Category Archives: Life

Posts about stuff

What I’m looking forward to this Summer:

I’m very much looking forward to doing some books this Summer. I haven’t had a chance to do any this semester, for several reasons: for one thing, I’ve been busting my hump in school and doing practicum (classroom observation,) and for another thing, our new house has had no crafting area until this past weekend, when I bought a six-foot folding banquet table at Target and Karisa set up part of the basement for our respective hobbies. When I got home with my surprise, she showed me hers, and we realized that we had both been on the same wavelength, which is always a nice thing.

I’ve had these ideas rolling around in my case for a while about some new projects. I’m going to try out some Ethiopian coptic chain-stitch journals, which should solve the issue I have with my books not wanting to lie flat. I also have a few design tweaks to try on stab journals for getting them to lie flat, including a double-hinge design, and a multi-hinge design inspired by roll-up blinds that may allow the user to roll the cover back around the spine – but I have yet to deal with how I might design a text block around the concept.

I got some leather from a seller on eBay back in December, and my hands have been itching to do some leather covers. I just ordered some Czech glass beads that look like leaves for specific ideas I have, and I’m looking forward to using those. I’m looking forward to actually determining the grain direction of paper  so I can make sure it runs in the correct direction when I make a signature (page section.)

I’m also looking forward to my personal NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) The month is actually November, but I’ll be in school again and I won’t have time to write until my fingers fall off. So I think I’m going to do June or July.  Those are good months.

What are you looking forward to doing this Summer? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

>2010 – A year in status

>Here are a couple of “poster” images I made with the My Year in Status app on Facebook; It’s kind of funny to look back at some of the weird things I say.

2010 My year in status #1

2010 My year in status #2

>What’s in an expiration date?

>    I’m getting fed up with my milk going bad way before the expiration date. For example, I bought this half-gallon of Cass Clay milk less than a week ago. . . say, Monday. The expiration date is July 5th, and yet this morning it has gone sour and I can’t drink it. What’s the deal with that?
    Now, it’s not like I’m a huge cereal man or anything (I have had Kellogg’s Pops on the brain lately – I’ve been resisting “that urge.”) but I do drink milk every day. Every morning when I’m in the mood to eat I have my usual breakfast, and it’s pretty much protein. Two large, salted boiled egg whites, two slices of Bar-S turkey lunchmeat, two spoonfuls of peanut butter, and a short glass of milk. I use the milk to wash down a Claritin, a Centrum, and two Tums.
    You might think, “well, that’s not a lot of milk.” You’re right. It’s about eight ounces, and there’s about eight times that much in the half gallon. I threw out half of that this morning, so I got milk on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. . . yep, that’s it. Sometimes Karisa has cereal, so I stopped buying smaller quantities of milk because I don’t want to buy milk every other day, but it’s starting to look like that’s my only choice. Why even bother putting an expiration date on the milk if I can’t trust it?
    Right now, that expiration date means very little to me. Could this problem be attributable to my refrigerator? Perhaps. I do have it set to its coldest setting, and I have yet to freeze anything in there. Maybe there’s an uber-cold zone in the fridge that I have yet to identify. Our fridge is a cheap little thing, if you ask me. It’s nice, and it’s new – but it just doesn’t seem like a “sturdy” fridge, when you look at it. Maybe that’s what it is.

>A New Type of Discrimination

>    Every week, on NPR’s Planet Money podcast, they start the show with an “indicator.” This is a number that means something; it might be big, or it might be small, but it has something to do with the show’s topic, which is money.

    Today, I’m starting this blog post off with an indicator. That’s right, it’s a Rob’s Surf Report indicator and it is twenty-nine (29.) Twenty-nine is the score I received on the Autism Spectrum Quotient Test, designed in 2001 by psychopathology professor Simon Baron-Cohen (coincidentally, he’s Borat actor Sascha Baron-Cohen’s cousin.)
    The theory is that autism can be gauged on a continuum; or rather, that everyone is more or less autistic. If you’re interested in knowing your score, head on over to Wired Magazine and take five to ten minutes to answer this fifty-questionnaire in degrees of agreement (agree completely, agree somewhat, etc. . . ) and it will calculate your AQ, or Autism Quotient. If you’re considered “normal,” you’ll score somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen. People diagnosed with autism average a score of thirty-two.
    It turns out that what being more (or less) autistic really means to a normally-functioning person is that it identifies your balance of intelligence to social skill. People who score high and never, ever thought of themselves as autistic are probably highly intelligent and yet somewhat lacking in social skills – i.e., to some degree they’re withdrawn, introverted, and find it difficult (but not impossible) to make new friends or figure out what other people are feeling. Does this sound like the typical high school nerd? Is that a weird coincidence, or what?
    If you score high, don’t feel bad about yourself. Life didn’t deal you a harsh blow. But can the same thing be said of society?

    Take another look at the test. Does it look at all familiar to you, even vaguely? If you’ve been on a job hunt anytime in the past decade, you might have answered several questionnaires that bear a striking resemblance to this one.

    Here comes the rant.

    Is it any coincidence that there is a significant uptick of automated employee vetting machines around the same time that this questionnaire was published? Or is it, in fact, true that as soon as employers heard about this, they wanted to make sure they had the most socially adept people on their side? This looks to me like companies have profited by selling a system to potential employers that discriminates against people based on something that is beyond one’s control.
    It’s true that I have never received a job offer after taking one of these tests. You have to take one in order to apply for a job with many retailers, and I’ve always thought that was unfair because it never gave me a chance to win over a person with my confidence and my leaking surplus of elbow grease. There was no “face time” involved in the hiring process, and I always thought that it was a mistake to dump the face-to-face interview process; after all, just because you’re good with people doesn’t mean that you’re honest or hard-working, am I right?
    To me, this is no better than racial profiling. After all, it’s not fair to discriminate against someone based on their skin color, age, gender, and other features that are determined not by them, but by nature itself; why, then, is it fair to weed out people who choose to answer truthfully these questions that are posed to determine how social they are? How is it that a person who spends their work day cataloging videos and running a cash register needs to be the popular type? Do you mind being the center of attention? You’re out. Are you okay with being alone? Sorry, you’re not qualified to work for All-Mart. And doesn’t it just seem like they’re putting yet another spin on natural selection at a time when people seem to have forgotten what it is? Should we look forward to a future that looks something like the movie Idiocracy? (If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s funny.)
    Like I said, one of the fallacies in eliminating preliminary interviews with real people from the hiring process is that they assume that personality equals hard work and honesty — so not true. Con-men are big on personality, and they make their living by cheating people. I will work harder and better than any Barbie- or Ken-doll, and I prove it each and every day. Furthermore, they’re denying paying jobs to people based on their personal preferences! Isn’t that what an employee handbook is for – laying down the rules so you have a basis for firing those that break them?
    I kicked up the drama a little bit there, I know. I’m a sensitive person. To be fair, the pre-employment personality test employs several types of questions, and each type is aimed at figuring out a different aspect of your overall personality. If you intend to be honest and are extremely intelligent, you’re going to have problems. There’s an article from eHow down below that explains the average test, the mentality behind the questions, and how to beat them at their game. 
    Let’s put it this way: personality hates intelligence for no good reason. It’s like religion and science; a few people may be able to mash them together, but the majority on either side fervently believes that the two do not mix, and they still openly discriminate against each other behind an illusion of acceptance.

How to pass the test:

Wikipedia article (sorry, teachers! I love my Wikipedia:)

Chapter One of Steven Johnson’s Mind Wide Open was my inspiration:

>A Week’s Worth of Snapshot

>    Well, I’ve done a whole lot over the past week. Maybe I haven’t done as much as some people have, but I’ve really got the ball rolling and I’m proud of what I have accomplished. For example, I have mysteriously pulled off a credit score of 732. Out of 800. That’s phenomenal, considering I had a bankruptcy finalized three years ago, but I guess that’s due to doing what’s right and trying hard to stay out of debt and respect my credit.

    On a related tangent, on Thursday Karisa and I went to see a banker by the name of Debby Wisdom at Dakota Community Bank. Not only did she not try to tell us that the monthly payments from our student loans should be eating up all of our disposable income, but she didn’t let that get in the way of sending our info out to the underwriters for preapproval; that lady from Vue Community Credit Union can kiss my grits.
    I’m expecting to hear back on the preapproval tomorrow. If all goes well, we should be meeting with the realtor by the end of the week. My opinion is, my school loans are my business and should not get in the way of my getting a house. A HOUSE. Noun. A place to live that’s not a hot, stuffy attic. I’ll always need a roof over my head, but I can do without school if necessary, and while I could put off the U.S. Department of Education because of “financial hardship,” the mortgage must always be paid and I know this, man. That lady from Vue Community Credit Union can go suck an egg. And a lemon. At the same time.
    So yeah, and I went to see my advisor for Dickinson State University on Friday, and I think I decided on majoring in Composite Social Science Education, with a middle school endorsement for my minor. At first I left thinking that I had chosen English Education for my major, but in retrospect I think I decided that I would be more marketable as a teacher who can teach any social science to grades 7-12, as opposed to just English. Of course, I might not be able to teach English, but I don’t think that would be an issue with me. I’m like that little boy in the movie who just wants to dance, but instead of dancing, I want to teach.
    At any rate we got things going, and I should be registered for classes within the next couple of days. One of the classes is two-in-one; for half the semester I attend an Intro to Education class, and for the second half of the semester, I’m a teacher’s shadow. Or test-grader, I guess. Cool stuff! Then there’s College Composition III and Adolescent Psychology, too. Over the past week I have gotten my FAFSA submitted, my transcripts sent, and my financial aid verification paperwork filled out – it gets put in the mail tomorrow – so I’m thinking I’ve slipped into DSU for the Fall semester. Not too shabby!
    With this weekend being Memorial Day weekend and all, we spread things out pretty well; we cleaned up some things and went through some other things. We don’t want to move a ton of junk that we don’t want to keep to a new home (eventually,) so we’re going through stuff and putting a lot of it into a tote for a rummage sale at the in-laws’ place this Summer. I’ve been posting my dragon statues on Ebay since I’ll probably never take them out of their styrofoam blocks ever again for any other reason, and hopefully the stuff I’ve posted on Bisman Online will sell. We’re probably going to get a zero-down first-time home buyer’s loan because we both qualify for that (apparently, “first time” means that you haven’t done it in three years. If that counted for sex, I’d have been a virgin a few times prior to being married.) Still, I know we’re going to need five hundred dollars’ “earnest money” for the realtor and another five for the bank toward closing costs (inspection and whatnot.)
    And then there’s the Wii. Oh yes, we’re getting a Wii. Target has the Wii, and it’s black!! Which is just awesome. Karisa’s been talking about it, and I finally broke down and admitted that it sounds cool. We can use it for Netflix, and maybe we won’t have to try starting something ten times to get the sound to work (like it does on the XBox 360.) Plus, I would be totally nuts for Wii Fit and MARIO KART!! Wahoo! So yeah, now all I have to do is figure out how to get it without busting into the down payment money and the only thing I can think of is my credit card, but that’s like two hundred on my credit card and with the current balance, that would leave me about $100 credit. Is that a safe margin? Well, I don’t use the credit card for much, but. . . I’m just really careful about my credit and all. So I’m hoping this guy comes through on the Ovation.
    The Ovation is one of the things that I’ve listed on Bisman Online. It’s Bismarck/Mandan’s version of Craig’s List. The Ovation is a semi-hollow electric guitar that is older than I am – by five years. And it’s in great condition, so I think I’ve really undervalued it at $300, but with that much I’ll break even on it, which is better than nothing. But I swear, if this guy falls through, I’m listing it on Ebay; that means I have to do math to figure out how much to mark it up to account for the listing fee and something to cushion the selling fee (which I think is 5%.) So basically, I have to add enough to that $300 so that the $300 is 14% less than the selling cost (which I think is about $348.84, but I could be wrong.) If the Ovy sells higher, then I still bank because Ebay only gets 5% of the extra, so. . . 
    I think maybe I should have listed the Ovation on Ebay in the first place. But hey, lesson learned. Let’s go, Nintendo!

>And now for today’s crisis:

>    I got up at the crack of dawn this morning. As usual. My alarm normally goes off at six o’clock anyway. Today was different, however; I had an eight o’clock appointment at the Farmers’ Union Cenex and I meant to make it. I wanted to get my jog in, though, so I was up at six and out jogging by 6:20. I listened to. . . The Dandy Warhols. Thank you, memory. Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, to be exact – the best darned album the Dandy Warhols have offered so far.
    By 6:55 I was back home and getting in the shower. 7:40 I was saying good-bye to the wife and leaving. I made it to the Cenex a minute or two late, but the Gary – the shop manager – didn’t seem to mind. He was a little surprised that I was going to wait for the diagnosis of the check-engine light and the estimate, though. Strange? Not so much – I guess sometimes the “check engine” light can be squirrelly, especially with newer cars. I went and sat down at one of the pic-a-nic tables before I decided to buy a coffee. I had eaten breakfast, though I hadn’t had time to boil a couple of eggs; I had made do with three slices of lean turkey and two spoons full of peanut butter. Now, I had the chance to get my caffeine on.
    I was about fifteen minutes into watching Sherlock Holmes on my Zune and Gary came back out and told me that I had a bad EGR valve, as well as a bad coolant temperature sensor. I said, “how much?” The EGR valve, Gary said, was about two hundred dollars. The coolant temp sensor was twenty-five. Add labor and the computer hook-up (a rip-off if I ever heard of one,) that’s about another hundred. So I’m thinking, yeah. I’ve got the money. But. . .
    I say, “what’s the downside of skipping the EGR thing?” Gary says, “it’s still gonna run rough,” (It’s been really bad lately,) “and the check engine light’s going to stay on. I can turn it off, but it’s going to come right back on.” So I thought about it. . . (not really. . . ) and then I said, “how long?” About an hour, hour and a half. . . so I said, “ok, let’s do it.” I’m such a sucker. But you know, in Detroit we had this thing. . . can’t fix your car? Run it into the ground. North Dakota, however, has been quite fertile and I’m socking away cash like I’m Eminem on a bad flashback.
    I drove the Saturn away from that place like nothing was ever wrong with it, and I don’t regret that. So anyway, I thought I’d stop at Best Buy on the way to work and see if I could find the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack, because I kept hearing Irish punk music, like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys and such. Best Buy had nothing of the sort. OF COURSE. So I Googled it on my phone, and the only soundtrack anyway is Hans Zimmer. Orchestral!! What?? God!! Some movies did this horrible, unspeakable thing and spawned two separate soundtracks – one for the orchestra and one for the regular music. I know –  it sounds tragic, right?
    But the foray into Best Buy wasn’t a total waste. After all, I hate Best Buy like an abused housewife hates her husband. I can’t help but to go back and see if I can find something good in there. This time, I found the DLO Action Jacket for my Zune HD, with the cord-keeper on the back. Awesome!! I bought it.
    So I went to work, and I worked. Then I left work at 5:30, knowing that I was going to have to be back in Bismarck at 7:15 so that I could see the Spring concert, where Karisa would be playing her bass clarinet in a show titled, “Around the World in 80 Minutes.” It was amazing. They did this medley from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite that just blew Fantasia out of the water. By the end of the concert, however, I was marveling under the surface how many people in the band I had connections with. My wife was playing the bass clarinet. My brother in-law was playing clarinet. My manager at work was playing french horn. The guy at work who helps me on Wednesday morning with the huge stock transfers? His wife was on the other french horn. The only female in the trumpet lineup used to work at Eckroth. Another girl on clarinet was my Music Appreciation teacher last semester. The band’s conductor was my academic advisor. The guy who composed the second-to-last piece, Halls of Anubis, was at my wedding and is someone I see at the store on a regular basis. This is just the tip of the iceberg – I can tell you where half of the other half of the band works! This chick works at K-Mart. That guy works at Target. It’s crazy.
     But I decided when I got home I would do some research to figure out where I’m going to school next year, seeing as how I’m going to be graduated from Bismarck State College in less than a month and I need to get this ball rolling, and here’s where the crisis comes in: I’m not finding any options I like. I’m in a panic! The only college in town that offers Bachelor degrees is University of Mary and they want a structured curriculum and a whole block of theology courses thrown in. The latter is interesting, the former – intolerable. University of North Dakota, I can get a bachelor degree in Psychology online. But there’s no education degrees and no English degrees online. Fail! North Dakota State University has no online degree programs even close to applicable to what I’m looking for. Double fail! So what do I do? What the heck do I do? I just want to get a jump on my Bachelor degree, while simultaneously keeping my student loan lenders at bay – just out of reach, in deferment-land.

>Climbing Mt. Mandan

>     Jogging has been going well. I got out and scoured Mandan for the past three days, including today; and I can feel the difference already. Of course, I’m worn out at the end of the day, too. I had an intense pain in my knee last night when I kneeled on the floor. But I breathe easier, it’s not so challenging to go up the stairs to the apartment, and I’m looking forward to losing some of this dead weight. I let myself go for too long.
     I’m also finding it easier to jog. I head up the sloping streets of Mandan, past houses yet asleep and passed by cars, heralds of the busy day ahead. I reach what I feel may be the zenith, the high point of the area I’ve been hiking; I look upon the blue dome at the corner of Collins and Division from beyond the fence with its “no tresspassing” signs. I do not fear prosecution, and yet I have no desire to go any closer. Roughly eighteen minutes into this walk, this slog up the steeply sloping sidewalks of this hill-studded city, I turn around and begin to jog lightly down. With playing a klezmer version of the Pink Panther theme into my ears, I focus on keeping pace on the downslope so that I can make it last.
     A lady in a truck passes me by, and I see that she has a huge grin on her face. I’m thinking, “yep, it’s a great morning, people are out jogging, what a great day to come.” It hits me about a minute later, while I’m rounding the corner from Division onto 6th Avenue that she was probably amused with my cans. I’ve taken to wearing my Yamaha RC-3 headphones while I’m out in the morning because they’re sturdy and stabile, not to mention they keep my ears warm while I’m still warming up. The thing is, I probably resemble Ben Stiller from Starsky and Hutch, when he’s jogging on the beach with those ridiculous 1970’s radio headphones – except mine aren’t sporting telescoping antennae.
     I got back to the house, huffing and puffing but not so badly, and went right past it to the grocery store. I had planned this, so that I could pick up yogurt cups to put in lunch this week. I also picked up a loaf of bread for myself and a couple of energy drinks for Karisa and myself. Got back home, showered, and woke up the wife. Not a bad morning, if I may say so. I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning!

>It’s finally Friday!

>     Yes, and the weekend brings awesome weather!! I managed to get out to jog this morning; in fact, it was almost like an exact redo of Tuesday morning (which was the first time back jogging,) except that I took a different route this time. Instead of wandering around the turns in the subdivision at a half-jog and wishing I could breathe, I went straight for the inclines.
     Don’t let anybody tell you North Dakota is flat; I mean, it is, right? But there are hills to go around, and for some reason the hills are mostly in the cities. They build around and over the hills. Apparently, suburban design is more of an art than a science. My SimCities never looked like this; the hills in my neighborhood are steep. Some people even have steps in their sidewalks! It wasn’t long before I was having trouble catching my breath again, pushing through at the fastest walk I could muster. . . again.
     I’m not a patient man, but I will get through this. I will run again. On another note, today’s weather is quite lovely; it’s fifty-four degrees and awesome. Karisa and I are going to see “How to Train Your Dragon” tonight in 3D at the Grand Theatre. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film, to say the least. Work was much less hectic, and I used less slack time to blog. . . obviously.

Ciao for now!

>Thursday has been trashed.

>     Oh, what a stupid day. As if it didn’t start out cruddy; I couldn’t run again, because it was nineteen degrees outside and there was snow on the ground. What? What happened to Spring?!? Well, Monday’s high is supposed to be sixty-four, so there’s hope yet. I get to work and it’s a freaking zoo. Kids all over the place, carrying violins and violas and cellos and I’m thinking, I thought this was supposed to happen last night. Despite the distraction and the inability to get anything done quickly, I finish receiving and dealing with “special” issues by 12:30, and I’m supposed to find stuff to do among all of the hubbub?
     Oh yeah, there’s a string festival happening in the store right now. Apparently whomever holds it couldn’t afford the space they usually get, so Eckroth was kind enough to host it. I’m actually writing this right now because I’m bored to tears and I can’t do anything else because there’s too much traffic in the store. The good thing about today is that I get to pick up the Saturn after work. The shop manager at Cenex called me just before eleven this morning to tell me that it’s ready to go. Apparently, the coolant was leaking from a gasket and he just tightened it and solved the problem!

     We’ll see, right?

>Wicked Wednesday

>     This has been one tiring day. I didn’t get a chance to run this morning because it’s Wednesday, and on Wednesday I start work two hours earlier than usual. Karisa didn’t feel well – grumpy stomach, possibly due to the tuscani pasta from Pizza Hut last night – and I let her stay home instead of taking me to work because we have her Mom’s van for the time being and I wanted to drive the Saturn anyway to check my suspicion that it still has a coolant leak.
     I was right. Although the coolant reservoir was full when I left the house, when I checked it at lunch time, it was nearly empty. Go figure, right? The chumps at Cenex replaced the water pump and didn’t fix the coolant leak. I had to call them and make an appointment for them to “look at it” tomorrow; I dropped it off after work at the Cenex, where Karisa was waiting for me in the van.
     On the upside, I got a really sweet Fender lunchbox at work today, with a little thermos and everything. We got ten of them because all of our stores are switching over from loose guitar picks to pick packs, and so we had to order a ton of picks for seven different locations. I also picked up some cool Ernie Ball stickers from an order that came in today, which was a nice surprise. Usually Ernie Ball sends us guitar cables and picks as promos, which I usually throw in the marketing area for giveaways and door prizes.
     Also, the weather here was nicer than expected today – very sunny, high in the mid-fifties, which was supposed to be in the high forties. . . so that was great, and we’ve opened up the windows in the apartment for the first time since last Fall, when we moved in. The air coming in is a tad cooler than I would prefer, but it’s fresh air, after all, and I totally approve.
     But work was definitely busy. It’s about that time of year that I stop having an excuse to slack off, and products will begin to arrive with increasing frequency. Today I received two pallets of snare/bell kits and pad/bell kits. Forty-seven pieces in all, each one serialized and kind of heavy. I didn’t have this problem with them last year. . . but then again, I was less out-of-shape last year; I’m tackling that one.
     I’m ready to rest, but it’s going to have to wait a little bit longer. The Zunited podcast has a dearth of email for the next show (which is on April 6) and they requested on air that I write a thought-provoking email. Let’s see how that goes!