Pizza vs. girls

M invited some friends over yesterday to celebrate his recent birthday by eating pizza and watching a couple movies. The other kids came home from school on the bus with him, so by the time I was able to leave work and pick up pizza, they’d already been home for a while and were just finishing up the first movie. I thought they’d immediately attack the pizza, but no.

Instead, they decided it was time to turn off the TV and head outside. (Was I being too much of an intrusive parental presence by feeding the cat and getting out paper plates? Really?) I got everything ready for the pizza, then realized I couldn’t even hear them in the yard any more. Which, considering this gang operates at a dull roar, meant they’d really fled the scene.

I finally spotted them halfway down the road, now part of a much larger group of teens. There’s a kid at that end of the road who’s in the same grade and whose birthday is the day before M’s, so it appeared that he’d invited friends over to celebrate as well, and the two birthday parties had merged into one in the middle of the street.

Half an hour later, the pizza was cooling quickly, and I looked down the road more closely. This time I realized that the other party included actual girls.

This may explain why I had to reheat the pizza in the oven by the time M and his gang finally came home.

And then there was one

My workplace has been somewhat tumultuous this year, to put it mildly — a failed hostile takeover attempt and a planned spin-off will do that. Lots of people have been leaving for more secure jobs elsewhere. In my immediate group, one person left last week, and two more people gave notice over the last couple days. By the end of the month I’ll be the only person left in the group who specializes in my field, compared to the 4 we had at the start of the year.

It’s daunting, to say the least.

And I had a nerve-wracking meeting today, with a very high-level project team that wanted to know my plan for next experiments in a test assay that was dumped on me by the person who left last week. She didn’t leave many notes and what she did leave was badly organized and inadequately labeled. And the one set of experiments that a biologist and I have run so far, to try to reproduce her results, didn’t work well at all. The more I look at her data, the more I suspect she never had the technique under robust control in the first place.

Fortunately, I’ve been working in this field for 20+ years. So I didn’t go into the meeting and say, “I have no idea what you’ve been doing, or what you want me to do, and it’s not working anyway.” Instead, I talked about the critical process step that we plan to investigate next to ensure it’s not causing variability, listened to a dozen different people talk about random things they’d like to test, picked the simplest 3 that were suggested by the 2 highest-ranking people at the meeting, and got everyone to agree that these sounded like a good action plan going forward.

Of course, if the spin-off rumors for next week come true, this is all a moot point.

Since my post on replacing light bulbs in a Subaru Impreza is one of the most-viewed posts here, I figured it was worth documenting the same process in a Subaru Forester. In this case, the top right tail light wasn’t turning on with the headlights, but it was lighting up when the brakes were applied. It’s actually a bulb with 2 filaments, and only one had burned out.

Open the rear door, then remove these two screws completely using a 10 mm socket wrench:


Now you want to pull the entire taillight assembly directly back toward you. However, there are 3 plastic pins that fit into 3 little holes, so you can’t just yank. I tried wiggling the assembly a little to loosen it, and eventually I got a finger slightly under the bottom edge of the tailight, pushed up a tiny bit, and then felt 10 years of grit loosen their hold. Then I was able to pull the whole thing back.

These are the 3 pins and 3 holes:


From a slightly different angle, which also shows the junk stored in our garage:


Find the light you want to replace (in our case, the top one) and unscrew the gray part a quarter-turn to get the bulb assembly out:


Then just pull the bulb directly out of the gray plastic, and put in a new bulb:


Note: the weird orangish glow here is because sunlight is coming in through the red tailight, not because the bulb is on. According to the owner’s manual, the top one is bulb 7443, and the was the only info that the guy at my local Napa auto parts store needed to know to sell me the right bulb. $4.56 including tax.

If you’re as neurotic as I am, you then get your wife to start up the car and make sure the bulb works — both in Park with headlights on, and with the brakes on — before putting everything back together.

This was the burnt-out bulb, and you can see how the two filament feature works:


On the last day of summer vacation, M left me a message at work: “I have some plans with my friends, but I wanted to check with you.  Please call back.  Love you.”

Usually if he’s headed out with his friends he just leaves a message that he’s doing so, so I could tell he was planning something that he wasn’t sure I’d approve of.  When I called back, he rattled off, “So I’m going to go to R’s house, then we and the others will all go to the cheap Italian restaurant for dinner, then we’ll all go hang at K’s house, and I’ll be home around 9.”

Sorry dude.  It’s the first school night in a few months, and I’m not settling for “around 9″ as an arrival time, since it really means “9:30 or later” and then it takes you at least 45 minutes to shower and brush your teeth, and I’m not sure you have everything packed up for school.  And you may be starting senior year of high school, but you still need lots of sleep since you’re growing like a weed, and we’re still going to insist on a 10:00 bedtime.

I told him 7:30 instead.  And he was OK with that.

School is off to a good start so far — he reports that teachers range from OK to good, and he’s got at least one good friend in most of his classes.  3 of his closest friends are in a history class with him, and the 4th is trying to change schedules to end up there as well.  At least when they have major papers to write, they’ll all be unavailable to hang out with at the same time!

A nice day out

On Saturday, E and I went to a couple of local conservation areas that we’d never visited before, to relax and take some photos. At the first stop, the path led through some fields.
And then the path led down to a river, where a flock of geese were moseying just as lesiurely as we were.
Sometimes even the geese weren’t sure which way they wanted to go.
As we drove to our second destination, we passed a farm pond and a herd of cows, hanging out just as leisurely as the geese.
Some of the cows took advantage of the water to wade in and cool off.
Or get a drink.
Our second destination was buggy and swampy and not terribly exciting, though the lilypad was kind of nice.
We then actually headed to a third conservation area, which we’d previously visited, because it has a tiny orchard where you’re allowed to pick the fruit. No pictures of that. I was too busy eating a couple of tiny, very tart plums.

Here’s the prayer I shared at church today during Joys and Concerns time:

“I want to lift up a joy.  And yes, M, I’m going to embarrass you.  M just finished his first official summer job, as a counselor at a day camp. There were several kids at camp who, for various reasons, came with really challenging behavior. And they all ended up in M’s group at various times. But no matter what these kids did — and there was at least one day when they hit him with sticks and underwear* — I never once heard M describe them as bad kids, or sound mad about them, or say he wished they were at some other camp. Instead, he always described them as fundamentally good kids, who had reasons for acting the way they did, and he did the best he could to manage their behavior so they could participate in camp. And it was always clear how much he genuinely cared about them.

As a parent, I’m impressed with how maturely and competently he handled them. Spiritually, I can’t help but wonder how much of M’s approach may have been shaped by growing up in a church like ours, where people of all different abilities are welcomed and accepted as just people.**

So I lift up the joy of a teenager whose summer work has been a testament to his beliefs and to loving your neighbor. And for the kids who probably spend much of their lives labelled as ‘the bad kids,” I pray that M has made a difference in their lives, by giving them part of a summer where they could be one of ‘the good kids.'”


* Yes, I really said “underwear” during prayer time. Nobody flinched or giggled.
** Our church has a program that actively includes adults with developmental delays, both in our regular Sunday worship, and in Sunday afternoon services focused to meet their needs. Many of them live in two group homes near the church, which is how the program originally started.


I ran across the above article about how often different things need to be washed – go on, give it a read it before clicking
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