Category: Family

Money, teeth, and playing hookie

It’s been an interesting weekend.  Not exactly the kind of weekend that you would like to rewind and play again, but interesting none the less.  The wife and I have been looking at appliances for the new house for a few days and decided to head over to Best Buy (the anti-christ of bait and switch) and see what kind of packages they had.  We had no intention of buying anything, however the wife presented with a package deal that was drastically reduced, the opportunity to say “we saved xxxx” was too great to ignore.  At the end of the day, I had to increase my limit on the Best Buy card to pay for it all, a requirement to get the additional % discount that made the deal workable.  We walked out of the store with my thoughts focused on “we purchased appliances for a house we don’t even own yet”.  I sure hope they can take a cancellation if anything happens between now and then.

The daughter and I decided to head out for lunch yesterday because we hadn’t for a while.  It was her choice to pick and of course, McDonalds it was.  Thankfully they serve breakfast all day now, so its tolerable and I’m not praying to the porcelain God to make it all stop a few hours after eating said McDonalds.  As I was eating the second breakfast burrito, my tongue was scraping on something stuck in my tooth in the back.  Well, it was something stuck, it was the familiar edge of a broken tooth, back molar to be exact, that was now not a whole tooth but a 3/4 tooth.  Upside, it wasn’t painful so the break below the gumline hadn’t made its way to the nerve.  Downside, I now had to decide if I wanted it pulled or capped, neither of which I have money for at this point (see previous paragraph).

On top of all this happening this weekend, my wife informed me LAST NIGHT that we had the home inspection on our new place at 9am and it would take about three hours.  She “asked” in a tone that said “be there” for the inspection as she needed to head out for work before the end of the inspection.  So now, after taking off the week of our move and eating up all my paid time off, I now had to fake being sick so that I could be there to the end of the inspection.  My job pays all the bills and keep the house going and my wife’s job is her play money and is part time.  I’m not trying to lessen her contribution to the household, however there needs to be some priorities when the income that sustains the house is being sacrificed for a part-time job.   I’ve got a strong work ethic and I had lying to get out of work.  The only positive out of this is that the lie I used was to get my cracked tooth fixed, so technically its a half lie, but that doesn’t make any of it any better.

I’m skeptical at this point that this move is going to be a smooth one.  I can easily see lots of issues that will cause some frustration in the very near future.  The fact that my mother-in-law just had her knee replaced is making the non-medicated wife even more on edge than usual and its been a struggle to get anything other than attitude and tone from her.  Even the simplest things have become hard in my opinion.  Only time will tell if this is the right choice or not.  Everything is tolerable as long as my office (room in the basement) is not utilized for anything other than my office.  I need a cave to hide and recoup every once in a while.

Thank you for calling Hell, er, IT Support

MatrixITGoogleThere’s one thing that I dread more than anything else in my life lately.  That one thing is the phone call from the Father-In-Law (FIL) asking me to setup his new computer with the added detail that he “won’t open the box until I get there” which translates into “I’m going to stand behind you the whole time.”  I won’t tell you what he did other than I’m a damn good translator.

Some background first….  His current computer is a Dell tower with a pre-Core Intel processor that followed the Pentium II, III, 4; known as a Pentium V.  It has only 4B of pieced together RAM, an upgraded 1TB hard drive (previous hell), and came with XP that was upgraded to Vista then upgraded to 7.  To describe this machine as slow technically is an understatement as it literally takes over 15 minutes to be marginally useful.  The hard drive is thrashed constantly regardless of it being used or not as the OS most likely has remenants of three different OS’s over the last 12 years.  The new computer is a Core i7, 12GB RAM and a 2TB hard drive with a brand spanking new version of Windows 10.

Having backed up his 108GB’s of music, pictures, documents (all in one folder, no sub-folders), etc. to an external hard drive that prompted the multiple asked question “What is that?” and my response being “It’s an external hard drive.”  He would think for a few moments and then respond “It’s so small, I think I need one too.”  As the files were backing up, I started taking review of the applications that were installed.  Quickly running through the list and identifying only a handful I needed to migrate settings from, that’s where the problems started.

The one program that I got a lot of push back on was the installed and running version of Norton Security Suite.  He had just renewed for another year (377 days left on the subscription) and wanted it on his new computer.  Anyone that is even a marginal computer user realizes these security suites are a waste of money when there are so many free and much more capable applications out there that do the same thing.  Here’s the conversation, verbatim, that we had:

Me:  You don’t need Norton on Windows 10, there are free tools that are much better.
FIL:  But I paid for Norton, I want it installed.
Me:  All it does it look fancy and scan your files constantly drawing resources and making things slower.
FIL:  But I paid for Norton, I want it installed.
Me:  I’d just get your money back, its not worth paying for.
FIL:  But I paid for Norton, I want it installed.

At this point, I gave up as I wasn’t being heard.  Whatever, I took down the key and noted the site that I needed to download the shitty software.  I didn’t get it, I was being asked to help and that’s what I was doing, yet I was getting push back even when I was giving an opportunity to save $65/year on a piece of shit software program.  I moved on having conceded to the stubborn FIL.

We moved onto the large music library and was asked to install iTunes.  I quickly foresaw how this was going to go having been an outspoken and avid opponent to anything Apple or Apple related.  His theory, “iPhone requires iTunes”.  My theory, “iPhone sucks”.  Knowing this man for over 15 years, he’s an Apple fan boy, so I didn’t try to convince him to use anything else.  Here’s the conversation:

Me:  I got iTunes installed, its not seeing all your music.
FIL:  It looks different, its not what I’m used to.
Me:  It’s the Windows 10 version of iTunes, its going to look different.
FIL:  Let me sit down.
Me:  I’m not done getting iTunes to see all your music.
FIL:  Let me sit down, I can get it working…..  why does it look different?
Me:  I’m going to get some coffee.

I realized at this point that it was now almost 5pm and I wanted dinner.  I popped my head back into the office and said I’m leaving and wished him good luck.  I’m not even sure that he heard me as he didn’t turn around.  I’ve since received 5 text messages from him asking where his files are, where his music is, where the bookmark or the random site he had to get onto was, etc.

I turned off my phone.

Back after some time off….

I had to take a break.  Starting a new job, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years…..  it all barely got too much to handle.  I contemplated starting over with a new site and just deleting this one, but I decided against that after thinking about it a little while.  No one I know in real life knows I have this and there isn’t anything I need to run away from.

A lot has happened but I’ve coped quite well considering.  My job is going really good, like better than I ever thought it would.  I was on the fence as to whether I wanted to get into an alternative IT field when I started in October.  Surprisingly I’ve found a stride and due to my experience, I have not had not to prove myself every step of the way.  In IT that’s a good thing as it quickly establishes respect with co-workers.

Things with the wife are getting better since last Summer/Fall as we’re both working on making things better.  We’re both not ready and were not ready to throw in the towel on our relationship.  There are still things that cause issues and although I used to get angry or walk away, I’m instead telling her what is bothersome rather than getting angry and not talking.  It’s helped but at times it has had unintended consequences that have caused some rough spots.  In the end though, its opening the communication we both forgot we had and she is not starting to do the same thing.

I’m hoping I have more time to get online, but I can’t make promises.

No one lives forever

My Dad called me on Monday evening to tell me that my Grandmother had passed away.  I had already known she was not doing well for several months with multiple problems stemming from her life long smoking habit.  My reaction was somewhat cold and it surprised me if I’m being honest.  I felt detached and removed from the whole situation and my expression of emotion mirrored that.

The last time I saw her was over two years ago when I went with my father to visit her in the nursing home.  It was Thanksgiving and it was just the two of us.  My wife had written off the situation as she has strong opinions about nursing homes and due to impressions over 15 years ago, my Grandmother wasn’t her favorite person.  I learned very early what a prejudiced and bigoted person acted like by observing my grandparents.  I was able to look past that and worked to avoid topics that would surface the negativity within both of them.  My wife on the other hand would be the antagonist and get both of them fired up.  Anyway, my recollection of the day is hazy as I found it hard to concentrate.  At this time, she had lost both legs above the knee, couldn’t see anything more than a few inches in front of her and was generally checked out mentally.  We were there over a half hour and had the same conversation four times.

My only real concern on Monday was that my Dad was okay.  He wasn’t.  I could hear him fighting back the choke in the throat that most men get when they’re emotional.  That affected me more than hearing she had passed.  I think my confusing non-emotional reaction threw him off though as he quickly moved onto the planning of the funeral, which is his comfort zone.  I know she wasn’t in any pain when she passed.  She was a horrible mother to both my father and his sister (my Aunt) and routinely abused them verbally and sometimes physically.  His reaction to the events was puzzling until I realized that it was his mother.  That fact will never change regardless of past events.

In the end, when he saw her the most vulnerable, I think he forgave her for past events.  At least that is what I hope happened, otherwise he won’t ever get past this.  I’m not looking forward to the funeral.  One line that sticks in my head ever since I saw it was the movie “A Fault In Our Stars” and it goes:  “Funerals are not for the dead, they’re for the living.”  That makes sense.

Processed Food. Soooo good but soooo bad too!

Yup, I was hungry and had some change in my pocket.  I pulled the trigger on some Pop-Tarts which is probably one of the worst processed sweet foods you can grab these days.  There are 37 ingredients in these things, three of which are sugars; Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Dextrose.

Evil, pure evil.  Real Fruit huh?  Why is it one of the LAST listed ingredients then?
Evil, pure evil. Real Fruit huh? Why is it one of the LAST listed ingredients then?

They were good though and no wonder, they’re designed from the beginning to hit my sweet tooth.  Everyone has a sweet tooth.  Everyone, to be more specific, is hard wired to crave fat, sugar and salt.  During times of “feast”, these key food types packed on weight and made our bodies feel good (assuming unprocessed fat, sugar and salt).  During times of “famine”, our bodies would live off the stores of fat that we packed on during the “feast”.  We’re designed at a core level to process the food we shove in our mouths like this.

Now, enter in the “cheap macro-caloried foods” modern age, and we’re packing on weight at an alarming rate.  Every country that has adopted a “western” diet after never having that type of food available has experienced waist growth.  Conditions such as Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension now exist where they didn’t previously.  The one common thread with all these disturbing trends is the fact that western style processed food is available and being consumed.

Take this for an example.  You sit down to eat 500 calories of vegetables.  It’s a big bowl, huge bowl in fact.  So much so that a normal person would have problems eating the entire serving.  Deciding you don’t want to eat that much, and a burger sounds pretty damn good right now, you roll through the drive-thru at McDonalds and get a BigMac.  That is also around 500 calories, BUT, they are condensed and processed calories that also have 30grams of fat, 800mg of salt and 30grams of sugar in tow.  Most people accustomed to eating this type of food will generally not feel satisfied with just one BigMac because the calories are packed into a smaller package, so there are french fries (more fat, sugar, salt) and of course a soda (50-100g sugar).

Focusing on the sugar alone, which by the way is the ONLY ingredient that doesn’t have a percent daily value on our labels.  Drinking 50g of sugar has an interesting effect on the body.  The sugar goes directly to the liver as its already broken down to its base ingredient.  The liver isn’t designed to handle that much sugar in one shot and calls on the pancreas for some insulin to help get it processed.  Insulin in normal people is generally used to govern the production of fat and fat cells.  So now, you have your system flooded with sugar and insulin and what happens, your body produces fat at an unnatural level.  This process happens every time you drink soda and the reason you don’t puke it all out?  Phosphoric Acid, a natural anti-nausea chemical.  If it wasn’t in there, we would all have stomach aches immediately following consuming 50g of sugar.

I’m tired of processed food.  No, I’m tired of the abundant availability of processed food.  How can a human being hard wired to crave fat, salt and sugar (processed food staples) resist eating it especially when its so easy and cheap to obtain?  Broccoli should NOT be more expensive than Doritos!!

Individuals are smart, people are stupid

Naked Security: Cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying, teens say

StopBullying

I’ve talked about this before here and here.  It’s a topic I feel VERY strongly about having been bullied through my entire school career.  My daughter, who will be 9 in December, is most likely going to be bullied at some point in her school career as well.  There are some traits I can see will be topics for other children to point out and make fun of.  Both my wife and I are doing our best to raise her with self confidence and instill in her that she can manufacture her own strength.  That is a lesson in life that neither of us had when we were growing up.  We also didn’t have pervasive 24/7 technology driving our bullies over 20 years ago.

So, before anyone gets offended by the title, here is my explanation.  Individuals in this context are normal, intelligent and sane minded people that act on impulses with morality and knowing right from wrong.  They’re able to see a situation or problem, make judgements on the correct course of action, then act on those decisions.  People in this context are just the opposite of an individual.  People refers to a crowd of individuals that have lost the ability to think on their own, they’re following a slightly smarter individual that is empowered by the “people” behind them.  The thoughts and actions of people are justified if more than one person performs the unintelligent or insane action.  Mob mentality is what its referred to as in the news.

Lets steal some stuff then burn it down!
Lets steal some stuff then burn it down!

Explanation done, this same idea holds true online.  The consequences are much much worse however in that individuals that are targeted often are alone.  They feel alone, they are alone, no one is supporting them.  The article at the top goes into some detail, but I think fails in trying to address the root of the problem by using emojis that evoke compassion.  Really?  WTF is that about?  We are so afraid of offending someone or pissing off someone that we end up not being candid and blunt about the true nature of the problem.  Here is my theory.

  • Parents are partially to blame for not monitoring what their kids are doing online.  Growing up it was easy to keep tabs on a child.  Mom screamed out the door and we came running or we were home when the street lights came on.  Trouble, if caught, would easily be communicated.
  • Schools are partially to blame for not being tougher on the kids who do bully.  The schools are bound by ridiculous rules and policies that turn their discipline from a sword into a spork.  No one benefits from that.
  • Kids are partially to blame in that they’re not getting the right life lessons from people around them.  From age 7 to about 15, children are literally soaking up the world like a shop vac sucking water out of a basement.  What they see, do and hear shapes their decision processes for the rest of their lives.
  • Technology is partially to blame due to its pervasive ability to completely take over someones life.  We have, as a society, come to depend on our technology and are starting to lose the ability to function without it.  How many times have you asked someone for a phone number and heard back “it’s in my phone, which I don’t have right now.”

My wife and I are split on the technology front unfortunately.  I’ve had multiple computers and phones for years now due to my fierce separation of work and personal tech.  Work doesn’t need to know what I do on home time.  I don’t carry a phone on Sunday, not because I’m religious or anything, I just need to disconnect one day per week.  It supports my requirement for solitude.  My wife, mother in law, brother, etc. are all the same in their reaction:  “How can we get a hold of you if there’s an emergency?”  My response is always the same:  “The same way you would get a hold of me 20 years ago, leave a message.”  It’s received with mixed reactions.

I want my daughter to be exposed to technology, but on my terms.  I know there is absolutely horrible content on the Internet and I can’t shield her from all of it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try and watch her activity daily.  My wife gives her the iPod and leaves her alone.  I give her the iPod and want to sit with her and watch what she does.  My wife lets her on the desktop to do math homework and leaves her alone.  I sit with her and watch what she does and helps when needed.  Technology for me is a tool and should be used as such.  You don’t carry around your hammer or wrench 24/7 so why should you carry around your smart phone 24/7?

I’ve digressed unfortunately, such is that of a random mind.  I hope that I’m giving my daughter the sense of safety that she can tell us anything that is bothering her so we can take the most appropriate actions to help her.  I’m aware that our involvement in her life will be more and more unwelcome, but that doesn’t mean that I stop helping her.  It’s just a shift in helping to something indirect rather than direct, such as a meeting with the Principal after hours as I did two weeks ago.  I hope that my daughter never experiences bullying or cyberbullying, but the reality is that she will.

It needs to stop and it starts with awareness and an individual to counter the decision of people.

Pot Luck

Really need to write more, keeps me from getting all winky in the head when things go wrong.  I’m at the hospital waiting for my wife to get done with some nasal surgery.  Pretty standard stuff according to the doctor and the sub-hour surgery time proves he was right.  She is already in recovery only after 50 mins of being back there.  I’ve never had a sinus infection, which is what triggered the need for surgery in the first place, but based on how she was during those multiple weeks of anti-biotics, I hope I don’t have to endure one.  Waiting for her to be out of recovery is the reason I decided to write something.

I got a new job.  Well, its more like a 2 grade promotion with the same company in a different business group.  Moving from Windows Administrator to a Sr. Project Manager in Information Security.  In more basic terms, I’m moving from trench work to knowledge work guiding the guys in the trenches.  I did 7 years of servitude in Information Security at a previous job so I’m not too concerned that I’ll miss the trench work.  I will admit though, having a lot of trench work certainly made the day go by fast.  My new job will be much more thinking, convincing, explaining, and a lot less manual work.  I’m ready for it.

My relationship with my one and only brother, younger than me, has been strained the last several years.  Seems the older we get the more different we become and I grew tired of trying to accept him for who he was when that wasn’t reciprocated.  Anyway, they just bought a new Chevy Equinox and traded in their Toyota Camry (I think).  The only response I could muster to the text message he sent (yes, text) was “You’ll wish you got a minivan.”  My brother and sister-in-law have resorted to sending text messages to both my wife and I whenever they need to get in touch with us.  We on the other hand will always call both of their phones, always at different times of the day, and NEVER get anything other than voicemail.  We then receive a text response shortly thereafter in answer to the voicemail we left.  Why not just pick up the phone?  You can’t be “putting the kids down” at all hours of the day making it impossible to answer your phone!

It’s almost that time for me to hopefully go back and see my wife.  I’m sure she is asking to see me and I know her Mom will want to see her asap.  They both have this funny thing where they don’t believe each other saying they’re ok until they actually see that they’re ok.  Strange, but I’ve learned not to fight it as that tends to just make things harder for me in the long run.

Change at the speed of technology

I think the hardest part for most people to cope with when it comes to technology in general is the speed at which it changes.  Take my obvious change of template design.  Small potatoes when you consider the ground breaking work being done right now at most companies, but my Mom would have an issue.

“I liked the old design” she would say.

“I got tired of it” I would say.

And it would go back and forth like that for about 5 minutes until I got bored with it and moved the conversation onto something else not related to the design of my blog.

As I sit here typing on my Core i5 laptop that barely has a scratch on it (still newish), I think back to the very first computer I ever owned.  When I say owned, I mean the first computer I purchased with my own money that I earned on my own without anyone elses help in purchase.  A whopping $3,000 garnered me a 486 DX2 with 4MB of RAM and a 250MB hard drive.  Had a color VGA monitor and a dot matrix printer, both purchased separately.  Yeah, they did that back in the day…. annoying.  Anyway, that little purchase kept me working well for about 8 years before I sold it to a friend for a fraction of what I paid for it and they used it for 5 more years.  Now you ask how is that possible?  I’ll tell you.

Computers back then were built much better, designed to last for years, and had components primarily made in the United States.  The computers now are the polar opposite of that.  I think they woke up and took a queue from light bulb manufacturers where they make stuff to last only 2-4 years before you need to purchase new stuff.  When have you ever picked up a 5+ year old laptop and said “this thing still works great”?  Chances are, if you use computers like I do, its not too often.  Once the shiny newness wears off, I treat computers the same way I treat any other tool.  My old workhorse Dell Inspiron 1200 lasted several more years than it should have and the poor keyboard paid the price.  All missing keys and stuff, it practically cried when I would open it up and start using it.

My new laptop hasn’t seen that type of punishment yet, but I’m sure when it does its mostly Chinese parts will not bear the brunt of my hammer fingers and rough treatment in and out of the backpack.

Logical

First, sorry for the gap in posts.  This time of year has always been quite chaotic and finding time to sit down and write let alone thinking about what you want to write at the same time is sometimes next to impossible.  With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in a row without much of a break is tough for almost everyone.  I’m sure anyone with kids can relate completely to what I’m trying to say.

That brings me to my first thought and I’ve been working on this for years.  My career in technology, some 14 years, has turned my thought processes very logical and as a result my actions seem methodical.  I approach most “life things” with that type of logical thinking almost automatically without much thought to it.  For work, which is appropriate, it works fine and lets me get a lot of work done rather quickly.  The problem lies in when I do the same for non-work stuff.  Anyone with a family (all of us) knows that logic often doesn’t apply to most situations and results in descriptive words towards oneself from others like withdrawn, angry, depressed, etc.  Negativity sucks, especially when its not an intention outcome.

What brought me to this brilliant flash of the obvious (pan to head) was the latest problems I’ve had with my brother.  An exact polar opposite of me, generally we never agree with each other and have that pesky stubborn streak from Dad that prevents us from seeing the others point of view.  It’s led to a strained relationship and now that kids are involved on both sides, has led to an isolationist attitude where the line “Well, if he’s not going to come to xyz, then I’m not going to his abc!”  Ridiculous when you actually look back and reflect on it, but in the heat of the moment it seems like the right decision.  Neither one of us wants to be the bigger person and step outside of our boxes and make the first attempt to sort of agree to disagree.  That is, until now.

It’s sad when thinking about it and putting it into words that this point has actually been reached.  One of those things I imagine that we’ll both look back on in 20 years and have a “remember when…” conversation.  But that doesn’t change what I know I need to do to get past it.  I’m willing to forgive the things that has made me angry in the past few years to get us both to this point.  I’m willing to step into a role that doesn’t have my every decision pitted against what exactly he would NOT want me to do.  I’m willing, period.  My fear is that he won’t be willing.  He won’t want to make things better and will immediately become defensive to the point where no progress will be made.  He will be pushed farther away than we already are…..

The worst part of all this is that my parents are stuck in the middle.  Brother is in PA, I’m in PA, parents are in North Carolina.  When they visit, its a battle sometimes to get time with them.  I’ve resorted to falling back on the main reason they’re visiting, and then backing off when it logically doesn’t involve me (see previous comments).  It often makes them think that I’m mad or don’t want to see them, an unfortunate side effect of being knee jerk logical.  I’ve tried to explain it to them, but they’re my parents, all they see is their first born no matter what I try to explain.

Wow, its out of my head and I’m still as confused on what to do next.  Whatever my decision, its going to be soon and definitely before Christmas because stuff like this, once its in my head, doesn’t turn out well when given some festering time.  Depending on how it goes once I do make the final decision, might make it on here.  That is after all the main reason I do this online.  Technology at its finest!

Intro

Hello, not new to blogging, but new to this particular blog.  I’m a self-described geek and have been for several years, give or take a few.  I love technology and everything there is surrounding it.  My life is full of family and have a lovely wife [G] and a daughter [C], and a cat [H].  There isn’t much time left for my passions except here and there and let me just say thank you for the smartphone, otherwise I’d never keep up on the latest tech news.  For instance, I’m waiting to hear when AT&T is going to release Windows Phone 7.5 for my “not quite a year old” phone.

I tend to read more than post, but do manage to come across some really interesting stuff and certainly will share.  I don’t expect a lot, and my interests in reading generally fall into a single “it’s interesting to me” category and can’t be put into a category.  My mind works in many directions at the same time, all the time, and my reflected thoughts online aren’t any different.

Should you decide to follow, thank you.  Should you decide to keep moving, I hold no grudges.  I would like to leave you with one question:  “Is your internet filtered?”

-A