Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Final Preparations

I have looked at so much math this week, i can probably teach it.

And yes, that would be the world's most expensive calculator. I like it. It multitasks and takes pictures, too.

This time tomorrow, I will be sitting at home and having a HUGE drink to celebrate that my GRE is over. :D

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Overlapping Topics

I love when the Instructional Technology classes navigate the psychological research waters, because it just reinforces what I already know, while giving me a fresh perspective.

For instance, tonight in class, we covered quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. In the psychology realm, qualitative research is considered good, a case study or a more in depth probing into a topic that may or may not be applied to the population at large. The resources just aren't there to do a lot of qualitative research. (Think Quality here to remember the differences).

No, in behavioral sciences, it is more important to conduct quantitative research, to know that what you hypothesize and measure can be found in the population at large. (Think Quantity.) For an example of why quantitative measure is important, you remember how researchers in Great Britain said they had found that immunizations caused autism? Remember the firestorm it generated?

The doctors later admitted that they'd fudged the results, but more importantly, there were only TWELVE participants in the research. TWELVE. They made broad assumptions about an entire population based on the flawed data collected on TWELVE individuals.

In Instructional Technology, wherever possible, the emphasis is on getting a broader base of information from or about the end user. If the budget allows, collecting more data from each subject is valued much more than getting surface information from many.

This will be interesting when I combine the two approaches in doctoral studies. When research methods collide may end up being more fascinating to some that the topic I've chosen!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Phishing in Florida

Florida is unofficially known as 'The Retirement State,' but there is another name it should have "the Phishing State." My sister in law got scammed a couple of times and we bailed her out of one, but the mail Saturday brought this little gem:





At this point, if it's coming addressed to Jane, it is an insurance EOB or junk mail, because we've notified everyone else. I will admit that for a second or two, I wondered WTH was up with the 'Electric Update,' until I remembered that she never had a utility bill in her name. Then I looked at the thing a little closer.

At the bottom, there's that *not affiliated with any public or private utility company.
Unfortunately, it is printed in a font so small that a person with declining vision may not notice it, so a claxxon alarm started going off.

Turn the card over and it says to "Jane...or current resident. Again, something that you wouldn't notice at first glance and this organization is hoping that the alarmed person would overlook the or current resident and rush to the phone, eager to fix their issue with the electric bill.

Except it's not the Electric Company. It's a scam organization that has been told to cease and desist due to fraudulent practices in Florida. They reopened under a new name and address (that doesn't exist, according to Google Maps). They now are known as EOF, GSS, Puronics, Great Southern Water Treatment and probably a bunch of others, but they hope that you'll call and buy their water treatment system, or insulation at the 'bargain price' of $11,000 or replace your electric meter at a charge of $100 a month...

Yeah, I know, to you it all sounds shady, and it IS. However, the audience they're targeting may not notice the fine print and call the number in a panic. They'll get the pushy person on the phone who will cajole them into making an appointment, and the 'customer service agent' will spend 3,4 or 8 hours working to wear the person down to the point that they sign an $11k contract.

Then the person will be embarrassed and won't say anything to their family members because they got suckered by this stupid postcard. This is why I'm posting the pictures and telling the tale (and putting all these tags on the post). I want to see lowlife scum like these exposed for the cockroaches they are.

Spread the word-if it doesn't come in an envelope with a return address from your utility company-IT ISN'T LEGITIMATE!


UPDATE-The day I blogged about this, I'd called the number out of curiosity and to see if we could get Jane's name removed from the list. I got a connection full of static, and a recorded message "we are busy helping others, please hold" and I hung up.

Three days later, my phone rings and it was someone from this company. "We missed your call the other day and wanted to help you." The man identified himself and I explained that they'd sent a postcard to a family member and I wanted her name removed from their list.

Thus begun his sales pitch, but this is where knowledge is power. "A lot of people are complaining about their electric bills being too high and we can help. Do you think your bill is too high? How much do you pay a month?"

I responded that our bill is much lower than even last year, which is the truth. Three months of no A/C will do that. We now keep the thermostat at 80〫instead of 75〫, because we got used to it.

"Well, we can come do a free home inspection and help you on reducing it more. Would you like that?"

Me: Well, not really. We have R35 insulation in our attic, which does a pretty good job. (White lie, it's R21.) I've put insulation up in my house before and can roll the stuff and tack it in if I need to do so. (I just will wait until November or December to get that kind of job done)

He was set off track a bit and recovered with the question, "But Polk county has high electric bills. Wouldn't you like help in ways to reduce it?"

Me: Honestly, the biggest consumption of electricity in our home is the pool. (Knowing that they can't do squat to help that.)

He then went for the mercy play, "Do you have plans to remodel your bathrooms soon?"

Me: Well, the house is only six years old and the only plans are to finally paint the walls.

He then thanks me for my time and apologizes for our family's loss. Then he hangs up, without an appointment or tentative sale.

Game. Set. Match.









Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recipe, S'il Vous Plait (RSVP)-Make mine 'Que

I don't know the first time I had a pulled pork sandwich, but the first good one I had was in the summer of 1984, when Dad, Giggles and I were on vacation. The smoky flavor (that didn't come from a bottle of liquid smoke), the tangy barbeque sauce and the perfect bun. I was hooked.

Since then, I've had my share of good 'Que and bad, but the purchase of the grill last year made me want to perfect my own 'que at home. I'm not there yet, but the most recent offerings I made on the grill were deemed so good by Chef that he insisted no barbeque sauce was needed.

Whoa.

I think the key to satisfaction from all three menfolk was the dry rub I used this time. Put a good one on a pork butt or picnic, let it sit and then grill for half the day, and your family will be raving, too.


While you may not have the means to grill something low and slow at home for 6 or so hours, you can do the same in the oven. It won't have the smoke ring, but it will have some good flavor.


Dry Rub for Pork

1.5 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons onion powder

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon paprika


The night before you're going to roast or grill, generously apply this rub to a 6-8 lb pork butt or picnic (there will be enough rub for two servings), wrap in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

You will want to slow roast/grill this at 250 degrees for 6-8 hours, until the internal temperature is at 185-200 degrees and the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

If you're worried about dryness when roasting in the oven, a cup of apple juice in the pan about halfway through will impart some great flavor and enough moisture.

Serve on buns with cole slaw on top or on the side.

Now, if you'd really like to make the family happy, make this guy's Pig Pucker sauce and you, too will send him an email thanking him profusely for sharing it. I have not doctored it in any way, which is highly unusual for me. There's almost 2 quarts of it sitting in my fridge right now, the second time I've made a batch (recipe makes a little over a quart).

Yes, I know Labor Day is coming and you're thinking that grilling time is over. Make it in the oven, then, and have a taste of summertime when the weather outside turns nippy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dejá Vu

Back in January, to prepare for my graduate program, I spoke with a fellow committee member from the school about jobs in Instructional Technology. She led the department on campus that handled all course content for online and the possibility existed that she *might* have a position for a graduate assistant this past spring. Alas, the chess pieces that needed to move did not, which is why I am where I am and doing what I'm doing.

I use the skills I've learned so far, but that is not the intent of my role-just a bonus that my employer is only too happy to let me play with on a regular basis. (Yes, I am a lucky woman on that front!)

So, when I spoke to that director back in January, she urged me to go introduce myself to the Instructional Technologists on staff and ask them about their jobs, and what I could expect to do if I came on board as an Instructional Technologist. I met with two people and the time was well spent-as I found that what I expected of the IT Master's is what they do on a daily basis.

Here I am, in my third semester of the program and one of my courses is better suited to the first semester. The first assignment of the semester is to interview an Instructional Designer who works in the same specialty as I hope to, ask what they like and dislike about their career, find out what led them to study it and ask what their typical day (or week) is like.

Other than my professors, the only Instructional Tech people I know are the two I spoke to in January (and I had peripheral interaction with one on a regular basis before we spoke in January.) I emailed both, requesting an interview and explaining the purpose. One graduated from my specific program, so he probably knew the request would come sooner or later. They both agreed to meet with me in the coming week.

It feels a little weird that last year I was asking them from the PoV that I might be working with them, and now I'm asking as a student in the program. In fact, thanks to talking to one, I went and purchased Captivate and Camtasia, because she'd explained that those are the two programs she uses the most for the University.

Who knows what will come of this week's meetings? One order of business is to thank her for the heads up, because those two programs are the ones I'm most comfortable using for video capture and creating educational content with.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Spaghetti Models

While I would never want to go back to the days where hurricanes showed up without any advance warning, the current methods may just provide too much information.

Case in point:
The Weather Channel has a Storm Tracker. It takes those models from the National Hurricane Center and expands the information. For instance, you can zoom in on that map to street level.

Earlier today, it showed the eye of the storm passing three blocks away from my sister's house. Granted, the eye is huge, so her house would be in that-but it's the winds on the back side of the eye that inflict the most damage.

When I looked at it a couple of hours ago, it passed over Betsy and Tod's old house (and my sister's old apartment from her single days). Now, it passes about 1/4 mile east of the gas station where Ed and I met when we worked together years ago.

A lot can change between now and when it makes landfall in NY. I'm kind of hoping for an outcome like Belle in 1976, where the storm pretty much made landfall and fell apart. The last big storm to hit Long Island in 1985 and I wasn't even there to witness it, as the family was up in Buffalo for a wedding.

All I know is that a lot of people I care about are in the cone of possibility and I'd rather this one boomerang further right, not make major landfall and keep going into the colder waters of the north Atlantic.

Wishful thinking, based on those street level views...



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why I Won't Be Walking Into Spiderwebs

Over the summer, I learned a little bit about JavaScript before I learned my limitations and waved the white flag and dropped the class.

The professor for that class posted the syllabus and book material after the semester started, took a hands-off approach to teaching the course, and looked over my code when I was having problems, declared it good-but didn't offer any suggestions of what to do to get it to work on my machine.

Basically, I needed someone who could tell me why good code wasn't working. When I dropped the class, I consoled myself with the belief that this course is better suited to a 15 week semester with a professor there to answer my questions in real time.

Tonight, I had my first class of the same course and I was more than a little worried about it. I'd wondered if this was going to be an exercise in futility-as well as a minor worry that he'd tell me I was crazy for taking both of these courses in the same semester. At least I had people I know listed in the roster, and the professor's Tuesday night class put me at ease that I could ask a question and he'd answer it thoroughly. One of the classmates was a group mate in the spring semester and we have a knack for cracking each other up when things get stressful (case in point-she emailed me during class to ask when and why the professor pierced his ear.)

The professor introduced his Teaching Assistant, the first time that one has been present in my classes (besides proctoring exams). In his introduction, Dr. S stated that he'd been a programmer, but that was 11 years ago, and while the codes are the same, the environment they're used in has changed dramatically. Enter the TA, who is a brand new doctoral candidate with 17 years programming experience. Cue my anxiety level dropping somewhat.

Then, they outlined the class structure: the first half is lecture, the second half a lab, so that we can identify issues right there and hopefully get them worked out with one or the other by our sides. I saw the announcement in the syllabus, but each repeated several times that bringing a laptop to class is essential to succeeding in the course. Yes, you could use one of the school's provided machines in the classroom, but coding on your own machine is important to ensure that it works when you are alone.

I can't argue the logic in that requirement and it got driven home minutes later.

We were asked to do some basic code that the TA had posted on the board. I coded it in the Text Editor, it was very simple stuff that I'd done last semester (and the semester before in my Internet in Education class). Mine didnt work. I looked at it several times and couldn't see any errors.

The TA came over and said my code was good, but the product I was using didn't parse it in the way I needed. This touched off a conversation that made me feel SO much better. The professor and 1/3 of my classmates were sitting at Mac laptops and we were given a little info about how Text Editor on the Mac is different from Notepad in that we can't save as .txt files. We were directed to code in Eclipse, which we'd downloaded a few minutes earlier.

My code worked.

Better still, at that point, I was several embellishments behind my peers. I looked and saw "Oh, they bolded that text," "oh, that text is green" and "ahhh, a hyperlink" and coded them without the step by step directions of the professor.

Maybe I do understand this JavaScript thing, after all.





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kitteh Mind Push


The kitty thinks that we cannot resist his charms. It must be ingrained that they show the belleh and get the hoomans to do their bidding. However, he is puzzled by me, because I don't get up to pet him. I can resist the belleh and often do.

It's pretty funny to see him confused that his tricks don't work on all de hoomans. In some respects, this is my own version of 'messing with Sasquatch,' only he doesn't have thumbs, therefore, he can't throw crap at me. Win-win!



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shake, Rattle and Roll

That earthquake today? If we still lived in Maryland, we'd be about 90 miles from the epicenter.

Too close for comfort in my book. I'm usually laid back about stuff, but I am terrified of tornadoes and only slightly less scared of earthquakes. Yes, I've lived through several hurricanes and many, many blizzards, but you can plan for them.

The unpredictability of the earth shaking or a tornado tearing a swath through the paddock between my house and the neighbor's five acres away is not something I ever want to deal with on a regular basis. That tornado touched down in 1994, while I was in Chicago, moving Ed to Maryland. It was a good thing I wasn't there to see it.

A lot of people are describing their experience as "thinking I was lightheaded/dizzy/woozy" and this made one friend comment to me on the phone tonight that she now has a little bit of an idea what life with vertigo must be like. To an extent, yes, what she experienced sounds like my usual day, but not the bad episodes. I think those might be closer to the Northridge quake.

Anyway, I'm hoping that the USGS decides that this wasn't a pre-shock, that the aftershocks are few and that my friends further north on the East coast don't feel the earth moving under their feet anytime soon.

Add to my Ph.D. school list requirements-no earthquakes in the recent past or a lack of tectonic activity nearby...


Monday, August 22, 2011

Using the Assets I Have

I was asked to write a blog for work, partly because I have experience working with one and because my boss was familiar with my writing.

Now I have a new boss and she's quite pleased with my social media savvy and Adobe CS5 skills. So, I have some new tasks-creating a Twitter account and Facebook page as soon as I get some guidelines from legal. Heck, she wanted me to start things up today, but realized that waiting for the green light was the way to go.

In the meantime, I'm also treading some ground I haven't seen in years. Client sign in sheets have been scanned in for a long time, and someone manually goes through them to create Excel sheets of how many contacts were made, what form of interaction there was and who worked with the client. The job was time consuming and it was expected to become my task while they searched for a software package that would import the information from Outlook into a database.

Instead, I asked if we wanted a relational database in Access. Yes, there still is the manual entry component for now, but the data can be manipulated much easier than can be done in Excel. Eventually, I can probably take the daily records and input them in a matter of minutes.

So, along with learning JavaScript this semester, I'll be learning Access, too. That resume is going to be looking pretty good come May!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The boys start school tomorrow. For the first time since returning to college, I do NOT have a Monday night class, which feels a little strange. I have Tuesday, Thursday and a web based class. Thankfully, the web-based one looks straight forward after two semesters of this stuff.

Meanwhile, it's 9 days until the GRE and I'm working my way through the math book. Let's see how much I can get done once I add schoolwork to the mix. The bright spot in all of this is that GameTeen needs to be at school by 8:30, I can probably start work at 9 right now and this means I can study for two hours before picking him up each day.

Commute time to Tampa will be spent listening to mis lecturas en español, because I plan on keeping up the group lessons. As long as I spend 20 minutes at day on it, I'll be maintaining the skills I have.

All of this, of course, means it is back to a normal bedtime. Boo.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Epcot


Is much better when I don't limp around the world showcase. My sweetie loaded the scooter in the van for me first thing this morning, before I even got up, because the kids and I had plans to use their After 4 APs.

So, we enjoyed some of this:






More pictures will be added tomorrow. I succeeded in video taping Impressions de France in its entirety, so the card is taking forever to upload images. I plan to knit the 4 videos together to have the whole 18 minutes of one of my WDW happy places ready to play whenever I feel like it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shot to Hell

The last day we were official residents of Maryland, I took Chef and Game Teen to our pediatrician for checkups and shots. Two days later, I enrolled both of them in the local elementary school, and provided the school with both boys' complete immunization records.

I should have made copies.

Less than a month later, GameTeen would be transferred to a school that *supposedly* was better equipped to deal with his educational needs and for some strange reason, Chef's records went along for the ride. More like they took a journey into a black hole, because they were never seen again.

Thus began the regular phone calls from the school "We need Chef's immunization records," and I would inform the lady that I'd given them to her when I spent an hour with her, enrolling both my children in the school. "Right, right, you did-but I still need them." We'd go back and forth that I gave them to her, the fact that she misplaced them was not *my* problem.

Ah, but it was, because the school had to have a copy on file for federal purposes. So I called up to Maryland, got the pediatrician's office to send the school a copy and that was it.

I should have had them send it to me.

When we moved over here, I went to enroll both boys in the appropriate schools and once again, we had an issue with Chef's immunization records. Seems that the records were lost again. My argument that he had to have records to attend the previous school was not good enough, another call was made to the Maryland pediatrician's office. Someone went into their stored files, found his records and sent them to me. I copied them. (that copy is in my filing cabinet, but it only has shots until July, 2004.)

Last summer, I was pretty sure he needed to update his shots to enter middle school, so he and I sat in chairs at the health department and they stuck him twice, once for varicella and the second for DTaP. I brought the records (which strangely, had his records from birth to 2004 on them) to the middle school and thought that was it until he needed the meningitis shot for high school.

Nope.

Last night, we ventured over to his middle school to get his schedule and some uniform t-shirts for Chef. We waited in line for 20 minutes to get his schedule and I was then informed that he had an immunization hold because they had no record of his DTaP. Seriously? I was handed a copy of what they had, which was the same records I'd submitted when he enrolled in the elementary school in 2008. So we left the school empty handed (they had run out of all but large t-shirts long before we arrived.

This morning on my way to work, I called the Health Department, explained the situation and was told I had to bring Chef with me, even though all I needed was a copy of the records. So I drove past their offices on my way home, collected Chef, and came back.

The place was packed, unsurprising since school starts Monday, the county held all orientations yesterday and that was the first time many parents were aware that they might be missing immunizations. We waited in line for ten minutes, spoke with a representative and the statement "I need a copy of his immunization record for his school" was met with instructions that we'll be waiting a long time to get his shots, because it is first come, first served.

I repeated the information that I only needed a copy of his records, he got the shots last year, but the school lost them. Apparently, the schools have online access to this information and can pull it up at anytime, so she was confused by my request. Once we were clear that his school said they didn't have it, were refusing him entry and I knew he'd been there last year, she made some noise and asked one of the ladies behind the glass partition to print me a copy.

It was there in black and white, he got the needed shots July 10th of last year.

We then drive over to the school and drop off the records, but not before I asked for a copy. It's now attached to the fridge, but I'm about to scan that sucker into the computer, then email it to myself to have a virtual copy in my Google documents.

One thing is certain-the schools have lost his records several times in the past 8 years, with five left, they're not done losing his immunization records.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Go Bulls, Shellac Edition

The Shellac really does make a difference on my nails. Alas, I had to work when I was supposed to get my nails done right before vacation and soaked it off. Over the course of the week and a half, those super long nails broke, one by one.

So, two weeks ago, we started again with Beau. It just looked like I had buffed and shiny nails. In two weeks, I went from almost nothing, to a decent length. Except for one that got smashed into a box at work yesterday when I was trying to get the shredding together.

For back to school, I opted to do one of the layering effects I'd seen. Apparently, you can get some cool colors by doing two layers of a base, and then a thin layer of top coat. I saw that Iced Coral has a green undertone that when put on top of Black Pool, looks like this:


I'm sporting Go Bulls Green for the start of classes next week!

Oh, and the Black Pool looks so nice on this nail length that I will wear it for Halloween this year. Katie's talking about doing some ghosts on a nail or two.

I like this layering thing.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Suzanne's Grand Adventure

I can relate to this guy.



Tonight, while I was indisposed, my phone rang. I let it go to voice mail because I knew there was no way to get to it in time. Then, I didn't recognize the number and my policy is don't answer those, because 90% of the time, it's not me they're looking for. This time, there was a voice mail from Chef's best friend.

He was at a gas station a few miles away and had walked 3 miles from his mom's car, which had run out of gas. Lately, they've been in straights that Ed and I were in three years ago, but there are relationship issues in the mix that are not pleasant. If it was just the mom, I probably would have said screw it and ignored the call, but I can't ignore kids-especially when I know one twelve year old is sitting at a gas station and mom and his siblings are sitting on the side of the road somewhere.

I went and got him, drove him back to mom's van and after the gas was put in, it still didn't start. No jumper cables between us, so I drove to WalMart and bought jumper cables for both of us, then drove back to her.

Nope, that's not it. Either the starter or alternator is fried. I offered to drive her and the kids home (the van could fit everyone), but she worried about the dark road and the vehicle stranded just barely off the pavement. I called a tow truck.

With a 30-45 minute lead time, we drove the kids back to her house and then sat behind her van in mine, talking about the crappy situation she's stuck in right now. She moved down here with her husband and four kids and well, it just sucks all around for them right now. She wants to move back 'home' to have family and friends nearby, but doesn't have the means to do it.

Finally, the tow truck arrives and we get things coordinate and then he follows me back to her house and deposits her van in the driveway. She's broker than broke, so I got the bill.

I left home at 9:30 and got home at 1:20. So much for a short trip to bring a kid back to his mom's car with the gas can!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gotta Love Those iPad Apps

Now that we have a Buffalo Wild Wings in town, I get to feed my trivia habit on a regular basis with Buzztime Trivia. Then Hooters added Buzztime in April and the men know they can get me to go get wings a lot quicker because I can kick some butt in arcane knowledge.

Yes, I'm competitive, why do you ask?

When you play Buzztime, they have ads between sets of questions. One tells you about playing more Buzztime online, another says you can play from your phone instead of with their device, so I downloaded it the other day and played from my phone when we were there last week.

Tonight, I put the app on my iPhone while we were getting ready to go and I signed in (yes, player plus-what else did you expect from a trivia nut?) to the app while at home. It showed me all the local Buzztime locations, like this:


Then I was asked if I wanted to play Countdown or Poker. I do not have a poker face, nor am I any good at it, so I went for Trivia, even though I knew that I wouldn't see the questions. I was told I was ready to play-even two miles away from the restaurant. Oh, goody.


Imagine my surprise when I saw something like this:


The funny thing is that I answered two of the first five questions right, got in the car, drove to the restaurant and question 15 (the last in the set) was on the screen. I finished 3rd of 8 players, just randomly guessing. So of course, here I am at home and doing the same thing as before.


I think I now understand how a restaurant that's been open six months can have a player with almost 2 million points now.

Oh, and if you have an iPad, it's much more fun to play on it than the Buzztime consoles.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Flashback

A friend posted on Facebook today "Does anyone have a Wii Fit they want to sell?" As I have one that would tell me it's been 972 days since your last confession workout, I offered her mine. At the time they came out, I'd thought that the yoga activities would meet my doctor's 'no impact' workout criteria. Little did I know that my balance issues are related to the big fat head and no amount of running dog is going to change that.

I called her tonight and got her voice mail. I commented that I didn't realize that she had a Wii, but then again, her apartment is so clean you can eat off the floors-she probably had it hidden somewhere ( a comment I believe I actually made on the voice mail). If she didn't, no matter, I've got a spare Wii if she wanted to consider taking that, too.

Guess what? She doesn't have a Wii. She thought the Wii Fit was a stand alone product.

So I told her my reason for mentioning it. When I managed the Babbages, I had a gentleman of about 50 walk purposefully into my store, grab a Sega CD add on system from one side of the store, go over to the other side and grab a CD-Rom box of the Nascar game and stride up to the register. He was unwilling to engage in any conversation, such as me telling him that the game is great, I had it on my computer for my boyfriend to play while he visited from Chicago, but I liked it, too.

Not a peep out of the guy. He paid cash and left. The way he walked in and out of the store gave the impression that he knew what he was doing, and the store was laid out with video games on one side and computer software on the other side. He didn't engage in conversation and I figured it was because I was a female talking games.

Two hours later, while I was at lunch, one of the other managers had an irate man come in with a Sega CD and Nascar game, cursing a blue streak that 'this CD don't work in that Sega CD thing." Some derogatory comments were flung that I hadn't informed him that he needed a computer with a CD-Rom drive to use it.

Hmmm. Thankfully, the other manager knew that I could and would talk to anyone about that game, so he asked the gentleman "Did Suzanne tell you she had this game? She bought it for her boyfriend, but she's hooked on it." That's when the guy said "Oh yeah, she said that she had it on her computer
for him to play when he's here from Chicago."

Hmmm. (And no, he never picked up on what tumbled from his mouth, but the other manager did-and had a good laugh about it later.)

Since then, I take nothing for granted and ask. At least today, we both got a giggle out of me asking one of those pre qualifying questions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Step Ahead

Teenage and nearly teenage boys seem to have one mindset: stay unclean. Using my two specimens in an unscientific study, they'll do everything they can to avoid showering or changing clothing.

With GameTeen, he can't get away with the latter because he the duplicates in his wardrobe are slightly different, so we can tell when he's trying to avoid changing clothes. (His sensory issues are such that he has *always* hated to change clothes, something about the circulating air hitting his skin.) There are no duplicates in his shirts, so it's easy to tell when he's trying to pull a fast one. Heck, most mornings, to save time with Mr. Pokeypants, I'll grab clothing for him to change into.

Chef, OTOH, is a tougher nut to crack. This past year, he started middle school and was bestowed with a dress code. School shirts in a color he hates (which makes me wonder what his flavor of color blindness warps burgundy into) and bottoms in black, brown, navy, khaki or denim, like most of the schools in our county.

This year, the PTA and the school administration voted to switch to a more rigid policy of uniform, so the students now can only wear khaki pants, shorts or skirts. The shorts and shirts have to be lower than fingertip length.

The few times I was on that campus last school year, I have to say, there was a lot of variance from the permitted items. Sweatpants, shorty shorts with 'juicy' on the butt (a pet peeve of mine) and gentlemen wearing pants so low I could tell you too much about their underwear selection.

In the past, when it was time to buy school clothes, I'd just stock up in four or five pairs of what fit that either child would like and be done. However, Chef would insist over and over that he was *not* wearing the same shorts as yesterday, yet no dirty clothes were leaving his bedroom. Interesting case, that was.

So, this year, I applied a different tactic. GameTeen's need was shirts and he now has about a dozen completely different solid shirts and a half dozen video game inspired shirts. He definitely can't pull the 'this is clean' game.

I was a little sneakier with Chef. Over the past month, I've tracked down khaki shorts in five different retailers in his size that he says he will wear (he's slightly picky). Eight of those in the past week, ten total-none are duplicates. He has ten unique pairs of school shorts.

Tonight, when Ed got home from work, he asked if I'd been successful in my school clothes mission during our tax holiday. I said yes, I've secured more shorts for Chef. "Different styles, right?" After my affirmative response, he commented that it'll be good that the child does not have any duplicate styles.

Apparently, Chef was a little annoyed at the sneaky tactics employed by the parents and he stuck his tongue out at the back of my head.

Hey, alls fair in love and war-and sending a kid to school in clean clothes.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's Cookie Time

One of the boys comes out of his bedroom, foraging for dessert. I want to know why these two have this notion that they get dessert every day, but that's a complaint for another day.

Anyway, I'm not in the mood to make brownies or a cake at 11:30 at night, but inspiration strikes. I bought a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough and it's sitting in the fridge.

The house is smelling like chocolately goodness and all I had to do is get Chef to turn on the oven, then I scooped out a sheet of cookies.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Resistance Was Futile



On the left: hardcover copy of Rachel's Holiday, by one of my favorite authors, Marian Keyes. Purchased off eBay for 1.99, plus 3 dollars shipping.

On the right: iPad with an ebook copy of Rachel's Holiday, purchased for 1.99. I figured the price was right.

If I could take a time machine back to the seven year old Suzanne, I'd fill an iPad with all those favorite books that have been read over the years. Instead of straining the eyes, trying to read by the hall light after bedtime, the Suzanne of the past could have larger, backlit text.

Pretty cool stuff! If any of my favorite authors had books out that I haven't got on the 'to buy' list, I would be grabbing the eBook. Yes, I know, in the past I'd said there's nothing that replaces a real book, but this is still pretty cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Think They've Figured Me Out

My colleagues, that is.

In my current employment situation, I finally feel like a round peg in a round hole. I enjoy what I'm doing, I can use the skills I've gained so far in my graduate program, and there's a lot I can learn that will help me in the future, too.

It's funny when there's a department meeting that I didn't need to attend, people come out and they file past my desk on their way to the Keurig and tell me "you're going to be happy." See, I've been hobbled to the desk by the work demands of August and unable to unpack boxes and do other things that need to be done.

They realize that while surfing the net, writing blog posts and reading my GRE guide are diversions, I'd rather be productive. Collectively, they found a few things that I can do for them while I'm at my desk and greeting the many clients that come to us this time of year.

So, I spent about a half hour shuffling between the scanner and the duties at my desk and had 100 PDF documents to categorize (we're trying to go paperless-the rest of the company isn't as swift on this front) and file on the servers. It kept me busy for the rest of my afternoon and will provide a couple of hours of work tomorrow.

Oh, and I emailed the tech support team to add my email to that scanner, because it's pretty annoying to type it in for. each. freaking. document. After about five times of that, I went back to the desk and Googled the make and model of the copier, got the instruction manual and proceeded to add the emails to the copier we all needed.

This was met with laughter by one person. I suspect the plan all along was to get me frustrated with the lack of these contacts in the copier so that I'd figure it out on my own. I'll know for sure when people aren't flinging insults at the copier/scanner when time sheets are due...


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Facebook Is NOT Las Vegas

What happens on Facebook may not necessarily stay on Facebook.

Over the weekend, a 'You know you grew up in (my hometown) when...' group cropped up on Facebook. It blossomed from about 30 people when I was invited in on Saturday morning to just short of 2,000 when I looked earlier.

The trip down memory lane has been nice, but I think some people don't realize that when you join a group on Facebook, unless it is a closed group, whatever you say is out there for anyone with half a clue with Google to see if they search your name. My mindset has always been if I wouldn't say it to a person face to face, to my Nana, to my boss or to a member of the clergy, it's not going to be said on Facebook. My locked down wall is probably considered PG-13, not much more different from the blog.

Anyway, some people just don't get the message. I've seen posts about the substances consumed and the underage drinking and well, that's not really all that bad in the whole scheme of things, unless you're going for a security clearance.

However, one guy considers himself quite the man about town. In one thread, he talked about getting one sexual favor granted (that had nothing to do with the topic discussed really) and another today in a thread asking 'what was your first job?,' in which he talked about a job for which one does not draw salary.

Anyway, I interjected "You do realize that anyone can see that, right?" and was promptly smacked down. His opinion was that the statute of limitations had long passed, and no one was going to come after him for what he'd done. Another person added that this guy was probably still a sophomore and the two of us basically got a public flogging from the person I was trying to help. We're uptight prudes, apparently and were disrespectful. He joked to the group that if and when he runs for public office, he wasn't looking for my vote, anyway.

That wasn't the point.

So, I messaged him off the group, explaining I wasn't meaning disrespect, just explaining that the things said on Facebook can come back to haunt you in the job market. I got yet another flippant remark "Well, I wouldn't want to work for anyone who bases their decision to hire me on what I say on my own time."

Dude, I wish it were that simple. One is finding more and more stories in the Internet about various people who are fired from jobs because of pictures or statuses on their LOCKED down Facebook walls that their employer felt did not fit in with the image they wish to portray. Apparently, my point was lost on him, I was told to bug off. C'est la vie.

Then he proceeds to go back to the group and tell them all the sexual insult things he supposedly said to me, without mentioning my name but making it clear that as a female, I should do these things. Hmm, that's not the conversation I had, but I'm not about to continue the discussion with someone who is all bravado and no brains.

He really doesn't get it.

In the job market today, employers have much more leverage in these situations. None of these 'fired because of what I said on Facebook' cases have made it to the Supreme Court, but give it time. One surely will. Until then, without a clear cut legal opinion, it's far better to err on the side of caution than be the guy who got fired 'because in the face of someone offering up some advice, I told her to do some sexual things to me.'

I blocked Mr. full of himself and won't be subjected to more of his crass behavior.

I'm done warning people about the pitfalls of social media when I'm not close friends with them. Can't say that I'll be surprised when something like that hits the news. I witnessed it today.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bonus From Kaplan

If you buya GRE study guide, Kaplan provides FREE webinars and practice tests.

Money well spent, imo.

I just spent an hour and a half in one of the free webinars that I was directed to after registering the code that came with my Kaplan Strategies, Practice and Review guide that has been my companion since the summer semester ended. These webinars do NOT replace their courses, rather, they provide a little hands on direction to go along with what you read in the book.

In this webinar, I got quite a bit of practical tips I can use when I take the test in three weeks. Tomorrow, I'm signed up to take a free practice test that utilizes the same format that I'll experience on test day.

Each day, students planning on taking the test can take a '20 minute workout,' which throws questions at you with a timer counting down on screen. If you're an anxious test taker (I am not) that probably would be a little disconcerting.

Meanwhile, this is what I experienced tonight:


It was a lot like an Elluminate session, and was facilitated by an instructor who walked participants through twelve questions, pointing out strategies and traps. At the end of the webinar, they do give you a code to use if you want to take the various fee courses (don't ask, I'm not giving it out).

No, those courses aren't cheap, but if you're like me and would be self-directed in preparing for the GRE, this was time well spent. I took notes that will help me out as I continue through the book. One takeaway that you should know: Kaplan suggests a minimum of 100 hours over two months to prepare effectively for the test.

If you're using any of the practice guides for any of the standardized tests, please look at the supplemental materials: CD's, online codes or addendums at the back of the book, because you may find the publisher is going to throw you a nice bonus with the book.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Two Weeks to Go

The semester will be starting in two weeks. That same day, the boys go back to school.

My courses populated in Blackboard. I always stalk them to see what information is leftover from previous semesters, to see if there's anything I can glean from the assignments.

In looking at one, I think I'd better get a jump on things now! There is a ton of reading, a lot of practical application and a huge group project. I also have this professor for Web Programming, and I know that class is quite labor intensive, too. At least it's 15 weeks long, as opposed to the ten week class I almost took.

The class rosters have familiar names, probably one of the nicer things about a grad program.

It's a little strange to think that I only have one semester left in the program after this one...




Sunday, August 07, 2011

Ed's Other Woman

Finally, Ed can check a lifelong want off his list:


If he's not at home, all I need to do is see if she's here...



Saturday, August 06, 2011

Yum!

We've got a fantastic Turkish restaurant in town and decided to have a flavorful meal. The plates were overflowing with food and the hospitality wonderful.

If you're near Lakeland and want to try something new and delicious, check out Bosphorous on Kentucky Avenue. It doesn't look like much, but the food will wow you and the kindness is just a cherry on top.






Friday, August 05, 2011

Some Things You Just Have to Do


It is designed for the original iPad, so it needs some minor modifications. However, nothing that a dremel can't remedy in a few spots.

Of course, I had to go out there and find an Etch a Sketch application to use on it. Currently synching 'the Ring of Sauron' to add that utility...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Junk Mail

I'm always curious to figure out exactly how some pieces of mail make their way into my mailbox, rather than my neighbors, or yours or my cousin's ex husband.

You know what I mean, right? You didn't request information, yet things come addressed specifically to you that just begs the questions of why, how and WTH? Lately, I appear to have found a couple of sources of my mail and I'm waiting to see if some websites I signed up for will add me to the so called 'sucker' lists.

First up, a generous graduation gift of People en Español (shouldn't that be Gente?) from Donna. She knows that I want to keep those language skills and thought this was a good way to get topical information and vocabulary and perhaps learn about personas muy popular en las paises latinas. Well, I found out that People sells their subscription lists, because I'm getting mail 'en español,' asking me to subscribe to Mujer, donate to charities and buy photographs. The bright spot is that it's providing me with more opportunities to explore la lengua, with a bonus laugh or two.

In the two plus years of my college experience, I have received not one piece of junk mail from other schools, tutoring services or any other college related service. Quite a few emails came my way from the Princeton Review, but they never sent a piece of snail mail. They were so annoying with the quantity of emails that I purchased a Kaplan GRE study guide!

However, last month, I signed up to take the aforementioned GRE exam in September and yesterday, the first piece of mail showed up that I know is ultimately going to be joined by many others, because I experienced it before. The College Boards provide information to institutions of higher learning about PSAT, SAT, ACT, GRE and all the other exams it provides.

The funny part of it is that the GRE was not a requirement for my Master's program-I'm taking it for admission to a doctoral program (I can't apply to several until I have the scores back), but these schools are only provided with the information that I've registered to take the test.

The school has no idea that as a 45 year old agnostic mother of two, halfway through a Master's degree, that their school is the furthest thing from a good fit. When the pictures of the residence directors for one of their campuses put me at about 10 years older and their initial contact tells me that they'll help students 'fulfill God's potential for your life,' well, I can't help but feel bad for them. It has to be rough to be a really small school that only has four master's programs to get students into their revenue generators.

I'll pass.

This time, though, I think I'll keep a stack of the literature that shows up, because it's fun to think back to all the college brochures I got after I took my PSATs that also wouldn't have been appropriate.

And the tactic I use when I sign up for stuff? I purposely misspell my name, or my street address,add a middle initial or the wrong salutation. It'll be really funny to see which site is responsible for which pile of shredder fodder-and whether adding Dr. to my name generates more mail than the other sites.

At least the post office is generating some revenue from the delivery of all these lovely pieces of amusement!


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

All Roads Lead to Chiari

A long long time ago (2006), in a galaxy far, far away (Tampa), a doctor agreed with my assessment that I was a medical freak when giving me the clearance for a minor surgical procedure. (That resulted in a more major procedure 3 years later, but that's another story.)

In that conversation, he suggested visiting with a geneticist, because it was his opinion that all the freaky crap I deal with is probably linked to one root cause. Right track, wrong train. I needed to see a neurologist to clarify some issues and identify some of the chronic health issues under one umbrella. The diagnosis, Chiari I Malformation, brought together many issues under one cause, namely:
Extreme severe headaches that migraine meds didn't fix
neck pain
shoulder pain
bulging discs
coughing as soon as I laid down
headaches caused by coughing or sneezing
vertigo
balance issues
tingling in my arms

As I'd lived with the pain for a long time, and that of the myriad wrist issues for as long, and the vascular issues for slightly less time, I figured that my neurologist's wait and see approach was one I agreed with.

Thing is, the issues didn't stay the same, they got worse. Instead of seeking more aggressive treatments, I treated symptoms. I'm frankly scared of the notion that fixing my quite pronounced malformation and decided to live with the pain, but when the interventions don't work and the homeopathic assists don't really help, it's time to ask for the referral to the neurosurgeon when I go in for the annual MRI.

In what free time I had this summer, I was doing my own Internet legwork on what to expect post operation. I follow a blogger who was the first person I'd encountered that shared the not-so-pleasant side of surgery. (I casually know someone who has had the surgery with much better results.) Still, as a defect that affects 1 in 1,000 (which elevates me to a <1% girl, honestly) there isn't a lot of information to be had from those who have been there, done that. I've paid careful attention to Katie's experiences, because it could be me with that same outcome.

Today, my lovely Donna found a link while surfing the web today and sent it my way. A mom in Jacksonville spearheaded a charity Walkathon for Chiari Malformation. I read the article and it lead me to the Conquer Chiari website.

It was like Donna turned on the grail-like beacon for me.

Most of the impetus for doing the research this summer is because the related issues have been hell. Constant pain in the neck and shoulder a 5 out of 10 headache at all times, that steps up to an 8 several times a week, my stupid leg joining the pain party, and just a general frustration that the days that I don't hurt are practically nil. I don't write about it because what purpose does it serve? I'm not known as a health blogger, it'd just be me detailing boring crap that no one wants to hear. I'm coming to the realization that 'wait and see' is probably not going to be an option when I see Dr. M next.

The Conquer Chiari site finally resolved the question of outlier health concerns. In addition to the above, issues like insomnia, tingling/numbness in the arms, and gagging are probably related to the Chiari. Finally, I have a possible origin for the wrist issues that began on my right side when I was 13 that took 6 years and 8 doctors to resolve. The strangest thing of all: there may have been a clue to this all along: my lazy eye. It was identified when I was 3 and treated unsuccessfully with eye patches.

The website explained that neck and shoulder issues happen to Chiari patients almost exclusively on the right side. This explains mine and the fact that the wrist problems developed on my right, even though I'm a lefty. It also explained that the strabismus surgery that was suggested to my parents way back when may not have helped, but the Chiari decompression surgery would.

So, the non-vascular related health issues may be all be offshoots of Chiari, whether common or rare. Let's face it, rare crap, even with a rare disorder is par for the course with me. Now the medical history I present to each new doctor can be categorized by probable cause, rather than date of onset.

Reading the website made me realize that there were some flashing signs that pointed towards the Chiari, but there were roadblocks in the way. It is something of a relief to find that these things are all related, that the answer to what the hell is causing all these freaky things is right here.

It begs the question, though, if pediatricians are looking beyond the lazy eye/amblyopia/strabismus diagnosis to find the root cause? Everything about surgical intervention says that if this congenital defect that occurs in utero is corrected in childhood, recovery is much easier.

I don't know yet what this means for me. I'd love to be out of pain, but I'm not sure if the surgery is the right option for me. I have very real concerns about the lack of mobility that will occur post op, thanks to my clotting issues. That said, the Conquer Chiari site had links to other websites that may help me figure out what I can do to resolve these issues, especially now that I know they're related.



Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Burger Nerd

In the bottom of a box of software, circa 1996, evidence of my braniac status:


I graduated second in the class, which was funny, considering that I was the training/personnel manager for the franchise and had been with them for three months...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Squeeeee

or, Steve Jobs loves the number of Apple devices in this house!

Ed told me I could choose my birthday present this year. I could have whatever I wanted. I chose this:



It was scheduled to arrive between the 5th and the 9th, but UPS knocked on our door around 9:30 this morning instead. Now I'm fiddling with it, getting my email set up properly and playing Lego Harry Potter(very nice) and downloading movies onto it, too.

While it's for fun, I suspect that at least one of my fall classes will cover the use of iPads in education, so it may be a bonus that I'm playing with mine now.

Thank you, honey!