Friday, March 27, 2015

The World's Handiest Wife

I have the world's handiest wife.  A little known fact about me (and by little known, I mean widely known) is that I'm not very handy at all.  I would much rather pay someone to do odd jobs than have to do it myself.  Luckily, Robyn is much more handy.

She decided she wanted to build some shelves for our food storage in our basement.  She did about 98% of the work, but she did rope me in to going to the store with her, doing math to figure out how much wood we need, and transporting the wood from the store to the basement.  (I can totally do math, and I can totally carry stuff, so it didn't violate my principles.)

Oh yeah, I forgot that I had one more job.  I was assigned the job of documenting her amazing work.

Putting the angle brackets on the wall.

The same activity but with the photographer inside the wall.

Some completed shelves.

Completed shelves with food on them.

She looks like she's afraid of the shelves, she's actually trying to demonstrate that she can hang on them without them falling apart.
This is what Robyn looks like when she's really proud of herself.
The moral of the story is that my wife is more handy than your wife.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A date with a princess

Robyn and I have a tradition of switching off who plans our date each week.  Sometimes we're creative and sometimes we aren't.  Many dates just consist of going out to dinner, but on occasion we try to do something special.

This week I was in charge.  I knew that Robyn really wanted to see Cinderella, so I bought us tickets.  But the first showing that I could get good seats for was at 8:00 PM.  However, Robyn met me at my work at 5:30.  That meant I had to fill up some time before the movie.

I wanted to surprise Robyn about the movie.  So I had to devise a plan where we would be at the movie theater at 8:00, but she wouldn't suspect that we were going to see a movie.  I'd say it worked out pretty well.  After taking her out to dinner, I took her to the mall right next to the theater.  I told her that I was taking her shopping, and I wasn't even going to complain about boring stores.

Some of the stores weren't completely boring.  I tried on different bike helmets.  I'm not sure why my bike helmet is way more boring than these.

I even took Robyn shoe shopping.  SHOE SHOPPING!  You should all know that shoe shopping is the truest form of love, because it's possibly the most boring thing a person could do.  But she's my princess, and we were going to see a movie about shoes, so I figured it fit.

We went to like 14 different shoe stores, and Robyn got to shop for shoes to her heart's content.

I had promised I wouldn't complain about shopping, but eventually it had sucked out enough of my soul that I was reaching my limit.  Robyn saw my pain and told me I could wait in the husband's section.  She really loves me.

My favorite is the guy who is sleeping.
After shopping we went out for ice cream, and then it was finally time to see the movie.  I was really proud of myself that I was able to make the movie a surprise, considering we were right next to the theater the entire night.

In the theater we sat next to like 5 teenage girls wearing tiaras.  I have to admit I was somewhat ashamed to realize that I hadn't brought Robyn's tiara so she could be a princess.  (But I deserve some props for the fact that I have bought her a tiara.)

She totally spent Christsmas day as Elsa.

Princess movies are definitely more up Robyn's alley, but I actually really enjoyed it, even though I seemed to be the only one that realized we shouldn't trust the fairy godmother because she killed Sirius Black several years ago.

The next date is Robyn's turn.  She promised me she was going to beat this one.  I don't think it's possible for her to put as much love into a date as I did.  Remember when I went shoe shopping?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pi Day of the Century

If you've known me for very long, you know of my love for Pi day.  If you haven't known me very long, let me introduce you to one of the best holidays known to man.  Pi day happens on March 14th (3/14) due to it's similarity to the number pi.  (3.14159265359...)  This year was particularly special because the year allows the date to more closely resemble the number  (3/14/15).  If only I had been alive in 1592.  That would have been the best pi day ever.  (3/14/1592)

The day started out pretty simple.  I made sure to express my nerdiness by taking a picture of my watch at the most pi second of the day, which happens to be 3/14/15 9:26:53.

That nerdiness aside, we all know the proper way to celebrate pi day is with pie.  As we always do, we had people over to our place to share in the fabulous tradition of eating pie.

We do it every year, but some years we have a better turn out than others.  This year was a bigger year than the past few years.  This may be due to the fact that it was on a Saturday.  It may also be due to the fact that it was the pi day of the century.

We had 14 homemade pies, in addition to the pizza pie and chicken pot pie that Robyn provided.  She also provided a mini pie bar where you could build your own mini pies.  (Pi day is much fancier with a wife than it was back in my single days.)

A few of the pies, ready for judging and consumption.
The mini pie bar with pie tins, pudding and toppings.
My nephew Alex flew in from California to be a judge.  Robyn's brother Ken also agreed to take on the honor of judging the 14 pies.
The judges doing the extremely scientific work of discerning all the flavors.

We traditionally give out prizes for the best pie.  I think one thing we need to do is to start giving out prizes for the best pi related shirt.  I'm pretty sure that Dave would have won with his "hail pidra" shirt.

All the pi shirts.

While the judges deliberated, the people got to consume the pies and make their own decisions.  Eventually the judges emerged with their decisions and the prizes were awarded.
The Tysons got first place (and a $25 gift card) for their berry pie.

Delta made 3 pies in hopes of sweeping the top 3.  Her white chocolate strawberry pie got third place.
Not pictured:  Our friend Carla came in second with a chocolate cream pie.  She dropped off the pie and then left.  She did return at the end of the night, but by the time she returned I forgot to get a picture.  Oops.

All of the pies were delicious, even though only 3 could win.  I ate way more pie than I should, and was filled with much gladness.

As the evening wore on, most people left so that they could do things like go to bed.  However, a few of the truly stalwart stayed to celebrate the pi moment again.  It turns out that 3/14/15 9:26:53 actually happens twice in a day.  Jared, Jackie and Breanna all celebrated the moment by eating their last bite of pie at precisely that second.
That is true dedication to the spirit of pi.
I'd say it was a successful pi day.  

Pi day may be over, but let's try to keep the spirit of pi day with us all year long.  We can start by eating pi for breakfast.

Sunday morning breakfast included pie.  Look at all the gladness.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to Talk to Your Computer Savvy Friend

We've all been there.  You're plugging away on your computer when something horrendous happens and it seems your life is over.  Sometimes the horrendous thing is that your hard drive crashed and you can't retrieve anything from your computer.  More often the horrendous thing is just a popup that you don't understand.  This is when you call your computer savvy friend.  This friend might be an actual friend, or it might be someone you are paying to help you with your computer.

Either way, the following tips will help you communicate with this individual.

1.  Be specific
Imagine for a moment, you take your son to the doctor.  You're in the room with the doctor.  The child is sitting on the chair.  He seems to be just fine.  The doctor asks what the problem is, and you say, "My son is dead."  The doctor looks at you a bit confused.  Your son is clearly not dead.  He is sitting there smiling.  It turns out that yesterday your son had a stomach ache that hasn't come back in 24 hours.  You just want the doctor to check him out and make sure everything is okay.  For some reason, you refuse to tell him that.

The above situation sounds ridiculous.  But for some reason that's exactly what people do with their computers.  Let's imagine another situation.  You take your computer to a friend.  He asks you what the problem is.  You say, "My computer doesn't work."  Your friend looks at the computer.  It seems to be functioning just fine.  It turns out that yesterday there was an error that popped up that frightened you.  The error isn't there now, but you just want to make sure everything is okay.  Again, you may want to consider communicating what the actual issue is.

For some reason, the second situation happens every day, even though the 2 situations are nearly identical.  (Maybe the first situation happens all the time as well.  It's just that I'm on the receiving end of the second since I'm a computer person, and I'm not on the receiving end of the first since I'm not a doctor.  If that is the case, please be more specific with your doctor as well.)

I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me, "It doesn't work."  This is true whether it's a client at work, or a friend looking for help with their computer.  Half of the time, "It doesn't work" means "there is a feature that I would like it to have but it doesn't have."  Another large portion of the time, it means, "An error popped up and it frightened me.  But I didn't read it and can't tell you what it was."  It's actually relatively rare for, "It doesn't work" to actually mean that the computer doesn't work.

If you find yourself saying, "It doesn't work."  Please slap yourself.  After you've done that, figure out what doesn't work and how you think it should work.  Then explain those 2 things.

2.  Explain how you got the problem
Your friend really wants to fix your problem.  But if he can't find the problem, he can't fix it.  Also, knowing what you're doing when you had the problem will help him pinpoint whether there's actually a problem.  Let's go back to the doctor analogy.

You go to the doctor and explain that your toe really hurts.  The doctor can give you a pain killer, but you might want to explain what you were doing when the toe started to hurt.

After you say, "I like to kick a cement wall with bare feet."  The doctor might explain that your foot is actually functioning as designed.  Your toes were never meant to kick cement walls.

Of course, there are other situations where your toe might hurt because of an infection or other ailment where the doctor can prescribe something to fix it.  The point is that your body and your computer were designed to do certain things.  When you use them improperly, you may get an error (or pain) but sometimes errors or pain are actually supposed to be there for certain behaviors.

By the same token, when you enter the word "Harold" in a quantity field, and the program pops up and says, "Please enter a valid number."  That error is actually there by design.  Your friend doesn't need to fix it.  Your friend may ask you something like, "Have you tried using this program properly?"

3.  Feel free to Google it
I said that these tips apply to both your friend who wants to help you out, and the guy you are paying to help you out.  This last tip really applies only to your helpful friend.  If you are paying someone, you can reasonably expect them to have more knowledge than you do.  But I'm going to let you in on a secret about your computer savvy friend.  He doesn't actually know about every software that you've ever encountered.  The following flowchart shows you exactly how he has solved every computer problem you've come to him with.

So there you have it.  You too can be a tech savvy friend.  All you need is a willingness to try new things and an internet connection, if your random tries fail.

Good luck!  I hope this little guide has helped you better communicate with your super smart friends.  Now all of your computer problems will be solved much easier.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Groupies Again

This past weekend Robyn and I had a little get away in Cedar City, Utah.  I've written before about how we are groupies for my little brother, Justin.  Our groupie behavior won't be stopping any time soon, so naturally we went down there to see his latest play.  This time he was playing the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof.

We drove down Friday night, with the intent that we would get up on Saturday morning and do some hiking, and then see Justin's play that evening.

Well, I woke up early Saturday morning and opened our curtains to welcome in the sunshine.  What my eyes beheld was a little different than sunshine.  It looked like this.

My poor little car.
I know that I'm in Utah, and it was the end of February, so this shouldn't have surprised me.  But this has been the warmest winter of my entire life, so I suppose I forgot that snow could exist.   I was a little bummed that my hiking was cancelled, but I was actually excited to finally see snow.  It was like the return of an old friend.

However, I did sort of wish that I had worn something besides my flip flops.  (I brought hiking boots, but I left them in the car so I had to trudge through the snow in flip flops.)
Any weather is flip flop weather.
Even without our planned hiking trip, we had loads of fun.  We spent the entire weekend just hanging with family.
We got to go out to each with Justin as a Rabbi.  (On stage he actually wore Rabbi clothing, but the white in his beard is awesome enough by itself.)

We totally did a family selfie at dinner.  We're so precious.
After hanging out for dinner, we did more hanging out at the theater.  Only Justin didn't hang out with us because he was on stage.  But he did a great job.
More selfies!
I handed the phone to my Mom, and then talked her through taking a selfie.  Aren't you so proud of her selfie abilities?
This fairy requested a selfie with me as well.
The play got over around 11:00 PM.  But since I hadn't had a chance to go hiking, I still wanted to get some exercise.  I asked my siblings if they wanted to walk back to the hotel with me.   My mom was convinced we were all going to die if we walked a mile back to the hotel in the snow.  I was sure I was way too old to have my mom worry about me going for a walk, but apparently there is no age where you are exempt from motherly concern.  The good news is that there were no deaths on our walk back to the hotel.

The better news is that we took this precious picture of us with a green longhorn at the gas station next to our hotel.
Mellen and I are so precious.  Zack was there as well, but he's the photographer.
All in all, I'd say it was a successful trip.  We had tons of fun, took plenty of selfies, and arrived home safely.  What more could we expect of a weekend trip?

Monday, March 2, 2015

My 2015 Hugo Award Nominations

For the past couple years, I have participated in the voting process for the Hugo Award, which is science fiction's most prestigious award.  Each year, members of the World Science Fiction Society select their favorite science fiction and fantasy works that were published the previous year.  They can nominate up to 5 works in each category, and then a list of the top five nominees are published and the society then votes on their favorites from those nominees.

During the past 2 years, I've read or watched each of the finalists, and then voted on my favorites.  However, I haven't participated in the actual nomination process.  I suppose that's because it often takes me a few years to read new works, which means that I don't feel caught up enough to select favorites.  However, this year I decided to just jump in.  And while I still didn't have enough favorites to put 5 in every category, I think I came up with a good list of works.  Below is the list of works that I nominated in each category.  Where possible, I linked to a place where you could obtain each work.  (Usually, it's Amazon, but one story was available to read online.)

I know there has been some political disagreement around the nominating process.  For anyone who is confused about how it works, the flowchart below shows how I chose my nominated works.

(Full disclosure:  There are a couple I haven't finished yet, but I'm familiar enough with them to say that I enjoy them and feel they are worthy of the award.)

Also, you'll probably notice that my primary source of short fiction is Asimov's Science Fiction magazine.  I admit that my breadth of new fiction is small.  But I enjoyed each of these works.

Without further ado, here are the works I nominated this year:

Best Novel
Symbiont by Mira Grant - Orbit
The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur - Sky Pony Press
Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia - Baen
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan - Disney-Hyperion

Best Novella
The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant - Orbit Books
Each in his prison, Thinking of the key by William Preston - Asimov's April/May 2014
One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright - Castalia House
Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman - Castalia House

Best Novelette 
The Common Good by Nancy Kress - Asimov's January 2014
Diary of a Pod Person by Emily C. Skaftun - Asimov's October/November 2014
Blood Wedding by Robert Reed - Asimov's July 2014
Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown by Michael Swanwick - Asimov's April/May 2014

Best Short Story
Static by William Jablonsky - Asimov's January 2014
Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer by Megan Grey - Fireside Fiction
The Talking Cure by K.J. Zimring - Asimov's April/May 2014
The Plantimal by Ken Liu and Mike Resnick - Asimov's March 2014
A Single Samurai by Steve Diamond - Baen Big Book of Monsters

Best Related Work
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Edge of Tomorrow
X-Men: Days of Future Past 
The Giver
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
The Walking Dead - The Grove
Grimm - The Grimm Who Stole Christmas
Grimm - Blond Ambition
The Walking Dead - No Sanctuary
Doctor Who - Into the Dalek

Best Professional Editor (Short Form)
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Sheila Williams
Ellen Datlow
Hank Davis

Best Professional Editor (Long Form)
Toni Weisskopf

Best Semiprozine 
Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show  

Best Fanzine 
Elitist Book Reviews - Steve Diamond  
Drink Tank - Chris Garcia  

John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo) 
Shallee McArthur - The Unhappening of Genesis Lee 
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