30 August 2007

Car Update

Thanks for all the good advice on the car. Not only did I post my dilemma here, but also to the messageboard I frequent. I also emailed my dad and brother directly. Most of the advice I got was pretty consistent -- work to pay off the Subaru and/or put money aside for a new car. Thanks to Cthulhu's Librarian, Winston, and Rel for really good thoughtful advice. Special thanks to my dad, who hit the nail right on the head when he said "You're not unhappy with the car. You are unhappy with the deal on the car." That was right on, and made me realize that my unhappiness with the deal would not be solved by getting another not-so-great deal on a new car. Thanks to my brother who told me to get a new car because that would make me happy. :)

We're sticking with the Subaru for now. I am going to make an effort to pay more on the Subaru to get out of being upside down in the car. We will reevaluate the situation in December, when more good car deals can be found. I will probably still periodically complain about the car -- so big big thanks to my wonderful wife for putting up with my whining AND for offering to let me drive our nicer Ford Escape that we got a much better deal on. She, as always, is awesome.

Juxtaposition

Is it odd that a man dressed in a sportcoat, tie, and khakis was listening to "I turned into a Martian" by the Misfits at loud volume in his Subaru on his way to work this morning?

I thought it made an interesting image, at least, as I got out of my car in the Withers parking lot.

There's interesting things lurking beneath the surface of us all.

28 August 2007

This car thing -- help needed!

I am having a vehicle dilemma so I am soliciting advice from all quarters.

Summary -- Totaled my trusty Mazda in December. Sarah and I shared a car until March, when our frustration and impeding baby led us to Carmax and a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. We had some bank issues, so we had to finance through Carmax. The Impreza has 99K miles, but runs great and looks fine for being 10 years old.

So what's my problem? Well, it bugs the crap out of me that I may very well be making payments on a car with 150K miles, since we financed for five years. I feel I made a number of mistakes in buying this car. It's too old to have paid what I paid for it. The interest rate kinda sucks. Also, while it runs great and looks fine, it is ten years old and that shows in spots (a few seat stains, lamp covers that no longer fit, etc). Additionally, the insurance on this car is relatively high, for some reason. I have 55 payments left. Ugh.

I've been whining about this car for awhile now, so I am trying to take action. This is a good week to get a new one, as it is model-year clearance on most of the 2007's.

The way I figure it, I have four options:
1. Get a new car, probably a Civic.
Pros: I have a new car, which I have never had before. It will be reliable, under warranty, and I'll be able to drive it for a long time. It will look good and I'll feel good driving it. I'll get a lower interest rate. My insurance will probably go down, or will at least not go up.
Cons: My car payment will double. This will stretch our finances a bit. I'll have to add the money I still owe on the Subaru to any new car purchase. Taxes will be higher on the new car.

2. Get a different used car, probably a Civic
Pros: A nicer car, one I can drive for a long time (hopefully even after it's paid off). Reliable, maybe a warranty. Feel better about driving it.
Cons: Still a used car. Maybe not as much wiggle room on the price, especially when you factor in the Subaru balance. Still a used car, even if a nicer one.

3. Keep Subaru, but make new car payments on it to pay it off quickly
Pros: Subaru paid off faster. Can then trade it in or dive it till it quits.
Cons: Still have Subaru AND big car payment, at least for a couple of years

4. Suck it up and keep on keeping on
Pros: Manageable payment on decent car
Cons: Will be paying on the car awhile. Will continue to be annoyed at my car mistake. Will car make it until paid off?

So, any advice? I have to make a decision quickly!

23 August 2007

Priorities: Comic Books

This is the first post in a series, where I will be musing on my free-time priorities in order to reassess how they all fit into the Nakia-as-Dad domain. I recognized the need for this process earlier, and am going to try and look at my free time activities in some sort of systematic way to determine what stays, what goes, and what gets modified. I think it's important to do this honestly and systematically, otherwise stuff gets lost simply due to inanition, attrition, and neglect. It's better to choose to let something go, to make a conscious decision about how I am going to spend my time and money, that to just let something wither because I can't decide or am avoiding it.

I know it may seem weird to talk about comics as a priority, but 4+ long boxes in my spare bedroom say otherwise. In my reassessment of my leisure priorities, I am tackling this one first because it's fairly easy. Comics, at least "collecting" them, is going. I don't spend a ton of time or money on them. Thirty dollars a month or so; a Saturday driving into Charlotte; a Sunday afternoon reading my monthly books. It's easy to let this one go for a number of reasons. First, it's a pain to get to the store. Heroes is a great comic store, one of the best. But getting there is a 30-40 minute process. Once I am there, it's not like I spend hours browsing, reading, and talking about comics. I get my stuff then leave. Second, and most telling, is the stuff itself. My pull list is pretty small. Conan, Amazing Spider Man, Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine, Hellboy, The Dark Tower (they've been doing some comics based on the Stephen King books), and the occasional other mini-series. Out of those books, nothing is stellar enough to make me want to get it on time every month. Conan is the most consistent book there. It's been great from month to month and I got in at the beginning, but now they are doing a "re-launch" with a new team next year. And it will still come out in trade paperback. Amazing has been really, really bad ever since this Civil War stuff started. KotDT is amusing and provides some neat game fodder, but the strips are all collected in paperbacks anyway. Hellboy is always good, but is infrequent and comes out in trades. The Dark Tower has been a big disappointment. It was billed as adding to Roland's story, but the comic portion of the books just recapped Wizard and Glass in poor, abbreviated, PG form. I HAVE READ THE BOOK. THAT'S WHY I BOUGHT THE COMIC. I DON'T NEED THE CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED VERSION OF THE STORY AGAIN. The "new material" came from stories (and I use that term loosely) at the end of each issue about the mythology of Mid-Word. These were poorly written and, in many cases, bordered on the silly.

Thus, I am not really excited about any comics any more, at least in single issue form. I will miss getting Amazing Spider Man monthly, since I have LOTS of those issues. and a nice run of 5 years or so going on. Likewise with Conan -- I have every issue of the new series. So I'll stick with my monthlies until their current arcs end, then phase them all out gradually.

What to do with the 4+ long boxes of stuff I have is a bigger question.

21 August 2007

Another Miss at GenCon

Another thing I missed at GenCon was my friend Scott and some other folks I know from ENWorld getting to play in a secret D&D game run by E. Gary Gygax. For those of you not remotely of the geek persuasion he, well, invented Dungeons and Dragons. That's like getting to play basketball with Naismith.

I now officially have a belly fully of burning jealous rage for Scott.

20 August 2007

The First Transport Is Away!

I just submitted my major research project for the summer to the journal Teacher and Teacher Education. It's a paper I wrote with some colleagues titled "Examining Teacher Ethical Dilemmas in Classroom Assessment" based off some surveys we conducted last year. I am pretty proud of the paper. It's good work and I think it will help kick start a research agenda on ethics that has, honestly, been floundering a bit. SO keep your fingers crossed that the reviewers like it.

Big thanks to my writing partner and publishing machine, Susan Green.

Missing GenCon and friends

This past weekend was GenCon -- the big honkin' gaming and general geeky goodness convention. Since my fall contract started Wednesday , I didn't go. Apparently, I missed a big announcement -- Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition will be published next May. I am not sure how much I care. I have never been a rules gnome -- someone who cares all that much about a rules set for a given game. There are things about 3rd edition I like, things I don't, the same that there was about 2nd edition. It's easy to ignore things I don't and focus on the things I do. That only becomes problematic when playing the game with new people, but then you adjust or don't play. One thing that does look promising about 4th edition is the attempt to integrate or support on-line elements, which may make it easier to play with my friends who are scattered all over the country.

Which brings me to what I really miss about GenCon. Last summer, I didn't do too much official Con stuff. I mostly hung out with and played games with friends I don't get to see except at GenCon (or other events like NC Game Day). That's what I am missing now -- not being able to game (or eat or have a drink with) Tim, Rich, Scott, Phil, Dave, Christy, Liz, Kennon, and all those other people I have met over the years. I especially miss not hanging out with Tim and Rich, two very good friends whom I met though gaming but are more than just "gaming friends". Tim and his family, at least, will be here next weekend on the way back from their family vacation. I'm excited about that.

13 August 2007

Back from the beach

I'm back at work this morning after taking a tiny-mini-vacation to Myrtle Beach. We stayed at my brother's place. We got to hang out with Andre and Heidi and Harley. They are both really busy with work, but we got in some quality time (no, not the chopping wood kind of quality time) with them regardless. Sarah got a pedicure. I got lots of compliments as I walked around the mall with Eleanor in the Baby Bjorn. Sarah and I snuck away Friday night after Eleanor was in bed and walked around Broadway at the Beach. We rode The Pirate, rescued from The Pavilion and set up at the "Nostalgia Park" at Broadway. We had a good dinner and family time Saturday with my mother, aunt, cousin, and grandmother -- all of whom gave Eleanor lots of love and kisses.

Mostly, though, we just tried to avoid the heat. With all the humidity close to the beach, heat idexes were in the 110's on Friday and Saturday. There was also this terrific lightning storm Friday night that kept us all awake for awhile.

This was also the first time I can ever remember that I visited Conway/Myrtle Beach and did not go to Pope-Martin road. I feel a little guilty about that.

09 August 2007

Damn Hot

At 5:30 AM it was 82 degrees in my house.

We have a programmable thermostat that keeps our house at 78 when we are home, but cuts the AC off at night. So it was 78 when we went to bed at 10:30. That means the temp in our house INCREASED 4 degrees overnight, when things supposedly cool off.

Damn hot.

08 August 2007

July Reading

July books read: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava
July books bought: None :(

When I told a friend I was reading The Historian, she remarked "It's pretty good, but about 200 pages too long." That sums it up nicely, I think.

Spoilers below.

There were many things to like about The Historian. The idea that Dracula is, in some sense, a historian himself, is first among them. Coupled with this idea is the other very cool idea (which I am totally stealing for a game someday) that Dracula selects his victims at least in part based on their knowledge of and access to books of history. I also enjoyed the layered narrative -- with letters and flashbacks detailing most of the plot. In some ways, reading The Historian was like being a historian, finding patterns and layers of meaning in primary sources.

The book took awhile to get moving and there were characters and episodes that didn't add that much to the story. I am not sure, for example, what function Barley served. Upon occasion, those layers diffused the story rather than added to it, especially toward the end, when 85% of the narrative was from Paul's point of view and told as a letter/flashback. It was easy to forget what was happening to Eva (or really care, for that matter. Just when you thought her story would pick up steam with her leaving Amsterdam, not much happened other than avoiding a creepy stranger in the train and her sexual comsummation with Barley. I saw that coming as soon as he entered the story, but it did make a nice parallel with her father and Helen).

Still, and enjoyable take on the Dracula story. And I am a sucker for stories that have academics and protagonists. :)

07 August 2007

Priorities

My friend Tim is having a big crunch adjusting to life as a father of two. I feel his pain, to a smaller degree. One of the biggest challenges to being a parent thus far is simply the time demands. Those demands create logistical challenges, which creates stress, which creates frustration and (to be perfectly honest) occasionally resentment. Add to this the fact that no one wants to hear or really talk about that part of parenthood, and it gets even more complicated.

People ask me all the time "How's that little girl?" My response is usually "Great!" or something glib like "Growing like a weed!". I know I would get all sorts of social sanction if I said what I occasionally feel:

"Well, she doesn't nap unless you hold her. Which a bunch of books say is wrong, so we feel like we're doing something wrong. And it leads to one of us sitting on the couch holding her for two hours at a time, so that's two hours of just watching TV (which, you know, we're not supposed to do with her in the room. Maybe she's being turned into a mindless consumer even in her sleep). And while we're sitting there, holding our daughter so she'll sleep, we wish we could be doing something else, even something like cleaning the kitchen because it's so dirty, yet we also feel guilty because (again) everyone keeps saying things like 'You'll miss those days of rocking her and holding her' which, while it may be true, does not help us get the laundry done or prevent us from turning into fat slobs because we can't seem to make it to the gym."

I am sure that would not go over well.

I love my daughter more than anything except my wife. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her. But I am still adjusting to the sheer amount of time it takes to give her what she needs. I'll cop to some selfishness here, selfishness that should be shed like an old skin, a remnant of a time when I was younger and smaller. It may be just a matter of reprioritizing, of determining which of my own pursuits fit in with these new demands I've taken on. (Note to self: watching Predator on TV should be low on that list.) Maybe now's the time to take stock, to figure out what I need to carry with me and what can be left behind. My marriage and my daughter are my priority. My job, which I generally like very much, is certainly up there. It is the means to support the family, and also gives me a lot of intellectual fodder and personal validation. I am not really talking about that stuff. I am talking about personal stuff, self-centered (which is not always negative) pursuits -- hobbies, if you will -- that I've carried on in some form or another for awhile and have become part of who I am. It's time to take stock and (probably) clean some shelves.

Stay tuned.

02 August 2007

On parenting advice

I've made an observation:

When other parents offer advice about what to do with your children, it is often phrased "Well, we did X with my kids and it worked great. Look how awesome they are!"

When other parents offer advice about what NOT to do with your children, it's often phrased as "My neighbor did X with their kids, and now their kids are in jail for selling crack."

No one ever says "We did X with our kids, and boy, was that the wrong thing to do."

Just an observation. . .