Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whither Areva?

The on-again, off-again Eagle Rock uranium enrichment plant planned for Bonneville County Idaho appears to be on again, though construction again will be delayed.

The Post Register (via the Idaho Statesman here) reports today that Areva is still committed to the $3 billion plant, though construction may not begin until 2013 or 2014, depending on whether or not the company can find other interested investors and whether or not the world economy continues to fester in the crapper it’s been in since 2008.

Says the paper:
Areva already owns the land for the plant west of Idaho Falls and invested resources in planning and development. At one time, the company had hoped to begin construction this year to meet an opening date of 2014. The project, expected to create several thousand construction jobs and 700 permanent positions once operational, was viewed as a future driver of the eastern Idaho economy and a key component in Areva's plans to expand production of nuclear fuel for commercial power production in the United States.
This news is contrary to speculation by Dan Yurman over at Idaho Samizdat, who speculated that Areva’s investment in a uranium plant in New Mexico spelled doom for Eagle Rock. The newspapers report that isn’t the case.

I certainly hope Areva’s commitment to Eagle Rock is more than a paper commitment. The plant could be a significant economic driver in the Idaho Falls area and help absorb some of the folks laid off from the Idaho National Laboratory. The plant’s presence in the area could also act as a magnet for further energy development, as is the plant currently underway in Hobbs, New Mexico. Areva had also planned to ask some of its partners to co-locate in Bonneville County, per Yurman, further adding to the economic draw.

Can’t wait to see what Mr. Snrub says about this.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ever Read 1984, Mr. Franzen?

I admit to being a physical book hog. My wife and I have an enormous collection of books, made even more enormous by the fact we’re packing all of them up and moving them to a new house. All that packing has got us to thinking: How about if, at a minimum, we looked to replace our “classics” with e-books (at least until the Supreme Court renews all those expired copyrights)?

As an experiment this year, I’m going to read one e-book for every two physical books I read. Thusfar, I’m not doing well on that goal, having read only one e-book (Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows). I am on my second – Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. And so far, so good. As far as I can tell, there are no words missing. There is no advertizing shilling going on. Books are books.

So it’s with a bit of amusement that I read Jonathan Franzen’s little bit about e-books at Slate.com today.

This won’t be another boring physical-versus-e-books debate. What I find comical in Franzen’s critique of e-books is that he doesn’t feel e-books are permanent. Says he:
Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough.
Really? Has he never read George Orwell’s 1984, in which Winston Smith specialized in eliminating the permanence of the printed word?

There are many arguments one can make for or against e-readers or physical books, but the supposed permanence of one medium over the other is about one of the weakest you could make.

I’ve never fretted over the permanence – or impermanence – of the books I read, electronic or not. The permanence, I feel, is in my head, with the images the author’s words help me create, not in the physical or electronic ink that conveys the words from the medium to the brain.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Little Stalking

Because the Internet now offers such capability, I’ve spent the last little while Internet-stalking the guy whose house we’re buying in Ammon.

We have, surprisingly, a lot in common.

We’re both corporate-world writers. He writes for a pharmaceutical company. I write for an engineering firm.

We’re both fans of board games, though his involvement in many game forums on the Internet reveals he’s more on the Brian Porter level than the Brian Davidson level.

We’ve both got kids. I think he and his wife have four, but I wasn’t paying that much attention.

He appears to be seriously active in a wide variety of social media, as am I.

We’re both 40 years old.

And soon, we’ll both have lived in Ammon, in the same house.

Hopefully, under better circumstances. There’s a divorce involved, or so I hear through the grapevine. That’s about all I know. And frankly, it’s none of my business.

But looking through the posts and photos on their family blog (to which I won’t link here; they deserve some privacy) I see they’ve had some joy in their lives. Lots of photos of the kids. The Christmas tree put in the spot in the house where I figure Michelle will put ours. They put in a garden, brought in the dirt to do it, and we’ll be there, gardening as well.

Stars Aligning Nicely

If all goes well, we should have the finishing touches on our home loan done today.

That leaves us only three weeks – yikes! only two weekends – away from moving into our new house in Ammon. And though we’ve been packing furiously for the last little while, I’m beginning to think we’ll never get all of our stuff out of this house and into the new one.

Partially because I still have some repairs I have to finish on our Sugar City house before we can leave. There’s not much – putting a little bit of roof tar on and fixing the strike plate on the door; things from our inspection – and fixing three loose tiles in the kitchen. And I’ve got to seal the kitchen floor. It’s just that we’ve got an awful lot of stuff to haul away, including about half a winter’s worth of firewood. That will NOT be fun. We may end up stacking it neatly in the alley behind the Smiths’ garage so we can come get it after the rest of our stuff is moved. And we may end up hauling some stuff to the Harrisons so we’re not behind on getting things done. That all depends on how much we can get hauled out of the place this weekend. Plus all the food storage in the pantry. HELP! Feeling overwhelmed.

So, the goal this weekend is to continue hauling out as many boxes as we can, plus as much furniture as we can. That’s going to include every stick of furniture in the living room but the piano, a few desks and beds and probably a load of bicycles and other crud from the shed. That’s just this weekend. I’d like to see if we can’t do two loads Friday – maybe three, if the kids’ll let us do one after school – and another three on Saturday, with a follow-up load on Sunday. That’s in addition to giving me time to get the needed repairs done this weekend as well so we’re not stressed about them next weekend.

Ugh. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I may have to take a day or two off work in order to get everything done.

Some good news, for us at least: The house we bought is starting to look like more and more of a bargain than what we were counting on. Michelle found out this week through our agent that the folks we’re buying it from have to bring $11,000 to the close since the amount of money they’re getting for the house won’t cover what they owe on it. That’s a stinker for them, of course.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mormon Lit Blitzed

No, Virginia, I am not a finalist at the Mormon Lit Blitz competition, nor even have I won second prize at a beauty contest.

But that’s okay.

Part of me simply says what I entered didn’t tickle their brains enough for whatever reason. I refuse to believe my writing is so crappy that their sole reason for dumping my entries is for their craptacular level of stupidiousness. I have to find the right venue, the right eyes to read what I write, before I write myself off completely as a writer and go into things better suited for my talents, such as toothpick repair.

Come on. Tell me this or this is completely terrible. (Really. Tell me. I need some unbiased opinions on my writing. My wife is my best editor, but she's taking masters classes and is out of the picture now. Anybody? Hellooooooo?) Maybe they just didn’t like excerpts. Maybe they’re all toffee-nosed over at the Lit Blitz. No matter. I will continue writing.

Skip to 3:07 or thereabouts, for Colin's Sally Field mockery.

I simply don’t think I’m artsy or pretentious enough. My writing does not have that soupcon of apricot and toast and mind-blowingly-bad poet voiceyness these competitions look for. Sorry, folks, I just don’t write that way. I write like me. And, I suppose if the me I write like writes badly, then I will go proudly forward, writing badly, until I get to the point I write something badly enough it’ll get published.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Parliament of Whores

Once our move is complete, I’m going to have to dig P.J. O’Rourke’s “Parliament of Whores” out of storage and read it again.

Frankly, it ought to be required reading for any high school civics class, including O’Rourke’s blue language, because in reading what O’Rourke has to say about government, we get a glimpse into what really motivates us as voters, consumers, and teat-sucklers.

Example: Not strictly governmental, but it is a symptom of the general malaise.

Consumerist readers are in a big hoo-hah over some clothing and accessory company appropriating an artsy image from a Georgia artist for consumer products without offering her recompense or at least asking permission.


Outrage is righteous indeed. But when it comes to individuals pirating movies, music, etc., from corporations, what we generally hear is crickets. Um, it’s perfectly all right, the message is sent, for individuals to steal from a company, but if a company steals from an individual, well then, umbrage must be expressed.

There is a glaring disconnect here, folks. Come on. Tell me you see it.

Additional example: Much a deal is being made of Mitt Romney’s taxes. It’s not that he’s evaded taxes. It’s that he’s not, by some peoples’ definition, not paid his “fair share” because (this will just absolutely stun you) because he’s rich.

Here’s a hint, folks: People like me, who are not rich, do not pay our fair share in taxes. We’re looking to get a refund this year that once again exceeds the amount of income taxes paid because (this will completely shock you) we’re playing by the rules the government has set for deductions and credits.

I’ll be the first to say it: I AM NOT PAYING MY FAIR SHARE OF TAXES. Truth be told, no one is. Because there’s always someone out there who says, “Damn, I’m paying way too much. There’s got to be a way to reverse the cash flow.”

Enter P.J. O’Rourke. We are a nation of whores. All of us looking to pay as little as we can but get as much as we can from the government, facts and deficits and budgets be damned. And by golly if we can’t do that we’re going to whine and complain about our perception that someone else isn’t paying the same thing while doing exactly what we would do in their shoes, or not seeing hypocrisy in the “do as we say not as we do” attitude we all cop when it comes to justice, money, and whatever da heck else ya wanna say.

What’s the cure? O’Rourke doesn’t know either.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Heavier Curatorial Control . . . Enter the Doublespeak

Just last week, anywhere you went on the Web you found people griping about SOPA and PIPA, celebrating when Congress put the “internet-censoring” bills on indefinite hold.

Now today I read at Slate.com an essay from Evgeny Morozov endeavoring to encourage search engines “to help stop the spread of 9/11 denialism, anti-vaccine activism, and other fringe beliefs.”

How is Internet censorship stopping piracy a bad thing, while internet censoring stopping fringe beliefs a good thing?

OK, so Morozov out-and-out says censorship won’t work. But then he turns right around again and proposes, well, censorship:

The second—and not necessarily mutually exclusive—option is to nudge search engines to take more responsibility for their index and exercise a heavier curatorial control in presenting search results for issues like "global warming" or "vaccination." Google already has a list of search queries that send most traffic to sites that trade in pseudoscience and conspiracy theories; why not treat them differently than normal queries? Thus, whenever users are presented with search results that are likely to send them to sites run by pseudoscientists or conspiracy theorists, Google may simply display a huge red banner asking users to exercise caution and check a previously generated list of authoritative resources before making up their minds.

Yeah, we get some doublespeak here: “heavier curatorial control” sounds pretty much like censorship to me. Yeah, we can still – maybe – see the results, but we’re flagged as a moron for going there.

And here’s another thing – anti global warming is pseudoscience, run by pseudoscientists or conspiracy theorists? Who decided that? Oh yeah. Those whose orthodoxies don’t allow them to see the reputable science and scientists who cast doubt on much of the evidence presented in favor of global warming. Heavier curatorial control is going to flag stuff that’s out of the orthodoxy and label it as pseudoscience simply because it’s outside the orthodoxy? Who gets to decide what is orthodox and what is not?

This idea is as ugly as SOPA/PIPA could ever be.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Permit Man . . .

So we got more bits of good news this week, vis-a-vis the sale of our house.

The appraiser, to whom we need to deliver a large fruit basket, completed an appraisal that did not mention the exterior paint at all, so we DO NOT have to paint or leave money in an escrow account for painting. That is the best news we could have gotten this week, and it came in a week and at a time when we sorely needed a bit of good news.

So I have a few minor repairs to make on the house and we're good to go, and that's a good feeling.

Even better -- the lady who is buying the house is anxious to move in and wants to move the closing date up. We may not be able to move it much, as we've got an awful lot of packing and moving to do, but we might be able to move it a few days. We took three loads of stuff down to Iona this weekend, and will have to do another busy weekend of it next weekend as well. Not really looking forward to all of that, but, alas, that is what happens when you move a household and its accumulated detritus. We are learning, however, what we can get along without. But it will be nice to see all of our stuff again.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Layoff Watch: Final Thoughts


Layoffs kind of ended oddly today.

We had a “stayers' meeting,” in which one of our higher-ups comes and chats a bit with those who kept their jobs. ‘Twas a good meeting, in which we got a little explanation on how subcontractors (like me) are ranked with the company employees, and how things work in general when someone has to be let go. All pretty straightforward stuff.

Then about a half hour after our meeting ended, one of the tech writers here, got a call from her employer saying her last day is Jan. 31.

That’s not all bad. She volunteered for it. So I suppose she got what she wanted; she and her boyfriend are headed to North Dakota to make their money in the oil fields.

That leaves two of us at RWMC. That could be both good and bad. They’re not quite certain how many writers they need here at RWMC, so we may find ourselves assigned part-time to other areas, as needed. Or let go in March or April or June. But it sounds like if we can make it through fiscal 2012, we ought to be safe for another three years. So here’s to keeping those fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Bradbury Test, Revisited

UPDATE: So I find out this book of Harrison’s isn’t one of his earlier ones, but came mid-career, and is meant as a parody of the “space opera” genre in which he ordinarily excels. Dumbass me. Still, the points I bring up are valid, even on a parody: Eeew. Bad writing demons, OUT!

I’ve written some on this blog about the so-called Bradbury Test, taken from a statement said by fantasy author Ray Bradbury, going something like this: Most of what we write is crap. You have to get the bad stuff out for the good stuff to follow.

I believe this test to be true.

I have evidence:

Right now I’m reading “Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers,” one of Harry Harrison’s earlier sci-fi works. It fits easily into what I call the “boobs and boots” niche of sci-fi and fantasy, in which nearly every quiet moment in the story is filled with the aforementioned articles. I may not finish the story due to the B&B quotient being high. But on top of that, this book feels written. It has a writerly stain about it; the same kind of writerly stain I notice about my own books at the moment. Harrison knows what he wants to write, but as he’s writing this story, he’s getting the bad stuff out of the way. The good stuff comes – witness his Stainless Steel Rat series – but the bad stuff had to come out first.

Same with another of my favorite authors – Terry Pratchett. I know among some circles it’s blasphemy to say he wrote anything that could be considered bad. But you know what? His early books, even the one that introduces my favorite character, Rincewind, is terribly written. It, too, falls into the B&B niche and feels written. Only in his later novels do we feel him capture his voice and become completely him, not some facsimile of previously-published authors that he emulated.

I’m not saying emulation is a bad thing – it can help any aspiring writer get the bad stuff out. Personally, I’m looking forward to that epiphanic moment when I, too, shed the Lloyd Alexanderisms and Aviisms that constrain my writing style and I come into my own. I imagine in the future, aspiring novelists will look at my early stuff and say, “Wow, that sucked. But he got better.” At least that’s the hope. The getting better part.

RD Loan = Pain in the Butt for Seller

So we got the results back from the home inspection our buyer needs in order to get her Rural Development loan. Some of the findings are a bit laughable, and all but one will be easy to fix.

But that one. Well, we’ll see.

There is peeling paint on the outside of the house. We know this. It’s part of the long debate we’ve had on whether to scrape and paint or ditch the siding in favor of stucco. But it apparently has the potential to be a sticking point with the RD loan.

Whether it is or not all depends on the appraiser now, who came yesterday before we knew the results of the inspection. The inspector pretty much put it in the appraiser’s/lender’s hands to decide whether the painting has to be done to close the sale and get the loan.

Here’s to hoping there’s no painting to be done because, if you haven’t noticed already, it’s winter. Mid-January. Yes, we’ve had an amazingly mild, snow-free winter (up until this week) but I still think the chances of having a paint job look good when done in this kind of weather is slim to nil.

Of course the other option is to put money into an escrow and have the painting done when the weather is better. Hells bells, that opens up a conundrum for us. How much of the house would have to be painted? At a maximum, if I were to do it on my own, I’d paint the back of the house, and maybe the south side, where the peeling paint is the worst – and then again only those portions of the siding showing flaking paint. Frankly, if it were up to me and it were still our house, I’d just say screw it, we’ll either paint in a year or two or do the stucco thing. Half a job seems like putting lipstick on a pig.

But all of this anger upsets my stomachs. I suppose we wait to see what the appraiser says.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Weak Connections = Strong JuJu

So it turns out that having a lot of friends on Facebook might actually be a good thing.

Farhad Manjoo, who is quickly becoming my go-to guy for current social media research, highlights a study released this week by Facebook’s research team that shows the personal echo chamber many worried about as this crazy Internet thing caught on isn’t as echoey or chambery as many feared it would be.

The echo chamber – for you troglodytes who have never heard the concept – is the feared phenomenon that the Internet would stratify society into groups of people who only shared or read news that already fits with their political or societal beliefs, while blocking out anything that might challenge their way of thinking.

According to Facebook’s study, that ain’t so.

Here’s what Manjoo says of the study:
But here’s Bakshy’s most crucial finding: Although we’re more likely to share information from our close friends, we still share stuff from our weak ties—and the links from those weak ties are the most novel links on the network. Those links from our weak ties, that is, are most likely to point to information that you would not have shared if you hadn’t seen it on Facebook. The links from your close ties, meanwhile, more likely contain information you would have seen elsewhere if a friend hadn’t posted it. These weak ties “are indispensible” to your network, Bakshy says. “They have access to different websites that you’re not necessarily visiting.”
Here’s a bit of explanation: Researcher Eytan Bakshy found – no surprises here – as he studied how people on Facebook share links that we tend to share links provided by those with whom we have strong ties, say co-workers, close friends, relatives, etc. He also discovered, as illustrated above, that we’re just as willing to share links from weak ties, and it’s from those weak ties that we’re most likely to read information that is outside our own echo chamber.

I’d be curious to read this study further, because I’ve got some strong-tie friends with whom I have widely differing beliefs, and I’m still as willing to read and share what they have to say as I am to share links from those whose beliefs are more like my own.

All of this shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anybody. The Internet has evolved into something that felt echo-chambery (in the early years of my own Internet delvings, I found lots of people interested in Watership Down or the Secret of NIMH as I built my own fan sites and such) at the beginning and now is changing into something that reflects society as a whole – a mish-mash of people connected by either weak or strong ties, sharing differing beliefs but united by at least some tenuous connection (that we graduated high school in the same year, that we like technology in that creepy Kip Dynamite fashion and such). Those weak ties keep us bound socially and, as a consequence, expose us to beliefs we may not hold dear. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re reading and believing everything we see, but at least this research shows exposure to differing views, shattering once again the myth of the echo chamber.

So stock up on Facebook friends, even if they’re not near and dear to you – you’ll expand your view of the cosmos as you do it.

Layoff Watch: Day Two

6:44 AM. Arrive at work to see lots and lots and lots of people milling about holding little packets from Human Resources. Not good.

6:47 AM. Arrive at my desk to see no one standing around waiting for me to arrive. That is good.

7:54 AM. Distracted by work (a good thing, right?) and forgot to think about this. That is also a good thing.

7:58 AM. Phone conversation with a co-worker: “It’s good to hear your voice. That means you’re still here.”

8:23 AM. Another phone conversation: “Oh, you’re here. That’s good.” And more work coming in. That’s even better.

8:25 AM. The phone calls are starting to remind me of Owen Lift from “Throw Momma From the Train”: “Mama! You’re alive! [Aside to a policeman] Old people. You have to reassure them.”

8:56 AM. A guy we work with closely just got laid off. I didn’t see him, but a co-worker did and said he was near tears. I can understand that.

9:08 AM. Advice from a co-worker also fearing the ax: “Don’t answer the phones. And hide.” Just speaking in general terms, of course. He hadn’t had any visions concerning me or anything.

9:57 AM. “All is quiet,” said the bird. “HOLY COW! A TALKING BIRD!” thought Peter.

10:52 AM. Just got the following email from my direct supervisor at North Wind (the company that subcontracts me to CWI): “Is everything still positive for you guys. Let me know if you've heard anything new.” I guess if my supervisor hasn’t heard anything, that’s good news. Unless he’s ordinarily out of the loop. This is so depressing. . .

11:31 AM. Eating a cookie.

12:49 PM. It’s quiet. Too quiet.

1:21 PM. Ugh. I’m not sure which is worse – the patina of doom that stains this week, or the fact that the heat in this building really doesn’t kick in until about 3 PM. I’m going to have to pick the doom. Though it is a chilly doom.

1:22 PM. Inevitable, this video is.

2:04 PM. Two more days of this? It’s going to drive me crazy.

2:18 PM. Unofficial reports are that we are in the clear. That would be good. The pessimist in me says to clench my buttocks at least until the close of business.

3:07 PM. Back to posting documents, since one of the guys who got it today did that for us. Not fun for him.

UPDATE: Layoffs are essentially over, and I still have a job. Thanks to all of you who prayed for me, and to all of you who paid your taxes so I can be gainfully employed. And thanks to those in DOE who suddenly realized that we were going to have to cut our work scope way too far in order to hit the budget numbers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"I Have A Dream . . . "

News from the Other Side

I know it’s been more than five years since I left the news business, but I still think about it from time to time.

This story in particular got me to thinking about the news again, because it’s a story that affects me but from the other side – I’m not the one writing the news, I’m the one impacted by it.

As is often the case, those being impacted by the news know more about it than those reporting it. I know, for example, that the number being laid off is higher than what is reported here (still crossing my fingers I’m not one of them today). So as I read the story, I see the questions that the reporter missed, and the fact that not knowing the background to the story – or at least not reporting it here – is a hindrance to the reporter’s overall performance and the accuracy of the news being reported.

In the story, CWI mentions 133 people being laid off by the end of January. But from the inside, I recognize this as CWI talk – they’re talking direct employees only, not subcontractors and direct employees. That’s why the number of employees to be laid off in my mind is higher than that being reported. CWI here is telling the truth – but the reporter isn’t digging deep enough into the story to get the full picture. Yes, they are laying off X number of their own employees, but if the reporter talked with anyone else, she’d discover there are also X number of subcontract employees already laid off or soon to be dismissed. She allows for a rosier picture than the reality, which is too bad, because for those in the know, it hurts her credibility.

I’m sure I did the same thing as a reporter. So this solidifies in my mind the commandment that Reporters Shall Know their Beats. Granted, what’s likely going on here is that there are more general assignment reporters these days than beat reporters so they don’t have the inclination to specialize. I know I didn’t, even as a gar in Rexburg. That was my specialty, but I didn’t narrow it. Somewhat with BYU-Idaho, but that was about it. So yes, on my part, mistakes were made. Ah, hindsight.

Layoff Watch: Day One

4:05 AM. This is the day. No weird layoff dreams involving Tony Randall, though I did have a repeat dream of the head lice currently making our lives an adventure chanting at me from the top of my head in the voice of Roz from Monsters, Inc.:

6:45 AM. Arrive at work. Card still works in the card reader. That is a good sign.

7:36 AM. Visibly startle when the new email chime sounds.

7:38 AM. Decide to hide in the bathroom for ten minutes to let the whole email scare thing blow over.

8 AM. That stupid song about Memphis is on the radio.

8:19 AM. A sudden upwelling of hope and relief. Don’t really know why.

8:43 AM. Return from posting documents in the ECC. Deathly quiet over in the OCB, but then again it’s been that way since the Great Confusion began just over a month ago. No one waiting at my desk for me when I get back. Relief.

8:44 AM. Eavesdropping on phone conversation concerning engineering group and layoffs. Speculation is that since subs were already let go, no CWI personnel will be impacted. As a sub, indignant at throwaway implication. But as a sub, also pleased to still be here. Seriously, though, SCC mentality exists here in full.

8:47 AM. If you ever get the feeling that I’m wasting too much time on this Layoff Watch, well, put yourself in my shoes. But right now, back to work!

8:50 AM. Eavesdropped phone conversation has now drifted on (ha!) to an impending blizzard heading our way. Must remind myself to batten down what hatches lay unbattened, and pat myself on the back for moving the camper to Grampa’s over the weekend.

9:24 AM. Return from second bathroom break of the day. As an old man, it’s my right to pee. A lot.

10:05 AM. Upwelling of hope and relief at 8:19 AM reinforced. For some reason. Maybe all those prayers that have been said. Many prayers. Was afraid that God was just going to say “Bust Everybody!” Just joking, of course.

10:23 AM. Heavy footfalls in the hallway make me cringe. But it’s just one of the analytical lab guys. Fears fading. CWI likes to do its layoffs in the AM.

10:32 AM. Looming blizzard is becoming much more of a worry than layoffs at this point. Another good sign.

10:57 AM. Heart attack. Phone call from an unknown number. Turned out to be from AMWTP concerning a document we’re working on. Heart may start beating again in a few minutes.

11:05 AM. Following conversation in the OCB while delivering documents:

Jerome Starks (SOM): Hey Brian, how’s it goin’?

Me: Pretty good.

Jerome: Yeah. We’re here.

Me: Yes, sir!

Also, a lab employee congratulated me for still being here in the cafeteria. Have to assume she’s talking about “here” as in having a job, not “here,” as in the cafeteria.

Life is good.

11:52 AM. Like Deccan Riobe from Terry Pratchett’s “Moving Pictures,” this is turning more into a chronology of my bathroom breaks. But I’m STILL HERE using the bathroom.

11:53 AM. Footsteps coming. And going.

1:05 PM. Another phone conversation. Periodic talk of layoffs. Nothing concrete. Nerves take a momentary jangle. It is eerily quiet here, though.

1:16 PM. Still eerie.

1:29 PM. Anxiety up a little. Rumor (damn them) has it that layoffs at the facilities will be spread through the week, rather than one day, one facility. That would break tradition from the past. Whistling past the graveyard.

1:34 PM. Boss says layoffs will continue throughout the week, and he got that from one of the higher-ups. So three more days of anxiety here. Not looking forward to that. Might reconsider hiding under my desk.

2:11 PM. Thought: Maybe less anxiety. There are many CWI complexes; they’ll work one a day, as was said earlier. Could still be some personnel shuffling, but if the ax doesn’t fall on RWMC’s day – today – chances of staying increase. So back to that roller-coaster euphoria. Wheeeeeee!

2:13 PM. Again, corporate communication is key. But they laid off one of the professional corporate communicators last week. So it goes.

2:15 PM. More slow, heavy footsteps. Another analytical lab employee. May have to get them bells.

2:37 PM. Vadinho on layoffs: “Don’t let them net me.”

3:01 PM. Trying in vain to overhear muffled layoff-related phone conversation involving my co-worker who last week said, among other things, “Well, you don’t have a mortgage right now, do you?” and “I hope you stay, because I don’t want to be here alone. We need two writers. [Long pause.] But, of course it could be me who goes . . .”

3:04 PM. Of course, I’m no better. Hearing that others have been laid off at RWMC today, my only thoughts: Well, they didn’t come get me. Selfish bit of scum that I am.

3:39 PM. During my fourth potty break of the day, I decided that if they come to lay me off, they’re going to have to chase me first. That’ll give me time to . . .

4:53 PM. Caught up in a document review (yay work!). Forgot to be stressed out about layoffs. Thus ends Layoff Watch Day One.

Friday, January 13, 2012

‘I’m Goin’ to Boise! Where’s A Map?’

It’s almost officially official: We’re leaving Sugar City, bound for the mysterious burg of Ammon, Idaho.

To explain why: When we moved to Sugar City over ten years ago, we thought our current house was huge. Compared to the one we lived in before, it is rather big. But now with three kids rather than one, and heading into teenagerdom, we thought having a little bit more space would be nice.

We thought long and hard about adding on to our current house – but that presented some problems. First of all, the lot is narrow. Fine for adding an extra room or two, but we thought while we were adding on, we’d add a garage too. There’s no room for a garage on this lot.

So in early November, I dragged Michelle off to look at a “farmhouse,” as I called it, in the Salem area, north of Rexburg. It was spacious and cheap. That got her to thinking that maybe moving on would be a good idea.

That house sold a day or two after we looked at it. No matter. We had our house to sell. So shortly before Thanskgiving, we put it on the market. Had little interest until the week after Christmas break, when two different families came to look at it. The woman who is buying it left in tears – our agent said because the house “was so beautiful.” I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder, because we see its many, many flaws.

So we sold our house, after I spent Christmas break putting a tile floor in the kitchen.

This past week and weekend have been a flurry of house-looking. Two late nights after work, with the kids getting crankier and crankier. Then yesterday, as I was trying to work, I spent some time on the phone with the credit union and with the agent, signing papers to buy a house in Ammon, near Tiebreaker Elementary School. 540 Matchpoint drive, for those who want to drive by and throw eggs.

 540 Matchpoint Drive

It’ll be nice to be back near home again for both of us – our families, with a few exceptions, are all in the Idaho Falls area. Things are looking good for us to be moved in towards the end of February.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking Social Too Far – Or Are They?

Since I’m an active social networker and partner in a tiny social network myself, I like to stay abreast of what’s going on in the social media world.

But like Farhad Manjoo over at Slate, I’m convinced this social thing can be taken a bit too far.

Manjoo is ranting about something I haven’t experienced yet: Google’s new “social search” feature which, by default, includes links and posts and babblings from your friends on Google+ for every search you do.

Since I have but few friends on Google+, I’ve not noticed the social interference yet. Manjoo has, and finds it maddening. Here’s the gist of what he says in his post:

I re-ran some of my old queries in two ways—first with Google’s new social-heavy service turned on, and then with it off. (Yes, thankfully, there’s a button to deactivate the new feature, which is turned on by default.) Among other things, I searched for Emo Philips, “hot mess,” Pakistani biryani, Mark Duplass, Dualit classic white toaster, Harold Camping, flourless chocolate cake, pardon pepper, child proofing, Jerry Brown taxes, Kia Soul, and Hawaii big island hotel. Several of these queries returned links that were shared by my friends, but not once did Google return a fantastic link on the social page that it didn’t also return on the non-social page. In most cases, the results were identical; in the few instances in which the social page returned additional links, those links weren’t what I was looking for.
If social search adds to the net benefit of searching, I’m all for it. But, if as Manjoo discovers, it’s not adding to the conversation, why bother?

I suppose I look at it this way: If I want information and advice from my social networks, I’ll pose questions on Facebook or Twitter. If I want general information or information I know isn’t likely to be found in abundance among our social network, I’m going to Google it.

There is some valuable crossover, however, that Manjoo may be missing.

Take, for example, this morning’s crisis: Head lice. My wife found head lice on two of our three kids, including the one who slept in our bed last night. She immediately went to her social network, via phone, to find out from others what they’ve done to combat the problem. She sent me to the Internets to find out supplemental information. Some of it is conflicting. Most of it, I’m sure, is valuable. In this instance, going social and going Google is valuable, because we hear from the experts via Google and we hear from the folks in the trenches, via our social network.

I’m not saying I want to consult my social network with every Google question I might have, but there are times when such in-the-trenches knowledge is far more valuable than what can be found via Googling. For instance, any plumbing-related question we might have goes to the plumber across the street, not to Google. If I notice someone in my social network has a vehicle like ours, I’m more likely to go to them with questions – “have you ever experienced X with your car before – before I’m going to those impenetrable automobile care forums online.

(This would work with Google social search if they included Facebook and Twitter results, rather than limiting social results to Google+, and if I had all of my social contacts on Facebook, rather than in a hodgepodge of sources from Facebook to Twitter to going out on the porch and shouting someone’s name.)

So how could social search be made smarter? Google’s gone one way by allowing users to turn it off or on. But it’s in the algorithm, rather than in a simple on-off switch, that social search could be made more intelligent. Google could train its algorithms to recognize when questions being asked or searches being undertaken are of the nature for which social answers would be an augmentation, not a hindrance. Google seems perfectly capable of sorting such algorithmic problems out, rather than turning social search by default on, like the sponsored links and such that I rarely click on.

Magic Santa Lice

When your wife calls up at 8:24 am and asks how itchy you feel, you know it’s not a good thing.

We have head lice in the house.

My only comforting thought is that they might be Magic Santa Lice, but again I’m not sure that’s what’s going on.

I anticipate seeing lots of short hair and mounds of laundry when I get home tonight*. I’m actually going to request a bald head because after she posed the question, I began itching like mad. Psychological reaction, I know, but still. Yuck.

We’ve been warned that the schools are rampant with lice. Having lice is not a reflection on the personal hygiene of our children or the cleanliness of our home; it’s just an unfortunate occurrence.

So, any advice out there from people who’ve gone down this path?

*Very true. My hair -- so far, lice free -- is now also only poking 3/8 of an inch out of my scalp. Kind of like the bad missionary haircut I had in Tours.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Hobbit and Mr. Deitch

As cool as Gene Deitch's "Tom and Jerry" cartoons are, I have to think it was a good thing that this version of JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit" never saw the light of day until now. The story is so altered. It's not the art that bothers me -- I realize this is a scratch film, used to show that perhaps those with the ideas could pull it off. It's nice '60s pop art. But they meddled with the story so much, it's disgusting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Picked A Hell of a Time . . .

(Note: I do not condone any of the activities Lloyd Bridges is trying to quit in this clip. Those who use drugs or jump out of control tower windows or pick their noses in church end up you-know-where.)

Even years tend to be pretty good for us, given our past track record, so I’m hoping that despite the whole Mayan calendar thing, 2012 turns out to be a pretty good year for us as well. Though it’s too early to tell, 2012 has all the auspices of being such a year, even with the employment turmoil I’m facing at the moment.

First: the turmoil. Still tumultuous, though we are now making steps to open up and dig in the new waste retrieval tent we finished late last year. That’s a bright spot in that it means not everyone will lose their jobs, just more than what was originally expected. I still have no idea whether or not I’ll be employed in two weeks or not. I am making inroads (I hope) with another local employer, though it appears if that pans out I’ll have to take a pay cut in order to get the job. I guess that’s better than not having a job at all. Right? RIGHT?!

On to the better news: After barely two months on the market, we’ve sold our house. The intention is to get one that’s slightly bigger – and by bigger we don’t mean ginormous, but one with an extra bedroom or two and a bit of property around it. We’ve been looking at homes in the 3,000 square foot range, with an acre or more. There seem to be plenty available, some at some pretty good prices that look relatively affordable. Bad news there is that there appear to be a lot of people out there looking at homes in this price range and configuration, so they’re going fast. We looked at one just before we listed our home in November, and it sold a day or two after that. So we’ll see what happens. We’re looking at everything from an art deco-themed fixer-upper in rural Bonneville County to one that’s way in the heck out in the boonies in Jefferson County, near Menan (OK, I’m the only one looking that that one, but it’s got possibilities, I think.) There’s also one in Ammon that I think we did some brick repair on many moons ago.

We looked at a few over the weekend, and are struggling to deal with real estate speak, or at least a general overselling of what’s out there. We looked at a remodeled farmhouse that had possibilities for rooms in the attic and basement until we got there and saw that there was no attic access and the basement is accessed through a trap door that leads to a room still occupied by a huge coal furnace. Another house in Idaho Falls inspired me to utter that famous Ghostbusters quote:

Oh, it wasn’t that bad. But it was filthy, owned by hoarders and home to a leaky water heater turning the basement to mush. And outside were a feedlot and a gravel pit. Yuck. Tawna, our agent, didn’t even ask us what we thought of that one – she just said as we left, “Okay, I’ve got more houses for you to look at.” Funny, that.

We’ll have to get serious over the next week or so and find something, because the lady who’s buying our house wants to close mid-February. We’ll see if that date sticks, and see how things go from here.

Comix Artists Take Note

Though at times I think Scott Adams of Diblert fame is kind of a goober (sock puppeting certainly comes to mind), I have to admit that one of the things I admire most is that he’s allowed for the finest comic archive ever conceived by a comic strip artist.

I wanted, for example, to find two comic strips related to Dilbert’s company’s business plan being in complete disarray. Ordinarily, with comics like, well, any of them, I’d have to swim through years worth of archives if they’re offered online at all to find them. Not at Dilbert.com. I plugged “disarray” into their comics search engine and had the two comics pulled up in no time flat.

I don’t know if this comes through Adam’s genius, his clout in the industry letting him convince his publisher to offer all these goodies in an easily-searchable online database or if it’s something to do with the world ending in 2012, but I like it. Kudos to whomever came up with the idea.

Oh yeah. He’s got strips with “kudos” in them as well.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I am, like El Guapo, getting older.

I turned 40 today. Not that 40's all that bad. Though our oldest son Liam pointed out that since the average life expectancy of a man in North America is 80, so my life "is half over." A good laugh, of course. And not something I'd ever thought much about.

Perhaps it's all downhill from here?


I'm not that worried about my mortality - the effects of finding out about my slightly elevated cholesterol level having worn off. I am walking a lot, I am trying to watch what I eat (usually as I'm shoveling it in) and figure since I don't smoke, don't drink, don't kiss no women, I ought to last for a while longer. Trying to remind myself of the things Ezra Taft Benson spoke about in his famous "digging our graves with our teeth" speech.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Brown Alert! Brown Alert! Evacuate the Lower Chambers!

So we got a heartening, yet nerve-wracking memo from the higher-ups this week, viz:
I would like to update you on recent project changes. Based on competing funding demands in 2012, we received DOE direction to suspend work in some project areas. The suspension of work has resulted in reductions of force account personnel who were supporting work scope at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex and will affect workforce restructuring activities planned in January.

CWI has provided a preliminary impact analysis to DOE; however, final impacts have not yet been determined.  I continue to work with DOE, the Idaho delegation, and others to find additional funding.  I have meetings planned this week and next.  I remain hopeful that our advocates will find supplemental funds that will allow us to continue the safe, efficient, quality cleanup work we have delivered over the past several years.

Again, I ask you not to speculate. We will not know the number of individuals who will be impacted by workforce restructuring until all meetings are held and work and staffing plans are finalized.

Remain diligent in your safety focus. I will update you as soon as new information is available.
In other words, clench your buttocks, folks.

I played hooky from work today so I could finish up the last details on our kitchen floor remodel, so I don't know what happened -- or didn't happen -- out at work today. I can assume that any bad news would filter through rather quickly, but then again you never really do know about bad news, do you? (My shaky theory is if I stay away from work for a while, they can't lay me off because technically I'm not there to get that little tap on the shoulder. Of course, this isn't a sustainable theory. Nor a very good one.)

On another front, I'm going to call a fellah tomorrow who might be able to help me get another job with another company. We'll see what happens. Details on that under wraps until, of course, I have something solid to report.

Until then: Brown Alert! Brown Alert!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Don't Worry, Just Wet Your Pants

As is typical with cases like this, the time to worry has passed. It may indeed be time to panic.

But a rational panic. A pro-active panic. A Don’t-Worry-Be-Happy Panic.

Or at least a Bobby McFerrin-Falls-Down-the-Stairs Panic.

The chances that I’ll be unemployed in the next few weeks continue to soar. Just found out today (because I asked someone about the sudden lack of activity, not because anyone’s actually communicating) that we’ve got a $20 million budget shortfall going into the year and to make up for it the powers that be are pretty much considering scuttling any of our current workscope, at least at ARP. The money suck-hole that is IWTU will still get fundage because we’re contractually obliged to get that work done by the end of the year while at ARP, since we’re ahead of schedule and under budget we’ll be penalized since the scope of work under our current contract is completed.

I’m trying not to be bitter about this situation, but it is kind of comical in a way. As one of our engineers said today, it’s like we’re being congratulated for being ahead and under budget by losing our jobs. And with the layoff of some of our design engineers yesterday, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that most of the rumors that we’re hearing are going to come true and as the ol’ lady in “Ernest Scared Stupid” says, ‘Them that dies will be the lucky ones.’

And then again it may all go away and the rumors we’re hearing of a 600-body layoff mid-January may not come to pass. Then again, maybe it will.


Why We Drill

An interim report on the emergency response at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant following the March 11, 2011 9.0 earthquake and tsunami paints a picture of poor human performance and emergency response conduct in the hours following the twin disaster that left four damaged reactors at the facility and spread radiation across a fair amount of the neighboring Japanese countryside.

Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat offers a good summary of highlights from the 507-page report here. A full summary can be read here.

As I read it, I’m reminded why we drill, drill, drill, and drill in emergency response at the facility where I work. (Where I work is a waste dump, we have no reactors but are still cautious about safety and emergency response.) We see time and again as we drill where our human performance falls short and where we need to improve our ability to respond under pressure and in a timely fashion. We also see with each drill where our emergency planning may be lax and how we can fix it.

Now, I can’t imagine trying to respond to a disaster of the Fukishima-Daiichi magnitude, with an earthquake, tsunami and power outage all occurring near simultaneously. But I can also clearly see the necessity for planning a response to such events, given Japan’s proclivity to earthquakes, the potential for tsunami and the resultant consequence of having backup electrical generation systems washed away in a tsunami. Simply imagining that a disaster won’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t – you have to prepare for the worst. So the next time we have an outlandish emergency response scenario – say a plane crashing into one of our waste retrieval tents – I’ll remember this and think, well, sure it’s far beyond the worst we expect. Maybe that’s a good thing we’re drilling on that.

My thinking resembles one of the conclusions from the summary report:
It cannot be denied that viewpoint of looking at a whole picture of an accident was not adequately reflected in nuclear disaster prevention program in the past. The nuclear disaster prevention program had serious shortfalls. It cannot be excused that the nuclear accidents could not be managed because of an extraordinary situation that the tsunamis exceeded the assumption.
The Investigation Committee is convinced of the need of paradigm shift in the basic principles of disaster prevention programs for such a huge system, which may result in serious damage once it has an accident.

(The language is a little stilted; I’m assuming it’s just been translated poorly from Japanese to English, but the message gets through.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

LEGO Imbroglio

So LEGO, it appears, has come out with sets now specifically targeting girls. Of course, there are people who take offense at this. Witness Ruth Davis Konigsberg’s piece in TIME Magazine.

I don’t disagree with her when she says that the LEGO world, as far as minifigures and marketing goes, is overwhelmingly male-oriented.

But I have a major quibble with this bit of her screed:
I have also been more than a little disheartened to see his younger sister initially drawn to our buckets of expensive plastic only to lose interest. I can’t say I blame her. I suspect that girls don’t like to play with today’s LEGOs because they so rarely see themselves represented in the minifigs, and because the events being reenacted — battles to the death, alien attacks — are unappealingly violent. (That and the fact that LEGO is routinely shelved in the “boy” section of the toy department in stores.)
I have two boys and a girl. We also have plenty of LEGOs in the house. And while it is true that my daughter has noticed that the majority of minifigures offered by LEGO are male, we have made efforts – and found it easy to do so – to find sets that include female figures, from Indiana Jones- and Harry Potter-themed sets to more generic pirate and LEGO City sets. Gender equity exists in the LEGO world, when you choose to look for it.

The latter part of Davis Konigsberg’s argument is hogwash, because my kids – and I suspect most kids are like this – liken their toys and the adventures they place them in to their own life experiences, not necessarily the marketing aims companies set for them.

A few days ago our daughter and our youngest boy were playing with their LEGOs while I washed dishes in the kitchen (not because I’m engendering a gender-bending role mixture in a progressive household, but because the dishes needed to be done). They had their Harry Potter and Star Wars minifigures engaging in the climactic and ultimately violent battle of a simple domestic scene, in which they’d go for a drive and someone would get hurt not because they liked the violence but because they wanted something for their Star Wars medical droids to do.

Same goes on with the Barbies and the GI Joes in the house. There are no epic gun battles in which Barbie is excluded or encouraged to participate as she wears her pink camo uniform with matching flower-bedecked Uzi. Just a batch of simple domesticity in which they all pile into their pink Barbie motor home or follow along in the purple convertible to go on a picnic or surf or whatever the hell else Barbies and GI Joes do when they go out together. The only distinction we have to be careful to make when they play is that the GI Joes are not dolls, they are action figures. Other than that, there are no gender-specific rules enforced.

I’m happy to see LEGO marketing towards girls, and I have seen our daughter ogling the girl-friendly LEGO displays at our local Wal-Mart. But I’m nowhere near ready to sign an anti-LEGO petition as Davis Koningsberg offers, nor am I overly concerned that the LEGOs offered to girls are marketed in a way that may pander to a stereotypical feminine meme. I’m just worried that they’ve eliminated the minifigures in favor of little dolls that look human and not like this:

That’s just as wrong when Fisher-Price stopped making their people look like this:

I guess what I’m getting at is this: Generally, when I see kids playing, I don’t necessarily see them playing with toys as the manufacturer markets them. Our daughter doesn’t play with Barbie dolls in a way that makes them stereotypically female or in a way that makes her play more progressive in the gender sense. She plays with them because she likes them. Same with the GI Joes. Same with the LEGOs. I think as long as parents don’t get all wound up over stereotyping and progressiveness (or conservatism, see, I let my boys play with dolls) and just let kids play, they’ll figure things out.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Read in 2011

So. Fell 50 pages short of my 2011 reading goal -- had hoped to read 1,000 pages a month, but didn't quite make it there. Got distracted a lot, especially as the year went on. December was particularly dismal.

But life does go on, and there are still plenty of interesting books to read.

Here's what I read in 2011:

1066 and all That, by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman. 116 pages.
5,000 Year Leap, The; by W. Cleon Skousen. 338 pages.
Big Nate: In A Class By Himself, by Lincoln Pierce. 214 pages.
Book of Mormon, The; Translated by Joseph Smith Jr. 541 pages.
Bullwhip Griffin, by Sid Fleischman. 193 pages.
Case of the Snowbound Spy, The; by E.W. Hildick. 132 pages.
Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in A Connected Age, by Clay Shirky. 242 pages.
Consolation of Philosophy, The, by Boethius (Translated by V.E. Watts). 188 pages.
Coyote V. Acme, by Ian Frasier.118 pages.
Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi. 262 pages.
Dave Barry Turns 50, by Dave Barry (natch). 219 pages.
Dark Sun, the Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. 731 pages.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, by Jeff Kinney. 214 pages.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, by Jeff Kinney. 224 pages.
FDR My Boss, by Grace Tully. 384 pages.
Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett. 248 pages.
Grey Seas Under, by Farley Mowat. 255 pages.
Halloween Tree, The; by Ray Bradbury. 145 pages.
Hitler's Social Revolution, by David Schoenbaum. 324 pages.
Hobbit, The; by JRR Tolkien. 290 pages.
How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space? by William R. Pogue, Astronaut. 178 pages.
How to Write, by Richard Rhodes. 229 pages.
I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett. 355 pages.
I Think, M. Kip Hartvigsen and Suzette Gee, Ed, 221 pages.
Interesting Times, by Terry Pratchett. 295 pages.
Letting Go of the Words, by Janice Redish. 363 pages.
Melba the Mummy, by Ivy Ruckman. 135 pages.
Moving Pictures, by Terry Pratchett. 254 pages.
Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie. 224 pages.
Perloo the Bold, by Avi. 225 pages.
Recres du Petit Nicholas, Les; by J.J. Sempe. 181 pages.
Rumpole Rests His Case, by John Mortimer. 211 pages,
Secrets of Successful Fiction, by Robert Newton Peck. 115 pages.
Silmarillion, The, by J.R.R. Tolkien. 442 pages.
Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. 398 pages.
Song of Roland, The; translated by Dorothy Sayers. 206 pages.
This Book Will Change Your Dog's Life, by Charles di Bonio. 224 pages.
Treasury of Laughter, The; edited by Louis Untermeyer. 712 pages.
Wall and the Wing, The; by Laura Ruby. 328 pages.
Whoppers: Tall Tales and Other Lies, by Alvin Schwartz. 128 pages.
Why do Clocks Run Clockwise, and other Imponderables, by David Feldman. 251 pages.
Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. 272 pages.
Winston's War, by Max Hastings. 555 pages.
Yeager, by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos. 331 pages.

Page total: 11,950.

What's my favorite read of the year? Too many to narrow it down. I rarely read a book I don't like -- I started a few this year that I just couldn't finish because the writing style or the subject matter were just too offensive. And as people continue to smuggle books into my house baked inside loaves of bread, I have little choice but to continue reading in 2012.

Goal this year? Well, I've got a massively thick biography of Sinclair Lewis sitting on my shelf that needs a read. Also have a collection of biographical sketches of John Steinbeck that I need to read. And I've got at least two books I need to read so I can blog about them. More on those later.

Teaching Five-Year-Olds

I started my third year in Primary today, moving down the ladder from the oldest group (10-11 years old) to one of the youngest: Five-year-olds.

My wife, and my teaching material, warned me that they have short attention spans. They were right. Right to the point that a few of these kids, bless them, didn't have enough of an attention span to finish making a drawing, let alone find the crayons they needed to do so. They're cute, they're well-behaved (well, I think they were scared of me, a feeling that I'm sure won't last) and they're pretty fun kids. But I definitely have to change my teaching approach, plan more hands-on activities -- at least two per class -- and make the lessons mini-lessons so I have enough time to get my point across but not much beyond that. They're also only emerging in literacy, so my practice of having the kids read the scriptures as part of the lesson will have go out the window.

My cheese has moved. Better be off to find it.

And, for what it's worth, here's the picture I drew during picture time. We were drawing things that make me happy. I drew a camping scene. Note it's not a getting ready for camping scene, just a camping scene. Getting ready to camp stresses me the heck out.