Sunday, August 13, 2017

New House!

Shame on me for not posting these past 4 months. I will offer excuses, but they are only that.

We sold our condo in a day, thankfully found a wonderful home within a few weeks, and then ground through the mortgage and closing process. All went smoothly, finding us moved in around mid June. Henry and I bunked at Cub Scout camp, there were more than a handful of other camping trips, and now we sit in a home filled with not enough furniture and more than a few unopened boxes. Quire wonderful.



Full photo set here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I've never enjoyed or gravitated towards public speaking, but being an adult with a job means you lean into it now and again. I don't need to speak to a full room at a Holiday Inn, but I need to be comfortable in a room full of coworkers and clients. You get over things when you need to.

Henry's class has show and tell each Friday, dictated by the letter of the week. Twenty-six weeks have passed and the letter Z has drifted into the sunset, so it's time for parents to volunteer to become the item that will be shown. I signed up to show and tell about Software Engineering.

I didn't know exactly what to say, or rather which aspects of my field would translate with any interest to a group of kindergartners. But, it should be noted that this is a highly gifted classroom, so maybe there is more wiggle room for math and science chatter. Henry's teacher assured me the topic was a good one and that there would be a pile of engaged faces and probably some questions. She was correct.

Just after being introduced I stood at the whiteboard looking for a marker.

"You're tall."

"Correct. I am." I grabbed a marker turned to start writing on the board.

A handful of hands shot up, but thankfully their teacher asked them to save their questions for when Mr. Turek asks for them.

I defined some broad terms about what Software Engineering means, gave a few examples about large projects I have completed, and then quickly brought up the ideas of the Alaska Pipeline and earthquakes. I figured the students would certainly have a sense of those two things, which would make my talk a bit more interesting. I described how I am involved with software that gathers real time data about earthquakes and generates alerts as needed; it keeps the folks on the pipeline equipped with real time information to best keep all things humming along safely. The questions began almost immediately.

"What if there were two earthquakes, one on each side of the pipeline?"

"Where would the oil go if the pipeline fell apart?"

"What if two super storms collided together right over the pipeline?"

"What if the ice got into the pipeline? I know that water expands when it freezes."

"I can do division."

"What if the computers broke?"
"There are back up computers to keep it all safe."
"What if all the computers broke?"

"I forgot my question."

I wrapped up with some thoughts about what steered me to this field as a young student -- math, science, puzzles, mystery books, Encyclopedia Brown books, etc.

The questions were pretty overwhelming at moments, but it speaks to the fact that the thirty minutes were not dull and cooked along. That's a victory for sure.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Winter has yet to quit, but we are too busy to care. Henry has his first pinewood derby coming up and the design we settled on is an Amtrak train. It's the first year so in the name of keeping it simple, I suggested we cut a simple wedge shape. It's fairly quick down the track, easy to cut, and should be competitive.

Soon after settling on this plan, Henry expressed a desire to craft an Alaskan train engine. I quickly declared this achievable, but suggested we target that for next year. We should have more square footage by then and will have this year under our belts. We'll be ready for a more complicated design (not to mention a more detailed paint job).


Uncle Randy happily allowed us to use his power tools, guiding the pencil marked block across the table saw. That was a grown up job for certain. The hand sander was a Henry job. If you watch the video above you will notice Henry's attention is less than focused. Ergo, there is a bit of concave in the center of the car. So be it. We soon had a sanded wedge, a handful of lead weights, and a weight of 4.8 ounces -- preparing us to hit that regulated 5 ounces when the paint and glue come into play.


Depending on the photos you look at, Amtrak trains are either silver or grey. I own a nice can of primer grey so that's the first road we started down. It looks plenty good with that color. Henry declined the silver top coat, so primer grey it will stay. We ebayed some Amtrak stickers and Henry will soon decide on their placement. Throw on a clear coat and wheels and we should be set for next weekend's race.


Everywhere Piper goes is St Elizabeth's. Everywhere.
"How was Arctic Gymnastics today?"
"I go to St Elizabeth's."
"St Elizabeth's is Wednesday. And the weekend."
It's now a fun game. Henry, where are you going to go to college?
"Alaska, or just work at the Lego store in the Mall of America."
How about you Piper?
"I go to"...well, you already know.


Monday, February 20, 2017

This is a true Alaskan winter. I doubt it's an extreme one, but after several mild ones this feels tough. Perhaps this would have been a better year to have planned a Hawaiian getaway.

The days are getting longer and a handful of summer plans are coming together; we are planning for the snow to melt and feel ourselves now being pulled towards it. Henry is registered for a week of camp at the science center. As a family, we've reserved a public use cabin for a single night in July with the plan of introducing Piper to some Alaskan camping.


The biggest summer plan is Henry's cub scout camp. While Camp Gorsuch was always on our radar for this summer, the happy surprise last week was confirmation that a Tiger Scout like Henry is able to stay overnight given that his guardian (me) camps with him. It's an exception to a rule restricting overnight camping to older scouts. Henry is very excited about it, and I'm very excited to head to a place where I get to turn off my phone and PC for a week.


Piper is now registered for pre-school this coming fall, so potty training has a firm goal. Piper does a great job of not having accidents, assuming she's not wearing pants. When the pants are on, the message received is that you are welcome to let it rip. It makes sense in its own way, but it remains our largest impediment.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Christmas decorations have been taken down, stowed carefully in their boxes, and then carefully stacked in our crawlspace. It's one big day and at the end our little townhouse looks miraculously larger than ever before (for at least a few hours). We are going to make every effort this coming year to have our next Christmas in a larger home, one where I can walk gingerly to the garage to retrieve and stow those boxes. I'm sure we'll look back in a blink and see these as the good old days, but right now they're the cramped days. These are uptown problems to be sure -- everyone is warm, has a full belly, and has plenty of clothes.


It was -21 for a few days. Then it snowed well over a foot. Followed by a few days of 40 degree temps. It's back in the 20s now, we still have piles of snow, and all the lakes are still solidly frozen. Let's stay above zero and enjoy winter and the growing daylight.


Everyday is a Lego day around here. As for Piper, everyday is a bear day.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's far too easy to forget and cave into the fast pace of life, but we try to be mindful of introducing family holiday traditions to the kids. Thanks to a Christmas card by the way of Texas, we acquired some oplatek. It's a Polish holiday custom I've always enjoyed, and I would say Henry and Piper now feel the same way.

After happily exchanging greetings and pieces of the wafer the kids keyed in on the remainder of wafer on the table. Piper may have been first. "Eat rest?" They were given the green light and equal portions, and soon devoured it. Nice Polish kids.


Monday, January 9, 2017

I don't know why, but all the kids want to do is play a hiking and camping game these days. It involves loading up a backpack with plastic tools, grabbing a few blankets, clicking on the fake candle (read: campfire), and finally spreading it all out on the floor of the bathroom. Soon after I am instructed to close the door and keep it shut. As long as I don't hear the water running or toilet lid clanging, I leave well enough alone. Chatter about "the top of the mountain" soon follows.

This has happily translated into excitement for summer camping and hiking trips, so I've already started sketching out a few campgrounds and rental cabins.


Henry's Lion scout pack rambles forward, peppered mostly by Pack Nights as of late. At the Christmas party shown below the Scoutmaster passed out kazoos. After a wall of sound failing repeatedly to replicate classic holiday carols, the scouts were allowed to walk up and visit the cookie table. At the end of the meeting the Scoutmaster reminded us with a smile that we were more than welcome to take home those kazoos. Thanks, buddy.