Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Raking up the leaves

I started out the day thinking I was just going to put together the leaf blower and learn again how to use it. I remember last year, when we first got the leaf blower and tried to use it, that it was not as easy as it looked. The leaves went everywhere and it seemed to only cause us more work. On top of that, I thought it would be better if we put all the leaves in the trailer that fits behind the lawn tractor and just haul the leaves behind the house and dump them in our woods. Well, the tires on the trailer were flat and I had to go and either get new tires (they were old and crumbling) or get them pumped up to last for a day. Mr. Cheap went with an offer to pump them up for free from our local tire company (yes, we do business with them so I didn't feel too guilty). I finally figured out how the blower was best used and it went fairly well. But all five of us (including Grandma) were out there raking as well as using the blower.

This year, I was going to be prepared. I was going to practice! It didn't take nearly as long to relearn to use it as it did to learn about it in the first place. After about ten minutes, I was having a blast! In about an hour and a half, I had the whole front yard in one big pile (see the top picture with our son Evan). As I used the leaf blower and learned more about it (you can start low and sort of blast the leaves into the air and then raise the nozzle and push them where you want) it made me think about how we go about learning anything and specifically how I learn a new project at work. It's always fun to learn new things but, for me, the best part is when you get to the place where you can actually do something useful with your tools. There is always a big debate about why more programmers don't use the code developed by others to save time and the need to make sure the code works correctly (I'm talking about using freely available software components or purchasing packages of software components - not stealing other peoples' work). The problem is that people get into this line of work because they like to fix problems and make new things - we like solving puzzles. Well, part of that is doing things your own way. In the back of your mind thinking, "I can do this a new, better way." That's how I felt with the leaf blower. I could have asked someone who had used one before to help me learn it. But it was more fun to figure it out for myself.

As you can see from the second picture (that's Emma buried in leaves, you can't see the fact thats she's lost one of her shoes and that we'd spend a long time looking for it :-), before hauling the leaves around back, I called the kids out to jump in the leaves. I should have taken more pictures - especially when they were jumping in together and throwing leaves at each other. Then Charlie the Dog came over and joined in. He had a great time, too. He helped us haul the leaves in the back (it only took four trips). Evan got to drive the tractor and Emma rode in trailer. We were all exhausted when it was over but it amazed me how fast it went. And to think, I wasn't going to really do the job that day - I was only practicing!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New layout for my blog and...

This is just a quick note to mark that my blog template has changed. Blogger (the service which publishes this blog) has made it easier to add links to the list on the right. But I had to upgrade my blog to use the new features. I like this new layout. My profile is at the bottom now. That's good, too. Who wants me staring at them while they read the latest entry?

As a side note, we've been in our new house for just over a year (we started moving in on Saturday, November 4, 2006) and I've been blogging (intermittently) for over a year (first post was October 14, 2006). I've got a few stories to tell about our first year in the house. Like when we'd only been in the house for a week and a big rain storm hit (the night of Saturday, November 11) and we got water in the basement - where half of our stuff was still sitting from having just moved in! I'll try to add this and other stories soon.

We are also wrapping up our big project at work. It was originally planned to be done in April, 2007. The new plan is the end of this month (November, 2007) but we'll see. There is still a lot to do.

Also, in the middle of the rush to get the project done, our company had scheduled a one-day seminar in how to help our creativity. Perhaps I'll write a bit about that, too.

I know I've been bad about writing new posts for this blog. It's not that there enough things to write about. The problem is finding the time to create a well-written, understandable post about the people, events and things in my life. My main reason for doing this blog is for my own use - to document the everyday things. I want to remember when we did certain things. What I was thinking at certain times. Also, I want to push myself a bit to improve my writing. As someone once told me, "The best way to be a writer is to be a writer." Just having thoughts is not enough. You need to write those thoughts down to organize them. And, if the thoughts are only in your head, they are easy to forget. But, I need to treat this blog more like a diary and force myself to write something every day. I'm missing a lot of the little things that happen every day.

One final note, the reason I wanted to edit the layout of my blog was to make it easier to add a new link to my list of blogs. My wife has started blogging and I have added her blog, "A House with Two Cats", to my list.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How much reality do we need in a movie?

We are big Seinfeld fans in our house. And Bee Movie has opened which stars Jerry Seinfeld (he also helped write it). I've read three reviews of it so far and two like it and one doesn't. That's OK - we're going to see it no matter what. This is one of the many advantages of having children - we get to see a lot of animated features that we might not see. And I have to say, I've enjoyed almost all of them: Cars, Shrek, Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Surf's Up, Hoodwinked, The Polar Express, Madagascar, Robots, Chicken Little, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Monsters Inc., Ice Age, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and lots of others. And these are only the animated movies we've seen in the theater. We've seen live action movies in the theater and animated movies on tape and DVD. So I understand the idea of the non-reality of movies in general and especially in animated movies.

But it strikes me as odd that three of the movies are about the social insects: Bee Movie, Antz and A Bug's Life. And all three of those are about a "worker" insect and all three had male lead characters. This posting is really late. I originally started it back on November 2, 2007, the day before we were going to see the movie. Now (November 14), I see in the New York Times, there is an article about this very subject. I swear, I had the idea first! But they have quotes from famous biologists so you might want to read the Times article, too.

Now, we all know that the insects that do the real work in a bee hive or an ant colony are all female. The male ants and bees are kept around only to mate with the queen and then they die. Not that this isn't an important job! If it wasn't for them, the colony and hive would disappear after a generation. But this is not the job the males are given in these movies. Is it the fact that studios, writers and directors feel that the public will not accept a female lead in these movies? It's not that they think that "bugs" can't be voiced by women because there are plenty of females in the movie and the queen of the hive and nest are always female in the movies. Maybe it's the fact that the workers are sometimes called on to fight or lift heavy objects. We still haven't gotten used to women doing these things. And by the way, ants and bees are NOT bugs but of the order Hymenoptera. Bugs are the familiar name for the order Hemiptera.

Now that we've seen the movie, I can tell you that two of the three of us enjoyed it. Our 5-year old daughter didn't want to go ("Yuck, I don't want to see something about bugs!"). My son liked it and so did I (there are always great "parent" jokes in these types of movies and this one has more than the usual number). But my wife wasn't crazy about it. I wonder what she would have thought if it had had a female lead? Maybe the movie could have been about the lead character's conflict between just staying in the hive (cleaning up after everyone, teaching the young and making the food) versus getting out to look for pollen, defend the colony- you know - more the female athlete role. Now that would be an interesting movie about "bugs".