Tag Archives: Weekend Assignment

Excuse Me While I Take Another Vivarin.

While I was on vacation, Mike over at Everything Under the Sun gave me his “Time Management Award” as part of his response to Karen’s Weekend Assignment #228:  Design an Award.  This is proof positive that Mike and I have never met in real life.

Thanks, Mike!

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Response to Weekend Assignment #212: Celebrate Poetry Month

I’m no poet, but Karen at Outpost Mavarin has assigned us to write a poem to celebrate National Poetry Month, and in the interest of building character, I’ll give it a shot. In the interest of getting it over with, I’m going to go with haiku, because I think I can handle seventeen syllables of verse.

Dark early morning

bed shakes, I leap up and stand,

hear glasses clinking

In honor of the Great Chicago Earthquake of 2008.

Response to Weekend Assignment #205: Those “Other” Pets

Scooz me

I’m in an unreasonable amount of pain this morning from a wrenched muscle or a pinched nerve in my back, the result of a slip on the ice on Thursday. Just about the only thing I can do without suffering unspeakable agony is type, which makes this an excellent time to get my homework done.

The assignment this week (as always, from Karen at Outpost Mavarin) is to discuss our experience with pets other than cats and dogs. Our only pet these days, and the one constant companion Mrs. Unfocused and I have had since 1990, is BPF: the Big Pink Fishie, familiar to readers of this blog because of the LOLfish I made in response to a dare from Nathan at Polybloggimous (prior posts here and here). The new LOLfish at the top of the post is the first part of my response to my assignment.

When Unfocused Girl was four, we caved in to her increasingly desperate demands for a pet she could hold. After rejecting fur-bearing creatures (Unfocused Junior and I both have allergies), birds (allergies, noise), and turtles (salmonella), we settled on hermit crabs. The first pair, Rosie-poo and Butterfly, lived for several months. None of their successors, Rosie-poo 2, Butterfly 2, Rosie-poo 3, and others whose names none of us can recall, lasted more than a month or two, so eventually we gave up and accepted our lot as a Family With Fish.

Unfocused Girl is now deeply into the Warriors series, and I think she would feel a little odd having a kittypet anyway. If we were to get a cat, I suspect she would leave the back door open all the time, to encourage it to escape to the forest and achieve its true potential as a Warrior for Thunderclan in the fight against Shadowclan. But we can’t have a cat, so the question is moot.

I had cats growing up, though, usually between three and six at a time. We didn’t realize I was allergic to cats — everyone just thought I was a sneezy kid (another reason why the Seventies are often referred to as the “Oops Decade”). Some of the names we gave to the cats we had were a little unusual. The two cats that were generally “mine,” because they slept in my room and preferred to sit with me while I was doing homework or watching TV, were Sesame and Dammit. I was little when we got Sesame, and I named her after Sesame Street. Before we adopted Dammit, she was a nasty-tempered stray who used to invade our backyard and terrorize me when I was small; the Unfocused Mom always ran out into the yard, yelling, “Get out of here, damn it!” and the name stuck. They were good cats.

Response to Weekend Assignment # 203: Road Trip!

This week, work grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and gave me a good, hard shake. Now that the week is over and the long, President’s Day weekend has finally arrived, I’ve got documents to crunch through this weekend on three different cases before Tuesday. I had intended to take a couple of days off from blogging to work on the novel. Instead, I’ve written a whopping 704 words since Sunday night. Yippee. I’d like to get 2500 words written by Monday night, to take my word count up to 35K, but I think that’s unlikely.

What I need, of course, is a ROAD TRIP. The kind where you get in the car with your significant other or your buds, throw a backpack in the trunk, and just drive. These days, our road trips are a little more planning-intensive, requiring car seats, DVDs, CDs, laptops, chargers, toys, books, markers, etc., etc. They’re still great, just slightly less spontaneous.

This week, Karen over at Outpost Mavarin has given us the freedom to go on any road trip we want, so long as it’s a driving trip. If we could take the time, where would I drag my Unfocused Family? I’m assuming that this is supposed to be a three-day weekend kind of trip, not a two-week, Brady Bunch-style, driving trip to the Grand Canyon. But that still leaves a lot of territory to potentially cover. Milwaukee? Great museums and public garden, I love the brewery tours, and it is home to my favorite bar in the entire world. Cleveland? I’ve never been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so that might be fun, and educational for the kids. St. Louis? I guess we could see the Gateway Arch, but I used to have a number of cases in and around St. Louis, and I never really warmed up to the town. Bad memories, I guess. Springfield? Detroit?

Any of those would be real possibilities, but if you handed me a three-day pass for the trip, I’d really like to take the Unfocused Family to Louisville, Kentucky. Shortly after we graduated from college, Mrs. Unfocused (then the Unfocused Girlfriend) and I took a trip to Louisville for a few days. We were going through a bit of a rough patch, as unemployed recent college grads can, and decided that a weekend away together was what we needed. Unfortunately, neither of us knew how to drive, so it had to be somewhere we could get to relatively quickly by train or bus (since we also did not have enough money for plane tickets).

We worked off of an old copy of Let’s Go America, and finally decided on Louisville. We took an overnight Greyhound bus (an experience in itself, which I would not care to repeat), and spent a wonderful few days seeing Louisville on foot and by bus.  If were to go back, this time with our own car and the kids, I’m not sure what we would do differently.  We would take them to Churchill Downs, and Colonel Sanders’s grave, and whatever else there is to see, like this, but best of all would be the chance for Mrs. Unfocused and me to revisit the place where, 17 years ago, we decided we had to make things work, and set the foundation our marriage four years later.  And to get another Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby mint julep glass to replace the one Unfocused Junior broke a couple of years ago.

That’s enough lollygagging for me.  I’ve got work to do, the Family Tae Kwon Do class (if no one’s sick this week) and then maybe a little time for Meet the Larssons. Have a good, long weekend, and if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to check out the February Blog Chain.

Weekend Assignment #200: When are you going?

Karen at Outpost Mavarin has posted another weekend assignment, and this time, I’m going to get it done before the last minute.


Weekend Assignment #200:
You’ve recently become friends with someone who unexpectedly reveals that he or she has a time machine, all tested out and ready for adventures. Your friend offers you one round trip to anywhere, anywhen, backwards or forwards in time. What’s your destination? Or would you rather just stay home?

Stay home? Are you kidding? This is the opportunity of a lifetime! See important historical events, resolve debates, maybe even engage in a well-placed assassination or two!

Or travel into the future, and learn what will happen next week, next month, or in the next century! Become as rich as Biff in Back to the Future 2 by betting on sports when you know the outcome of every game! (But, you know, be a better person.)

Which to choose?

As a long time reader and watcher of science fiction, I would be very concerned about traveling to the past. Science fiction writers have come up with three basic hypotheses for the impact of time travelers on the past: (1) the past is immutable, and nothing you do while traveling in the past can have any (significant) impact; (2) the past is not only mutable but fragile — travel into the distant past, crush a bug, and you may return to find the world ruled by a fascist dictatorship or aliens; or (3) the past can be changed, but any change creates a new parallel universe — the original history remains as it was, but a new one comes into existence as well, and you, the time traveler, may be trapped in it.

If my friend can’t tell me which hypothesis is correct, traveling into the past sounds too dangerous. What about traveling into the future? I’m perfectly happy to gain an unfair advantage by collecting newspapers from next week, next month, and next year to assist me in playing the stock market, but those tricks always seem to turn out badly — my stock market purchase could have a ripple effect on the markets that would change the future, and leave me broke instead of rolling in it. Sports betting might be the wiser choice after all; my bets might change the payout offered, but they would be unlikely to change the outcomes of the games, right? Right?

OK, never mind the gambling. I could just bring back an invention from the future, reverse engineer it, and give the world rocket packs (or whatever) a generation early! How could that go wrong?

I could just go to satisfy my own curiosity, I suppose. But wouldn’t that take all the fun out of life? And the Mrs. would probably leave me, just for being so annoying about my lack of surprise.

“Honey, look at this! An alien spaceship landed on the White House lawn last night and brought us the secrets to interstellar travel and curing dandruff! It’s the biggest news story ever!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Are we out of coffee again?”

Thwack (sounds of coffee pot hitting me on the head).

Maybe that’s not such a good idea, either. Screw it, I’m not going.

Extra Credit: The first trip is so wildly successful that your friend offers you one more trip, this time in the opposite direction. When are you going this time?

Assuming that the “opposite” of staying home out of sheer panic is decisively going somewhen, then I choose to go to the future and grab those stock market tables. What the hell.

Weekend Assignment #199: When do you sleep?

I left the link to the assignment off the original post – sorry Karen.

When I was in high school, my motto was “No sleep ’til Brooklyn!” I lived in Brooklyn, though, so that was alright. It’s not like I never slept.

Short answer: my sleep schedule is unhealthy and likely to lead to heart disease and unsightly wrinkles.

This winter, I’m getting up around 6:45 am on weekdays in winter when I don’t run before work (most days, since it’s cold and dark in the morning and I’m a wuss). It’s when I go to bed that’s a problem. I had gotten to the point by December where I came home, helped put the kids to bed, then logged back into the office and worked until midnight almost every night. I was able to put the brakes on that, but now I have the novel to work on, not to mention the blog, so I’m staying up even later. At least I have some work/life balance. When I have some discipline about going to bed, I’m running on about six to six and a half hours of sleep a night during the week, which is just under what I need in order to function normally; when I let things go, it’s more like five.

Extra credit: If we had no other obligations, it is entirely possible that Mrs. Unfocused and I would go back to the sleep schedule we had the summer after we graduated from college, when we were unemployed, living on credit from Harper Foods, and spending our days swimming in Lake Michigan at The Point. That summer we went to bed at 4:00am and slept until noon.

Weekend Assignment #198: On Winter

Waiting until the last minute to do my homework — it’s just like high school. Or college. Or law school. Or elementary school, for that matter. The new Weekend Assignment is up at Outpost Mavarin. Here it is:

Weekend Assignment #198: What is your favorite thing about winter? Whether you love this time of year, hate it or merely endure it, you should be able to find something good to say about the season. What is it?

Before we had children, every winter the Mrs. and I used to drive up to Door County right after Christmas and stay until New Year’s Day or January 2. (For those of you not familiar with the Midwest, Door County, Wisconsin is the northern tip of the peninsula that divides Green Bay from Lake Michigan, and is a summer resort area for families from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and as far as the Twin Cities.) Most of the shops and many of the restaurants are open for that week — everything closes after January 2 until May — but it is never crowded, except for breakfast at Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay.

We went snowshoeing in the state park, antique shopping, watched old movies at night. One year, we were supposed to leave on New Year’s Day so I could be at the office on January 2, but on New Year’s Eve, it started to snow. When we woke up on New Year’s morning, it was still snowing. We tramped into the main building at Eagle Harbor Inn (where we always stayed) for breakfast, and heard that the road from Green Bay to Milwaukee had been closed by the state police, and would not reopen for several hours after the snow stopped, at the earliest. We were free! This was around 1998 or 1999 — I had no Blackberry or laptop, so I had to just leave voicemails for a few people, and then I was completely off the hook. There was no problem with our staying an extra night in our room, we drove into Egg Harbor to see the wonderful New Year’s Day parade (including the town’s little yellow fire engine) and eat dollar brats grilled up by members of one of the local service clubs as a fundraiser. I don’t remember what we did that evening, but I’m sure we enjoyed every minute of it. It was the best snow day I had had since the winter of 1978/79, when New York (where I grew up) had a massive blizzard and the snow plow broke down in the middle of our street, leaving us with an eight-foot high wall of snow, easily four to six feet thick, crossing the entire street, and all of the kids on the block stayed home and had the mother of all snowball battles, using the wall of snow as our barrier, our fort, our mountain, or our high ground for firing down at the others.

Now I watch my kids when they have a snow day; they’ve only had one or two since they started school (they’re young yet), but I remember my daughter jumping up and down the first time she learned that when there is enough snow, they cancel school and you get to play outside.

That’s what I love about winter: the possibility of snow days. No other season offers anything comparable, the possibility that the weather will be so bad that school is canceled, but so good that you can spend all day playing outside (with occasional breaks for hot cocoa and marshmallows).

Extra credit: What do you hate most about winter?

This is harder than the main assignment (which I suppose is why it’s extra credit). My first thought was: travel. I fly often enough for business, and flying in winter is really miserable because of the weather delays. I’m not going to use that as my answer, though, because these days flying is a miserable experience in all seasons, so there is no reason to single out winter.

The winner is: cabin fever. I get it as bad as the kids do. It’s hard to get up to run outside in the dark. It’s even harder when you know that out there in the dark, it is really, really cold. By spring, I am leaping at the chance to run outside in 40 degree weather, and the kids are begging to spend as much time as possible in the mud pit that is our backyard in April. By the end of February, we are all a few cards short of a deck. What I hate most about winter: cabin fever.