Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yay!

Mrs. Doohickie got the TAKS test results back from her students, including 10th graders and seniors and.... 100% of them passed! Way to go, guys!

The TAKS tests are the standardized tests they give to high school students in Texas. Her seniors were all kids who had previously failed the TAKS and her job was to get them to pass. After they took the test, she wasn't sure everyone passed, but as far as history and social studies goes, all her seniors can graduate.

As for our own family, my son, a high school junior, passed all of his exit-level TAKS tests too. :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The work-a-day world

This is a story about a career.

Not mine.

My career is that of an engineer. I've spent 20-some years alternately working on really neat stuff, trying not to get laid off, and getting laid off. (Don't worry, I'm working right now!) But I'm not talking about that.

I would rather write about a career full of passion, excitement, and a sense of mission. My wife wanted to be a teacher from an early age. She struggled in high school as an average student, but she had a few teachers that reached her and inspired her to greater things.

Unfortunately her high school also had practical-minded counselors, and when she was in high school there was a glut of teachers so... they directed her toward retail management.

That was the track she was on when we met. Even while she was still in college she was working as an assistant manager for the initial store of a startup bagel shop (which eventually expanded to many locations and is still in business 20+ years later). She worked at various stores and even ran her own business for a while- one of those ventures where you book parties at people's homes and sell them stuff.

Through the years, though, she kept coming back to the idea of a ministry kind of career, one that worked with younger folks. She wandered around a bit but finally got her degree recently and started teaching high school.

That is the career I want to talk about.

As a 40-something-year-old woman right out of college, she had the urgency of starting a career late in life as well as the experience of raising two teen-aged sons coupled with an innate teaching sense and a newly minted degree. Sometimes, I think, it's worth it to have to wait to achieve a goal. Although my wife is a teacher through-and-through, I sometimes wonder if she would have been a great teacher if she had gone to college for education right out of high school.

It's kind of a mute point, because that's not how it happened. Instead she didn't graduate from college until 25 years after high school. All that life experience wrapped up with the drive that was burning in her the whole time has made her a great teacher, at least in my eyes.

Her career seems to bear this out; she's been pretty successful so far. But more than that, she loves it. For me, having a mediocre career (in terms of personal fulfillment) is perfectly acceptable if it has enabled my wife to follow her calling. For me, my career is a job that feeds my family and pays for the house and stuff. But for my wife, her career actually reaches out to at-risk kids and helps them realize that they can actually do something with their lives. That's pretty wild to me, and I'm pretty proud of her for what she's already done in just a few years.

Also, she is in a position to help mold the next generation of teachers. Because she is a recent grad, she relates pretty well to them. Because of her life experience she can give them insight into how to be more effective as teachers.

The strange thing is this: Because of the good my wife is accomplishing in her career, it helps make me more happy in mine.

My car- I ownz it!


So this afternoon I went to the credit union and made the last payment on my wife's car, an 03 Ford Taurus. It took 5 years and 97,850 miles, but we finally got that puppy paid off. The cool thing is that the car still looks and runs like brand-new.

Sweet.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nuthin special

Nothing much going on, just normal things in a life.

They have a recreation club where I work and I think I'm gonna sign my older son up for some photography classes; he's interested in that kind of stuff. It can be part of his birthday present.

My younger son had a piano recital tonight. There was some really great music played. Unfortunately, each student seemed to be challenged to their limit. I enjoyed it; there's a certain energy in the music when the performer is right on the edge. I think when my son graduates high school next year I may start piano lessons myself.

Tomorrow, he and I will go to the Men's Breakfast from our church, then we'll sign him up for Driver's Ed. He's almost 18 and has been driving for a while, but I just don't feel like I've been a very good teacher, so I'm going to turn it over to a professional.

Since he's going to be driving soon, we may buy another car. If we buy something new, my wife's Taurus with almost 100,000 miles can go to the boys and we'll have enough cars to go around. I test drove a Ford Fusion this afternoon and all I can say is that it is a sweet, sweet ride; I hope my wife agrees and we get one. Of course I'm more eager to get the new car than she is, so it remains to be seen how quickly we end up buying something.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I had to wear a suit today :)

There's another reason I wore a suit today: My son is in the choir at his high school and they had the choir banquet tonight. So after the funeral, I came home, picked up my son and my wife, and we went out to a very posh country club (one of the choir parents is a member there) and enjoyed some great food, great (or at least very good) singing, and a few laughs. The parents aren't in on all the jokes, but some things are funny even if you don't know the personalities involved.

I got to meet the apple of my son's eye. My son's a junior, she's a freshman. She's a very sweet, stunningly beautiful girl. He hasn't asked her out because her parents, Afghani immigrants, think that she is too young to date, especially a boy that's two years older than she is. But he tries to spend time with her when he can, even if it's not a date situation.

Anyway, we just got home from that. My mood is lighter than it was after the funeral.

I had to wear a suit today :(

A gentleman I've known for over 10 years passed away this weekend; his funeral was today. So I wore a suit to work in anticipation of the funeral. You get these looks from people when you wear a suit. They ask if you have an interview.

"No, a funeral."

Then they wander off because that's hardly a conversation starter. It's weird, actually, but I kind of like funerals. First of all, the person who has passed on is lionized and you hear all about their best moments. In this case it was well deserved. This guy was a normal guy. A normal guy who served in World War II, married in 1945, had a baby-boom daughter and a nice career as a chemical engineer. His marriage lasted 62 years until he died. He received a patent for a mold release agent used in composite materials. After he retired he didn't slow down. He was part of the core of guys that took care of the church building and grounds where I attend church. He helped build homes with Habitat for Humanity. He could have sat on his duff and collected dust, but the "Greatest Generation" guys aren't like that. Toward the end of his life he slowed down just a bit. He still got out though; we'd see him at church with his oxygen tank. At first it was shockingly sad, but after we got used to the O2 tank I came to admire the spirit in him that wouldn't slow down, even when his body did. God bless him.

That brings me back to why I like funerals. You get to review a wonderful life. Most people I know who live to a ripe old age have lived lives you might call wonderful, either for what they accomplished or what they endured. As I've reached middle age, funerals serve as a time of introspection. If that was me, would they be saying genuinely nice things about me, or would they just be charitable for the sake of my widow? Would people cry? Would people miss me? Would people even bother to show up for my funeral?

These are the thoughts that go through my head during the hymns, readings and the eulogy. My answers are not always favorable, but I think such an inspection of the soul is a good thing. You have to know where you fall short before you can work on improvement. The sobering event of a funeral sets the tone for such an examination.

But also, for our minister, a funeral really is a happy time. I can be a gloomy Christian, not quite accepting this whole life after death thing- it's almost too good to be true. But to our pastor, a release of the soul from human flesh to be united with the Almighty is a cause for celebration. He's a good preacher, but he is at his very best at funerals.

So, maybe I'm weird, but I like funerals.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So glad that wasn't me!

So, I woke up late and drove to work today instead of riding my bicycle. As I got close to the office, an ambulance came through the intersection, lights and siren going. I thought nothing of it until I got up to the next light where the ambulance was pulled over, assisting a downed bicyclist. He looked okay mostly, but kind of shaken up. I'm glad that wasn't me.

The guard at the front lobby was relieved when he saw me and found out for sure I wasn't the guy the ambulance came for. (When I ride my bike I bring it through the lobby and into the building to store it in an unused office.)

Later, at the office, I heard someone say that the bicyclist ran into the back of the car of one of my coworkers. I talked to him about it, and he said he was surprised it was only a bike that hit him; he was sure it was another car from the force of the impact. He said the guy hit his car just as he was starting out when the light turned green. The bicyclist said his brakes didn't work too well and he didn't realize it until it was too late. Apparently after running into the back of the car, he bounced off the pavement pretty hard and got knocked out (no helmet). A lesson for the kids watching at home: ALWAYS WHERE A HELMET!

This was on the access road next to a freeway, at the end of a long downslope. This hill is part my cycle commute into the office; I've come down that hill and I can see where he could come into the intersection going too fast. The other guy I sometimes ride with said his bike's speedo gets above 30 mph with just a little light pedaling (and going back up that hill in the afternoon is a pain!) At 30 MPH, bicycle brakes don't work instantly and I guess the guy just didn't leave enough stopping distance.

Monday, May 19, 2008

99 is so fine!

So I rode my bicycle to work today. I checked the weather and this was supposed to be the coolest day of the week- with a predicted high of 94 degrees. The ride in was very pleasant. I rode in in shorts and a t-shirt and barely broke a sweat with the sub-70-degree temps and low humidity.

Once I got into work though, I noticed that the temp was creeping up higher than predictions. By lunchtime it was 97; by quitting time it was 99! I considered calling home and getting someone to drive out to pick me up. Instead I decided to stay a little later and let the sun sink a bit, and try a different route that includes more shade. Before leaving I downed about two quarts of water.

It turned out to be a non-event. The shadier ride is a little longer (nine and a half miles instead of seven and a half), but the hills are more manageable- longer and easier to climb.

So now I guess maybe I won't have to fear those 100 degree days that are right around the corner.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

One of those perfect days

I read Miko's MetaChat post about Tiger Stadium, which included a link to a New York Times slideshow about the old stadium and plans to tear it down (although perhaps not all of it). Miko's story brought back memories of a Perfect Day when my family and I went to a Detroit Tigers game.

It was on Labor Day, 1995. Mrs. Doohickie's Uncle Herb (remember him? I've written about him before- see the fifth picture down) was traveling around the country visiting relatives. We were living in Detroit at the time and Uncle Herb arrived on the Friday of Labor Day weekend. Knowing Herb is a sports fan, we asked him if he wanted to go to a Tigers game. After a little checking, we found out that Mondays were Family Value Pack nights where you could get reserved seat tickets that included a hot dog and a coke for only $6 if you bought at least 4. I ordered 5 for me, my wife and two sons (8 and 5 at the time), and Uncle Herb.

Monday was a beautiful day. It started out cool but by game time it was in the 70s and sunny with just a hint of a breeze. We drove into Detroit and, following all the other people driving in for the game, joined a line of cars that parked in some seedy lot full of broken glass, next to an old neighborhood bar.

Wouldn't ya know, we bought tickets in the middle of a section of Cleveland Indians fans. You gotta understand, in 1995 the Tigers were terrible, and the Indians were on their way to the World Series. So lots of people drove up from Cleveland to see the Tribe play. There was a lot of good-natured ribbing between us and the Cleveland fans.

I don't remember too much about the game now. It was more just the scene. There I was with my sons, my wife, and Uncle Herb. Having 3 generations there was great. The weather was great. The stadium was historic, which made it great. At the time, I realized it was one of those perfect days and just soaked it all in.

The only thing that would make it better would be if our hapless team could somehow win. And they did! Cleveland scored two runs in the top of the third inning, but the Tigers scored three in the bottom of the fourth. And that was it. The Tigers pulled it off. The Indians fans were cool about it- "We'll give you this game, but this is our season!"

No wait- the other thing that would make it better would be to somehow get down on the field and see what Tiger Stadium looked like from home base. Well, we got to do that too. It was "run the bases night" for the kids, so my boys and I got in line (which wrapped most of the way around the stadium) and waited our turn. The line bled down quickly and suddenly we came out of a tunnel and onto the field, with lights blaring. Sweet. My sons trotted around the bases with all the other kids, and I just sat there and gawked, taking in the scene.

We knew Tiger Stadium was in its last days, and I think that made the night that much more perfect. We watched a game in a classic ballpark built in 1912, enjoying the historic feel. Yeah, the stadium was ratty by that point. I can't remember if the new stadium was a done deal yet, but the writing was on the wall. Tiger Stadium's days were numbered. It was bittersweet, but for us, that night, it was far more sweet than bitter.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thanks to MonkeyButter

Thanks to MetaChat poster MonkeyButter who came up with my new tagline:
"Doohickie - The widget you didn't know you needed."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Little Chocolate Donuts....



...The Donuts of Champions! [via]

If you don't get it, try checking out the original commercial with Bruce Jenner.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Uh oh....

I fear Mrs. Dove is no more. I first noticed her about two weeks ago. This evening it seems she is gone. I am sad.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Haiku

The leaves on the tree
Hang limply with no motion.
The wind stopped blowing.