Today was the day to hang Christmas lights. It was pretty chilly– about 45 degrees– but you can’t hope for much more this time of year. I dug out the ol’ box from the basement and went through all the existing sets of lights to see which ones worked. Surprisingly, only two sets were dead. Still, the others are in pretty sad shape (some of them date back almost a decade, from my college days). I took the kids on a trip to Wal-Mart so they could see all the glitz and glamour of the Christmas section. (Aieeee!)

Picked up some sets of 100 lights– very nice. After some excitement with the wiring, trying to get everything to run off two plugs, I think I’ve got it all in place. We’ll see how it looks when the sun sets tonight…


We’ve got a baby monitor. It’s got a transmitter that you put up by the baby, and a receiver you put wherever you are (in my case, the basement). Nice for hearing if Zack wakes up, since I can’t possibly hear him two floors down.

Anyway, Alex and Kyra decided they wanted to play with it. They turned it on, and then one of them ran upstairs to the transmitter.

“Hi Alex!” yelled Kyra into the transmitter.
“Hi Kyra!” yelled Alex back. Of course, she couldn’t hear him, since it’s just a receiver.
“Hi Alex!”
“Alex, can you hear me?”

Alex figured out that she couldn’t hear him, so he tried to end the conversation:

“Kyra, that’s enough talking for now.”

I was laughing pretty hard when Kyra stormed downstairs and demanded to know why Alex wasn’t answering her.


Ah, Thanksgiving.

We went to celebrate with our friends the Lukowskis. They’re great, a lot of fun, and (most importantly on this particular day) fabulous cooks. We brought a handful of homemade cinnamon rolls and some dinner rolls, and they provided everything else: turkey, cranberries, potatoes, carrots in a white sauce, candied yams, Jello salad, pumpkin cheesecake, stuffing, gravy, and all the other trimmings.

Oh, and plastic cups.

What a marvelous way to celebrate friendship, food, and generally all the great blessings of life.


If I ever stop learning, I might as well stop living.


I went to Sears today to buy the towels and rugs we need to outfit all our bathrooms. Several bathrooms have towels dating back to our pre-married days (six years ago!) and of course our new bathroom in the basement has been pretty much empty for the few months it’s been around.

After lugging two enormous piles of towels and rugs to the checkout counter (Sears doesn’t have carts, of course), I was subject to the fascinating spectacle of watching the saleswoman Maureen ring up my order.

She’d take a washcloth, carefully unfold it to find the tag with the UPC, and hold it up to the laser scanner. The little red light would dance across the UPC for a few seconds; she’d shift the tag around a bit to get a better angle; the light would continue to flicker; she’d move the scanner a bit and then move the washcloth a bit. Finally, with a satisfied BEEP, the system would read the UPC.

Then she’d fold up the washcloth very carefully and place it gently into the gigantic plastic bag on the counter. She’d pick up the next washcloth (which was identical to the one she’d just scanned, but I guess she didn’t know she could hit the “Again” key or whatever to ring up the same item) and repeat the entire process.

It must have taken fifteen minutes for her to ring up the thirty or so items I had. A line of people grew behind me, and I probably would’ve laughed if I wasn’t getting so impatient. It was comical, how slow and deliberate she was.

In the end I bought two hundred dollars’ worth of bathroom linen. Sheesh. Maybe I should revert to a grungy rug in each bathroom, and let people wipe their hands on their jeans after they use the sink.


Qwest strikes again!

We’re having sprinklers installed in our backyard, and the guy doing it was being all proper by calling the phone company and asking them to come out and flag the underground phone lines. They did.

Then he cranks up the trenching machine and starts digging pipelines, and (surprise!) smacks right into a phone line. Who knows why it’s there; it seems to cut diagonally through the yard for reasons only a Qwest engineer could fathom.

So our neighbor Bill will be without phone service for a while, I guess…


Today we cleared the rocks out of our backyard. This is part of the preparation for re-grading the soil, installing a sprinkler system, and dropping in sixty (yes, SIXTY) tons of topsoil and compost.

In addition to the fun fist-sized rocks peppering the yard, I came across two enormous chunks of concrete buried just beneath the surface. Each one easily weighed twenty pounds. What in the world are chunks of concrete that big doing in my backyard?!


Who would’ve guessed it would be so hard to find matching bath sets? We went on an odyssey in search of bath mats and towels in certain colors: navy, maroon, forest green, and a dark purple (all jewel tones). Seemed simple enough.

After going to Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenney’s, Sears, and Dillard’s we learned that you simply can’t buy that. Some stores had a set of navy but no green. Others had most of the colors but no small rugs (for in front of the sink). All in all, two hours resulted in nothing.



Today at breakfast Alex was singing the ABC song.

Kyra turned to him and said deadpan, “Alex, stop it. You’re making me nervous.”


For three days my client has been trying to get their brand new network laser printer working. When I was last there, I configured it for all the right network settings and left it for them to finish, because at that time there wasn’t a network cable for the printer to use.

So after a number of exasperated troubleshooting calls from the client, I finally agreed to go down there (45 minutes each way) to get the printer working. It turns out they’d connected it with a crossover cable instead of a straight-through cable. Simple mistake, sure, but it took all of a minute for me to recognize the problem.

It reminded me of the story where the consultant shows up to fix the problem and spends about a minute doing so. His invoice is for some outlandish amount of money (in my case, seventy-five bucks) and when he’s questioned, he simply itemizes the costs.

Fixing problem: $5
Knowing how to fix problem: $70

Ahh, clients.


So Kyra’s sitting at the dinner table cracking jokes.

Alex turns to her and says, “Kyra, you don’t make any sense. But I do.”


Today I installed a garage door opener.

You’d think that someone in good health, with a college degree and a full box of tools wouldn’t have much problem doing something like that. Of course it took me the bulk of the day. After about four hours following the instructions verbatim, I reached the triumphant moment when I could press the button on the wall and watch the results of my labor.


The door moved about a foot and then ground to a halt. Whee! The joy I felt can only be expressed in four-letter words. I spent the next half-hour trying to troubleshoot the thing…

“Okay, if I hold the button down it goes almost halfway.”

“Hmm, it isn’t quite hitting the ground.”

“The light sensors work because they blink when I stick my foot in the way…”

And so on.

In the end, it was the little thing that did it: adjust the teensy little knob that says “open force”. Crank that baby up and make the engine scream as it drags the garage door, kicking and screaming, upward.

So I triumphed in the end, and now Laralee doesn’t have to pull into the driveway, turn off the car, take the key and unlock the garage door, climb back into the car, start the car, and drive into the garage. Yessss!


Whee! There’s nothing quite as joyful as having two vacuum cleaner salesmen show up on the doorstep just as you’re making dinner.

No, wait– the one thing more exciting, more thrilling, than that is to have your wife say “sure, c’mon in!”.



I just got a new video capture card. The idea, of course, is to take five years’ worth of 8mm tapes and convert them to digital format (mpeg?) so I can make VCD’s or even DVD’s. Sweet.

But reality sets in, and I’m learning that Linux isn’t the easiest place in the world to get video capture software running. I’m downloading and compiling (“grepping tarballs”, as a friend would say) but so far haven’t had any luck. I can SEE the dang picture; I just can’t SAVE it. Grrr.


I got some new speakers for my office yesterday. The old ones I had weighed about half a ton, took up a huge amount of floor space (which is at a premium in my basement corner here), and had been punched in by my kids years ago. Oh, and they originally came from a trash pile across the street, when our neighbors decided to upgrade their speakers to something manufactured after 1978.

So these “bookshelf” speakers (13×15″ is pretty big for a bookshelf, IMHO) are awesome. They truly to justice to my basement locale, because I can crank them and not bother the rest of the house… well, not TOO much anyway… and the sound is great.

Crank the trance music, baby.


What is it about clients?

It seems like every day I have a Client Moment, when something truly amazing happens with a client. And I’m not talking about “WOW, that’s cool” amazing; I’m talking about “HUNH?” amazing.

Take today. For weeks I’ve been waiting to finish the installation of a computer network for a client. I asked several times when the wires might be in place, so I could come in and hook everything together, and heard absolutely nothing in response.

Today I get a call around noon. “Jeff, all those network wires are in place. Can you come in this afternoon and hook them up?”

(Their office is about 45 minutes away.)

Uhh, no guys– I’ve got things to do today. Maybe if you’d given me more than a FEW HOURS of notice, I could’ve arranged something. Guess you’ll have to wait.

Ahh, clients.


So Laralee sends me a picture that’s scanned from a 1950’s-era magazine. It includes “instructions” about how to be a Good Wife when your husband comes home from work. It includes such gems as:

“Remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”

“Prepare yourself. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair, and be fresh-looking.”

“Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity.”

It goes on; suffice to say it’s hilariously anti-feminist.

Of course my friend Steve learned (through who knows how much online research; he doesn’t appear to do much at work during the day) that it’s a hoax.

But the best part was my friend Stef’s response:

“I don’t know what you mean, Jeff… You know me…

I NEVER question Derek’s actions or judgement – I have no right to!

I know that his topics of conversation are MUCH more important than mine

I always speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

I always put a ribbon in my hair so I can look fresh for him.

… I have to go now… Oprah is on and I haven’t taken my

Okay, so maybe you have to know Stef.