we refuse to let hatred and graft and incompetence and delusion and actual neo-Nazism become normalized. That's all we can do, until we can take it all back.

In other news, there was our family road trip up to northern Georgia, which went quite well. There was a drought going on, and a wildfire that made for some smoky mornings, but aside from that the weather was gorgeous and we saw and did lots of good stuff. So here's a batch of photos from the trip:

Clicky! )
Okay, that's about it for now. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, or just a nice weekend. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, pretty soon, anyway. I'm working today, off tomorrow to do some stuff around the house and pack the van full of stuff, and then Saturday morning we head out on our road trip up to northern Georgia. Seems like whenever we plan a trip, often as not it falls through for some reason, so I hadn't spared too much thought for this one until the past couple weeks, but I'm fairly excited now.

As is my wont, I drafted a tentative itinerary for each day, which I know sounds a bit anal. But hey, I like to have a plan, even if the day comes and we toss the plan out the window. Putting that together gives me an idea of what options we have in each general area, which things cluster together, which things are higher on my wanna-do list, and forces me to think about the timing of getting from one to the next. So it usually ends up working out pretty well. We're at the cabin for 3 full days, so those days we can sort of wing depending on what we feel like doing each day--or just pick a direction and run with it. But for the drive up I definitely wanted to sketch out an agenda, since we're stopping for a night to do a thing or two around Atlanta, and want to otherwise break up the drive a bit. On the way home, we plan to push through in one day, I expect with a stop or two along the way.

Anyway, I've been looking at which hikes and waterfalls I'd like to do. I'm trying to keep everything to 2 miles or less, round trip. As much as I'd love to hike all day, the girls do have their limits. :) And most days I'm trying to include some non-hiking stuff, like Babyland General Hospital (the home of Cabbage Patch dolls). The girls have never had or cared about those per se, but I think they'll enjoy seeing the place, and I'd be surprised if we don't walk out of there with at least one doll for someone. Maybe my wife!

I think the top thing on my must-do list is the Hurricane Falls trail at Tallulah Gorge State Park. It looks pretty awesome, especially with the suspension bridge and many hundreds of stair steps. Hopefully everyone can keep up! The views look awesome. I've got a number of other waterfall hikes on the list, though I'm sure we won't get to all of those. And speaking of views, I think we'll drive up to the top of Brasstown Bald. Looks like we might have just missed the peak of fall color up there, but there should still be some around. That will be a treat for us all, since Florida isn't too big for fall color!

And the weather looks fantastic, so hopefully everything will be awesome. I just hope the girls will go along with everything with minimal complaint. The younger two especially, they can be quite stubborn when they don't want to do something, so I kinda imagine some episodes of having to drag them along kicking and screaming, literally in Amy's case. We shall see.

So yeah, I'll probably not being paying much attention to LJ until we get back, so keep the major news to a minimum while I'm gone, yeah? For sure don't go electing a megalomaniacal narcissist tangerine-tinted dumpster fire as President while I'm gone. Okay? Promise?

Oh man.

Nov. 2nd, 2016 08:03 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Thank goodness this election is less than a week away so we can get it overwith, for better or worse, and get on with our lives. I feel pretty confident Trump is going to lose, which is a relief at this point, even though I'm not exactly chuffed about a Hillary Clinton presidency. But then again, I dunno. This is Florida, which may well be a big deciding factor, and it's hard to say. Over the weekend we passed by a Republican field office that had a bunch of people outside waving Trump signs. Then yesterday was my biweekly drive over to St. Petersburg, and I saw a LOT of Trump. Many bumper stickers ("I'm a 'Deplorable' and I'm voting for TRUMP!"), big signs along the road, even a couple billboards along I-4, one of which I wish I could find a photo of. It had Clinton on one side, Trump on the other, with little bullet points under each, and one of the points under Trump was "Unite us" (while HRC, of course, was "Divide us"). I don't think either of them have much hope of uniting us, frankly.

Then last night my Mom called because we hadn't chatted for a while, and during that conversation she told me she'd early voted for Trump. My jaw just about dropped. I knew my sister was a big Trumpalo, and my maternal grandmother, and the rest of that side of the family, and maybe Mom's husband--but my Mom is reasonably intelligent, and I respect her, and I really thought she'd not go to the dark side. "I think he could do some good," she said. It is to laugh. It really bums me out. Let's just get this thing behind us, and get on to the part where we look back on the Obama administration with wistful nostalgia.

We'll be in a cabin near the mountains of northern Georgia for election day. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but at least there shouldn't be riots there. :) The wife and I both early-voted by mail, so that's handled. We'll just watch and see, I guess.

Besides the pall of the election hanging over us, and other assorted things getting me down, life continues. The job is still here, and I still--STILL, when they said by the end of August--haven't gotten the memo about my new role and boss. Other info has been trickling out in the meantime. It's time to enroll for our 2017 medical and other benefits, and of course that got more expensive with less coverage, which stinks. But hey, the vision coverage dropped by 50 cents per paycheck, so I got that going for me, which is nice. They pretty suddenly banned all logos from our old company name from the building, so I had to box up and take home all the various cups and mugs and whatnot I've picked up over the years. The building itself looks like a bit of a DMZ since they pulled down all the signage, leaving ugly holes and old coats of paint showing, and all the room signs are hand-written temporary paper signs, which looks just fantastic. Usually this time of year, we get a giftcard for the grocery store as a thank you and a help with Thanksgiving, but of course that sort of thing is unheard of under the new regime. As are our annual Family Fun Nights at Universal, I'm sure. Haven't heard a thing about the usual Christmas party either, not that I ever go to those. And yesterday I heard that our annual raises, which normally take effect with the first paycheck of the new year, won't happen until March or April. wtf? My old boss has said all along that he expects our annual bonus to still be in place for this year, but at this rate I have my doubts about that, or at least expect it to be a lot less than usual (which will definitely displease me, since it's been a reliable chunk of income each year). The one bright spot is that our annual paid time off isn't changing--I'm a couple years away from getting my 5th week of vacation each year, and I'd heard the new company maxed out at 4, so I was a little concerned. But the 5th week will remain, which is good, and they're also adding the ability to carry over some vacation time to the next year, which might be a nice option to have. They don't pay out unused vacation time, though, so for me there's no real incentive to do that. Oh, and they're cracking down on employee bandwidth usage, video streaming in particular. Hmf. I'm sticking it out for now, but we'll have to see how many more tiny cuts the new company inflicts before I decide the bleeding is too much.

Anyway, rambling and sort of a downer. Sorry. On a brighter note, I did watch The Nice Guys the other day, pretty good flick. :) That's all I got.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Toad the Wet Sprocket! Not everyone's cup of tea, I suppose, but I'm definitely a fan. I discovered them when their Coil album came out in the late 90s--I loved that record, so I went back to their earlier stuff and loved that too. And then they basically broke up, which made me sad. But then they got back together and put out a (fantastic) new album a couple years ago, and I was thrilled to see them on the roster for the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival this year. Hermione likes them too and was interested in coming, but the timing was bad so I ended up going alone. Just as well, I doubt she'd have wanted to stay for 2 sets like I did. Great shows!

A few more pics:
Clicky! )
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. :)

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