Saturday, September 29, 2018

Empty Nest

There are a lot of things that happened to our family this past year. In short, our son got placed into an Intermediate Care Facility (group home) and our daughter has gone off to college. My wife and I have become empty nesters.

Our son and daughter have both adjusted very well to their new environments. And moving out is, for them, a milestone achievement. The other side of that coin, how circumstances changed for us parents, is no less profound. The change on our lives has been no less dramatic than what our children are experiencing.

First, our son moved out.

It was our goal to transition him from living at home to living at a group home during the school year, to mitigate the things that would be different for him. We were able to do that, and he did well. Almost too good, to be honest. Then, over the summer he picked up some negative behaviors for which we sought additional help. Now that he's back in school (he graduated, but can continue with schooling to help bolster his occupational skills) he is behaving better. Not perfect mind you, and not the way he was before, but better.

A few months later, it was our daughter's turn.

Our daughter, too, took to leaving home better than we thought she would. She has made new friends, stayed in touch with her old friends, is doing well academically, and has gotten involved in campus life. She didn't join the clubs that I thought she would, and she didn't pursue her old high school activities in college. Instead, she joined the hall council and is involved in student government. This is a girl who struggled through school until her senior year. I'm sure she's facing some struggles, but she is tackling them herself.

So what has this meant for us?

Well, for the first time since we've become parents I can do what I want to do after dinner. I don't have to toilet and bathe my son. It wasn't the work. It was the inflexibility that really was a drag on me. The fact that, for the hour after dinner, I had no agency. My next hour was spoken for, regardless of my feelings. It was weird to get up from the dinner table, bus my dishes, then go off on my own to do something that I wanted to do.

When our daughter left, there were tears. Those tears started a couple weeks before she left and continued for a couple weeks after. But there were tears. Because it was different. My son lives a few minutes away, and my wife visits him about six days a week (myself, about twice a week). With our daughter, weeks and soon months will pass between visits. Also, when we visit our son he is, largely, the same as he was before. Our daughter will never be the same kid that we dropped off at college.

I knew what moving away, to college or elsewhere, would be like. I've made that journey. What I didn't realize was that I would be taking no less a journey now, myself.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Last Winter's Project this Winter Instead

So here's the deal. My project for last winter was going to be a new gaming machine for myself. My old computer was on its last legs and was a pre-built. Upgrading it wasn't much use and I had an old but venerable Antec 900 case and Rosewill 850 W power supply in the basement. A pair of old 500 Gb hard drives logically linked together make a fine backup solution.

Part of this upgrade was a new monitor with frequency synchronization (to minimize tearing during horizontal sweeps). That meant with Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync.

The former requires proprietary hardware in the monitor. That drives up the price of those monitors (by a couple hundred dollars) and reduces the number and variety of available monitors. So, while Nvidia refused to support the more open standard (which only requires software) and stuck with their proprietary solution, I became more interested in an AMD system.

Last winter, however, AMD didn't make a graphics card that could perform at the level of an Nvidia 1070 or better. So I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, this past summer AMD released the Vega series of cards that did compare with Nvidia's offerings, albeit with a greater power thirst.

These new cards, however, were quickly snapped up by cryptocurrency miners - instantly driving their prices up hundreds of dollars over their MSRP. I waited some more.

This past fall, Nvidia announced the 1080Ti card and, for several hours after, the price for the Vega cards fell to their intended cost! I snagged a Vega 56 for $399. A couple hours after I did, they shot back up to $600.

AMD also released their new CPUs this past summer. Again, competing successfully with Intel. I went for the sweet spot below the cutting edge and picked up a Ryzen 1700.

I also disassembled my Antec case, cleaned it up, and replaced all the stock fans with LED ones. I also went with an RGB-lit motherboard, CPU cooler (Wraith cooler that came with the CPU), side fan, keyboard, and mouse. Paired that with a 34-inch ultrawide monitor (Freesync) and the end result doesn't look half bad.

So I don't really have a project, yet, for this winter but I finally finished last year's project.

CPUAMD Ryzen 7 1700
RAMG.SKILL Flare X Series 16GB DDR4 3200
DriveSamsung 850 EVO 1TB 2.5-Inch SATA III SSD
GPUAMD Vega 56
MonitorLG 34UC79G-B 34-Inch 21:9 Curved
KeyboardLogitech G910 Orion Spark
MouseLogitech G703 Wireless

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer Trips

This year we took two trips, about a week each.

Our first trip was our summer vacation. This year, we went to Arizona to see Sedona and the Grand Canyon from its south rim. Our first stop after landing and getting lunch at Mika's Greek was the Desert Botanical Garden. It was hot and dry out, but it was beautiful. The next day, before heading to Sedona, we visited the Musical Instrument Museum. That was very interesting and we could have easily spent more time there, but we needed to grab lunch and head north to Sedona.

The view from our room's terrace was gorgeous. The next morning we took a Jeep tour up into the rocks and bummed around the town in the afternoon.

On our way further north to the Grand Canyon, we followed Oak Creek to Flagstaff before joining the highway.

The Grand Canyon was also quite beautiful. I found a nice parking spot, so we didn't dare move our car while we were there. Shuttle busses took us back to the Visitor Center, the scenic overlooks, and other destinations nearby. We enjoyed an astronomy night where one could see millions of stars and the Milky Way with the unaided eye. Using telescopes, we looked at both Jupiter and Saturn (and several of their nearby moons). Sarah saw her first shooting star that evening.

There was also some wildlife to be seen. Hummingbirds to condors. Foxes, coyotes, and elk. Even a small field mouse that joined Hope and I on a moonlit porch swing.

After the drive back to Phoenix, we spent a final day at a resort getting a sunburn and relaxing before our flight home.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Second Blood

Why is it my job to dispose of dead things found in the yard?

There's always some level of confusion on my part when these things happen.

Sarah found a snake in the yard.
Neat. She saw a snake!
Not saw. Found. It's dead.
You know it's dead?
Yes. Because, well, it's half a snake, really. And it doesn't have a head anymore.

So it fell to me to dig a little hole someplace discreet, then bury the snake remains. There were two parts, really, and no head. I assume that it was Mika's play thing until it fell apart.

In addition to snapping up house flies, ridding our property of wayward squirrels, and scaring off amorous geese our dog can add to her job jar the task of keeping the yard snake-free.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chips 'n' Dogs

My daughter and I enjoy cooking together every week or so. This week, she wanted to make barbecue chips and corn dogs at home, because these are not foods one typically thinks of making at home. It was more like a challenge meal rather than something extraordinary.

Chips are straight-forward. Take a big potato, slice it paper thin using a mandolin, dry them thoroughly with paper towels, then deep fry them. The barbecue flavoring was a powder mixture of paprika, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, brown sugar and black pepper.

The corn dogs were a bit more work, but they came out better (in my opinion) than the chips.

We employed an off-label use of Jiffy corn muffin mix.

1 pkg. "JIFFY" Corn Muffin Mix
2/3 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 to 1-1/2 lbs hot dogs

I'm not sure the paprika and cayenne were necessary (especially when paired with the chips).

The resulting batter was very thick. We dried the hot dogs well, then dipped them into the batter using a wooden skewer. The batter went into a drinking glass to make dunking the dogs easier. I threaded the dogs deeply with the skewer so I wouldn't lose them in the batter.

Before moving them to the fryer, I used a fork to work the dogs almost off the skewer. Otherwise, they were too secure and would take a lot of force to remove - not something I wanted to risk over a pot of hot oil.

They fried up very quickly. The surface of the batter would look cooked in about thirty seconds, but I'd leave them in for another minute or so to make sure the batter was cooked all the way through and to heat the dog.

Certainly not the healthiest meal we could have made, but it worked out.