Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Be a Little Selfish

I want to pay everyone a visit, but I've got a couple things going on that make reckless to do so. There is a narrow opportunity for me to get my original design project back under way here at work, before any software emergencies occur. Actually, one did occur, and I'm trying to wipe that out this morning. A friend of mine from California has a business idea that is going to at a minimum make a little money, but has the potential to make a lot more. It involves an online (web) application, and I found some open source software that does ninety percent of the work. But it takes some of my time still to deploy onto a server and publish it to the rest of the world.

And, of course, there is my novel, that becomes easier to write as time goes on. I've been writing literally every day now, even if it is only for a half hour at lunch and an hour at night. It adds up.

As for my son, it looks like he took my advice, or at least has internalized it, and seems to have taken it in the most positive manner. I think, at his age, his heart cannot be broken as easily as us older folks, whose hearts have been glued back together so many times that sometimes it only takes a good shake to have it crumble. He's going to be ok.

I reiterated to him last night that he should only be friends with kids that want to be his friends, that if he starts taking abuse like that being dished other kids will take the same cue; and soon enough, everyone will be doing it. He went to brush his teeth, but came back and said in the tone of self-discovery, "He did hurt my feelings, and I don't have to keep trying to be his friend."

This situation spurred me into action. I wrote an email to the parent of one of Jackson's friends, with whom I have spoken several times at soccer games and such. Long story short, we have plans to get together. My wife is speaking with another friend's parent, and I have another call to make. My son is lonely, and I won't let that other kid have that power over him any more.

I think Jackson thought that there was only his side of the bargain to hold up, and that other kids didn't have to play up to him. I think we may have taught him a valuable lesson in regards to interpersonal relationships. You have to be just a little bit selfish to keep it interesting.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Psycho Envy

I feel bad that I left the last post up for so long without at least letting everyone know that life with our children has been a lot of fun lately. It seems that just when it all comes to a boil the pot is removed from the flame. We all adjusted. Beth and I try on our part to be more engaged, and the kids seemed to have lightened up as well. Jackson especially has been more positive and helpful.

Somebody, who shall remain unnamed, suggested that a little swat on the rear would have done the trick. No thanks. It's harder my way, and more frustrating, but the rewards are far greater.

We've got another situation brewing. One of the neighbor women -- I'll call her RB for Raging Bitch -- if you can believe this, covets our babysitter. RB has a son Jackson's age -- I'll call him SB for Selfish Brat -- with whom Jackson rides the bus. They used to go over to each others house for play dates and such. But once, last summer, while we were over at SB's house, some other boys came over and they ignored Jackson completely. Jackson cried so I took him home, over the protests of SB's father -- I'll call him Milquetoast -- who claimed that it was all just kid stuff and that they should just be left to work it out.

Lately the bitch, I mean RB, has been going around the neighborhood complaining that she can't get more time with the babysitter because she is always engaged with us. She used to come over and try to manipulate us into giving up some dates, even suggesting once that we really didn't need a babysitter, per se, rather it would be better to have a mother's helper. WTF? Once she tried to pressure me by complaining that she called the babysitter, that she was busy, then stared at me as if waiting for a response that would clear the situation up.

I said, "And?"

"And, uh, well, I mean, you're not doing anything wrong--"

"I know that. So what are you saying then?"

"Nothing, I, uh…"

You get the point. And this isn't the only time. Every damn time I see her we end up in a conversation about the babysitter. If we see them out, she asks where the kids are, and who's watching them. Even the babysitter complains about the scrutiny she gets about the time she spends with our kids. I'm telling you, the woman is psychotic. Now suddenly her son, SB, bypasses my son on the bus in the morning, where once they used to sit together. This same kid has always just stared at me when I ask him a question. On the Cub Scout campout, his father gave Jackson and SB laser pointers. About half way through, SB started to demand that he have both, and his father had that look on his face that he might ask for it. We would have come to blows before he got it back, but he must have sensed it. But that's the way it is. When that spoiled shit of a kid demands something, both parents would rather light themselves on fire than to say no.

This morning I walked Jackson to his bus stop. I told him not to bother with SB any more.

"Does he ever sit with you on the bus?"

"No, he walks by me and sits with (another kid on the bus)."

"Well, let's just stop going over to his house anymore. If he doesn't like you, then you need to stop trying to be his friend. You've had friends like that, haven't you, that liked you more than you liked them."


"You don't want to be like that person do you?"


"You are a wonderful boy with lots of friends at school. If you had to name your top three friends, who would they be?"

He names off three.

"I notice that (SB) is not on that list."


"He's just convenient, isn't he? Do you really think he's a nice kid?"

"Not really."

"I think he's selfish and not a very nice person. You deserve much better than that, Jackson. Don't settle. How 'bout I call some of the parents on your list of friends and see what I can do about getting you play dates with kids you actually like."


"Just promise me you won't let (SB) hurt your feelings. He's not half the person you are."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Long Weekend

Moni!!! That was not intentional. If anyone else notices that I have omitted their link in my blog buddies list, please let me know. I've dropped a few, those few who haven't visited in a long time, posted in a long time, or those who just completely ignore me. My list is long enough, and I like to keep it manageable, lean and mean.

It was a tough weekend on the child rearing front. Mommy and daddy were just a little short on patience, with the younger finding his inner Pavarati. Now it is almost impossible to determine who is at fault. But both kids are at each other's throats. Noise in the house carries, and both kids run like they have cement boots. The pounding is terrible.

See, as a parent, you can never let your enthusiasm wane. Kids sense it and turn up the intensity. If you have the energy to pull out games, experiments and the like, then life is wonderful. Not in the mood? You will be punished. Unless of course you have a magic switch behind a metal shield that the kids have tried and failed to open so many times that they just know not to try. But of course, that's not us. Suckers we are, with a capital "S."

I took the kids sledding. Now they are addicted. I hate the cold, but it was a lot of fun. Jackson likes to stand in the way as me and Emmett slide towards him, then dive out of the way at the last second. Emmett loves it. Just before we got there and had to climb the hill, Emmett wanted me to carry him. After the first time down, no more problems. He scooted his little body up the hill and hurried me along.

I've decided that my football player is going to be nicknamed the Sandman, earned for the number of quarterbacks, running backs and receivers he's put to sleep. He's always the first player on the field for home games, his coming heralded by Metallica's Enter the Sandman.

Oh, and Emmett's new nickname for everyone is Butt Cheek.

Interesting Friday Night Lights coming up this Wednesday. Parents of girls should be interested in how the Taylors deal with their daughters decision to have sex with her boyfriend. I've come to respect how they think. This will certainly be a big test.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I need cool names for football players.

Both kinds. Real names and nicknames. The most important name is that of a linebacker that simply removes the offender from the football. The kind of guy that hits so hard that the ball is left floating in space before falling to the ground. This man is feared statewide. His nickname must instill fear.

Not so important, but just as fun, are the names of other players on the team, such as a lightning fast running back (or corner). It's not the position, is the physical characteristics.

Even if you don't like football, just think nicknames for killers, big men, and fast men.

These are bad attempts, but you get the idea:

Killer: Tank, Thor, Bruiser, Truck, Yank (could be from the north). Think of real names that can be cleverly converted to killer names. We never used this, but once on a softball team they were looking for a nickname for a guy named Cyril. So I came up with Cyril Killer. You see why I need help?

Big Men: For a guy named Dan, my brother knows a big man they call Double Dan. I might use this. Another Dan in another town, Dandroid.

Fast Men: Oh, I don't know.

Be creative; have fun.

Friday, February 16, 2007


We watched the first half hour or so of Scoop before putting it back in the Netflix envelope and putting it back into the mailbox at arms length like one would hold a dead mouse by the tail.

Are you getting it? This movie stunk!

You see, this is what I was talking about when I said that Woody Allen should hang up the acting hat and stick to writing and directing. He took two talented (and beautiful) actors, Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansen, and made them seem like insipid bobble heads. Allen plays the neurotic shithead again. Doesn't this guy have friends with the balls to tell him that his schtick is getting old? It's actually embarrassing, like watching a comedian flounder on stage like a dead fish. Surely somebody with some influence on him sees this. This person must watch with dread, like a wife sitting helplessly in a jeering crowd as her husband, too tired to lift his gloves, takes a beating that drives him permanently to the mat.

I was blown away by Matchpoint, but had there been so much as a cameo by Allen, the movie would have been shit. Do you hear me, Woody? Hang it up. I've seen better actin' in tough actin' Tenactin.

I'm super busy juggling a couple projects. I'll make up for my lack of commenting on this or any other blog soon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day

Pete's Coffee just does it for me.

In other headline news, it's a snow day here in New England. Most schools are closed. I found this out online at wbztv.com through a single click. When I was a boy, I had a "clock radio" (think Austin powers describing the "laser"), which I would tune into on a potential snow day with the same alacrity I would apply to ripping open a present on Christmas morning. My school was always the last hold out, and alphabetically the furthest down the list. I remember the disappointment when mine was skipped over.

Yesterday I realized that my boss, though the nicest guy you could ever ask for, is so damn boring one on one that he makes himself yawn. I will call him Mr. Analogy. I'm building a software system. He is my manager, and asked me for a document that breaks down the tasks that need to get done in the process. I wrote my outline, pasted some pretty pictures, then showed it to him to validate as being on the right track. Somehow, he got to the point of drawing me a cell phone and, in painful detail, all the functions of that cell phone, and how I would go about documenting it. He lost track of what he was talking about, then took another look at what I had given him, and gave his blessing.

Handy Man has struck again. I sent a company wide email begging for help. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:
Does anyone know the basics of home wiring?

I have what some call a situation at home. I've done the software equivalent of putting untested code into production, and consequently bringing down the national grid. Not quite that bad, but let's just say there are a few dark passages in my house right now.

I'm doing the man thing, by the way, so an electrician is out of the question. Besides, now it's personal.

The aforementioned manager read this before coming into work, and brought me a book and some kind of electrical reading gadget thingamabob that not even he understands how to use. I should really learn how to use it though, because testing a 220 wire with your tongue is no way to determine if it's hot.

My wife dressed me yesterday in brown corduroys and an orange sweater -- the kind of orange that would prevent, say, a hunter from mistaking you for anything natural. It got lots of comments. I was called a pumpkin on more than one occasion -- not terribly original. The Charlie Brown comment was better thought out. When I told my wife about the reception, she smiled, fixed my collar and told me I look very handsome. I can't shake the feeling that she is making damn sure no female of the species will find me attractive.

As I walking into my manager's office, he took one look at me at said, "Hey pumpkin!" I couldn't resist the opening. In my best Joey Tribiani I said, "How you doin' sugah tits?"

Monday, February 12, 2007

Grid Wars

If you like an old fashioned video game with a modern kick to it, check out Grid Wars. It's a clone of Geometry Wars, but since the original is not available by any means I can divine, Grid Wars is gonna have to do. It's addictive, so beware.

If you don't believe me, then perhaps the fact that Microsoft is going to shut Grid Wars down will convince you.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I've bitten the bullet and am upgrading. In the meantime, things might look a little different for a while.

Update: The template is ugly. It will have to stick for a few days unfortunately. I am reviewing all my old posts and putting thought to the labels. I'm deleting a few old posts too, the kind I don't care to share any more. I'm making a "My Favorites" label for, you guessed it, my favorite posts.

So bear with me for a while.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


One of the characters in my work-in-progress is a Houston police officer. He was a linebacker at a prominent football school, and would have been a first round pick in the pro draft had he not blown out his knee. His life since he was a child has been about football. Without football he has nothing, including the will to even live.

He is recruited instead into the police force. Life he finds, is far from over. His particular talent for taking people down makes him well suited for law enforcement. His reputation grows. Various departments court him. Finally, though, he transfers to narcotics.

And here he thought he would make the biggest splash, but he is sorely disappointed. His biggest collars are dismissed on technicalities. By the time he catches up with another of my characters -- a drug smuggler working for a particularly nasty gang, represented by a lawyer that has never let one of them do so much as a day of community service -- he's ready to exact justice more directly. And he has friends in the force that will back his play.

That's the gist of it. Now, how to implement the details.

My brother lives in Houston, and he happens to have made the recent acquaintance with an HPD officer, who has been part of the force for twenty five years. So I told my brother to ask the officer if he would consent to a Q&A session with me. Last night my brother called me with the man's cell number.

Given that this is about a corrupt cop, I wonder how I should phrase my questions. I'm pretty sure if someone were writing a book about a software developer that wrote a super virus that took down the security grid, I would be more than happy to play along. I guess it just depends on the personality.

So, my good readers, what questions would you ask?

Here are a few I have in mind.

Q. Within the Houston law enforcement organization, what are considered the dream assignments? Does every rookie cop want someday to make Detective, for instance?

Q. What is the chain of command in the force? Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Commissioner? (I might look this up instead of asking)

Q. What assignments are given to officers as punishment for botching an investigation? Guarding the police parking lot for instance.

Q. A sergeant at a precinct can make the job worth doing, or be the reason that one would quit. Without naming names, of course, what frustrations have you experienced in the past with a sergeant? Do any come to mind that did an outstanding job?

Q. How about with assistant district attorneys? Have you ever felt that your collars were being rejected due to shifts in the political wind direction?

Q. In what ways have solid cases that you have made or those made by your fellow officers been dismissed in court? Has corruption ever been suspected as the culprit?

Q. What motivates you to come to work each day? Did you have one idea about your job when you started, but have since adjusted your views?

Q. What is the most gratifying part of your job? Have you ever been thanked by a civilian for a job well done?

Q. The most oft question asked of an officer is probably "Have you ever killed somebody" or "Can you fix this ticket for me" What other questions are typically asked of you? And what are some of your canned answers?

Q. What is some of the street slang that has made it into the police lexicon?

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Handy Man Can

After a year and a half of lukewarm showers, I decided to take action and replace the heating elements of my hot water heater. There is a little faucet at the base of the heater tank, which was too clogged with sediment to run, so I removed the top heating element, about one-third of the way down the tank. This is akin to removing a very large cork. I caught the water in a garbage can, which spouted like Austin Powers' marathon leak after waking from deep-freeze.

There is another element near the base of the tank, too low from which to catch water in a garbage can, so I decided instead to reexamine the faucet. I had been intimidated to do so before because of the mess it would make, but what the hell now. I had just made a huge one. It's kind of like getting the first scuff on your new shoes, or bird shit on the windshield pulling out of the car wash. The next one is old news. So, after removing the faucet head and poking a clothes hanger into the tank, the water started flowing again. It was embarrassingly easy.

After pulling them both out, I could see that the old elements were perfectly functional. Ooops. Oh well. I replaced them anyway with the new ones and put it all back together, filled the tank with water again, and cranked her up. With much anticipation, I took a shower the next morning. No difference.


So then I did the unthinkable. What any sane person would have done in the first place. I turned the temperature up.

Voila. Hot shower.

In a concentric ring surrounding my hot water heater, like Dante's seven rings of hell, lie refuse, scattered tools, discarded packaging and ruddy sediment. The detritus of a dirty bomb.

Need a handy man? Here, take my card. It reads: Wile E. Coyote, soooper genius.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Brilliant Idea

I started writing a novel, as some of you know, and am participating in a writers group to help me along technically and motivationally. After five thousand words of a single chapter (that seems like a lot, doesn't it?) I stumbled a bit. Not a dead stop; rather a moment of reorganization.

One of those, "Hey, wait... What if...?"

So I wrote my Indian spirit guide. And wow did he ever give me a great idea to go forward with. I guess he didn't get published on accident.

For the first time since I started this endeavor, I feel like I really have something going.

Change of subject: Global Warming.

Still here? Excellent. I thought I would share with you an article my wife found in the Lowell Sun. Check out this excerpt:
With glaciers melting, lakes drying, species vanishing, the oceans acidifying, corals bleaching, hurricanes intensifying, diseases spreading, sea levels rising, insurance companies balking and with 928 peer-reviewed scientific studies dealing with climate change in the past 10 years with zero, as in not a single one, disputing the theory that greenhouse gas emissions have caused most of the warming of the past 50 years (according to a study in Science magazine), can we answer the right question with, "Yes, global warming is occurring right now and its consequences are already being felt."

Check this out. Oil companies have been spending money in a deliberate attempt to confuse people about global warming, to keep us going to the pumps, and not, heaven forbid, get behind the idea of alternative fuel sources. Here's the quote:
The Union of Concerned Scientists recently reported that Exxon Mobil had spent $16 million on different organizations that would spread doubt as to the existence of global warming.

Want to do something about it? Check out this web site.