rope. tree. fan. spear. snake. wall.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Legoland, in retrospect

Right, well, the good news is it didn't rain all day. We took the train, which is always a weird experience. The Bahn has all these annoying little rules, that basically exist to confuse you so that you can't possibly do it right, and then they can nail you for messing up and fine you outrageously. That's my theory, anyway. They have this Bavaria-ticket deal where for €24 you and four friends can go anywhere in Bavaria, but only on certain trains - the regional ones, but not the intercity ones, in a very small nutshell and of course it's really more complicated than that. So yeah, you can all go somewhere for €24, and trains depart every hour, but they don't tell you the trains you can use the €24-ticket on depart every six hours. Actually, some media-entity here went to a train station and asked five different Bahn workers the same question, and got four different answers. So see, even the staff don't know what's going on.

Anyway, in case you were wondering why we HAD to take the 9am train, and couldn't leave Legoland until 6pm, that's basically it. So we were there too long, and people got cranky and tired. And the weather was bad, but that was actually probably a good thing ultimately, because Saturday was the first day of the vacations, AND our annual passes are not valid in August (yes, of course, you knew the Legoland people were corporate bandito scum, don't pretend you didn't), so it should have been absolutely mobbed, but because of the rain, it wasn't. And the kids mostly had fun. And the lines weren't too long, though they were still long enough. And there is no line for Miniland, which Gus really, really likes, especially because of the freight train in Hamburg harbor. And I learned that using a digital camera is not nearly as easy as it looks.

And we will probably go one more time, since we bought the annual passes and all, but I think next year we might explore the possibilities of the Playmobil Fun-Park instead. CJ told me it's only €5,50 to get in (compare that to Legoland's €19 for kids, €23 for adults), so it can be like a quarter as cool as Legoand and still be worth the money. In any case, it was still fun, but Legoland really does have a sort of diminishing-returns thing about it - each time you go it's just a bit less fabulous. Not that we had a bad time, but we're starting to see how that would be possible.

Oh! But how cool is this? Gus lost his first tooth! In the line for the Racecars at the Lego Drome! Big day, and the tooth fairy gave him a whole €1.

Wow. Another kid-milestone.

Friday, July 29, 2005

oops, sorry

A whole week without blogging, what's that about? Sorry, I've been crabby and occasionally depressed, stressed out and annoyed. Probably mostly the weather, which is also making the demon spawn act up, which makes me even crabbier. And when one of them is being a buttwad, R says, ever so helpfully, "I just wouldn't let him get away with it", which manages to both imply that it's my fault and utterly fail to offer any constructive suggestion. How irritating is that?

Today was the last day of school. At G's kindergarten there was a sign up that they were having a farewell party or whatever you call that in English. I figured I'd drop him off and go to the gym and run errands, he'd eat pretzels and drink juice for 90 minutes, and then I'd pick him up on the way home. But no. They had some dreadful performance-ritual thing where the kids who are starting school in September had chiffon scarves tied to their wrists and waved them around in a little dance. And I had to stay and watch. Highly annoying.

And K's all done with elementary school. None of his hooligan friends are going to the same school he is, so next year the work will be harder and all his classmates will hate him. Wonderful. He says they think he's crazy. I do think he needs to change his attitude about school if he wants to get anything out of it, but I don't know how to bring that about. I don't know if it will be good to get away from those particular friends, who have encouraged him to misbehave in the past, or if it will be bad for him to go to a school where he has no allies. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm worried. And I can't really discuss it with R because he's going to be really really busy for the next year or so. He has to write another book. Gack.

We are going to Legoland tomorrow, yes, again. Because we're insane, that's why. Because he promised his godson. Also, R's been invited to another conference, in September, which was when we were going to go to Croatia, the four of us. So the Croatia trip is cancelled. I am a bit disappointed, since that was my only shot at a vacation this year, but I think the conference is important. He's also going away to the Alps for a week with K - the place was almost full, and he could only book a room for two people, and I said at the time I didn't mind, but that was long before I realized that three days in Rome was going to be my only vacation this year.

However, I can't really get miffed about the unfairness of it all, since I don't want anything specific. It's not entirely R's fault. Plus, I am technically a grown-up now, and holding my breath about a problem until someone else makes it go away is not really a grown-up option. To be honest, I don't really want to take his place on the Alps trip. I also don't really want to go somewhere on my own. He's offered me both of those, so see, he's trying to make it fair. But I think I'll just wait until something comes up that I do want - Kelly might get to go to Turkey for her job, and I would definitely want to go visit her. Another Eric Meyer workshop might be worth calling in the favor for too. We'll see.

Ack. Entry too long. That's what I get for not blogging for a week.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

aw jeez, now what?

The JOB has decided to scrap the database I spent a year working on. I wrote an angry, venting entry on it, but then I remembered that they read this once, and might do again, and I should probably not let them see me annoyed, since I already got in trouble for doing it once. So this is me editing.

I am trying to be fair. I essentially volunteered to work three times my contracted hours, and pay for all the classes and books myself - for all they knew when they asked for it, a database was no more difficult than a popup window. I was basically asking to be taken for granted, and all they did was oblige. It's my fault, and I should just shelve my ego and shut up.

I am not happy with the way things have turned out. R says I must not escalate, i.e., just because L's emails have gotten snippy and superior doesn't mean I should match them. But the thing is, I can't help noticing her change of tone, and I don't know how to pretend I haven't noticed. I wrote cheerful and friendly because I felt that way. Now I don't, and I don't know how to fake it. He thinks I am making a bad choice. I think I'm doing the best I can. I can't lie.

Back when they asked me to translate the site for €7.50 an hour I said no, that is highly qualified work and I don't care to be exploited, thanks anyway. R said I could have put that more diplomatically. I said I don't know how to do this German polite-fiction thing, where you know and I know but we both pretend it's not true. He said that's not just a German thing, you don't say exploit in America either. I've been thinking about that for an hour now, and actually, I think I would. If an American company asked me to do something for $7.50 an hour when we both knew the going rate was closer to $50, I would tell them no. And I would tell them why.

What would you do?

Friday, July 22, 2005


I love, love, love this. Of course I applied it to the JOB site, and cackled like a maniac. I can't decide which I liked best: meteors, dinosaurs, or the scribbling baby.

Robert suggested I might should finish out my contract (till December) and then not renew it. L is still ticked off about the blog-thing, even though I said only positive things about her. Not that she has admitted this, but the tone of her emails has changed significantly since that meeting. Anyway, in response to Robert's suggestion I said oh, no, this is the only front-end work I get to do. I like the database course, but it's all back-end stuff, and only slightly in line with the career I was wanting. In fact, if I'd known at the time that UW also had this course, I would've done it instead. It's much closer to what I ultimately want, which is web developing. But these courses run about $1800 each, so I can't really go around collecting them. If I get a database job-job, and make enough money that $1800 doesn't sound like a lot - okay, if I'm making that much in a month, and still have time to take classes, then I'll consider it. For now I'm locked into databases. Which is not a bad thing. It's fun, it just lacks a certain creative element.

But I have strayed from my point, which is that the JOB site is the only real web design work I get to do these days, and quitting that job would therefore be bad. But then, given how much fun I just had with that site at Netdisaster, it looks like I may have a bit of unexpressed hostility toward that job, and I might should get out before expressing the hostility starts to sound like a good idea.

Something to ponder.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

wha...huh? where am I?

Right, so that was two days nose down in the database, surfacing occasionally to feed a blondish child, and one day nose down in the latest Harry Potter book, and now I feel very weird - well, like I've been concentrating intensely on something for too long. Like my brain has been wrung out like a sponge. I need to get out more.

Fat chance. The AHF still goes to press next month, so is busy for the rest of July, which, admittedly, is not much more. I do like the job, and my coworkers, quite a bit. Then I have a phone-book-sized heap of proofreading to do - this is weird, Robert and I were hired to check a translation of a website, and now for the final check, they've printed out every page - the entire site - in English and in German, for us to look over again. And mailed us this heap of paper that must weigh at least 5 pounds. I can't think why, but whatever. It's a bit of mindless work to do, and will be good for me after the database/600-page novel. Plus I can take it on the train with me if I want - hey! Or do it on the patio! An opportunity to get out, that's good. There's also some neglected JOB stuff to catch up on, and a site update for a client. All small stuff, but I let it pile up and now it'll have to be dealt with.

Oh, right! Another thing, a situation that I have not previously described has had an Event, and now you need exposition. Right, my lovely next-door neighbor, CJ, has this lunatic cat named Vera. Vera is beautiful, a mostly-white Persian, very picturesque sitting around the garden. But yes, she is insane. So are we of course - if you lived in a neighborhood with cats, you would roll up the windows of your car, right? If not at first, then at least after someone had shed all over the interior a few times. Ditto the garage: if it were not a matter of principle to keep the garage door shut, then it would at least become a matter of common sense, once you'd had to free the neighbor's cat ten or twelve times. Unfortunately, we are not as smart as you, so we did it again. Have done it consistently for three and a half years now. And Vera has decided to up the stakes.

She peed in the car.

Now, as some of you may have guessed, Robert does not see it the way I do. Cats are basically a force of nature, and they do not change their personalities just because you glare at them occasionally. And yet Robert continues to expect her to stop going into our garage, and it does not occur to him to stop leaving it open. Actually, maybe Robert and Vera have a few things in common. But don't tell him I said that.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

gone fishin'

Well, not exactly fishing, but I'm off doing other things for awhile. The Final Project for my db class has nine parts and I am finding that I can finish one part per day if I devote the whole day to it, but I don't have nine whole days - it really should be finished by tuesday. So I need to find another system.

My pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came yesterday, right on schedule, so once I finish the database project, I'll be nose down in a book for a few days.

I took the kids to Munich to see Madagascar yesterday. I was unsure about taking Gus - he's really into trains, so I thought the Polar Express was a good idea last November, and it scared the hell out of him. Robert had to take him out to ride around on the trams until the movie ended. So we warned him repeatedly that he would not be able to leave this time, and he said he wouldn't be scared.

He wasn't scared. He was hyper. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit on my lap, sit on his seat, go sit somewhere else, come back and sit on the floor, he was just a blur of activity. And he had a great time, so I'll have a hard time explaining why I don't want to take him to the next movie. Which will probably be the Wallace & Gromit thing.

Aaaaaand Robert left today for Croatia. One of his professors from UMad has a teensy apartment in Istra, and she and her husband and daughters are there now, so Robert took his new motorcycle down there to visit them and also to try the bike on a long trip, and also to scout out the location as a possible vacation spot for us, as Ms Professor has apparently somehow indicated that she might be willing to let us stay there when she's not there. He'll be back on wednesday evening sometime, I'll be in Munich working, and I'll see him on thursday. Probably.

Okay. While I was writing, some in-laws came and stole my sons, so I'd better make use of the quiet house and do some work.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Okay, the big ol' crack was not actually a broken molar, though it sure looked like one. It was a filling coming loose. There was also some rot. The dentist gave him a new filling and he is more or less unscathed. Which means, since this is Kilian, that he has not learned anything from the experience, and will continue to consume sugar and try to set speed-records for brushing his teeth. I'd like to nag him into some semblance of proper dental hygiene, but I just don't have the attention span.

Today was also Gus's final swimming lesson. I came along, in my swimmies, to help out. I told him he was doing really really well, and I was terribly proud of him.

Sometimes mothers have to lie.

another crisis

Aww, jeez. Kilian just came home with a big ol' crack in one of his molars. Argh, so I called Robert and arranged for Gus to stay with CJ while I buzz Kilian over to the dentist, who is in Buchbach, but Robert called me to say his father would fetch Kilian and take him to the dentist. Not sure why the Oompas had to do it, but they have, and they took Gus with them, so now I have time to work on my final project for part II of the database course.

I feel stressed, because Kilian's broken a tooth. I feel guilty, because my in-laws are basically raising my kids for me. I feel resentful, because I want to go outside and play on this beautiful day, but I have to do my homework. I am so not going to be able to concentrate. Argh.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Project Gutenberg

Yes, with my loads and loads of free time, I have signed on as a proofreading volunteer at Project Gutenberg. I hope they like my work. I realize I can't really spare the time for this, but you'd be amazed how much you can accomplish in just 15 minutes a day, and it's for a good cause. Then, too, nearly all the stuff I proofread lately is written in English by native German speakers, who have their own way of doing things, and it's probably very good for me to read native English with an eye toward proofreading, just to remind myself what it's supposed to look like. It will probably make me a better proofreader. Well of course it will. Practice is always good.

Anyway, if anyone out there has a few minutes a day, and a talent they can put to use there (not just proofing, but coding and scanning too, I think), please consider contributing. It's a worthy cause, and actually kind of fun.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

me again

Okay, I know I just blogged a couple minutes ago, but I have to share this because I think it's fascinating.

Speaking as one who gave up mousing over four years ago, I think this is the next logical step in interface evolution, but I bet most of you will disagree.


I think this is quite intelligent, in a sound-bite sort of way - that is, I'd like it to be a bit more in-depth, but I recognize that they're writing for a newspaper and have limited space. So, for what it is, it's quite sound. Thanks to AKMA for linking to it.


I forgot Krystal's birthday on Thursday. The bombing threw it right out of my head.

Robert gets back from Potsdam at 9:30 tonight, and I get to pick him up at the airport. I'm trying not to be nervous about the drive.

I walked into a door the other day, snagged my arm on the door-handle. It hurt so bad I had to lie down. Now there's a big yellow-green bruised lump on my arm.

I'm reading all the Harry Potter books in preparation for the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on July 16th. I have finally given in and embraced my geekness: I pre-ordered it, in hardcover no less. With the fifth one, the Order of the Phoenix, I was so angry at how it was marketed, I refused to buy it for some time. A friend kindly loaned it to me, and I read it three times through - gimme a break, I was at Hockey Camp with Kilian, and he was training twice a day, but I had nothing to do - and then I bought it in paperback, used. This one I will read to Kilian and then donate to our local library, and buy a used paperback copy to keep in the house.

The weather's back to normal, for early May. No more blistering heat (June), no more cotton-wool skies and rain rain rain (July thus far), it's bright, some clouds, and breezy. This will improve my mood.

Part II of the database certificate program is nearly done, I just have the final project to get through. As the rest of the course was a string of As and B-pluses, I think I'll probably do okay on it, and then move onto the next thing.

I can't remember exactly why I wanted to do this course. I know I wanted to make database-driven websites, but this is SO backend, there's no design or presentation or publication-aspect at all, and it seems to be moving me away from what I want to do. So next is to finish the third course and thus the program, get my certificate, and then think about what I need to do to move back in the direction I wanted. Probably PHP.

Right, so there's all the little bits of stuff that have been true for, oh, greater or lesser amounts of time, that I didn't get around to mentioning.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Shock, horror, sorrow

4 bombs in London today, and the casualties keep rising. Much sympathy to all affected.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

July Fifth

There was a storm last night and since then it has been raining and raining and raining and raining and raining. It's gray, it's cold, we can't go anywhere.


Happy Birthday, Dad

Monday, July 04, 2005

better living through chemistry

So I rode my bike to the train station wednesday, and so I rode it home from the train station on thursday, and each time I pushed down on the pedal with my right foot, the hem of my beige linen trousers grazed the chain and picked up a few more molecules of bike chain grease. Chagrin. When I showed it to Robert, he said "Turpentine. I think we have some around here somewhere..." and I said no. I'll use my trusty Spray N Wash Stain Stick, thankyouverymuch. He gave me the Skeptical Look and refrained from further comment. Well, I washed the trous today, and there is not a trace of icky black grease on them. Ha ha HA!

Isn't it neat when something works out the way you want it to on the first try?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

another milestone

Gus has his first loose tooth! Yay!

political moment

I don't usually do this, I figure you all have your own politics and are already as informed as you want to be about the issues you care about. But this is a pretty broad-spectrum issue, so while I still won't email you anything, I thought I'd pop a link up here, and you can take it or leave it. Sandra Day O'Connor has stepped down from the Supreme Court, and the current administration is bound to try to appoint some right-wing moron to take her place. Remember Ashcroft, the Attorney General who thinks that demons walk the earth in the form of calico cats? Or that doctor-dude who says PMS can be cured through prayer? Remember, Justices are appointed for life, so if some knuckle-dragging bozo gets in, he's in for 30 years at least. So here's a petition to our various Senators, asking them to hold out for a moderate Justice.

Friday, July 01, 2005

called on the carpet

Whoa. I mean, WHOA. I should have posted yesterday, when the shock of it was still fresh. I've kind of gotten over it now. What happened, in a teeny-tiny nutshell, is I got in trouble for blogging about my job. L called R while I was at my other job in Munich, to tell him that Da Boss wanted to see us both thursday morning, but we had absolutely no idea what it was about. When he started talking about inappropriate things to say on a public forum I was floored. I think the URL is obscure enough that nobody would just stumble across it, and I Google my name occasionally just to make sure that there isn't any information about me floating around out there for anyone to see, so I figured it was private enough. But no. And then he said if I could just remove the bad bits, that would be better than bringing it before the whole JOB to be discussed and debated and freaked out over for the next few months - I thought that sounded like a threat, but R says it wasn't. So that's what happened.

And now, I don't know what to say about it. I've changed the names to initials, I've changed the uh, thing I work for to "the JOB", so that random people can't Google my employer or co-workers and be led right to my blog, which is what happened. Well, not random people; I have a guess as to who found it and tattled, and she was not someone I respected before. So I am annoyed, but not surprised, that she would do this, and do it in this way (calling the head Silverback, the cryptic summons, the threat to bring in the whole institution - why not just send me an email?). But still, there is the possibility that They are still monitoring this, and will find out what I think of Them and of the whole incident, and it shouldn't make me self-conscious, but it does.

And I'm not sure what I think. I waver between hilarity and mortification. On one hand, I am sorry for any discomfort or inconvenience caused, but they know as well as I do that the shit hadn't hit the fan yet, and any problems were only potential. In any case, I never intended to upset anyone. On the other hand, everything I put in the blog was true, and they knew I felt that way - admittedly, I was more diplomatic when I told them, but the message was the same.

So I dunno. I know some people have been fired for blogging about their jobs. I should be glad that didn't happen, though actually, that would be the least of my worries - for one thing, the actual work is occasionally fun, but the administrative garbage has been a thorn in my side for a good long time. For another, they probably know they'll never find another webmaster for €7,50 an hour, though I would dearly love to see them try.

Okay, that's it. It's been occupying brain space that I need for other things, so it's time to file it and forget it. If they decide to fire me, well, at least I'll be free of the bullshit.

holding pattern

Take the MIT Weblog SurveyOh, my. Lots to report, no time right now. I'll try to get to it later today, but meanwhile...