The Truth Of The Matter

Recently Scrappitydoodah wrote about seemingly perfect unschooling families who have children that fill their days with nothing but impeccable manners and brilliance. She wants to know how she can sign up for such an arrangement.

HA! Have you seen that picture being passed around, the one with the picture of the two kids standing in the middle of a living room where they apparently just finished painting the flat screen TV and leather sofa with white primer? It’s appropriately titled “Times When It’s Okay To Use The F Word”.

Yeah, we have days like that. When you find Perfectville, let me know. I try to keep an upbeat perspective when I write my blog posts, but there are moments when I want to sell the whole package on eBay. I’ve even wrote the perfect ad copy in my head:

FOR SALE: One incredibly small, unbelievably disorganized house, fully furnished with a truly lived-in look, complete with two argumentative kids, one exhausted husband, two needy dogs, a few ungrateful cats, a cranky rabbit, and a weedy yard. All can be yours for a low, low price!

Posted in Just For The Record | 4 Comments

It Just Doesn’t Compute

I’ve been playing around with many different types of DVD burning software before settling on what to buy. Today I decided to go with Nero and called to place my order. In the process I found out that I must buy two separate, complete packages in order to run the software on both my desktop and laptop. WTF? I told the guy on the phone that was pretty stingy policy and he said (quote) “I know, it really is.”

I guess this is a popular way to do things now – my antivirus software is the same way. I had to purchase a separate license key and subscription for each computer with no price break for being a repeat customer. The only way you get a discount on multiple purchases is if you order 10 or more, which only a business would need. Special pricing is also offered to nonprofits and educational groups. It’s individual consumers who get the raw end of the deal.

Things didn’t used to be like this a few years ago, back when it wasn’t even common for people to have more than one computer. Today, more than ever, it makes sense to allow one user to have the ability to install software on an additional computer without having to pay for it twice. Because after, it’s not like I’m cloning myself here – I am still ONE user. Lots of families have a desktop and a laptop.

There are ways to certify genuine users and limit software copying between friends without having to put these punitive restrictions in place. This new policy seems like a great excuse to get consumers to buy the same product multiple times. What’s next? Will I need to buy several copies of Pirates of the Caribbean in order to watch it on more than one DVD player?

I think it’s interesting to juxtapose this development against the growing trend of free, open-source software releases. It used to be that free software wasn’t worth the time or computer space it took to install it. But now there are so many low-cost and freeware programs available that actually perform better and have more flexibility than their pricey commercial counterparts.

Think of Thunderbird versus Outlook. One is notorious for crashing, hovers about two steps behind in design and functionality, and has a zillion security problems. The other one runs smooth, is frequently updated, and isn’t plagued with security issues. Guess which one is free? Guess which one comes bundled with a bunch of other glitchy software that will cost you around $300? I’m not sure if policy makers at the companies touting steeply priced software with restrictive licensing realize that the increasing quality, diversity, and availability of freeware may very well have a detrimental effect on their sales.

In the course of speaking with the Nero service rep I realized it’s ridiculous to pay $200 just to run a DVD burning program on two family-owned personal computers. I mean we’re talking about software that only has one application here. Unless it can do our laundry and visit the dentist for us it isn’t worth the price, you know? After just a brief search online I found a small set of perfectly functional tools that will do the exact same job. They cover everything we need and aren’t nearly as space hogging and bulky as programs like Nero. It cost us a grand total of zero dollars. Freeware rocks!

Posted in Random Thoughts | 1 Comment

Murder Mystery Dinner

I’m excited about tonight. My talented friend Susan (who is not me, obviously) is putting on a Murder Mystery Dinner at her house this evening. The setting is at the Culinary Institute of America in the 1940s where we’ve all gathered to honor a renowned chef but we discover (gasp!) that he has just been murdered.

We’ve all been given roles to play – my character is a French chef so I’ve had an adventure trying to find the right costume. I was able to put most of the outfit together – kitchen shoes, beret, checkered pants – but couldn’t find a chef’s jacket. I checked all the thrift stores and costume places with no luck so I started calling around to the nice restaurants until I found a place willing to lend me one for the evening. So now I am complete! Oh, I’m sorry, that should be: Maintenant je suis complet!

It promises to be a lot of fun. Chris is going as a 40s  detective. He has the whole trenchcoat with a fedora thing going on – it looks so natural on him! I know two of the other people who bought tickets (Susan is putting this on as part of a charity auction) and they have neat characters, too – my sister is a jazz singer and my mom is a wealthy patron of the arts.

Au revoir pour le moment mes chéris. Avoir une grande soirée!

Posted in Some Odds & Ends | 3 Comments

My Children Are So Strange

They are outside cleaning the porch. No, they’re not sweeping it or picking up toys or organizing gardening tools. They have filled a bucket with water and are scrubbing the wooden decking with old handtowels. I can’t get them to clean their room but this is what they come up with to do on a sunny Friday afternoon. One would think they need more interesting opportunities if this is what they consider fun. However, they were playing a Harry Potter video game and making a collage from magazine cutouts but quit doing those things to go enthusiastically scrub the porch like little orphan Annie. Good thing I don’t care what the neighbors think because I can imagine what they’re saying right now. I swear sometimes I think my kids just enjoy messing with my head.

On another note, I came across this quote today and thought it was pretty funny:

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. – An English Professor

Posted in Life Without School | 6 Comments

Update on the Money Pit

The interior wiring is 80% complete and everything so far has passed inspection. We still have a few areas to rewire – the bathrooms, laundry room, and kitchen as well as both porches. Once those are done, the whole house will have a completely upgraded electrical system. This is big because the house had not been upgraded since being built 130 years ago. It had knob-and-tube wiring and this antiquated electrical system was still functioning so we almost hated to remove it, but knob-and-tube is only rated for 60 amps and so it is unable to handle the demands of a modern household.

In renovating the house, we tried to be forward thinking and to consider what might keep the house ‘current’ for the longest time. Most residential homes have 200 amp service, but we upgraded to 325, which is usually only given to commercial businesses. However, our boiler alone pulls 145 amps at max capacity, so we installed a bigger meter base and a separate disconnect for the boiler, which will keep that system functioning without putting a strain on the rest of the house. We also used 12-2 wire with 20 amp breakers rather than 14-2 with 15 amp breakers, as many modern conveniences require additional supply. Instead of using standard telephone wire we decided to go with CAT, which is a blue data cable that can handle phone, fax, and computer modem needs. It’s able to carry multiple streams of data at higher speeds – typically equivalent to DSL.

Hopefully by going above and beyond the standard materials and services, these things will help keep the house up to par with future supply & demand for decades to come. Although we plan to live in the house for many years, we don’t want to be faced with trying to sell a house that is already behind the curve and in needed of basic electrical or plumbing upgrades.

Drywall is going up in several rooms which is very exciting because it feels like the house is starting to be put back together! The house had blown-in insulation added several years ago and it was packed in very thick which provided excellent insulation, but unfortunately as the certain walls and ceilings were dismantled, the insulation had to be removed. R-19 formaldehyde free insulation is going in as a replacement to the blown-in fill and is providing weather proofing on exterior walls and acting as a sound barrier within interior walls and ceilings.

The kitchen design is finally coming along. I spent 3 hours with a guy from our cabinet company while he measured and remeasured the kitchen. My original design was off quite a bit which was frustrating but expected. When I measured the kitchen to draw up the initial layout, I had a lot of obstacles to work around such as the built-in cabinets and the chimney (all of which are now gone). The wall between the existing kitchen and the room we are expanding into was still in place which made accurate measuring difficult, but it was removed by the time the cabinet guy came.

I have never agonized over a room so much in my life! It earned the name Kitchen From Hell because it’s architecturally complex and all the old house charm (which exists from back when they didn’t have kitchens like we do today) made it impossible to come up with a simple design. But I hope to have the new plans finalized by the end of next week. Speaking of the kitchen, we’ve picked out our cabinets so at least that has been taken care of! I’ll post pictures of them later.

Posted in Some Odds & Ends | 1 Comment