Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Job thoughts

As I get ready to start a new job for the first time in about 9 years, and having just listened to the "Plan B" episode of This American Life (in one of the acts, Jonathan Goldstein describes his 10 year career as a telemarketer), I got to thinking about jobs in general.

In the "Plan B" episode, Goldstein talks about how he was embarrassed to tell anyone what he did. I've never actually been embarrassed by a job, but for a while, I wasn't really proud of what I was doing. My self-image, as long as I can remember, has been defined in large part by my intellect. I think I'm a pretty smart guy. I'm no genius, but I do well at most of the things I attempt and I know my limitations, and I'm comfortable with them. I had always figured that my eventual career would be something intellectually stimulating, although I never really zeroed in on anything, even in college. After graduating college with the training to be a Latin teacher, something that truly didn't interest me, I found myself at a loss. I spent several months in a minimum-wage job as a mailroom guy, then landed at Principal as a claims examiner.

Now medical claims examiner isn't a job for trained monkeys, but it's not rocket science either. There was a lot of drudgery - answering phones all day topping the list. And the pay was pretty bad, mid-20's per year. I worked with some really good people (Michelline worked there, too) and some real dunces. It didn't fit my self-image and I always thought I should be doing something more challenging (and better-paying wouldn't hurt). My self-esteem definitely suffered for it. After 5 years, I escaped into IT, doing Y2K testing and have worked my way up from there. Finally, I was doing something that felt right.

So that was one thought I had about work, how people's self-worth gets tied up in their careers, and how it happened to me for a while. But the other thing is, looking back, that 5 year stretch was really valuable in a couple of ways. First, it gave me a very solid grounding in the business side of medical insurance. This has served me very well as I've worked my way into software development. Most people in IT don't have any background in business operations, and the fact that I do has helped me to move into some unique positions. Second, and more importantly, having a job I hated has given me a much greater appreciation for what I do know. I hear people complain about working in IT all the time, and I wonder if they've ever had a really shitty job. I feel very fortunate to be where I am.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Badvertising

There's a radio commercial I hear quite a bit that annoys me everytime. It's for a local Lexus dealership and it talks about a deal where you can get free valet parking at a local mall if you buy a Lexus. I don't really see anyone being swayed by something like that, but that's not the part that annoys me, it's at the end of the commercial where they say, "there's never been a better reason to buy a Lexus." Really? Does Lexus corporate know about this? Because if the best reason EVER to buy a Lexus is that you get free valet parking at a mall, then their cars must really suck, and they should probably drop the price down some. Or maybe people could just buy a Hyundai and use the difference to pay for valet parking.

Every time I hear this stupid commercial, I'm convinced it will be the last, and someone will realize how bad that makes their cars sound, but no, I guess car dealers aren't terribly bright.

Posted by 9 comments

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finally!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Broadcasters Piss Me Off: Mathematical Edition

If Mike Tirico happens to be reading, I'd just like to let him know that what separates one team's score from the other team's score is called the difference. A differential is something else entirely.

Posted by 82 comments

Monday, January 12, 2009

HD

So I'm flipping around looking for something to watch, and I end up slumming through the non HD channels, and happen upon The Daily Show. After watching a few minutes and remembering how funny it is, it makes me wonder why I never watch it anymore. The answer, of course, is because it isn't in HD. I rarely even check these low digit third world channels anymore. But that brings up an interesting question: why the hell isn't there a Comedy Central HD channel? They seem to have snuck by without one somehow. When I only had the networks, and maybe ESPN and premium channels, this was perfectly understandable. These things take time. But as the other normal cable channels that I watch regularly, like FX, AMC, SciFi, Discovery, TNT, TBS, etc. have all shown up on my HD lineup, Comedy Central is still absent. And now, as I flip through, I see HD channels like E!, Animal Planet, HGTV, the Travel channel, Cartoon Network, Golf, and nonsense channels like UHD, and PLDHD (seriously, what the fuck is PLDHD?), or MYTVJ (I don't know either), yet still no Comedy Central. Do they just not want people to watch it? I can't really think of any other reason at this point. Any other channels that are conspicuously missing an HD version?

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Turkey vs Turkey

Prologue: Earlier this year, we decided to do a shrimp boil with some friends. We knew this would require a large aluminum pot. We set out shopping and quickly discovered that large aluminum pots are expensive. But we found that we could get a $60 pot in a $50 turkey fryer set which includes the lid, basket, thermometer and the burner. I never did understand this. But we always wanted to try fried turkey anyway, so it worked out for the best all around.

Let's break it down. I've always heard that fried turkey is awesome and people say once you fry a turkey, you won't want it any other way. We got a 12 lb turkey for frying and a 14 lb turkey for roasting in a turkey roaster. I'll compare the two in each of several categories.

Prep time:
Roughly equal. Both birds were completely thawed. I removed the giblets, rinsed, dried and seasoned them. It took a little longer for the roasted bird only because I stuffed that one.

Cook time:
No contest here. The roasted turkey took 5 hours, the fried turkey took less than 2 from start to finish, and that counts heating up the oil.

Quality: This is the most important thing, right?
12252008 The fried turkey
As you can see, the fried turkey came out a beautiful golden brown. It smelled great too. The skin was crispy and crackly on the outside and juicy on the inside. The meat was tender and moist. It finished all the way through without overcooking.
12252008 The roasted turkey
The roasted turkey looked great also. This was cooked in a covered roasting pan with no basting. The color and smell were really good as well. The meat was tender and falling off the bone. Most of the skin wasn't crispy as you would expect. I think the meat on the roasted bird, both white and dark, was a little more tender than the fried turkey. The dark meat on the fried turkey got a little tough close to the bone. However, the fried turkey had much tastier and crispier skin. I'd call the flavor/tenderness category a tie.

Cleanup: Our roaster is easy to clean. Just remove the inner shell, put in some soap and wash it out in the sink. It's bigger than a normal dish, but it doesn't take long. The fryer is another story. After letting the oil cool, I had to dump all that into the bottle and then wash all the pieces with soap and water in the driveway. It was messy and it took a long time. The roaster wins this category going away.

All things considered, I prefer the roasted turkey. What it lacks in cooking speed, it makes up for in the cleanup phase. And the quality of the meat was easily comparable to the fired turkey, in my opinion. This isn't to say that I won't fry one again, but I haven't become a fried turkey convert.

Posted by 19 comments

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movie Resume

I was tagged with this by Fridge, Also, make sure to see below for Chris' version, since I just dropped this right on top of it.

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
(x) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
(x) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
(x) Along Came Polly
(x) Joe Dirt
(x) KING KONG [Jack Black version]
Total so far: 12

( ) A Cinderella Story
(x) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
(x) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(x) Halloween
(x) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
(x) Flubber
Total so far: 18

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
(x) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
(x) Secret Window
(x) I Am Sam
(x) The Whole Nine Yards
(x) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 23

(x) The Day After Tomorrow
(x) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
(x) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
(x) Just Married
(x) Gothika
(x) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
(x) Coach Carter
(x) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
(x) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 36

(x) Bad Boys
(x) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Sleven
(x) Ocean's Eleven
(x) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
(x) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
(x) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(x) Ice Age
(x) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
(x) Curious George
Total so far: 46

(x) Independence Day
(x) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
(x) Christine
(x) ET
(x) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
(x) Maid in Manhattan
(x) War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 55

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
(x) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
(x) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 64

(x) X-Men
(x) X2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
(x) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 76

(x) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street
(x) Old School
( ) The Notebook
(x) K-Pax
( ) Kippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
(x) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
(x) The 40-year-old-virgin
Total so far: 82

( ) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
( ) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
( ) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 85

(x) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
(x) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
(x) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 88

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
(x) Willard
Total so far: 92

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
(x) Hulk
( ) Dawn of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) Chronicle Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(x) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld
Total so far: 97

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 97

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 103

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
(x) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America: World Police
(x) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
(x) Hannibal
Total so far: 109

( ) Battle Royale
( ) Battle Royale 2
( ) Brazil
(x) Contact
( ) Cube
( ) Dr. Strangelove
( ) Enlightenment Guaranteed
( ) Four Rooms
(x) Memento
( ) Pi
( ) Requiem for a Dream
(x) Pulp Fiction
(x) Reservoir Dogs
( ) Run Lola Run
( ) Russian Ark
(x) Serenity
(x) Sin City
( ) Snatch
( ) Spider
(x) The Sixth Sense
(x) The Village
( ) Waking Life
( ) Zatoichi
( ) Ikiru
( ) The Seven Samurai
( ) Brick
( ) Akira
Total so far: 117

117, I don't really know what that means. Not sure where this list came from, but it seems to be heavily weighted with movies I don't really like, particularly horror movies. Also, how can anyone take a movie list seriously if The Shawshank Redepmtion isn't on it?

Posted by 10 comments

Movie Resume

Like Fridge, I first saw this on Facebook (join up already, John!). Fridge got 136. I'm sure my number will be lower. If it were only movies from 1980-1989, I could probably hang with anyone. Kids and a wife who doesn't care for movies has slowed me down in recent years.

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
( ) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
(x) Universal Soldier
(x) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
(x) Joe Dirt
(x) KING KONG [Jack Black version]
Total so far: 9

(x) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
(x) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(x) Halloween
(x) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
( ) Flubber
Total so far: 14

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
(x) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
(x) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 16

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
(x) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(x) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 22

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Sleven
( ) Ocean's Eleven
( ) Ocean's Twelve
( ) Bourne Identity
( ) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
( ) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 22

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
( ) War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
( ) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 25

( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
(x) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
(x) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 33

(x) X-Men
(x) X2
( ) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 43

( ) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Kippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
(x) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old-virgin
Total so far: 45

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 51

(x) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 52

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(x) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 56

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
(x) Hulk
( ) Dawn of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) Chronicle Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld
Total so far: 60

(x) Kill Bill vol 1
(x) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
(x) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 63

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 69

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
(x) The Matrix Revolutions
(x) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2 [easily one of my favorite movies of all time]
( ) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total so far: 74

( ) Battle Royale
( ) Battle Royale 2
( ) Brazil
(x) Contact
( ) Cube
( ) Dr. Strangelove
( ) Enlightenment Guaranteed
( ) Four Rooms
(x) Memento
( ) Pi
( ) Requiem for a Dream
(x) Pulp Fiction
(x) Reservoir Dogs
( ) Run Lola Run
( ) Russian Ark
( ) Serenity
( ) Sin City
( ) Snatch
( ) Spider
(x) The Sixth Sense
( ) The Village
( ) Waking Life
( ) Zatoichi
( ) Ikiru
( ) The Seven Samurai
( ) Brick
( ) Akira
Total so far: 79

79, not bad. I don't buy into the idea that seeing more movies means you've wasted your life, so no regrets here.

Posted by 17 comments

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Festivus!

Posted by 10 comments

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A meme

What the hell.

1. Five names you go by (or have):

  • Chris
  • Christopher
  • Daddy
  • UPDATE: Uncle Chris
  • That's pretty much it


2. Three things you are wearing right now:

  • Headphones
  • Wedding ring
  • Boxers


3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:

  • For the Gators to lose their bowl game
  • A financial windfall


4. Three people who will probably fill this out:

  • Toast
  • Tracy
  • nightshift


Hey, they already did!

5. Two things you did last night:

  • Wrapped Christmas presents
  • Caught up on Heroes



6. Two things you ate today:

  • Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  • Bourbon chicken


7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:

  • Tori
  • Michelline


8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:

  • Go to a baseball team party
  • Watch the Cowboys roll over the Steelers


9. Two longest car rides:

  • Jacksonville, FL to Boulder, CO and back
  • Jacksonville, FL to Saginaw, MI and back


10. Two of your favorite beverages:

  • Starbucks coffee
  • A good margarita

Posted by 10 comments

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Pleasant Surprise

We left Jacksonville yesterday afternoon for Ft Lauderdale to see Sarah Brightman in concert. After a few hours we were south of Daytona on 95 and the traffic came to a standstill. Fortunately, just as we realized this, we were approaching an exit, so we got off and headed over to US 1, figuring it couldn't be any worse.

We got on US 1 a little north of Titusville. As we got into the town, we noticed a lot of activity, people walking on the road, sitting in lawn chairs everywhere. It reminded us of Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. Tourists will sit out on the road there at night just to watch the traffic go by.

As we drove on, we noticed more and more people, for miles. It looked like people lining up to watch fireworks. Cars were parked in every available space along the road. Suddenly, I finally put two and two together what would people line up on the road to watch in Titusville? There must be a shuttle launch!

Once I said this, Michelline remembered having heard about it earlier in the week. It was about 15 minutes until scheduled liftoff. In all the years I've lived in Florida, I've never watched a shuttle launch, and this was the last scheduled night launch ever. We got the local news on the radio and pulled over into a deserted parking lot, south of the city, with about 30 seconds to spare. Then this -


You can't tell from the video, but you could feel the rumble of the engines. I wish we would have known about it, we would have made plans to stop closer by so we could have had a better view. Still, this was pretty cool, and we were only a few miles away. My parents were watching too, from Jacksonville. It's so big and bright, you can see the launch from the causeway that leads to the island our neighborhood is on.

It was quite serendipitous. I'm glad we all got a chance to see it before it was too late.
11142008 Shuttle taking off

Posted by 4 comments

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Michelline through the years

Now that Michelline's weight loss is so dramatically apparent, I thought it would be interesting to put up a bunch of old pictures from the time we met through now.

As she was losing weight, even though it was coming off pretty quickly, I didn't notice it much. When you see someone every day, the gradual change makes it harder to see, I think. That said, I've noticed over the last couple of days that when older pictures come up on the screensaver, she looks ahem, more full-figured (or well-nourished, as the doctor's office notes used to say) than I remember. I think my mental picture of her has finally adjusted to her new face so the difference can be rather striking when one of these older pictures pops up.

So I went back and picked out some pictures from different periods. I didn't try to find the worst or best pictures, just a representative shot if I could.

Here we are the very weekend we started dating. This picture was taken in Boulder, Colorado at the University of Colorado in August 1988. We were there for the National Junior Classical League Annual convention. I always thought this was a really good picture.
Latin Trip Colorado 1988 (2)

Here she is on our prom night, I guess this would be May of 1989. We went to different high schools, but both schools had their prom on the same night.
Michelline Barwell May 19, 1989

Here's our wedding photo from December 19, 1992. Michelline and I both put on some weight in college (89-93). I think this is a good picture of both of us, but you can see that she's gained some since the 1988 picture. I don't know that I was much bigger than I was in the last picture up here, but it's coming.
Chris & Michelline Howard Wedding Dec 19, 1992 (21)

Here she is on Christmas day, 1993. We've both always liked this picture. I wish the flash hadn't washed her face out so much.
Michelline Howard Xmas 1993 (1)

Ok, here's a bad picture of both of us from sometime in 1994(look fast, because she might make me take this one down :) ). This is our first apartment together in Jacksonville.
Chris and Michelline Howard 1993

Here we are at her baby shower for Tori. That puts this one in later 1995 as Tori was born on October 24, 1995. Michelline looked good at this shower. She lost quite a bit of weight throughout the pregnancy due to her gestational diabetes and the fact that she was sick the entire time.
1995249

This one is sometime in 1999, after Libby was born. She was wearing a lot of overall shorts around this time. I miss those. I think this period, right after Libby was born, may have been her lowest post-college weight. She'll have to confirm that later.
1999 Michelline

Ok, I'm going to jump to 2004 now, because there weren't a lot of major developments in appearance over that time. Here's Michelline with the girls on our cruise in April 2004.
Libby, Michelline and Tori 042604

Jumping again now, here she is checking into the Jacksonville airport on our way to London in March 2007. This is another good picture. This is one of those pictures where the difference in my perception becomes clear to me. To me, she never looked overweight in this picture before.
031407 Michelline checking in in Jax

Here's Michelline with Tracy in St. Augustine in March of this year.
03102008 Michelline and Tracey

Her's Michelline with Libby at her school on May 22 this year. This is only a little over a month before her surgery.
05222008 Libby and Michelline

Here she is on our Disney trip in September. I wanted to find a good picture closer to her surgery, but it looks like we didn't take any in August. This is the first post-surgical here.
09272008 Michelline

And finally, here she is last week, October 18 at the Halloween party. She's looking particularly hot here.
101808 Michelline

In the first picture she was a size 12, and in the last she's down to a 14/16. I think she'll be down to a 12 again in a few weeks. We've both been on a weight roller coaster our whole adult lives. It'll never be easy, but I think this surgery is a big step in getting off that ride. There was a health fair at her office today, and she had good numbers across the board - blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol.

One thing I do want to make clear (maybe this should expand into another post at some point), I'm really happy that she's getting healthy and looking good and feeling good about herself. But from the first picture to the last, and all the times in between, I always thought she was beautiful and I've always been very attracted to her. I never looked at her through any of this and wished she looked different than she did or wished she were smaller. The two biggest rewards I get from this surgery are her improved health, which had been weighing on both of our minds, and her improved self-image. Now she's just starting to feel about herself the way I've always felt about her. And that's a really great thing.

Posted by 117 comments

Monday, October 13, 2008

Steal This Comic



I'll never understand why people think DRM can ever work. It's really very, very simple. It should not be easier for me to pirate something than it is to get it legitimately. If it is, the people distributing it legitimately have failed. Try something else. Also, it doesn't, and has no hope of ever working.

Posted by 10 comments

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seen at Whole Foods

Michelline and I were driving around Orlando this morning and stumbled upon their only Whole Foods!
10122008 Whole Foods Orlando

After reading Mrs. Furious wax rhapsodic about it for so long, we had to stop and take a look around. As we're pulling in to park, I noticed this coexist bumper sticker on three different cars. Then we cam across this car and I had to take a picture.10122008 Van at whole Foods

I turned to Michelline and said "We're among our own people." We saw a few Obama stickers but no McCain stickers. It was too good to last. On the way out, we were almost backed into by a van with a "Yes on 2" sticker. Amendment 2 is Florida's version of California's prop 8. Fucking bigoted assholes.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Obama's hidden benefits

I was thinking past the election for the first time. I know the election isn't wrapped up yet, but I was wondering what Obama has to accomplish to be considered successful. That led me to think about the disaster of the last eight years.

In retrospect, if Gore had taken office, he would have been successful in comparison to Bush just by keeping us out of Iraq alone, not to mention avoiding all the various constitutional abuses. But if he had been elected, we wouldn't know just what we had avoided. Especially considering the lies Bush told during the campaign about his agenda. No nation building indeed. Gore would probably have been judged on his handling of 9/11 and the economy. Not knowing how badly Bush fucked it up would actually work against Gore.

So too, for Obama. It's a little different, because Obama will be judged against the failures of the Bush administration, but he'll also be dealing with the consequences of those failures. The lingering effects of our current troubles could well work against Obama. And we all know McCain is a dangerous hothead, and it's hard to argue against hypotheticals. The fact that McCain may get us involved in further dangerous foreign entanglements that Obama may avoid won't necessarily be reflected in Obama's approval rating. Nevertheless, it's one of many reasons that just keeping McCain away from the reins of power is a success in itself. I hope we never have to find out what bullets we may have dodged.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Water Woes

All of you on municipal water should be thankful. When this neighborhood was first developed, it was way out in the country, far from city water sources. All the houses are equipped with a well and septic tank. Basically, you have a well and a pump which pulls water into the house.

When we first moved in here, I thought it'd be great to forgo the monthly water/sewage bill. However, I had no idea what I was getting into. Most of these wells have some sort of minerals or smell that you don't want, so you have to have a water softener or other filtration system. We had a salt softener which means we had to buy bags of salt every few weeks. And, since you have an electric pump that drives the water into your house, if the power is out, so is the water. Here are a few of the other issues I've had to deal with.


  • Our old water softener (essential if you didn't want iron stains everywhere) finally quit. We bought a brand-new one from Sears which I installed.

  • Not long after getting the new softener, the pump, which is in the garage, started making funny noises and running a lot. We couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then, one morning, it spat a bunch of sand into every toilet. The well had collapsed. We called around and found out it would be $1000 to dig another shallow well (80 feet). Then we remembered that we already had a deep well, shared with our neighbor, which we used to run the sprinklers. It's an artesian well and the water is good quality. The water from this well doesn't have any iron, which made the brand-new softener unnecessary. It does have a sulfur smell, which requires an aerator tank. This is a giant tank which holds the water from the well and lets the gas evaporate prior to entering the house. We hooked it into the sprinkler pipes and voila, we had water again. All this cost about $1200.

  • Shortly after this, our pressure tank failed. In order to maintain a constant pressure in the pipes in the house, the pump pushes the water into a tank which has a rubber bladder filled with air until a certain pressure is reached (we use 40 lbs). Once the tank pressure drops below 25 lbs, the pump starts up. I had to replace the tank, which is easy to do fortunately, but it set me back a couple of hundred dollars.

  • When we had the pool built, we knew it would tear up the sprinkler system. This is normal when pools are built. However, most people's house water doesn't rely on their sprinkler system integrity. While the pool was built, we ran a hose from the artesian well into the aerator tank. It has enough pressure to fill the tank without a separate pump. After everything was done, we had a separate spur run from the well into the aerator. Along with the sprinkler rebuild, another $1000.

  • Tonight, Tori noticed the toilet making spitting noises. That means air in the pipes. Oh, shit. I checked all the taps, toilets and hoses to make sure one hasn't been running and drained the aerator tank. Nope, but the tank was empty. I heard a rushing water noise coming from the back of the yard, faintly. I grabbed the flashlight (it was already 9:30 and I was in my boxers) and went to check it out. All around the sprinkler pumphouse, there's a giant lake about 3 or 4 inches deep, the pump was running nonstop and water was gushing. I shut off the breaker to the pump and then cut off the well at the source. This stopped the leak, but it also stops the aerator tank from filling. After wading through the lake, I saw that a pipe had busted loose inside the pumphouse. At least it's an easy fix. So for now, I dragged out three hoses, hooked them together and ran them from the tap on the wellhead to the auxiliary input valve on our aerator tank.

All this doesn't even go into the separate problems we've had with the sprinkler system. I'll be very happy to go back to paying my water bill.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Flipping Florida

We had been idly thinking about volunteering for the local Obama campaign, but hadn't really got anything going. Between work, kids, house, baseball and virtual couching, we hadn't made the effort to find out what to do. Fortunately, we got a kickstart when Moveon.org called me a few weeks ago. They had been calling people all over who indicated an interest in volunteering and scheduling times. I made an appointment and we did a little phone banking at the local office later that week.

Last week, I got a call from our neighborhood coordinator Tony. He was trying to round up people to do some canvassing in our area. Having got our feet wet with the phone banking, we said we'd meet him Saturday morning. We went to one of the neighborhoods in our area and got lists of addresses. Tony said these were people who, when called, had indicated they were undecided or were going to vote for Obama. We were supposed to find out how they were voting (early, vote by mail etc...) and who they were supporting, if undecided.

Here's Tony and a couple of other volunteers at the meetup in the neighborhood 10042008 Tony, our neighborhood coordinator

Michelline and I aren't introverts by any means, but knocking on doors for a political campaign is definitely outside of our comfort zone. But if we can help turn out even a few additional votes, that can make a difference. We know McCain is counting on Florida, and turning it will probably give Obama the election.

We set out with our list and our campaign lit and started knocking - 10042008 Michelline canvassing for Obama

Out of all the houses we hit, only 3 were still undecided. The others had decided for Obama previously or had made up their minds for Obama since they were called. We even took a voter registration app for a likely Obama supporter who hadn't registered. Everyone was very pleasant, we had some nice conversations and there was no tension or combativeness. We had forgotten to bring water (stupid, after 3 hours in the sun, we were dying), but we got offered water by two different households, including one of the undecideds.

We'll definitely be doing more volunteering over the next few weeks. We've signed up to do voter transport and we may do more canvassing and calling. I think it's especially important to keep the pressure on now that McCain is going to throw the sink at Obama this last month.

(Speaking of McCain, we just saw one of his newest negative ads, claiming Obama is untrustworthy and using the 94 tax votes lie again. McCain is such an asshole.)

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Obama-rama

092008 The Howards plus one
When we heard that Obama was coming to Jacksonville, we knew we had to go. I haven't seen a president or candidate live since Reagan came to Jacksonvlle in 1987.

The man himself was scheduled to speak sometime after 2:30 and the gates were opening at 12:30. We knew that it was likely to fill up quick so we got to the stadium (to park, it's across the street from the park where the event was held) at about 10:30. It's a good thing we did -
092008 The line to get in
That was just a small portion of the line. It wrapped around itself several times.

The atmosphere was very friendly and excited, very similar to a sporting event - a lot of people wearing the team colors, a lot of vendors selling t-shirts and buttons, an air of anticipation. One difference was the campaign volunteers handing out info cards and asking for everyone to fill them out. One more piece of Obama's very good grassroots organization.

They finally let us in and we settled in for a long wait. There were a lot of people crowding around the stage - 092008 Metro Park
but we had no intention of standing like sardines for 3+ hours, especially with 5 kids in tow, even if it did mean a better view. We settled into a nice dry spot on top of a ridge under a tree.
092008 John, Keri, Zoe, Tori, Libby and Jason

At about 2:30, the event finally started up. Some local people spoke, Bill Nelson spoke, a volunteer spoke. We couldn't hear anything as the speakers weren't set up well for the back of the crowd. I was worried that we wouldn't hear Obama. After the speakers finished, the crowd got a little restless. It ended up being another hour or so before the Obama bus rolled in. By this time, everyone had been waiting for about 5 hours, with nothing to eat. The campaign had a lot of water available, so that was ok, but no food inside the park, so we were all starving. We found out later that the park had been filled to the legal capacity, which was about 12,000, and over 8000 were waiting outside.

Finally, Obama came up to the podium. Fortunately, the legal capacity allows for a lot of breathing room, so we were able to come down and compact the crowd and get relatively close. It was really neat listening to him speak in person, even though I had already heard most of the stump speech. Tori listened attentively to the whole thing and told me she was really glad we came. She's starting to really pay attention to politics, for a 12-year-old. We could see Obama, although he was a bit distant. Here's my zoomed in pic - 09202008 Obama zoom

All-in-all, a neat experience, and I'm glad we went. It also whetted our appetite for some volunteering which I'll address in the next post.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bumper Sticker


Can someone please explain to me what the hell this bumper sticker is supposed to mean?

Oh, and I should add that this is the second time in as many days that I've seen this ridiculous nonsense on someone's car. Do people even pretend to think anymore?

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Totalitarianism vs Liberalism

I don't know why, but I found myself clicking on Glenn Beck's latest excretion. We all know the guy is an idiot, but that's not specifically what got me going this time. He's trying to be snarky, writing from the future, 68 years from now. He's saying America at that time is a government controlled socialist dictatorship.

It's always baffling to me how some of these right-wing nuts like Beck conflate liberalism with totalitarianism. It seems to be as deeply ingrained as the "tax and spend" label in some parts of wingnuttia. They always make this giant leap from government regulation of business to government control of the individual. At the same time they're constructing this imaginary bridge from liberalism to fantasyland, they're supporting policies that much more directly affect individual freedom - regulation of sexual conduct, suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping etc... Yeah, those are fine, but government mandated vacation for larger business? Police State!

I'm not surprised that they try to demonize progressive ideas, I'm surprised that I see this particular meme expressed so often.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

The Verdict is In

After watching the debut of the new "The Final Verdict" segment on ESPN's College Football Final, I think we can all agree on the verdict. It sucks. If you missed it, consider yourself lucky. Basically, it's Rece Davis dressed in a stupid costume, while Mark May and Lou Holtz do a horrifically poor job of arguing for opposing positions on an issue in college football. Last night it was excessive celebration. Somehow, I managed to think both sides were wrong.

Assuming this isn't some horrible joke ESPN is playing on all of us, it seems their long term goal is to make this show really blow. From the stupid Lou Holtz pep-talks to this horrible travesty, it's going downhill fast.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The English language in 3000 AD

Here's a 2003 article by linguist Justin B Rye that looks at how the English has evolved over the centuries, and offers an example of what English could sound look in a thousand years.

2000 AD: We children beg you, teacher, that you should teach us to speak correctly, because we are ignorant and we speak corruptly...

3000 AD: *ZA kiad w'-exùn ya tijuh, da ya-gAr'-eduketan zA da wa-tAgan lidla, kaz 'ban iagnaran an wa-tAg kurrap...


FUTURESE: The American Language in 3000 AD

For once, I'm glad I'll be dead.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

9-year-old boy told he's too good to pitch

This is disgusting. How do you tell a kid he's too good to play? That pretty much goes against every lesson you're trying to teach kids in youth sports. I can understand that the other kids may not like playing against him, though it seems hard to believe that a nine year old could be that much better than his peers. But I can't see where one game where the opposing team has to face this kid is so difficult for them that it's better just to teach them that when things are hard, you just quit and go home. It sounds like there's some other political issues going on, and maybe the kid's mother isn't very easy to get along with, and that's a real shame, because adults letting their petty problems get in the way of their kids having fun is pretty sad. I just don't understand how facing a tough pitcher is doing anything to the opposition other than making them better hitters. Maybe they can't hit against him, but after facing him, it should be easier for them to hit other pitchers. I'm sure there's more to the story than we see here, but still, I really think everyone would be better off if they let this kid pitch and just stop making a big deal about it.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Seen at our local Publix



We ran across this today while out doing a little grocery shopping. At first I just saw the big "Obama" and idly thought "Cool, another supporter". Then I saw the fine print. These people must be some serious idiots. This reminds me, I really need to go ahead and get some Obama/Biden bumper stickers and yard signs.

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