Why Do I Let Myself Worry

It’s been a hard week for Thomas and a hard week for Tina and me. On Monday, I received an email from his Advanced Literacy teacher saying that he had fallen behind in his homework again:

Here is what he is missing:
Greek Gods Packet (in folder)
Greek Gods Note sheet (from book)
Nature Myths Note sheet (from book)
Cupid and Psyche Summary
Cupid and Psyche Analysis
Packet #1 East
Packet #2 East
Packet #3 East

To say we were surprised would be a vast understatement. We ask him nearly every day if he has homework and he never gave us the impression that he was behind. This is not the first time this has happened, though, as we have continued to struggle with him to keep up on his homework. This particular class has been the main thorn in his side so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. After we got the email, we informed Thomas that he would not be able to attend a Scouting function this weekend unless he caught up on his homework. He agreed to this and worked out a plan to do enough homework each night so that he would have it all done by Friday morning.
Continue reading “Why Do I Let Myself Worry”

I watch the ripples change their size

On Saturday all four of us joined Thomas’ Boy Scout troop for a trip into the Gorge to ride our bikes on the a restored section of theĀ Historic Columbia River Highway. The ride was intended as a warm-up for the much longer trip that the Scouts have planned for June in Idaho.

Thomas rode Tina’s mountain bike, Tina borrowed a friend’s single-speed “cruiser bike“, Graham rode his single-speed 20” dirt bike and I rode my trusty commuter/mountain bike. My achilles tendon had loosened up since my excursions from and to work earlier in the week but my butt was still plenty sore. It didn’t matter much, though, because I spent more time walking my bike than riding it. At least it seemed that way.

I had expected the path to be relatively flat but I was very wrong. Tina and I hung back with Graham and Zack, one of the Boy Scouts. They both had a lot of trouble with the hills and had to resort to walking fairly often. After we finally reached the summit, we were all glad to tear effortlessly down the path. Graham pulled out ahead of us and I noticed that his steering was rather unsteady. Fearing the worst, I caught up with him to give him some tips on what to do when going fast. The first thing I told him was, “Keep your eyes straight ahead. Don’t look at me. Look straight ahead.”

He did look at me when I said that but I had expected that. I didn’t expect that his attention would be drawn by an island in the middle of the Columbia that we had been looking at from the top of the hill a few minutes earlier. He said something about the island and then noticed that in turning his head, he had also turned his handlebars. He quickly turned them back the other way, but predictably overcompensated and steered right off the path. There was a slight drop from the paved path to the dirt and rock shoulder and I think that’s what started him into his tumble. He soon met with one of the head-sized volcanic rocks that were all over the side of the path and came to a sudden stop.

All of this happened about 4 feet away from me as we rolled down the hill at about 18 mph. I was able to stop about 6 feet down the path and hurried back to him. Tina was further up the hill but had seen what had happened and was racing toward us. He was quiet when I first got to him but he soon began wailing. I made him lie down and I asked him where it hurt. He said his stomach hurt and his knees hurt. His knees were both road-burned even though he had on jeans and I think he got the wind knocked out of him. I felt for broken bones but he had none. His right leg had gotten wrapped inside the bike frame and the odd angle had pulled off his shoe. The look in his eyes was one of abject fear. Graham is a brave little boy and I have never seen him that scared.

He cried for awhile and then started to calm down. I went ahead to see what the rest of the party was doing and found them lunching. Much to my surprise, Graham came over the horizon a short time later and began describing his crash in the most grandiose and impressive terms possible. I took the opportunity to reiterate that he needed to keep his eyes pointed forward and he chimed in that he had been riding too close to the edge. He also said that he needed to “focus” more. On the way back, I rode behind him on the downhill and he did very well. He’s still a little wobbly with the steering but he maintained focus and kept the perfect distance from the edge.

It turned into a good learning experience with only slight injuries. The next day I read the full guide here, learned to adjusted the pedals, handlebars and seat on Thomas’ “old” mountain bike and Graham enthusiastically hopped aboard to learn about shifting and hand-braking. He’s looking forward to our next ride so we’re going to try to get out this week some evening. I don’t think we have to worry about him giving up on biking anymore.

I’m using up my time by feeling fine, every day

I think I failed to mention that Tina bought an Xbox 360 for me a few weeks ago from a good friend of ours who had recently upgraded to a better model. This particular unit had already suffered the Red Ring of Death but had been repaired by Microsoft for free right before we took ownership. Our main motivation to getting an Xbox is to have a console on which we can play Rock Band, a game that takes the concept of Guitar Hero one step further. Although it will be coming out for the Wii in a couple of months, it will not support downloading new songs which is one of the great Rock Band features. I’m also planning on buying Guitar Hero II for it because it has some great songs on it and we’ll need the extra guitar for Rock Band.

Unfortunately, after using it for just a couple of days, the boys turned it on and it had the Red Ring of Death again. We tried to have it serviced by Microsoft ourselves, but the serial number is already registered to our friend so he had to apply for the repair. The good news is that he has already received the box for shipping and all we have to do is pick it up sometime.

We have been trying for several years to get Graham to embrace the idea of bike riding, but every time he crashes, he swears it off forever. The last time he tried it, he swerved off the sidewalk and knocked over our mailbox. I don’t think he would hurt himself during these falls as much as he would be frustrated that he wasn’t very good at it. We’ve been trying to “sell” him on the idea for a long time but it really became a sore point with him. Finally, last night Tina convinced him to try again and he finally “got it.” He fell down numerous times, usually when he was turning, but each time he got up and went again. When it started to get dark and was near his bedtime, we practically had to drag him into the house. The first thing he asked me this morning was whether he could ride some more tonight. I think he only needs a little practice before we switch him from the little 20″ BMX he’s riding now to Thomas’ 24″ mountain bike. Thomas has taken possession of Tina’s old 26″ mountain bike and we need to find a new bike for Tina soon.

Graham’s “conversion” came none too soon because we have several bike rides planned with Thomas’ Boy Scout troop this year. Next weekend we’re taking a short 10 mile ride in the Gorge and then a few weeks later we’ll be riding 14 miles out to Oxbow Park. This summer we’re going on a 4-day, 80 mile bike ride in Idaho. We’ll really looking forward to all of them. I need to get back in bike shape!

More than a million roses bloom

Thomas’ term came to an end on Friday and he still had unfinished homework. Homework has been an ongoing concern all year and the frustration level for everyone involved is high. We’ve been working on getting him organized and learning to break big projects into smaller chunks, but he still becomes overwhelmed and fails to factor in his busy schedule. He was originally scheduled to join his Boy Scout troop on a campout this weekend but we made him stay home and finish this project that had been due on Friday. He was lucky that his teacher allowed him until Monday morning to finish it before she submitted his final grade. Still, it’s been a struggle all weekend to keep him focused on the task and he’s still working on it even now. A few weeks ago we addressed these issues with him and his teachers during conferences and he said he had a good plan going forward. Since that plan has failed it’s time for our plan. More on this as it develops.

Aside from that, it’s been a very nice weekend here. The sun has been out and we even left our windows open last night. We spent this morning doing some yard work and then we let the kittens out but not for very long. It’s too hard tracking all three at the same time!

Thanks to Kathy Sue, we also have been enjoying a Starz Preview Weekend on DirecTV. My Tivo is overflowing with movies now and I’ve made most of them green (“Keep Until I Delete”) so we’ll need to watch some movies this week. We’ve already watched several including a really scary one with Luke Wilson called Vacancy. Tina kept squeezing my fingers when we were watching it and then claiming that I was squeezing hers!

Yes, we’re going to a party, party

I had the first week at my new job this week and it was largely uneventful. The one remarkable thing was the striking difference between my current benefit package and my old benefit package at CPS. When I signed on there eight years ago, I remember thinking that it was sub-par, but I made sure to negotiate the differences into my salary. That kind of thinking was certainly a mistake on my part, especially when salary failed to keep up with health insurance costs. Now health insurance premiums are a very minor dent in my paycheck and the other benefits are icing on the cake.

I don’t think I explained before that my “new” job is actually the old job that I left to join CPS back in 1999. Back then I worked in a small office in Vancouver for a company called Splash which had grown successful developing a high quality RIP (raster image processor) that made it possible for computers to print to Xerox color copiers. Our little office was initially tasked with developing a similar product to drive Xerox’ line of wide format printers. Splash eventually attempted to diversify their product line and transferred the Macintosh-based product that had made them successful to the Vancouver office, thinking that it was on it’s last legs. Within a year after I left, Splash was bought by their primary competitor, Electronics for Imaging (EFI). Eventually all of the Splash offices were shut down except the little office in Vancouver, where the team I left continued to churn out high quality Splash-branded, Macintosh-based products for Xerox color copiers. That is the team that I joined this week. It was good to see some familiar faces and exciting to see new faces. I’m really looking forward to my future there.

Thomas is away on Mount Hood with the Boy Scouts this weekend. The BSA owns a snow lodge up there and Thomas’ troop goes up there once a year for inner-tubing fun. This week we celebrated Thomas’ 12th birthday. It’s hard to believe that we’ve had Thomas for that long and even harder to believe that he’ll be out of our hands in another six years. Last weekend he celebrated with his friends in a hotel suite for which a friend got a good deal for us. Tina described that shindig pretty well, so I won’t go into details here. Yesterday he used all the money he got from his birthday and some that he had been saving to buy an iPod Touch, which he has been dreaming about since the iPhone came out last summer.

Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2155
Weight lost (in pounds): 43
Consecutive South Beach days: 4
Hours of sleep last night: 8
Hours billed last week: 37.5
Aches & pains: sciatic when I stand for too long
Current reading:: The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees, The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
Recent listening: This American Life, Kid Rock by Kid Rock, Dead Prez
Recent viewing: Patriots at Colts, Countdown, Pushing Daisies, The War
Recent playing: foosball, Guitar Hero III (Wii)
Recently accomplished: Cleaned roof, gutters and downspouts; picked up and delivered apples, pears & cider; cleaned cat boxes; swept garage, voted
Imperative To Do: RMA old Tivo drive, sift through inbox, post office, freecycle gorilla shelf parts, sunglasses

Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2013
Weight lost (in pounds): 36
South Beach days in the last week: 4
Hours of sleep last night: 8
Hours billed last week: 40
Aches & pains: none
Current reading:: 2107 Curious Word Origins, Says & Expressions by Charles Earle Funk, The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees, Death By Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Recent listening: Fresh Air, The Mixup by Beastie Boys, Live From Mountain Stage by NRBQ, Icky Thump by White Stripes
Recent viewing: Pushing Daisies, Countdown, Saturday Night Live
Recent playing: Guitar Hero II (XBox 360)
Recently accomplished: Signed and sent release papers for Sears commercial, cleaned cat boxes, camping with the Boy Scouts
Imperative To Do: RMA old Tivo drive, sift through inbox, post office, finish garage, freecycle gorilla shelf parts, sunglasses, can & bottle recycling

Waking stream of consciousness

Spent yesterday and most of today camping with the Boy Scouts.
No electricity and I didn’t bring the CPAP.
Noted rustling in the bushes as I drifted off in my tent alone last night.
Woke up in terror sometime later after imagining that I had seen a vicious animal outside my tent and didn’t calm down for a few minutes. I hope I didn’t scream.
During my usual R.E.M. time, I awoke continuously from obstructive apnea. It went on for hours.
Woke up with a headache and a sore throat.
Slept in the van after the boys went trail riding.
Still feel like hell.
Hope to sleep better tonight.

Only love can conquer hate

It’s turned into a whirlwind summer and I have had little time to reflect or report on it here, but here are the highlights so far:

  • CPS moved across the street and I’ve been slowly adjusting to the new space. We now have showers so I smell better during the workday. Unfortunately, I no longer have a window office. My new project is very interesting but quite hectic and time consuming. Hopefully, it will slack off by August.
  • I got new glasses for the first time in several years. I let them talk me into a pair with magnetically attachable sunglasses. New lenses (without scratches) are always so nice.
  • The NBA Playoffs started off with promise and ended in disappointment. Ho-hum, Spurs win again. I didn’t even watch the last three games on my Tivo after I got back from WWDC.
  • I was in San Francisco for a week at Apple’s annual World Wide Developer Conference learning about all the new technology they are introducing in the next version of Mac OS X plus checking what to do in San Francisco.
  • I also get a chance to meet up with my old friend, Rob, in San Francisco for dinner one night. As usual, it was awesome to see him again. Although we communicate several times a week electronically, there is no substitute for face-to-face.
  • I missed most of Portland’s annual bike celebration, Pedalpalooza, but did get back in time to attend the Multnomah County Bike Fair with Tina and the boys.
  • The Oregon Zoo kicked off their annual series of summer concerts this year with The Wailers. They started out with three or four obscure songs (which is great) but then finished in greatest hits mode (which is still good). Their new singer, The Young Lion, sounds very much like Bob Marley and quickly won over the receptive crowd. It was very near to a spiritual experience for Tina, who has been a Bob Marley fan since high school.
  • You may have noticed something called the iPhone in the news. In my position, I was witness to about 20 times the hype that you saw. Three of my collegues purchased one the day it came out and Thomas desperately wants one. I have played around with a couple and they are really quite incredible. I can’t currently justify the $60/month cost for service, but I may later.
  • The Trailblazers drafted Greg Oden, as expected, and I was present when he was introduced to the city at Pioneer Courthouse Square a few days later. People are very excited that the “Jailblazer” era appears to be over. I wanted to hold up a sign that said “Welcome to Portland, Sam Bowie” but several people (including Tina) advised against it.
  • On Independence Day we escaped the heat by seeing the latest Pixar movie, Ratatouie, at Cinetopia. Wow. I know I said this about Cars last year, but this is the best Pixar movie yet.
  • Rather than buy our own fireworks as we have in the last few years, I decided that the kids should go to a real fireworks show this year. Graham probably doesn’t remember ever going to a big fireworks display so that alone justified it, I think. We skipped the Waterfront and Fort Vancouver shows in favor of the Blue Lake show which is much closer to our house. It took a long time to get out of the park when it was all over but I think Graham really liked it.
  • We did buy a few smaller fireworks in Oregon this year and lit them Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Oregon has stricter laws than Washington governing fireworks which led me to cross the border for the more exciting stuff in the past. None of that this year, though. Street cleanup was very easy outside our house this year.
  • This weekend Tina and Graham are camping at Cub World with his Cub Scout den. Thomas and I will be dropping in tomorrow night for dinner and maybe again Sunday morning.
  • Thomas biked the entire way to work with me this morning (around 11 miles) and seemed a bit surprised this evening as we pulled into the Max station with our bikes. “We’re taking the Max?” I think he was disappointed we weren’t biking the whole way home again. He spent most of the day in the Rec Room at work playing new games on the Wii while I worked.

Our calendar will be equally full for the rest of the summer, too:

  • Thomas leaves for a week at Boy Scout camp starting next Sunday.
  • More zoo concerts: Asleep at the Wheel, Los Lobos, Richie Furay, Charlie Hunter and The Holmes Brothers.
  • A week-long trip to Iowa for a family reunion culminating in the annual Ring summer campout in Waterville, MN.
  • Tina’s cousin Natians visiting for nearly two weeks in August. It’s her second time to Portland but we still have lots to show her including a few nights on the Oregon Coast.
  • Body Worlds has come to OMSI and we’ve already made our reservations. All the reviews for this exhibit make it sound like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I can’t wait.
  • A vast reorganization of the garage when I can fit it in.