Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weeks 50 and 51 and 52 (Final)

Sunday afternoon (final) - So a whole 52 weeks of this experiment has concluded and it kind of felt like it fell apart there at the end. Life threw me for some loops and sometimes I rebounded well, other times I just jumped off the wagon. For chores, for sure. For diet, definitely for sure. Final tally on this three-part week was 449 tasks when normally I would have liked to have had about 200 per week or 600 complete. Let's see if we can do better next week. One part is definitely making sure to document each day, something I slacked quite a bit at there at the end. Ben put himself to bed and took a nap this afternoon so I took advantage of the sunny/rainy (it couldn't decide) afternoon and pulled out the mower and mowed all four lawns, the edger and edged two of the lawns and a rake to rake at the moss. Definitely need to get fertilizer and moss killer. Also trimmed some bushes and pulled some weeds and turned over some of the bark. The yard doesn't look as improved as I wish it did for the work I did, but it also wasn't a lot of work, but still felt good to be out there doing work. Hopefully in time we can get it back on track for this summer (last year was kind of lost) and eventually we won't be the reason none of the neighbors ever worry if they have the worst looking yard on the block.

Friday evening - I realized tonight the significance of this being week 52 - that means I'm a year into the experiment. That said, it's another failure of a week. All heck broke loose this week. There was temporary insanity at work and I thought I was going to have to go find a new job. It was so bad that it made me sick to the point that I stayed home sick on Wednesday. Things righted themselves, but the damage was done, I'd kind of blown off this week, too. le sigh. Oh, and I got addicted to 2048. Like seriously addicted. Like I can't stop playing. Like I went to get the link to put in this article and almost stopped and played a game mid-sentence. If I could play this on my phone, all hope would be lost. Also, my diet has filed for divorce. I cheated on it so bad today, so blatantly, so obviously, rubbed its face in it. You don't want to know, you don't want to know.

Monday afternoon - The first of its kind, a three-week (or possibly four-) accounting. So I've gotten into the habit of using Remember the Milk consistently to make sure I'm getting stuff done. What I have not been consistent in is actually doing stuff, or planning for stuff. I've slacked. I think I need to recommit to a daily check-in to make sure I'm being at least consistent. Walked 2.8 miles today, read from Starters. Did not get up early enough to do any free step before work. 296 completed so far - goal is 400. (Will get more done tonight.)

Thursday evening - This has been an off two weeks. Lori and I were talking about that tonight. We're not sure why, but things have just not been normal, whatever that means. Unless it's a new normal. Not sure. Either way, it's way too late at night for me to still be up considering the poor sleep we've had the last few nights. 222 completed this week - 26 per day to hit 300.

Monday evening - Got a lot done today. Caught up on a bunch of stuff. So if my goal was 200 in one week, I think it's going to be a stretch to get to 300 in two weeks (yes, last week was that bad).  152 completed, 25 per day to hit 300.

Reading - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

Sunday evening - This was a week of stuff that wasn't exactly the type of stuff you put on a to do list, but stuff that threw me way off course all week long. Frustrating to be so far off course. The stuff itself wasn't necessarily frustrating (though some was) but I really feel like a need some time off after this week and weekend.

Wednesday evening - Been too busy lately to pay too much attention to this, and too many surprises that don't make good to-do list items. Way behind.

Monday evening - I feel like I'm going to be hard-pressed to get 200 items done this week. Another day with less done than I'd hoped. (165 to go, 28 per day to hit 200.)

Sunday evening - I started the new week later than I had originally intended. I got in a run (first in a long time) and also discovered, diagnosed and ordered parts for a leaking washing machine. So I got less done than I'd hoped, but I think I can still get there. (188 to go, 27 per day to hit 200)

Book Review: Enclave

Enclave (Razorland Trilogy) by Ann Aguirre

In the world of Enclave, we find a society made up of groups of children and young adults, living underground in subway tunnels, after something has happened to mankind. A rule-and-order based society, they trade with their nearest neighbors and hunt in the tunnels for food. Life is hard, death is a constant threat and most don't make it - the oldest in their tribe is 25 years old.

There is also the threat from "freaks" - zombie-like adults who want to kill and eat them. The exact nature of the calamity that has befallen the planet isn't known, this is just the world they know. Eventually, a group is forced to leave the relative safety of their enclave to travel above ground - a world populated mostly be gangs who are pretty violent.

Enclave doesn't specifically identify its location (that I can recall) until near the end, except to say that it's a U.S. city, but I couldn't help feel like it would be at home in the Enemy universe, only a slightly more sanitized version. Enclave is tamer. Not boring, but a little calmer, a little less stressful, a little less fearful. And I'm fine with that. I'm curious to see how the rest of the trilogy pans out.

Enclave (

Friday, March 28, 2014

Feed Sift (03/28/2014)

Here's five things I've found recently that I wanted to share...


LIFEHACKER -- How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night) - though I must be doing it wrong.


ANDY SERNOVITZ -- How many people DIDN'T hear about it? - just another example of Google being evil. Or at least short-sighted and stupid.


GOOGLE -- Bring a little something extra to Docs and Sheets with add-ons


NY TIMES -- What You Learn in Your 40s - she says there are no grownups. I still think grownups are people taller than me who wear dress clothes.


ENGADGET -- This list is brought to you by 25 years of the world wide web

Monday, March 24, 2014

Aspirational/Future Customers (A Work-Related Post)

I receive a number of emails from companies I've never purchased from, at least online. Companies I'd like to purchase from or companies I intend to someday purchase from. With all the information available, these companies know (or should know) that I have yet to make a purchase. Like Pottery Barn - if I've purchased from Pottery Barn, it was probably around the time of our wedding.  Oh, wait, yes, I do remember standing at the counter watching purchases being wrapped, boxed and bagged. Ah, so long ago. I always loved going in there, but the items I could afford and the items I wanted were usually on different sides of the store.

So if I get your emails every week and I open them all at least once, but if I rarely ever click through, that should tell you something.  I am an "aspirational fan" - something about your brand resonates with me, even if I haven't yet made a purchase. This holds true whether you're Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Tesla, Harley-Davidson or the Humane Society.

We already know that emails drive offline purchasing and that most people will not subscribe to multiple emails in a vertical. (If I'm receiving emails from The Home Depot, I'm not subscribed to Lowes or TrueValue emails.)

And yet (to pick on Pottery Barn), there's nothing much to suggest that the email I receive is tailored for me. It feels like a batch-and-blast. It could be that they don't have enough click data or purchasing data to customize the email, but it doesn't feel like that's the case. (Sadly, this is often the case - email is successful enough that it's hard to justify, or get the headcount, to do more specific targeting.)

But if I'm continuing to engage by receiving and opening your email, I'm the perfect person to do experiments on. Offer smaller items with lower price points. Try to get me to engage with you on social media. Run a contest where I could win something off my wish list if I make a wish list. (And my chances increase if I get others to make wish lists.) Big, bold experiments to try to get me to engage deeper so that someday I do become a regular customer, a deeply engaged customer, a brand ambassador.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review: The Happiness Code

The Happiness Code by Amy Herrick

This is an interesting book I can't recommend. From time to time, I find that I can't recommend a book that I've read, sometimes after only reading a short bit, other times having invested the effort to make it to the end. It didn't take a lot of effort here, I kept reading, even at the expense of sleep some nights, so I've been trying to figure out for a few days why I wouldn't recommend it.

The Happiness Code takes place a few days or years in the future, which leads to this weird sense that things are almost as they are, except a little different. Like moving to a new state. Little things like the names of phones ("voicelink" and "pocketlink") or how garbage is collected (you put it "laser bins" on the curb and the "laser truck" comes and picks it up - essentially a guy in a truck that incinerates the garbage as he goes - messy, dirty, unhealthy work but apparently a technological advance from garbage collection). This slightly, but only slightly, futuristic world allows the story to be told of a mad scientist who finds an interesting connection between a genetic condition no one is studying (even though everyone who has it dies by the age of 25) and happiness (everyone with this genetic condition seems to be very happy). His aim, naturally, is to separate what causes people to be happy from the part that causes them to die young.

Sadly, (for him), the work is shut down because he's doesn't necessarily follow all the rules and laws when it comes to his sciencing. One of his staff takes advantage of the situation to get ahold of some of the work and then convinces a coworker to become a sperm donor and she has a baby who's always very happy. When she's killed, the sister takes the baby and leaves it in the backyard of the donor and his family at their new house.

Much like this baby suddenly appearing, this book suddenly appeared. It was in our holds at the library but no one could remember requesting it, so I read it when it came home. It wasn't on my reading list but it sounds like something EW would have recommended.

So much of the story centers around the donor and his family and their everyday struggles as boring people who lack passion and love, their neighbors, their friends and the scientist who learns of the baby and wants to kidnap it for scientific experiments.

I tried to think why I wouldn't recommend this book and I guess it's because I wouldn't want someone to recommend it to me. The baby, Bertrand, is happy all of the time. But he has no sense of danger and is constantly doing things that puts him in harm's way, sometimes nearly causing him to die. In other cases, his new parents are essentially negligent. As the parent of a child who has no sense for his own safety, I know first-hand that you gotta watch him constantly, or take efforts to seriously babyproof the house to make it safe for a while to play unattended.

But these parents, who seem to just be muddling through, don't take those kinds of precaution and so the baby nearly chokes to death, bleeds to death, gets struck by lightning and kidnapped (where he's subsequently tortured to find out if there's any limits to his ability to be happy, thankfully told with very little detail). As the parent of a child who will run away from you any chance they get (including parking lots) and stick anything in their mouths, we'd been to the ER too many times. So to read of parents who seem clueless and negligent and while infatuated with the baby, struggle to have any sort of love for each other or their other child, well, that was just too much to take.

There's also a subplot of their cat's meanderings after being captured in a neighbor's house and the neighbor takes them across town and dumps them. That cat's point of view is fun, being chased by "stinkbarkers" and hunting "skyflappers" and strangely enough, "mice."

None of the characters in the story seems all that happy, except the baby. It's almost as if to say that to be happy could kill you. But the sad way in which all the other characters live their lives makes you question if the author's saying that there's really nothing to live for and that it's all just random and unpleasant.

So while the author uses some great descriptions, the story doesn't hold up structurally, or as one I wanted to be a part of, though I was just curious enough to make it to the end.

The Happiness Code

Friday, March 21, 2014

Feed Sift (03/21/2014)

Five things from around the web I felt like sharing...


THE INCLUSIVE CHURCH -- 5 Strategies to Include Teens with Special Needs


FRESH ADDRESS -- Image Caching: What's New In Gmail - how Gmail's image caching will affect your email campaigns


DINNER LAB -- About Us - I would so want to do this if I had money, the ability to go out at the drop of a dime, oh, and lived in one of the host cities. (Would speak to my "serendipity" goal


LIFEHACKER -- This Infographic Reveals the Secrets of the Happiest Couples


ADDTHIS -- This Infographic Reveals the Secrets of the Happiest Couples

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Place Where We are Right

The Place Where We are Right 
From the place where we are rightFlowers will never growIn the spring. 
The place where we are rightIs hard and trampledLike a yard. 
But doubts and lovesDig up the worldLike a mole, a plow.And a whisper will be heard in the placeWhere the ruinedHouse once stood 
Yehuda Amichai
I heard the first two lines of this the other day and went and searched it out. I like it. I just picture a guy standing on a concrete patio watching his neighbors digging in their dirt, their back to him. He's looking smug and proud of himself, condescending at them, a woman and her daughter, dirt-stained, backs bent, sweating in the sun, doing something in the dirt.

What he can't see is that they are planting flowers, that in time he will be able to enjoy even as he enjoys his ugly gray concrete slab.

I'm sure the poem is a lot more than that but I just like the notion that we have to be willing to be wrong, to be willing to be open to new ideas.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nintendont (A Work-Related Post)

The Nintendo Wii was a groundbreaking device when it was released. In some ways, it probably still is. For years, we used it every day for Wii Fii. Now, we mostly use it for Netflix and occasionally YouTube. I use the balance board downstairs for freestep 60-90 minutes a day and if life ever gets less crazy I'll get back to doing some yoga regularly.

While it's commonplace on systems today, it was an early pioneer in online connectivity - you could email between Wiis, it could get system updates online, you could even download games and apps. And when it needed to tell you something, this really cool blue flashy thing would happen with the case around where the optical disc went.

But then the iPhone came out. And Nintendo seemed to completely ignore it. The game had changed. The iPhone (probably unfairly getting more credit here than it deserves) showed mainstream users some pretty cool new tricks:
  • Regularly delivered updates
  • Lots of apps due to making it easy to create apps and giving them a marketplace to sell them inexpensively (or give them away)
  • Quick, casual games
  • Limited multitasking
  • Better and better graphics
  • Eventually an ecosystem of related devices (iPod, iPad, etc.)
But the Wii sat there firmly resistant to the change happening around it. Sony and Microsoft continued to innovate and Nintendo said "Nope, we're not playing that game." and the Wii sat there, looking less and less innovative.

Fine, we thought, maybe the Wii's replacement would address all of those concerns. Maybe there was just enough drawbacks to the Wii (like limited graphics processing) to make continuing to enhance the platform difficult, unpleasant, unenjoyable, whatever. Eventually the blue flashy coolness came to mean bad news or annoyance, used to try to promote new products or tell us about features they were cutting:

Eventually it's reasonable to stop supporting old platforms, whether that's Minitel in France (1978-2012 - still had 10 million customers in 2009) or Windows XP from Microsoft (2001-2013, still the 2nd. most used Windows operating system).

And frankly, I'm not sure there's anything I'll miss.

But it's a reminder:

Plan your support and maintenance. You're not just having a child, you're raising that child - there are ongoing costs.

Plan your exit strategy. My Ford Sync tells me I get three years of free service, then they might charge me. I'm hoping they won't, but they could. And if I'm paying for it, there's probably a better chance it will be around longer. (Minitel would have been gone a lot sooner if it were free. Granted, also something better - the web - came along.)

Learn from the ever-changing world. The Wii U could have been a backwards-compatible upgrade (Wii 2 or Wii 2013) with better graphics and sound that still played all the existing games. But more importantly, the Wii ecosystem could have been opened up to the marketplace allowing for the easy creation of games and apps with Nintendo taking a cut of every sale.

Don't be stubborn (or appear stubborn). The Wii had a proprietary optical disc drive, sort of. I think some hackers proved years ago that you could get a Wii to play CDs, but Nintendo wasn't having any of that, in part because they didn't want all the extra wear and tear on the drives of people using it to play movies. Microsoft's original XBox used a competitor to Blu-ray that turned out to be unpopular in the marketplace, future XBoxes switched the the more popular standard. Apple created stores to help it address customer problems with broken devices.

I have fond memories of my NES and N64 and of the early days of my Wii. I want to cheer Nintendo on. But I can't. Sometimes an underdog proves it doesn't belong in the race because it is so clearly in the wrong weight class.

And I don't think it had to be that way.

See also:
How App Stores Changed How We Buy Software for Better or For Worse (Lifehacker)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: The Fear Index

The Fear Index by Robert Harris

The book takes place over about 28-30 hours but really kicks into gear in the middle of the night when the main character Dr. Alex Hoffman is realizes someone is inside the house he recently moved into, the house that was supposed to have high-tech security. He's attacked as he tries to warn his wife and that sets off a series of events that are cram packed into a really short time-frame.

This is an important day for Hoffman, making a major presentation at his firm and for his wife, opening her first gallery show.

I could not put this book down. I started it early one Saturday and finished it later that evening, despite being gone for a big chunk in the middle of the day. (286 pages)

It's in a similar theme to a movie I recently watched and enjoyed and a TV show I really like. But those elements unfold as the book progresses, so it's hard to know how to write a decent review. A lot of people I know probably wouldn't like this book, it presents at first as a book diving into the intricate details of hedge funds and then moves to be more of a techno-thriller.

The timing is hard to keep track of - a presentation, a morning gallery opening, a lunch-time meeting, the opening and closing of stock markets around the world, it got a little confusing and I found myself consulting an internet site to try to figure out at one point if the opening bell was ringing on the NYSE, what time was it again in Geneva? (answer: 2:30 pm)

I liked that the technology aspect was underplayed, I thought the financial stuff was easy enough to follow along with and I found the characters interesting, but the ending a little underwhelming. Probably fine in its own right, but based on all the other stories in this genre, perhaps a little too.... tidy.

The Fear Index (

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to change the Hot Water Valve Inlet Assembly on an LG-WM2277HW

The other night there was a break in the rain and I was in the laundry room and heard a drip-drip-drip. The laundry room has been the nexus for water issues in the past from our master bathroom so I was a bit worried. But I listened and I couldn't quite figure it out. I called Lori down and we listened and I realized - it was coming from inside the washing machine. I sighed and figured "Of course."What's one more financial bill, right? I figured Lori could call the plumber the next day.

But then I got curious, took the top of the machine off and immediately saw water. So I dried everything, waited and watched to see where water re-appeared. It seemed like a small part near the top of the machine.

I went online, searched for a parts list, found the part and there was even a video - in less than four minutes, this guy had swapped out the part. That looked super easy.

Unfortunately, the price and shipping weren't economical, so I ordered it from Amazon and had it in two days and tonight, removed the top of the machine, turned off the hot water, removed interior hose over a towel, removed the exterior hose over a bucket, unscrewed the part, put plumber's tape on the new part, secured it to the machine and reattached the hoses. Then I ran a load with the top off, checked afterwards and no water anywhere.

No pictures this time because, honestly, it's a really quick job.  Comments on Amazon say that this particular part will eventually wear out and I guess it's been nearly eight years so I'm glad they made it easy to replace and the parts inexpensive.

Much easier than when I had to fix the "TE Error" it was throwing a few years ago.

Kudos to AppliancePartsPros for their awesome videos. I feel bad for not buying from them, but it's hard to order anywhere else when you've got Amazon Prime.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Feed Sift (03/14)

Five things I wanted to share...


The Questions That Will Save Your Relationships


What the Seahawks Can Teach Parents and Kids Everywhere


Four Habits of Punctual People


Forgotify - 20% of the Spotify library (over 4 million) has never been played. This player will help you discover music that deserves to be heard (and some that probably doesn't).


Including Teens with Special Needs – Parent Partnership

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Conspiracy: Chickens

Lori said that she heard that American chicken producers had received approval from the appropriate governing and legislative groups to ship chickens to China to be processed. Apparently growing them, killing them, shipping them to China, processing them and then shipping them back saves money over processing them here.

Talk about "farm fresh," huh?

Anyhow, here's my conspiracy theory take on it:

Step 1: It's cheaper to ship to China, process in China, ship back the U.S..

Step 2: It's cheaper to grow and process in China and ship to the U.S.

Step 3: It's cheaper to grow, process and sell in China. Forget the U.S.

And suddenly we're left eating pigeon and feral neighborhood cats we catch ourselves.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Take 2 (A Work-Related Post)

I complained last March about this local business' flyer - 50% off for first-time visitors or 10% off for repeat customers (view the 2013 postcard). I suggested that instead both people should get 50% if the repeat customer brings the new customer.

I won't claim credit for this, but I was quite pleased to see this year's postcards.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Week 49 (Final)

Final - Oops, I missed Friday and Saturday. Friday was just a busy evening and Saturday, well, guess I just forgot. Oops. Got just over the mark with 208 completed.

Reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain) and The Happiness Code (Amy Herrick) (completed) and The Fear Index (Robert Harris) (completed)

Thursday evening - Finished a movie tonight called Parker. It had Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez and it took place mostly in the Miami area. All that made me do is think of better movies like Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Transporter(I know, I know) and The Italian Job and how most good Miami movies featured Dennis Farino. I think I do my chores more slowly when I'm watching movies. (136 done this week, 64 to go. 22 per day to hit 200.)

Wednesday evening - A better day and lots of really heavy rain! (109 completed this week, 91 to go. 23 per day to hit 200.)

Tuesday evening - It wasn't a great day, and something threatened to derail it. Something not at all my doing but the kind of thing you're better off the less you know about it. Let me just say grumble grumble grumble and leave it at that. Tomorrow night I have an engagement that was not on my calendar when the week started, so it'll be another night where not enough gets done, but I'm not in a position to say "no" to the last-minute plans. (79 completed this week, 121 to go. 24 per day to hit 200.)

Monday evening - I didn't get as much done as I wanted to tonight, but shaving always really cuts into my ability to get stuff done. More importantly, though, I'm getting reading in. I still want to hit at least 200, but I'm also trying to make sure I read more and goof off less. Like less video games. (42 completed this week, 158 to go. 26 per day to hit 200.)

Sunday evening - I prepped the day earlier and then kicked it off. I didn't work non-stop, I spent time with my family, I sat and read for awhile, and there was a work thing tonight that pulled me away in little bits and pieces. I actually only identified 184 things that I want to absolutely get done this week, but I'm going to see if I can't get over 200 anyhow. (23 completed this week, 177 to go. 25 per day to end at 200.)

Abandoned: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

Dear Lori,

I am really sorry you carried this 600 page book from the library to the car and then back from the car to the library. I only made it about 41 pages in.


I don't know a lot about David Foster Wallace but I like Andy Buckley's David Wallace character on The Office. I know that's random and inconsequential, but I hear that fits in well with DFW, at least the author, not the airport.

The Pale King was unfinished at the time of the author's death, but then I heard he's left other books unfinished, one ending with a character mid-sentence. There's some interesting notes at the front of the book from the editor who worked to turn it into a book (probably deserves a writing credit) and more at the end which addresses some of the confusion or questions left by the rough-draft state of the novel. Apparently there's discussion of supernatural and the struggles of workplace automation. Apparently there's always the building to the potential for something to happen without things actually happening.

I often read before bed and this book helped me to get to bed earlier - I'd be reading and fall asleep or realize I just didn't want to keep reading. Last night, I stopped mid-chapter, put the book down and was ready to sleep by 11 am. Some books will keep me up until 1, 1:30 at night reading.

There was one sort of random half-page that I thought was really awesome and I read it aloud to Lori and she thought so, too. It was something that will immediately make you more connected to any person on the planet (if you're able to communicate verbally) and it was almost as if he'd heard it on the radio and just dropped it into the book. Not to say that its brilliance couldn't have been his, but the randomness of it seemed a different kind of random from what I'd read so far.

So yeah, you know I hate criticizing other people's writing, they did get it published afterall. And in this case, they were eager to publish even though he'd passed away and it wasn't finished. I have no other DFW to compare against, but those who liked this seem to agree it's classic DFW, so I guess I'm not a DFW fan. This must have been another EW recommendation. Starting to not be a fan of EW either.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

PSA: Change Your Clocks

Just a reminder - change your clocks this afternoon at 2 pm.

You won't miss the hour and it'll be far less disruptive than waiting until you go to bed.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Guest Post: Iowa Stubbornness

From Lori's blog...
And I tell you what, he would not sit for anything. He didn't want crackers, he didn't want Bugles, and he didn't want to sit. Mostly he wanted to stare at his own reflection in the microwave and tell himself how awesome he looked, but then he wanted to just move around the room and do his own thing. 
Read the rest on Last Person Blogging...

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Recent Netflix

Some interesting Science Fiction I've watched recently. Descriptions are mostly from Netflix, click any title to open in Netflix.

Upside Down - Adam lives on a poverty-stricken world, while Eden (Kirsten Dunst) is from its affluent twin planet, and their love sparks an interplanetary incident. Social stigma, family and government forces work to keep them apart, but they'll stop at nothing to be together.  The two planets revolve around each other with a large corporate building at the center that joins the two, or that each planet has its own incompatible gravity - things from one planet will burn up if you attempt to somehow move them to the other planet.

Delete - A viral threat almost triggers a nuclear meltdown, giving reporter Jessica Taylor and her hacker friend Daniel an inside track on a grim reality: an artificial intelligence has become a conscious entity with the sole purpose of destroying the world. Seth Green in a small role. Really high production values, good acting, great sets and mostly feels like a plausible story, except if an AI really has that much power, it would have employed traffic cameras and satellites sooner and sent more people (not just police) after them. Only when they tried to do a smoke effect did it feel like they weren't able to pull it off.

Invasion: Earth - Earth becomes a battleground in a full-scale intergalactic war when the Royal Air Force erroneously shoots down an unidentified flying object. With the planet's future at stake, can the world work together to protect itself? Still watching this one, haven't fully worked out what's going on here, but it's interesting.

TiMER - In this comedic fantasy, science has facilitated the search for a soul mate via biotechnological implants that count down to the moment one is supposed to meet his or her match. But Oona (Emma Caulfield) is worried: She's nearly 30, and her TiMER isn't ticking yet. Will her dream guy get snatched up by someone else? John Patrick Amedori co-stars in this film from first-time writer and director Jac Schaeffer. This isn't heavily sci-fi, it's just a romantic comedy set in the real world where one additional technological element exists. But I liked it.

Safety Not Guaranteed -
A team of journalists (including Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson) are dispatched to find out who's behind a classified advertisement seeking a companion for time travel, with payment on return. After tracking down their oddball prey, the team has to decide how best to approach their subject. Does he actually have a time machine? Do you actually care? An interesting movie that keeps it low-key and doesn't try to be more than it is. It's that low-key approach that makes it feel very relatable.

Battlestar Galactica - Deep in the universe, cybernetic Cylons have all but wiped out the human race, laying waste to the Twelve Colonies of Man. Cast out, the few survivors aboard the Battlestar Galactica search for a so-called 13th colony: the mythical planet Earth. This TV series grabbed me from the start. It's overall uneven (and long!) and leaves some questions, but I liked how completely they had defined this universe.

Caprica - Set on planet Caprica decades prior to the war fought in Battlestar Galactica, this sci-fi series follows the work of tech tycoon Daniel Graystone as he tries to assuage his grief over tragedy by developing cyborgs he dubs Cylons. In the style of BG, this single-season show was filled with twists and turns and constantly shifting alliances.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Know Your Audience (A Work-Related Post)

Attention is the most abused resource. Sometimes we give it away without thought, other times we are extremely stingy. And if you're sending emails, every email is a request for attention.

One of these got opened quickly, a second rather quickly.

Ok, so the email doesn't look like it's necessarily work-related in and of itself, but it tells me rather quickly that it's going to take less than a minute to deal with, what I need to do to deal with it, and what it's about - that's a lot for a subject line.

You want our attention every time you send an email. You have no idea what's above or below yours in someone's inbox. Are you taking the time to stand out, be informative, be clear in your goals? And more importantly, is it what they want or need at the moment they open their inbox?

And then, when opened, does your email follow-through on the promise?

Of course, I won't leave you hanging:

Monday, March 03, 2014

This is broken, @Cigna / @CignaQuestions

Hey +Cigna - this is broken on Chrome 35 for the Mac. (Works fine on Firefox 18 and Safari 7) The menu appears by default and you can't make it go away. (You have to uncheck things until PDF moves over far enough to be to visible to the left of the menu.)

(click to enlarge)
It's also broken in another way... visit a hospital and you interact with a lot of people each of whom bills you separately. For privacy reasons, I understand why you don't list more details on this list, but it makes it difficult to track. I would love to have the ability to assign a status (like received, paid, covered, contested) as well as write short memo so that I can add the doctor's name or other details to this list for my own reference.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

February End

I've gotten out of the habit of posting at the end of each month. I want to get back into that. An incomplete measure for now, here's the summary notes from the month. (We're capturing these in Evernote so we can go back next year and see how life was progressing.)

I don't have stuff like notes on my goals or my favorite posts this month as I haven't gotten back into posting as regularly as I'd like. But I'm working on it.


February 1 - A quite day at home for my birthday, but the children did their best to make it less than pleasant. Seems to be their typical MO for birthdays. Got some cool gifts:

February 2-8 - Rachel and James had a nice time at the pancake breakfast and James signed up to be a WatchDOG on May 12 and June 11. In the afternoon we had the latest Hrivnak appt. It was a good appointment after a really long wait. Then we picked up Rachel from school where she was hanging out with Jenn. Then home. Ben was yawning a lot. He got really mellow and really sleepy and at home, he was just leaning up against Lori watching videos. We checked his temperature and he had a fever. He slept a lot the next few days but never threw up. So no lunch with Lori on Thursday. Friday was date night and because Ben was sick we stayed in. I picked up Magic Wok and it was really good. We watched Foolproof which was decent. Saturday I had iPad training and learned a few things. Saturday night it snowed quite a bit.

February 9 - We missed church because of snow. Watched the message online, that was kinda cool.

February 10-16 - A quiet week, I think. Until Thursday when Ben ate several pills and we were back in the ER where he and James stayed overnight and late into the next day so Ben could be observed. (written over a week later)

February 17-23 - Also a bit of a quiet week, I think. Monday and Tuesday were school holidays. Thursday we received the results of Ben’s re-assessment (every three year). Some encouraging stuff, including the speech pathologist saying that he makes all the right base noises for speech and he chatters a lot to himself, she thinks in time he’ll talk. Snow on Saturday while we made pancakes and bacon and hung out - it was really nice. Sunday James did audio at church and then the Meyers were over for lunch.

February 24-March 2 - We had the IEP on Monday. Again, some positive outcomes and they’re now working on some goals that will lead in to math and reading. We got some ideas for ways we can incorporate the iPad at home, but haven’t had time to work on them. Later in the week the second consultation for Rachel.. braces. Some pre-stuff was installed that day, next appointment in a few weeks. Lori and James had lunch together on Thursday at James’ work. Saturday was spent trying to help Rachel do a book report and a lot of supporting work. Turns out she’d had the whole month to do it and hadn’t done it. The teacher gave her until Monday. Saturday was a struggle, she wasn’t getting it, it was really hard. Eventually she needed a break (and we needed a break) and sent her outside to play. She didn’t like it at first but eventually started swinging. It was wet and rainy so Ben didn’t get to go outside but he really wanted to. After she came back in, things clicked a lot more for her. The next day Lori woke up sick. James and the children went to church without her and then to the store. And then home for a combined birthday with Jeff and Jim (and Hilary and Jean and Jan and Andrew and Nathan and Joshua). It was a nice time, except for the fact that Lori didn’t join us.

Week 48 (Final)

Sunday evening - Squeaked by. 201 done. Harder to get as much done this morning than I'd thought. Partially optimism, partially Lori being sick. Mostly optimism. 28 items that were on my list didn't get done. I still beat 200 by doing stuff that I hadn't originally planned for. I could have checked off more, but I wanted to keep it close to the 3 pm cut-off, even though there was a birthday party today between noon and 3.

Saturday evening - It's always something. Almost wonder why I actually make plans. Perhaps everything should be a nice-to-have. A big derailment today. Family stuff. Not necessarily bad stuff, but not stuff I thought I'd be doing today. Ah well.  C'est la vie. (190 dones this week; 10 to go. I guess at least that's doable.)

Friday evening - Forgot to post last night, almost forgot tonight. I think tomorrow by 10 am we'll finally have a little bit of a chance to rest. Not much as we're having people over on Sunday. (147 completed this week, 2 days to go - 27/day to hit 200. Better to do more tomorrow and less Sunday.)

Wednesday evening - I can't tell if this week is going slowly or quickly. I didn't have much of a chance to breathe today. In some ways, it feels like that's been the case the last few days. It's not been entirely bad, but just non-stop from start to finish, constant movement. Perhaps that's why I feel like I've had decent sleep recently, because there's just nothing left to give. Currently reading - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Watching with Lori: Spy (BBC), by myself: Delete, Invasion: Earth (BBC), Better Off Ted.  (24 completed today, 97 to go - 24/day)

Tuesday evening - Some unplanned stuff tonight, but still managed to get a bunch done. Also watched a number of episodes of Better Off Ted tonight. Such great lines on that show. (30 completed today; 120 to go - 24/day)

Monday evening - We had an appointment at school so I had to do some work this evening but I still managed to get a bunch of stuff done. (31 completed today; 150 to go - 25/day)

Sunday evening - Ok, I'm going to get back to actually doing stuff this week. Because doing stuff is, like, um, good or something. I made a list of everything due in March that's outside of the normal daily type stuff and then I made my usual set-up for the week. My goal will be to close out 200 items by week's end. (19 completed today; 181 to go - 26/day)

Book Review -- Speechless: Finding God's Grace in my Son's Autism

Speechless: Finding God's Grace in my Son's Autism by Sandra Peoples

To glance at the reviews, I'm in the minority, but I would probably only give it 1 or 2 stars.

The first premise you must accept when you read this book is that there are two very distinct kinds of autism. I'm not saying I don't, in fact it makes a lot of sense. Well, frankly, there's actually a wide range and that's why it's called a spectrum, so please forgive me if I simplify slightly to begin.

The first kind: exhibited as developmental delays from the start. Often diagnosed first as PDD-NOS and later Autism or a similar diagnosis. This is what Ben has.

The second kind: the child begins life seemingly typical and then at a certain point, takes a turn for the worse. You see a regression in development or mental ability. There's some argument about whether these are truly cases of Autism or some other condition altogether, such as Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, a disease often misdiagnosed as Autism. Children who suffer in this way (regardless of what you call it) often lose the ability to communicate verbally but respond well to medication and treatment and many regain lost skills. This type of scenario often leads parents to blame vaccinations for their child's autism. In cases like these, a change in diet can greatly improve if not "cure autism." This is where those "Defeat Autism Now (DAN)" doctors come in. (This is where crazy Jenny McCarthy lives, if her child even has autism.)

So the child in the book has this second kind. He has trouble with bowel movements, and a change in diet makes all the difference. And within a year, the child has rebounded. So this book is short - both in the time covered and in its size.

In it, the mom fights with doctor after doctor until she finds one that will believe her child is indeed suffering. She works on their family's diet and the family goes through the adjustments to living with a child with autism. But after one short year, it's almost as if the book has a happy ending. But families with children who have a lifelong disability (some children, diet or no, do "catch up" and lead fairly typical lives) don't have a "happily ever after" to look forward to.

The book does talk about some good things people face: the different pace at which family members come to grips (if they ever do) with what you're going through, the alienation and disappointment when you're left out of things, the strain it puts on the family and how other siblings are often short-changed. And there's also validity to making changes - we know for certain that Red 40 has a big impact on both of our children and we've cut out nearly all dyes from our children's diets (and we're being more conscious ourselves).

And an absolutely salient point: the biggest fear in the life of a special-needs parent is their own mortality. If this life, little as it is now, is going to need care for the rest of their life, what will happen to them when they die? They were looking at their son's brother, age 6, and thinking about how their little boy would someday be his responsibility.

So while the author does explore a number of topics, I felt it was too brief, too neat, and in some ways, offers the wrong kind of hope to others who might find themselves in similar situations.

Not that we shouldn't provide hope, but that we should also be real: for whatever reason, God has chosen to place a child in our lives who does not see or experience the world in the same way that most of us do. And that means, in our case, they can't comprehend threats to their own safety, they don't engage with others in the same way, and unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who will judge, exclude, ridicule and just generally not bother to become informed or stay in our lives because it's too much work. Because it is work. But our child is still a blessing.

But it's a challenge day in and day out. We've had valleys in our life and we've learned to trust in God because we've seen the other side, we've seen the mountain tops. But here's a case where it's like a valley with what feels like a much lower likelihood that a mountain (as we've experienced them before) is the natural destination.

Speechless: Finding God's Grace in My Son's Autism (

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Worth Repeating: Rupal Patel


Rupal Patel - Synthetic Voices, as Unique as Fingerprints: Many of those with severe speech disorders use a computerized device to communicate. Yet they choose between only a few voice options. More on

Why I'm Posting: You've probably considered being an organ donor. But did you know you could be a voice donor? As the parent of a non-verbal child, this video made me get a little teary.