Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fishin' with grandpa...

As many of you know, my grandfather in southern Indiana has been having some medical difficulties over the past few weeks. I've been fortunate enough to get to spend some time with him in the hospital, which has led me to reminisce about various trips and things I've done with him in my lifetime. I've had the unusual experience of growing up with all four of my grandparents still living, so I've built up a wealth of stories with each of them. But the one that my grandfather most commonly recalls involves a certain fishing trip...

When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, my grandfather decided to take me and my two older cousins on a fishing trip in northern Minnesota. The chance to take a vacation with my cousins was exciting enough, but I had never been on a trip alone with my papaw (what we Hoosiers call our grandfathers...) at the time, so it was a grand event for yours truly. Papaw drove my cousin Derek and I, while my cousin Boomer awaited our arrival in Minnesota. (The secondary purpose of the trip was to pick him up at summer camp.)

On the drive up, we stopped somewhere in Wisconsin and did the only thing that makes sense when you're in Wisconsin -- we bought cheese. I think my cousin and I bought about five pounds of cheese, because I can remember we ate string cheese almost continuously for the rest of the drive that day. My grandfather is a pediatrician, so he understood that eating several pounds of cheese will leave one in a world of hurt later on (actually, common sense would tell this to most people, physician or not) but obviously this escaped Derek and me. I can remember papaw laughing his head off at us later that night as we lay in intestinal distress.

Upon arriving in Minnesota, we headed for Boomer's summer camp. I can remember we wandered around the grounds for a while looking for any sign of my cousin. In the mean time, we were introduced to a guy standing waist deep in the lake. This particular introduction sticks with me, because I remember as my grandfather reached out to shake the guy's hand, he emerged from the lake naked. I wasn't accustomed (thankfully) to seeing naked adult men, let alone emerging from swampy lakes, so the scene of this dude rising out of the lake has stuck with me. It seemed odd to me at the time, and to be honest, it seems slightly odder to me now. So naked guy, I hope you realize the impression you left on me. Ick.

We stayed in a little motel in Ely, Minnesota, and the only restaurant nearby was an A&W. Every morning we'd hop out of bed to go for breakfast at the A&W. Actually, the cousins hopped out of bed, while papaw crawled. He slept with one of the three of us each night, and I snored, Boomer turned perpendicular in the bed, and Derek kicked, so I think he slept about six minutes each night. Breakfast was a highlight each day for the cousins. My grandfather may have been a doctor, but he never ate food that made any sense. He's fond of ice cream with sunflower seeds or potato chips on it, or ketchup on cottage cheese and such. So for breakfast at the A&W each day, he ate a salad with ranch dressing. I have no idea why. Similarly, in keeping with supporting healthy eating habits for his grandsons, we ate coney dogs and root beer floats at 7 am each morning. We thought it was the greatest thing ever, but I have a feeling papaw probably realized his mistake each evening as we drew the windows and doors of the small motel room closed. I think the only time he ever gave the A&W employees any indication of his profession was when he'd say things like, "No, no Bret David. You can't order a second coney dog for breakfast," as though that second coney dog was where the pediatric line of good judgment was crossed.

Our experiences fishing on the lake were less than productive. We spent a lot of time clanking around in the boat, and papaw spent most of his time fixing tangled reels. This led to a lot of ham fistedness on his part, which usually concluded with a rod and reel in the lake. We easily fished more rods out of the lake than we did blue gill or pike. The other thing all of the cousins remember is that papaw could never hear what any of us were saying. He's notoriously hard of hearing, and at one point, he hammered the boat into a rock at high speed. He scolded Derek, who had been assigned "rock watch" at the front of the boat, and Derek would have replied, had he not been hoarse from screaming "ROCK!" for the previous five minutes.

My other memories of that trip involved papaw and the car. If memory serves me, it was a blue Ford LTD. At one point, we were nearly demolished by a pickup truck that ran a stop sign in Virginia, Minnesota. I think it was the same day when we made a left turn onto a street, and Derek asked the seemingly innocent question, "Papaw, I've never seen a street where you look at the backs of the stoplights instead of the fronts." It quickly occurred to papaw that we were going the wrong way up a four lane divided highway. He was unfazed and quickly drove the LTD through a small patch of private property in an effort to join the proper lanes of traffic.

There were lots of other great memories on that trip, but the thing that will forever stick out in my mind is how much I enjoyed spending that time with my grandfather. I wouldn't trade it for anything, and if you haven't done something similar with your own kids or grandkids, I couldn't make a stronger recommendation. At 84 years old, papaw still lights up whenever we speak of that trip, and I do much the same.

(More pics of Grant will be here shortly!!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lost in Translation

In my current job, I have interactions via email every day with people from all over the world. Since my company is based in China, the majority of these interactions are with individuals from China or Singapore. I've discovered that being able to translate from what is commonly referred to as "Chinglish" or "Engrish" is quite a skill. The words I receive in the email are, indeed, in English, but deciphering the meaning can be somewhat difficult.

Just this morning I received a software bug report alerting me that the "Tv has a poop voice when change sound mode." Now I've worked on a lot of televisions in my career, but never have I thought to myself, "Gee, this TV seems to be making a strange noise. Let's see, what could it be. I think it's making a poop voice. Yes, that's definitely it. A poop voice." Since Grant's arrival (well, let's be honest, my whole life) I've dealt with quite a bit of poop, and not once have I noticed it had a voice. Erin may disagree.

I've also recently received emails imploring our team here in Indy to "jump in the tricky and implement the software risky controlling immediately." Yep...that was my response also.

Regarding a hardware problem I discovered last week, I received this in response from an engineer in China:

"I did not why indy dont know it. This kindly information should be pulished before Indy found out."


All of this is part of the joy of working in a global environment. I'm sure there's some Chinese dude blogging at this very moment over in Shenzhen trying to figure out what "gone up amongst the lillies" or "where the rat bit the woman" means. Good luck with that...Nobody in California can figure those out either.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day

How is it possible to have a three day holiday weekend in which you don't even spend enough time at your own home to mow the grass?

Such was our Memorial Day weekend. I'm not complaining. We got to see nearly every member of my side of the family for approximately 11 seconds each, and we got to see some of Erin's extended family for around 8 seconds each. Pretty successful, given the timetable. I think we put about 400 miles on Big Whitey which cost us about $100, so that's depressing. On the upside, Grant delighted his road worn parents by sleeping completely through the night last night. I thought the wife had taken a nip off the bottle this morning she was so giddy. Hopefully this will become a trend.

The weekend started with a wedding for some friends from church on Saturday in Bloomington. Erin and I were both in the wedding. Erin was chosen to say a prayer, and I was asked to read (!). I spent several minutes before her prayer trying to coach Erin into saying something enlightening. She kept giving me all this business about praying for God's mercy and grace. I told her that God's mercy and grace could be best shown through a mercifully short ceremony followed by a graceful after-wedding buffet, which did indeed turn out to be true. The reception was at a lovely Italian restaurant in Bloomington called Tutto Béne, which offered a cozy atmosphere ensconced in exposed brick, couches, and high ceilings. Apparently the place was a factory at one time and more recently a muffler shop. The restauranteers have done a nice job exercising the exhaust fumes. I was excited to find out about this place, since every time we eat in Bloomington we end up at Texas Roadhouse or the Olive Garden. I have no problem with either of those restaurants (both will feed me until I'm sweating, which is my criteria for fine dining), but it is nice to take in a local experience from time to time, and I have no doubt we'll return to Tutto Béne in the future.

Sunday we attended a high school graduation party for one of my cousins. She made it through high school with a diploma and without a child, which is always a source of pride for us Hoosiers. Now she's off to Indiana University to study hard and discuss conservative politics with her fellow acadamians (her parents read this, you know). Congratulations, Kate! Your accomplishments are helping make up for the rest of us!

Yesterday we had lunch with some of Erin's extended family from California who join us each year for the Indy 500. Having grown up in Indy, I'm always fascinated by people's devotion to the Big Race. I've never attended the event and have generally writtten it off as merely a source of traffic tie ups and hearing loss, but others think it's the greatest thing since "all you can eat." In any case, it was fun to introduce Grant to more family.

So for the rest of this week, we intend to lock our doors, unplug our phones, and hide out in our house watching "24" and whatever shows up from Netflix. Please don't call after 8pm.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lord of the Dance

The video won't due the absolute cuteness justice. Let's just put it this way... he has a way of keeping his body still and just bouncing his legs which makes him look like he's the lead in the RiverDance. PRECIOUS!

Pitchin' In

I realize we've had lots of posts in the past couple of weeks. I told Erin the other night that life in the past month has started to blur into little bloggable moments, and at this point, the blog is really a diary with which we will hopefully remember the craziness of our own lives. If you, dear reader, find something worth your time, that's an added bonus. (I realize that this bonus, more often than not, will be pictures of Grant and not me rambling. I'm aware.)

Another bloggable bit happened today here at Enginerd Central. We had a company pitch-in to celebrate the arrival of summer, an event likely not noticed by some of our staff who haven't been exposed to natural light in a very long time. Someone actually "pitched in" with Little Debbie brownies that were cut in half. Only an engineer would "pitch in" with something you could buy from the vending machines.

The other thing I found humorous was that there was a large conference room with tables and chairs reserved for the event at which there were a fair number of people eating -- from our finance and marketing departments. The engineers were gathering three times as much food on their plates and escaping potential mingling in under 30 seconds, rushing back to their cubes, food already in mouth. I would have started laughing if it hadn't been so difficult to run with a chicken leg in my mouth.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Food, Flowers, and a Fat Baby

Bret and I (with grandparents in tow) headed down for our third annual trip to Madison, Indiana for the amazing Madison in Bloom fesitval. Madison is a quaint river town (Ohio River) which boasts hundreds of Civil War era homes and a bustling and large main street complete with antique stores and ice cream shops. The "in bloom" part of the weekend includes trapsing through these homes' gardens and oogling the landscapeing prowess of their retiree owners.

Here's a cute candy shop along the downtown street. Bret was customer numero uno.

However, this year with baby Grant and a scorcher for the record books, Madison in Bloom could have been easily called "Sweaty baby with diareaha day." Grant's bowel system was not happy which lead to diaper change after diaper change, more often than not on the backseat of our new van. To top things off, we decided to carry Grant in a backpack carrier to make maneuvering through the gardens easier. I made it about 4 blocks with the backpack; Bret, fortunately, had more fortitude and made it the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, thanks to the heat, Baby Grant was one sweaty, stinky and soiled mess.

This year's gardens left a lot to be desired, but the day, gardens or not, made for a great late spring tradition. This Christmas, we will head down there for a candlelight tour of the insides of the homes. So, Madison is quickly becoming a biannual destination for us.

Part of why carrying Grant was so tricky is because he's a bit of a pork chop. His four month doctor's visit was last Friday, and Grant weighed in at 19.5 lbs. I checked out our dear friends, The Long family, to see what Grant's buddy Kaya weighed, and I found that her nine month report had her weighing in at under 16 lbs. What can I say? Our baby likes his food. He has already outgrown his bucket car seat, so this weekend included finding a new throne for the boy wonder.

Memorial Day weekend is super busy, complete with a wedding, a graduation party and family from California. As long as Grant keeps the same shorts on for longer than 5 minutes, we'll be tickled.

Monday, May 21, 2007

For Sale

This weekend was our annual neighborhood garage sale. This provides the prime opportunity to watch people heap all their crap on their driveway so that their neighbors can rifle through it, eventually moving some portion of it to their own driveway to be placed on sale at next year's community garage sale. It's one of nature's beautiful cycles.

One of the things I find so intersting about these sales is the need people feel to critique the items which you're in the process of getting rid of. We stopped by one house so that Erin could look at one of these little customized trash cans which allows you to deposit soiled baby diapers without having to breathe the fumes later. After she inspected it and decided not to purchase, another neighbor strolled by and from the sidewalk yelled, somewhat angrily, "You can do the same thing with a normal trash can." He had no interest in the item, and it wasn't as though he were preventing someone from making a $5000 mistake. He just felt the need to gripe for his own satisfaction. Very odd. I also find it interesting that neighbors will angrily argue over the price of items, none of which is more than $5. Nothing creates a sense of contentment and neighborly love like a community garage sale.

This year our addition to the collective pile was a "Thighs of Steel" VCR tape and a large L-shaped computer desk which has followed me through about 50 moves, including one to California and back. It has served me well, but it basically filled one of our bedrooms, so last week we bought and assembled a much smaller desk with the intention of selling the old one for a meager profit at the garage sale. So Saturday morning we lugged the old desk onto the driveway from its resting place in our dining room. And why one "Thighs of Steel" VCR tape, you ask? Good question. Bored at one point with the lack of action in our driveway, I sauntered over for a lecherous glance at the thighs in question on the front of the tape and discovered it was a male's thighs of steel. Why my wife owned this item, she could not explain, but it was a sign of the slowness of our morning that this caused me such disappointment.

Erin's dad and I manned the desk while Erin and her mom went off looking for clothes and toys for Grant. I found this intriguing, given that Grant has more clothes than Ralph Lauren, but what do I know? After a few minutes, Erin returned with a few items, including a handful of CDs.

Now you may be asking why she would be buying me CDs, when I've been selling CDs over the past few years. It all goes back to LaLa. I've been trading CDs on LaLa for the past year, but I've now run out of "trade fodder." Basically I want to keep all the stuff I have, but I'd still like to receive new stuff. So she agreed that a good approach would be to buy CDs for less than a dollar at garage sales, if they were albums that people would want on LaLa. So this garage sale provided my first opportunity to look for "trade fodder."

Along with the handful of CDs, she excitedly informed me that one of our neighbors was selling a couple hundred CDs down the street, and Erin made the call that it seemed like good stuff for LaLa. So Dave and I hopped in the car and started making our plans to pay as little as possible for as many CDs as possible.

Sure enough, the guy had tons of CDs that were all in pristine shape. And on top of it, most of the CDs were of the "best of" variety by big name artists over the past 30 years (The guy had been a DJ in a former life. What a score!) He wanted $1 per CD, but I asked him how much he'd take for the lot. He replied with an uncooperative, "Count them" which garnered an eye roll from his wife, who most assuredly wanted to forget his DJ'ing days and regain the space in her bedroom occupied by the CDs (this is starting to sound familiar.) In my mind, this was a sure sign that he wasn't the bargaining type, but Dave and I had discussed our strategy on the way to his sale. My approach at this point was to simply pull out the CDs I wanted and knew would trade, and then I'd offer him like 80 or 90 cents for each of them. Or, perhaps, I'd say, "Gee, looks like about 200 CDs, I'll give you $180." As I readied my general offer for the lot, Dave immediately began counting and quickly announced that there were "at least 400 CDs here." So I began the selection process.

In the end, I bought 50 or so CDs for $30. Not a bad deal, and they're already trading like mad on LaLa. Erin and her mom ended up buying some clothes and toys, but nothing too huge. Although it was rumored that Deb waited until Dave was mowing in the back yard before unloading her loot from the car. And the desk, you ask? It sat with nary a bit of interest all day. So at about 9pm, as I was just getting ready to cede defeat and move it back into the dining room, a friendly family with a UHaul stopped for a look. They were tough bargainers, and I ended up even helping them heave it into the truck.

Next year we should have tons of our own baby clothes and toys to put out on the driveway. Oh wait, we're having eight kids first. Yes, I'm listening, dear.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Love the BMV

I went to the BMV today to register Big Whitey (the Kia Sedona) and transfer the plates from our now dearly departed Elantra. It has already been a fiasco getting the title for the van, as the dealership "lost" it. (This seems concerning...The one thing I wouldn't expect a dealership to do is lose titles.) But after six or seven weeks, I finally got the call that the title was available, so I headed over to the nearest license branch to take care of the plates and registration.

The BMVs in Indiana have been under great pressure to get their act together over the past year. The average wait time at the BMV had grown to something like six days, not to mention the fact that you could get a state issued ID from the BMV if you had proof of being a living organism and nothing else, so a new BMV czar was elected and he set off trying to straighten out a badly broken system.

So I headed into the BMV with optimism that this experience would be better than those of years past. As I entered, my first clue of the improvements was that there were only a handful of people seated, waiting for their names to be called. In previous trips, you would walk in and be handed a number, "7" for example. You'd look at the electronic monitor and it would be on "4," but you knew that this meant there were at least 100 people in front of you. I actually had been told on multiple occasions to leave and return in three or four hours. It was ridiculous.

So I plopped in the chairs and waited. Sure enough, only a few minutes passed before a clerk called my name. As I approached the clerk, I noted that her demeanor suggested that she probably wasn't a recent charm school graduate. She dryly asked me what I was there for, and I replied that I needed to "transfer the plate from this old car," and handed her the registration from the dearly departed Elantra, "to this car," and handed her the title for Big Whitey. She stared at both for a moment and said, "there will be a charge for being late on requesting the title." I quickly handed her a check from the dealership for the title trouble, which she accepted, but I could tell that she was already developing a lack of trust in me.

Next she began analyzing my old registration.

"Where did this come from?" said with a face that suggested it was a forgery.
"The license branch in Brownsburg."
"Hmm...I don't recognize the name," as though she knew all BMV employees statewide.

After she decided that it was a legitimate document, she began hammering away on her computer, sighing approximately ever 15 seconds. After taking my Mastercard to pay the appropriate fees, she printed off a long receipt and the new registration and sent me packing.

Despite her prison cheeriness, I was pleased with the experience. Short and to the point. As I walked out toward the van, I noticed that the plate number on the registration did not match the plate from the Elantra which I had placed on the van that morning. Instead, the number on the registration was for our Sonata, which we still own.

I immediately turned on my heels and headed back inside. My clerk, we'll call her Helga, was nowhere to be seen, but luckily the branch was empty so another clerk called me up. As I was explaining the situation, Helga reemerged and inquired as to "what (he's) doing back?" I explained the problem, and she rolled her eyes and plopped back in front of the computer.

She then inquired of another clerk, "Can't he just switch the plates on his van and Sonata when he gets home?"

Now anyone with enough fingers to hold a pencil can tell you that this won't cut it. For starters, she effectively "sold" my Sonata, as far as the state's computers were concerned. I started to protest and was told, "Let us try and fix it before you butt in, sir."

Everyone needs a moment to be reminded of their rage management skills in a given week, and apparently this was my opportunity. I sat quietly while she and her coworker discussed whether this was a viable option. After another couple of minutes, I said "This isn't going to work. I'm going to have a mess when I renew my registrations next year, not to mention if I get pulled over. Plus the amount of excise tax I just paid was based on the wrong car."

She sighed heavily and said, "I'm not supposed to void nothing out. That's what the commisioner said."

"I don't think you have a choice."

"But it'll go on my record."

She then stared at me as if waiting for suggestions. I shook my head and said nothing, although my face and internal being was shouting, "I don't care what you have to do, just fix it. Your record is of no concern to me."

At this point, her supervisor emerged from the shadows and said, "You don't have a choice. You'll have to void it and start over."

Much sighing and rolling of eyes ensued. As she began punishing her keyboard again for her mistakes, she showed her coworker something on the screen and said, "See how I got confused?" She then mumbled, "Who buys two Hyundais, not to mention the same year?"

Again I shuffled to my happy place and resisted the urge to protest. After much mumbling to herself, the printer spit out new receipts. She showed me that I would be getting a refund for the overpaid tax due to her error, and she handed me a new registration for Big Whitey which was correct. I gathered up my belongings and headed for the door, resisting the urge to give her a piece of my Korean car drivin' mind.

As I reached the door, her supervisor reemerged and began reading her the riot act about her lack of customer service skills. She was also hammering on her about the fact that apparently she never logs out of the computer when she goes to lunch, leaving the terminal open for potential abuse. I felt bad for her, for a second. But then I was happy that SOMEONE now appeared to be managing the BMV.

Overall I'm glad it's over with, and Big Whitey is serving us well. I'm getting 16 MPG which means I swear a lot at the gas station. Perhaps in the coming weeks, Helga will get the opportunity to pump the gas for one of my "stupid Hyundais" after she's booted from the BMV.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Competitive Momma?

Over the last couple of weeks, I've overheard Erin singing to Grant at various times. Erin has a wide repertoire of show tunes and hymns that she could peel off (in stark contrast to the English pub singalongs which I serenade Grant with.) But I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in that she seems to select the same hymn nine times out of ten.

It all goes back to a couple of years ago when we visited with Erin's cousins out in California. They had an adorable new daughter with cute blond hair and enough personality, even as a baby, to light up the room. But she also had a talent that bordered on a superpower -- she could sing one particular hymn from beginning to end. Now I've seen kids sing, but this kid wasn't old enough to even be focusing or drooling with any distinction, but in actuality, she could not only sing this hymn but speak in more complete sentences than many Hoosiers. I'll never forget watching her -- "Jesus, name above all names. Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord." Very cute. Also a tiny bit scary to those of us who are just finishing Hooked On Phonics.

Now that we have our own wunderkind, I can see it glowing in Erin's eyes. Grant will sing. Oh yes, he'll sing. And he will sing that hymn from cover to cover before he turns 12 months. She would never admit it if I asked her, but I fully expect to see Erin with a set of hymn flashcards before she heads to California this summer. I figure by that time, her cousin's daughter will be doing calculus and playing chess. Such is life in a competitive family...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pinch me, please

It might have been the best Mother's Day ever because it was my first, but let me tell you, yesterday was extra special to me. After four long years struggling with infertility and the Grace wait, yesterday felt like it was a long time in the making.

Grant and Bret made me waffles for breakfast, and then Grant, I assume with his American Express Card, bought me the greatest gift an overstressed, overworked, underslept working Mommy could ask for: a full day at the spa, complete with facial, massage, pedicure, manicure, and even lunch. I felt completely and utterly spoiled.

But the real spoiling is the fact that Grant Nicholas is my perfect, dreamboat son. I felt like the day was more about him in the end... his gift of motherhood to me. We said a very special prayer for Grant's birthmom, knowing how hard the day must have been for her. We sent her lots of gifts (none nearly as good as the full day spa package), but we wanted her to know that we did not forget her gift to us as well.

Since our marriage, Mother's Day has been secretly hard for me. Sure, I can try to concentrate on my mom or Bret's mom or even our grandparents and aunts, but truth be told, there was always a struggle about being childless for another year. I still think the holiday is "overdone," but eating that homemade walnut and cinnamon waffle while dreaming about toe nail color, I came to realize that it was okay to overdue things for at least this first year.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cleaning Lady Encounter Part Deux

This morning while my fellow co-workers and I were standing around discussing the plight of our careers, my favorite cleaning lady came through. She was pushing a trash barge through our hallway, collecting anything with a "Trash" sticker on it. A few days ago, I placed a dead computer and monitor outside my cube, and I had noticed that the computer disappeared, but the 21" monitor (of the old heavy tube variety) was still hanging around.

As she walked by us, she pointed at the monitor and blurted out, "I not picking dat ting up."

I quickly replied, "I can pick it up, if you'd like." At which point I grabbed the monitor and quickly heaved it over the side of her rolling rubbish tip. As the monitor landed with a "thud," it threw off the balance of her cart, dropping the front end to the floor so that it could no longer be pushed.

The cleaning lady glared at me with a stare that said, "Dat's strike two, gringo. Tree strikes, you out."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cubical Embarrasment

A few weeks ago, I received a voicemail with the following message (names have been changed to conceal identity, well, all except for mine, but anyway):

"Hi Bret, it's Yolanda. I need to setup an appointment to get your blood. I can do it at your work, your house, wherever is convenient. Have a nice day!"

Now I sat and tried to figure out for the life of me why some woman would call and want my blood. The whole thing was just odd. You would expect something more like, "Hey Bret, it's Yolanda from the 'Indiana Blood Center and Vampires Guild' and we need some of your blood for some noble cause blah blah blah." But this message had none of that. This sounded more like a producer from Maury Povitch trying to con me into a paternity test or something. But then again, very few engineers or engineering students have been featured on Maury's show, given the almost zero likelihood that they managed to find a girl to even take to Wendy's, let alone back to "the teleporter" or whatever other Star Trek themed room was featured in their apartment.

Anyway, I digress. I called Yolanda back and made an appointment for her to meet me at work. In the mean time, she still gave no indication of her intentions with my blood, but I figured out that I recently applied for some additional insurance at work which (apparently) requires a blood test. No sweat.

So Yolanda arrived at my office yesterday with medical bag in tow. I escorted her into the building and asked where we should make the transaction. "Anyplace with a flat surface where nobody will be freaked out by me drawing blood." In an engineering facility, such an event is likely to draw a crowd, but only in an effort to see who can make the blood come out faster or who can design a machine that checks the blood for malaria on the spot or some such. So I told her we could do it at my lab bench.

Now the area around my lab is almost completely vacated. I'm about three days from switching cubes and labs, and I'm pretty much the last man standing in our area, so it's pretty empty. Yolanda dropped her medical bag, pulled out a scale, a tape measure, and a whole pile of blood drawin' gear. This was already a little more intense than I expected, but alas.

She took my weight and height (inseam is still less than waist...sigh) and then told me to roll up my sleeve. All is well. Nobody is around. She takes the blood, and I begin to help her gather up her things. Just as she caps the last vile of blood, I see, in slow motion, her reach into her medical bag and pull out a small plastic cup. Simultaneously out of my other eye, I see one of my coworkers round the corner just in time to hear Yolanda say:

"Okay Mr. Hawkins. You fill 'er up and bring it back to me."

Coworker halts. "Uh, I'm obviously interrupting something here."

Now first off, when handed an empty cup to fill, it took me a second to remember that this was not one of the fertility doctor appointments of the past few years. Talk about an embarrasing scenario. Next I explain, politely, to Yolanda that I can't very well walk half way across our floor with a cup of my own urine in hand. (Although this isn't something that seems COMPLETELY out of the realm of possibility in our building.) She didn't even have a lid for the cup! So I convinced her to wait outside the Men's Room, which she did.

After I left her the, uh, goods, I escorted her out of the building. After an awkward handshake (followed by a good, solid up-to-the-elbows scrub for yours truly) I trudged back to my lab to find and apologize to my coworker. He took it in stride, although I'm not sure he bought my "it's for insurance" routine. Ah well...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I need my tunes

With last year's purchase of the iPod, I do almost 100% of my music listening on the iPod rather than CDs. This almost immediately created a bit of a dilemma for listening in the car. My car has a CD player and cassette deck, so I've been using a cassette adaptor (remember when we needed these for CDs?) Erin's previous car had only a CD player, so I purchased this little gadget to broadcast the iPod on the FM band, but this has never worked well in Indy. We've got scads of little stations which block out the iPod, and on the highway, everytime you pass a truck you hear something by Merle Haggard, and everytime you pass a kid under 21 you hear the previously described "backin' my thang up" genre. Apparently everyone has one of these FM modulators these days.

Now that we've purchased Big Whitey (aka our Kia minivan), I have been struggling with how to correct this life and death situation, since this is the car in which we'll be taking our long road trips to exotic locales like Bedford and Gatlinburg. I did my research, and discovered this little head unit from Sony. For us geeks, this thing has several nifty features. It has a USB jack on the front so you can play MP3s from a USB jump drive, it has an auxillary line in jack so you can run anything with a headphone plug into it, and most importantly, it has an iPod cable so you can control the iPod directly from the head unit. Oh joy.

So I rolled Big Whitey into a local installation shop to have this thing installed. You should have seen all the installers jump to get a chance to pimp my Kia. They offered me some spinny rims and 22s, but I politely declined. After 30 minutes of ripping and tearing on my brand new dash, it was done. We jumped in the van and immediately hooked the iPod up. (Well, we hooked the iPod up after a chorus of "everything else on the dash is gray but that thing is black." Grr.) It played flawlessly. Beautiful. I was listening to a song by The Beach Boys and decided to use the Sony to jump to a track by The Who. I pressed "Skip Artist" and waited. About three seconds later, it went to The Beatles. I pressed it again. About three seconds later, it went to Big Star. Oy vey. I have over 300 artists on my iPod, so I could conceivably go from the first artist to the last by pressing "Skip Artist" 300 times over the course of 15 minutes. This is easier said than done at 80 mph.

The moral of this story is that doing your research doesn't always uncover these little implementation difficulties. All of the sites online say this is the best player to use with an iPod, but obviously this is a technology that still needs some work. Plus, I figure Apple will change the cable I need for the next generation of iPod leaving me with a big, black, useless cable extending from my dash in a few months. (I'm sure that won't happen, honey. Just kidding...) In the mean time, this solution works great if you're just listening to a mix on the iPod, and if you want to jump around between artists a lot, you can always use the auxillary line in with the headphone jack. It just don't sound as purty.

Oh yeah, one other funny part of the story. The installer forgot to connect my antenna to the new headend, so I only got the three strongest stations in Indy. After ripping my new dash apart a second time, it all works much better.

Sometimes being a geek is tough...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Grant goes multi-lingual

This morning I was charged with taking care of Grant after mommy headed off to inflict literature on her high school students for yet another day. As Erin headed out the door, she told me that a good way to distract Grant from poor parenting for a few moments is to pop in a Baby Einstein DVD. Score. This would give me just enough time to get cleaned up for my day of inflicting, well, doing whatever it is that I do for another day.

So I grabbed the first DVD I could find. I hopped in the shower, and the next thing I hear is "Die Kuh sprang über den Mond" and "Ein, zwei, drei, vier, fünf." It was very surreal. Apparently I managed to pop in a language video which defaulted to German as the first language. I wondered for a brief moment if I'd actually just tuned the TV to the History Channel, but I had not. In any case, I can just see my cute little boy looking at me in a couple of years and saying, "Vati ist eine Kuh." (That's "Daddy is a cow," auf Deutsch.) There were all sorts of hypnotic colors and things swirling around on the screen while various things were spoken in German. They could have been telling Grant to do just about anything, and my three years of German in high school wouldn't have helped me a bit. Hopefully next time I'll grab a DVD that helps Grant do something more useful, like mow the grass or make daddy an omelette.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Just like his pappa

For those of you who have seen Grant lately (and especially for those of you who have picked up the precious bundle), you know one thing for sure: our boy wonder loves his food. And this week did not disappoint. After four long months of nothing but formula, formula, formula, Grant has started on rice cereal for a meal a day, and who would have thought that this small culinary steping stone was like discovering gold. He pants, crys, wails, (dare I say) hisses if the spoon carrying his cereal is less than prompt. He has a special talent with his cereal, common to babies the world over, no doubt, in that he is able to transport the cereal to any part of his body. Last night involved both a bath and a q-tip to get all the cereal off (and out of) his body. The fact that his hair is so tightly curled doesn't help. Have you ever tried to get clumpy and wet cereal out of an afro? Didn't think so.

But his love of all things food is not the only area of his life where Grant is strikingly similiar to his Daddy. (Do you know anyone else with so many blasted blog posts about food?) Grant also likes to sleep like his Daddy (sans the blaring music from the IPOD... that'll take a few years). Exhibit A. I love my two boys.