Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Strangeness From Around the World

Here's the strangeness that I found this week.

India Outsources Outsourcing In a bizarre shift, a few Indian technology companies are finding they have more software jobs than they can fill. So they're outsourcing them to places like Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, China, Brazil, The Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Romania, The Czech Republic, Thailand, Canada, and yes, The United States. They are focusing on "states that are less developed" like Georgia, Arizona, Idaho, and Virginia. One quote from the article says, "Such is the new outsourcing. A company in the United States pays an Indian vendor 7,000 miles, or 11,200 kilometers, away to supply it with Mexican workers situated 150 miles south of the U.S. border." What a pile of irony.

The World's Most Expensive Dessert A resort in Singapore has a dessert on the menu that they charge $14,500 for. What? According to the report, "the dessert is a gold leaf Italian cassata flavored with Irish cream, served with a mango and pomegranate compote and a champagne sabayon enlighten. The dessert is decorated with a chocolate carving of a fisherman clinging to a stilt, an age old local fishing practice, and an 80 carat aquamarine stone." Can I just have it without the gemstone and the needlessly intricate chocolate art? The rest doesn't sound too bad, as long as we're now down in the $7-10 range.

Green Eggs and Ham Ruling A federal judge in New Hampshire was prompted to issue a Dr. Seuss-like ruling this week. He received a hard-boiled egg in the mail from an Orthodox Jewish inmate who was complaining about the non-Kosher food he is served in prison. The judge's response?
I do not like eggs in the file.
I do not like them in any style.
I will not take them fried or boiled.
I will not take them poached or broiled.
I will not take them soft or scrambled
Despite an argument well-rambled.
Then the judge issued a decree regarding the egg he received.
No fan I am
Of the egg at hand.
Destroy that egg! Today! Today!
Today I say! Without delay!
I do like a poetic judge.

Man Takes Office Theft to a New Level In this story out of Berlin, an assembly line worker sneaked up to 7000 screws a day over a two year period and took them home to sell on eBay. His employer never noticed, but police were alerted when they saw he was selling large amounts of screws below market price, and they started investigating. The employer never noticed that 1.1 million screws went missing. Sounds like a new Office Space-type ploy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

House Update

Just so you don't think I'm ignoring you on this front, I thought I'd just post to say we have no news. Yes, we made an offer two and a half weeks ago, and yes, that's a really long time to not get an acceptance or counter-offer, and yes, legally there's no offer on the table any more (effectively declined). However, we are still in offer limbo, as the seller keeps asking for more time to figure things out on her side. In exchange for our patience, there are no open houses or showings until we hear back from them.

It's fine with us. We're still living in the house in the meantime, and with no showings or open houses, it's like the house isn't on the market anymore. And it's way cheaper to rent the house than it is to own it, so we'll take a few more weeks/months of the lower payment. It does mean we can't start to get to work on some of the changes we want to do, but that's okay. Instead we'll just keep socking away money so that when we do buy a house we have more that we can do. Plus, interest rates keep going down and we keep getting farther and farther away from the crazy mortgage panic that means we might be able to get a decently priced mortgage.

It's all fine. My husband is getting itchy, but I can be as patient (read that as "stubborn") as they need me to be. I figure the more time they ask for to consider the offer, the harder it will be for them to counter (since we'll just say no the longer we wait), and we may just get it for what we've asked. I'm pretty okay with that. So, as I'm in the optimistic no-news-is-good-news camp, I just thought I'd let you know that's where we are.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Strangeness from Around the World

I have decided to add a new feature to my blog. Theoretically, I think I'm strange (okay, not really, but it's the title of my blog, so I feel a certain need to prove that there is strangeness here), but the world around us is strange, indeed. So, I'm going to look through the week to find strange stories in the news and highlight them here. Here is what I found this week.

Man Reports His Missing Cocaine You can read the AP account from Wednesday, but the gist is that the stupid dude has been smuggling drugs across the Canadian border for a while, but they haven't had enough to arrest him. However, his latest exchange didn't go so well. He lost two blue backpacks containing 68 pounds of cocaine, and called the Feds and "asked if ICE could put out a news release saying that federal agents had seized the drugs. That way,...the organization he was working for would believe his statements that he hadn't stolen them." Instead, the authorities found the backpacks and arrested the guy. Try to plead "Not Guilty" now, crazy dude. I do love a good stupid criminal story.

Omnivores: The Next Protected Class? I found this one over at the International Herald Tribune, describing portions of Mumbai, India, where vegetarianism is almost its own cult. One vegetarian is quoted as saying "I'd have issues living next to a non-vegetarian person. The smell would be a problem, but it's more than that. A non-vegetarian person eats hot blood and it makes him hot blooded; he might not keep control of his emotions." The concern seems to be that as India partakes more and more in Western culture, that more people in India will eat meat, and the children of vegetarians could be corrupted. The story also talks about a lady that lives in one of these parts of the city, and the lengths she goes to to keep up the lie that she eats meat and egs. Some part of this feeling seems to be to try to keep Muslims out of Hindu residential areas. I understand religious zealotry, but this goes beyond that. This (and other stories I've seen from India) also seems to suggest that any shift toward Western ideals is going to be fought very hard there. So, to my Indian friends that eat meat -- keep using those canine teeth and don't let the vegetarians get you down!

Belgium Put on eBay This one cracks me up! A teacher posted the country on eBay, "offering free delivery, but pointing out that the country was coming secondhand and that potential buyers would have to take on over $300 billion in national debt." The funniest part, though, is that eBay "decided to pull the ad Tuesday after receiving a bid of $14 million." Ha! I suppose the teacher got what he was looking for -- some notice for his country and the crazy political turmoil they are currently in.

Legislating the 7-Year Itch From Berlin, we find this story of Gabriele Pauli, a politician from Bavaria, who suggests "that marriages [should] expire after seven years." If you really like your spouse, don't worry -- "After that time, couples should either agree to extend their marriage or it should be automatically dissolved." I have mixed feelings on this. It might reduce the divorce rate (though how many really make it to the 7-year point), but then I might have taken that way out. Seven was a bad year for us, but I'm glad now that I stuck it out. It's an odd suggestion, and I doubt it's the last time we'll hear of it.

I'll be looking for more stories for next week. I hope you enjoy hearing about zany stuff I find. I do enjoy looking for oddness in the news. It's more fun than reading only the regular depressing stuff.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Random Ten

I've been on sabbatical. Or something. Like the random ten is hard on my brain. It's hard on iTunes, I tell you! Here's what I got this week.

"Just Never Say It Enough" by Wayne Watson on Home Free
"Joe" by The Cranberries on To The Faithful Departed
"Underneath The Bunker" by R.E.M. on Life's Rich Pageant
"I Can't Stop" by When In Rome on When In Rome
"In Your Care" by 4HIM on The Season Of Love
"Cry for Love" by Michael W. Smith* on WOW 1996
"House of Faith" by Geoff Moore & The Distance* on A Friend Like U
"Common Creed" by Wes King on WOW 1996
"Heaven Knows" by When In Rome on When In Rome
"La Linda" by Hewlett Crist on The Rio Grande Songs II

It's weird to have two cases of two songs from the same album in the same Ten. And this was such a sleepy set that I now just want to go take a nap. Is that bad on a Friday afternoon when there are dishes to do?

* Indicates acts I've seen live.

What Else do I Have to Learn?

Monica and James both made comments that must have been ripe for the considering. While thinking about what may be in store for us that might lead to having kids not being the best decision ever, I started to think about all this in a slightly different sort of way.

Life is a journey. Every experience you have gives you new perspective on the world around you, and helps you develop new skills that might come in handy with future experiences. There are certainly things I've done that I know I couldn't have done as well without X having happened before Y to teach me something in particular. There is definitely a desirable order to some experiences, and it's nice if things go in that direction.

So, what is the X that is supposed to happen before my Y of having kids? (Ha -- get it? Xs and Ys? Maybe it's only funny to me.) What sorts of experiences am I supposed to have (or is my husband supposed to have) in order to better prepare us for the crazy world of parenthood? Since I have no way of seeing into his brain, I'll just focus on myself. Here are the main skillsets I can see that I could use some work on pre-kids.

Patience. Couldn't we all get better at this one? My relationship with my husband has taught be quite a bit of this over the years and my sister living with us taught me how to push the limits of what I can tolerate. I am currently lightyears ahead of where I was ten years ago, but that's not really saying much. I do think I am slower to get angry than I used to be, but I'm also just slower than I used to be. I could use a little reminder to count to 10 before getting angry every once in a while.

House Maintenance. I've never been a great, or even middling, housekeeper. Dishes stack up for days. Laundry isn't always done until there are no clothes to wear. Toilets start to grow moldy, fungusy things. The refrigerator does, too. Go figure, since one of my dad's favorite sayings while I was growing up was "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." Pthbbt. Whatever. It's just never been a really high priority for me. I do clean when I know someone's coming over, and I am capable of doing the work, it's just not the first thing I do when I finish my workday, and sometimes it piles up. Living in this house that has to be kept clean for showings does help, and I'm starting to like having the house clean for us, and not just for company. Hopefully, I can keep that going if the house isn't on the market and will have learned something new. If not, I figure a messy house leads to stronger immune systems. Or I can find any other justification I need.

Sleep-Deprived Functioning. This is probably the biggest one for me right now. The thought of the first few months of nearly total sleep deprivation is a little scary. I'm a girl that really likes her 8-9 hours of sleep each night. I also like a weekend nap if I can get it in. I know in my head that when I'm exercising I can get by on less sleep, so maybe that will come into play, and I fully intend to sleep whenever I can with a little one to avoid issues if at all possible. Sleep deprivation is one of those things that depletes patience faster than anything. Not sure how else to try to teach myself these skills. A deathbed watch doesn't sound like a lot of fun. I'm not going back to school to have to pull all-nighters (those didn't work out well in college, either). Maybe I just have to exercise more so I'm in better shape and ready to take on whatever is thrown at me.

Those of you that are parents, maybe you can relate some things that you see now that you had to learn before you became a parent. I'd be interested to look for other opportunities to learn the skills that would come in handy for the fun that could lie ahead.

Strange Sound

I got up to start working this morning, and heard a strange sound outside. Wouldn't you know it -- it was raining! It didn't last long, but it did get the ground wet, which was nice to see. This is a big deal to me, because it's the first rain we've gotten out here. It rained once before, but not even enough to wet the sidewalk. This time wasn't much either -- just barely above the official "trace", but it was real rain. Rain you could hear and feel and see. It was nice.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Happy Birthday, Husband!

Today is my husband's birthday. Please don't tell him I told you, because he apparently hates his birthday. I'm a big fan of birthdays, and have decided to celebrate his, whether he wants to or not. In order to do this in a way that doesn't make him mad at me, I'm celebrating here with a list of why my husband would make a good father. (Wink, wink! There's an ulterior motive here -- see if I can convince you that he would make a good parent, maybe I'll be able to convince him one day.)

1. He's a constant learner and questionner. I believe that children learn some things about life from watching how their parents interact with the world. He loves to debate topics and experiment and research ideas and talk through something and pick up a brand new hobby and learn about it. This love of learning is infectious, and I know he'll pass that one to our kids. He'll probably also cause many visits to the ER, but that just adds to the spice of life. What kind of a childhood can it really be with no ER visits? Well, mine, but that's precisely my point -- mine was mostly boring. He would make sure that our kids' growing up wasn't boring.

2. He is tender and loving. While he is convinced that a kid would turn up on his discarded hobby-of-the-month pile at some point, I'm convinced that's not the case. I've seen him with other people's kids, and he's great. He has a Godson he writes letters to, because one day that kid will want to read them. He is quiet and kind and not afraid to cry or say he's sorry. Besides, loving a child of your own is one of those things that you can't imagine until you're a parent and then you can't imagine not being a parent again (at least that's what my parent-friends tell me). He's just too sweet a soul to become apathetic or mean to a child.

3. He is committed to his family. This overdeveloped sense of family of his is very endearing and a little maddening at the same time. His sister is not a very nice person, and takes out most of her anger on their mother. Who is the good son that talks his mother off the ledges after the shouting matches? My husband. Who still calls the sister on her birthday even though she hasn't talked to us in months? My husband. Who is constantly remarking how brilliant his 10-year-old stepsister is and talking with her mother about ideas to nurture her creativity? My husband. Who takes every call from his uncle who just wants to talk non-stop about cameras and no one ever wants to listen to him? My husband. Who is convinced my baby sister can do anything she wants if she's just encouraged enough? Well, besides me? My husband. Who offered to have my crazy sister come live with us when she hit rock bottom? My husband. I'm constantly amazed by how hard he tries to give all the family members around him what they need, even when that's not reciprocated.

4. He's encouraging. Anytime we talk about other people, his thoughts always turn to what they're great at. These observations generally have nothing to do with what he's good at. He's genuinely interested in recognizing their strengths, even if they don't notice them themselves. This is vital in parenting, as you can't just try to raise mini-mes that the parent lives vicariously through. As such, I know he would help our children explore themselves and discover the innate talents that they have and then practice them in order to better succeed as people.

5. He loves my cupcakes. I'm not certain that this will make him a good dad, but it might. Meanwhile, I better go finish them before he gets home. What's a birthday without cake?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Post-Run Post

My run this afternoon was really pleasant. Surprisingly so. Quite a bit faster than the run earlier this week. However, the best part was coming home and walking into a wonderful smelling place where someone was making dinner. Oh wait -- that was the stuff I put in the crockpot this morning! No matter, it smelled good, and was precisely the right thing for the day.

The Hill Country Had No Hills

Well, even for one day I couldn't keep up the post-a-day pace. No one really expected that to work out, did they?

Regardless, I've been trying to get back into the whole running thing, and that's been very hard and unreasonably depressing. The problem comes from the fact that when you have a city that goes from ocean to the Santa Ynez mountains in just about 10 miles, the running isn't very flat. I know I moved here from the "hill country", but Austin is only just on the edge of that topography, and you have to go to the outskirts of town to find hills like the one just out my front door here. As a result, the first few times I went running, I lasted a mile or less before I was sure I was going to die. A few days ago, I actually ran 3 whole miles again. It feels like ages since I last did that, and I was happy to finally run the whole planned distance. Well, "run" is a bit of an overstatement, but I didn't walk. Now to work on distance and speed, while continuing this not-dying feeling. I'm really looking forward to my run this afternoon.

Next year, I'm embracing the crazy topography that we have here, and will be doing the Santa Barbara Half-Marathon. Anyone want to work hills with me to prepare for it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I thought that by typing out the thoughts I have over and over and over again that I would be able to move on to other topics. Well, by the lack of posts lately you should all be assuming that didn't so much happen.

So, while the frustration hasn't abated, I've decided to come back and bore you about our current disconnect. My husband is concerned that we have to be a certain amount of stable in order to expand our family beyond the two of this. I agree, to some extent. We are both very responsible, we have great credit, we live below our means (at least until we buy a house -- HA!), we're healthy, we're done with school, we're both employed at jobs we like that compensate us appropriately, our only debt is a 2005 Mini that'll be paid off in the next year without trying (at least until we buy a house -- HA!). We're in a good spot. Expecting to be in a more stable place seems akin to trying to buy the moon. Right now, he harps on the fact that we're renting a house that is on the market, and so we could have to move at any time. I say "So?" in my head, but I know it's a concern of his, so I try to treat it with respect. Now we've made an offer and things are moving slowly on that front, which is good, because I think we may have to back out of it.

Here's the background on my husband that you have to understand for this to make sense. He loves the idea of home. You could say he's obsessed with it. Every time he sees a "Home for Sale" sign he goes ballistic. See "home" is where you go to feel safe and loved and you're almost invincible there. People sell houses. You couldn't buy a home with all the money in the world. I have worked tirelessly to create something that he could call home. It'll never be as perfect and safe as he has in his mind (have I ever mentioned that he's such a girl sometimes?), but I think I'm getting the hang of what he's looking for: a place with discussion and debate, but not fighting; a place where projects can be done, but don't have to be; a place where good food is eaten and available for all-hours snacking; a place where people work hard and see the results; a place where one knows the surroundings, and feels reasonably sure they will stay there. I don't always manage to create all of this, but the closer I come to making our house meet these sorts of criteria the happier he is, and the more I get the things I want. I don't mean to say that I do things to try and get a measured response from him, I mean that we have a positively reinforced cycle -- one that I generally get as much out of as I put in, even if not the same sorts of things. I don't want you all to get the impression that I'm a 1950s housewife, either. He cleans and does laundry and does various projects with the best of them. I'm just home more to do more of the mundane house stuff. But he so appreciates it since he's not so depressed anymore. All this would point to buying a house and being able to be more settled -- being able to do projects around the house without a landlord's approval, etc.

But...and there is always a "but" with these things...he get's buyer's remorse more than anyone I've ever heard of. This is seriously difficult because he buys way more stuff than I do. This year, his major purchases have included some zany-looking speakers, an original-style camera, an iPhone, and more computer equipment than I care to think about. And each time, he remembers how much money this all costs, and he's sad or mad for days. The more money something costs the longer the sadness/madness lasts. When we bought his car, it lasted about a month. A house costs more than a car. I'll let you do the math. Oh, and the house has termites. And dry rot. And possibly structural issues.

So, here we are. Buy a house and help him feel more "stable" (not honestly sure that anything will make him feel more stable) and likely have buyer's remorse for a very long time OR don't buy a house and try to convince him that we're stable as we are. Neither sounds like Heather will be a parent for the next several years. Oh, and either way there's no moving -- just the same house we're living in now which we both really like. And, while it's a really big move for us, his employer is helping out a lot, so it's actually a manageable house purchase for us.

And different posts are coming. I promise to force myself to post about other topics for a while. Here are some topics that I will be posting about soon:

privacy vs. openness
our recent bike tour of the area
attempts at running in this town
updates on the house we're trying to buy

I might even try a week of posting every day, but let's not get too crazy here in our expectations.