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Yes, I think I'm funny. No, I'm probably not.
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27th-Jan-2009 10:46 am - Proposal
My sister asked me to remind her of some details of how I proposed to charles_hanon, so I thought I'd see if I could dig it up and post it.

Step 1: buy a ring. The soon to be Mrs. Spraints knew that a proposal was coming, so there were some casual conversations about what type of ring she wanted. Armed with that information, I picked one out. I got a sweet no-interest-for-six-months deal, so I added a todo item on my PDA to pay for it in 5ish months.

Step 2: Propose. I had the ring for a couple of days before I came up with a plan. The plan started as just a nice dinner at my place, with a proposal, but it grew.

Friday, I sent L four emails:
  • My will power leaps
  • Muddy ewe Lives in kayaks every Year or under
  • The Merry Men of Mattington
  • To Me To night will be To deful... i mean, wonderful
She didn't see the message! I guess that's not too surprising, because they were spread out throughout the day.

That night, she came over for dinner around 6:00. I put on a tie, lit a candle, made something nicer than usual, and put a picture of the ring as the desktop wallpaper on my computer. I also got a window open with the mail I had sent to her that day, in order.

I'm such a dork.

Anyway, she came over, I showed her the list of emails ...
  • My will power leaps
  • Muddy ewe Lives in kayaks every Year or under
  • The Merry Men of Mattington
  • To Me To night will be To deful... i mean, wonderful
... (read the bold words ... read it out loud if you need to) ... so, I showed her the list of subjects and the picture and the ring, and she said yes.

The rest is, as they say, history. A very blissful history. A very blissful, nerdy history.

Oh yeah, and the thing about the PDA... that wasn't irrelevant. A couple days before the big proposal day, I left my PDA at her place accidentally. I turned the car around and got it, mostly because I used to use it to help me be on time for meetings and things (or at least not to forget about them completely). It was there, unattended, for only 20 minutes, tops. It turns out that was long enough for my "pay for ring" reminder to be observed, so the imminence of the proposal was discovered in advance.
26th-Jan-2009 10:13 am - Learning the Language
Jr. has a tendency to repeat things that charles_hanon and I say. For instance, when he calls a spatula a spoon, I'll say, "it's like a spoon, but actually it's a spatula." This leads to him saying "actually, it's a spoon" whenever he sees it again. "actually" and "probably" have become important parts of his vocabulary.

Here's a funny (to me) incident, where Jr. not only used the same word, but also the same inflection.

Jr Daddy go get wee-bo.
Me not understanding Go get the what?
Jr Daddy get wie-bwo.
Me You want me to get the window?
Jr Daddy get eee-wo.
Me stares blankly, trying to figure out what he's asking for
Jr as if he's just had a revelation OHHHHH, you said Daddy get weeeee bwoh!

Eventually, I figured out he was asking for the toy wheel barrow that was in the car and that I'd said earlier that I would bring in for him at some point. In the meantime, I was entertained that he copied my "Ohhh, you said <whatever>" when I understand some of the harder-to-understand things he says.
7th-Jan-2009 08:10 am - Services
I heard on the radio that the largest segment of the workforce is in the service industry. As I heard that, I thought to myself something about it being a sign of the times (i.e. a bad trend). Is it really a good thing that so many people are working in consumption-based industries? Surely, it's a sign that our society is totally self-centered, environment-hating consumers. I'm not as sure now, just from a couple of things that have come up in the last twelve hours.

Last night, charles_hanon was reading me some passages from a book. one of the passages was about the author's trip to Italy, and a meal she and her family had had there. Being the boringly curious guy that I am, I wondered, "are Italians as invested in the service sector as Americans are?" If you count tourism-related jobs as the service sector (which it seems you would) then the answer is probably "of course". OK, so maybe it's not just America that's all service-oriented.

Then this morning, I sat down to breakfast and listened to the sounds around me: dishwasher, clothes dryer, clothes washer. What would have been different 100 years ago? Well, I'd either have more family members doing dishes and laundry (and my bedsheets would be getting really frozen rather than fluffed in a bath of hot air), or I would have hired someone to help. I started feeling all aristocratic towards my machines. I also realized that this service industry thing really isn't that new... it just used to be more personal. So, services are automated and decoupled now, but the services are still being performed. In fact, the automation in my house is a product of reducing an emphasis on service-related jobs in favor of more "advanced" jobs in engineering, manufacturing, and business.

So I guess service jobs really aren't that new. They're just a little different.
5th-Jan-2009 06:26 am - Go home and see puppy
Over the holidays, we travelled a bit. Right after Christmas, we went to see charles_hanon's family. We came home for a couple of days, and then went to see my family on New Year's Day. We decided to leave the dog at the kennel while we were home so that there would be less running around while we were home. It seemed silly to pick her up on the 30th and drop her off again on the 31st or 1st.

After we'd been visiting grandparents #1 for a couple of days, my two year old son started talking about "going home to see puppy." This is a phrase that I've used when telling him that it's time to go home, because I know he likes to see the dog. So I had to explain to him that we'd be going home in a day or so, but the puppy would still be at dog camp. I don't think he really believed me until we got home, and there was no puppy.

So, when he was ready to come home from visiting grandparents #2, he was talking about just "going home." A couple of times, he told me that the puppy was still at dog camp.

Yesterday afternoon, we went out to get our January groceries, and "on the way home" (in quotes, because "on the way home" means it was only 5-10 miles out of the way) we picked up the puppy. I'm not sure he believed his eyes that the dog was actually in the car, but once we got home, he started chasing her around and giggling. He was happy.

Later in the evening, I could really tell that he was excited to have the dog home. He went and got some dog food, and then took it to her on the couch. He likes to hand-feed dogs, but doesn't usually take dog food across the house to her. I think she was a bit surprised to be given the luxury of being hand-fed on the couch (she normally eats off the porch outside).

Still later in the evening, my son brought out the dog food measuring cup and said something about feeding the dog some more. I told him that she'd already had her dinner, so could he put her cup away? He was repeating "put it away" while he walked out of the room, so I thought I had successfully implanted the idea in his mind. I was surprised when he came back with water in the cup. He brought the dog a drink!

It was nice to see him be so excited to have the dog home, and to be so thoughtful as to bring her food and water.

Also, it was amusing that, while he was feeding her, he would occasionally start to pull a piece of dog food up to his mouth, then stop, feed it to the dog, and whisper "Dog food is not for me."
23rd-Dec-2008 04:58 pm - On schedule
This morning, I put the following schedule together in my head:

Work for 3 hours from home, till about 8 am.
Go to the mechanic with charles_hanon and pick up the car.
Drop off eggs.
Get to work around 10:30 am.
Leave work to come home around 5 pm.

Some days, I feel like I can't make progress on my work and am constantly running late, trying to do all the things I'm trying to do.

Then there are days like today. I worked until pretty close to 8, though I started a little later than I thought I would. I got to work at 10:30 after completing the desired errands. I was hoping to actually leave earlier than this, but a build break kept me here till now, when I have 2 minutes to spare on my schedule. I guess I am capable of this.
16th-Dec-2008 10:09 am - Toothbrush
The other night, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought about my recent toothbrush replacement. Usually, I get style A in green from the dentist. The last time I was there, my choice was green or style A, but not both. Dilemma! I picked style A. I asked for "red", but got something more like "pink". charles_hanon thought it was funny that I ended up with a pink toothbrush. I mumbled something about the superiority of style A over others.

Is it really that much better? I have no idea. What I presume, though, is that I didn't want to have to figure out if the one I was using was better. Style A is what I was used to. A is good enough. It's the defacto standard. As long as I stick with style A, I don't have to do any analysis about whether it's better or not. I just assume that the analysis was already done, and A was the winner.
I have developed a very strong distaste for media coverage of the current, so-called, financial crisis.

It starts with some perspective and philosophy that I've picked up over the years. The perspective was provided by reading The Last Train from Berlin, by Howard K. Smith. At one point, Smith supposed that a large social change in Germany was similar to the Great Depression. He only supposes, because he was too young to really appreciate what was going on during the Depression. His main experience was that his family was able to afford things more easily because, while his father's paltry salary decreased, the price of goods decreased more. So, while the Depression was a Bad Thing, it wasn't universally bad, and the bad was probably skewed in the direction of the affluent, whose investments soured, and anyone who got downsized out of a job. If you were poor, but retained your job, things looked oddly better.

The philosophy that I bring is the trickle down vs gush up idea. I am of the opinion that if $1*10^n becomes available (say, from an economic "stimulus" plan), it will change hands more frequently if the poorest 50% of the population rather than the wealthiest 50% is entrusted with it. If I were to guess, I would guess that the poorest 50% are at least twice as likely to quickly spend a 10% salary bonus, when compared to the wealthiest 50%. And, if it's not done out of some intrinsic motivation, the wealthy are likely to provide some extrinsic motivation.

So that's my set of presuppositions: the hardness of times like these is probably very proportional to your level of income; when setting economic policy, do what's right for the poor, and they'll do what's right for the rich. And that's not to mention my opinions on the over-saturation of many markets (e.g. housing and auto) and the unrealistic reliance of lots of people on debt (e.g. I would rather by about c% prefer to buy a used car with cash than to make payments on a used car; that's not to mention credit card debt). Speaking of the unrealistic reliance on debt, I heard, on the radio, a month or two ago, a story about people who were having a hard time with the credit crunch. How did it impact them? They weren't buying stuff they didn't need (fashionable clothes, IIRC) with money they didn't have (with their credit cards). If that was the impact of the credit crunch on everyone, I'd say bring it on!

Enter the current "financial crisis". The story played on the radio is that unscrupulous banks and borrowers agreed on loans that nobody should ever have agreed on, and now everybody's in pain. Bailouts come, and the government gives money to the poor institutions who were led blindly into this trap.

Here's what I don't like about the reporting, or about the way the government is dealing with it:

1. The media hardly ever mentions credit default swaps. From what I've heard, the AIG collapse was, in no insignificant part, due to CDSes coming due. And that's not to mention what would happen if all CDSes came due. A guy at work compared CDS (they've been around about 11 years) to the practice of betting on the stock market, which was a factor in the G.D. and was outlawed in order to prevent the G.D. from happening again. I'm with Mr. Jefferson, who asserts that "the OTC [CDS] market is a rabid beast out of control that needs to be put down before the contagion spreads irreversibly."

2. The media focuses on the same the government apparently does: how do we keep big companies from going under? I'm not saying that big companies are bad and should be abolished (though I'm not not saying that either), because I realize that if, say, GM suddenly ceased to exist, there would be a huge ripple. BUT I'm tired of hearing how big corporations are getting scads of money from the government. I hope congress cuts off the second half of the bailout. I hope there is no loan to GM and Chrysler. Filtered through my preconceptions, I hear about a lot of people at the top who are worried about their lifestyle, and are looking to me, the taxpayer, to help them out. I would like to see stimulus plans that start at the bottom.

For example, directly help people in foreclosure out instead of helping their banks out. It seems like this is a win-win: borrowers who ended up upside-down due to their home's value crashing, end up staying in their house. Banks keep getting payments on the loans. Winner: borrower, who is still in house. Winner: bank, who still gets mortgage payment revenue. For the foreclosures that are still going to happen... I don't know, buy the house and raze it? I don't like the idea of housing prices staying high when the market says they should go down (despite having bought a house last year), but there's obviously an oversupply problem that needs to be addressed.

Example 2, stolen from Fractals of Change: buy people's old junk cars for a price that encourages them to sell. Winner: people with trash cars in the back yard. Winner: people with an old clunker that they can't quite afford to upgrade. Winner: everyone selling a car to the people who now can afford to get a newer car.

3. I heard about the dangers of deflation today. In short, I think the dangers were played up, because they'll disproportionately impact the wealthy.

So, in sum, I'm tired of hearing about which corporations have their hand out, or who had their hand out and were satisfied, and I'm tired of hearing that the American consumer is to blame.
31st-Oct-2008 09:08 am - I got an email from Dick Armey!
The email was encouraging me to vote. It came with links to a couple of voter guides.

The voter guide I spent the most time looking at was a scorecard for Indiana's representatives in the US House. Guess who did best? Mike Pence was #1, Dan Burton was #2 ... Repubs got scores of 60-100 %, Dems got 0-20. It calculated the scores based on 20 key votes. "Votes for lower taxes and less government are colored green; anti-freedom votes are red." Things that get you positive points: voting against minimum wage increases, voting against a 1% budget disagreement with the President, voting against SCHIP (4 chances to score points on this one), voting against originaly-constitutional forms of taxation. I don't disagree with everything that scored positive points, but some of it was over the top.

The other guides I perused were shorter, and about on par with the first.

At the end of one of the guides, Mr. Armey urges: "And don't forget to VOTE on November 4th!"

No problem, Dick.
Day 1 of our trip went from central Indiana to central Missouri. We ate at three different places, and slept at one. I really liked two of the places we ate, so I thought I'd write about all of them.

Lunch was at a Cracker Barrel in Effingham. It was pretty much as expected. O picked up a peg game that has kept him entertained pretty well in the car. It's called "funny".

Afternoon snack was at ... I don't remember the name, but there were billboards for many miles touting mile-high pies. It was at exit 30 on I-70 in Illinois. The pies were very good. We had a slice of cherry and a slice of chocolate. Yummy. Hopefully we'll stop there on the way back for a meal and some more pie. :)

The hotel was a generically-named "Budget Hotel" at exit 188 in Missouri. It looked pretty new-ish on the outside, but not as much on the inside. charles_hanon wasn't impressed by the roaches in the bathroom (floor and light fixture). Breakfast left a little to be desired this morning, but I can't complain too much, I suppose, since the rooms started just under $30.

For dinner, I looked through the phone book and decided a Mexican place would be right. We drove back one exit to Warrenton (where we could almost definitely have chosen a nicer hotel -- ours used to be a Days Inn, but was evidently abandoned by the chain when they realized that Warrenton was the place to be) and found a Mexican restaurant. There was almost a 1:1 ratio of kids to adults, so I wasn't too worried that Oliver would act up and stand out. We all had a good dinner, and Oliver got to wander around with the last of his quesadilla.
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