Friday, March 31, 2006

The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round...

This morning on my way to work I passed a row of school buses waiting to take flight from a local Speedway gas station. At first I started waxing sentimental. "Oh, how nice that the busses are lined up, ready to jet students off to another day of exhilirating education." And then I realized that the reality of the availability of cigarettes and a cruller probably had more to do with the location of the parked busses.

All this got me thinking about my days riding the school bus. I hated it. Virtually every minute of it. The only time I didn't absolutely detest riding the bus was when I got into middle school and discovered that the bus was a great place to catch another 30 minutes of sleep before Social Studies. During elementary school, I can remember standing at the end of the driveway, absolutely frozen, waiting for the bus to arrive. I had a friend who waited for the bus with us who stuttered, but none of us ever noticed since all of our teeth were chattering making all of us stutter. The elation of the bus's arrival and the blast of heat (and elementary aged schoolchildren body odor) that greeted you at the door was always tempered by our beloved driver saying "Hurry up and get in your seat, or I'll call the depot." Our bus driver was always threatening to "call the depot" on you. I had the same driver all through elementary school, and I'm sure underneath her grizzled exterior she was a lovely woman, but all I ever heard her do is bark and threaten to "call the depot." She did have an amazing ability to drive and watch you in the mirror above her head continually, all at the same time. She also looked like someone had pried the drink out of her hand before she started her route.

My favorite bus story from elementary school involved me and the two older idiots I used to have to sit with. We had assigned seats on the bus, and as a first or second grader, I always used to get plopped in with two fifth graders. Yes, we had three to a seat. Given my penchant for a quart of ice cream for desert with a candy bar chaser, I could have easily stood to have had my own seat. But no, I was smashed in with two other guys who were ticked off about sitting with the fat little kid. In any case, one day while we were parked at the school waiting to depart for home, these two dilinquents convinced me to raise my middle finger solo in the direction of the bus driver in the bus parked behind ours. I had no idea what this gesture meant, given that I hadn't spent as much time around state fair carnies as these two clowns I was seated with, so up went the finger. I can remember seeing the driver behind us immediately grab her little CB radio transmitter, and I can remember seeing the spectre of my bus driver headed back towards my seat. I don't really remember what happened after that, but I have a feeling the bus drivers had a good laugh at my expense about it later. It was probably recommended that it might be more appropriate for someone of my naivete to be riding a shorter bus. Who knows...

I salute you, Metropolitan School District of Perry Township, Bus 70. I don't miss you, but I salute you.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What the?!

So I went into the bathroom at work this morning... (at this point my wife is already cringing as she reads this...she knows that I could do a blog entry per day concerning the bathroom at work). Anyway, I went in, used the bathroom, and while I was washing my hands to make my exit, another gentleman came in. He stood at the urinal for a few moments and then headed for the door.

At this point, every part of me is thinking about how gross this guy is. Using the bathroom without washing your hands ranks up there with,, it's nasty. Anyway, as I'm imagining the bugs that must be crawling around in this guy's cubical, he steps around me, snatches a paper towel from the dispenser, and uses it to grab the handle on the door as he exits. Huh? Wait a minute. I'm confused. Was this to protect your precious, already soiled hands? Was this a gesture of courtesy to the rest of us? "I don't want to foul the handle of the door with my uncleanliness...I'll just wait until later when I shake your hand to infect you..."

I can't take it.


Geek Alert

I've added support for RSS and Atom web feeds to our little blog. If that sentence sounded like "I added support for absolutely nothing I care about" in your head, then ignore this post. For the curious, read this description of RSS and web feeds. You may notice that I've added buttons to the right side of the page (down below the links to our church and what not) for adding us to Yahoo, Google, AOL, etc. Basically those button will add this page to your Yahoo, Google, etc front page, and you'll be alerted whenever new content is added to this blog. So you don't have to check us every day (as I'm sure so many of you do.) Many news sites (CNN, Fox News, etc) feature RSS feeds that will "push" the news to you throughout the day, so you don't have to continually check their page. Many sites are using the new orange icon below. If you click on it, it will take you to the feed for that site.

It's a cool technology that I was able to add with minimal effort. So for the two of you who will use it...enjoy!


Friday, March 24, 2006

Watching and Waiting

Erin has informed me that when she tells her high school students that her husband is an engineer, they usually say things like:

"Oh, he must be a big dork" or "I bet he never got a date in college" or "Why would you marry someone so nerdy?"

After she agrees with them on all counts, she tells them that part of my job is to watch TV all day. This is really only partially true. My job is to develop software, and part of that job is testing software. The testing, for me, is the boring part. In any case, her students usually light up at this point, aglow in the thought that a job exists where you watch TV all day. "Your husband is so cool!" and "You're so lucky that God led you to Indiana to find the perfect man to fulfill all your dreams" are usually their next comments.

Today is one of those days where I'm mostly testing and watching. I've been sitting here watching an automated script change channels every five seconds for the past, oh, four hours. So not only am I not actively participating in the process (since we have an automated test tool to change the channels...oh if they can ever get an automated tool to write software...or find someone to do it for a much lower salary...oh wait...), but I don't even get to really watch anything. Just about the time I wake up enough for my eyes to focus, the channel changes. I'm looking for the TV to do anything out of the ordinary, at which point I would scurry through the code praying that the offending software was not written by yours truly. So far so good. The frustrating thing is that right about the time Bob says "The winner of today's showcase is..." -- the channel changes. "The results of the paternity tests are in, and..." -- the channel changes. "State is down by one with two seconds to go. The final shot is up..." -- the channel changes. Not once in ten years have I seen Mr. Rogers get that second shoe on.

The only thing more irritating than the vast wasteland which is network TV in the afternoon is not even being able to watch it long enough to decide that it's not worth watching.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

There's Another Woman--or something like that

So, on Sunday, it happened. I had worried about this day for months, and on Sunday, it came to fruition. Nothing could prepare me for the reality, and even now, days later, I'm reeling from the fallout.

Simply put, Bret purchased an IPOD. Yes, a 60G IPOD. He has been ripping CDs for months in anticipation, and just a few days ago, he brought home the box that officially labeled him a music lover of the 21st century.

Now, why do I have a problem with said IPOD? Why wouldn't I want my husband, an avid music fan, to have such a toy?

Because... I never see him. He stashes himself away into a deep and dark corner of our home, and he rocks himself into R.E.M oblivion. Some women might not complain about a less-than-present spouse, but he's never missing in one of those moments. He's missing when someone needs to take out the trash, clean a toilet, or answer the phone.

The saddest part about this whole adventure is that this new fangled IPOD doesn't even hold all of Bret's music. Bret has over 45 DAYS of consecutive listening, and while this IPOD can make a dent in his collection, it is still lacking. Now, if you know anyone in the Hawkins family like I do, you know what this means. This new IPOD, which in my female terms costs about the same as FIFTEEN pairs of shoes, is only good until an even bigger one is placed on the market. Then, the cycle begins. Bret will want the new IPOD because it will hold all of his music (and then some). But, then it holds "and then some," and he'll need to buy more music. Then, of course, the newest IPOD will be unable to hold all of his new music. And it just keeps going.

I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that my husband is an audiophile. Now, I just need to figure out how to make him a garbage toting, toilet cleaning, answering phone kind of audiophile.

What's a girl to do when she loves a boy?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Last night while making ourselves miserable running on the Precor machines at our local gym, Erin did something particularly rude to me, partly in an effort to break my Carl Lewis-like stride. In response, I barked "I WILL BLOG YOU," meaning I would expose her evil doings to the online community at large if she did not cease and desist. This turned out to be a particularly effective threat in our online age, and it caused her to immediatley halt her running and give me a good staring. Unfortunately, I think several other people in the gym heard me say "I will FLOG you," and probably thought "Gee, that seems like a particularly first century, Roman sort of threat" as they considered reporting me to the authorities. In any case, the threat of public humiliation seemed to work wonders. Take note...


Monday, March 13, 2006

Chicago, anyone?

This weekend the wife and I (I can use that in a blog entry, since she's not physically present) made a visit to the Windy City. As was mentioned previously, we went primarily to see our new friend Kaya and her handlers, as well as attend a couple of concerts. As is always the case with our little weekend trips, it was the unexpected little moments that made the highlight reel.

First off, I would just like to note that I truly am starting to feel like a grouchy old man at club concerts. Friday night was a visit to the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. We stood in front of an inebriated denizen of Cook County who provided ample evidence of why people in other countries might have a problem with Americans. This guy talked loudly through the whole concert. And for a guy who just spent $35 to see a show, he obviously hated the band, with the exception of three songs -- the names of which he shouted as loudly as possible during every pause. He called the singer names, made insults about the country the band was from, and just generally made an idiot of himself. After several people had relocated to get away from him, I threw my hat in the ring and turned around to tell him to "can it." I think it surprised him. Luckily his buddy stopped responding to his inane babbling, and we weren't treated to his pleasantries for the majority of the rest of the show. I must say that as I turned to tell him to stop, I imagined what it would feel like to hit him. But then I remembered that I'm a former choir boy with a gimpy right arm due to my horseback riding prowess and prayed silently that he wasn't the fightin' type. Score one for the weenie.

We spent a lovely Saturday afternoon with the Longs. Kaya was charming, as usual. They took us to a delightful Costa Rican restaurant on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the Costa Ricans had a rebel uprising in me this morning, which makes me think I should stick to eating my usual turkey sandwiches and the like for lunch. In any case, it was great seeing Kaya...and the other two Longs. ;)

Saturday night we went to another show at the Vic Theatre, and this time we sat in the balcony. I couldn't handle the thought of having to turn my vengeful eye on a fellow concert goer for a second night in a row. Following the show, I got the bright idea that we could cut quite a bit of time off our ride on the El if we took a bus a couple of miles straight down Belmont Street. On the surface, this seemed like a great idea, but we ended up on the CTA's "Bus of the Damned" for that week. The driver was in a bad mood upon boarding, and the bus was full of people coming out of the show. So we stood, clinging to the poles of life while the bus raced down the street (please note that I have all sorts of issues with "hanging on" in any kind of public transportation...somehow I always imagine that the last guy to be hanging on to the bus in the position I'm holding probably was slowly dying from Ebola. It always provides a nice OCD moment for me.) In any case, after several near head-on collisions and an altercation between the driver and an angry man on a bike whose stop had been passed by the bus at approximately 60 miles per hour on a city street ("My bus is full" was the driver's excuse, but by that point, the bus was maybe half full...kudos to the guy on the bike for being able to catch the bus. I didn't figure the Batmobile could have caught that bus...), we arrived at the El station and headed back to our hotel.

All in all, a pleasant but tiring trip. The only real new discovery we made about Chicago was that their I-PASS system for bypassing the toll booths is very nice. I'd heard guys at work talk about blowing through the toll plazas at 80 miles per hour, so I couldn't resist buying one of the gizmos. What they neglected to mention was that the plazas you can drive through at high speed are the new "open tolling" plazas with no booths, merely cameras mounted over the highway. The ones where there is still a booth, but you don't have to stop, are tricky at 80 miles per hour. It's sort of like threading a needle, except the thread is a mid-size Hyundai and the eye of the needle features concrete barricades and a moderately terrified state employee. Not pretty. The horror of being beaten senseless by my angry mother-in-law always makes me slow down though.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Over the course of the past few months, I've become increasingly interested in my hearing. Now anyone that knew me as a child knows that I spent literally thousands of hours with headphones on. I started out listening to opera records as a really little kid. (Parents -- take note. While it might SEEM like people would say "Oh, how cute!" when you tell them that bit of information as an adult, what they actually say is "Oh, how weird." So thanks, dad, for making me aware of the classics...and also for nearly making me unmarketable on the dating scene years later.) Eventually I moved on to listening to a radio, then cassette tapes, then CDs. I sat in rocking chairs and listened to music for hours as a child. To this day, I'm most relaxed sitting in a recliner listening to headphones. My wife and several friends have noted that I look autistic, sitting there rocking with headphones on. I pay them no mind and retreat into my high decibal happy place. There used to be an online magazine for music fans called "Addicted to Noise," and that's probably an excellent description of yours truly. I love music. I love sound. I love the craft of creating sound. This love of noise has gotten me involved with children's choir as a child and a band as a recent college grad clinging desparately to his youth. It also means I've gone to several hundred concerts in my lifetime, and I've seen virtually every band that I really like, and in many cases, several times each.

This little obsession led to several results as I grew older. First off, I spent a gutload of cash on CD's during high school and college. If any of my apartments had ever caught fire in college, investigators would have probably declared that the place had been occupied by someone with a serious investment in plastic coasters or Tupperware. The second result was that I have developed some hearing loss and tinnitus. Now the hearing loss has never been enough to really bother ears ring when I lay in bed, and I do occasionally have trouble hearing people on the phone. But it's mostly relegated to my right ear ( usually stand on the right side of music halls, and you lose more hearing in that ear...), and I've never really thought of it as a problem. But now I'm getting worried. I'm much more gentle on my ears now, but have I started the ball rolling on having really bad hearing as I get older?

Hearing loss runs deep in my family. Several years ago I joked at a family get together that we should just drop a car battery in the middle of the living room and let everyone hookup their hearing aids to it. The majority of the older adults in the family wear hearing aids, and at holidays, it was not uncommon to look around and see lots of old people cupping their ears immediately followed by various pitches of chirping and humming coming from the hearing aids. It looked and sounded like you'd entered a bird sanctuary full of crazy old people trying to fly away. My family has filled up a landfill with hearing aid batteries, no doubt, and I suspect if you walked barefoot across my grandparents family room, you might be able to build up a charge from old hearing aid batteries embedded in your foot. When they all took their hearing aids out, it sounded a little like the New York Stock Exchange with everyone talking over each other.

I've been debating investing in an iPod over the past few weeks. I think I'm going to go ahead and pull the trigger, but the thought of yet another hearing-killing-device in our house has caused me to pause. I'll definitely have to work to use it responsibly. My dad got one a while back, and he's enjoying his. Since he hasn't succumbed to the hearing aid yet, I suspect he's had to rigup some sort of amplifier meant for a soccer stadium to get enough volume out of it to hear it. (Anyone who knows my dad knows that this is quite possible. He's liable to have welded something new to his iPod by now...he has had it 2 weeks, you know?) I also had to laugh this past weekend when I visited my grandfather. He wears wireless headphones to watch TV, since it means he can control the volume. Previously, everyone else in the family room just sat around stunned by the jet engine volume of my grandparent's TV wondering how long it would take the bleeding to stop. What I noticed this weekend was that his headphones were loud enough WHILE ON HIS HEAD that I could listen to the show he was watching just from the audio that bled out of the headphones. It really is a testament to the strength of a Hawkins skull to have endured that for so long. If I tried to listen to those headphones at the volume he had them set at, I'm realtively sure that my fillings would have come loose. You could launch a missle three feet from his head, and he'd have no idea...

So as I head to Chicago to see two concerts (Belle & Sebastian with the New Pornographers, and Stereolab...) this weekend, I pack my earplugs and pray that I'll be able to hear my grandkids say "PLEEEEASE turn down the TV grandpa!"