Snow tow

Kyra and Zack came down to my office in the basement and asked if it would be okay if Kyra drove around the subdivision towing Zack on a sled. Apparently they’d asked Mom but she told them to ask Dad. Nice.

After talking about it a bit, we decided that we could do it, but I would drive. I had visions of Kyra getting up to 20-30 mph and Zack wiping out in the back of a parked car or something.

So we tied a saucer sled to the back of my Civic and zipped around a few streets. By “zipped” I mean we topped out at 8 mph. So it wasn’t all that thrilling, but with all of the parked cars and trash cans outside (today is trash day) I didn’t want to end up driving to the emergency room next.




It was rather chilly yesterday. Our thermometer registered below zero, even in midafternoon:


By nightfall it was ten below, and around midnight I noticed it had dropped to almost twenty below.


Photos 12.27

It’s my intention to someday be able to shoot decent photography. I go on trips every year with Thom and often stand right beside him as we each take pictures of the landscape with our respective cameras. Of course I realize that my camera isn’t nearly as advanced, flexible, or expensive as Thom’s equipment, but it still seems to me that even with a junky camera Thom would be able to take far better pictures than I can. There’s just something about his artistic take on a scene that I can’t duplicate. Yet they say practice makes perfect, so I figure if I practice photography, I may be able to come up with the occasional lucky shot.

Along a similar vein, when I was putting together our annual Christmas photo card, I was hard-pressed to find a lot of pictures of us throughout the year. It’s kind of a shame, because we have plenty of adventures, but I simply don’t have a camera with me all the time and even when I do– on trips, for example– I tend to take pictures of the landscapes instead of the people. I need to be better about photographing my kids, especially now that they’re reaching the age where they’ll start leaving home.

As a result, yesterday I decided I need to put more effort into my photography. I’m going to bring a camera with me more often, and I’m going to simply take more pictures. Some might be boring or interesting only to me, but a guy’s gotta start somewhere. I’ll post some of the pictures here on my blog. If nothing else, over the course of the next year maybe there will be a nice evolution as I improve in skill.

With that said, here are a couple of pictures from our family outing to Old Chicago for dinner last night.



White Christmas

Yesterday afternoon it snowed a bit, which was fun because it was Christmas Day. Laralee and I went on a walk and enjoyed the quiet sidewalks as the snow gently fell on us. Overnight it snowed a bit more, and this morning we woke to a winter wonderland with almost a foot of snow on the ground.

I saw the old chair sitting on our patio and thought it looked kind of cool amidst all the white.


Merry Christmas

It was another fun Christmas. As we waited for everyone to get situated, I took a few “artistic” shots of our gifts.





Kyra ended up with the most gifts, but only by one. Laralee of all people had the second-most. I suspect it was partly because both of them bought and wrapped gifts for themselves.



‘Twas the year for toilet seats. Back in 1995, for our first Christmas together, Laralee gave me a toilet seat wrapped in a box that was probably 4x4x5 feet. She’d taken it home from a white-elephant party a few days earlier and thought my apartment could use a nicer seat. Well, this year I decided to return the favor because there are some seats in our house that are well-worn. I bought her a three-pack, thinking I was terribly clever, but she had the same idea and gave me one as well. Now we actually have too many toilet seats! I suppose one can be a spare in case of emergency.


Alex ended up with a few practical gifts, like an SSD drive, an electric razor, and a computer (gaming) mouse. But he was pretty happy about them.


Zack scored a bunch of toys, of course, and was thrilled.


After the dust settled and the wrapping paper cleared away, Laralee settled in for her usual pastime: playing Hay Day. Gotta keep those chickens fed!


The boys have left to play with friends, so I guess that means it’s time for me to crack out my new Dominion expansion game and play with Kyra. Woo hoo!

Zing Christmas party

Today was our annual Zing Christmas party, and it was fun as always. I came to work wearing a Santa hat (of course) but Nick outdid me with a full Christmas suit:


We all spent the morning finishing up a few projects, and after waiting for Nick to finish a conference call with a client, we ordered some pizzas and got down to business. We chatted and ate, and then it was time to open gifts. The whole team surprised me with a really nice box containing a dozen Jinux 64 install DVD’s. It was, of course, a big joke related to my blog post a few weeks ago celebrating the completion of a 64-bit version of my custom Linux operating system, Jinux.

The second big box for me was an even bigger surprise: nice polo shirts for the whole Jinux 64 launch team! Yep, there was a shirt for everyone, custom printed with what I guess is the new Jinux 64 logo.


Mike had gifts for everyone. He said he’d found them on a gag gift web site called Who knew?

Ben scored a little box of “emergency underwear” that you can pull out of an easy-to-use dispenser in dire need. He modeled a pair of them, and you can see that it would indeed have to be quite an emergency to get these bad boys out:


Nick came away with a set of rain goggles: glasses with actual working windshield wipers and a bright LED to guide you on those rainy nights. It’s hard to see the wipers in this blurry phone-camera shot, but trust me when I say they were as amazing as you’d expect.


Brent was happy to end up with a headband mullet. Too bad the hair color didn’t quite match.


And Brian is proud of his gigantic fist cupholder:


I shudder to think about what Mike’s family will receive for Christmas.

We all pulled on our Jinux 64 Launch Team shirts and started the annual ping-pong tournament and foosball tournament.



We also played some games: Munchkin and Settlers of Catan came out, along with a six-pound bag of peanut butter M&M’s. All in all, you really can’t go wrong with that kind of lineup.

A good time once again. Merry Christmas to Zing!

Standing desk

We keep hearing that sitting all day is pretty much killing everyone. A little over three years ago I decided to look into the fad to use a standing desk. The project didn’t work out; after a few days of standing all day, my legs and lower back weren’t very happy.

I think the trick might be to ease into a standing desk; rather than going from sitting all day to immediately standing all day, it makes sense to do it a few hours at a time. To accomplish this, I’d need an adjustable desk so I could bounce between the two positions. Cinder blocks were out.

Luckily Noah (in the office across from mine) is out on Christmas vacation, and he said I could borrow his adjustable desk. I moved it to my desk, and it took just a few minutes to set it up. Basically it’s a platform for keyboard and monitors, and it has several positions between flush with the desk and full standing position.


I’ve been alternately standing and sitting most of the day, and I must say it’s been pretty good. It’s nice to get off my feet for a little while, and then to stand and stretch for a bit. I’ll keep at it for a few more days to see how it goes, and then decide whether it’s worth the investment…

World’s greatest massage chairs

On Saturday we decided to visit a local furniture store to look for some banana chairs since ours are wearing out. Right inside the front door were three massage chairs that practically begged someone to sit in them. Unless, of course, that someone was a child. There were yellow signs on each chair that said ADULTS ONLY. So naturally Zack, Kyra, and Laralee plopped down.

Laralee really enjoyed it.


Kyra was in ecstasy. Or maybe dead.


Zack’s chair was the most advanced and included some sort of arm massage device:


His legs were also clamped in, and when he started pushing buttons the clamps closed on his limbs and started working the muscles. One wonders what might happen if there was a malfunction in the master computer– you could be trapped in this thing while it slowly crushed you. Our planet won’t be conquered by killer robots; our AI overlords will trick everyone into massage chairs and then knead them to death.

The best part? The control panels were almost certainly more advanced than the computers that ran the Space Shuttle. There were about 30 buttons (no kidding) and a full display showing different massage zones. Crazy. Laralee couldn’t figure it out but after pushing enough buttons she was able to get the chair to work her over.


Despite how amazing these chairs were, the cheap model was in the neighborhood of $1,900 so we decided we’d have to pass.

Family photos

Last weekend we all sat down as a family to figure out what we wanted to do for our Christmas card this year. It’s tough because our cards are pretty well-known, and it’s becoming more difficult to be creative with the goofy photo we put on the front. After some brainstorming, we came up with an idea and went to a local park to work on it. I won’t give away the card just yet– I’ll post that after Christmas– but as long as we were all at the park, we thought it might be nice to take some family photos.

Our last “formal” family photos were taken when Zack was less than a year old. Laralee has refused to have any photos taken with her smiling in the past three years because of her braces, but now that the braces are finally off she’s not as bashful. I suppose one of these days we should do something “nice”, but in the meantime we’ll just keep taking the candid shots.

Here’s a nice photo of the Schroeder Clan on the playground at the park:


Then, of course, we have this:


And I couldn’t resist putting together an animation. Notice how Alex and Laralee are the stoic ones:


Zack looks like a special needs child sometimes:


On our way home, we passed by a big concrete-block wall and thought it would be fun to take some pictures where we looked like punks. Kyra definitely has the sneer perfected:


Too cool for school:


And finally, showing off gang signs… or maybe peace signs?