Monday, September 22, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

September 22, 2014

I have further evidence supporting my theory that someone is taking care of me.  My Guardian Angel did a lot of work for me on this one.  You will see.

Marked on my calendar for weeks was a trip with CJ and Beth to Wright St on September 19th.  Beth had set up a personal meeting with the Dean of the College of Engineering and a Freshman Admissions person.  I had the work schedule set up so that I could work 6-7:30 am and then get home to head out with the family for our 10am meeting.  Then the forces of nature started acting against me.

First, my full time cashier who works Mon-Fri at 8am needed off to go to her husband's doctor appointment.  No problem.  I rearranged the schedule to make it work without changing my schedule.  Two days later, she came back to me saying his appointment was changed to October 3rd.  I had used her hours to make the changes, so I was not able to add her back in.

Then, unfortunately, another employee of mine found out that her cancer had returned.  She had been in remission, but a form of it had come back in her lymph nodes.  She was going to need a 6 month LOA.  Please send out your prayers, she is a nice lady and this is obviously a tough time for her and her family.  Not to mention it messed up my schedule.  (Me selfish much?  Think so.)  So I went back to full time cashier and told her she could have her hours back if she wanted.  She had already made plans.  No big deal, the schedule was still working out okay for me.

THEN, on Tuesday, I got a text from the supervisor who was coming in Friday at 7:30, that she was going to need surgery on Thursday (yes, two days notice for surgery), and she was going to also need Friday off.

I looked at the schedule and saw that I could give another cashier overtime on Thursday night, thus freeing up my assistant to take off Thursday night and work at 7:30 Friday morning.  The cashier agreed to the shift.  The only time my assistant is available to work at 7:30 am is on Fridays since his wife works Monday-Thursday at 4am and he has to take his kids to school those days, but not Fridays.  Why would a retailer hire a person in management who did not have open availability?  That is a blog for another time.

However, as it turns out, my assistant's wife was asked to work overtime on Friday making him unavailable to come in until closer to 9, 9:15.  Now, I've been known to drive swiftly on occasion, but trying to make the hour drive from here to WSU in 50 minutes with my wife screaming the whole time seemed like a bad plan.  Every fiber of my conscious was telling me that I was not meant to go on this visit.  I gave up and gave in.

Then, my assistant and the full time cashier, realizing my disappointment, concocted a plan that would have her working 7:30-9:30, and my assistant would come in at 9:30.  The trip was back on.

So, we headed out at 8:30 Friday morning on our way from Cincinnati to Dayton.  If you know the highway system around here, you know that Interstate 75 runs along the West side of the city and does to Dayton.  Interstate 71 goes through the middle of the city and ventures towards Columbus.  I 275 circles the city and connects the two.  Therefore, my route from where we live should have been 71N to 275W to 75N.  This occurred to me as I drove up 71N towards Columbus about 40 minutes after I should have done the 275W part.  "Oh Darn!", I said.  Perhaps I did not say darn, but you get the idea.  I immediately pulled off the highway at the exit for Washington Courthouse and turned left onto Route 35 West and told CJ to call Stacy on his cell phone.  Stacy is the name of the voice we have given to his phone's direction ap.  While it was loading, I kept driving on 35W figuring at least west was the correct direction and hoping we did not hear any banjos playing anytime soon.  Finally, Stacy located our position and told us to keep going the way we were and we would arrive at our destination in 50 minutes.  We looked at the clock which said 9:20.  I sped up a bit.  As it turns out Route 35 is a rather nice 4 lane highway with little traffic that time of day.  Or ever for all we know.  Stacy kept adjusting our ETA and gave us the turns we needed.  We walked up to the Dean's office door at 9:59:10.  50 seconds to spare.  Never a doubt.

So I gotta believe that my Guardian Angel (who I believe to be my mother) needed a rather stiff drink after that.  Apparently, something had to be done to keep me from driving up 75N that Friday.  Normally I would guess that avoiding Ikea would be the reason, but I really think my mother would have wanted to go to Ikea.  I can only figure rerouting us helped me avoid some accident or something.  I'll never know, but I believe.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Part 3...and the leader in the clubhouse is...

August 16, 2014

CJ knows that his Aunt Kathy went to the University of Cincinnati.  Her positive comments regarding the institution and the coop program have been very influential in his psyche.  He knows that if she was able to get a good job, UC must have been very helpful.  Sure, he has never seen her as anything but a mother to three crazy children, but he does question the intelligence of anyone willing to drive all the way from Georgia to Cincinnati just to visit us.  Just kidding, Kathy.

So the next stop on our tour was Wright State.  Named after the Wright Brothers, all you history majors out there must assume the college resides in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  You would be in the Wrong state.  The Wright State is Ohio.  More specifically Dayton, Ohio.  It is near Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

I personally did not know much about them.  So how we came to go visit is a good story.

Every Third of July our local community has a parade.  CJ and the marching band were in the parade so Beth and I attended.  Plus, the parade participants throw candy so there is always the chance of losing an eye to a Tootsie Roll and that adds a thrill factor.  Anyway, while at the parade, Beth and I ran into the father of one of CJ's classmates.  CJ and his son have been classmates all the way back to kindergarten and I have coached them several times when they were on the same soccer team.  His parents are two of the nicer people you would want to meet and it was nice to catch up with Mark.  We started talking about college visits and he mentioned some of the places his son had gone.  His son's favorite was Ohio State.  He is very interested in computers as well and Mark mentioned that his own favorite experience had been at Wright State.  He explained that the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science had given a rather passionate speech about the school.  His son was not impressed.

Then, Beth had a conversation with CJ's drum instructor about colleges.  Joe has taken classes at several local colleges and commented how some were much easier to work with than others.  For instance, people in the financial aid department at UC took much more joy in tearing up your application that was 20 minutes late right in front of you whereas the same department at Xavier was forgiving about an application that was two days late.  "We'll just back date that for you, hon" they said.  Editorial comment:  yes, I did attend Xavier, but that has not been an option for CJ since the cost of education there is WAY higher than the local public universities.  Then Beth mentioned Wright State to Joe and he said he had heard many good things from past and present students there.  Plus, CJ had received some literature from there, so we chose to stop ignoring it.

Here is what we found out during a visit to WSU.  A school that is not as well known outside of Dayton as many of the bigger universities tries harder.  They are not small, they have around 15,000 students.  The campus is not small either.  They are a Division 1 school for athletics.  They are well-known in select circles for their research and the work they have done with local Dayton hospitals and with Wright Patterson AFB.  In Cincinnati though, not as well known.  One employee of mine thought they were a two-year institution like Cincinnati State here.  Not so.

Everyone that spoke to the big group spoke much more passionately and eloquently about their programs and the university than anyone at the other universities we had visited.  Then the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science spoke.  Oh my goodness.  He detailed the difference between each engineering degree and computer science degree better than any literature we had pored over to this point in time.  He spoke about how every student that wanted to major in engineering was given an equal chance to succeed even if their ACT score was not reflective of the typical success story.  And he spoke about an Honors Program for those who had higher ACT scores and math skills that made CJ think he belonged.  Wowed were we.

The we went on a tour of the campus and it was nice.   The nicest dorm we had seen so far.  Brand new buildings being built.  Impressive.  Then we went on a tour of the Computer Science building.  We went to rooms for wireless development and 3-D learning and rooms with computer parts strewn about.  I thought it looked like a play room where children had not been expected to put the Legos away, but CJ said it was all state of the art computer hardware that had him salivating.

Then we spoke to someone about the cooping and internship program who had Beth weeping at how structured it is to help individual students find what's best for them.

THEN, we spoke to someone in charge of admissions for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.  Beth mentioned to this person that CJ had scored well on the math portion of his ACT and his composite score wasn't bad either.  The person asked for specifics and when CJ told her he had gotten a 34 on the math and 30 overall, her eyes got real big and she said that he would probably get a scholarship for 75% of his tuition and maybe more.  !!!!!  He was learning what it may be like to be a big fish in a small pond compared to a minnow at bigger universities like OSU and UC.  It was as if she had just offered him a piece of cheesecake with chocolate pudding on top. 

So we were very pumped up after this visit to say the least.  Being a dad, I have tried to not let this excitement get too out of control.  I didn't want it to be like he fell in love with the first girl he had sex with.  Or that all three of us fell in love with this girl/university for the wrong reason.  That image was perhaps both nas and ty.  Sorry.

Nonetheless, we have had several conversations making sure we are now going about things the right way with this new leader in the clubhouse that came out of nowhere.  I don't want to be Tin Cup with a chance to win the Open and then hit 6 balls into the water.  Fortunately, we have a few months before it becomes time to start college applications.  A lot can happen between now and then, and it may turn out that the scholarship money isn't what this one person unofficially made it out to be.  And I do not want CJ to pick a college simply based on the tuition coverage.  We have steered him towards colleges we could afford anyway.  The most important aspect of college picking is that you feel like you can have an enjoyable college experience and come out with a degree in a field with a real career possibility. 

I can tell you first hand that a BS in Mathematics from Xavier University only succeeded in finding me a 27 year career in Retail Management.  Sure I have supported myself and my family, but I am the typical parent wanting more for his child.  God willing, this can happen.  I think He has been steering us on a path thus far, so I guess we will see where that ends.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 15, 2014

College picking, part 2.

August 15, 2014

When we last met, Annie Walker from Covert Affairs was eating pickles.  Oh, and we were trying to help CJ pick out a college.  Fortunately, Annie wasn't helping him with the college visits while Beth and I ate pickles because she gets shot at an awful lot.

Miami University was the next college we visited.  While a trip to Florida seems rather extreme, Beth and I are more than willing to do anything to make our son happy.   No, not really.  Not really Florida, yes really make him happy.

Miami of Ohio is in Oxford, Ohio and is about 1 hour from our home.  I worked with many of their graduates and our nephew graduated from there and has a really good job.  We had gotten something in the mail from Miami University and liked the curriculum it laid out for incoming freshmen in the field of Computer Science.  It is still part of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, put it allows you to take more classes as a freshman in a variety of computer interests to help you gauge your interests and expertise.  The tuition is a bit less than UC and OSU, so I didn't mind that aspect at all.  So we spent a day in Oxford. 

The campus is beautiful.  At one point we did start to notice that most of the buildings look very similar and to tell someone to meet you by the brick building with the white pillars out front would not be helpful.   Our tour guide was excellent even though she kept having to pull up her shirt so as to not expose her hoots.  We weren't in a group of football recruits after all.  It is a college town and would be very comfortable.  The drawbacks, however, were the lack of a coop program (they cater more to internships) and that their college is better suited to those majoring in Business or Liberal Arts.  That is not to say that you can't come out of there with a great education in engineering since I believe that is what my nephew has, but it didn't do much to sway CJ in their direction. 

So back to UC.  I was not able to tag along, but Beth and CJ were able to get an appointment to speak to someone there from admissions.  A previous phone conversation with someone in admissions was not all that pleasant, but the person they spoke with this day made them come home and say that CJ was definitely going to UC.  My questions as to why revealed that their coop program was as good as advertised and, even though the same situation existed as at OSU regarding computer science freshmen being herded through a year in engineering before being able to split off, CJ was comforted by the emphasis on mentoring and how there would always be plenty of help available in the form of tutors or learning groups.

Let me take this opportunity to explain the potential need for educational assistance.  CJ is a smart kid.  He has taken the SAT and ACT and scored well enough that acceptance at any of the colleges I have mentioned would not be an issue.  He would probably even qualify for some small scholarships.  I will be more specific about that in my next post.  You'll see why.  CJ's GPA after three years of high school is around a 3.7.  Colleges don't look as closely at GPA as they used to since not every high school uses the same scale, some weigh the GPA if you take AP courses, and some don't use GPA at all.  However, most colleges do look at your class rank.  Even with a 3.7, CJ is not in the top 10% of his class.  In fact, he is probably closer to the 40 or 50th percentile.  There are only 100 kids in his class and a lot of them are brainiacs.  His closest friend is one of those students who got a 35 on his ACT, has a 4.20 GPA (on a 4.0 scale)and is waiting to see which college offers him the most money.  Many of the guys in his circle have scored between 33-36 on the ACT and have GPAs better than 3.90.  (A perfect score on the ACT is a 36 if you were wondering.  The average score to get into a good university is between 27-32.)  Therefore, CJ has never felt like an idiot, but has certainly never felt like he was an above average student.  A degree in engineering and the classes this entails is more worrisome to CJ's parents than it is to CJ so far.  He does recognize the potential need for tutors though. 

So as I leave you today, the University of Cincinnati is the front-runner.  What could possibly happen to change this?  Stay tuned. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Choosing a college, part 1.

August 14, 2014

I realize posts from me have become like a Yeti sighting (infrequent and rather hairy), but I feel the need to document our recent college visit activity. 

Beth and CJ have had a very productive summer and it seems to have lasted longer than last summer.  I know this sounds like bitter sentiment from a person who does not get summers off, but I really mean it as a positive comment.  Last summer was rather messed up and that made it seem here and gone too quickly.  This summer, Beth has gotten so many things done around the house that it seems more like time well spent.

However, it suddenly became painfully obvious that a college visit or two would be an excellent thing to get done before school starts.  CJ will be a senior in high school.  That is very difficult for Beth and I to say out loud as it was not that long ago that he was learning his ABC's and reaching for the moon saying  "I can't reach it" in a voice so obviously belonging to a little kid.  Now, when people call the house, they are not sure if it is CJ or myself who has answered the phone.

So college.  We have long thought that CJ would end up at the University of Cincinnati.  Of the Ohio colleges, their tuition is not too unreasonable, they are close to home, and they are a quality institution that offers a coop program that we consider very important.  This was the basis we were starting from.  Oh, and it has been a given all along that he was going to live on campus wherever he went.  The true college experience complete with dirty underwear and Doritos for dinner.

As it turns out, you need a lot more information than that to pick a college.  Shocking, I know.  Here are some of the things we have learned.  First, when a young person is good with computers and wants to learn enough to make them his career in college, you need to choose your field of study.  Fortunately, CJ did not decide on a major involving computers because he is good at computer games and really enjoys Facebook.  He has built his own computer and has tried to learn about coding and the things that make your computer perform functions.  I know that was pretty technical, but my knowledge begins and ends with how you turn a computer on and whether I need to right click or left click to read about how badly the Reds lost last night.

We discovered that Information Systems and Computer Science are a couple of degrees you can earn in college.  The we took a trip to Ohio State.  As it turns out, Information Systems at Ohio State is a course of study in the Liberal Arts college, and Computer Science is over at the College of Engineering.  We read a couple of brochures that tried to distinguish the two and ended up at the College of Engineering.  This began a day of tours and info sessions that not only showed us the OSU campus, but some details of coming to OSU as a computer science guy.  A computer science guy at OSU starts out taking all the same classes as the incoming freshmen whose intent is to become engineers.  And a point was made that the goal of the College of Engineering is to weed out the serious and capable from the students who really need to be studying something less difficult, like Retail Management.  It was the ole, look to your left, look to you right, out of the three of you only one will survive the program.  Okay.  Then one of the professors from the engineering program spoke for 40 minutes about the Wright Brothers and we were ready for a nap.

Since you also are ready for a map, and this post has the potential to get really long, I will break up this adventure into different posts.  I know you are on the edge of your seat and waiting to see how Annie Walker gets out of this latest pickle, but that will have to wait until my next installment.    I will tease it by saying we went to a school that calls itself the Harvard of the Midwest.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How much does a 2 liter of California Cooler cost these days?

May 28, 2014

Beth asked me to blog this morning before I go to work.  She is administering finals to students this week which apparently means looking up stuff on the Internet.   Just kidding.  Only for you, sweetie.

I know it has been a while since I posted, but I have worked 29 out of the past 30 days so posting wasn't high on my list of things to do when I have been home.  It is amazing how, in a smaller retail environment, you can go from being over-staffed to under-staffed in a period of 4 days.  My assistant got pulled to cover another store, then one of my shift supervisors got another job and gave me her two weeks, then a cashier walked out with no notice since she had an aversion to people telling her what to do.  It takes at least two weeks to get someone hired and then fate threw in a couple hiccups for good measure, thus, I will not be fully staffed again until June 1st.  May has been rough.  However, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?  I am alive and looking like Charles Atlas over here.  Nice current reference, huh.

So my one day off was Memorial day and it was fantastic.  Beth and I went for a couple walks, I washed both cars, we had some down time on the back patio, and CJ threw some Frisbee with me in the backyard.  Good times.  I hope you all had a good holiday as well.

Beth and I were discussing what beverage would go with lounging on the patio as we do not have a go to beverage.  We don't drink alcohol often so it was hard to decide.  Beth suggested Zima but that would have required a time machine.  So we went with something way more current as Bartles & Jaymes seem to have also gone into retirement.

Therefore, since I do not have oodles of topics for you, I will try to remember some of the funny things that have happened that I wish I could have blogged about.

There was the day that I made myself a salad and put too many of the vegetable peas on it.  When I tried to explain to Beth how I had ruined my salad, I mistakenly told her I had peed on my salad.

We were driving around the other day and a fellow driver made a weird turn at a light and I commented about the clown driving that car.  As we watched him drive by, we noticed that he was actually wearing a clown costume.  We chuckled for a couple miles about that one.

On one of our walks Monday, we encountered a stray dog.  It came up to us very friendly like and would have probably gone home with us.  We then noticed that a man was walking towards us with a leash sans dog.  The stray did belong to him, but the amusing part was how much this dog ignored him as he got closer.  As friendly as it was to us was as indifferent as it was to the owner.  Reminded me of a cat.

Finally, our family has been playing an online game lately called 2048.  It is a numbers game in a box that involves making combinations to add numbers together to ultimately end up with the number 2048 in a square.  CJ and I have achieved this feet as has a friend of Beth's at work.  This friend was upset that when she beat the game her husband told her he beat it also, but had a higher score overall.  You get points the longer you are able to play and make combinations even though they may not result in reaching the goal until you do beat it or run out of moves/combinations to make.  Beth got very close one day with a 1024 in a box and a 512 also.  However, her overall score wasn't all that high.  In my effort to be supportive, I explained that is probably better to win with a lower score since it means you achieved the goal with less moves.  She has endorsed this idea whole-heartily, as has her friend at work.  Great.  Steve, ruining other people's  marriages since 2014.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Next time we are taking our foam mattress.

March 29, 2014

There are just two days left in our Spring Break.  Monday is the day when I have to return to work and Beth and CJ have to go back to school.  We are all looking forward to it in a big way.  Not.  However, we cannot be too disappointed with our break as we returned last night from our trip to Florida.  I am not going to gush at you about how beautiful the weather was or show pictures of us basking in the sun because that did not happen very much.  Mind you, I am not complaining as it turns out our Florida weather was significantly better than the weather in Cincinnati this past week.  And, we were on vacation.

They key to an enjoyable vacation, as it turns out, is that Steve not obsess with time tables.  In the past I have been so obsessed with what time we were doing stuff or what the next thing we were doing was, that I forgot to chillax and vacate.  I never let my brain exit work mode and enter anything resembling carefree mode.  I think some of that is due to the fact that we drove and did not fly.  As CJ pointed out, the be on time and hurry up and wait lifestyle that is flying can be more stressful than driving 12 hours.  That is also an easy statement to make while you are sitting in the back seat texting and looking up fun facts during the whole drive, but point taken nonetheless. 

We outsmarted the drive by leaving on Saturday and driving part of the way.  Our reservations at The Breakers were not until Sunday, but we had nothing going on Saturday so we just took off.  We drove about 75% of the way which landed us in Birmingham, Alabama.  We stayed at an Embassy Suites which is our favorite hotel due to the "free" manager's reception and equally "free"  brunch.   We are smart enough to realize that the price of these things is built into the price of the room, but we still enjoy them anyway.  Other than the fact that the hotel had screwed up our reservation (as in did not have it), we still managed to enjoy some local barbeque at a restaurant across the street and get some decent sleep.

The best part about this plan is that we were able to leave early and arrive in Ft Walton Beach around noon.  As it turns out, Sunday was the best weather day of the week and this enabled us to catch a good portion of it.  If you have never been to the Gulf side of Florida around either side of Destin, you are missing out on some beautiful white beaches and the clear waters of the Gulf. 

I don't want this post to turn into a novel, so I won't break down the day-by-day for you, but I will say that our goal of eating great seafood and relaxing was met.  We ate at a couple restaurants at The Pier (CJ may never be allowed back to the all-you-can-eat shrimp/flounder place), and ended up visiting a place called Stewby's three times.  It was highly rated and deservedly so.  Yum.  Beth and CJ are also still talking about a Thai place we went to.  Mission one: eat some great food-check.

Since mission two was to relax.  We did our best to spend time on our balcony, spend time at the beach, and sit and read on the couch.  Check, check and check.  Our times at the beach were tempered by high winds but CJ and I found time to toss a ball and we all have much nicer skin due to the exfoliating qualities of blowing sand.  If you wear sunglasses and keep you mouth closed you will avoid getting grit in unwanted places.  We accused CJ of getting unwanted sand in his thongs which grossed him out quite a lot until we were able to convince him that flip flops are also called thongs.

The pools were heated and did not have as many jellyfish as the gulf, so we spent some time there when there were no screaming children at the pool.  Beth and I played shuffleboard and I let her win so that she would not pout and withhold sex.  We sat on the balcony and watched about 12 dolphins feeding and swimming near the sand bar.  What was weird about that was how exciting it was to see them the first time, and then after about 30 minutes of watching them it became like seeing deer in our backyard.  We see them often enough that it has become old hat. 

I will delve into more details at a later time, but it all came to an end yesterday as we drove the twelve hours home.  Fortunately, it did not rain the whole way and construction delays only cost us about 45 extra minutes.  It could have been worse.  So now we have a couple of days to readjust and do homework.  I have not told work that I am back in town as they were great about not contacting me while I was gone.  Soon enough I will be back to the grind.  And quite possibly still finding sand in my hair.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's weird that a box of girl scout cookies only comes with two servings in it.

March 6, 2014

As many of you probably know, this is girl scout cookie season.  The young ladies are in the process of delivering cookies to your house as we speak or as soon as school lets out if you don't live in Kentucky.    Once this is accomplished they will set up their posts at your local grocery store to sell off the remaining cookies.  Beth once received some very helpful advice from a grocery store cashier to help with running the gauntlet between the exit doors and our car, "Don't look them in the eye."  Too sweet are these girls. 

We bought a couple boxes from the young lady who lives across the street from us.  She came to deliver them on Sunday.  She and her little sister handed us our boxes and Beth asked how much we owed.  The scout said that she thought we already paid.  Even though she is 40 years our junior, we figured her memory of such things was probably more reliable than ours.  However, 5 minutes later there was a knock on our door by the two youngsters saying we were correct and we did still owe money for the cookies.  I'm guessing that we had already paid but their cookie pimp told them that if we weren't sure to hit us up again.  We are exactly the type of demographic (aka old people) who fall for phone scams and send money to George in Jamaica to help collect his lottery winnings. 

Next comes the purpose for this story.  The younger sister was quite adorable.  However, it turns out that she was the goon of the duo.  I like to play with minds of the kids that come to our door asking for money, but she was prepared.  When they asked for the money this time and I said no, the little one looked at me and said, "GIVE ME MONEY!"  Beth and I have walked around the house all week holding our hand out to the other and saying, "Give me money."   Beth is so cute when she does it that I am almost broke. 

So watch for the cookie monsters in your area and be prepared for the same kind of strong arm tactics we were subjected to.  If you live in Texas, I'm guessing shotguns are involved.

Steve, insulting Texas and Kentucky since 2014.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there is a sleeve of do-si-dos with my name on it.  Don't mind if I do-si-do.