Tag Archives: Family

My Great-Grandfather

I never knew my great-grandfather, John M. Daub — simple matter of time and age differences. But I do recall as a young boy reading my baby book and seeing the family tree, and of course seeing “John M. Daub” stood out to me due to the name similarity (different middle names). I was always curious about him.

When I asked, Dad told me what he could. A little while ago a distant family relative was in Plymouth, Nebraska and took the following pictures at the community center.

Learned something new about my great-grandfather.

Here’s a close-up of the text on the left:

Quite a businessman! Quite handy too.

Here’s a close-up of the right:

I love it. He made gas pumps. Electrician. Made batteries. Opened a grocery store and meat market. Prided himself in a job well done and ensuring customer satisfaction. Which… was stuff he handed down to his son, and to his son, and then to me. And hopefully I’m doing the same for my sons.

This is neat for me on so many levels. :-)

Great-grandpa? I never met you, but somehow I guess I’ve always known you.

 

 

 

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How’s it going, Amazon?

About a month ago we said goodbye to Sprouts and hello to Amazon. I’ve been an Amazon customer for many years, but the change was starting to use Prime.

So, how’s it going?

Quite well, actually.

There’s no question, we buy more from Amazon than before. I mean, shipping cost (both money and time) is no longer an issue. I feel no reserves when it comes to ordering something — just click click click and done. Of course, this is precisely what Amazon wants. So, mission accomplished.

However, it’s not without a few gripes.

A key selling point of Prime is 2-day shipping. We don’t always get that. Now, I’m going to cut some slack here because I’m not sure where fault lies. There’s been all sorts of bad weather across the US this past month, and that’s certainly thrown off the shippers. So I’m willing to bet it’s mostly due to weather and things outside Amazon’s control. But a few things haven’t shipped in a manner such that would lead to two-day shipping. That is within their control. But it goes both ways, because I have gotten some things that shipped a day late, but then shipped in one day, so in the end it worked out to two days. Overall, this is fine, but the key thing is when you start getting enough things that don’t meet the promise, you start to get skeptical (make a promise? keep the promise, y’know?). However, I’ll reserve getting fully irritated because I’m guessing a majority is weather-related. So we’ll see how things fare come summer.

It’s true that Amazon cannot control how poorly UPS handles your boxes. But they should be able to control how well they pack the items in the boxes.

We’ve had more than enough times of receiving damaged goods. One situation had a larger box filled with light bulky items, like cereal boxes, but then also a box of canned goods. And things weren’t tightly packed in the box such that things would avoid shifting. Why would you do that? So all the cereal boxes had burst open, and numerous cans were dented (yes, some along the seals). I’d reckon things would be OK to eat, but how can I be sure? How can I know where the damage occurred? And regardless, I’m not paying for used/damaged goods, I’m paying for new ones. We’ve called, complained, they have taken the complaint. I’m not expecting much to change.

I’ll say this tho. If the merchandise is damaged in the warehouse, it should never ship.

Then, pack things to minimize shipping damage. We expect the shipping box to get banged up, but the box and packing materials are there to be destroyed so that our purchased goods won’t be.

Normally I don’t have this problem with Amazon. It’s groceries that have been the issue.

All in all tho, Wife and I are happy. It’s going to take time before I can assess the financial impact. Right now, it’s costing more, but it’s because we’re buying just about everything in bulk. I would assume, over time, it will save us money because 1. bulk is usually cheaper, 2. there’s less impulse buying.

But we’ll see. Need more time. So far, mostly good.

Improvised Weapons, and kids

Of all the presentations at the 2nd annual SDS Conference, the 3 kiddos were unanimous in what their favorite presentation was.

Leslie Buck‘s presentation on improvised weapons. (yeah, it should have been Dad’s presentation, but I’ll let them slide). ;-)

Not only was it just a fun presentation, with lots of good video. It was something that was really valuable to the kids.

Because I got to thinking.

The purpose of the presentation was primarily for us adults that probably carry a gun normally, but for some reason cannot. So what else could we have at our disposal.

But think about kids.

Kids are vulnerable. They are generally physically smaller, weaker. When it comes to force disparity, usually kids are going to get the short end of the stick. Weapons are tools designed to help us overcome force disparity.

However, look at how our legal structure denies children the ability to use and possess these tools.

Look at how schools and other groups and places kids go will deny them.

If the mantras are “won’t someone think of the children” and “if it saves just one life, then it’s worth it”, then why are we doing things to make our children even more vulnerable?

And while it wasn’t necessarily a new topic to the kids (given their father), sometimes things make more impact when it comes from another teacher (especially one that isn’t Dad), or due to the presentation. From talking with kiddos afterwards, it sounds like Leslie’s presentation made a lot of positive impact on them and really opened up their minds to the possibilities. Even Wife took something from it.

So, when it comes to your kids, think about how they could use improvised weapons to help them defend themselves. Temper it of course (it’s not license to bash the bully upside the head with hammer), but help them realize there are things they can do when the situation arises and they may need it.

Hello Amazon

Saying goodbye to Sprouts is tough. You know the saying, “don’t you what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone”? Well, now that Sprouts is gone, I realize it was a larger part of our groceries than I realized (I knew it was a primary, but it’s even more than I knew). I didn’t realize how many Sprouts-branded things Wife bought. Everywhere I look in the fridge, in the pantry, I see Sprouts, Sprouts, Sprouts.

But in time, our stock will dwindle. And in the meantime, I can hope Sprouts will reconsider their decision, basing upon facts and not emotion.

The hardest part was thinking what to do as an alternative. There’s a lot of things we bought that we can’t find at other stores in town, or to do so would become difficult, with Wife running all over town to collect all the things we use. That’s a big sink of gas money, and most of all… time.

You know the saying about closing a door and opening a window? Well… I think in this case, what was opened was a laptop computer lid. :-)

I’ve shopped at Amazon for many years. I mean, what CAN’T you find there? Very few things. And Amazon works at expanding its offerings all the time.

I’ve never bought Amazon Prime tho, because I never felt like I ordered enough in a year to have Prime offset the shipping costs. I mean, most things I order from Amazon I can wait a week or two for, so I’ll always pick the cheapest slowest option, which often yielded free shipping anyways. So it was just difficult to justify Prime. And things like Kindle and movies? Meh.

But I thought about it. Yeah, what can’t you get? Often the prices are competitive or better. So Wife and I sat and searched Amazon for many of the foodstuffs and other products we bought at Sprouts. And gee if we couldn’t find most everything there. In fact, there’s probably a lot of non-Sprouts things too that we could get. I tried to convince Wife to consider Amazon for things like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. (things you know you’ll use and use a lot of, eventually in time), but the idea never really took off with either of us because again, shipping.

But now? Well, we’ve been pushed to try it. :-)

I signed up for Amazon Prime. When it comes to things like groceries yeah, I’d rather have it in 2 days than 2 weeks. If I can get 2-day shipping “for free”, and we can buy a huge bulk of stuff via Amazon (regardless of container size and weight), well gee… I suspect we could do alright with this. That local grocery shopping could be reduced to things like fruit, eggs, milk, etc.. I mean, we get our veggies delivered once a week….

The biggest win that Wife sees? Time. It’s a big time sink to do all that grocery shopping. But now? She can shop and build her cart in her own time. While she’s homeschooling the kids, they’re doing some work and she can search and click to get shopping done. Kids need attention? she can stop, tend to them, then resume shopping as time permits. She can shop at 5 AM before the kids get up, or whatever. There’s more flexibility, there’s better use of time.

I also think it could be a win because impulse buying might be curbed.

So… this will be an experiment. We haven’t bought anything yet and I don’t know how it will go. But, this should be fun to explore.

Children learn from our example

“The Angry Coach” at EliteFTS was writing A Sad Commentary on the State of Youth Sports. As I read it, it actually felt like a sad commentary on today’s youth and parenting in general.

He was observing a youth sports practice, and three things stuck out to him:

1. Practice started at 9 AM, but more than half the team showed up at 9 on the dot or later. This kills me. As a coach, 9 does not mean 9. Ideally, it means about 8:30. At a minimum, it means 8:45. When your kid has practice at 9, and you drop him/her off at exactly 9 (or worse, you’re later, which many parents were), what message are you sending? These are not going to be the “first in the weight room, last out” kids, because that concept will always be foreign to them. The good player, when he has practice at 9, shows up 20-30 minutes early, gets his equipment on, then goes out and warms up with his friends, throwing the ball around. He doesn’t show up when practice is supposed to start, stealing everyone’s time while he gets ready. That’s a shitty message to send your kid.

2. I saw multiple parents carrying their kids’ equipment bags across the street for them. I’ve never seen anything like this before, but I guess it’s because I don’t have kids of my own and because I’m not really involved with any youth leagues. For pretty much every other kid on this team, one parent would open the back of the mini-van, take out the kid’s gear bag, and carry it across the street while the kid walked over with his friends. I saw one kid (remember, they were 12, tops) on a cell phone while his mother was carrying his equipment. I don’t think I need to go into great detail on how this will hinder these kids as athletes. What was shocking about it was the number of parents doing it.

3. I saw multiple parents ignoring the one-way signs at the entrance to the parking lot so they could jockey for closer parking spaces. Again, another horrific message to send your kid (and likely one of the reasons why my car insurance payments are so f-ing high). This teaches the young athlete a number of things: 1) Narcissism, i.e., “I’m entitled to a better parking space than all my teammates.” 2) Taking the easy way out. 3) Flouting the rules because “we’re special and they don’t apply to us.” 4) “Nobody else matters but me, and I can do whatever I want no matter how much it inconveniences my team.”

Frankly, I see all three of these things as a more general problem today.

What happened to being early is being on time, and being on time is late? I deal with this every day, where meetings are set for a certain time, and people consider that time to start thinking about coming to the meeting. No, if the meeting starts at 10:00, you are seated and ready to go by 10:00, not that at 10:02 you leave your desk and saunter in delaying everyone until you grace us with your presence. Everyone seems to give service to the notion that time is precious and matters, but yet, actions don’t treat that time as precious.

What happened to kids being kids, and parents being parents, instead of parents being the servants of children? Parents should not be begging their children to undertake some action; the child should be told, the child should do, and if they don’t there are negative consequences. Granted, it’s not always so cut and dry, but the parent is supposed to be the one in charge. Should Mom be stuck unloading the groceries from the car while the kids run into the house and play? Hell no! They should be unloading, putting everything away, and doing their part to help out around the house. They should carry their own bags, their own stuff. Sure, small children are different, but as they get older, they need to start being given more treatment like adults, which includes carrying your own weight.

And #3. Oh, I deal with this one too often. I have nothing more to add above what The Angry Coach wrote.

Really, you want to know why kids are as they are today? Here’s a good starting list. And really, it just leads back to the parents… because they will learn from our example. And if this is the example set, what will their children learn from them?

PanemQuotidianum 1.0 is now available

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Sometimes, you gotta be Dad first

As the kids get older, it’s been fun to take them to various events to “expand their cultural horizons”.

I remember when I was a kid, my parents taking me to things like plays, musicals, orchestral concerts. True “high culture” stuff.

Me? I went with Daughter to see Orange Goblin and Holy Grail. :-)  Oh sure, we’ll do some of the “high culture” stuff too, but I’m still going to do the things I enjoy, and that tends to be a little rough around the edges.

So, speaking of “high culture”….

I’ve wanted to see Gov’t Mule for some time. I’d call myself a casual fan overall, but I really love the passion and soul Warren Haynes puts into his singing, playing, and songwriting. I know they’re a band that you have to see live to truly appreciate, and finally I got the chance.

As a side note, I had never heard of opening act Vintage Trouble before buying tickets for this show. When I saw the bill, checked VT out, and Daughter and I became instant fans. Really good stuff. And their live show? Huge energy. Singer Ty Taylor knows how to command the stage and the audience. Do yourself a favor and check these guys out. Here are 3 tracks to check out: “Nobody Told Me” (the first song I heard, and it sold me), “Blues Hand Me Down“, and “Pelvis Pusher” (if this song doesn’t make you want to get up and boogie, I don’t know how to help you).

Anyways…

We figured it would be fun to take the whole family to see Gov’t Mule. I wanted to go, Daughter did, Wife did, and the boys… well, let’s just say they were good sports. ;-)

We piled in the car, went downtown, had a great dinner, then into the show. Vintage Trouble tore it up, and being a live show in Austin… everyone around us was sparking up.

Then Gov’t Mule took the stage, and suddenly I found myself transported to Amsterdam.

I swear I’ve not seen and smelled so much pot smoke in my life.  I think even the trees were toking. :-)

It was evident this wasn’t sitting well with the family. They’re just not around smoke at all (neither Wife nor I smoke, and with Austin’s indoor smoking ban, you just don’t get exposed much to any smoke). Plus, marijuana smoke is a lot more harsh than tobacco smoke, so young lungs just couldn’t take it. It was even a little much for me, but I deal with it because I’m wanting to see the show.

After a little bit, the kids were feeling bad, so we tried moving back to a more open spot. It was better (and tho further from the stage, it was elevated so you could see better), but still not great. I mean, we were near the entrance so no one was going to smoke pot there, but enough cigarettes against already irritated child airways and well….

Sometimes you gotta be Dad.

We left the show about half-way through.

*sigh*

Yeah I was disappointed, but the kids are of course more important. I’ll check the rest of the show out on muletracks later.

But there was some fun and good that came out of it.

The kids are now well-aware of what marijuana smells like. “Mom? I smell skunk…” Yes,  Youngest; that’s marijuana.

And I think they’ve all been cured of any desire to smoke pot. :-)  It’s good when you don’t have to struggle later to pull up the weeds (pun intended), when the seeds don’t get sown in the first place.

More stuff for learning to program

A few days ago I wrote about Scratch, a nifty way to help my kids learn how to program.

I forgot a couple other things I found.

Stencyl. This looks neat. It I haven’t used it, but from what I read it looks like it follows the same sort of drag and drop “block” programming structure and logic that Scratch does. But it can be used to actually make iOS and Android products that you can actually ship and sell. So maybe after Scratch, this would be something to try. It would take the knowledge they had before, but now they have to actually make something polished and ship. A good “bridge” between the two worlds, so to speak.

There’s also GameSalad, which is made right here in Austin.

I still would want them to learn “real” languages (e.g. Objective-C, C++, Python, Ruby, Java, JavaScript, and maybe even new funky languages like Scala). Who knows. I think tho it needs to start with a desire to do it, and to really gain a love for it. If things like Scratch or Stencyl take off for them, then we’ll go there.

Who knows. :-)

 

Learning to program

Youngest walks up to me about a month ago and asks how you program (write software for computers).

Oh joy! :-)

Now I’ve talked about learning to program before and even a second time. I always come back to Karel the Robot as a great way to learn how to program. Why? Because you get to learn the constructs of programming without being burden by the constructs of programming. You can learn about loops and conditionals and variables and logic and flow, but you don’t have to spend 3 hours debugging a problem to find out it was because you misplaced a comma. And it doesn’t matter if you really do anything useful or not at this stage, in terms of gaining some employable skill (no job listings for Karel knowledge); once you learn how to program, then languages are just languages and toolsets are just toolsets.

Back when I looked at the LEGO Heavy Weapons book, No Starch Press offered other books to me to review. I asked about the Python for Kids book because it looked like it might be a great way to start the kids into programming. They sent me a copy, but I have yet to go through it. Mostly inertia on my part. Daughter asked me about it, but just a passing interest. And I must admit, while I think the book is well done for what it is, I still think it’s not a perfect start because there’s issues of language that get in the way. You have to get bogged down by syntax of Python. It’s not horrible of course, but I know things can be simpler. I think this book would make a good “phase 2″.

When Youngest asked me again, I went looking around. I found Scratch from MIT.

I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.

Youngest and I played around with this for a bit, doing the tutorial. I saw how Scratch gave you all the language, all the logic, even some advanced things like variables, lists, and inter-object messaging. It’s actually pretty cool. I liked the way you just drag and drop to make logic go. It also is able to give you direct feedback, which I think is good for capturing a child’s interest in the topic. I encouraged Youngest to “just try it”. What would happen if? Just try it and see! The environment is very forgiving, but even still, you can make mistakes and have to learn to debug.

I also really dig that all Scratch projects are “open source”. You can look at what others have done, and then you can look at the “source code” to see how they did it. I was able to find a simple game on the site, then show everyone how they made it happen and how neat that was.

So I’m working on this with Youngest. I told him a simple project he could start with would be reinventing comics. We all love Pearls Before Swine and I told him he could start by taking a simple Pearls comic (maybe just Pig and Rat talking to each other) and recreating it in Scratch. It’s a simple project, simple goals, but challenging enough to get your feet wet with.

And we joke… with Youngest programming… Daughter creating artwork and music… Oldest creating artwork, music, and overall design work… they all like to make movies, do voice work. Oh geez… I’ve got an in-house dev shop now!

Man, I wonder how far this ball will roll. :-)

See the positive, understand the gain

I do not live my life in a typical way. Of course, what is “typical”, but here it tends to mean that those around me whose lives intersect with mine in some meaningful way… my life doesn’t follow their same patterns.

I get a lot of grief and backlash because of it.

Overall I don’t mind because I am generally fine with the choices I make for myself and my family. But I cannot deny that it gets old constantly dealing with it.

People cannot accept me as I am (and disagree), they must agree with me (meaning what I do must intersect with their choices, outlook, morals, ethics, etc.)… else somehow I’m the one that’s fucked up.

I do understand this mentality and approach, it’s very human. It’s how we tend to deal with that which is “different”.

I guess what gets really old is where people focus their attention: they focus on what they see as wrong, instead of what they could see is right.

For example, our choice to homeschool our kids. People focus on the “S” word… socialization. Won’t your kids miss out? Won’t they have friends? What about as they get older, prom? Oh, I feel so bad for all the things your kids won’t get to do.

And that’s what so many people focus on, and the only thing they see: what they won’t do. Or rather, what they perceive they won’t do.

They don’t see the wonderful education. They don’t see the options in teachers and curriculum. They don’t see our kids are actually learning, not just learning how to take a test. They are developing, not just trying to pad their achievement list to compete for college entry. They don’t see the lessons they learn in how to interact with people of all ages. They don’t see the leadership taken on by the older children as they help the younger children. They don’t see how instead of spending all day locked in a classroom, eyes front, stop being creative, conform, do as you are told… that they can have freedom, they can efficiently complete their work then spend the remainder of their day exploring other avenues (how else did Daughter get to be such a great artist?). The list can go on.

So many people are concerned about what we miss out on, they don’t realize themselves what they are missing out on in their perceptions. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do in life, you cannot have it all. You will not experience everything, and there’s going to be far more things you will miss out on than you will experience. Instead of focusing on what you miss out on, why not focus on what you are gaining?

We don’t make the choices in our life because we want to miss out on things. No, we make choices because we see an overall gain. Oh sure, there may be some downsides to the choice, but we only choose to do things if in the end it’s a net gain. Why is this constantly overlooked? Why are we looked at for what we’re losing, instead of what we’re gaining?

We should not overlook loss, negatives, downsides, etc.; these are important aspects of the evaluation process. What needs to be remembered is they are not the only things to look at; you must look at the gains and upsides too. You must remember that if someone makes a choice, they likely did it because they see the most benefit from that choice over all other possible choices. Seek to understand and see their (potential) gains, instead of merely dwelling on your own cognitive dissonance.