Browse Month: May 2015

Good old days

I found an old box in the back of my closet… it was full of a stack of old papers from my childhood. I think Mom gave it to me the last time I was visiting Missouri, because she was tired of storing it in the basement. There were some real gems in there.

For example, my life history as I saw it at age 9:

jeff-life-history

Apparently the big events in my life were:

1972 – born
1973 – moved
1974 – stitches
1976 – brother born
1978 – kindergarten
1979 – moved
1980 – broke collarbone
1981 – swingset

It’s funny to see that I failed to mention either of my sisters being born, but apparently Thom’s birth was momentous. Or maybe I couldn’t think of anything else for 1976? And I guess the swingset in our backyard was a pretty big deal, since it made the list in 1981.

Next in the exhibit is some pencil drawing that must’ve been part of a unit about perspective in art class.

jeff-perspective

My favorite part here is the catchy billboard slogan “For a toothy smile, use toothpaste!” I’m not sure why Colgate or Crest never used something like that.

Finally, behold the reason why I never became a poet.

jeff-poetry

At this point in my young life I was apparently over the excitement of Thom’s birth, and lashed out at the horrible injustice of him breaking my best model. Grrr.

Paintball

Last night I took Alex and Zack paintballing with a group from church. Despite threatening weather, it proved to be a nice cool evening in the mountains and we had a good time shooting our friends.

paintball

After a two-year hiatus from paintball (because no one could ever seem to organize a game) it was nice to get out and collect a few bruises and war stories.

Swamped

Every week we get together at work to have lunch and discuss the affairs of the company. The tradition is called the “State of the Zing” and is a good way to find out how everyone is doing on projects, share things that are coming up, and generally prepare for the week.

Lately we’ve been going around the table and giving a self-assessment of how busy each of us feel. This is a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “I have nothing to do and plan to nap all week” and 10 being “I’m so busy on projects I probably won’t get to sleep this week”. No one’s ever been a 1, and likewise no one’s ever claimed a 10.

But today as we went around, everyone was at 9 or above (9.2, 9.21, that sort of thing). We’re completely swamped with projects and client requests, and doing our best to stay afloat and deliver work on schedule. It made me think of The Princess Bride, where Prince Humperdinck is talking to Count Rugen:

swamped-1

“I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.”

To which the count replies:

swamped-2

“Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”

Unfortunately rest isn’t going to help us finish our client projects, but at least we’re not planning murders at Zing.

Grandma and grandpa

We had a great visit with mom and dad this weekend, as they came out for Alex’s graduation. Before they hit the road this morning, they posed for a picture with their awesome grandkids.

gma-gpa-1

We followed with a “goofy picture” but I guess grandpa doesn’t have a goofy face (or if he does, it looks remarkably like his normal face).

gma-gpa-2

One down, two to go

Well, Alex did it! Graduation was last Saturday.

It’s been raining pretty much all month, so the morning started out pretty threatening. The skies were completely overcast, it was chilly, and there was a slight drizzle. The school had a Plan B to have the graduation ceremony indoors, but no one really wanted to do that, so they braved the weather and made the call to go outdoors.

Here’s Alex heading past the choir and band to take his seat:

graduation-1

Here’s what the overall area looked like… notice the looming grey skies.

graduation-2

Miraculously, the sun came out for a while, and eventually the clouds dissipated a bit. The drizzle stopped and it was actually quite nice– not too hot, but not too cold either.

I couldn’t get a good shot of Alex receiving his diploma from the principal, but here he is heading offstage, diploma in hand:

graduation-3

Afterward, he was a pretty happy guy. It was really nice that mom and dad could come out to support him.

graduation-4

He was pretty decked-out. The large medallion is for “co-valedictorian”… I’d never heard of that, but there were around 30 seniors who finished high school with a GPA of 4.0 or higher, and they were all counted as co-valedictorians. The teal cords are for his STEM degree– all of the tough math and engineering courses paid off. The gold cords are for National Honor Society. And the red-and-gold cords are for completing the honors program, which included a lot of honors-level classes, extracurricular activities, and community service hours. Impressive.

And here are the proud parents:

graduation-5

One down, two to go…

Blast from the past

Here’s a sharp-dressed guy.

jeff-jen

No, that’s not my first wife or something. Dirk sent me this photo tonight– he must have found it in a dusty box in the basement or something. It’s his wife Jennifer just before their wedding. I was a groomsman but apparently I hadn’t yet put on my tux. She was being all beautiful and smiley for the photographer, and suddenly suggested that I join her for a shot. What can I say– I’m just so photogenic.

Preggers

So for many years, whenever a woman asks me the mysterious question “Guess what?”, my glib response is always “You’re pregnant?” I find that most of the time it elicits a chuckle, but in general I’m wrong. Well, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever been right.

Until Saturday.

Here’s my conversation with a friend (who will remain nameless for now):

preggers

Hah! Nailed it!

Ripstik wheels

Zack’s had a Ripstik for several years now. It’s one of those funky skateboard-like things with two wheels:

ripstik

He loves it and zips all over the neighborhood. Well, he finally decided it might be time to get some new wheels for it, because the old ones had basically worn down to a nub. We ordered the wheels, and the difference is pretty staggering:

ripstik-wheels

The one on the right has worn through to whatever weird filler material they stuff inside. With the new wheels, he should be ready for another few years of zipping around.

The new lawnmower

Our old lawnmower was self-propelled, but the motor had given out years ago so it was basically a push mower that weighed about 15 pounds more than it needed to. Laralee finally got tired of heaving it around the yard, as well as listening to Zack complain about how heavy it was when he used it. We had a friend who was looking for a mower, so it seemed like an opportune time to donate it.

After extensive research online and at the local hardware stores, Laralee found a push mower that was highly rated and reasonably priced. It’s a little Honda, and since we have three Honda cars I guess we might as well continue the trend.

It’s been raining nearly continuously for weeks, so as soon as the sun broke through and the grass dried enough, Zack went out to give it a whirl.

zack-lawnmower

I’m sure he’s excited about all of the opportunities he’ll have to use it this summer…

The end of indoor league

Tonight was the final week of indoor ultimate. We got smoked in the first round of the tournament (against the top-ranked team who was 26-1 for the season). Our second game in the consolation round was a ton of fun, and even though we ended up with a 20-18 loss, everyone had a good time. I really enjoyed playing indoor, although it’s very different from the outdoor game I’ve been playing for almost 25 years.

Here’s the obligatory team photo:

raf-eye-elle

Thanks for a great season, guys!

IRS scam

Yesterday I received two calls (neither of which I answered) with a message that said it was “very important” that I call the “IRS hotline” to talk about an “urgent tax matter”. Whoa. What could it be?

I’m kidding. I know exactly what it was: a scam.

The callback number was 302-251-8071, which is somewhere in Delaware. These guys should at least get a 202 number, which would be Washington DC and a little more believable. From what I understand, the scam typically works by telling the victim that there’s a serious problem with their tax returns from some years past, and they owe the IRS tens of thousands of dollars. Apparently there’s occasionally a vague threat of legal action and jail time if they don’t pay immediately. Of course, few people have that kind of money, so the scammers explain that they can make a partial payment immediately via a bank transfer or by loading up pre-paid credit cards, and that’ll resolve the “urgent tax matter”. Anyone who believes it then gives them a bunch of money– often hundreds or even a few thousand dollars.

Just because I was in a mood, I called the number today. Sure enough, some guy with an Indian accent answered and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I received a message about an URGENT TAX MATTER and I wanted to get it resolved. What’s going on?

Him: Hello sir. Who am I speaking with? [Since he has no idea who’s calling back on this number]

Me: Who am I? Don’t you know who I am? You’re the IRS.

Him: Is this (undecipherable name that sounded like “Doom”)?

Me: Are you asking if I’m Mr. Doom?

Him: Yes.

Me: That’s a great name but it’s not me.

Him: Is your address (undecipherable street) in Boston, Massachusetts?

Me: Hmm, no, that’s not my address either. This is strange.

Him: Please ignore our message. Good bye. [He hung up quickly]

So I’m wondering if these guys are using public-record information (like the Boston phone book) and calling people at random. Then, with their name and address, they can sound official and scare the person into paying to avoid jail or whatever. But when I called the number, they had no context and couldn’t identify me, so they quickly dropped the call.

In any case, I’ve received plenty of letters from the IRS for my businesses and so forth, and I know the IRS only communicates by postal mail and would never call and expect me to call some random number in Delaware to resolve a tax matter. In addition, when you call the IRS, the person who answers will always give their name and some ID number… you’d think these scammers would at least act like that to be more realistic. Sheesh. Amateurs.

So if you have a few spare minutes and want to have some fun, call 302-251-8071 and pretend to be all worried about your URGENT TAX MATTER.

Truckers truckers everywhere

I was reading an article this afternoon and found an interesting infographic. This shows the most popular profession by state:

jobs-by-state

Four states, including Colorado, have more software developers than people in other careers. Primary school teachers are tops in six other states. Five states are popular for secretaries. And an astounding twenty-eight states list truck driver as their most popular profession. I find that pretty interesting.

Martian sunset

Here’s a cool sunset picture:

martian-sunset

But wait– why is it so blue? Shouldn’t a sunset be more orange and red?

Yes it should. But this is on freakin’ Mars!

This photo was taken in mid-April by the Curiosity rover on Mars, somewhere near Gale Crater. The rover is nearing its 1,000-th day on the Martian surface and continues to do cool stuff.

Man, I love science.

Ahh, DMV, how I despise thee

Since I couldn’t schedule an appointment at the DMV, today I decided to drop in and renew my license. Interestingly, the last time I was at the DMV was to get a marriage license in 1996. The last time I went through the process of getting a driver’s license was in 1995 after moving to Colorado. In those days, licenses were valid for ten years and I could renew it online. So I’ve renewed it twice online, and didn’t have to see the inside of the DMV for almost twenty years.

I arrived at the building at precisely 8:00am, when they open. There was a line of at least 40 people– maybe up to 50– standing on the sidewalk waiting for the doors to open. Holy cow. I turned right around and headed to the office.

After a couple of hours, I went back with the hope that the initial crowd had thinned. Indeed, there were maybe 20 people waiting for their ticket number to be called. I used the little touchscreen device near the door to get my ticket, and compared it with where they were in the queue. The ticket machine was nice enough to tell me the expected wait time: one hour and eleven minutes. I hung around for maybe ten minutes to see if perhaps the estimation algorithm was wrong, but in those ten minutes I think one person was called. I walked out and went back to work at the office again.

Just shy of an hour later, I came back to the DMV. I figured I had maybe 10-15 minutes to wait. Alas, I had just missed my number being called. The number right after it was shown on the big board in the office. Argh. But surely I could point out that I had just been missed, and jump back in the queue?

I waited for a few minutes until one of the workers was free, and showed her my ticket. “I just came back and noticed that my number was called a few minutes ago. Would it be okay if I go next?”

She looked at me with a look that only a government bureaucrat could have. “Sir, you’ll need to take a new number. But don’t worry, the line is moving quickly today.”

Quickly! Ha ha! Thanks, helpful DMV lady!

Dejected, I went back to the touchscreen and printed another ticket. Estimated wait time: 38 minutes. Okay, it’s not the end of the world, and I suppose I kind of cheated by leaving the office for an hour, so I settled in to wait.

An hour passed.

I noticed on the big board that the estimated wait time for new customers coming into the office was now 1:20. As I watched with growing impatience, I spotted several ways their process is just frightfully inefficient. But then again, these people have absolutely no incentive whatsoever to speed up the process. They work their eight-hour shifts and go home, and frankly they probably don’t really care how many people they serve or how long those people have to wait.

Finally I was called to the counter. I presented all of the right paperwork and finished in about 90 seconds. No kidding. Yay, I was finished! No, wait, I had to go to another area to wait for them to take my picture for the new license.

45 minutes passed.

The woman who had been manning the camera station while I was waiting earlier had simply vanished. Maybe she was on a lunch break, or really had to go to the bathroom, or was just in a back office crying as she contemplated her career choice. Regardless, the line of people waiting for their pictures continued to grow. Eventually a guy standing next to me commented about how the line of people waiting to do the paperwork portion had shrunk to almost nothing, while those waiting for their pictures had grown. Sure enough, there were probably 3 people with tickets in hand, and 20 standing around waiting for the camera lady.

At long last the camera lady called me to the counter. She asked for a fingerprint, and I told her I’d like to opt out. (Colorado is one of only four states that requires a fingerprint for a driver’s license, and I think it’s a ridiculous requirement. I’m not a criminal, and I don’t see how my fingerprints have anything to do with driving a car.) She told me I couldn’t opt out, and that was that. I placed my finger carefully on the scanner, setting it sideways so she couldn’t get a good scan. Unfortunately she saw through that little ruse, and after a few more tries and gruff instructions about placing my finger flat and in the center and all that, she was satisfied. Click, picture, and finally I was finished.

All in all, I spent over two hours to do something that actually required a little over two minutes of my time. Absurd. I think going to the dentist is actually better than the DMV, because at least at the dentist they’re doing something.

Five years from now, when my new license expires, I sure hope I can renew it online. Twenty years between visits isn’t enough.

April showers bring… May snow

After six straight days of rain, last night the weather forecast called for 6-10″ of snow. Snow! In the middle of May!

Well, it didn’t turn out to be quite that much, but we got enough to make the tree branches bend a little bit. Last night around 11pm Laralee went out with a broom and knocked some snow off the big tree in our front yard.

This was how our backyard looked this morning:

may-snow

By noon it was completely gone.

At least the grass is lovin’ it. And now I’m ready for some nice sunny weather.

Slimy Zack

Zack is the kind of kid who buys all of the goofy slime toys, little action figures, magnets, and so forth. A few weeks ago he ordered some “toxic slime” from someone on eBay. He loves this stuff.

zack-slime-1

zack-slime-2

Astronomy is awesome

The New Horizons spacecraft is about 60 million miles from Pluto and closing fast. Here’s the latest from NASA, showing Pluto and Charon rotating around each other:

pluto-charon

The key here is around each other… because Charon is so big compared to Pluto, they rotate around a barycenter which is actually in the space between them. (Almost all planet-moon systems have a barycenter very near the center of the planet.)

It’s so cool to see these guys after almost a century when we could only see them as faint blobs of light. I’m excited for the July flyby when New Horizons is close enough to resolve surface features on Pluto. I love astronomy.

Yay DMV

Laralee noticed yesterday that my driver’s license has been expired for about three months now. Oops.

I checked and I’m not allowed to renew it online, because it was a ten-year license, so I’ll need to go to my local DMV to go through the paperwork. I think people generally look forward to visiting the DMV almost but not quite as much as a visit to the dentist. In any case, I noticed on the Colorado state web site that I can make an appointment at the DMV to save time. Hey, cool!

I went to the appointment scheduling page to find a time when I can go.

dmv-appointments

Umm, yeah. So apparently it’s just a cruel joke. Maybe there’s one ten-minute slot available each month on the third Tuesday or something, and it was already taken. I don’t know, but this just seems silly.

I guess I should block out a few hours next week for this. Sigh.

UPS tracking woes

I ordered some hard drives earlier this week and figured I’d check on their delivery status. Imagine my surprise when I found out that severe weather and a train derailment have delayed them!

tracking

Yikes.

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