Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Archive for December, 2012

Happy Holidays! Part One.

It’s the sign of a good holiday week, when I completely forget to post about it (because I’m too busy enjoying it!).

We’re here in Tucson at my grandmother’s. Growing up, this house seemed huge, but it’s a 1950s ranch house with three bedrooms and two baths. They added on a den and a larger room that’s used for the dining room… but it still isn’t that big. Especially when you have five adults and two little kids in the house.

It used to be we were in the smaller bedroom, but my parents graciously let us have the bigger room- and provided us with two kid sized air mattresses for the boys to sleep on.

The only downside of this arrangement (other than the spotty water-heater and low water pressure) is that kidlets + air mattresses = noisy tossing and turning.

Christmas Eve was lovely. We started it off with my cousin’s wedding, with family and friends. It was a lovely ceremony, and my dad gave an eloquent toast.

wedding-122412

That evening we went back to my aunt’s house for our “traditional” Christmas Eve celebration.

My aunt lives in Winterhaven, an entire housing tract that decorates for Christmas. A schedule gets set up so that there are nights you can walk through Winterhaven, and some nights where you can drive through it. Christmas Eve is a walk through night, so we get there early and enjoy dinner and then walk around with family.

There’s just something magical about the crisp winter air (this is Arizona, so it isn’t that cold) and all the lights. My one regret? We didn’t buy a bag of freshly made kettle corn. Yum.

winterhaven_2012

Next time… Christmas! Yep, there’s just too much Christmas to fit it into one post.

Stuck in the Middle.

Right now, I’m sitting in the Comfort Suites in Blythe, CA. About 3:45 yesterday we were about 5 miles past Chiriaco Summit when we got a flat tire. The car was too low for us to get the spare out and we called AAA.

We realized that we probably should have jacked the car to get the spare, but as it turned out the AAA guy had a hard time jacking our car, so I don’t feel bad about that at all. I did have to completely rearrange our car so that the punctured tire could fit in the back, and had the foresight to think of doing that while there was still daylight. The guy was impressed that I knew where my jack and tools were, and that I had actually read the manual to see where/how I was supposed to store the other tire. He said that most people panic too much to even think of those things.

It took about two hours for us to get back on the road. Two hours where the Oldest Kidlet worried that we would be stuck at the side of the road forever. And where his brother didn’t seem to care at all, just as long as their Nooks had a charge (my MIL bought them each Nooks. My brother-in-law gave us a card to load them up with apps and the kids have been playing games for most of the last 24 hours).

And eventually we wound up here to spend the night while we searched for a new tire.

Nobody in town has the exact tire size we need, but we found one that’s slightly larger, but should be able to get us to Arizona.

By the way, if you ever have to stop over in Blythe and don’t mind spending more than you would at the Motel 6, the Comfort Suites is pretty ncie. The rooms are suites (obviously) and come with so many built in outlets it isn’t even funny. Our gadget loving family had more than enough places to recharge. And they have free wifi. The room also has a microwave, fridge, and coffeemaker. It certainly made this stressful night a little easier.

Though admittedly, I didn’t sleep all that well. I’m sure I’ll sleep more soundly once we’re at my grandma’s house.

tiresaga

Left: The flat tire, Center: The prison that’s near a rest stop (seriously!), Right: The Kidlets messing around at Denny’s in Blythe.

All of this made me realize that we do need to have an emergency bag in the car. While we did have some water and snacks, there were a couple things we didn’t have that we realized could have been helpful.

Have enough water for your family for an extended period of time. Pack some snacks in there- fruit snacks, energy bars, crackers. Trash bags, a folding small shovel, and toilet paper. Some cash, just in case you have to pay for a tire or a tow and they can’t take your credit card. And regular emergency kit stuff- some bandaids, baby wipes, neosporin, tylenol.

And be prepared to answer 5 million questions from your children about why you can’t just keep driving on the spare tire.

App Review: EyeEm

If you’ve read my post about Instagram and their new Terms of Service, I updated it. Just so you don’t have to click to another page, this is the latest:

Instagram blogged about the backlash, admitting they weren’t very clear in the way they wrote it (actually, they said that we just misinterpreted it because legal jargon is so tough). Ads will be coming to Instagram, but they won’t be selling your photos to be used in ads. And they’ve already removed the verbage that made it seem as though they were going to use your pictures and name in ads- very similar to Facebook’s social ads.

While I completely understand that Instagram needs to make money, this “admission” feels more like them simply trying to cover their asses. Because frankly, it isn’t that hard to say that they’re going to roll out ads and allow brands to show that you’ve liked pictures of theirs.

(Of course, they didn’t address the bit where they said they wouldn’t divulge which posts were ads at all- which frankly is a disappointment.)

Turns out I’m not the only one who felt like their ‘clarification’ wasn’t making things better. Pay attention, writers, the words you choose are very important.

Now- when Instagram made their announcement, I decided to evaluate some Instagram alternatives. The only requirements were that they had to be usable for both iOS and Android. (I’m not being compensated for any of this. Just sharing my own search for an Instagram replacement here)

First up, EyeEm. EyeEm is a social photo sharing app and site. Based out of Berlin, it has a pretty straight forward Terms of Use. Unlike Instagram, it’s meant for users 18 and up- since there might be some adult content shared.

There are lots of pretty filters, and a slew of border choices that you can access with a simple swipe of the finger (left and right to choose filters, up and down to choose borders). And unlike Instagram, you can post an entire picture or crop it if you like.

From there, you can tag it with a category for people to find it (or not) and with a location and a status and share it on your favorite social networks (you can post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare).

I haven’t gotten to try out many of the social features- as of right now, only one of my friends from FB and Twitter are using it. (But check out the pictures I’ve posted so far!)

Pros: Easy to use, lots of features- and can post to any of the major sites that you’d want to share with.

Cons: Not much social activity yet.

My verdict: I like this one!

I’m going to give the Flickr app a go next- any other apps you think I should try?

Oh, did I forget?

I forgot that I try to post daily, apparently.

Not really. It was just an incredibly long day. The Little Kidlet had his last day of preschool for this calendar year, and his Winter Program, too!

Usually it’s a big to-do in the chapel (it being a Lutheran school), but this year they did smaller shows in the classrooms. The kids lined up, sang their songs and then sat down for a celebratory snack. It was really cute!

But with that, I was too busy to try to come up with an idea… so instead you can have a picture of the Kidlets being adorable.

kidlets_together

Instagram: What you need to know.

Since was originally posted, there have been developments from the story. I’ve marked the updates down at the bottom.

Not that long ago, Facebook acquired Instagram. They integrated it into Facebook, and the internet rejoiced.

Well, today Instagram began informing users about their updated Terms of Service- mostly to bring them more into line with Facebook’s own ToS.

I’ve blogged about Facebook’s ToS and Privacy settings before, and one of Facebook’s more controversial features was the roll out of their social ads- which take activities that you make (liking pages, comments, etc) to advertise a service. It didn’t take long before they allowed you to opt-out of it.

Why am I mentioning FB’s social ads?

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

That’s part of the Instagram ToS. Essentially, they’re rolling out ads, and will be using your photos, data and even the metadata from your photos. And you don’t get any compensation.

Not only will there be ads, but Instagram notes that they probably won’t even be clearly marked as ads. And as of right now, there is no way to opt out from any of this.

This next part of the ToS is even more important:

Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here: http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/.

That’s right. By having your photos on Instagram, you’re agreeing to let them use your photos royalty-free. You can adjust who sees some of your data, but they can use your data how they want.

Wil Wheaton weighed in with how these changes might affect celebrities. I’d already been thinking about the artists I knew who used Instagram to share works in progress, but Wil’s perspective hits a lot of the same issues I saw.

The changes to Instagram’s ToS goes into affect January 16, 2013.

As of right now I’m still on Instagram, but will be deleting my account before then. So for the next couple weeks I’m going to be trying out different camera apps (some with social features, some with just sharing capabilities) to see if there are other alternatives out there that might work.

If you have an Instagram alternative that you like, comment on this post! I can only review Android apps, so keep that in mind. (I’m going to try to find ones that have apps for both iPhone and Android)

Update: 12/18 1:45 pm It would seem that Instagram noticed the backlash on the internet. Mashable reports that they will be having some discussions about the Terms of Service.

Of course, who knows what that means.

Update 2: 12/13 6:45 pm Instagram blogged about the backlash, admitting they weren’t very clear in the way they wrote it (actually, they said that we just misinterpreted it because legal jargon is so tough). Ads will be coming to Instagram, but they won’t be selling your photos to be used in ads. And they’ve already removed the verbage that made it seem as though they were going to use your pictures and name in ads- very similar to Facebook’s social ads.

While I completely understand that Instagram needs to make money, this “admission” feels more like them simply trying to cover their asses. Because frankly, it isn’t that hard to say that they’re going to roll out ads and allow brands to show that you’ve liked pictures of theirs.

(Of course, they didn’t address the bit where they said they wouldn’t divulge which posts were ads at all- which frankly is a disappointment.)

Update 3: 12/20 6:45pm Instagram released another statement, one that’s less snarky than the first. They’ll be rolling back to the original ToS so far as the advertising section is concerned, and will be holding off on the advertising until they can explain fully how it will impact users.

After Midnight.

This weekend, I did the unthinkable. I had a weekend filled with events. And for an introvert, that’s major.

On Saturday afternoon, we went out to my brother-in-law’s housewarming party. The kidlets played with some other children and I actually talked to people instead of hiding behind my phone. It’s shocking, I know.

Even more shockingly, after we dropped the kidlets at home, we went to another party. This one was at the house of someone that TheBoy works with, who apparently throws amazing themed Christmas parties each year.

This year’s theme was Japanese, and there was a great spread of food (the party was a potluck). They even had Taiko drummers perform. That was pretty neat- they performed for a bit and then let some volunteers go.

And TheBoy volunteered! He was in the last group to go, and with each group, the things they taught them became progressively harder. His group even had to do a bit of a competition- each person had to pick a Christmas song to play, and the other guests would guess what it was.

The first one, a woman played a tune that nobody could pick out, and admitted it was sort of obscure. “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The drummer reminded them to make it something people could guess. The second one, played a tune that was guessed after 10 notes. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

Then it was TheBoy’s turn. BAM BAM BAM… pause… BAM. And before he could go any further, everyone shouted Jingle Bells. And he won!

Afterwards, he admitted that he had been worried that someone else would pick Jingle Bells, and that he’d first thought of it because of A Charlie Brown Christmas- the scene with Lucy and Schroeder at the piano, where furious, he just taps out Jingle Bells with a finger. “THAT’S IT!” Lucy screams.

So remember… keep it simple.

It was a really mellow low-key night. I got to meet two of them guys he works with, and I can only hope I lived up to whatever TheBoy had told them about me. One of them snagged a deck of cards and did some card tricks, which filled up a good portion of the night. Admittedly, it was really fun to watch- especially when I wound up at an angle where I could see how some of the tricks were done. Not because I like exposing how tricks are done, but I always like seeing hands at work. Whether it’s watching a skilled musician play, an artist draw, or seeing a card be palmed and tucked back into a deck- there’s something amazing about it.

We left a little after eleven, realizing that one of us would probably be up early with the kids. TheBoy took the scenic route home, driving me past where he worked and showing me the route he normally drives home.

On the way back to the freeway, we passed an In-n-Out, which sounded good. I’d been sick on Thursday and Friday and had really only been hungry at night. So even at midnight, having eaten dinner- I was hungry again.

So we did something we hadn’t done in ages. We picked up drive-thru at In-n-Out and parked in a nearby parking lot to eat and talk. And for a half hour, I was transported back to countless late night dinners we’d had after nights worked at Disneyland. Which was pretty magical, too.

While not from this weekend, this is a recent picture of us.

While not from this weekend, this is a recent picture of us.

As far as the rest of the weekend goes, we took the boys to McDonald’s for lunch, and they got to play in the indoor play area for awhile- which was good. It had been raining (drizzling) most of the day, and it let them burn off some energy. (We brought food in for LK and made sure to bring along his epi-pen and Benadryl, neither of which were needed. It’s making me happy to know that he had to have run into a lot of cross-contamination there, but nothing spiked a reaction)

Yes, I’m exhausted.

How was your weekend?

Sunday Special Wrap-up: 12/16/12

{Geek}
The Doubleclicks (along with Kirby Krackle) found a way to fix Baby it’s Cold Outside. All they had to do was move it to a galaxy far, far, away.
Phil Noto posted this amazing poster-style art for Star Trek Into Darkness on his Tumblr.
12/12/12 happened, and it took down Tumblr. Somehow I survived without my friends silly Doctor Who things.
Which reminds me, The Doctor Who Tumblr had a ‘Doctor Who’ & A session with Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman, and the full transcript, GIFs included, is up on BBC America.

{Pirate}
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the webseries modern day adaption of Pride & Prejudice continues to delight me. If you’re an Austen fan and haven’t caught it yet, you can start here. Otherwise, the latest episode is here!
And something actually Pirate related, sort of. A writer schools a reader who suggests their work was a politally correct cliche. (Also, the guy didn’t actually have a historical leg to stand on, either. There were a lot more women at sea than most people believe)

{Mom}
Make It and Love It shares a great (and simple) Little Pieces Toy Sack, for storing toys that come with a million accessories. There’s also a link to her previous tutorial for Clear Plastic Toy Bags, which are also awesome.

This doesn’t quite fall under any of the one categories, but I do think it’s an important read. “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” – a mother’s essay about her struggle with a child suffering from mental illness. Don’t be put off by the title, it really is a good read. And frankly, mental health is an issue that needs to be discussed. We try to sweep it under the rug, and it’s something that should be discussed so that nobody feels as though they’re dealing with this alone.

(Update: While this link is going far and wide, it’s come to light that the woman who wrote the post has either previously downplayed what her family was going through or made it seem more serious for the purpose of the post. I’m not entirely comfortable endorsing it as being 100% true- though certainly, I know that I’ve downplayed parts of my own life in this blog. I don’t put my marriage or all of my life with my kids out here for everyone. I share what I think is interesting or helpful. I believe that with the discussions about gun control we really need to admit that as a nation, we fail when it comes to openly dealing with mental health issues. We try to sweep it under the rug, which makes people feel ashamed to talk about what they’re dealing with- and there aren’t many places for people to turn to for help)

Coping with the Loss

Yesterday I’d planned on posting my weekly link post. But I just couldn’t bring myself to post anything. I’d been offline most of the morning because of a doctor’s visit (I haven’t been feeling well) and it wasn’t until I was picking up the Oldest Kidlet that I even checked my phone.

And while I stood there in the cold, watching the Little Kidlet play in the kindergarten play yard, I found out about the shooting in Newtown, CT. I won’t link to stories in case you haven’t heard. All you need to know is that 20 year old man shot and killed his mother at home, then went to an elementary school and opened fire. In Newton, there were plenty of parents who had sent their kids to school, and probably had Christmas gifts (or Hanukkah gifts) ready for them, and now there’s nobody to open them.

I can’t imagine that sorrow. I know that it’s the sort of loss that alters a parent’s life forever. That statistically, the loss of a child will end most marriages. (Of course, parents aren’t the only ones affected. It’s highly likely the first responders will have severe trauma of their own to deal with)

I hugged my boys a little more often yesterday.

While I’m not sure we’re ready to talk about what happened yesterday (the boys and I), I do know that when the time comes I’m going to follow Mr. Rogers’ lead:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

I don’t want to watch the media coverage. I’ve seen these tragedies covered, and it seems as though they follow the same template. Especially after watching this video, I’ve been wondering if the media is as much at fault as gun control laws (you will never convince me that there’s any reason to own an assault rifle).

I know that the human instinct is to want to understand why these things happen… 24/7 coverage isn’t the answer. Especially not if you’re going to put children who’ve just been through a traumatic event on television.

Just try to be better, world. That’s all I ask. Be more compassionate.

My daily drive.

Right now, I have a morning drive that takes me around the hills nearby.

Past the cemetery where deer come out in the morning to graze.

Onto the freeway to continue driving around the hills.

The funny thing is that the weather on one side of the hill is often very different. It will be a gloomy, foggy morning. The sort where the clouds sort of licks the hills, you can see bits of it curl around trees, filling valleys. Then I’ll get to the other side of the hill where it’s sunny, and if I look up at the hills, I can see where the cloud stops. Where it’s swallowing up a million dollar home, leaving everything else below alone.

Of course, sometimes it goes the other way. The forecast will call for rain, but it will be sunny here at home. The second I get around the hill, it goes from sunny to pouring rain.

Wouldn’t give up my drive for the world. I do wish I could get pictures, but that’s hard to do while driving.

So what’s your favorite drive, and why?

The Worst Parking Job of the Week!

I know, it’s Wednesday. There are still a few days for someone to snatch up the prize, but I figured I would share this gem.

image

That’s right. This person pulled into what they thought was an open space, saw the cone there, and instead of getting out to move it (or to pull out and find an open space- which there were many of), they just parked there.

The backend of their car was hanging out into the parking lot, at a spot where everyone drives past. It was practically begging to get clipped.

I would have been surprised, but in this same parking lot I’ve seen people pull into other spots and not pull all the way. It’s as though they think they’re all the way in, then get out and see they aren’t and say… “Eh, it’s close enough,” even though there’s still a yard in front of their car.

It just seems to be this parking lot.

Tell me about horrible parking jobs you’ve seen!

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