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  14. <description>The primary Internet presence of Roger L. Waggener</description>
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  16. Sat, 19 Nov 2011 07:23:07 +0000 </lastBuildDate>
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  24. <title>Tangled and geocaching</title>
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  27. <pubDate>Sat, 19 Nov 2011 07:23:07 +0000</pubDate>
  28. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
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  32. <description><![CDATA[Last Thursday night (actually Thursday night of last week) the boys were both spending the night at Ruth&#8217;s Aunt Ruth&#8217;s house since they didn&#8217;t have school on Friday. This, of course meant that it was just Ruth , Elsie, and I. This is uncommon, but not necessarily out of the ordinary. This evening, however, I [&#8230;]]]></description>
  33. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>Last Thursday night (actually Thursday night of last week) the boys were both spending the night at Ruth&#8217;s Aunt Ruth&#8217;s house since they didn&#8217;t have school on Friday. This, of course meant that it was just Ruth , Elsie, and I. This is uncommon, but not necessarily out of the ordinary. This evening, however, I had the idea to make it special.</p>
  34. <p>I thought it would be very neat to put a movie on TV just for Elsie. She gets stuck watching a /lot/ of boy stuff. I think frequently she doesn&#8217;t realize she&#8217;s watching boy stuff, just because it&#8217;s what&#8217;s on. Mind you, she gets her times to watch Strawberry Shortcake and Hello Kitty so it&#8217;s not like she only ever watches Star Wars stuff, but there are two loudmouth brothers yelling for what they want and only one loudmouth Elsie.</p>
  35. <p>Although she had some of the toys and talked about it constantly when the movie came out, she&#8217;s never seen Tangled. I figured tonight would be the perfect opportunity for this to change. We were eating pizza in the living room when I loaded up the movie on Netflix and started it playing. It didn&#8217;t take her long to figure out what it was and once she did&#8211; she was mesmerized. I think she sat with a slice of pizza an inch from her mouth for five minutes before remembering to take a bite.</p>
  36. <p>When we were done eating, she and I moved to the couch and she climbed on my lap. When I turned off the light it was almost like being at a movie theater only better. She barely moved through the whole movie and said maybe five words. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie. It was pretty good and there was more &#8220;boy stuff&#8221; in it than I ever would have imagined. If you&#8217;ve seen it, you&#8217;ll understand when I say &#8220;The Snugly Duckling seems like my kind of place&#8221;. I don&#8217;t think I enjoyed the movie itself as much as Elsie did, but I&#8217;m sure I enjoyed watching it with her as much as she did. Hopefully it&#8217;ll be one of those happy childhood memories that she&#8217;ll remember fondly in the distant future. </p>
  37. <p>The subsequent Saturday the boys and I experienced something together for the first time that I hope formed similar memories to be held onto for many years. We took a new hobby: geocaching. </p>
  38. <p>I&#8217;d heard of geocaching back in the nineties when it was first invented with the advent of portable GPS units. I&#8217;d been interested and wanted to get involved, but never could justify the expenditure required for a GPS receiver. I&#8217;d idly followed it as a topic on the Internet and knew someday it would be very cool to get involved with the boys. I don&#8217;t know why it&#8217;s taken me more than a year after getting a smart phone that is completely suitable to the task, but at least we finally did.</p>
  39. <p>The idea hit me Friday night and I decided Saturday would be the day we began our geocaching journey. However, the day got off to a less than stellar start. I was going to get up early and ride my bike, but it was colder than I thought it would be. Later in the day on the way to the library, we&#8217;d somehow all gotten into ticked off moods. Some at each other, some just in general. I didn&#8217;t know if I still felt like trying something new, or not, but I just decided we&#8217;d give it a try anyway.</p>
  40. <p>Coming in the house with our books I mentioned that I thought it would be fun to try find some geocaches and asked if the boys wanted to go along. They were aware of what it is from an abortive attempt we&#8217;d made one day previously when we&#8217;d misjudged the time and had to give up and almost were late for something else from it. Isaiah asked if we were going to try that one again, but we weren&#8217;t. I&#8217;d planned out a few pretty close that were rated as pretty easy and we headed out.</p>
  41. <p>I have an app on my phone that gets us right to the coordinates pretty well, but that&#8217;s only half the challenge. Finding the location of a geocache is one thing&#8211; finding it is another. Some of them are deviously hidden with the challenge being to figure out an ingenious gimmick, trick, or puzzle to locate the actual cache which might contain small trade trinkets (take one, leave one) or just a small logbook (or log scrap of paper in the very small ones called micros).</p>
  42. <p>We weren&#8217;t looking for any of the hard ones. We were beginners. I&#8217;d read enough about it to know that you just have to look around for things that seem a bit out of place, but which you normally wouldn&#8217;t notice. Say, a pile of rocks that your eye would flow right over unless you were thinking &#8220;Hey, are those rocks really in a natural pile or are they perhaps /stacked/ like that?&#8221; </p>
  43. <p>We&#8217;d been looking for the first one we tried for about twenty minutes when I began to think we weren&#8217;t going to find it. In fact, I was growing a tad bit apprehensive when in the woods the cache was in we discovered what could only be the remains of a hobo camp. I told the boys not to touch any of the junk scattered around and directed our search back in the other direction. It turned out that Gideon spotted it.</p>
  44. <p>&#8220;Could it have a red lid,&#8221; he asked as he went right to the small Tupperware bowl containing a damp logbook and some small, well-weathered trinkets. It was stashed under just the kind of inconspicuous pile of rocks I mentioned above. We felt great on our first discovery! It may seem cheesy to someone who doesn&#8217;t get it, but it was quite a rush to find this dirty old bowl with junk and wet notebook paper in it after a twenty minute search. We high-fived each other as we walked back to the van.</p>
  45. <p>How do you think we celebrated our first find? There&#8217;s probably only one /right/ way to celebrate your first geochache find&#8230; Go look for another!</p>
  46. <p>We didn&#8217;t find the second one. But we did find the second, third and fourth ones we looked for. ;) As new geocachers, the tendency is to think of some kind of watertight container on the ground carefully disguised, but not outright unseeably hidden. However, there are many different kinds of caches. The first one we found fit the stereotypical norm. The second two also fit a stereotypical norm, even though they were also eye openers to the boys. You may or may not be aware that many lamp posts have &#8216;skirts&#8217; at the bottom of them. Cylindrical enclosures that protect and improve the appearance of the mounting bolts that hold them to the ground. These skirts slide up to provide access to the post&#8217;s mounting bolts. They also frequently slide up to provide access to micro geocaches like plastic eggs or film cannisters. In fact, this kind is known as an LPC- Lamp Post Cache. To some the term LPC is derogatory thinking that an LPC is an uncreative run-of-the-mill. That is, just another bleah cache with nothing special about it. While I can see this point of view, having found two LPCs in a row within half an hour, they were still fun for us and the first one was pretty cool to figure out the secret.</p>
  47. <p>The fourth one was especially cool to the boys. I&#8217;d read about such things, so when I spotted it I knew exactly what was going on, but it was an eye opener to them. Like I said above, it&#8217;s easy to fall into the rut of looking for a Tupperware container in the leave, but there are many kinds of caches. The fourth one we found was magnetic. It was a small black cylindrical container like a campsite waterproof match container with a magnet firmly affixed to the screw-on top. It was hanging from the top rail of a chain link fence where it ran behind a tree. It was veritably invisible unless you were looking in the right place with the right kind of eye.</p>
  48. <p>I found it while the boys were looking in the wrong direction. I mentioned that I had found it over in the area where I was and called Gideon over to look in the direction I vaguely indicated. When he finally spotted it and pulled it off, he thought it was very cool. He&#8217;d not had any idea there could be such a thing and it was a blast to find it.</p>
  49. <p>We didn&#8217;t find the sixth one we went after that day. It was getting dark and colder and we were getting hungry. We vowed to return on a later date when we had more time. We&#8217;d had a great first real geocaching adventure. We&#8217;d all had fun working together and had gotten along perfectly for the past 2 hours. I knew the boys were hooked when Isaiah asked if I thought we&#8217;d have time to find any the following Sunday afternoon. And you know what? We found two more the next day!</p>
  50. <p>I think we&#8217;re going to be spending a lot of time geocaching. In fact, we&#8217;ve got some cool ideas for some of our own geocaches&#8230;</p>
  51. <p>So, special time with Elsie and special time with the boys&#8211; it was a pretty good weekend.</p>
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  56. <item>
  57. <title>First Day of School 2011!</title>
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  60. <pubDate>Thu, 18 Aug 2011 05:01:45 +0000</pubDate>
  61. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
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  65. <description><![CDATA[The boys started school today and I took the day off work so I could enjoy dropping them off. They had been looking forward to this day with gloom and dread, but it turned out to be really nice. Isaiah had been pretty cranky about getting up, but the power of Mom&#8217;s homemade cinnamon rolls [&#8230;]]]></description>
  66. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>The boys started school today and I took the day off work so I could enjoy dropping them off.</p>
  67. <p>They had been looking forward to this day with gloom and dread, but it turned out to be really nice. Isaiah had been pretty cranky about getting up, but the power of Mom&#8217;s homemade cinnamon rolls changed that. In fact, just before it was time to go we were taking pictures of Gideon and Isaiah out front and they were smiling and laughing. The laughter may have been partly due to the fact that while I was taking Isaiah&#8217;s picture Gideon was behind me giving me the ol&#8217; &#8216;bunny ears&#8217;. In any case the attitude improvement was welcome.</p>
  68. <p>After the boys were dropped off, which was complicated by the fact that the city of Alton had, in a masterstroke of bureaucratic wisdom, decided to paint all the uptown crosswalk stripes within walking distance of the middle school on opening day, Elsie and I hung out at home for a couple of hours. A couple of hours because the school board in another brainstorm only a committee of municipal officers could concoct, decided the first day of school would be only a couple of hours long. Don&#8217;t ask me why- it probably has to do with funding. Anyway, it gave Elsie and I a bit of time together.</p>
  69. <p>Since the night before she&#8217;d been talking about watching <a href="" title="Fishtronaut on Netflix">Fishtronaut</a> this morning. So I obliged. It&#8217;s a cartoon we recently discovered on Netflix. For some reason it&#8217;s caught her interest and putting it on allowed me to do a bit of computing. After a while I joined her on the couch and she enjoyed her show on my lap, and I enjoyed a brief nap with her on my lap.</p>
  70. <p>Aside from enjoying dropping the boys off (not in a sadistic way, but in being able to participate in an aspect of their lives I usually only get to hear about), I took the day off because Ruth and I had the idea that since the boys were only in school half the day, we could have a picnic in the afternoon. Additionally, we could take the time to go to Best Buy to get me a new cell phone case and belt clip, and a pair of earbuds for Isaiah. I&#8217;d gotten my phone at Best Buy just about a year ago and I&#8217;d gotten a hard case with and belt clip combo there, too. The one I&#8217;d gotten had worn out and I wanted another just like it. Isaiah needed a pair of decent earbuds for a class he&#8217;s taking this year called &#8216;music tech&#8217; which sounds pretty cool and I&#8217;m a bit jealous of, but such classes were unheard of in middle school when I was in it. In fact, middle school was brand new when I was in it. My 6th grade year the 9th graders were at my junior high. My 7th grade year was the first year of middle school in the Alton district.</p>
  71. <p>The closest Best Buy to us is in Edwardsville, IL and is just a few miles away from the very cool <a href=";hl=en&#038;fb=1&#038;gl=us&#038;view=map&#038;cid=7790901574269209204&#038;t=h&#038;z=17&#038;vpsrc=0&#038;iwloc=A" title="Edwardsville Township Community Park">Edwardsville Township Community Park</a>. So we figured that would be the perfect location for our picnic. The fare was nothing fancy- sandwiches and chips, but it was a <em>picnic</em> so everything was more fun. The weather was pretty nice, a bit warm but not hot. The kids played on the playground after we ate. At Gideon&#8217;s entreaty, I joined them for a bit on the &#8216;wobble board&#8217;- a platform about four feet square suspened by chains on each corner. It&#8217;s hard to stand on cause it wobbles. Gideon called me over to wobble it for him and Elsie soon joined till we were all wobbled out.</p>
  72. <p>The kids were pretty good at Best Buy. At first I thought they didn&#8217;t have the main thing I&#8217;d come for but we eventually found it. Isaiah got some decent but inexpensive earbuds made by Sony for about $11 which I felt wasn&#8217;t too bad. After that we went to the Borders bookstore in the same retail complex. You know a place is going out of business when you walk in under a sign that says &#8220;50% off everthing!&#8221; to find price tags on all the shelves and fixtures.</p>
  73. <p>Somehow, even at 50% off EVERYTHING we still ended up spending $20. Two princess activity books- one for Elsie and one for cousin Chloé&#8217;s upcoming birthday, one Peanuts desk calendar (which will be an xmas present to me- nice at 50% off) and two <a href="" title="Blind-bag Lego Minifigures">blind-bag Lego minifigures</a>. Those last two items were purchased against my better judgement and in a rare flash of me wanting to be <em>nice</em> for some reason- which, of course, turned out to bite me smack dab in the keester.</p>
  74. <p>The boys and I went to the car while Ruth took Elsie to the potty so they could rip open their little pouches of crack- er, their Lego minifigures. Gideon got the super cool <a href="" title=" Lego minifig Viking">VIKING!</a> and Isaiah got the relatively lame <a href="" title="Lego Bowler minifig- actually a soccer player">bowler</a>&#8211; which he apparently already had and which (I learned as I googled for the link over there) is actually a soccer player (who knew?). This resulted in much anger, whining, griping, and general attitudinous crap. So I took the little bowler from him and put it back in the bag with the princess activity books.</p>
  75. <p>When we got home I wanted to ride my bike. Isaiah&#8217;s attitude must have improved somewhat cause he, at Ruth&#8217;s persistent and pointed suggestion, agreed to go with me. We had a good ride- a bit short for me, but just the right length for Isaiah since we were running short of time. This great day was to terminate with dinner at a local fairly decent steakhouse to celebrate Ruth&#8217;s folks 43rd wedding anniversary. I told Isaiah our ride would be time-based to get us home and both showered in time for dinner, not distance based, despite the fact that he wanted to reach a certain landmark and turn around. His prediction was spot on. We got to where he wanted to head back right on time to head back. We made it home, both got showered and got to the restaurant right on time.</p>
  76. <p>Hopefully all the extra cool stuff helped ease the pain of starting school again.</p>
  77. <p>I know I had a good day, but then I&#8217;d taken the day off work so all the fun stuff was icing on the cake!</p>
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  81. </item>
  82. <item>
  83. <title>Snapshot 8•1•11</title>
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  86. <pubDate>Mon, 01 Aug 2011 17:01:39 +0000</pubDate>
  87. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  88. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  90. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  91. <description><![CDATA[The year 2011 AD is 60% over as I type this and it&#8217;s about time I describe a temporal snapshot of my family&#8217;s life today. Like many people much of my life revolves around my family. They are the people that mean the most to me and with whom I choose to spend as much [&#8230;]]]></description>
  92. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>The year 2011 AD is 60% over as I type this and it&#8217;s about time I describe a temporal snapshot of my family&#8217;s life today. Like many people much of my life revolves around my family. They are the people that mean the most to me and with whom I choose to spend as much of my time as possible.</p>
  93. <p>My wife Ruth and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last month and recently our relationship has been rejuvenated and we seem to have recaptured a spark and happiness in it that had waned in some aspects over the years. Our goal now is to determine to continue and enhance this trend.</p>
  94. <p>Ruth spends a great deal of time volunteering at the schools of our children. She is the president of the Parent Teacher Organization of the school our middle child, Gideon, attends. We joke that she spends as much time in the building as most of the teachers- and more than some of them. She sees it as not only a responsiblity, but a joy to make sure that every child in the school knows that she cares about them. Some of the kids make that a challenge, but it&#8217;s one she&#8217;s up to. It&#8217;s a heart-warming experience to be out someplace like the grocery store and have a kid come up to say &#8220;Hi&#8221; and get a hug from Mrs. Waggener.</p>
  95. <p>Last year Ruth received the &#8220;Heart of the School&#8221; award. The teachers and staff of the school nominate and vote on candidates who can most accurately be described as the &#8220;Heart of the School&#8221;. This award is not given out every year- only when it&#8217;s felt to be warranted. Ruth was given a customized plaque and her name appeared in the local newspaper in an article describing some of her achievements and efforts. She is quite proud of this award and rightfully so. She has also been nominated to receive a regional award called <a href="" title="a link to the Those Who Excell website">&#8220;Those Who Excell&#8221;</a> given to those who go above and beyond the call of duty whether they are volunteers or school staff. Later this year she and I will go to a dinner in Springfield, IL to hear the results of the nominations.</p>
  96. <p>Our oldest son Isaiah is 12 and will be entering 7th grade in just under two weeks. His 6th grade report card was excellent- far better than any I ever received. He was on the Honor Roll all year long. He has developed sufficient scholastic habits- well, once again far better than I ever had. He does his homework every day. Ruth has he and brother Gideon on a routine. They get home, mess around and relax about 30 minutes and then get on the homework. I think having a routine which includes some down time upfront helped a great deal in developing good homework habits for the boys. He could use some improvement in time management skills on long-term school projects, but then who couldn&#8217;t?</p>
  97. <p>In the fifth grade Isaiah started playing the upright <a href="" title="a description of the double bass on Wikipedia">Bass</a>. Evidently he has some natural talent because his impressive homework habits have not spilled over into the realms of instrument practice, nonetheless he received a $100 private tutoring scholarship from the shool district in 2010. He has continued to do well playing (though also not practicing as he should) in the sixth grade. When the Alton Middle School orchestra when to a regional competition they received a score of &#8220;First Superior&#8221; which is one rank below the highest. They were the only sixth grade orchestra at the competition. Now, of course, the score was not due solely to Isaiah&#8217;s marvelous playing, but he was a member of the orchestra and his teachers are always encouraging and complementary when they discuss him with us. This year is the second that he has attended the string camp given at the middle school. Last year he attended one week, this year he will attend two. He&#8217;s already finshed the first week and has decided (and actually demonstrated at least some determination to follow through) that he is going to practice this year.</p>
  98. <p>Gideon is 7 and will be starting second grade. Gideon can be very moody and shy at times, but he&#8217;s usually a cheerful little fellow. He is very methodical in what he does and his handwriting is far better than Isaiah&#8217;s mainly because he writes slowly and carefully. He&#8217;s also a very good artist. He, like his brother, loves to draw. His subjects of choice frequently, again like his brother, are pulled from the Star Wars milieu, but are not strictly limited. He also likes animals and is good at drawing them.</p>
  99. <p>He&#8217;s also very responsible for his age when it comes to getting his schoolwork done. He&#8217;s on the same routine Isaiah is: get home, mess around a bit and get on the homework. Gideon is usually done and playing before Isaiah is finished. Part of this is because he was doing 1st grade homework and Isaiah was doing 6th grade homework, but a bigger part of it is that Gideon can just focus on it and get it done. Sometimes Isaiah takes three times longer to get his done because he spends 30% of his time griping about how long it&#8217;s taking, 30% doing it, and 40% switching between doing and griping. Gideon just gets his homework done and goes outside to play with the cats.</p>
  100. <p>Elsie Rose is 4 years old and she&#8217;s a cute, sweet little thing, but she has her personality traits. When she was just a bit less than two years old she earned her family nickname: BossyBird. Last year she was awarded the upgrade of Little Princess BossyBird which she continues to live up to mainly through the use of her powerful scowling eyebrows. Fortunately they&#8217;re only employed when deemed necessary.<br />
  101. Although she displays heavy influences of having been raised with two older brothers, she is a girly girl. Her favorite color is pink and she loves Hello Kitty, princesses, mermaids, My Little Ponies and et cetera. She&#8217;s also a little clothes-horse, er filly. Frequently she&#8217;ll decide when she gets up that it&#8217;s a dress wearing day and she&#8217;s got a selection to choose from- which she does.</p>
  102. <p>She&#8217;s had one year of half-day preschool and she&#8217;ll be starting all-day preschool in a few weeks. The other day she got a backpack and matching lunch bag. She likes to wear and play with them. It&#8217;s funny to see her with the backpack on since it&#8217;s almost as tall as she is. They&#8217;re pink (of course) with owls on them. Her room is also decorated with owls which seem to be one of the in things lately. </p>
  103. <p>As far as news about me- well, I&#8217;m still just Roger. However, I have begun improving in one notable direction. I&#8217;ve been losing weight from exercise&#8211; I&#8217;ve been riding a bicycle. When I first started back in March, a three mile ride wiped me out. Now my rides are limited not by distance, but by the time I have to spend on them. I&#8217;m no <a href="" title="a description of randonneuring at Wikipedia">randonneur</a> by a longshot, but I have made great strides in my cycling abilities. The longest continuous ride I&#8217;ve done so far was 30 miles at an average speed of about 11 mph. Three or four times I&#8217;ve ridden my bicylce to work which doesn&#8217;t necessarily sound impressive until I remark that my office is 22 miles from my home with several major hills. I really wanted to become a bicycle commuter and ride almost every day, but I gave up that hope rather quickly. Not due to the effort involved, or the distance, but the time required. If I was a single guy I might have stuck to the idea, but with a wife and three kids (two of them young) at home being gone an extra 5 hours every day was not viable. So now I ride when I can- weather and time permitting I try to at least go for a brief spin almost every day.</p>
  104. <p>Just about from the start Isaiah has been riding with me. In the beginning he had a crappy bike Ruth&#8217;s brother Mark gave him. It was too big for him, weighed a <em>ton</em> and had wheels bent like <a href="" title="a description of Pringles potato chips at Wikipedia">Pringles</a>. It was much harder than it should have been for him to keep up with my road-style bike, but I kept it slow for him and he battled it out. What didn&#8217;t kill him made him stronger and he got strong pretty quickly. After a month or so I found a good deal on a used bike at a bike store and with a properly sized, better quality bike he&#8217;s doing great and we usually have a wonderful time riding together.</p>
  105. <p>Another improvement in my life is that I have a new job. I work for the same company, but I am in what we call Building 2 and I do software configuration and hardware testing now instead of 3D modeling. I enjoyed (and still enjoy in my spare time at home) 3D modeling, but I enjoy the atmosphere in Building 2 much more than that in Building 1. I&#8217;ve left the cubicle farm. Building 2 is spacious and sparsely populated- and I no longer spend my days cheek-by-jowl with people passive-aggressively whinging about the negativity of the environment, which is much better for my personal attitude and quality of life and I like the work.</p>
  106. <p>So as I look back I see the children growing and developing, and our lives and the life of our family progressing through time. We&#8217;ve moved forward in several ways over the past year. Like anything, we&#8217;ve had achievements and defeats, but the trend is always upward.</p>
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  112. <title>A Long Day and Knights</title>
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  115. <pubDate>Sun, 30 May 2010 08:57:12 +0000</pubDate>
  116. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
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  120. <description><![CDATA[It&#8217;s been a massively long day, but for the most part it&#8217;s been rewarding. I accomplished quite a bit and most of it went pretty well. Oh, and Hey! Just imagine what an amazing event- for the first time in almost a year: new words at Before delving into the minutia of the day, [&#8230;]]]></description>
  121. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>It&#8217;s been a massively long day, but for the most part it&#8217;s been rewarding. I accomplished quite a bit and most of it went pretty well. Oh, and Hey! Just imagine what an amazing event- for the first time in almost a year: new words at</p>
  122. <p>Before delving into the minutia of the day, picture me in a quite delightful environment- on the back porch in front of a nicely powered but not overwhelming fan (just enough to blow the bugs away and keep me the right temperature), in the glow of a venerable old fluorescent desk light on top of the boom box which is playing Rock Steady Ska music on the show <a href="">Positive Vibrations</a> from <a href="">KDHX-FM</a> watching adolescent cats (Galileo, Newton, and Cookie- yes, my boys who named them are science geeks) eat bugs while I type a post on the laptop via wifi.</p>
  123. <p>Now roll the clock back about 16 hours. I drug my carcass out of bed about ten after six this morning. I had a large agenda and wanted to clear it all. I was fully conscious and dressed about ten minutes later and mere minutes after that I was out in the driveway putting the radiator and main cooling fan back into the engine bay of my 92 chevy corsica. It&#8217;s a long story, but I was hoping to have this car back in action after a long &#8220;operational hiatus&#8221;. I had gotten a good suggestion from a gearhead neighbor earlier in the week and had worked on replacing the fuel pressure regulator the evening previous until it was too dark (and I was too tired) to try to install the radiator.</p>
  124. <p>I was surprised at how easily I got all the junk back where it belonged under the hood, but turning the key resulted in absolutely nothing. This due, presumably, to the fact that I had stupidly not disconnected the battery last time I worked on it some time ago. I put the battery in the back of the van and headed to the parts store which didn&#8217;t open till seven-thirty. It was about seven. I headed down the street to another part store which was open, but did not sell the brand of battery I had. They said it was too flat to charge and that I should take it across the street to the store that carried that brand- which also did not open till seven-thirty.</p>
  125. <p>I bailed on that plan and proceeded to agenda item two execution. I went home, told the boys to wake up and get ready to go to the Sportsman&#8217;s Barber Shop for haircuts while I took a shower and changed clothes. Isaiah was pretty much ready when I was, but Gideon required motivational assistance as is typical with his morning arisal. I was greatly disappointed to see about five people already seated and waiting at the barber shop when we arrived minutes after it opened at eight. We were in luck, though. One of the two regular barbers was on vacation and there was a part-time fill-in man at the usually unmanned middle chair. Everybody already there was waiting for the owner and the fill-in man was doing nothing. All three of us had haircuts in just about an hour and we all look just fine. Well, the boys looked fine. My haircut looked fine but the rest of me didn&#8217;t look any better than it usually does.</p>
  126. <p>We rolled back home and I told Ruth I was going to go mow my mom&#8217;s yard. Mowing Mom&#8217;s yard and my own was agenda item number three. I dropped the battery off at the right part store on the way to her house. The guy said it would be about an hour and a quarter. I had a good mow at Mom&#8217;s house. I actually greatly enjoy mowing. I can zone out in the physical work and think about things. It was a bit of a slog in the 88&deg; weather at 44% humidity but I got it done. I&#8217;ve been mowing that yard for about twenty-five years now. I think what made it a bit of work this morning was that there was zero shade. The sun had cleared the eastern treeline and was hammering me the whole time, but I got it done. It took a bit longer than usual under the condition, but that was OK because that got me back by the part store perfectly on time to discover that my battery was shot but still under warranty FREE replacement!</p>
  127. <p>Unfortunately the niceness of the batt replacement was mitigated by the fact that the car did not start. However, the pressure regulator was obviously a contributing factor that had been fixed as evidenced by the fact that there was fuel pressure on the rail and none gushing out of the throttle body as it had been before. I am thinking maybe replace spark plugs fouled by fuel probs when the regulator failed. I am hoping to not have to deal with the timing chain. Or something. Maybe the gas has gone bad, but I&#8217;m not sure of a good way to fix that, either.</p>
  128. <p>Well, anyway, it was time to finish agenda item three by mowing my yard. I put all the tools and final assembly parts back in the trunk and yanked the rope on the mower. Again, it was a bit more work than it should have been. Perhaps because I was already a bit worn from the first yard, and perhaps a bit from the same brutal morning sun. I usually mow in the later afternoon where the harshness of the glare has worn off a bit. Against my inclination, but exhibiting prudence I was proud of, I took several water breaks during both mowing sessions which turned out to be wise. I still need to bag the front a bit, but didn&#8217;t have time to do it today. It looks OK (just OK to me), but you can&#8217;t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs and I was already further down in the day than I wanted to be.</p>
  129. <p>Agenda item four was lunch, which was ready when I got out of the shower.</p>
  130. <p>Agenda item five was the <a href="">St. Louis Renaissance Festival</a> in Wentzville, Mo about an hour from our home. We were all buckled in the van and mobile about two-thirty which was an hour and a half later than I&#8217;d wanted us to be going, but checking the website just before we left verified that the faire was open till six, not five and we should have plenty of time to see it all.</p>
  131. <p>We arrived at about a quarter after three. I sincerely hoped that the main joust didn&#8217;t start till three-thirty, but when we&#8217;d paid for our tickets and instantaneously been transferred through time and space to the 16th century French village of Petit Lyon and handed the printed map/program I discovered that the joust wasn&#8217;t till four-thirty- we&#8217;d have plenty of time to experience the faire before we had to worry about getting decent seats.</p>
  132. <p>The first destination of note was the German encampment where after watching a <a href="">crossbow demonstration</a>, Isaiah got rudimentary training as a <a href="">pikeman</a>. I must say, as a pikeman Isaiah could be a good swordsman. I&#8217;ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the cast on his right arm that threw him off a bit. That and perhaps that the pike was twice as long as he is tall.</p>
  133. <p>From there we made our way through the village noting the many sights to be seen- and the many not to be seen. Why is it that so many people that should not wear skimpy costumes have the desire to do so? And for that matter, what do skimpy outfits of any kind have to do with 16th Century France? Perhaps they should change the name to the &#8220;St. Louis Renaissance and Tangentially Related to The Fantasy Genre &#038; People Who Want to Wear Costumes That Expose More of Themselves Than They Should Faire&#8221; because I saw a lot of rolls of snake-belly white abdomens and anachronistic, flat-out Dungeons &#038; Dragons fantasy type junk that simply cannot pass muster for an historically accurate simulation. Camel rides? In 16th century France? Gimme a break&hellip; Though to be fair to the Faire, they have no control over the costumage and livery of attendees and actually it did seem that the participants mostly adhered to a consistent set of guidelines, generously interpreted as they may have been. The camel-master had a large purple feather in his tricorne hat and was wearing musketeer-style boots.</p>
  134. <p>By the time we&#8217;d made our way around to the jousting grounds, it was time to start looking for a decent seat in the decidedly non-period, but accommodating aluminum bleachers that surrounded the lanes. We found some on the front row, though at the far corner of the grounds which proved good enough. The sun had crept out from behind the clouds and once again was casting its baleful gaze brutally down on our shadeless heads. The kids got grumpy and restless so Ruth took them to find something to drink while I kept the seats. They returned with $4 worth of strawberry sno-cones (no comment necessary on economic expediencies vs. historical accuracy- and they were quite welcome, I might add) just in time for the event to begin.</p>
  135. <p>Last year we weren&#8217;t able to stay for the main joust event complete with mortal combat. We were only able to see the ring-jousting only demonstration which concluded with the man-at-arms regaling us with descriptions of flashing blades and spouting blood to be seen later in the day. This time the real deal was the only one we got to see, but it greatly fulfilled the gory advertisement.</p>
  136. <p>The jousting began with the two participants individually galloping down the field to catch on their lances rings tossed skyward by squires, but this innocent exhibition of skill was not destined to last long with age-old enemies Sir Thomas and the dastardly Sir Duncan competing on the same lanes. Soon comments were made and insults exchanged and a challenge was called. The combatants galloped straight towards each other, lances clanging off shields until Sir Duncan was unhorsed and Sir Thomas, bound by the code of chivalry even when locked in conflict with a blackguard like Sir Duncan, jumped from his steed and took sword in hand.</p>
  137. <p>The armored foes traded the clang of lances for the ring of swords and <a href=" ">pressed</a> close, each looking for a <a href=" ">chance</a> to pierce the others heart like the the pickles on the long fork of the roaming vendor selling &#8220;vegetarian sausages, a bill for a dill&#8221;. At <a href="">one point</a> things looked dark for the hero, Sir Thomas. There was a sharp gasp from the crowd as Thomas seemed stunned and soon to be finished by Duncan, but Duncan was wearied from the battle and as he retreated to gather his strength, Thomas also recovered heroically regaining his wits and his might to <a href="">despatch</a> the scurrilous Duncan to his fate in the afterworld.</p>
  138. <p><a href="">After</a> this show what was there to do but to visit the sword makers and sample their wares? To <a href="">Gideon</a> the Roman gladius crafted in the forge of <a href="">Badger Blades</a> was like a longsword but he wielded it valiantly. <a href="">Isaiah</a>, too, took steel to hand and assumed a battle-ready stance prepared to enact carnage on any and all who opposed him. Both are skillful, fearsome warriors, long trained and battle hardened in the use of all shapes and types of swords, light sabers, and the sticks that stand in their stead in this real wold that fades to a dim shadow in the blazing shine of their imaginations.</p>
  139. <p>While we boys were admiring this panoply of killing tools, Ruth and Elsie had strolled through some markets offering items more appealing to the feminine mind and Elsie had discovered a pink and purple magic princess wand upon which she spent some remaining birthday money and which required the boys both to declare that they &#8220;should get something too!&#8221; despite the fact that neither had brought coin of any realm in their own coin purses. Nonetheless we undertook a quest for affordable trinkets as we made our way toward the time-space portal that would bring us back to 2010. Wooden swords were the treasure we sought. Alas, though we found many, none were affordable and thus was born agenda item number seven about which we shall hear later.</p>
  140. <p>Agenda item number six was supper- <a href="">Panterra&#8217;s Pizza</a> on the way home. I have no prosaic account of our repast. We ate good pizza, the boys got to play a video game. We had a good time. The small office furniture store right next to that Panterra&#8217;s was a hobby shop the first time we went to the Faire several years ago. It was sadly going out of business the day we first saw it and we contributed to the growing bareness of the shelves in the form of a few model rockets and rocket related items. I always note that storefront with a tiny bittersweet nostalgia, but the pizza always brings me straight back to the present.</p>
  141. <p>The seventh agenda item I mentioned above which was born hastily in a spirit of &#8220;sorry we didn&#8217;t find anything- IF you are good maybe we can&hellip;&#8221; was to visit Lowe&#8217;s hardware store on the way home for some PVC pipe of an appropriate diameter along with pipe insulation and duct tape with which to create swords of a type I must fess up and admit to in college not only having fashioned, but wielded in conflict of arms on numerous occasions. This agenda item was, of course, created contingent upon appropriate behavior up to the very minute the money was spent and it was too late to return the materials to the shelf. This agenda item was only accomplished at Ruth&#8217;s vehement insistence on the expansion of the contingency, since to my mind the boys&#8217; behavior didn&#8217;t quite meet the requirements. But they were pretty good at the Faire so she was right. We did not yet, however, combine the elements into the devices they are destined to become. This, once again, is contingent on behavior up to the point at which I fire up the forge (and the slick PVC pipecutter I bought last winter after a freeze burst some pipes under the kitchen) and bind eldritch energies into the blades to harness the mighty power of imagination that can transform them from the shining steel of valiant, questing knights to the glowing blades of light with which galactic adventurers deflect and redirect the particle beams of their enemy&#8217;s crude blasters.</p>
  142. <p>If the car had started this day would have gone on record as 100% perfect. As it is, I guess the best description it can qualify for is tremendously super. Actually mega tremendously super- I forgot about seeing a half basset hound, half shar-pei dog at the Faire. It was odd looking, but not in a bad way. Isaiah said it looked a bit like <a href="">Satchel</a> from the comic strip <a href="">Get Fuzzy</a> and we all agreed.</p>
  143. ]]></content:encoded>
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  146. </item>
  147. <item>
  148. <title>My early Father&#8217;s Day present</title>
  149. <link></link>
  150. <comments></comments>
  151. <pubDate>Wed, 10 Jun 2009 03:58:21 +0000</pubDate>
  152. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  153. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  155. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  156. <description><![CDATA[I have been hemming and hawing about needing a new monitor for our computer for a long time&#8211; years, actually. The one we have been using was somebody else&#8217;s cast-off. It is a big-old CRT, not that the screen is big, I think it&#8217;s nineteen inches, but like all CRTs it takes a big bite [&#8230;]]]></description>
  157. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>I have been hemming and hawing about needing a new monitor for our computer for a long time&#8211; years, actually. The one we have been using was somebody else&#8217;s cast-off. It is a big-old CRT, not that the screen is big, I think it&#8217;s nineteen inches, but like all CRTs it takes a big bite out of the desk it&#8217;s on. These downsides don&#8217;t even consider the fact that it shows its age in the picture it displays. It&#8217;s faded, blurry, and the gamma is just all messed up. It&#8217;s usable I suppose, but it makes using the computer like wearing dirty glasses. You can deal with it, even on a long term basis, but when you clean them you realize it was just adding an unnoticed layer of friction to your general experience.</p>
  158. <p>Since our van is now payed off and Gideon has graduated from preschool, we have a bit more discretionary (I was going to say disposable, but the only people who have truly disposable income these days make considerably more money than I do) revenue and I decided it was time for an upgrade.</p>
  159. <p>Last Thursday night, I forget what exactly prompted it, but Ruth suggested that in light of the abovementioned additional discretionary amounts, I should go ahead and get the <a href="">monitor</a> I had picked out some time ago. She said it would be an early Father&#8217;s Day present. So I clicked a bit and it was on it&#8217;s way.</p>
  160. <p>Since I placed my order about midnight Thursday night, I figured it wouldn&#8217;t get here till Tuesday at the earliest. I was pleasantly surprised when Ruth notified me Monday afternoon that it had arrived. In fact, I was kind of meaning to cheese out of work a few minutes early, but something came up late in the afternoon that scuttled that plan. I did eventually get thome, though, and there it was waiting to be hooked up.</p>
  161. <p>I had never heard of Hanns G until my buddy Ed from work got one with the computer he had built at a local computer store. He had only good things to say about it so I felt confident saving a few dollars on a lesser known brand. I am quite pleased with it and happy about the price. So far it seems absolutely perfect. Some of the reviews on Newegg mentioned dead pixels on arrival and I had hoped I would not have a similar experience since I envision such things getting hairy. </p>
  162. <blockquote class="convo"><p>&#8220;I&#8217;d like to return this monitor you sent me. It has dead pixels right out of the box!&#8221;</p>
  163. <p>&#8220;How many, sir?&#8221;</p>
  164. <p>&#8220;How many what?&#8221;</p>
  165. <p>&#8220;How many dead pixels, sir&#8230;&#8221;</p>
  166. <p>&#8220;Uh&#8230;. one&#8230;&#8221;</p>
  167. <p>&#8220;Sir, please read the bottom of your invoice stating that the minimum number of dead pixels to justify a replacement is four.&#8221;</p>
  168. <p>&#8220;But I just plugged it in and there&#8217;s a dead pixel. Come on, is this how you treat your customers? Hello? Hello?&#8221;</p></blockquote>
  169. <p>I am very glad that such exchanges remain only in my imagination and not my memory.</p>
  170. <p>Now it is like I have just cleaned my glasses for the first time in months. It&#8217;s a pleasure to use my computer for things other than browsing for the first time in a long time. Not only is the picture crisp and bright (with actual gamma), but there is now enough real estate that I can enjoy using my favorite programs like <a href="">Blender</a>, <a href="">InkScape</a>, and <a href="">Gimp</a>.</p>
  171. <p>Of course, the first thing the boys wanted to do was watch The Trap Door on the new monitor. The second thing they wanted to do was play Bionicle games on it. I acceded to the first request and we spent a few funny minutes with Burk and the gang while Ruth cooked supper. The second request was not granted until this morning when I left for work.</p>
  172. <p>Isaiah was downstairs reading a book when I came down as he usually is. He asked if he could get on the computer. Initially I said no, but then I changed my mind and logged him in. I stipulated that before he could play games he needed to write a <a href="">blog post</a>. </p>
  173. <p>So it seems my early Father&#8217;s day present has been a gift to everybody. Ruth had discovered that FaceBook looks much better on an LCD, the kids have found that it works great for our favorite Youtube content, and it is a smashing price-point compromise for digital content development.</p>
  174. <p>Now I need to clean up and reconfigure the whole computer desk set-up, but first I think I&#8217;ll start up Blender&hellip;</p>
  175. ]]></content:encoded>
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  177. <slash:comments>1</slash:comments>
  178. </item>
  179. <item>
  180. <title>Milestones 09 #1</title>
  181. <link></link>
  182. <comments></comments>
  183. <pubDate>Sat, 06 Jun 2009 05:52:36 +0000</pubDate>
  184. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  185. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  187. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  188. <description><![CDATA[A lot of things have happened in the past few weeks- time is passing and my kids are growing up. The first major milestone even was Elsie&#8217;s second birthday. We had big plans for this day. My father was visiting from Arizona and it was Friend&#8217;s Day at the St Louis Zoo, of which we [&#8230;]]]></description>
  189. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>A lot of things have happened in the past few weeks- time is passing and my kids are growing up.</p>
  190. <p>The first major milestone even was Elsie&#8217;s second birthday. We had big plans for this day. My father was visiting from Arizona and it was Friend&#8217;s Day at the <a href="">St Louis Zoo</a>, of which we are members, and a lot of stuff was going to be free there so we had the grand idea that we&#8217;d spend Elsie&#8217;s birthday at the zoo with grandpa. We were all excited about it and had been looking forward to it for a long time. We were even going to call Isaiah off school for a day to be able to go.</p>
  191. <p>Unfortunately, it turned out that we shouldn&#8217;t have called Isaiah off school.</p>
  192. <p>That Friday morning was grey, chilly and wet&#8211; not exactly good going-to-the-zoo weather. We were all pretty disappointed, but it wasn&#8217;t actually raining, just threatening to, so the deal was not totally off yet. It was good that it wasn&#8217;t actually raining for another reason, too. I was putting the finishing touches on an unexpected radiatorectomy on our minivan. My dad and I had begun examining the van in earnest the previous afternoon about 3-ish to diagnose frustrating cooling problems and it was evident very quickly that on top of anything else, the radiator would have to be replaced immediately. We wrapped that project up long after dark when we&#8217;d gotten the new radiator installed except for the fact that it was just too dark and I was too tired to finish hooking up the particularly troublesome bottom radiator hose and I decided I&#8217;d finish it in the morning.</p>
  193. <p>I did finish the radiator that morning and it only took three trips to the parts store for various small crap that had not been planned but was necessary to complete the job- one trip for a tool, two trips for different size hose clamps. Luckily the rain held off till I was just done adding water back into the cooling system. Disappointingly, just after I finished it did begin to rain for real which dampened (literally) all our spirits in light of the plans we had for the rest of the day.</p>
  194. <p>We all kind of moped around the place for a few hours till&#8211; guess what? The <em>sun</em> came out and the weather turned beautiful just about the time my dad showed up (and just about the time Isaiah would have been getting home from school). My sister, brother-in-law, and their son, Griffin, met us at the zoo and we all had a most tremendous time for Elsie&#8217;s birthday at the zoo&#8211; and at dinner with Grandpa on the way home!</p>
  195. <p>The next milestone came two days later when Gideon graduated preschool on the following Sunday afternoon. He did a fine job in the ceremony&#8211; even singing and doing the motions with the songs he was supposed to do (which he doesn&#8217;t always do). He had a good time in preschool and I am very proud of him. He&#8217;s far ahead of the curve for entering kindergarten in the fall. He knows and can recognize in print all the letters of the alphabet, he can count to 100, he knows all the colors, etc. He&#8217;s a sharp little fellow and when he wants to be, he is kind, helpful, and sweet. Though he doesn&#8217;t always want to be&hellip;</p>
  196. <p>Another milestone occurred two days ago on Wednesday when Isaiah completed the fourth grade with one B&#8211; in math, and all other grades As. Additionally, he had the highest AR score in his school and was asked to be in the Safety Patrol next year. He also was on the math team for his grade and school this year. I think it was a good experience for him. Perhaps especially in light of the fact that experience can be defined as &#8220;what you get when you don&#8217;t get what you want&#8221;, but he did it and I am proud of him for that.</p>
  197. <p>One other recent milestone that was not an achievement but was an accomplishment which pleases me happened when we paid off our minivan. Yes, the same one that needed the new $200 radiator. Of course the one that needed a new radiator the same week we made the last payment on it. Don&#8217;t get me started about cars. It will, however, be nice to have a car payments worth of extra income each month. If, that is, we don&#8217;t end up spending it to keep the van on life support.</p>
  198. <p>And while discussing milestones, I&#8217;ll mention two more from Elsie. First, her hair is long enough to put into a ponytail now. Well, perhaps &#8216;ponytail&#8217; is a bit of an exaggeration, but there is enough to gather together  and have a bit sticking out. It&#8217;s very cute and it makes her look older. The first time Ruth attempted that particular stylistic configuration Elsie wanted nothing to do with it, but she got used to it quickly and now I think she actually likes the way it keeps her hair back. The final milestone is that Elsie has started making up songs with actual words. She&#8217;s been singing songs with noticeable tunes for quite a while&#8211; Frere Jaques and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. As a matter of fact, now that I think of it she&#8217;s been singing the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for quite a while, but the other night riding somewhere in the van was the first time I heard her making up a song from scratch with real words in it. All kids make singy-songy rhythmic noises that seem like songs with lyrics that are mainly comprised of baby-talk at her age and she has been, too, but now she is making up songs that are about stuff. She was singing about ladybugs and butterflies. There was not a great deal of thematic development and the rhythm was not quite as rigorously metrical as, say, Frere Jaques. The song was something along the lines of &#8220;Ladybug, ladybug, butterfly, ladybug&#8221; but I thought it was pretty neat.</p>
  199. ]]></content:encoded>
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  201. <slash:comments>0</slash:comments>
  202. </item>
  203. <item>
  204. <title>Q1-2 09 Bottom Line</title>
  205. <link></link>
  206. <comments></comments>
  207. <pubDate>Sun, 31 May 2009 04:36:22 +0000</pubDate>
  208. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  209. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  211. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  212. <description><![CDATA[Well it seems 2009 is nigh half way gone and I&#8217;ve barely a word spoken of it. Not much has changed with my status in life. I&#8217;m still fatter than I&#8217;d like and not near as wealthy, but all told I suppose I&#8217;m happy enough. I&#8217;ve three kids that love me, though with the boys [&#8230;]]]></description>
  213. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>Well it seems 2009 is nigh half way gone and I&#8217;ve barely a word spoken of it. Not much has changed with my status in life. I&#8217;m still fatter than I&#8217;d like and not near as wealthy, but all told I suppose I&#8217;m happy enough.</p>
  214. <p>I&#8217;ve three kids that love me, though with the boys it&#8217;s sometimes hard to judge from their behavior. I am proud of both of them. They are both very bright. Gideon can write his own name very well, find all the letters of the alphabet on the pages of a book, and count to one-hundred and he just graduated preschool a couple of weeks ago. Isaiah is the readingest kid there is, just about. He can absorb a four-hundred page book from the library in a matter of days and he has the highest <a href="">Accelerated Reader</a> score in his school. They both have powerful and active imaginations although I&#8217;d rather they apply them to things other than Star Wars and Lego from time to time&hellip;</p>
  215. <p>Elsie&#8217;s turned two a couple of weeks ago and while it may not be her favorite word, &#8220;no&#8221; is the one she says most these days. She&#8217;s as cute as one girl can be, but strong willed and not always concerned with what her parents want. She&#8217;s at the stage where she likes to mimic speech and if you ask her she&#8217;ll gladly proclaim &#8220;I a mockingbird!&#8221;. She&#8217;s also a good mommy to her baby dolls (when she&#8217;s not scolding them for letting their hat fall off, or dragging them around by their feet) and a good (pretend) cook in her toy kitchen.</p>
  216. <p>I have a wife who is truly my much better half and I frequently refer to her as thusly. She&#8217;s also a good mother and homemaker. And a better best friend than I am.</p>
  217. <p>I have a job that is enjoyable frequently, fulfilling every now and then, and not too stressful. It could be stressful if I let it get to me, but hey, you know, it&#8217;s only work. I&#8217;m sure not getting rich, but on the other hand I don&#8217;t have to worry about whether my services will be required next month. In days like these it&#8217;s not bad to have more work than people. Especially when you have specialized skills.</p>
  218. <p>I have two vehicles that are both paid for (Huzzah!) one of which is in condition that isn&#8217;t too embarrassing for the family to show up in. The other of which, the boys like because it has those &#8220;old-fashioned crank kind of windows&#8221; and it gets me to work while Ruth hauls the kids around in the minivan all day.</p>
  219. <p>We are paying for our home contract for deed, so all the shenanigans with the mortgage industry have a lessened impact on us. We&#8217;ve got a nice yard, a nice back porch to sit out on and read, and a house we like- even if it could use some declutterization. It&#8217;s home.</p>
  220. <p>So I guess, taking stock, things haven&#8217;t changed a great deal in the big picture other than the kids growing up more each day and time going by faster and faster. </p>
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  224. </item>
  225. <item>
  226. <title>The Movie and *-Spaces</title>
  227. <link></link>
  228. <comments></comments>
  229. <pubDate>Fri, 09 Jan 2009 05:23:04 +0000</pubDate>
  230. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  231. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  233. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  234. <description><![CDATA[We did make it to the movie Friday night, though we arrived a bit later than we had intended and ended up sitting on the end of the second row. We had a good time anyway. It was Elsie&#8217;s first movie at the theater and she did a great job. Probably due in part to [&#8230;]]]></description>
  235. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>We did make it to the movie Friday night, though we arrived a bit later than we had intended and ended up sitting on the end of the second row. We had a good time anyway. It was Elsie&#8217;s first movie at the theater and she did a great job. Probably due in part to the new environment&#8211; in the dark with the giant screen and she did enjoy the movie.</p>
  236. <p>The movie was &#8216;<a href="">The Tale of Despereaux</a>&#8216;. The main character, Despereaux, is a mouse whom Elsie liked. His first appearance in the movie on the day he is born and when we first saw him as a fuzzy little mouseling, Elsie giggled and waved hello to him. Her second favorite character, which she also waved at, was a cat who was not friendly at all, but Elsie likes cats so she liked this one, too.</p>
  237. <p>The only downside to the movie was the inevitable (at any G rated movie) audience of bratty kids and clueless guardians, but we had a good time nonetheless. Even though we were joined at <a href="">Wendy&#8217;s</a> afterwards by the grandparents and children who sat directly behind us. All through the movie the boy kept asking &#8220;Where&#8217;s my birthday present?&#8221;. At the restaraunt the kids (who sat behind us&#8211; not mine) were running around and being generally annoying as only those kinds of kids can. It was a nice switch when gramps delivered the food to their table and they quited down to stuff their faces.</p>
  238. <p>I commented to Ruth that in 60 years the cycle would perpetuate itself and those now hyperkenetic kids would be the shuffling zombie grandparents saddled with hyperkinetic kids grandkids.</p>
  239. <p>I&#8217;ve been working pretty hard this week on a project for my job. I am retexturing a model of the <a href="">MV-22</a> which was made almost ten years ago and had been orginally textured with bad photographs of a real MV-22. With an updated version of the environment database, I had converted all the original models that had been delivered when the original MV-22 model had been built. Many of them had been converted then, from older versions.</p>
  240. <p>Anyway, with the delivery of the new database, the appearance of the MV-22 model was no longer considered acceptable. It was &#8216;too dark&#8217;. So I used most, if not all, of my 2D raster image magic on the old 256&#215;256 image textures to make them &#8216;brighter&#8217;. At first everyone was pleased with the transformation I had enacted, but a few weeks later it was now no longer good enough, despite the fact that I had made it clear that I had pushed the images as far as they would go. Any further &#8216;brightening&#8217; would begin to wash out the images and reduce distinction. </p>
  241. <p>Nonetheless something had to be done. I was emailed an image of a model of an MV-22 from a competitors image generator and asked to make something that looked like it. Aside from the fact that the competitors model probably had five times as many polygons (For those non computer graphic geek readers, polygons are equivalent to &#8216;sides&#8217;. Any 3D computer graphics are made of a number of poygons&#8211; flat surfaces, or &#8216;sides&#8217;. Think of a soccer ball. Consider all the hexagons and pentagons that cover the ball to be flat, but the ball is still mostly ball shaped. If there were more, smaller shapes covering the ball it would look rounder. So in a 3D computer model the more polygons used, in general, the smoother and more like what it is meant to depict it looks), the model looked almost bone white, unlike any pictures I&#8217;d ever seen of an MV-22 and decidedly unlike the muddy, dark, grimy old model I had spent two weeks making look far better, but still crappy. </p>
  242. <p>In addition to having more polygons, I noted that the competitors model did not look like it used photographs for the textures, what we call &#8216;phototexture&#8217;. It looked like a videogame asset with textures created by a digital artist instead of by a camera. It looked very nice and accurate, but missing the certain amount of visual noise and subtle shading that phototexture adds which frequently (but not always) makes less than great phototexture look better than great, for lack of a better word, illustrated texture.</p>
  243. <p>Seeing this, I told the project manager that the phototexture on the model had gone as far as it possibly could and that if it still needed to be brighter, we&#8217;d have to try a different approach. I explained about the impression I got from the competitor&#8217;s model and asked if he thought the customer would accept retexturing job that would make the model look entirely different, but brighter and better considering the bad phototexture it currently had. He said they would and I went to work &#8216;illustrating&#8217; the new texture.</p>
  244. <p>I downloaded a bunch of images from <a href=";w=all">Flickr</a> to use as references and a line-drawing three-view of an MV-22 I found on google and began digitizing and drawing in InkScape. <a href="">InkScape</a> is an open source vector graphics editing program which I love. It isn&#8217;t quite up to par with Adobe <a href="">Illustrator</a>, but it is 100% free and all the fancy stuff in Illustrator that&#8217;s not in InkScape I probably wouldn&#8217;t use anyway&#8211; as if there&#8217;s any chance I&#8217;d be interested in something costing multiple hundreds of dollars even if I did want those features. Beside that, it&#8217;s open source! I love open source software and use it for just about everything. The one notable exception is the browser Opera which I also love and will remain loyal to over FireFox even thought it&#8217;s not open source, though I use FireFox, too.</p>
  245. <p>Anyway, I started with the basic outline and some line details like windows and such. Then I started adding small details like panel lines, rivets, access hatches, small vents, and numerous small dookickeys and gizmos. When I had a good start on the outline of the shape and a fair amount of little details, I exported the vector image to a bitmap and used it as the texture on the existing model. The initial result was encouraging to me. It looked like the black lines of the 3-view had been drawn on a white model, but the general fit of the image to the geometry of the model was in the neighborhood so I forged ahead.</p>
  246. <p>Let me here note that the model was originally in a format called <a href="">OpenFlight</a> which is prevalent in visual simulation applications. The program that this file format is for is called <a href="">Creator</a> and we use it frequently. I however, being an <a href="">open source</a> proponent, prefer to use a program called <a href="">Blender</a> In fact, I started using Blender before I got bitten by the open source bug and I love it. Again, it may not have all the features of programs such as <a href="">Maya</a> which are used by the likes of <a href="">Pixar</a>, but it has everything I need for the right price. Also, fortunately for me, Blender can import and export OpenFlight files and is much more conducive to the way I work than Creator.</p>
  247. <p>So I imported the OpenFlight file of the original model into Blender and saved it as a Blender file. Then I used the texture mapping tools in Blender to apply the image I&#8217;d created with InkScape and this is how I&#8217;ve spent the lion&#8217;s (and the lamb&#8217;s, too for that matter) share of the past week. Bouncing back and forth between InkScape and Blender&#8211; adding features to the texture image, mapping them onto the polygons in Blender, then back to InkScape to tweak the image, then back to Blender to re-tweak the texture mapping and so on, and so on.<a style="float:right; padding-top:20px;" href=""><img src="" alt="MV-22 vector texture image" title="MV-22 vector texture image" width="150" height="150" class="size-thumbnail wp-image-99" /></a></p>
  248. <p>One of the things that has taken the most time to get just perfect is shading. The geometry of the model (the number and shape of the polygons) was created almost ten years ago when our systems could handle far fewer polygons than they can now. I don&#8217;t have time to rework the geometry (or I would), so I have to get every bit of kick out of the textures that I can. Part of that kick is making it look round. The MV-22 is, like almost all aircraft, curved. The geometry of the model is pretty flat-ish. Most of the side of the fuselage geometry is totally flat. In order to make it look round I added shading to the texture image I am creating with gradients. This has been surprisingly successful, but takes a bit of practice and plenty of time even once you get the hang of it.</p>
  249. <p>It&#8217;s not quite finished and I am working as fast as I can, but it&#8217;s slow going. A coworker asked me today when I thought I&#8217;d be done so he could take a copy to the site to show the customer. I explained that I was going as fast as I could and that turning up the heat won&#8217;t make the cake bake faster. I think I&#8217;ll be done creating and mapping the texture tomorrow. Unfortunately there is work remaining after that to convert the model back to OpenFlight and work after that to clean up the conversion of the texture mapping which for some reason rarely flows through perfectly. Images rendered in Blender of what I have accomplished so far were enthusiastically received by both the project manager and the guy I told about the cake thing, though, so I&#8217;m not worried.</p>
  250. <p>It&#8217;s funny how time goes by fast when you&#8217;re doing something you enjoy. I really find it delightful to use programs I love to do something I love and produce a product that makes me feel great every time I look at it. It&#8217;s even more enjoyable when I can plug in my earbuds and crank up the electronic music I love and just do my work. The word &#8216;<a href="">cyberspace</a>&#8216; has come to mean, basically, the Internet so cyberspace is not a good word for where I have lived this week. I&#8217;ll call it D-space, combining the ideas of 3D and digital (hence the D) to describe the alternate universe I travel to.</p>
  251. <p>Sometimes I make it to D-space at home, but often. A prerequisite to visiting D-space is the ability to depart from meatspace (ie, the regular universe) which is greatly enhanced by a big monitor and plenty of memory and CPU horsepower. None of which I have as much of as I&#8217;d like to at home, but all of which I have a nice amount of at work. It&#8217;s only through the catalystic application of the abovementioned electromusic that I ever make the trip at home.</p>
  252. <p>More frequently at home, I find myself travelling to W-space like I have been for the past hour and a half. That&#8217;s W for Writing and it&#8217;s a trip I intend to do more frequently this year than I did last year. Just like I always intend to every Janauary. Right now, however, I am about to board the transport back to regular old &#8216;at home&#8217;.</p>
  253. ]]></content:encoded>
  254. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  255. <slash:comments>1</slash:comments>
  256. </item>
  257. <item>
  258. <title>Cyclery</title>
  259. <link></link>
  260. <comments></comments>
  261. <pubDate>Sat, 03 Jan 2009 07:41:15 +0000</pubDate>
  262. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  263. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  265. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  266. <description><![CDATA[I don&#8217;t remember exactly what I read, but I stayed up later than I meant to last night surfing the web. The general topics were along the line of virtual reality, GIS, and educational uses of gaming. Ruth fell asleep watching crime dramas while I was surfing away with my headphones on listening to music. [&#8230;]]]></description>
  267. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>I don&#8217;t remember exactly what I read, but I stayed up later than I meant to last night surfing the web. The general topics were along the line of virtual reality, <a href="">GIS</a>, and educational uses of gaming. Ruth fell asleep watching crime dramas while I was surfing away with my headphones on listening to <a href="">music</a>. When I had finally absorbed my fill for the day I woke her up and we went to bed&#8211; where I, of course, read for another 30-45 minutes till sleep overtook me. That&#8217;s why today started a bit later than intended&#8211; like almost all the days this week have.</p>
  268. <p>Yesterday went almost according to plan. We had a good time at the bookstore and a good supper at Culver&#8217;s, but no movie. I&#8217;d missed the part at the top of the &#8216;Five Buck Club&#8217; email I got yesterday saying that the list of movies the club discount was valid for went into effect today (Friday) instead of yesterday (Thursday) so the kids were disappointed when I said &#8220;Sorry, no movie tonight. We&#8217;ll come back tomorrow.&#8221; </p>
  269. <p>The boys weren&#8217;t thrilled about it, but Ruth suggested to help them get over it we take them to the Matrix to see if they could find something to spend xmas gift cards on. The one in Edwardsville was a total bust in the toy department so we went ot the one in Wood River where Gideon found an assortment of four whole things for ten dollars&#8211; three hot wheels and a <a hrevf="">Planet Heroes</a> character on clearance, and Isaiah found nothing of interest and decided to save his card.</p>
  270. <p>What&#8217;s that? What do I mean by &#8216;the Matrix&#8217;? Why Wal-Mart, of course. Not everybody realizes, but Wal-Mart is actually <a href="">the Matrix</a>. </p>
  271. <p>One major incident I have been remiss in describing here has been recounted on the Internet <a href="">elsewhere</a>. Last Monday (12/30/08) Isaiah learned how to ride a bike.</p>
  272. <p>Since the temperature was near 60&deg; F, Ruth&#8217;s folks called and suggested we come over to their house to let the boys ride bikes in their driveway. Gideon could also play with the new remote control 4-wheeler he got for his birthday earlier this month.</p>
  273. <p>When we got over there, Isaiah started bugging me to take the training wheels of the bike that was now too little for him and put them on the bike that is just the right size for him (now) that Ruth traded for in a garage sale she and her mother had held in early autumn (when it was just a tiny bit too big for Isaiah). I told him that he was too old to ride a bike with training wheels and that it was time he learned to ride a bike for real. He was a bit leary at first, but was willing to give it a try.</p>
  274. <p>We started out in the driveway, but soon progressed to the street in front of Ruth&#8217;s folks&#8217; house which is in a subdivision and has very little traffic. Isaiah would pedal away, slowly learning to balance as I walked beside him, beginning with two hands on the bike and eventually supporting him with a single hand on the cross bar of the hanldebars. Though the traffic was sparse, there was a bit of it and there were several cars parked on the street so I suggested we put his bike in the van and take it to Glazebrook Park which is a nice park (with no good web links) about five minutes from Ruth&#8217;s folks&#8217; house.</p>
  275. <p>About forty minutes and one ripped blue jean knee later, Isaiah was riding his bike on his own consistently for long enough to qualify as &#8216;really riding a bike&#8217;. Stopping, turns, etc. were still among the finer points to be mastered at a later date, but he was really riding a bike! I figure (looking at a <a href="">pdf image</a> of the park with trail distances) we probably traveled close to three quarters of a mile in the process of going back and forth with me supporting, then guiding, then barely touching, and finally following Isaiah as he grasped the knack of balancing. </p>
  276. <p>He&#8217;d wiped out several times, cried on a couple of the more painful ones, and put a hole in a pair of jeans he&#8217;d gotten for xmas, but he was very happy and proud of himself. He couldn&#8217;t have been much more proud of himself than I was of him, either. I still get a bit of a lump in my throat when I think about it. </p>
  277. <p>I had to push him a bit, but only a little bit to get him over the training wheel mindset and get him to start thinking &#8220;I&#8217;m going to learn to ride a bike today!&#8221;. That was a big part of what made me feel so good. Yes, I&#8217;d helped him learn to ride a bike and that was tremendous&#8211; but also I&#8217;d gotten him to decide to <i>do</i> something and to get out of his comfort zone and <i>do</i> it! That also made me feel very good and proud of both of us. </p>
  278. <p>When we got back to Ruth&#8217;s folk&#8217;s house, Gideon was working on riding the bike Isaiah had wanted me to take the training wheels off of, but the tires were flat. So, after everybody watched Isaiah show off his new skill up and down the block, we took it to the gas station up the road to air them up. Gideon had a good time taking the valve stem caps off, holding them for me, and putting them back on as we aired up not only his bike tires, but the van tires, too since I was surprised to discover FREE air&#8211; no quarters required.</p>
  279. <p>Gideon had a good time and was pretty good at riding the training wheel bike on the driveway. I sat and watched him for twenty minutes. Then Elsie came out and figured out how to operate the no-pedal tricycle Gideon had outgrown a few years ago. She had gone backwards on it before, but now she was going forwards, too! It was a day of cyclery for all the kids.</p>
  280. <p>we took Isaiah&#8217;s bike home with us so that he could practice some more this week and Tuesday I loaded him and his bike in the van and we drove a few blocks to a large church parking lot where he further developed his skill to the point where he learned how to consistently take off on his own and to turn well, if not sharply. There were no major crashes, though several minor ones, and big smiles on both our faces. When it was about time to leave I suggested a stunt! That was accepted with rough-and-tumble eagerness and Isaiah successfully rode off a four inch curb!</p>
  281. <p>Yesterday Gideon had mentioned that he wanted us to get his bike from Ruth&#8217;s folks&#8217; house, too. Today Ruth did and after lunch today I took both of them back to the same parking lot and they both rode around and around for about forty-five minutes. Gideon did a great job of riding around in his training-wheeled bike and Isaiah is quickly getting to be a pro. There were only a couple of non-trivial accidents today. </p>
  282. <p>The first one was when I was looking the other way, fooling with getting my ipod earbuds out of my pocket (I wanted to finish listening to the <a href="">Security Now</a> podcast episode #176 and the boys were mainly riding around saying things like &#8220;woo hoo&#8221; and &#8220;yee-haw&#8221; at wich I could nod and smile without actually having to hear the verbiage) and Isaiah rode smack-dab into me. He didn&#8217;t fall off and I was the only one to receive any pain, but it was not too big a deal. </p>
  283. <p>The other one was about three quarters of the way through the day&#8217;s riding. I turned to see him on the ground a split second after he fell, but evidently he went down face-first and cracked his noggin. There was a red spot the size of a silver dollar on his forehead and I thought his nose might be a bit scraped. He cried a bit, but got right back on and he and Gideon both nagged me into ten more minutes when time was up. I didn&#8217;t mind&#8211; they were having a blast, I was enjoying watching them, and it gave me time to finish listening to another <a href="">podcast</a> while I watched them.</p>
  284. <p>I am very proud of both my sons. Neither of them are perfect, but nobody is. Lately I have been working on telling them more often how proud I am of them and this week it has been easier than ever before. They are great boys and I am very glad they are mine.</p>
  285. ]]></content:encoded>
  286. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  287. <slash:comments>2</slash:comments>
  288. </item>
  289. <item>
  290. <title>2009 New Year&#8217;s Day!</title>
  291. <link></link>
  292. <comments></comments>
  293. <pubDate>Thu, 01 Jan 2009 17:53:26 +0000</pubDate>
  294. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Roger]]></dc:creator>
  295. <category><![CDATA[main]]></category>
  297. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  298. <description><![CDATA[Although it is a strictly arbitrary and totally cultural concept, New Year&#8217;s Day is deeply ingrained in our (specifically, US) society and one that has at least some mental impact on most people. A time for starting over, of new possibilities, and an opportunity to evaluate one&#8217;s current situation and determine how to improve it [&#8230;]]]></description>
  299. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>Although it is a strictly arbitrary and totally cultural concept, New Year&#8217;s Day is deeply ingrained in our (specifically, US) society and one that has at least some mental impact on most people.</p>
  300. <p>A time for starting over, of new possibilities, and an opportunity to evaluate one&#8217;s current situation and determine how to improve it going forward, it&#8217;s a unique opportunity.</p>
  301. <p>I have a number if improvements in mind for myself. I also have a number in mind for those around me. I could expound at great length on ways just about everybody I know could do things better. Strangely, very few exhibit an aura of receptivity when I do so&hellip; In light if such attitudes, I will do my best to focus my energies on self improvements.</p>
  302. <p>One of which, the most notable to readers of this website (all four of them- Hi, <a href="">Dad</a>!) will (hopefully) be the implementation of my perennial decree to actually write in a timely manner. I think part of that will b<br />
  303. e made easier by what will probably turn out to be the most important, beneficial, and powerful change I intend to make.</p>
  304. <p>For me, 2009 will be &#8216;The Year of Time and Task Management&#8217;. This is one of my biggest problems and if I can get it licked, or at least improve my approach to planning what to do when (and following through with the plan), I&#8217;m confident I&#8217;ll find myself getting over some humps that have been slow going.</p>
  305. <p>Actually, I guess I&#8217;ll amplify that a bit. 2009 will be &#8216;The Year of Time, Task, and budget Management&#8217;. It&#8217;s reather embarrassing to admit that for a person like me, with an analytical, technical, engineering-approach mindset my attitudes and behavior toward money is pathetically reactive and sloppy. I am even more confident that in this area a methodical, planned approach applied rigorously will yield amazing results. Of course, the danger in that area for me (the way my mind works) is to go so far that I have every bite of food calculated to the penny so that I can know, say, &#8220;I just had a snack- a glass of Coke and a bag of potato chips which cost 97&cent; and has depleted our weekly provisions by .32% but that&#8217;s right on schedule for today and I can do that once more before I go to bed&#8221;.</p>
  306. <p>My challenge in this area will be finding the right balance that gets the results we need without driving my family (or me) insane. I can get very &#8220;these aren&#8217;t K-Mart underwear&#8221; when I get into the implementation phase of a new plan. I have already created a set of linked spreadsheets to account for all budgetary items for this month and the next. I also am working figuring out how to incorporate <a href="">mind maps</a> into the budgetary system&#8211; or more specifically <a href="">FreeMind</a> mind maps since to me mind mapping == using FreeMind. I have never got much out of mind mapping on paper and have never found another mind mapping program that I liked (which I could afford).</p>
  307. <p>In mentioning FreeMind, I&#8217;ll also note that using it is one of the ways I am going to improve not only budgetary endeavors, but especially but in time/task planning. I have already been using it for that purpose at work for a year or two now with good success. Now I&#8217;m going to incorporate it fully into planning my activities in all areas of my life. They say, and I agree, that there is great value in simply writing something down in a list to help you order it in your mind and remember it. I am going take that wisdom and apply it computerically since I am more of a typing guy than a writing down, guy. One of the reasons I love using FreeMind so much is that it makes creating complicated, ordered lists and then rearranging, removing, or adding items in the list very easy. So another area&#8211; on the implementation level, at least&#8211; where I am going to improve myself is in increasing my use of FreeMind both in extent and sophistication.</p>
  308. <p class="note">NOTE: I guess I&#8217;m doing pretty good on my first day of 2009 here at; I just checked the text statistics for this document and I&#8217;ve written over 700 words (including this note) in about half an hour! I also guess that, though I don&#8217;t necessarily think of myself as &#8216;a geek&#8217; I probably qualify strongly in the minds of most folks since not only am I talking about one of my main New Year&#8217;s resolutions as instead of &#8216;eating less&#8217; or &#8216;excersizing more&#8217; to be increasing my use of a program that helps me do something most people have never heard of and barely grasp when they do, but I am judging my success at creating this website in characters-per-second.</p>
  309. <p>I have a number of other things knocking around in my head (which is safe because there is nothing for them to bump into) which you&#8217;ll probably be bored by in following days here, but right now I am going to demonstrate that my attitude and behaviors are changing by terminating this transmission to move on to the next phase of this morning&#8217;s activities- which are all planned out in a mind map, of course&#8211; five levels deep, in fact!</p>
  310. <p>This afternoon we&#8217;re going to Edwardsville, IL (about a 20 minute drive) where the closest <a href="">Borders</a> bookstore is located&#8211; where the boys and I all have gift cards from different gift events birthday, xmas, etc. that we need to spend before they start shrinking and Ruth has a good email club coupon to use. After that we&#8217;ll have an inexpensive treat somewhere along the lines of <a href="">Culver&#8217;s</a> or <a href="">Wendy&#8217;s</a> which actually is a treat around here since almost all of the Wendy&#8217;s around here closed and only a few have reopened in our area. After that, if all goes well, we might even take in a <a href="">movie</a> at the theater where we have discount club cards.</p>
  311. <p>So there, you go- Roger&#8217;s New Year&#8217;s Day 2009. A good day planned&#8211; a good year planned. All that&#8217;s is to make it so&hellip;</p>
  312. ]]></content:encoded>
  313. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  314. <slash:comments>1</slash:comments>
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