Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thank Heaven for Standard Time

I haven't been getting enough sleep. Thursday and Friday nights I didn't get to sleep until much closer to 2am than even midnight, not to speak of 10 or 11 pm, when I ought to. And, of course, Rachel obligingly woke up by seven both ensuing mornings. Arguments about the utility of Daylight Savings Time aside, I'm very glad that the change back to Standard was last night, because somehow Rachel slept until 7am Standard time after I was in bed asleep before 11pm Daylight Time. Not that I slept straight through, of course; she woke up with a bad dream at 2:30 and I woke up for the first time after that around 6 Standard time...

We have a hell of a lot of clocks, though... there are 3 in the bedroom that change themselves, not counting the cell phone; three in the kitchen that don't, though one has a button that does it; computer (changes itself), camera, and two analog clocks in the study; a tivo, the cable box (both change themselves) and my great grandfather's clock in the living room; three programmable thermostats (one has a button that changes it like the clock radio in the kitchen) through out the house; two more analogs, one in Rachel's room and one in the breakfast room. And I've probably forgotten at least one more analog, though it's battery might be dead.

I'm surprised that more of these clocks don't reset themselves, but with the change to the DST rules coming in '07, it's probably just as well. I know the Honda & truck clocks don't, but I'm not sure about the Prius. Guess we'll find out in a little bit... The Clock (my great grandfather's originally, then my grandmother's, now mine) is the hardest one; I can either pull it out of it's alcove, stop it, wait an hour, restart it, and then use the internal levers to adjust the time or I can advance the minute hand in 15 minute increments. Either one is a pain in the neck. I chose the latter method, and the clock is presently three hours ahead of actual time. Only 9 more hours to go to get it set right.

Rachel is trying to write all of the alphabet on a piece of paper to scan and email to Dawn. Very cute.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Cop Around When You Need One

Thursday was a pretty good day; Rachel made everything easy, I dropped off our video camera and a tape for our friend David to dupe our wedding video (we can't seem to find the VHS copy he gave us soon after the wedding), picked up Dawn's anniversary present (more on that later), and still got some work done (though I was having serious motivational problems).

Dawn's anniversary present is a bit of a story in and of itself. As this is our 5th anniversary and I already gave Dawn a pair of earrings (as a wedding present) and a matching necklace (as a 40th birthday/Rachel's birth present, with my parents and her father), I decided that it's time to get her a matching bracelet. I went back to our jeweler during a couple of lunches with co-workers at Barney's, which is next door to the jeweler's gallery. Although it's not really what I envisioned initially, it's fantastic and probably much better than my original plan. I had just been thinking of a single strand bracelet with 5 large Keshi pearls (grey, non-nucleated) and 5 ruby gem stones. Yes, there's a theme here.

The thing is that this would not have had much substance but would have been pretty expensive (which is not to say that what I got was cheap). What I wound up with is 5 strands of relatively small Keshi pearls and ruby beads with a platinum clasp that has 5 very small ruby gems embedded in it. She can wear it flat, with all the strands more or less in a row, or twisted so it becomes almost like a short rope. It's really great, and Jan outdid herself as far as I'm concerned. It's in a box & wrapped up, so I can't even look at it now, but it's great! I've decided to give it to her before our family dinner on the 5th (coincidence), though my friend Michelle thought I should give it to her at the dinner.

For dinner, Rachel and I went to a new burger place with Rachel's friend Anika & her father and sister. Well, it seems to be new to us. It's pretty good, though the menu's not as big as Barney's. The shake (chocolate) may have been better, actually. And everything was a little cheaper. I'd definitely go there again, though I think I still like Barney's better.

Rachel did really pretty well for being so tired. We had a little bit of trouble at the restaurant at first, because I made the mistake of ordering the shake with dinner, rather than after, but Anika and Teah had theirs already. We'd taken so long to get there because of dropping off the video camera that they'd had to go ahead and order. I probably would have done the same thing, and they'd just gotten the food when we arrived. She really should have had a bath that night, but she was practically ready for bed when we got home, so I didn't push my luck.

When I was about to go to bed, around 10:30, I decided that since the house cleaners were coming Friday morning I ought to go through the two weeks of mail left in the basket (I pull out the important stuff along the way) and get the junk in the recycling and maybe even put the catalogs and magazines somewhere else. So there I am sitting on the floor by the front door wearing only shorts when, right about 11, I think, I heard a noise and then a car alarm went off. Since I don't know what the Prius alarm sounds like yet, I jumped up and went to the front window where I discovered that it was actually our Honda. Great. Grabbed the remote, turned it off and went out on the porch to see what I could see.

Nothing. Oh, wait... three people going around the corner, one of them on a bike. Well, maybe I should grab a jacket and a flash light and go make sure there's nothing actually wrong with the car - the alarms occasionally go off for no apparent reason. Actually, I realize that's not so true with the Honda - it's the truck that has a 'glass break sensor', aka microphone listening for the ultra-high pitched noise of a piece of metal or stone scraping glass. The truck alarm has been going off so much because of twigs falling from our tree onto the truck that the alarm is typically off when the thing is at home.

Anyway, I went out, barefoot, to check on it, and lo and behold, the front passenger window is broken. Lovely. As I'm looking at the damage and wondering whether they stole anything, who should be driving by but a Berkeley police officer! So I flagged her down and told her someone broke in the car in the last minute and that though I didn't see them do it, three people walked around the corner, one on a bike. She went after them and then a few minutes later two more officers rolled up while I was getting ready to put a plastic bag over it. They asked some questions, wrote down various bits and had me wait to put the bag on in case the other officer wanted to have an ID tech out to take finger prints...

The other officer (and yet two more, making at total of five involved!) found people matching my description (as limited as it was) a couple of blocks away on a different street, clearly heading to the park near our house. One of the officers took me up to see whether I could say anything more definitive about them. At first, he was going to have me sit in back of his patrol car, but I took one look (imagine the divider for a cab; now make it substantially thicker and closer to the back seat) and said "I don't know if I'm going to fit back there", so he moved his stuff there and let me sit up front. The other officer who had come to the scene stayed at the house (outside, but with the door unlocked) just on the off chance Rachel woke up, or really just to make sure nothing happened since she was in there alone.

So, up we went, about 3 blocks away. One white guy, two black, one actually a woman I found out a little later. Dressed in jeans and large jackets; the white guy also had a red bandana on his head. They definitely looked as if they could be the people who were going around the corner, but even if I'd been certain of that, I still didn't actually see them do anything. It turns out that they're homeless and have been hanging around that park for several weeks (according to someone who lives up on the street where the cops found them). It further turns out that the officers had just turned them out of the park shortly before they broke into my car. I'm quite certain they did, as there was no one else around, but there was no further evidence. The woman will go to jail on some outstanding traffic warrant, but they cut the other two loose.

When they took me back to the house, I put the bag in the window. The main officer came back and we talked more about it. She actually pointed out as well that I should open the car door and trap the bag with it as much as possible so as to avoid relying on tape any more than necessary. It worked quite well, actually.

Duane commented that there must not have been much going on in Berkeley that night if five officers got involved in a car break-in with nothing stolen. I don't think it's terribly common for them to hear 'someone broke into my car in the last minute' as compared to 'someone broke into my car sometime in the last three days since I parked it there after bringing home the Prius'. I realize now that the noise I heard right before the car alarm went off was actually the window breaking although it wasn't a shattering noise; more like a pop, I think.

This makes twice recently there's been a Berkeley police officer around when I "needed" one. When I was test driving a Prius a couple of weeks ago, we were in slow traffic on Grove & someone coming the other direction cut us all off by turning across our paths. I had to slam on the brakes, and a pickup may have narrowly managed to stop without rear-ending me. A moment later, I see a police car come out from behind us with lights on and go around the corner after the guy. Go get 'im!!

Anyway, I took the car to our mechanic around the corner & he's going to park it inside over the weekend and should be able to have it vacuumed out and a new window in place by Tuesday, I hope. I guess I'll tell Dawn about it after she gets home; certainly not while she's on vacation. In a way I don't want to tell her at all because I'm sure she'll start ranting about moving to Danville and becoming a republican...

Clearly, between the car story and the anniversary present information, I'll be saving this as a draft until after I've told Dawn about the car & given her the present...

After picking Rachel up at school yesterday, we went to the store to get a few groceries and then went home to make dinner before the babysitter came over. Dan is in town, staying with John having a guys' weekend with Jim; they're playing lots of video games, looking at "fucked up shit" on the 'Net, which includes finding apparently true stuff like this, and just generally behaving like care-free bachelors.

Rachel helped me make mac & cheese for her and we sent an email to Dawn including a section narrated by Rachel. It sounds as if Dawn and Elisabeth are having a really great time. I know Dawn misses us and I'm sure it's fairly hard for her, not having been away from Rachel this long, but I'm really glad they went. Dawn said she hasn't worn anything more than a bathing suit or shorts & a tank top the whole time they've been there.

I had a blast with the guys. They've been talking about making a little movie, but I'm not really all that interested in being in it. Not entirely sure why. It also probably requires a fair amount of time. Jim's thinking of a whole day of shooting to come up with a few minutes of actual footage. A short movie, then. We went out for Chinese at a mediocre restaurant, hung out, talked, laughed, found more fucked up shit on the web, etc.

After having a long talk with the sitter about college (she's doing applications) and cleaning up the kitchen a little, I didn't get to bed until well after midnight. Luckily, Rachel didn't come get me until almost 7. I'm tired.

Rachel's still not had a bath because I went to get together with Dan, John & Jim, so I probably need to do that this morning. That statement is completely true, but only if you read "probably need to" to mean "absolutely, positively must".

Oh, Rachel...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What's the Plural of Prius?

We've now had the Prius for almost 48 hours. It's the silver, package #6, which means it's probably the most common color and has useful things like a bluetooth speaker phone and the smart keyless entry system/alarm, occasionally useful (& always cool) things like voice activated DVD navigation and basically useless things like the "HomeLink" system.

Dawn sat in it for a few minutes on Tuesday night, and then got a ride to BART in it on Wednesday morning. I promised that it would still be clean (at least inside) and have "that new car smell" when she got home. Speaking of the new car smell, when Rachel climbed in for the first time, I asked her if she smelled it and explained that it was called the new car smell, so now every time she gets in, she says something. It's quite cute.

Cool stuff:
  • Bluetooth - once the phone was connected via bluetooth, I've been able to make or receive calls easily; on incoming calls, the phone vibrates on my belt as normal, but then the display screen shows the incoming call information and I can press a button on either the steering wheel or the LCD to answer it; for outgoing, I either have to program or transfer the number while not in motion or use the phone to dial, but I am hoping that I can actually use the voice dial for the phone through the car.
  • DVD Navigation - this is not really very important most of the time, because when I'm driving around here it's not really a help, but it's pretty cool anyway; I was a little disappointed on the way home from the dealer when I took a right/left/right to bypass an intersection where it wanted me to turn right and it didn't tell me to take the extra left and right I introduced, but I realize now that's because I was too close to the right turn it wanted me to take and it didn't notice. It did continue to give me directions when I approached what would have been the next instruction (left onto my street). Yesterday, when I was coming to work it offered me three routes, and I took an entirely different one; once I was off the routes it offered, it did, in fact, identify a new route and give me directions for that.
  • CVT - the continuously variable transmission is pretty nice; between the gas engine and the electric motor, there's a lot of torque and a fair amount of power available, so it's got some pickup, but it is really nice that it doesn't have the automatic-transmission-lurch when changing gears, because there aren't discrete gears (in theory). I'm not sure exactly how it works, although I seem to remember seeing a drawing that showed it with a spherical "gear set", though I'm sure it wouldn't be called that (I'm just thinking of the gears on my bike).
  • Smart Key - it's very nice that I basically don't have to take the key out of my pocket once I lock the door to the house in the morning; I do have to touch the handle on the front door to get it unlocked so I can open the back door to let Rachel in the car (I could certainly use the unlock button on the keyfob - which isn't really a fob as much as the key itself)
Complaints so far:
  • Something about how I was sitting while driving up made my neck hurt a little; I am not sure what yet, and it hasn't happened on any of the obviously much shorter drives around the area since (I haven't been more than about 7 miles from home, probably more like 4 as the crow flies, since getting back with the car).
  • I wish it didn't have a tape deck. It's just silly.
  • The car should lock itself if all the doors or closed and the key walks away for more than a few minutes; maybe it does and I just haven't figured it out yet.
Things I haven't figured out:
  • how to transfer all of the numbers in my phone to the car at the same time (I know how to do them one at a time, but I think that's a limitation of the phone)
  • how to browse the phone's list from the car screen so I don't have to transfer them all
  • how to use the phone's voice dialing from the car so I don't have to transfer them all (though then I have to program voice recordings for each one)
  • when the keyless entry system unlocks all the doors and when it only opens the driver door
  • whether the CD player can handle CD-Rs with mp3 music on them
  • whether any of the iPod connectors can be hooked up to the stereo
I just created IDs on green hybrid (I'll add the link to our car later, once I actually have the first tank in) and to track our mileage, which is about 42.9 mpg so far with about 220 miles on it.

I park in the less obnoxious don't-ding-my-car section now, which is all the way to the left of a row of spaces. As I sit in my office, including the one that is leaving, I can see 2 or 3 Prius IIs and a Prius 1. Then there's mine and the red one I am parked behind... Lots of Prii, but this is the Berkeley area.

In other news, the final step in the basement project is on hold because the shelving we ordered is on backorder. It'll supposedly be shipped by next Friday. I'm going to try to spend some time in the next day or so moving everything back into the basement so that we can make the guest bedroom truly habitable since Dan will be with us for most of next week and then Dawn's family will be in town for that following weekend.

Rachel was up at 6:45ish this morning. We did quite well today, I think. Got out of the house by about 8:30 with no problems, though I didn't really have breakfast. I need to clean up the kitchen before bed tonight, but I gave her breakfast and made lunch for her. She's been pretty cooperative and was very excited to cross of the first day of Dawn's trip and open the first of two cards Dawn left for her. The other is for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zen and The Art of Single Parenting

OK, it's probably not really an art, and I haven't been at it long, but I'm acting as single parent for a week. A whole week. It's the longest Dawn's actually been away from Rachel, well, ever. So far, no big deal, but it's only the first night. Dawn and I got up early and the 17 y/o down the street came to be in the house with Rachel for a little while so I could take Dawn to the train. She's off to Mexico for a week in Puerto Vallarta with my cousin, you see.

Surprisingly, Rachel was already awake by the time I got back at about 6:20am. Yeni gave her some cereal, and she proceeded then to eat a whole mini bagel and a bunch of grapes after I came home. She made things quite easy and actually asked to go to school quite a while before we would normally be on our way.

At school, she's working on addition, multiplication, and writing. She talks about writing in her journal, and has even brought a couple of them home - basically a log of a couple of things she worked on each day. Sometimes she traces letters one of the teachers writes, and sometimes she actually writes them all herself. Usually, I'm sure that the teachers tell her how to spell most words, certainly. It's a little iffy whether she's actually getting anything with the math yet, but she's certainly progressing, and it's clear that she is working on it. I really need to keep some of the journals...

At some point today, I found a web cam in PV. It's of the beach, evidently near downtown. I am hoping that I can manage to coordinate with Dawn so that they can find where the camera is and write a message to Rachel in the sand. It looks as if they'll probably have to go for about 12-15 foot high letters, or so, in order for us to make them out in the picture. They found an Internet cafe where access is only a buck an hour, so I reminded Dawn what her Yahoo ID and password are. I don't imagine they'll check it more than once a day, if that.

The Prius is really nice. It has a surprising amount of space - more head, leg & shoulder room than in my Pathfinder, and I love the bluetooth speakerphone. The navigation system is not going to be all that useful most of the time, because we are not likely to drive it out of the area all that often. Of course, we're going to Inverness for our anniversary (48 miles, according to Google, which does seem to have the address, though it is remote) and Mendocino for Thanksgiving (around 160 miles - I don't have the exact address of the house my parents rented). It'll be interesting to see whether the nav system has those addresses, and whether it's directions turn out to be correct. The voice control is a little spotty. There were several times when I told it '70 degrees' and it announced that it was setting the temperature to 80. Or, for some reason, it had a lot of trouble understanding 'Stop Guidance'. I need to figure out the touch controls to make it shut up... Also how to turn on the defrosters!

Rachel's already in bed; she started saying she was sleepy and wanted to go to bed at around 7:30. I just hope this doesn't mean she's going to be up at 6.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Truck, Train, & Automobile

As I type this, I am sitting on Amtrak 712 from Emeryville to Fresno. I'm going to buy our new Prius. Why am I going to Fresno to get it? Because they don't seem to have a significant waiting list there. All the dealers in the Bay Area have waiting lists of anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 months, depending on which dealer you call and whether you're looking for a specific package and/or color. The Fresno dealer actually seems to have 4 white ones that they're having trouble selling. The one we're getting is silver and comes with package 6, which means it has DVD navigation (need to find out how often they come out with new DVDs and how much they cost), bluetooth, alarm, 6-disc 9-speaker stereo, etc. I can hardly wait.

I originally started talking to Fresno about the Highlander Hybrid after the Berkeley dealer told me that the Highlander Hybrid is allocated to the dealers according to total truck sales. I'm a little surprised by that, but the knowledge is turning out to be helpful to me. She said she's not expecting to be able to get any for new people on the waiting list for a year, but that I should call Fairfield because they sell more trucks. I called Fairfield, and they have a short waiting list. I called Fresno, and they had 2 sitting on the lot. The Highlander's pretty expensive, though (about 8k more than the Prius before taxes & fees), and it only seems to get about 28 mpg combined.

I have my iPod & laptop with me for the train ride, so I'm able to listen to tunes (lots of KFOG Live From the Archives) while doing work (even without a network connection, which was an issue when I was in NY last week). Then, for the drive home, I have some CDs, including stand-up discs from Robin Williams and George Carlin. I don't think I've ever actually listened to either all the way through.

Last night, we got a pretty good example of the difference all the insulation is making. I still think that the stuff we did to the basement is making the biggest difference for Rachel's room and has cut breezes a bunch, but the floor insulation is clearly helping with comfort too, as the floor's just a little warmer. Dawn was walking around barefoot Sunday morning, amazingly enough. I was looking for rebate information (for the floor insulation we did last week and the wall insulation we're planning on) and found a PG&E brochure online that says, among other things, that up to 25% of heating costs are lost through uninsulated raised floors. That's more than I expected, to be honest, but the goals of the insulation is three-fold: comfort, cost savings, and environmental. As with the solar panels, the cost savings on units of energy will probably only increase over time as the prices of gas & electric go up.

I got a call back from McHale Insulation, out of Concord, about the bid they gave us last January for blowing insulation into the walls of the main house. The addition ought to have batts of insulation in them already, but they can check to be sure later. They're going to come out 11/15 to do the work and are actually more than $1000 less than the guy who's been doing most of our insulation so far. Their bid for the floor & basement work was much higher than his, though.

I also have both Sears and L.J. Kruse coming out next month to do estimates for replacing our main furnace. It's somewhere about 20 years old, based on the fact that it has a lighting instruction sheet with a 1984 copyright. They certainly can't have put that on before 1984, and I imagine they most likely reprinted it within a couple of years after that, so that makes it no more than 21 years old, and probably no less than about 18. From what I've read and heard, it's being from the mid-80s means it's about 60% efficient, so replacing it with a new 93 or 97% efficient model will save us a lot on our gas bill.

I've also been hearing about hyronic forced air furnaces, which I'd never heard of before. Evidently, these use hot water from the water heater to heat air and then blow the air through the ducts just the way a conventional forced air furnace does. According to the guy who first told me about them, they use 30% less gas than conventional furnaces. I need to see what Sears & Kruse say about them, if anything. I may certainly be missing something, but it seems to me that if a new conventional forced air furnace is 93% efficient compared to, say, 65% on the furnace we have, that's a 43% drop in gas usage. If hydronic is then 30% more efficient than the conventional, that would mean we'd be going from 100% to 57% to 40% of our current efficiency. I am vaguely concerned about whether water in the furnace would stagnate or anything if it isn't being rotated regularly even when the furnace is not in use. Will have to see about that.

What else do we have to do? Solar panels are coming, although I haven't completely decided on what to do. We have Sustainable Spaces coming out next month to do a whole house inspection. I imagine they'll want to talk about sealing the envelope (seriously, it's called a building envelope) further, and we might talk about a new furnace and new, possibly tankless, water heater (need to see what Kruse & Sears have to say about that as well). I am very interested to see their whole report.

We have one window to replace for the moment, in the laundry room; I'd consider replacing the ones in the downstairs bedroom & our with double paned, but if we're going to do any remodelling back there, that work would be wasted, so I guess we need to figure that out first. I have some more fixtures I want to put flourescents in, if they'll fit, and I'd like to put photosensors on the front porch lights, if the 40W appliance bulbs are small enough to fit in the fixture with the photosensor adapter.

This train ride's been interesting. It only took about 20 minutes to get used to the occasional swaying, and while there's sort of a baseline bumpiness, it's not jerky. I got a much different view of some of the freeway-side stuff on the way out to Richmond than I see from the freeway. And there are definitely some wierdos, but I think the best bit has been seeing a guy get off the train in Merced who looked like a quintessential hobo from Jack London or Utah Phillips' stories. Tall, older guy, probably mid-60s. Grey hair, bushy beard, huge backpack, red flannel shirt. Oh, and an iPod (inferred from the white earphone cord).

Speaking of Utah Phillips, what better to listen to on MY iPod than a train than his music & stories? This is really quite cool, though the presence of only one Utah Phillips album on my iPod reminds me I need to get more of his stuff on disc. We'll have to take Rachel on a train ride soon, she was so excited about going to get the car, which we were planning on doing last Saturday. Maybe we can make a really cool outing of it by going for a couple of hour each way ride when Dawn's family is in town for our anniversary?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Insulation Step 3

I might have mentioned that, early last month, we had insulation installed into the joist bays of the laundry room's exterior wall and on the crawlspace side of all the walls between the crawlspace and the laundry room & stairway, including under the stairs. At the same time, they filled all the through-holes between the crawlspace & laundry room and the crawlspace and main house using foam and some kind of caulk. The combination of all this stuff will not only provide insulation but also cut breezes.

I'm not sure of the R-value of all that insulation. The stuff in the exterior wall is made from recycled blue jeans and looks it; we used that because it's exposed and I don't want to cover it. The insulation on the wall to the crawlspace is pink fiberglass; I think it's R-13. They also used the blue jean insulation to seal the gap at the top of the crawlspace wall. For some reason, that wall gets up between the joists, but doesn't actually get to the sub-floor above. Don't know why, but it allows a huge amount of air in when there's a breeze outside.

We noticed a difference right away, mainly in Rachel's room, which is right above the laundry, but also in the basement in general. The real proof of it will come later in the winter when it's cold and windy, I suppose, but we got a real example of it while I was doing the basement renovation work. I left the basement window and door closed over night, and Rachel's room was essentially the same temperature as the hall outside it when we got up. When I went down and opened the door & window and turned the fan on to ventilate the laundry room, though, the temperature in her room dropped noticeably in less than an hour.

Today we had the same insulation guy come out and put R-19 fiberglass insulation under the floors of the main house except for Rachel's room. I don't want to cut the height in the laundry room, even between the joists, or I'd probably go ahead and put insulation in there. I'm also not sure that would really be worth so much, since we're doing so much insulation and we're closing off the breezes, I think the downstairs will be much warmer. Anyway, the laundry machines (when we run them - we're doing a lot fewer loads since we got them) and the water heater provide some heat in there. I'm also contemplating the notion of putting a small hole into the heating duct that goes through the laundry room so that it will actually be heated by the main house furnace. We'll see whether it seems necessary within the next couple of months.

So far, since we bought the house, we've increased the insulation (1) in the attic to R-30 with blown-in cellulose, (2) done the laundry room and crawl-space, and (3) under the floor. Still need to do the walls...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Two Customers on One Trip for once

I'm on the road again. This is just the third trip to a customer this year, and most likely the last. There's some chance I'll be back out here (NY) one more time this year and a time or two in the first few months of next year. This time, I'm here for two days of meetings with M and a day with O. My next few visits will most likely be for M, J, and B. Assuming J and B actually ever sign the PSO services deals.

Last Wednesday, 4 execs from M were out to see us; mostly it seems to have been a junket - just a chance to bring them out and spend some money on them. I think it all comes out of Sales' budget. At least, I hope so. The most substantive part of it, as far as I can tell, was my part in which I, with a little bit of backup from Patrice, discussed the major options for how to proceed.

At this point, they have two systems on our 6.1 product, one for each of two divisions. They need to accomplish a few things, in no particular order: get both divisions to 6.5.1 (our version with an HTML client), merge the two back into one environment, convert their users from Java to HTML, implement ER for their third (and final, I think) division who have to have HTML, and implement PR, eventually for everyone.

The only dependencies in this stack of work is that there has to be a 6.5.1 system available to implement the third division's HTML ER and to implement PR, which we won't deploy on 6.1 Java any longer. The thing that finally convinced them to go with my recommended option was when I pointed out that creating a third system for that third division would give us a 6.5.1 platform for HTML ER and for PR essentially immediately but that they aren't going to be ready to implement the third division for at least a couple of months, because they don't have the requirements together.

The best part of it was that I turned them to my option and convinced them to go with it in front of Patrice's boss. She was quite complimentary and I'm very glad that she noticed.

Rachel was very cute today. I called, I think it was from Denver, and she told me that she had been reassuring Baby (one of her dolls) that Daddy is coming home. We've been talking about this trip for a few days already, to make sure she wouldn't be surprised by it. She's gotten a lot more cooperative lately, which has been really nice. It's especially true when we make a particular point of asking her something nicely, but even when we aren't so exquisitely nice about it, she's still much more likely to go along than she was just a few weeks ago. I know there are phases, but it's a drag when she's constantly digging in and being contrary and stubborn. As if I don't know where the stubborn streak comes from!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Party All The Time...

While sending an email to Daniel, I just realized that I never said anything about Rachel's birthday. She turned four the week before last, and boy does she "get it". She completely understands that her birthday is a big deal (at least to everyone else, which makes it a big deal for her) and that she'll get presents and have a party (or parties).

In fact, this year she had FOUR parties. That's right. Four. "For a four-year-old", she would say. God help us if she's having parties based on her age in the future...

The first party was a small one, actually on her birthday, with a few friends from school - when we were talking about this one, she kept saying that she wanted to invite Louise, one of the neighbors. The problem is that we wanted to keep it small, since it was a week day night, and inviting Louise means inviting the rest of the neighborhood, of whom Rachel is one of 13 kids under the age of 10. She didn't really understand about having a small weeknight party and a large weekend day party (as opposed to the concept of having two parties, which she also fully understood and was very very pleased with), so we eventually just didn't invite Louise and it wound up not being a big deal. Anika, Tessa, Xin-Xin, Jesse, and Chimi. Tessa and Rachel were the first to walk out the back and see the Disney princess (it's inescapable, so don't even try) table cloth and cardboard castle. This led to much shrieking. A fabulous time was had by all.

The second was a family party Friday evening. Short, to the point, and not chaotic. Dawn's father came up for the weekend, which was nice.

The third was the neighborhood party (including Louise, finally) on Saturday afternoon. Scheduled for 2-4, it lasted past 6 because the kids were having such a great time & every one is so comfortable in that mode. We often have impromptu BBQs, block parties, etc., just because we all happen to be home. It happens a lot. We have a picture from when we'd been living here for about 3 months and the next door neighbors brought a couch they were thinking of getting rid of down to the street ... four neighborhood mothers sitting on the sofa with their respective children climbing/sitting/lying (depending on ages, which were all under 2 at the time) around. Cupcakes from Love at First Bite. Crafts. Climbing. Flipping (which involves my 6'4" height & long arms). And shrieking. Always shrieking with girls.

Finally, a week later, she had her fourth, which is a party the school throws on the last Friday of each month for any kids whose birthday falls in the month. It's really quite cute; everyone sits in a circle and each kid walks once for each year around a candle (the sun) with placards for the months around it, carrying a small globe while a parent reads things about the child in the first year. Then everyone goes outside for snacks the children helped the teachers make. No sugar (they use stevia instead - 0 carbs, 0 calories, natural). No dried fruit. No other junk.

Luckily, her next birthday is actually a year away, even though she said repeatedly that "after a week" she'd be 5.