Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Today is the last day of June. The year is half gone already.

I ought to be able to say something profound about that, but I can't, really. It's just time, doing what time does.

Bleh. I stayed up too late last night playing stupid addictive word scramble games on my phone. I'm too tired to blog this morning.

Onward we go. Maybe I'll have things to say later, or tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pinch and Polish

A few weeks ago, my boss let me know that if we didn't pick up several new contracts in the next month or so, then one of my staff was likely to be laid off.

We'd furloughed most of our installations crew already ("furlough" being corporate doublespeak for "non-optional vacation without pay"), and reading between the lines, I got the impression that my boss was holding off even more massive layoffs with everything he had, but that corporate was starting to get more and more insistent.

I believe that the slender thread of hope for us rested on the big proposal I worked back in April and May. While it wasn't big enough to keep us going on its own, if we won that contract, it would give us enough work to keep everyone limping along while we scrambled for another contract or two to make us all actually safe.

I found out yesterday that we didn't win that contract. The company that got it underbid us by a huge margin, so honestly, I think we were doing well to still be in the final round. Though that's not really a consolation to the people who are about to lose their jobs.

I found out today that the layoffs are even more imminent than I expected. I figured they'd drag my boss back in from vacation today to make the decisions (or sign off on them, if corporate decided to get the bit in their teeth and do it for him) and then it would take about two weeks to push the paperwork through. But apparently the decisions have already been made, as a contingency. So most likely the layoffs will happen at the end of this week or the beginning of next.

Layoffs always suck, no matter which side of them you're on. I'm very slightly comforted by the fact that it wasn't my call -- no one asked me which of my staff to sacrifice. I'm feeling miserable for those who are about to be dropped, and relieved that my job is fairly secure, along with a healthy chunk of survivor's guilt.

Though for that matter, if corporate got the bit in its teeth, there's a small but nonzero chance that I won't be one of the survivors -- we recently promoted one of my staff with the intention of training her to take over some of my functions, so it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility that corporate looked at the bottom lines and decided to lay me off and leave it to her to put the pieces back together. I don't think that's the way my boss would go, if they gave him a choice, but corporate does not appreciate me the way he does, and they've done that kind of thing before.

I don't deal with the financial stuff, so I don't know how many people we'll have to lose -- but I do know that we only have about ten contracts at the moment, and half of those are only employing about two people each. (We usually have around fifteen contracts, each of which supports about five people.) I also know that several of those are going to dry up and blow away at the end of the fiscal year. So, layoffs now or not, if we don't get some substantial contracts in here in the next couple of months, the whole office could dry up and blow away before the end of the year.

Might be time for me to polish my resume, and start considering options.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Can Haz Day Off?

We had a good weekend, but it alternated weirdly between frantic and dragging.

Saturday morning, once Matt was up, we packed up and went down to Yorktown Beach. There was some kind of festival going on, so it was more crowded than I'd hoped and we had to park a couple of blocks from the beach. But once we got there, the beach itself wasn't too bad, and we found a nice spot for our stuff. The kids had a great time splashing in the water and playing in the sand. I think Penny collected every shell fragment and rock she could see, and Alex exhibited his usual no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, show-no-fear approach to the water.

We were only there for an hour and a half, though -- by that time, Penny was done and I was starting to feel slightly crispy around the edges (though weirdly, when we got home we discovered that it was Matt and not me who'd developed a slight burn).

We didn't do much that afternoon, though we went to TGI Fridays for dinner. We hadn't been there since before Penny's diabetes diagnosis -- at first because they offer no nutrition information, and later because I was on a diet. But I thought I could work around the diet, and we have more experience with the whole estimating-carbs thing, so we gave it a try.

I talked seriously with Penny about trying to limit her carbs, because typically when we go out to eat she wants a cheeseburger and fries, and the combination of fatty fries and pure white bread bun just drives her blood sugar through the roof, sometimes for several days. So she decided to try the kids' portion of ribs, and I muscled her into having carrots and dip for her side order...

She loved the ribs. By the time she'd gotten to the second rib, she was sucking the bones like a pro. And she's a sucker for ranch dressing, so she didn't complain about the carrots, either. Matt and I estimated the carb load and crossed our fingers... and voila! her blood sugar was back in range by bedtime! It popped up a little for breakfast on Sunday, but came right back down by lunch. Wahey! I'm so glad to have found another restaurant option for her!

We didn't have anything on the schedule for Sunday, and after the past few weekends of craziness, I thought at first that I'd enjoy having nothing to do, but by the time Alex went down for his nap, I was getting stir-crazy. Matt and I talked about taking the kids to see Toy Story 3, but when Alex woke up, he was in a bit of a Mood. So Matt suggested that I take Penny to the movie by myself, but when I suggested it to her, she was decidedly lukewarm on the proposition, which kind of killed it.

Eventually, Matt loaded up the old Godzilla movie on Netflix and Penny got sucked into that, and while that was running, I texted Braz, so his circus came over (for the third weekend in a row, heh) and we all had hot dogs for dinner while the kids ran and shrieked and generally entertained themselves.

After they left, we got the kids to bed and made lunches for today and collapsed on the couch to watch Leverage.

Now it's Monday morning, and I feel like I need a day off to recover from my weekend. Alas, this week actually looks like it might be sort of busy at work, at least the first few days. At least next Monday is a holiday!

Friday, June 25, 2010

What Day Is It?

So I'd just gotten to work and sat down to write a blog entry, and I was dithering on boringly about the plans we may or may not have for the weekend (the point being that we don't have any solid plans -- maybe the beach Saturday, maybe hanging out with Braz and Co. on Sunday) when I remembered, Oh SHIT, Penny was supposed to have an Art Day with my brother today!

I had, of course, dropped her off at daycare as usual.

I jumped up from my desk and headed for the parking lot, fumbling for my phone as I went. Better call the daycare and let them know I'm coming. No, wait, maybe I should call John first, in case he's already on his way up here to get her? And that's when I remembered that I was also supposed to have sent him the directions to my office.

Well... crap. If he doesn't know how to get here... how was he going to find the place?

By this point, I'm pulling out of the parking lot. I dial my brother's cell. It rings several times, and then my sister-in-law answers. "Hey," I say, "Is John still asleep?"

"Yeah, he's still sleeping."

"I'm sorry. I forgot all about Penny's Art Day, and I was supposed to send him directions and didn't, and... um... if he's still asleep, is he still planning on it?"

"Hang on, he just woke up. Let me put him on."


"Hey, John. Sorry to wake you up, but I completely forgot about Penny's Art Day."

"...Today's Friday?"

If I'd been the only one to forget, I'd have run back up to daycare and picked her up; if John had been the only one to forget, I'd have called and they'd just have started a bit late. If Penny had remembered, I'm pretty sure she would've made sure I hadn't forgotten.

But since all of us forgot, John and I decided to just let it slide, and we'll reschedule Art Day for sometime in August, after he and Sam are back from their vacation.

Well, at least I'm awake now!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Lots of little things to be happy about, today:

The AC was fixed. The guys showed up a bit before 3, replaced a capacitor, and were gone before 3:30. It took until after dinner for the house to actually cool back down, but as soon as I could feel the cold air blowing from the vents, I felt better. The brain is a funny thing, ain't it?

* * *

I updated my iPhone's OS last night to iOS 4. Multitasking doesn't function on the 3G (I wasn't actually expecting it to; the 3G has a lot less memory, and multitasking is, by definition, something of a hog) but I finally figured out this morning how to get the feature I wanted most, which is the spring-loaded folders. Now I can cluster all my books/book-reading apps together, and all the games, and all the useful-but-seldom-used utilities together and still have them all on the same page, and getting to them is two taps instead of several swipes.

And it's not new to this OS, but while I was exploring, I finally figured out how to get Caps Lock to function. (I knew the possibility was there, but it wouldn't work for me. Apparently, there's a switch in the settings to turn the ability on and off that I'd never noticed before. I don't know why they'd have made it "off" by default, though.)

I'm still considering an Android for my next phone, though. I love my iPhone to pieces, but I'd really like to be able to get calls and text messages while I'm at work. I would totally upgrade to the iPhone 4 if I could ditch AT&T for Verizon. Are you listening, Apple?! I missed a message yesterday setting up lunch with friends, and it made me sad. More critically, Penny's caregivers tend to try my cell phone first when they need to get in touch with me, and if my phone actually worked, I could get into the habit of carrying it around with me so I'd be available. So I'm looking at going Android for the next two years, at least. (But is there a PVZ app for Android?! I might have to keep the iPhone around just for that!)

* * *

I finished the first round of edits on the story I've been working last night. I want to give it another polish before I send it out, but if I don't manage it, at least I've got something to send.

* * *

And just this morning I learned that Adin, who's looking to move to this area, got a job! Now she just has to find someone to rent her current house. Anyone looking to move to Richmond?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Last night, as we were going to bed, Matt said, "It's really stuffy in the kids' rooms. Penny's room is really hot. You don't think the AC is dying again, do you?"

I said, "Nah. Penny's room is always the hottest in the house, and it's been so hot the last couple of days, the AC probably just can't keep up, but I don't think it's broken."

On my way down the stairs this morning, I thought, Huhn. I'm actually comfortable and not slightly chilly. Then I thought, That doesn't bode well.

I found our thermometer (one of those plastic Galileo thermometers, but it's been accurate and reliable for nearly 10 years, which is more than I can say for any other thermometer I've ever had). I carried it out of the dining room and into the living room, and watched as the 76-deg bubble sank to the bottom... It was nearly 80 degrees in the living room. We keep the thermostat set at about 74, and my weather widget told me it was 78 outside. Okay, granted that the AC has trouble keeping up with really extreme temperatures, but four degrees shouldn't have been too difficult for it.

I pulled out the Wii Fit and started on my exercises. About halfway through, I noticed that the 80-deg bubble was slowly sinking. By the time I was done (and my morning exercise routine is less than 20 minutes) the 80-deg bubble was nestled at the bottom of the thermometer, putting the room's temperature somewhere between 82 and 84.

The AC is definitely broken. Sigh.

I've called the repair service, and the dispatcher told me I'm on the docket for today. She's supposed to call me at work and give me a 30-minute warning before they come over to the house.

Which means I really don't want to be too far from my desk today. The lows for the next couple of days are uncomfortably warm, and the highs are over 100. So I'm postponing my trip to the gym until after the AC is fixed, and if they don't call by about 12:30, I'll want to pack up and head home anyway, because I'm hosting a conference call at 1:30, and it will be easier for me to be there already than to hope they don't call while I'm in the meeting.

Oy. Gonna be a fun day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Just Not Working

My entire list of tasks for work this week is already complete. Well, I've got a few meetings left to go, and about an hour's worth of online training to complete. But we did a software delivery yesterday, and there are no more deliveries. No more audits, not even any paperwork. I'm going to be scrounging makework and doing things that look like work but really aren't for the rest of the week. Next week is not looking much busier. I'm just not working.

In the short term, that can be nice, but we've got another contract that's ending next week, and three more that will wrap up by the end of September, and we've only picked up two new contracts in the last year. If we don't get some work in here by then, there will be some massive layoffs because there's just no work.

I've got a story I should be editing so I can turn it in by the submission deadline next week. I finished the draft last week, then set it aside while I worked some edits to the one that's going to be published in August. The intention was to let the story rest and settle while I got into full-on editing mode, and then come back to it. But since I turned in those edits last Thursday, I haven't been able to work on this story for more than a sentence or two at a time. Some of that has been circumstantial, but most of it is simply that I haven't made myself do it. I'm just not working.

I was unable to summon much enthusiasm for my morning Wii Fit workout this morning. I dragged myself through it, but it's like it could tell my heart wasn't in it; the minutes-exercised calories-burned meters dragged up so slowly that I gave up and quit as soon as I'd hit the minimum threshold I've set for myself. And today's allergy shot day, so I won't be going to the Y, either. I'm just not working (out).

I found out over the weekend that a friend is getting a divorce. His wife has been cheating on him, and though he's willing to go to counseling and try to heal whatever rift is between them, she told him that she doesn't think counseling will help. Self-defeating though it is, she thinks it's just not working.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And the Living Is Easy

Weekend: Awesome.

My noon meeting for Friday was canceled, so Penny and I met up with Matt and a bunch of others from his office for lunch at Wasabi.

Saturday afternoon, we went over to Braz's to hang out and swim, and then everyone came back to our place for dinner. I've been having a yen for Mexican lately, so I'd dumped a bag of chicken breasts, several peppers, and a large onion in a tequila-lime marinade. Braz and Matt grilled that up, and we set out refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream, black olives, and salsa, and everyone got homemade fajitas/burritos/whatever you want to call tasty foodstuffs rolled up into tortillas. And then we had watermelon for dessert. It exactly scratched the food itch I'd been having.

Sunday was Father's Day, so the kids and I made breakfast in bed for Matt before he opened his cards and gifts. "They" gave him a t-shirt with a photo of them on it, and a pair of Nerf Marauder swords. The kids, of course, fell in love with the swords right away; I can tell I'm going to have to break down and buy them a set, too.

At lunch, we shared some ice cream cupcakes from Maggie Moo's. This was poor planning on my part, I admit -- hyped up on sugar, Alex went willingly to his crib for his nap, but laid there and talked to himself for a solid hour and a half, until we gave up and got him up.

But while he was down, I did some rearranging in Penny's room. When she moved in there almost three years ago, I'd put a standing towel rack in there to hang her clothes on, since she couldn't reach the bar in her closet. But lately, she's been wearing clothes from her closet anyway -- and the towel rack doesn't adequately hold her wardrobe. So I moved everything to the closet, packing up a big box of things that are too small, and told Penny that we'd get her a stool to last until she's tall enough to comfortably reach.

But she demonstrated this morning that while she's still a couple of inches shy of being able to reach the bar directly, she can stretch up to reach the hangers well enough to get dressed. She'll need a stool for putting clothes away, but I didn't jump the gun on moving her to the closet too much.

After Alex got up from his not-a-nap, we went down to my parents' for a family Father's Day meal. Alex having not napped, we were braced for disaster, but it never occurred. He got a little angsty a couple of times, but he wasn't so draggingly exhausted that every single mishap turned into full-blown Drama. He's far from ready to give up his naps, but I think he'll make that transition earlier and smoother than Penny did.

My folks served BLTs and sweet summer corn on the cob, and we wrapped it up with watermelon (yes, again) and ice cream. I ate enough for any two people, and it was wonderful. I love BLTs, especially in the summer, with real fresh tomatoes, and with corn on the cob that's crisp and sweet...  Heaven. Sheer heaven. Fresh produce has always been the very best thing about summer, from my perspective.

I hope your Father's Day weekend was as good as mine!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Shhhh... I'm writing this Thursday night and scheduling it to post Friday morning.

That's because I'll have Penny up and about and distracting me Friday morning, and I very much doubt I'll be able to get much done then.

On the plus side, my meeting that was scheduled for 12-1 got canceled, so aside from a doctor's appointment at 9:45 and a document I need to review that will hopefully come to me early in the day, I'm mostly just puttering, as far as work goes. Which is nice, because it means that, come lunchtime, Penny and I can head over to Matt's office to visit for a bit, gather some folks and go out to lunch, and enjoy it without having to worry that there's something critical waiting for me.

So that's Friday. I mean, "today."

Saturday, the plan is to go over to Braz's in the afternoon and take advantage of his pool, then schluff back here afterwards and let the kids go crazy while we make dinner. (Because going out to eat is nice, but with this many kids in tow, it's easier to eat at someone's house, so the little ones can get up and run around when they're done and we don't have to cut everything short just because someone's feeling cranky.)

Sunday is Father's Day, and we're having dinner with my family to celebrate. Mom and Dad are making BLTs, John and Sam are bringing side dishes (who pays attention to sides when you've got summer tomatoes and bacon to hand, for petesake???), and we're bringing dessert (watermelon and ice cream. And maybe some berries, if they're still on sale).

In short, it's looking like an awesome weekend. I'm looking forward to it immensely.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

First No More

Today is the last day of school. When I pick her up at 12:30, she will officially be a second grader.

Dammit. How did this:

turn into this:

so damned fast?

At any rate, I'm working from home with her this afternoon, and then tomorrow I'm working from home all day. I'll have her with me in the morning, and then after my lunchtime meeting, she's going in to hang out with Matt at his office for the afternoon. (Yes, it might make sense to take her in to Matt before my lunchtime meeting, except that I'm planning to hang around and say hi to various folks, and I've promised Penny that if she's very good while I'm on the meeting, we might get a treat on our way in to Matt's office.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Patentable Idea

Hey, Internets! You know what I want right now? I will tell you! I will tell you for free, Internets, and then you can make it for me and I would even pay you for it, after giving you my awesome idea for free. That is how much I want this thing:

I want a device, approximately the size of a cell phone. It could be a little bigger, if it had to, but it wouldn't need a display or a keypad or anything. The cell phone would contain the standard internal workings for each of the major wireless carriers (ideally, actually, it would be modular, so that you could build the device to spec for each customer, but that's not a requirement, it's something that would be nice to have). It would also contain some memory -- it wouldn't need much, just a few MB, really.

I would rent this device for... a time. A few days, maybe a week. And I would carry it around with me, like I do my cell phone. And every 5 or 10 minutes, the device would check its signal strength (for phone and data) for each of its chips, and record that in memory. And at the end of my rental period, I would bring the device back to its home base, and plug it in, and be presented with a graph, charting signal strength for each of the major carriers (or the carriers I chose to track, if it's a modular device) across the period of my rental. For special bells and whistles, I suppose the device and its resulting graph could do other things, like tell me the device's physical location at each reading, but that would take a bit more memory, and anyway, it's not all that necessary: I know where I've been and approximately when, over a week's span. And if I were renting this device with the specific purpose of trying to make sure that I'm going to get a cell plan that will work everywhere that I'm going to be, then I would be extra certain to make a note of when I'm at a place that I'd especially want the phone to work.

'Cause here's the thing: I love my iPhone. I really, really do. And in 9 out of 10 locations that matter to me, my signal strength is just fine. But that tenth location, Internets? That tenth location is my office, where I spend something like half my waking hours. And when I'm in my office, I get no signal. About once a week or so, on particularly clear days, sometimes signal will eke through long enough for me to receive a text message. But it doesn't last long enough for me to send a reply. If I want signal when I'm at work, I have go to out to the lobby and wait five minutes or so for the phone to realize it's found a (weak) signal again, and then make my call or send my message.

I've been living with it, because I do love my iPhone, and anyway I had a 2-year contract with AT&T. But that two years is ending in about a month. And the new iPhone 4G is shiny and all, but it didn't blow me away. There are other smartphone options now. Some of the Android phones look pretty slick. Braz has an EVO 4G, and it's very pretty.

So I've been asking around my office, and have gathered that T-Mobile's signal sucks in the building, but the people with Verizon and Sprint are both pretty happy and can make calls inside and everything. Though they aren't making them in my office, which is not only windowless, but it doesn't even have a wall on the exterior of the building. I'm in a tiny little shielded cinderblock cave -- which will be awesome if ever there's a tornado or a radiation leak or something, but as far as cell signal goes, pretty much blows chunks.

And even if I can get those people to bring their Verizon and Sprint phones into my office so I can see signal bars there -- then I'm faced with wondering how their signal is at the places I spend the other half of my waking hours. Like my house, say. Or the gym. Or my parents' house. How about down at KT's? How about elsewhere along my daily route? It sure would suck if I got a flat tire halfway to Alex's daycare and didn't have a signal on my phone to call AAA with. And I'm pretty sure my officemates aren't going to loan me their phones for a few days so I can check it out.

Why doesn't this device exist, Internets? Or does it? Help me out, here, Internets!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Mondays always feel insanely rushed and busy, and then I get to the end of the day, and almost nothing has actually been done. And looking at my schedule, I fear today and Wednesday are going to be similar: both days have meetings at 11, and then again around 2 or 2:30. Which, admittedly, is not a particularly onerous meeting schedule, but it does serve to break the day down into chunks.

I might be able to get things done in the mornings, before the first meeting. But after the first meeting, I'll need to go and get my allergy shots (today) or hit the gym (Wednesday), getting back just in time to set up for the afternoon meeting. Both afternoon meetings promise to be on the long side, so once they're done, I'll only have an hour or so left in the day. Obviously, I can get some work done then, but I won't be able to settle into any really big projects.

Thursday, I'll be working at home in the afternoon, taking Penny after her last day of school is done. And Friday I'm working at home all day -- once again, with Little Miss Distraction hanging around.

I guess it's just not going to be my week for big projects.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Did Anyone Get the License Plate for that Weekend?

...It just went so fast.

Saturday afternoon, Braz came over to help Matt fix our grill. Since he had the girls with him, the kids played and they stayed for dinner.

And while the boys were out getting replacement parts, Penny's teacher called to give me her end-of-year summary of Penny's progress. The summary of the summary: awesome. Penny's reading on a fourth-grade level, with comprehension on the second or third grade level (she said it was normal for comprehension to lag behind a bit), and her only real difficulty is that she's sometimes very easily distracted. Her math abilities aren't quite as solid as her reading, but she's not lagging behind the pack there, either. Her teacher said the best improvement was actually in her writing -- somewhere around late winter, something finally clicked and she started throwing out fantastically imaginative sentences and stories. Matt and I had noticed this ourselves at home -- Penny took pride in telling me the silly and descriptive sentences she came up with for her spelling notebook. So though there's another week of school left to go, she's pretty much finished first grade and Matt and I can feel proud of her for her growth and accomplishments.

Sunday, I took Penny to Chuck-E-Cheese for a classmate's birthday party. We wound up being half an hour early (I tend to overcompensate for traffic when I'm taking the interstate, and then there wound up being none) so we walked two doors down to the bookstore. I found the next few books in the How To Train Your Dragon series, which Penny's really enjoyed, and she browsed for a bit, herself.

Then we went over to the party. I haven't been in a Chuck-E-Cheese since I was ten, I think, and Penny's never been to one. She was a little worried, at first, that she wouldn't know how to play the games, but she got sucked right into the hamster-tube tunnels, and then completely lost her little mind when she was given her share of game tokens and realized that the tickets the machine was spitting out could be exchanged for STUFF. It was a little like watching a documentary: Evolution of a Casino Zombie.

We did something a little different for her food, there, too. Like most kids' birthday venues, they served pizza. I was bracing myself for a 24-48 period of high blood sugars when a friend at work mentioned to me that she really liked the cotton candy at Chuck-E-Cheese. And I got to thinking -- this party was 2:30-4:30, right across snacktime and in no way anywhere near an actual mealtime. So why not see if she'd be willing to trade pizza for cotton candy? Cotton candy, being pure sugar, would hit her blood sugar hard -- but it wouldn't linger in her system for a day or longer, the way pizza does. I ran it by Matt, and he agreed. I offered the deal to Penny, and she took it: she gets cotton candy far less often than she gets pizza. And even better, when I actually got the cotton candy, it came in a huge single-serving bag (volume is nice -- it meant she didn't have to feel cheated) and had nutrition information already printed on it. One slice of pizza: about 45g of carbohydrates. Huge bag of cotton candy: 15g. Yeah, I think this was a good deal.

While we were at the party, Matt took Alex over to Braz's to swim, and then afterward, everyone came back to our house for the cookout. By the time Penny and I got home, everyone was in full swing.

Braz made brazburgers and stuffed chicken with cheese and apples, and we had chips and baked beans and corn on the cob and ice cream. I'd bought a watermelon, too, but everyone was too stuffed to want any.

You'd think that having that many kids together would turn things into an incredible mess, but I think there's an upper limit on the amount of mess you can achieve as the number of kids goes up. And having so many kids helping to clean up made it go much faster. And as a bonus, since all the kids had someone to play with, the adults actually got to talk to each other in more than ten-second bursts! (Which is not to say that we weren't frequently interrupted. But I think the average got dialed back to every 30 seconds instead of every 10.)

You know what's really awesome, though? The sight of four girls, ages four through eight, all curled up on the couch with books.

And the boys looking like they'd really like to join them.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We're All Mad Here

I've been writing like crazy, the last couple of weeks. Almost every night, I take my laptop upstairs, settle on the bed, and write for about an hour and forty-five minutes (the length of the mood playlist, and not incidentally, just about the duration of my ability to concentrate on one thing).

I've been making a special push because there's a submission deadline at the end of the month that I want to make. But whatever the reason, it's been working out well for me: my word count has been steadily increasing, and last night I broke 1500 words, and got (I think) within shooting distance of the end of the story. (I sure hope so, because my goal was to finish it by the end of this week, and I've almost hit the word count ceiling as it is. I expect the story to shrink in editing rather than grow, but I don't want to have to cut too much.)

At any rate, my point is that I've been writing like a madwoman. And, possibly, turning into a madwoman, if my dreams last night are any indication... Seriously, did I need waste precious sleep-time on a dream about participating in some variety of tractor race or contest, and then more time on trying to find a Diet Coke to make a rum and coke with, and then panicking because I'd accidentally made the rum and coke with regular Coke? Seriously?! SRSLY?

I don't even like rum and coke! Combining soda with alcohol reminds me too much of college and cheap bad alcohol. My mixed drinks of choice are fruity frozen girl drinks or a bloody mary.

And yet, here I am wasting more time on it. Sigh.

Apparently, I am too brain-drained to function today.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stormy Weather

I haven't had much work to do at work, lately. I've been cleaning up things that have been allowed to languish in disrepair, and straightening up paperwork, and dusting off old projects -- but none of these are high-priority tasks. To be perfectly honest, for the last month or more, I could have handled all the really critical elements of my job (and I'll even include attending meetings in that lump) and still taken about half my time off, if I had that much vacation saved up.

And if there's not much work for me, there's not much work for my minions, either. (They're technically someone else's minions now, actually, because of stupid corporate paperwork nonsense, but I'm still doing everything but the timesheet paperwork.)

I know that at least two of our project managers are scraping for chargeable time, too. We had to furlough several engineers last month. (Furlough is basically forced unpaid leave -- it's only one step short of laying them off entirely, except that if we get work again, we don't have to go through the corporate paperwork hoops to re-hire them.)

Yesterday, my boss told me outright that we're going to have to lose one of them if we don't pick up, not just one, but several good-sized projects in the next couple of months, and he tacitly implied that the chances of that are... not the best.

My boss is Mr. Optimism -- when we first saw a reduction in work about six months ago, he was not very concerned about it. "This is a normal business downturn, it happens, we'll recover." So for him to say things are looking grim, is... pretty grim indeed.

Now, I'm fairly certain my job is secure, at least unless the entire office folds. QA and CM are required functions, and I'm the only one on the staff who's fully trained for both. Add in the fact that I'm also the lowest-paid manager in the office, and I'm probably one of the safest employees here. But I'm worried about my minions.

It could be a stormy summer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I realized something a bit odd yesterday.

About two years ago, I was having these horrible mood swings. I mean, really, really horrible. I seriously contemplated running away on several occasions. At the worst point of the downswings, I was utterly convinced that my marriage and every friendship I had was failing, and the only reason I hadn't already been abandoned was that everyone was too nice and couldn't figure out how to tell me to just fuck off, already.

In the upswings, I knew those feelings were irrational; that I wasn't perfect but neither was anyone else, and that my friends and family loved me well enough.

It got to where I could recognize an oncoming downswing by the preceding few days of increasing restlessness. I would try to warn Matt that it was coming, and pile my most depressing books by the bed, hoping to bleed off the depression under controlled circumstances.

Eventually, I finally realized that the downswing was linked into my menstrual cycle. That wasn't as obvious as you might think it should be, because the birth control I went on after Alex was born did strange things to me. It turned out I was still having the same monthly hormonal cycles, but only having an actual period every sixty to ninety days. There were also some other confusing factors, like what I still believe was a mild case of post-partum depression, and the stress of trying to adjust to a second kid and a new diabetic, and the additional stress of an insanely tight schedule.

I wound up in therapy for a short while, until I got frustrated with the therapist's obsession with my weight and my sex life. After I realized it was linked to my cycle, I complained about it to my OB, and he made a few suggestions. Those helped a little. The passage of time helped more, as the PPD passed and I adjusted somewhat to the stress factors.

The last six months or so, I've been feeling pretty good most of the time. No crazy crying jags. No sudden impulses to pack a bag and flee forever. Occasional ups and downs, of course, but that's just life. Nothing really out of the ordinary.

Except that for someone who's always been an introvert, I've been going through these irregular phases of not just wanting social interaction, but craving it.

I'm in the middle of one, right now. I almost made myself crazy this past weekend because I wanted to go out and do something, but Matt's suggestions of taking the kids to the library or park weren't doing it for me. I clung to the hope of Rock Band Night on Monday, only to be disappointed when it fell through. Another thing fell through for later this week, and I was beginning to actually feel upset about it -- when I realized that this restlessness is exactly like the restlessness that preceded those emotional downswings.

Apparently, I've replaced the emotional nadir of PMS with a driving, insatiable need for social contact.

Hey, it's progress.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rough Start

Today did not start out so well.

I woke up at five, and then instead of getting up and doing some extra workouts or something, tried to go back to sleep, which turned out to be a mistake, as I then spent an hour having weird dreams highlighting my inadequacy as a mother, a wife, a friend, and an employee. Whee!

Alex spent the whole morning in what Matt and I call a "delicate mood," meaning he's bouncing from perfectly cheerful to sobbing on the floor at the drop of a hat. Though today, his downswing wasn't "sobbing," it was "screaming." He's Angry, and he doesn't mind letting us know it!

I ran into every possible delay on the morning commute: school busses, cars in front of me doing ten under the speed limit, the freaking train that I haven't hit for months...

My least favorite meeting of the week is today. And when I got to work, I found that it had been moved to an hour and a half earlier than usual. Which is actually neither bad nor good, as it didn't interfere with anything and it's still the same length. But I'm a delicate flower who hates having my schedule mucked with, anyway.

And it looks like the company's network folks have blocked Google Chat again, so I'm back to twitter and emails for communication.

Despite all this, I'm actually in a fairly reasonable mood. Mostly, I'm just feeling tired. I'd say I want to go back to bed, except I really don't need any more of those dreams. Guess it's time to hit the coffee.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pool Party

Summer's officially here: we blew up our wading pool and set it up on the deck this weekend.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Into the Weekend

Short Week is Short! Almost time for the weekend -- I just have to get through today.

I've got a meeting at lunchtime, which means I need to shift my trip to the gym. I can go before the meeting (I'd need to leave the office at about 10:15) or afterward (I won't be back until 2:30). Given how crowded the gym is when I'm go at 11 instead of 11:30, I'm tempted to leave it until after the meeting. But either way, it's going to throw off my perception of time for the rest of the day.

And then after work, Matt and I are going to pick Alex up and head down to John and Sam's -- John is giving Penny an "art lesson" this afternoon, and they invited us to stay for dinner when we pick her up. Which I'm looking forward to.

I don't know if anything is happening tomorrow during the day. Matt's got his D&D game tomorrow evening -- I should get in some solid writing once I've got the kids to bed. (Note to self: let Matt get up with the kids Saturday morning, so he can sleep in on Sunday.) There's nothing on our calendar for Sunday, either.

I'm sure we'll figure something out. It can't possibly be as calm as it looks.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


According to daycare reports, Alex refused to run around during playground yesterday -- just sat down on the sidewalk and didn't move. When they took his shoes off, they found his right pinky-toe was red and swollen. Matt checked it, and he can wiggle the toe, so it's not broken, but he doesn't want us touching it.

The shoes aren't too small for him (if anything, they're a smidge big), so that's not the problem. It's possible that someone stepped on his foot, or dropped something on it. Or a piece of mulch got into his shoe and rubbed it raw. Or there was something in the sock. We have no idea.

I took his shoes and socks off when they got home last night and wouldn't let him put them back on. (Alex is a very shoes-on kind of kid, so he was pretty grumpy about this for a while.) He sat on the kitchen floor while I was cooking dinner and refused to get up and walk into the living room to watch Sesame Street like usual, though he got up at one point to put something in the trash, and when dinner was ready, he walked to his chair normally.

This morning, his toe looked normal again. So we'll have to see what happens, I guess. If it happens again today, I guess we'll need to get him a new pair of shoes and hope that helps.

As long as I'm talking about Alex anyway, he's acquired a new vocabulary word: fantastic! You know, I had my doubts about this season of Sesame Street, because some of the words and themes seemed a little advanced for the toddler set, but apparently I was H. W. Wrongy Wrongenstein.

Alex speaks very clearly for a two-year-old, and though I credit much of that to a constant stream of demonstration from his sister, he's also all about the fifty-cent words: humongous, miniature, exquisite, fantastic -- and he uses them correctly. (He hasn't mastered "metamorphosis" yet, though. Just a few too many sibilants and syllables for his mouth to handle just yet.) He's all about the science: "Trees have bark!" he tells me, nearly every morning. "Do we have bark? No, we have skin! Trees have leaves! Dinosaurs eat leaves! Do we eat leaves? Yes! I like lettuce!" (He does, too.) He's all about counting and shapes: "Triangles have three sides! Hexagons have six sides! Octagons have eight sides!" The other night, he held up a piece of chicken and told me it looked like a fish. He knows his letters and numbers and loves to look at books. It took him mere weeks to get the colors down, and now he's impatient with color questions. He's pushing hard at comparatives (e.g., bigger/smaller) and starting to get the hang of them.

Now, you will never hear me say that Penny is not smart. She's reading on a 3rd-grade level and always seems to have her nose in a book.

But while it's too soon to tell for certain, it's entirely possible that Alex may be something a bit out of the common way, as far as brains go.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Oh, for the love of Pete... I've seen at least five hysterical articles today about AT&T's new data plan pricing.

The worst of the lot included a little chart to show you how much more the new plan was going to cost you:

This chart is what really made me crazy. The math in it is completely whopperjawed, so I'm going to indulge myself in a little rant, here.

Item 1: The "Old Data Plan" didn't have tethering as an option, as near as I could tell. Where did this number even come from?

Item 2: Let's indulge in just a little bit of elementary economics, for a moment: The "price per MB" line is only valid if you use exactly the maximum amount of data allowed. Now, let's ignore the tethering options for a moment. I went and looked up my bills for the last two years (I signed up with AT&T when I got my iPhone in July '08) and the most data I've used in a month is 26MB. And that was a significant outlier in a month I did some traveling and spent a lot of time with my phone as my primary internet source. Most months, I come in around 7MB. But let's go with the outlier. Let's even double it: 50MB per month.

If I'm using 50MB a month, then on the old data plan, I'm spending 60 cents per MB of data. On the new "Data Plus" plan, it's 30 cents per MB of data. Boy, that sure looks like savings for me! In fact, though the price per MB changes as the number of MB used changes, you're still saving about half the original cost if your usage comes in at less than 200MB per month.

Now, if you expect to use more than 200MB in a month, you're paying for the 2GB plan, which... still costs less than the original unlimited plan. Number of people who are actually going to end up paying more for (untethered) data plans? NOT. MANY.

Thus endeth the rant.

Now, they are kind of screwing us on the tethering. If you're using your cell phone as your modem, then it's going to be easier to exceed the data limits, because you're no longer hitting web pages that have been optimized for cell phone use, and you're downloading bigger things for use on your bigger computer. And charging extra for tethering without giving you an extended data package kind of blows, too. Is there any kind of extra load on their system when you're tethering instead of just surfing and downloading things via your phone? It seems to me that there shouldn't be, but I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the technology, so those are words I'm willing to eat, if someone explains to me that yes, really, there are extra costs that at least partially justify an additional $20 per month for tethered dataflow as opposed to standard data flow.

But. BUT. Tethering really shouldn't be most peoples' go-to option anyway. Cell phone internet use is slow, even with 3G. Even with 4G. It's improving, but it's still crap compared to regular broadband. So mostly the people who are relying on cell phone tethering are, I assume, only using it when they can't put their finger on a broadband connection. Business travelers, I would guess, make up a solid majority of these people (and also a solid majority of those who are in danger of popping the data cap. Cell tethering is not going to be a viable option for, say, gaming). In which case, if you are not making your companies shell out for the cost and/or writing it off on your taxes as a business expense, you are an idiot anyway.

So, all in all, my opinion of the new data packages?

It doesn't matter. Because I'm on an iPhone. That awesome math I did for you earlier? It's a fake. I don't pay $30 a month for my data package, because the iPhone package I got is completely separate from the standard AT&T price structure. And I have no idea whether that's the price package they have to stick with when my 2-year contract is up in July, or if they make me move to one of their standard packages. But I might go with a standard package anyway, if I can, because I have never exceeded 200 minutes a month in talk time, and or 30MB a in data, and I could save a bundle.

Planning Ahead

Two and a half weeks until school is out for the summer, and then Penny will start daycare summer camp. She's already looking forward to it -- she loves field trips, and they've got at least two field trips planned every week. Most weeks have three or even four.

I'm looking forward to it, too -- having both kids at daycare means that we can leave the house a bit earlier and I can get to work before 8 instead of at 8:30. Having an extra half-hour or so to play with in my schedule really makes a difference.

Of course, it adds some extra difficulty, too -- we've got to pack breakfast, lunch, and snack for Penny (instead of just lunch) and her favorite lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) has to drop off the menu, because the daycare isn't equipped to isolate kids with peanut allergies the way the school is. And I have to provide carb counts and worksheets, etc. And keep track of which days are field trip days, because those meals have to be able to be eaten cold.

A new wrinkle this year, and we'll see how it goes: the packed lunches the daycare is providing for field trip days is ordered and prepackaged, rather than prepared by the daycare. So they should come pre-portioned and have nutrition information. Which means that we might be able to let Penny eat those, if she wants, and if they aren't too insanely high in carbs.

All this is a good thing, of course -- we love it when she's able to match the other kids' activities as closely as possible -- but it's some extra juggling for me as I make up the schedules. My task for this week is to go ahead and draw up the template for the daily menu slips to include in her lunchbox, and to sketch in notes about which days are going to require a "field trip" lunch and/or snack, and which days are movie days (if it goes like last year, we're sending a diet soda in with her, because the theater provides full-sugar Sprite), and which days are swim days (not really diabetes/food-related, but it's a convenient place for me to make the note so we remember to send in her swimsuit/towel/sandals).

I'm also thinking about pre-planning some family "field trips" for this summer. I spent all last summer promising Penny I'd take her to the beach, and I didn't get my act together on it until the day before school started -- and it was already too cool to actually swim. So I'd like to plan a beach day or two for this summer (possibly in conjunction with Ray and his folks, or Braz and Adin and their assortment of kids). And I'd like to plan a day or two for Busch Gardens, though whether that's a whole-family deal or a Penny-and-Daddy thing, I'm not sure yet (because if I'm going to be looking after Alex while Matt and Penny ride roller coasters together, it would be more comfortable to do that at home). And of course there's the Fourth of July and the Summer Bash and our trip to Chicago in July, and August will have Penny's birthday and a trip to Atlanta for my cousin's wedding...

Somehow, the summer is already full.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I think that had to be the Best Long Weekend Ever.

I went down to KT's on Friday, and hung out with her and Jess until Kevin came home from work, and then KT and I drove down to VA Beach, where her stepmom's beach cabin is. (Which is not actually on the beach, but backed up against one of the area's gazillion rivers tributaries.) We got in and set up with no problems, and then settled in to write.

I managed to plough through some spots that have been hanging up on me, which was good. I wasn't nearly as prolific as KT, but I managed to get some solid work in, and even started working out details for a plot that had been hiding from me. We walked down to the beach once, and I took pictures and people-watched for half an hour or so while KT rented a bike and rode up and down the boardwalk, and we got caught in the rain on the way back, which would've actually been fun if I hadn't been slightly concerned about my camera. I threw bread to some geese, and watched boats and other craft (like the guy who was standing on a surfboard, paddling it along like a gondola) going by on the river. All in all, we had a great and relaxing two days.

I got back home around 1 on Sunday, just in time to join Matt and the kids in a trip over to Braz's to take advantage of his apartment complex's pool. Adin and her kids were there, too, and though we didn't have the pool entirely to ourselves, the ten of us pretty much dominated it. I got in a good upper-body workout with Alex, whose favorite game for a solid half-hour or so was to jump off the side of the pool into a waiting parent's arms (splashing water mightily in the process, of course) and then demand that we put him back up on the side of the pool to do it again.

Alex has no fear in the water. He sort of gets that he can't swim, but I lost track of the number of times I'd be holding him in the 3-4 foot area, and he'd suddenly twist and fling sideways, trying to escape my grasp. He did the same thing to Matt, too. We started laying groundwork for actual swimming -- holding him in a swimming position and encouraging him to kick.

All six kids had a fantastic time (even Sarah, who swallowed too much water and threw up) -- they played some elaborate game with ever-changing rules in which people were sharks or squids or stingrays or jellyfish, and biting/stinging someone turned them into that kind of animal, with depth boundaries and... I never did quite get the hang of the rules at any given point, but they were splashing and shrieking and giggling and enjoying having Matt and Braz pick them up and dumping them into the water, so it's all good.

We got out of the pool when we started hearing thunder, changed clothes and had a snack, then we all went to La Tolteca for dinner. (Four adults and six kids, five of whom were under the age of 7 -- it's a good thing Tolteca is so family-friendly!) The girls got an extra treat -- they didn't have a single table long enough for all of us, so the adults and the two 2-year-old boys sat at one table, and the four girls got to all share a booth together, away from the grownups. Exciting!

It was oodles of fun, and I hope we have lots more afternoons like that this summer. (We really need to get our grill fixed so we can have everyone over to cook out on the deck after the swimming!)

Monday started out fairly quiet and slow, but after Alex's nap, we went down to visit my parents, and they suggested we all go out to dinner at the County Grill. On our way out of the neighborhood, we spotted my brother coming in to return the car he'd borrowed (they're going on a cross-country road trip soon, and wanted to test out my dad's Prius as being more economical for the drive), so my folks invited him and Sam along. A few phone calls later, the whole family was stashed at the restaurant! We had a great time there, even if I did eat entirely too much (between that and Tolteca, my diet will not be happy with me this week, I predict), and it was a wonderful way to wrap up the long weekend.

Back to work this morning, of course, and my stomach is slightly uggy -- I was worried early this morning about throwing up, but it seems to be improving somewhat. I suspect it's just a delayed reaction to all the greasy/rich food. I'm not too keen on doing work, of course, but at least it's a short week!