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Archive for September, 2008

How to prepare for a garage sale Part II: The Bookshelf

“What is this David Allen book, Getting Things Done?

“That’s a book that I… um…”

“Never got around to getting done?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

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How to prepare for a garage sale Part I

Over the past five years, Elise has always talked about having a garage sale. I think this is due in part because within those five years we’ve managed buy a house, which afforded us a garage in which to hold an actual garage sale, and we’ve amassed enough clutter to warrant having a garage sale. For example: Despite my better intentions, Elise insists that we do not need a set of 64-ounce wine glasses.

So over the past week and a half, Elise has been rummaging through the house, finding stuff that is no longer needed, and has been carefully placing these items on the dining room table and on the bed in the guest bedroom in preparation for this Saturday’s sales extravaganza.

There are far too many items that have been pulled from their secret hiding places throughout the house to mention here. Some of the items I had completely forgotten about, others I have no idea what their function serves.

“What is that thing?”

“What thing?”

“That purple and blue thing on the table. The fuzzy thing.”

“That is called a sweater.”

“Ohhhh.”

I, of course, have been doing my part in this huge undertaking by sitting in my office and carefully reviewing Billy Squier videos on YouTube.

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Please drive up to the first window for some Princess Punch

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Weekend work in the garage

It’d been on my mind’s backburner to get the garage to where it is a working garage, meaning that I at least have a table at which I can work. We’ve been in our house almost 5 years now and my “working” space has been limited to approximately 24-inches on a 12-inch wide storage shelf.

On Saturday afternoon, Maly and I dropped Elise off at the dress shop so she could get her bride’s maid dress altered. I’m lucky I remember that much of what it is that she did. I ordinarily would have just assumed that women meet in strip malls on Saturday’s to watch Oprah together.

Maly and I drove over to the HoPot, grabbed one of those honkin’ haulin’ carts and started loading up lumber and hardware. After approximately 20 seconds in the hardware department, Maly started reorganizing things to fit her style. So while I was trying to find 30 different pieces of specific hardware for one project that I’m working on, Maly managed to rearrange and misplace who knows how many lag bolts, hex nuts, washers and other various lengths and dimensions of otherwise meticulously-managed hardware.

Elise walked from the dress shop to the HoPot and managed to get there in time to distract Maly while I finished shopping. Much to my surprise, we left the HoPot with $104 worth of lumber and hardware.

I spent the rest of the afternoon building a much-needed work bench.

workbench

Shortly after I was done with my workbench, Maly awoke from her nap and it was time to head out to Angela’s fiancee’s birthday party. We braved the traffic and crowds of ACL Fest and found parking just at the front door of Green Mesquite. We asked the bartender where the birthday party was. He informed us that they hadn’t arrived yet. We were a little perplexed as we were 45 minutes late.

We grabbed a picnic table on the patio, ordered a couple beers and dinner for Maly. Maly wolfed down her brisket as a true Texan should, and we waited some more. Still no birthday party people. We inquired with our waitress if the party had been canceled. She confirmed that no one had called to cancel. Elise and I had another beer and ordered dinner.

No party ever showed. We stuffed our faces with barbecue, watched Maly chase ladybugs and birds and listened to some good Texas country music from whoever the hell it was playing at the Green Mesquite last night.

We stopped at the HoPot on the way home so I could pick up some more lumber to finish off my workbench and to build a little chair for the little desk that I made for her earlier this year.

I worked in the garage until midnight, and spent the better part of today working in the garage, getting things to where I think I finally want them to be.

My workspace

I was pulled away for a while so I could mow the yard and cook porkchops for dinner. It was this evening when I think my grill that I inherited from my dad finally crapped out on me; not so much crapped out as I think it’s become a volatile fire hazard. To end my weekend, I’m going to start shopping a new grill for a Christmas present for yours truly.

Dad's old grill

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7th Anniversary

Elise and I celebrated our 7th anniversary this past Monday. My original plan was to take Elise out to dinner and then maybe a night out on the town on the actual date of our anniversary. Christine graciously volunteered herself and John to watch Maly on the 13th, which allowed us to have a night out in Fredericksburg, which turned out to be an eventful hassle, but a memorable experience nonetheless.

So I decided to stick to my plan and reschedule my dinner reservations for this past Monday. Elise has always wanted to eat at Uchi, and I’ve been somewhat inclined as well.

Instead of hiring a babysitter, I decided, without Elise’s knowledge, that Maly would be joining us for dinner. I told her to meet me at the office at 5:45 p.m. She, being of the female persuasion, wanted to know how to dress. Instead of trying to harness the non-existent fashionista-within, I just told her where we were eating.

We got to Uchi right on time, Maly in-tow. Our waiter was awesome and quick to recommend some food items that were somewhat kid friendly; the first being jasmine sorbet. Elise and I ordered a couple glasses of wine and realized we needed to rush a bit as Maly wasn’t going to last for a lengthy romantic anniversary dinner date.

Elise started with the maguru sashimi and goat cheese. I started with the hama chili. Maly licked the spoon of her sorbet and stabbed at her tofu cubes with a chopstick.

Next up, I ordered the hot rock, wagyu beef that I seared myself on a 500-degree Japanese river rock. The smell of seared beef lead me to order the ‘pitchfork’ makimono roll, which is wagyu beef, avocado, tonburi land caviar and leeks. Elise ordered zero sen roll yellowtail tuna, shallots, roe and cilantro. Maly had another shot of jasmine sorbet.

Within an hour, we were in and out. We’d ordered tempura pumpkin for Maly, which we had to consume since she didn’t want anything to do with it. She preferred the sweet goodness of the sorbet that reminded Elise and me of the bathrooms in the Flamingo in Vegas.

To treat Maly for being such a trooper during dinner, we drove a block down and bought her a cup of ice cream from McDonalds. So for our anniversary, Maly had two cups of sorbet and a whopping cup of ice cream.

Dinner was great, the best part being that I was able to just hang out with my two girls. Elise dropped me off at the parking garage. The girls drove home. I headed home as well, but stopped at HEB for some flowers and a bottle of wine.

By the time I got home, Maly was in bed. Elise and I hung out on the deck, exchanged cards, played 80′s pop music trivia and talked for a while before going to bed relatively early.

7th Anniversary

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When you’re out of town for the weekend

Your loving neighbors just might decide to redecorate your living room with their own personal flare.

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The anniversary date that kind of wasn’t

This weekend Elise and I celebrated our 7th anniversary a little early. Christine and John were gracious enough to take in the Zombie Eater on Saturday and Sunday so Elise and I could head west for Fredericksburg for a weekend getaway, a trip similar to the one we took six years ago.

We dropped Maly off around noon on Saturday and headed out. We got to Johnson City at 1 p.m. and were starving. We stopped at Ronnie’s Pit BBQ. The lunch crowd was long gone and we shared the whole restaurant with only one other table. We stuffed our faces with brisket, cole slaw and beans.

We got back on 290 and kept trekking toward Fredericksburg. We made a short stop at the LBJ State Park and took a tour of the Sauer-Beckmann living history farm where we picked up quite a few life-changing bits of information. For example, chicken egg shells are baked at roughly 300-degrees fahrenheit to eliminate odor and to make the shells harder. The shells are then crushed and fed to the chickens as a calcium supplement. Eliminating smell and changing the consistency of the egg shells prevents the chickens from pecking their own eggs once they they lay them. The calcium supplementation from the shells causes the chickens to produce harder egg shells. The goal was that over time, the chickens would produce nothing but solid, egg-shaped rocks. These rocks would be very difficult for farmers to eat, and thus lead to cracked teeth and gum disease. And that’s the story of how modern dentistry was invented.

We arrived in Fredericksburg at 3 p.m., found a parking spot off Main Street and walked the shops and restaurants for a while. We eventually made our way to the ice cream parlor, where we were to pick up our key to Crenwelge’s Creekside Cottage Bed & Breakfast. While there, Elise got a cup of Tin Roof ice cream. I had the berry cobbler shake. The greatest thing about my shake was that it had REAL pie crust. By REAL pie crust, Blue Bell Creameries means miniature, tasteless soda crackers that wedge themselves into the straw and prevent you from extracting the berry cobbler shake goodness into your mouth.

Crenwelge's Creekside Cottage

After getting the key to our B&B, we walked back to the car and found our way to our domicile for the night. We unpacked our bags and Elise decided that she wanted to take a tour of a local winery. She consulted the local visitor’s guide before we were out again and off to Grape Creek Vineyards. Unfortunately they don’t offer tours of their winery, instead they have a tasting room where Elise sampled five of the wines produced on site. Still thirsty for knowledge of the wine making process, Elise asked the resident wine monger about how wine is made. In less than 30 seconds, he gave the both of us a synopsis: “The grapes get squashed. The juices are fermented, aged in casks and then bottled. That’s pretty much it.”

“Great! We will take a bottle of your finest for our friends back home who are watching our child and allowing us this opportunity. We will relay unto them the process in which you use to create your fine nectar.”

And like that, we were off again. Elise said she’d attained ample knowledge of wine making and would like to walk Main Street before dinner. We went back to our B&B, changed clothes and headed back out around 6 p.m. We walked before the storefronts only to find that they’d all closed for the night. Our only option at that point was to decide on where we wanted to have dinner. We walked to the easternmost edge of Main Street and finally settled on The Ausländer. Elise had the Bratwurst. I had the bourbon glazed sirloin. We both had a couple beers and, again, ate way too much while listening to The Modern Day Drifters perform an acoustic set.

The Auslander

After dinner we took a meandering walk back to the B&B to get the car. We got in the car and headed over to the local convenience store to pick up a bottle of wine so we could have a couple drinks in the hot tub before going to bed. We went inside, made our purchase, and went back to the car only to have it not start. A gentleman was getting into his car in the spot next to us, so I stopped him and asked him if he wouldn’t mind giving us a jump start. No dice. Another man was walking into the convenience store and noticed our dilemma. I asked if he knew about cars. He said, “a little”. I took that as sarcasm and assumed he was a mechanic. He tried to start the car. There was enough power to turn on the dome light and stereo, but the car wouldn’t turned over. His expert opinion: “a sensor”.

I went back into the convenience store and called a couple towing companies. Of course, it was 10 p.m. at this point and I knew I wasn’t going to have any luck getting our car towed and worked on on a Saturday night. One local mechanic told me he could come out first thing the next morning and tow it for me. I agreed, took his cell number and planned to call him at 9 a.m. the following morning.

There was no other option other than to just leave the car at the convenience store overnight. We asked the clerks if that would be okay, and they said they’d keep an eye on things for us.

We walked the five blocks back to the B&B, changed into our swimsuits and got into the hot tub. The wine ran aplenty as did the conversation. Unfortunately, probably due to the recent car experience, the conversation turned into more of an altercation and, long-story-short, we both went to bed mad…

Which meant we both woke up mad. We got up early, politely avoided each other and got ready before heading out to check on the car at the convenience store. I was hoping that after a night’s rest, the car would magically start. It didn’t. So we walked all the way back to the B&B. I called Aaron, the mechanic that I’d spoken to on the phone the night before. He agreed to come out and tow the car. In the meantime, I’d made arrangements with John to have him drive out to Fredericksburg to come pick us up as Aaron was probably going to need to order parts, which meant the car wouldn’t be ready until Tuesday or later.

Elise called the owners of the B&B and explained our predicament. They were nice enough to allow us to keep our base until we got a ride back to Austin.

We walked back to the convenience store to meet Aaron. I gave him my contact information and watched as he towed the car away.

Getting towed

Then we walked back to the B&B again. Elise took a shower and I paced around. Ten minute later, Aaron called me.

“Josh, guess what?”

“Don’t tell me you already got it fixed.”

“Yessir. Just needed a new battery. If I come pick you up, will you drive me back to my shop?”

We called to put a hold on the efforts in Austin to come pick us up. A few minutes later, Aaron pulled up to the B&B in our car and we were on the road to take Aaron back to his shop.

“You know, when you called last night, my kids and I were playing tennis on the Nintendo Wii. You ever played that Wii thing?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. Say, you want to play a quick set? If I beat you, you don’t charge me for the new battery?”

“Ha ha! No, sir. I haven’t had that much practice.”

“Aaron, you ever heard the story about how modern dentistry was invented?”

“…”

So I drove back to the B&B where Elise was packing up our stuff. Soon the owners drove up to clean up for the next renters. We wound up talking to them for half an hour or so. Then it was time to end our eventful mini-vacation. We hit the road but not before stopping at a nursery for a plate thing (that’s the technical term for something Elise decided we needed for the house) and a wooden Santa Clause for our mantle for Christmas time. We stopped in Johnson City again for lunch at Silver K Cafe.

We got home around 3 p.m. on Sunday. Even though it wasn’t really the 24-hour getaway we’d hoped for, I couldn’t have had a better time — just my wife and me.

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Cooking with Maly


Maly showing daddy how to cook from Josh Janicek on Vimeo.

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Freestyle rap battle translated

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Yeah, still not getting it

I’m a geek. I’ll listen to The Tech Guy Podcast before the newest Metallica album. Ninety percent of the RSS feeds that I read are tech-related. Since college I’ve always worked in the tech industry. My house is tech. My friends are tech. Tech is life.

Unfortunately (or maybe not), instead of being a Web 2.x guy, I’m still sort of hanging on to being a Web 1.5.x guy. And I’m fine with that. I am my father’s son — a simple kind of man. I’m obviously a member of a completely different generation than that of my dad, one where email is a standard form of communication, plagiarism is as easy as copy and paste and, if I need to know what Britney Spears is doing right this moment, I could easily find out.

On separate occasions I remember having conversations with my mom and Mr. Wilson, my parents’ next door neighbor (where next door is three quarters of a mile a way) about my dad. Dad expressed that he would have liked to have lived in much simpler days. If I had to guess, I’d say he was referencing the days when cowboys rode the plains on their horses to neighboring cities where they would exchange Atari games, sit around the campfire and drink Tab cola.

My dad actually wrote me an email once. And I’m proud to say that in that email I learned that a propane tank is cross-threaded:

“Josh, if you were trying to take the regulator off…….it has a reverse
thread, turn your wrench as if you are tighten it and it will come off.
We’ll see you this afternoon.
Mom wants to know if you have flour and eggs so she can fry squash?

Love, Dad”

I’m pretty sure in the three hours that it took my dad to compose that email, he probably said many, many times, “damnit, Janice, I’m just going to pick up the phone and call the boy.” And I can just hear my mom yelling from the kitchen, “NO!!! YOU’RE GOING TO DO THE EMAIL!!!”

And I’m certain there was confusion as to where to put the stamp after that.

Today everything is Facebook and Twitter. Two web anomalies that I just can’t get into. I’ve half-assed tried at both and have finally resolved to the fact that they’re both just mind clutter.

I read this recent paraphrased article from The New York Times. My thoughts on the paraphrasing are:

In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why?

Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.” It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye.

Ambient awareness? “It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone”. Yes, very much like. Except only very much different.

Haley discovered that he was beginning to sense the rhythms of his friends’ lives in a way he never had before. When one friend got sick with a virulent fever, he could tell by her Twitter updates when she was getting worse and the instant she finally turned the corner. He could see when friends were heading into hellish days at work or when they’d scored a big success. Even the daily catalog of sandwiches became oddly mesmerizing, a sort of metronomic click that he grew accustomed to seeing pop up in the middle of each day.

I don’t give a rat’s ass what kind of sandwich you had for lunch. If it was that earth-shatteringly good of a sandwich, pick up the damn phone and call the boy. If you have a virulent fever, eat a sandwich and drink lots of water. I don’t need to know about it though.

This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life.

See, even the professionals agree that no friend would bother to call you up to talk about sandwiches. And that floating invisible dimension? That’s probably what gave you the fever in the first place.

This is the ultimate effect of the new awareness: It brings back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knows your business…

“It’s just like living in a village, where it’s actually hard to lie because everybody knows the truth already,” Tufekci said. “The current generation is never unconnected. They’re never losing touch with their friends. So we’re going back to a more normal place, historically. If you look at human history, the idea that you would drift through life, going from new relation to new relation, that’s very new. It’s just the 20th century.”…

That’s right, “where everybody knows your business”. Some coworkers and I were walking to lunch last week and Twitter became the topic of conversation. I told my entourage that I’d recently decided to declutter and stop “tweeting”, which lead to a very profound Web 2.#2 conclusion:

“If people really want to know what I’m doing at every waking moment, I’m just going to post every time I drop a deuce.” That’s Web 2.0 talk for “tending to paperwork”, or playing “Frogger” as they would say in my dad’s desired days.

And someone already did the Web 2.0 “grunt” work (see what I did there?) by developing a website that allows people to document their, um, Froggers, so all of their friends, family, coworkers, future employers and ex-girlfriends can keep up-to-date on the progress of that noteworthy sandwich you had for lunch while maintaining thorough “ambient awareness”.

If you’re ever made aware of any changes have been made in propane tank threading technology, please send me an email or a telegraph as I like to keep up-to-date on these kinds of things. If you have a sandwich for lunch that changes your life, you’re one of the lucky ones. The rest of the world will have to live vicariously through you. I’ll be out in the plains, keeping watch on the simpler things.

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Without brute physical trauma or bribery

Elise and I are taking yet another parenting class at her church. We took a class called “Common Sense Parenting” earlier this past Spring and I think it helped us a lot. Elise and I were both luckily predisposed with laid-back personalities, and I think that trait has carried over into our parenting styles; not that we’re non-involved or we let our child get away with everything, but being laid-back means not fretting the little things and we always calmly take the hand we’re dealt. Our daughter, despite her current two-and-a-half year old personality, is pretty easy going as well. All-in-all, I think we lucked out and have an awesome child.

However, that doesn’t go without saying that there are “issues”. We’ve both been very frustrated as parents of a toddler and often questions our decisions and parenting tactics. We generally go with our gut on most decisions and child-rearing plans but we’re only human, and often question our guts (albeit both guts have gotten bigger, so you’d assume they’d become wiser).

The new class we’re taking is called “Without Spanking or Spoiling”. We had our first class last Wednesday and honestly, I don’t recall anything noteworthy from that class. Our next class is tomorrow night and Elise and I completed our required reading and homework separately tonight.

Tonight’s lessons were: 1) Recognizing your values 2) clarifying behavioral expectations (of your child) and 3) beating the first two lessons into your offspring with a blunt object, preferably with a comfort-grip handle. Really I think the 3rd was something about self acceptance.

Without dwelling too much on the above mentioned, I will skip to the homework that I just finished: Exercise 2.5 – Review a Problem.

A problem that I’ve had of late with Maly is that she just doesn’t seem to like me. That’s the problem, but I’m supposed to “define the problem behaviorally”. So I jotted down that “Maly doesn’t like to do things with me. She prefers that I not help her, play with her or engage her”. I noted “data gathering” exercise that this occurs in the mornings before I leave for work, and immediately when I get home from work in the evenings. I specified that I own the problem (versus a problem that Maly would own, for example: if I didn’t want to have anything to do with her).

So the alternative that I chose is to engage in play that Maly would otherwise enjoy alone, such as playing in her kitchen in the backyard or swinging in her swing in the front yard. These are the alternatives to what I might find myself wanting to do, like playing “chase”, “fun with metric conversion charts” or my favorite: “checkbook balancing!”

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Anniversary ad

“Facebook is smart.”

“…”

“It think it knows that our anniversary is coming up.”

“We’re not doing anything for our anniversary, are we?”

“Well now I’m thinking about buying this ring from this ad I’m looking at.”

“I don’t want a fancy ring. And besides, all I’m getting for you is a car[d]”

“A car?!?! REALLY?!?!?!?!”

“A carrrrrRRR-DUHHHHH.”

“…”

“…”

“There was a time when I used to love you, you know.”

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Love Hate

I’m enduring a love/hate relationship with my daughter as of late. I try my best to love her unconditionally and yet she seems to hate me. Everything these days is, “NO, LET MOMMY DO IT!” I had to suffer through a screaming fit last night just because I wasn’t good enough to change a wet diaper. This is true for the bath, preparing food, getting a glass of milk, turning on a light, picking my nose and picking a presidential candidate to vote for.

Come to think of it, this predicament might be in my favor. I might just sleep in tomorrow morning and when Elise finally comes in to the bedroom and asks, “aren’t you going to work?”, I can reply, “well, I’m fairly certain your daughter would prefer it if you do it!”

I’ve consulted a few other dads and they’ve all been quick to recount, “yeah, I remember when my kid didn’t like me for a year or so.” Well, that’s good to know. So a year or so will go by and then I’ll be faced with a teenager who will more than likely disavow my entire existence and need things like money and food.

I’m reminded of something I read recently: put your spouse in the trunk of a car and drive around for an hour. Put your dog in the trunk of a car and drive around for an hour. Which one will be happy to see you when you open the trunk?

I think I need to get a dog.

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