Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Catching up to Christmas

rezult said...
Yes. 2am, what is up with you? working too hard? seasonal blues?

Anais wrote...

If you would update more often, it wouldn't take you as long to write and polish!

Expectantly yours,


the Drunken Housewife said...
Saturday??? You mean the one over a week ago?

anais-pf said...

Sixdegrees said...
Tick, tock, tick, tock...

I have no idea what you're talking about... so here's a reindeer with some antlers on its head.

I photographed the reindeer on display on the Circle during lunch hour today.

But seriously... I get the message... Sorry about the lack of updates.

I started writing a post on the 13th, but it was taking way too much time to get everything written out, and it got hard to organize all of the parallel story lines, so I took a break. That was a big mistake because I had trouble mustering the energy to return to it. Now that things have hit a bit of a lull, I'll try to flush out the backlog of information.


The job continues to go well. I survived the big Not-Safe-For-Work mess that I wrote about on Nov. 16. We wound up delaying the release until the following week so that I could get a rudimentary content filter working.

The code went live on the following Tuesday, and it has been doing its job pretty well. I have noticed that our own employees have been writing posts using some of the links the content suggestion system has been recommending, so people must find it useful.

The filtering code is set up to log every time it blocks an RSS item based on a filter match, and some of the entries have been very amusing.

I had mixed feelings about the inclusion of the word "gay" on the list, given that it can be used as a term of self-identification in addition to an epithet. What would happend if we landed a client that caters to the GLBT market for something like travel and tourism? Wouldn't most of their content recommendations get blocked? If that happens, I'll probably have a stronger case to make for removing the word from the list.

Some other quirks for the filter... hits involving the names Dick and Mick are omitted because they appear in the list as potential racial epithets. References to "ho" both in the Christmas and name contexts get blocked.

Then last week, there was a side-splitter. For one of our own keyword searches, the following article turned up in the content suggestion -- "It's A Wonderful Orgasm: Violet Blue's list of hot holiday gifts we can all afford". It was an article on the San Francisco Chronicle, and it included a survey of gift ideas for adult toys. So the word orgasm has been added to the filter list.

Although things have been quiet on this blog, I have been in a good streak of writing posts for my work blog. I had gotten somewhat lazy over the summer, putting up only a few posts each month at best.

At the beginning of November, the marketing team sponsored a contest to encourage content creation, offering a catered lunch to whichever department created the greatest number of posts. Our department lost by a few, which was a disappointment, but I continued to blog, putting up 30 posts in November without any fanfare about NaBloPoMo.

The effort paid off, and at the monthly company meeting in mid-December, I was awarded the "nifty gift" for individual blogger output, which was a $50 gift card with the big online book seller in the Emerald City.

The company Christmas party was held on Dec. 5, and it was quite a deal. The CEO hosted it out at his house in the east rural suburbs. A Tapas style meal was prepared by a chef, with each mini-course paired with a beer and wine selection, which helped moderate the alcohol consumption.

I had my quarterly review on Dec. 9, and I got pretty good marks. My boss said that he has noticed that I still have a "reluctant leader" streak, and he wants me to assume more a more prominent leadership role within the group. So the action items from my review are designed to force me into that role and take on some new things to build my confidence. I found his assessment to be pretty accurate, and I'm glad he's continuing to push me in a direction of growth.

On the 15th, a coworker of mine and I walked to the State House to see our state's electors meet and cast their ballots for president. Given that it had been 44 years since our state's electoral votes swayed this way, and that it was the election of the first African American president, I wanted to be a witness to this little piece of history. We were not disappointed.

The meeting took place inside the House Chamber, with access granted to those holding tickets. We weren't sure about the basis for handing out tickets, but our guess was that they were handed out to party loyalists. We were told that if not all the tickets were taken, we'd be allowed to sit in unfilled seats.

As we were waiting in the hall, we saw this tall guy in glasses and a dreamsicle orange sweater walking around. My coworker told me he thought the guy was Mo Rocca. I thought he was BSing me because he is so good at the deadpan humor. We debated back and forth why in the world would this guy be at the Indiana electors' meeting. It just didn't make sense.

It was a good thing that the coworker asked me to get some photos with my cell phone because it turned out that not only was it Mo, but he also wrote about the experience on his blog over at AOL's website. The picture I hasd snapped was when he was talking to the alternate elector identified as John Bonecutter on his blog.

As the meeting was called to order, we were asked by an elderly woman whether we wanted tickets to get in. We didn't have to have our arms twisted too much. We took the tickets, offered up our thanks and rushed to find our seats.

The meeting took about an hour and a half, with some parts of it being way less formal than others. As the ballots for president were distributed, one of the electors belted out a question to the state Secretary of State who was officiating, "Do we need to show photo ID?" The question was a barb making light of a law that has been on the books for a few years, which requires proof of identity at the polling place.

Our department had some holiday festivities of its own on the 18th. Back when I hired on with the company, I wrote in my introductory e-mail that I made a great pot of chili. Throughout the year, my boss ribbed me, saying I needed to make some of it and share with the department. I decided to finally follow through by making a batch of it that morning and bringing it into the office so that we could eat it after the daily status meeting at 11 am. Other coworkers joined in, making sides and desserts. It was well received.

Our boss planned an afternoon outing at the same multistory bar/theme park establishment that the big blogger get together group went to exactly two months prior. We played some pool and enjoyed some appetizers.

Then we had a White Elephant gift exchange with a twist. An attempt to steal someone's gift could be challenged by the person from whom the gift was being taken. All the person had to do was agree to perform an "Act of Shame".

Some of the acts included proclaiming the love for the defended gift to a total stranger on the premises. I had to portray a dancer getting mauled by a bear. There was a competitive challenge that involved a crab walk race.

The gift I put into the exchange was a set of humorous food containers that I figured would be a hit because there are a number of people who bring their lunches in to work. The gift got stolen three times.

I wound up with a nice ensemble that included one of those drinking birds and two hand made items -- a rubberband powered airplane that used a styrofoam egg carton parts for wings,

and an insect made of pipe cleaners for legs, a watch battery for the body, and some LEDs for eyes.

When the bug is jiggled, the antennae make contact with some wires that complete the circuit to which the LEDs and battery are attached, so the LEDs flicker. The kids loved it!

I barely missed getting my enrollment paperwork for health insurance done. The deadline set by our benefits administrator was Dec. 19th. I had to overcome a lot of inertia to puzzle my way through the maze of two network plans and the four variations of each. Further complicating things was that the network that I had chosen the prior year was no longer being offered.

I wound up going with the new plan because it allowed my kids to continue seeing their pediatrician. The downside is that the monthly premium for comparable coverage for my old plan is $72 more per month. I spent the night of Dec. 17th filling out the paper work and then exchanged e-mails with the benefits rep to verify that I could run the paperwork over to their offices up on the northeast side of town on Friday. But then the STBX IMed me at work asking to use my car on Friday because she wanted to take her minivan into the shop to have a noise checked out.

I agreed to let her do that and wound up faxing the paperwork in because the instructions listed that as an option. I got an e-mail from the benefits rep on Friday morning acknowledging receipt of the fax but then said that she needed originals of two of the forms, so I had to mail those out. Fortunately I was still able to get enrolled in the plan.

As for the holidays, I have the rest of this week off. Next week, we have New Year's Day off.


Moving to the personal front, on the day before Thanksgiving, the STBX and I took the kids to see The Lion King musical, which was making a tour stop in town. I spent Thanksgiving day with my brother's up in the northeast burbs, while STBX and the kids had their own celebration.

I picked up the girls on Thanksgiving night so that they could spend Friday with me. Originally, STBX had planned on working a concession stand for the girls' dance school at the big football stadium for the high school football championships, but they didn't have enough volunteers, so she got the day to herself.

I took the girls downtown on the night of Black Friday to see the ceremonial powering on of the lights at the monument. Rather than deal with the massive crowds and chilly air, I took them up to my office, part of which overlooks the area, so we had a prime view. We passed the time leading up to the lighting by watching DVDs on my laptop. They were amazed by the size of the light strands, but they were disappointed that they couldn't see the fireworks being shot off at the end of the show.

Although this picture was taken about a week ago, it gives you an idea of what the lights on the monument look like. Those of you who came to the get together in October may remember me leading you for a walk around the circle that chilly Saturday evening.

Over that weekend after Thanksgiving, I developed a pretty awful cold that wiped me out so badly I took Monday off and stayed home. The STBX played co-dependent sent me a text on my cell phone in the afternoon, asking me where I was because she didn't see me signed onto work IM. I replied informing her that I had taken the day off due to a bad cold. She wrote back sarcastically saying, "Wow that must be some cold. I hope that are able to manage without you for the day."

Later that evening, I got an e-mail from her.

I suspect you are dating and I know you are on a dating site. Some items on your dating site felt hurtful to me, regarding that I had you on a tight leash and I forced my friends on you. I am fairly sure you won't have to worry about my friends wanting to be friends with you any further. Hopefully you can find someone who caters to all your sexual wants. However I do think we need to get a divorce because I definitely don't feel ok dating or looking for someone else until I am divorced. I know you had said you were compiling paperwork. Is that something you are still doing? If not I can look into getting a lawyer if that is what is the next step.
I really just need to get the divorce started so that I can move forward, like you obviously have.

I have no idea when or how she found my profile.

I wound up taking the profile private rather than have to deal with that drama. I also wrote back to apologize for the way my remarks made her feel. The last thing I needed to do was have this process turn hostile. The next few times that I saw STBX in person, she didn't say anything further about it.

Our kids weekends changed up a bit in December. Because STBX's mom was coming up for the weekend of Dec. 6 - 7, STBX asked if she could keep the girls that weekend, which I agreed to. I still met up with them on Saturday last weekend so that we could go to my older daughter's school's "Snack with Santa", which involved pictures with Santa, lots of mini crafts, and a pizza.

Late that evening, I got a call from my stepmom letting me know that they had driven from The Small Town, about an hour south, to the hospital in my town, the one with the large lighthouse beacon on the roof. My dad had not been feeling well for the evening, and complained that part of his face felt droopy. A blood pressure check showed high numbers, so they were afraid he was having another stroke.

They opted for the hospital in town because they didn't trust the local hospital to take the situation seriously. After all, this was the same place that had sent STBX's dad home back in May 2005 when he was having a stroke, claiming they couldn't find anything that would indicate this.

The hospital's ER was very responsive, getting a CAT scan and X-Ray done within a couple hours of their arrival. They got him on pain medication and he got some rest, admitting him early Sunday morning. He stayed at the hospital until Tuesday afternoon while they did some additional tests. A doppler test showed that his arteries were fine.

They weren't sure what caused his problems on Saturday night, but they were certain that whatever it was, it wasn't a stroke. The high blood pressure might have been due to his stress level contributed to the high blood pressure. Thankfully, he has been doing fine since his release from the hospital.

I didn't get a chance to come up and visit while he was up here. The Sunday while this was all happening, my older daughter developed a nasty flu bug that had her getting sick and feeling puny, so I came over to STBX's apartment to watch her while she took her mom and our younger daughter back to The Small Town. Before she left, STBX made mention that although she had been angry about the ad, she thought I was till being a good dad to the girls.

On the 9th was my daughter's Daisy Girl Scout Christmas party, which included a pitch in dinner. Ironically enough, on the same day that STBX sent the nastygram about the dating profile, she had sent me an e-vite to this event. I volunteered to make some chili, which seemed to be well received because there was not a bit of it, nor the cornbread with which it was served, left.

My daughter's Christmas dance show was on 19th. The older daughter did a tap number to "Here Comes Santa Clause", and my younger daughter did "Jingle Bells". Both had a blast.

The STBX's job ran out on the 13th, as I mentioned in a prior post. I believe she has filed for unemployment, but she didn't start applying for jobs until the 21st, and even then I'm not sure if she was filing those applications in good faith.

She asked me for help with writing her resume over that weekend that she filed the applications. I had given her a copy of mine to use as a template, but she had not gotten far with it. I went through old pay stub records to deduce when she worked at which roles at her old employer so that she had the time line accurate, and I wound up helping with a cover letter.

My dad had high blood pressure over the weekend as well, so he went to the ER in The Small Town. They couldn't find anything wrong otherwise, so they gave him some nitro and pain meds. He saw his doctor on Monday and seems to be doing better. It bugs me that they haven't been able to pinpoint the cause for this yet.

As far as Christmas plans go, I am having lunch with my mom today. I am spending a good chunk of Christmas day at STBX's apartment with her and the kids. On Saturday, STBX, the kids, and I will be traveling down to The Small Town to spend it with my dad and stepmom. I have been invited to go down to The Small Town to celebrate Christmas with her family on New Year's Day, but I haven't committed to that yet.


Have-the-T-Shirt joked in a comment that I had way too much time on my hands and needed to start dating. STBX's protestations aside, I haven't really been out there shopping around. I have made a few friends from the dating services.

One works in the software biz, and we've met for dinner a few times, but that is strictly platonic. She has been looking to strike up a relationship with a coworker who is leaving the company at the end of the year. We kvetch about travails of spouses estranged and talk shop, but that's about it. It's kind of nice to have someone from around this area who works in the software biz, but she will be moving up to the north side soon to shorten her grueling commute, so there is a good chance that this friendship may wane with distance or the kindling of her desired relationship with the other guy.

There is someone with whom I've chatted pretty regularly over the past couple of months. She works at a small private college about 40 miles from here, and there may be a chance we might meet up for drinks, but we are at different phases of our lives, and the age gap is a bit too far for comfort. She is the person I can count on for the overanalytical conversations.

Finally, there someone up in the north burbs who is in the limbo stages of divorce herself. She works downtown, a few blocks away from my office. We've met a few times after hours. Her estranged spouse has already fallen in love with someone else and is itching to get married to her. Neither of us are looking for anything serious, so that could wind up being a recurring FWB situation.

Once the divorce is final, I will probably start dating more actively.

That's about all the news with me. Did I leave anything out?
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