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Showing posts from 2007

Bus Update

As I finish my first week of riding this bus to work I have to say that it has been mostly positive. The weekday commuter crowd seems to be mostly well dressed business people listening to iPods . The bus drivers are friendly and efficient. Even when the bus tunnel has been closed because of computer issues, the alternate routes have been easy to figure out. I've only seen a couple of crazy people, and they mostly kept their crazy to themselves, so it was fine. My previous, off hour bus rides have been filled with a lot of very interesting people who should probably not be out on their own recognisances. The commuter passengers are quite boring by comparison. I used to say that riding coach on an airplane has become as dull and unpleasant as riding a bus. Now I think that statement is unfair to buses. I think the city buses are much better than the last time I rode coach. I did purchase a pair of noise canceling ear phones for my iPod and I would recommend that to anyone. I do

Mass Transit Aventures

My company just moved my department's offices to a new building which is a couple of miles closer to my house than the old place. This small change has reduced the amount of bus travel by 30 minutes each way, and since the company gives out free Metro passes I have decided to give it a try. There is also a new streetcar in Seattle, and they are offering free rides until the end of the year. Alex and I decided that we wanted to ride the new streetcar, so I let Alex choose how we would get downtown: car or bus. He picked the bus. When you are 7, riding the bus is like going to the fair. Whooo hooo! Anyway, being a bus newbie and a serial plan-aheader, I used the Metro trip planner to plan out the whole trip. I don't ride the bus often enough to know all of the routes and stops, so I am the only nerd with a printed out itinerary, but I don't get lost. We first rode the bus to The Outdoor Emporium to get Alex a new winter coat. I never knew that place existed until recentl

Unified Theory of Project Management

I do a lot of project management work for a living, but I find that I am often handicapped by my linear sense of time. For example, most calendars show that Monday is followed by Tuesday, January is followed by February, etc. I also have a problem with arithmetic . I have believed in the conventional theory that 2 + 2 = 4, 4 + 4 = 8, etc. I have come to realize that if these two dangerous theories, linear time and arithmetic, are combined then they lead to most project management issues. For example, suppose we are working on a simple project made up of 2 tasks. Task A takes 5 days and task B takes 5 days. Task B cannot start until task A is complete so the naive would assume that A + B = 10 days. In real life one finds that A + B could equal anywhere from zero to infinity. How can this be? A co-worker explained to me The Sub Atomic Theory of Project Scheduling. At the sub atomic level, particles no longer follow conventional natural laws. If one can schedule down to the sub atomi

Saturday Chores

Today we had a nice break from the rain. It was sunny and clear so it was time to do some work on the roof. I cleaned the roof earlier in the fall, but the wind and the rain blow and wash pine needles and assorted tree clutter into the roof drains. The drains clog up and water starts sheeting over the edge of the roof instead of going down the drains. I also noticed that I had a small crop of moss starting on my roof. Only in The Pacific Northwest have I seen moss grow in direct sunlight, even on the side of my roof that has a southern exposure. We hadn't driven the fire truck in a while so we fired it up so we could run down to Home Depot for moss killer. Yes, it is overkill to take a pickup for two cans of moss killer, but the fire truck needed some exercise. When we got home we borrowed an extension ladder from one of my retired neighbors. I've never let Alex on the roof with me, but he is growing up (dang it) and he really wanted to help me. Our house is a daylight ramb

John Deere Birthday Party

One of Alexander's neighbor friends invited him to a birthday party today. His friend turned 6 and he is a big fan of John Deere tractors, so he had a John Deere themed party. Now we've been to all kinds of different parties for Alexander's friends, but this is the first John Deere party. I figured that they would have some toy tractors and that would be about it. Boy, have I been living a sheltered life. They had John Deere plates, napkins, balloons, goody bags, mugs, DVD's, and even a John Deere pinata. Who knew? Of course, he had a power, ride-on tractor, hat, shirts, toy tractors, cake, and sweat shirts. His mom is a very good sport and even had a couple of bails of hay to add atmosphere. That pinata lived up to the John Deere name - it took all of those kids quite a few whacks to even crack it. Now this little boy lives here in the city and his parents do not have agricultural jobs. Once in a while he goes with his grandpa to see things like the Museum of Flig

How to spot a Seattle native in traffic

Seattle is a pretty cosmopolitan place. With Boeing, Microsoft, and hundreds of smaller high tech and bio tech companies, there are people here who grew up all over the US and the rest of the world. Nearly everyone, it seems, is a transplant - myself included. I have been here since 1991 and I have met a number of the rare Seattle natives. They were here before all of this growth. They remember when the mall used to be a field and the time before all of these transplants moved in and clogged up the roads and drove up housing prices. If you take " The Underground Tour " of the historic Seattle underground, you will be reminded of the classic phrase that Seattle natives like to tell visitors, "Spend your money, and then go home." Even the road signs seem to support this anti newcomer feeling. I have been to most major cities in North America and Seattle has the worst road signs of any place I have ever been. It seems that the city expects you to already know where you

Santa Train

Today, Alex and I went out to North Bend and rode the Santa Train to the Railway museum . On paper it is very nostalgic sounding and seems like a great adventure. I really do like old trains, and Alex has been indoctrinated by Thomas the Tank Engine, so it seemed like a must-do activity. If you are seven years old, plus or minus a few years, the Santa Train is a pretty great deal. You get to ride a train through the countryside, get freshly made cookies and hot chocolate, see Santa, and get a free toy. Hard to top that, huh? It was a nice day, too. As a jaded, over-worked, single parent, the Santa Train is a different kind of experience. I suggested it to Alexander after trying to see it through his eyes, and of course he wanted to go. I went along and kept my mouth shut and he had a fun time. For me, the best part was just hanging out with Alex and enjoying the beautiful day. The rest of it is a pretty blatant exploitation of parent's nostalgia and kids love of trains and San

Scouts are Trustworthy?

The other weekend, Alex and I went to a Cub Scout bowling tournament that was hosted by the district council. It was held at the very nicely remodeled West Seattle Bowl and was a lot of fun. The scout threw the first ball and the parent threw the second ball. I want to take just a moment to brag about Alexander's Scout pack. Whenever we have a competition or a game, every one of the Cubs is an excellent sport. There are never any tears or hard feelings if someone doesn't win, and I have never seen a parent act badly. It is a real pleasure to see these kids cheering each other on and helping each other. If one of the kids falls down and skins an elbow, or something, there are 20 Scouts on him in an instant, all trying to administer first aid before a leader or parent can even get close. They are really just a fantastic bunch of kids. I guess I am spoiled by our pack because I am a little astounded at what happened at the district bowling tournament. The kids were divided int

Flu Shots

Saturday we went in for Flu Shots. I don't really understand why they are such a "thing." An adult flu shot is easy, but getting one for a kid seems to be quite an issue. For pediatric flu shots you have to go to your doctor - at least, that is my experience in Washington. I use a pretty major chain of clinics, so it is usually not an issue, but this year they seemed to be having a problem getting in vaccine. Every time I called, they didn't have any. Of course in this modern age of computers they don't take my name and number or email address to let me know when it comes in. I just have to keep calling back, press one for this, two for this, etc. Great. Eventually they got in the vaccine. Now, how long does it take to get a shot? About two minutes? Well, I had to book our appointment out 2 weeks. The appointed day arrived and we went in for shots. We arrived early as they always request. We waited in the waiting room because they were running behind as they alway

Driving in the Rain

Tonight it took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to get from my office in Redmond to pick up Alexander in Burien . How far away is Burien from Redmond? It is 25 miles. You math majors out there might have figured out 25 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes works out to an average speed of just under 11 miles per hour. Was I riding my bicycle? Slowly? No. A horse? No. Jogging? No. I was in my trusty VW which was operating normally. I traveled on major arterial roads and multi-lane freeways. Well, what in the heck was the problem? Volcano? Blizzard? Alien Attack? Nope. Just some rain. Not a lot of rain. Not build-an-ark rain like we used to have back in Kansas. Just enough rain for me to have to turn my wipers from intermittent to low. You might have heard that it rains quite often here in Seattle. In fact, it rains about 8 or 9 months out of the year. You might reasonably assume that, since it is raining more often than not, that drivers in Seattle would be world experts at driving in the rain.

Little Bunny Foo Foo

The last Scout meeting of every month is the Pack Meeting. We usually have each of the dens perform a skit and a song. Since I am the Den Leader for Alexander's den, I get to pick out the skit and the song and practice it with the kids. There is a great Web site called Scout O Rama that has hundreds of songs and skits, so that is a huge help. Funny songs and skits seem to work out best, especially since Scouting is supposed to be fun. I also follow the comedy rules - good comedy happens in threes, and is short. If you have a long skit or song then the audience gets bored, the kids can't remember it, etc. This weeds out a lot of contenders, and sometimes I have to edit them to make them more simple. I needed a song for this month and I decided to try the old favorite, " Little Bunny Foo Foo ." Alexander's den is made up of 2 nd graders. They are very energetic and I thought that they would enjoy the hand gestures. We changed "The Good Fairy" to &quo


Halloween season is always fun. Of course we went to the pumpkin patch and picked out pumpkins. This last weekend we carved them. Since Alex earned his "whittling chip" at Cub Scout camp I let him carve his own pumpkin. He insisted on a 32 pounder and it took him for ever to scoop it out. On the plus side we got a lot of seeds which I roasted. We also picked up a variety of candy. We usually have a lot of trick-or- treaters . On Saturday we went to a friend's Halloween party. Alex dressed as a pirate. I think that he would wear that costume every day if he could. One party goer came as a zombie and loaned Alex the zombie mask for a little while so he could be a zombie pirate. There were several young couples there that don't have any kids of their own. Alex is very social, and after hanging out with him all evening one of the women came up to me and said that she and her husband needed to get to work having kids. I didn't mention diapers, midnight feeding, etc

Seattle Times Article

I found this old story about Alex and I in the Seattle Times. I forgot that it was still up there. The Times found me through the group "Parents Without Partners" of which I used to be a member. The name of the group was kind of an oxymoron. Most of the female "parents without partners" really already had paired off with someone in the group quite quickly. There was one older member who was a prison guard . There is nothing wrong with that, but he fancied himself quite the ladies man and hit on all of the attractive women the instant that they set foot in a meeting, and would not leave them alone until they paired off or quit. He was very aggressive, did not catch a hint, and liked to tell the women that he wrestled naked prisoners in the shower for a living. Kind of like that scene in Airplane where the pilot asks the kid if he has seen a grown man naked - but more pathetic. Needless to s

Pumpkin Patch

Last weekend we took the fire truck down to the pumpkin patch to pick out a couple of pumpkins. It always cracks me up to see people driving really expensive SUV's so daintily. BMW X5's tip-toeing through the mud so they don't get dirty. Does it matter if the '74 Chevy gets dirty? Not really, no. Anyway, we walked the corn maze and bought 2 big pumpkins. In the past we have always gone clear out to a farm in Carnation. It turns into kind of an expensive, whole day "thing." This year I found a pumpkin patch that is basically right at the bottom of the hill where I live. Sheesh . Much easier. We still had fun, but were in and out of there and had time to go to Costco and run other errands. On Sunday I got an email from Alexander's great-grandma. She was having a computer issue. Sounds like a computer emergency to me! We hopped in the fire truck and raced over. When we got there I flipped on the lights and sirens - because it was a computer emergency, of c

Halo 3

Alex has gotten into playing Halo with me, so when Halo 3 came out he really, really wanted me to get a copy. I know it is rated "M", but Halo isn't really that bad. There are lots of World War II games where you shoot people and they are only rated "T". In Halo, you just blow up monsters, so I am not sure why it has the "M" rating. Anyway, we like to play cooperatively so we can work together to save the world. The new one is very good for cooperative play and has lots of funny weapons that crack Alex up. There is a gravity hammer that he thinks is pretty funny. After he caught on as to which trigger was for grenades and stopped accidentally blowing me up, we worked well as a team and managed to finish the game on the "Normal" level. I think that Bungie did a great job on Halo 3. Alex still needs practice on his Warthog skills, but he's got the sword and hammer down, and is improving with the plasma cannon. Always good skills for a kid

Popcorn Sales

As we settle into Fall we have begun the annual fund raiser for Cub Scouts: the popcorn sales. The kids all try to sell popcorn to all of their friends and relatives, and they also set up tables outside grocery stores and banks and try to sell to all of the people who go in and out. We volunteered to let the pack use our guest room as a popcorn warehouse, and we helped to pick up all of the popcorn from the real warehouse. We took the fire truck, of course, and they had the idea to use a forklift to set a whole pallet of popcorn into the back of the truck. As they lowered the popcorn the back of the truck just kept getting lower and lower. I wasn't sure that it was going to stop, but it did. No broken springs or axles. Then I wondered if all of the transmission seals would just blow right out when I tried to drive up the hill to my house, but our little fire truck did just fine. What a good truck. Anyway, we have been playing host to the popcorn and various scouts and their famili

Balls of Fury

Alex and I went to see " Balls of Fury " - the ping pong movie. If you like Christopher Walken it is a must see. The main character is just OK, but several of the supporting characters kind of steal the show including the lieutenant from Reno 911 who plays a crazy East German ping pong champion. Alex really enjoyed the movie. Lots of crazy ping pong scenes. I don't know if you have to see this movie in the theater, but I would at least rent it.

The Fence - Update

Alex and I fixed the fence this weekend. Whew. On Friday after work we borrowed a sawzall from his great-uncle the contractor. While we were there, Alex and his uncle made a play date to build birdhouses. First thing Saturday morning Alex and I set to work tearing down the rest of the fence and sawing off The Spikes. The sawzall made short work of those spikes. Yowza . I also have a pile of lumber - some new and some returning to the forest from whence it came - under a cedar tree. We pulled out all of the pressure treated lumber that could be used and then made a shopping list for Home Depot that included 70 fence boards and various other boards and brackets. On the plus side, I was able to replace one post without taking down the fence on one side of it, so my project reduced from 40 feet to 32 feet of fence. That's a good thing because we were at it until 7PM doing 32 feet. This Saturday was supposed to be rain free with rain starting on Sunday. This time of year you just n

Minimum Competency Testing For The Express Line

We have all been there. We just need to run into the grocery store for a couple of quick items. Maybe it is almost the kid's bedtime and you just want to get in and out - a surgical strike of groceries. We get in the express line and - nothing. We just stand there. What the heck is going on? The person in front is somehow making this all too difficult. Are they buying groceries or refinancing their house? Much later you finally get out of "the express line", a bit older and no wiser. Since it is probably not going to be politically acceptible to have someone with a cane standing by the check-out to wack people that are slowing things down, I am issuing a formal call for minimum competency testing before customers are allowed the privilege of using the express line. Buying groceries is not really a complicated transaction. You put your stuff on the belt. The checker tells you how much. You pay the checker. You pick up your crap and get the hell out of the way.

The Fence

My house sits on a pie shaped, quarter acre lot. The fat piece of the pie is in the backyard. What that means is that we have a nice, big yard. The other thing that means is that we have a very long fence. It was once made out of wood. Now it is really just dry rot in the shape of a fence. If a raccoon leans on it, or a cat sneezes, they can push boards out of it. The fence is in 8 foot sections. Periodically boards will start falling out of one or more sections because the boards have just crumbled, and I will have to replace that section. When Alex was smaller I got this down to something of an art. I could swap out an 8 foot section in 2 hours during his afternoon nap. I had one of those wireless baby monitors, and just about the time he would start waking up, I would be all finished with one section. Alex has little or no sense of self preservation. As a toddler, if he saw something sharp or dangerous, or likely to crush him, then he would move towards it, not away from it. He ha

The Fair

Saturday we made our annual pilgrimage to The Fair. Why why why why why? OK, it was a nice day, not very crowded, and it was fine. I just don't understand why we need to go to these things. For example, if I stood in my front yard and spun my son around in a circle all afternoon, someone would call Child Protective Services. However, take him to The Fair, spend a small fortune on ride tickets, and pay some toothless carny to spin him around on some rickety ride, and it is all good clean fun. Would I pay through the nose for artery clogging food anywhere else? Hell, no. At The Fair? We'll take 2, please. Gack . Well, Alex blew through the ride tickets that I got him in no time, then spent all of his saved up allowance on more tickets. He was tall enough for nearly all the rides this year, and wanted to ride everything. There was only ride that he said "terrified" him, and it was pretty gruesome. Otherwise he did great. I didn't make him get on anything - he just

First Day of Second Grade

Today was the big day. Alex got to start in his new school with his new before and after school care and new teacher and new bus. Everything went off without a hitch. It was even a nice, sunny day. How's that! When I picked Alexander up from after school care he was already in school mode. I had to give him the 20 questions to get out of him what he did on his first day. He liked all of it. A lot of his best friends were in the new class, and one classmate even goes to the same after school care. He liked his new teacher, his lunch - especially the chocolate chip cookie! - and especially the playground. Usually when I ask him what his favorite thing was about something that he has done he will say that everything was his favorite. When I asked him today, however, his answer was immediate and specific: The Big Toy. I guess the big toy on the playground is very cool. So I am all worried about school supplies, him getting on the right bus, getting off at the right school, finding hi

Labor Day Weekend

This weekend was the first Labor Day in many, many years when I didn't have to work at all. In college I almost always worked on holiday weekends, because I was on commission at Sears or Toyota and it was a big sales weekend. In the software industry there really isn't anything such as a 40 hour work week, so it would be rare that I could take 3 whole days off in a row without at least doing a bunch of email. As a small business owner I was back to working holidays again. Now as an paid by the hour contractor I am actually having weekends off. It's a little unnerving, actually. So much free time all in a row. On Saturday we went to The Kid Workshop at Home Depot. There are a lot of things that I don't like about mega stores, but the Kid Workshop is a good thing. When Alex was just about a year and half old we went to Home Depot together for the first time. We walked in the door, he looked all around and said "whoa!" in a very good Tim Allen impersonation. E

Low Expectations

I should mention a double standard that I have noticed since I became a single Dad. People seem to expect a single Mom to have a career, make all kinds of crafts, make a 4 course meal from scratch every night, keep a spotless house, and attend all school functions looking like June Cleaver. By comparison, people seem to have very low expectations of a single father. If I show up at some event and the kid is still alive, dressed, and fairly clean, people go on and on about what a great job I am doing as a parent. I don't think that I have ever heard people raving over how well a single Mom is doing. Many people have commented that they can't believe that I am raising my son by myself and that they really respect me for it. Well, what else would I do? Turn him loose in the woods? If a woman has a baby it is expected that she will do everything, but it seems to be a sad commentary on society that if a man has a baby then people just can't believe it if he raises it. I'

Dependent Care Savings Account

My contracting company has a whole bunch of benefit options that we can pick. It's quite nice, really, and one of them is the Dependent Care Savings Account. An employee can have money withheld before taxes in order to pay for daycare. Neat. I am trying to get everything set up for before and after school care for Alex. That involves far too many forms (which they keep sending me even though I filled them out), immunization records, etc. Of course, they insist on being paid, so I emailed my boss and asked how I use this snazzy benefit that I signed up for when I completed the open enrollment process. Many, many emails were traded. Here is the synopsis: Me: I signed up for the Dependent Care Savings Account when I completed open enrollment for benefits . How do I set up the payments so my daycare can get paid? Boss: We don't have that benefit for contractors. Me: Umm , I signed up for it during open enrollment. Boss: I'll ask HR if we have that benefit . HR:

Daycare? What Daycare?

My son came home the other day and announced that the following Thursday and Friday the daycare would be closed so he would be going to work with me. Oh really? Did he have a note or paper from the daycare about this? Nope. They just told him. The next day I asked about it at the school. Yes, they would be closed. No, no notice was sent home. I said that I had to work, so what was their plan for the kids? Silence. I asked, since you are closing this facility, and it is a weekday, and people have to work, and I paid for the whole week, are the kids going to one of your other facilities? Ummm , no. You should call the supervisor. OK. I called the supervisor. Yes, they are closed Thursday, Friday and didn't you know - also the next Tuesday (Monday is Labor Day, so then, too). Didn't you know? Well, no, I didn't know. Well it was in the brochure. Perhaps this is karma because I had pointed out to her that she was not doing any lesson plans that were in the brochure. I checked a

Daycare Fun

One of the great joys of being a single parent is daycare. If we were all still living in caves then this would not be a problem because the clan would take care of it, but then again, the murder rate would be much higher because most of us can't really live in that close of a proximity to our families. This summer my son has been going to a Summer Enrichment Program. Sounds fancy, huh? According to the glossy brochure they were going to do education combined with outdoor fun. Sounds good. I noticed that the kids really were spending a lot of time at recess and I asked my son if they were doing any school work. He said no. He is in the gifted program at school, and he really likes school and doesn't think of some things as work, so I clarified. Had he done any Math? No. Science? No. Art? No. Turns out they do 30 minutes of silent reading each day. For the kids that can read, like my son, that is better than nothing, I suppose. It is not, however, what they advertised . I ask


Since I live by the airport and commute in to Redmond every day I get to experience some of the nation's worst traffic. If I travel on the shortest route possible my trip is 1 hour each way. Fortunately I found a couple of carpool buddies on the Rideshare Web site. They have showed me some longer, but quite a bit faster routes so my commutes are down to somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes on most days. One day recently, a Republican Congressman decided to have GW come to town for a bit of fund raising. The Senator wanted to keep the visit a bit low key since GW is not the most popular person right now. He could have had the dinner at a hotel near the airport - maybe even right across the street from the airport, but no. Not fancy enough of an address, I guess. He decided to have it in Bellevue . Better yet, the dinner would wrap up right during rush hour and the Secret Service would close 1 of only 2 of our major North/South freeways. Apparently the prez can't hang out for

Stop Letting Your Kids Drive, Please!

My son has been asking me to let him drive the car since he was at least 2 years old. I keep telling him no. He asks why and I just say that it's because he doesn't have a license. Periodically there is a news story that does not help me out and it happened again today. Some woman got sloshed and decided that she shouldn't drive. Her solution was to put her 5 year old behind the wheel. Some neighbor saw the car speed around the corner and then come to a dead stop in the middle of the street. When she asked if everything was  OK , and was that the woman's child driving, the woman said, "It's OK, he's a good driver." This is not helping, people. Of course she is off to jail, but my son stopped listening after the part where the woman said that her son was a good driver. So let's review. Designated driver: good. Five year old designated driver: bad.

Fleet Week

This year Alex and I had the opportunity to go down to see the Navy ships that were in town for Fleet Week. Going to see the Navy ships is always fun. There are lots of cool things to see, but one of the best kept secrets are the small ships. Everyone lines up to see the big ships, but you can go right to the front of the line to see the Canadian ships that were there, and the Coast Guard ships. The smaller ships are fun to see because the crew is very glad to see you, and nothing is really top secret so you get to see everything and go more places. The Canadian ships are kind of a riot. They brought three "coastal defense mine sweepers." Mine sweepers. In Canada. Yeah. Well, after they built them they quickly realized that they really don't have a mine problem in Canada and the ships became training ships for the Navy. If you have spent any time in Canada you know that Canadians, in general, are not nearly as stressed out as we Americans, and they tend to be very friendl

Car Show With Great-Grandpa

Last Friday I dropped my son off at his great-grandparents so I could go to new employee orientation for my new contract job at Microsoft. I used to own a car dealership and my son has inherited my car nut interests. This is a good thing because his great-grandpa is a serious car nut and collector of classic cars and paraphernalia . Alex is really the first grandchild to show any interest in cars, so he and great-grandpa get along great. Great-grandpa Bob is often doing something interesting like working on a car, or polishing a car, and Alex loves to help him. Not long ago they watched Alex for me while I was at an interview, and Bob had him out there cleaning his beautiful, red Thunderbird convertible. Since Alex spent a lot of time at the car lot around nice cars, he knows how to clean them, not fingerprint them up, and how to be really careful. Alex really, really likes convertibles and can really appreciate what a nice car that is, so after they were done he talked Bob into going

Bamboo and Elephants

I am not much of a gardener, and I have a somewhat Darwinistic viewpoint about my yard. If it can't live there without my assistance then I let nature select it out. Unfortunately, there are some plants that really should not be in my yard, but there they are and they are thriving. The previous owners of the house felt like it would be a good plan to plant bamboo in the front yard. They planted some by the street and some by the neighbor's yard, presumably as screens. I have been in the house for 6 years now and the bamboo that was just growing quietly and not bothering anyone has now reached 12 to 15 feet in height and started sending out shoots of new bamboo under the neighbor's fence, and also into the middle of my yard. Today it seemed like the time had come to begin the eradication of the front yard bamboo. Stop laughing. I know that bamboo is almost unkillable . After the apocalypse there will be cockroaches and bamboo. Well, I have to try, so my son Alex and I