Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jury duty review

So I've been released from jury duty. My number was never called and no jurors are needed today or tomorrow. So here are my thoughts now that my term of service is over.

I'm a little disappointed I didn't get called. While it would have been a hassle to work out child care (my mother-in-law was going to come down, but Chris would have had to stay home from work until she got here), I wanted to see how the whole process worked.

Jurors were only called 2 of the days all month. Apparently a lot of cases have been settled out of court lately, so they haven't needed jurors.

The nice thing is that I didn't have to call every evening. Some nights the message was that jurors weren't needed for several days and when to call in. For those of us who are planners, that made it a little more tolerable because I could plan some stuff a day or two in advance.

It's rough not being able to plan things for an entire month. A week is bad enough, but an entire month was a very long time. And there were special things happening this month. I was able to give them days that I was unavailable (when we were on vacation, preschool orientation and the first day of preschool).

But I've been nervous the last two weeks that I would get called on a school day. With a 3 year old who is nervous about school, a change in routine could be disastrous. Yes, Chris could take them in, but we're working really hard on that routine.

And then there is the factor that all these potential jurors were on hold for a month without being called.... I wonder if there are ever months when they don't have enough jurors and have to postpone a trial.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Preschool prep

Next week the boys start preschool. Wil will be in pre-K and Sam will have his first day of school (again).

As expected, Wil is excited to get back to school. He loves school. (Let's hope that continues!)

Then there's Sam. Last year was a disaster. He just wasn't ready so we pulled him out after a few weeks. This year, he says he's ready, although he still sometimes looks unsure. He tells me he won't cry and he'll stay at school all day - talk about making my heart break, listening to that! He is a year older and more independent than last year.

But Sam is nowhere near as independent as Wil. My boys are different in so many ways, not least of which is that Wil has always been sure of himself, not needing me nearly as much as Sam does. Even as a baby, Wil would push me away from playing with him because I was doing it wrong. He wanted to create his own little world. Sam, on the other hand, has always been much more dependent. Maybe it's because he has always had Wil to play with. Maybe it's just his personality. Sam has lots of brovado, but he's not good at being on his own.

We've been working on preparing Sam for preschool. This summer we've been reading books and watching shows that show how fun school can be. On heavy rotation right now are "Llama Llama Misses Mama", "The Night Before Preschool", and "The Kissing Hand" for books. We also found "Leapfrog: Let's Go to School!" on Netflix.

"Llama Llama Misses Mama" is nice because it let's him know it's ok to miss me, but I'll come back. He can miss Mommy and still enjoy his time at school. He has really gotten into "The Kissing Hand", making me kiss his hand and kissing mine in return when we read it. I think we may have to use that, at least at the beginning, to reassure him.

Generally, he likes all of these because the kids aren't always sure they will like school, but they always end up having fun. I just hope next week he remembers that second part and has a good time at school.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What if... a world with no stock market

Imagine a world where there is no stock market. Where companies answer to their stakeholders (employees, clients) rather than investors. Would that make a positive difference? I don't know (I am very far from an expert) but it's a question I'd like an answer to.

There are nuances to the stock market, so maybe what I'm really asking is about publicly traded companies. The reason I ask is because it seems that those publicly traded companies are answerable first to their stockholders, even at the expense of the company's best interests. Future gains are less important than a big dividend now (or at least that's the impression I get).

A small portion of the population keeps getting richer (CEOs, investors) while the workers keep getting shafted. I keep hearing that companies aren't hiring - not because they can't afford more workers but because they can make more profits for their stockholders by overworking their current employees. (I'd argue that this will eventually backfire since people burn out. They leave and/or they work less efficiently. So the company spends more training new employees. Which they think are expendable. Then they question why they aren't making more - when no one can afford to buy their products because no one has any money!)

I've been in a job where I was most definitely overworked. As people left, my department became me. Doing what 4 people had done before. Granted, I found ways to make processes run more efficiently (I had to), but it was still too much. I had a little breakdown just before I left (oh the relief when I walked out and realized I didn't need to down Tums continuously to get through the day!). And they had to hire 2 people to replace me.

Now, I bring all this up because I'd like to point out that they ended up paying salaries and benefits for 2 people anyway (after a short time of paying me exorbitant overtime), but there was also a toll on my health, which meant I used more health insurance. Yes, I paid more in co-pays, but overall, that helped raise insurance rates for everyone. (When more peope get sick, insurance companies raise rates. They don't generally lower them.)

People started leaving that company, abandoning ship so to speak, as working conditions worsened. New people were hired who didn't have as much experience, who needed a lot of training, who took time to learn. Clients weren't happy when everyone they talked to had to ask someone else for help and couldn't just get the job done. Can you see the snowball effect? This wasn't a public company, but I can imagine what any investors would have thought as they watched numbers fall.

Ok, so maybe this isn't a great case study for my question since this wasn't a public company and it shows how any company can make bad decisions. I just think using stock price as a benchmark is a bad idea. It magnifies the problems in bad management and puts undue emphasis on a metric that is kind of meaningless. Having to make profits to pay dividends to investors rather than making a profit to reinvest in the company seems foolish. (Ok, yes, you can do both. But it seems from where I'm sitting that sometimes those in charge forget that the employees are a part of the company. A company is only as good as its employees. Investing in human capital (which sounds awful) is just as important as investing in equipment.)

Anyway, I know there are no simple solutions, but this was just a thought exercise and a bit of a gripe that I wanted to put out there.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Dishwasher Fairy

Our house has a Dishwasher Fairy. I know this because I drink a lot of chocolate milk. I like to re-use my chocolate milk glasses for a day or two, so I rinse them and leave them on the counter until they're really in need of a proper washing. Think of it as a way to season the glasses between beverages. From time to time, one of my glasses will be captured by the Dishwasher Fairy and loaded ito the dishwasher well before its appointed time.

This is just how things are.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jury duty

I'm in the local jury pool for August. First let me be clear: I don't mind having jury duty. It'll be kind of interesting to see that side of the system.

But there are a few ways it really frustrates me.

I'm a planner. I like to have a plan, even if it ends up being thrown out the window. I like the illusion of control a plan gives me.

I can't plan anything this month. Nothing. I have a whole month of limbo, just waiting for my number to be called. I don't know until the night before if I have to go in the next day. Yep, I call each evening at 7 to find out if 13 hours later, at 8 a.m., I have to be at the courthouse. So far I haven't. There has only been one day where jurors have been called.

So 7 p.m. I call. Then I call Chris's mom to let her know. Because I'm lucky I have a mother-in-law who is available on short notice to watch the kids. Finding emergency child care would not be fun. I would hate to have to pay for the privilege of serving on a jury. (The token amount they pay certainly wouldn't cover daycare or a babysitter.)

Here I am left hanging each day for a month. What ever happened to being on call for a week? A week would be easier to work around.

And the worst part is that my day is tied to someone else doing their job. Last night I called the jury message line to find out if my number had been called. The message hadn't been updated. So I called every half hour until 11. And called again when the alarm went off at 7:30 this morning. Luckily there were no jurors required today, but it was a stressful night, all because someone forgot to update the message.

I sure would hate to be held responsible for not appearing because I didn't know I was supposed to. Yep, I have no control over my life this month. And that sucks.

Monday, August 8, 2011

GenCon 2011 in review

GenCon is over for this year, so it's time to review our mini-vacation.

Games: We played Munchkin Zombies Friday night (It's Munchkin! With zombies!) and yes, we bought it to add to our Munchkin collection. (I won our game.) We also tried a mini-figure game system thingy called Battles of Westeros, a BattleLore game. It's a strategy game, sort of like the minutia of a round of Risk. We were both new to the type of game. It just wasn't our cup of tea, but that's the point of GenCon - to try new games and see if there's something out there you have been missing.

Seminars: We went to lots of seminars, mostly on writing. Last year was the year for film seminars for Chris so this year we went to writing seminars for me (and Chris since things like world building and storytelling are also important for filmmaking.) I don't think I heard anything completely new, but a lot was confirmed. There were a few small things I needed to be reminded of, and it certainly wasn't wasted time. Hearing from a bunch of published authors who all had different takes on the writing process was informative.

Films: We had one film seminar on independent filmmaking. We also saw the sci-fi shorts block, which included one fantasy piece. It was an interesting mix. We capped off our time at GenCon with a viewing of "Beverly Lane", a fun zombie flick. May I just say, if you like zombie comedies, this was a delightful one.

Puzzle Quest: We tried our hand at the puzzle quest this year. There were 18 puzzles based on characters from "Alice in Wonderland. After solving those 18, there were 6 Alice puzzles. The goal was to solve them and find Alice. We only solved 8, but had a good time trying on the rest.

Bingo: Of course, one of the best parts of GenCon is all the costume watching. I decided to make a game out of it this year by creating a bingo card (after all, this was a gaming convention). Out of 25 squares, I found 21. Not bad. For an even bigger challenge, I took pictures as I found things on my card.

So here is GenCon in photos.

Wearing my Wil Wheaton shirt, in front of a war jack.

Anime characters

Zombies on the exhibit hall floor.

Just a bunch of fun costumes.

Transformer and Cobra Commander.

There were a lot of Jedi.

And Vader with Obi-Wan and a Rebel.


Fun steampunk

Kilts were well-represented.

Slave Leia and Stormtrooper.

Not sure, but neat costume. 

Chris dozed off in one of the writing seminars.

A couple of Captain Jacks.

Jareth, Pikachu.

Tusken Raider on the escalator.

My elf costume.

Spiderma'am and Wolverine.

Steampunk family.

Steampunk wheelchair.

Chris having an anachronistic moment with his iPhone.

Red shirt with sword in his back.

Our band of steampunks.


My steampunk costume. We'll add 'stuff' for next year.
And speaking of next year, we plan to go, but it's mid-August, so we'll have to see since Wil will be in Kindergarten and school starts around that time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


GenCon 2011 starts tomorrow. Yep, we're going to get our geek on this weekend. Costumes will even be worn. There will be loads of fun people watching, which brings me to GenCon BINGO!

I saw a card posted for ComicCon and thought it was a great idea. I don't know how well my card will do or how many spaces I will fill (I plan to keep playing even if I get a traditional BINGO), but it should add to the fun.