Just Ask the StoryBots

Hey there.

So it seems Little Baby Bum has finally met its match, and is slowly being replaced by the StoryBots. (And there was much rejoicing.)

In essence, StoryBots are little automations that live inside computers and do nothing but help answer questions for inquisitive kids. Things like “Why does night happen?” and “Where do french fries come from?” are standard fare.

The best part about this is that Jen and I have become fans of StoryBots too; the songs are catchy, and the dialogue and animations are often quite clever.

Strangely enough, we actually heard about StoryBots at a “Gamer Parenting Strategy Guide” panel back at the Pregnancy PAX. (I even wrote about it HERE.) After which, Jen and I both forgot about it completely for over 3 years…until last week, when we happened to catch them on Netflix.

Turns out the show was nominated for six Emmys. Who knew?

Anyway, if you have small kids, definitely check out StoryBots. There’s a ton of content on their site, and they even have an app.

Here’s the link to Apple’s App Store

In other news, we’ve been trying to expand Daphne’s gastronomic palate a bit. These past few weeks we’ve successfully added things like nectarines, peanut butter on toast, tortilla chips, and bananas to her diet.

I had had zero success, however, with my attempt to get her to try “hamburoni,” which is an old family recipe.

“Hambi-what? Sure, I’ll try it…”

“Um…on second thought, I’m not really hungry.”

“No. No thank you. Really.”


“Didn’t get the hint, Dad? Fine. Get that hideous gruel away from me before I throw up in it. Not that anyone would notice.”

We’ll work on it.

See you guys next week.

j.s.

In Dependents

Hey there.

So I realize it’s been a while, but honestly there hasn’t been a whole lot new to divulge.

Daph is still doing her swim classes…


She’s getting really good at floating on her back.

and she still has her speech therapy on Mondays and Thursdays which, I’m happy to say, have improved.
I think we’ve all noticed a few more words and/or repetition of sounds from her lately, albeit randomly, which is a wonderful and disorienting shock each time it occurs.
Whether that’s attributable to the lessons or not is up for debate, but they certainly aren’t hurting.

Yesterday was Independence Day, and we had a good part of the family over to grill hot dogs and corn on the cob. The weather, however, had other plans…


This city… Seriously…

And so we boiled the dogs and corn on the stove instead. Regardless, it’s always nice to have family in one place for a while.

Stuck inside on the 4th…

Later, after Daph went to bed, Jen and I eschewed my semi-traditional Independence Day viewing and reading of the Declaration of Independence, and replaced them with a late-night showing of Jaws, which is a vastly superior holiday film on all counts. (Although the editing of that movie is really, really bad…)

And now we have the rest of the week, sans swimming/speech, in which we must come up with clever ways to entertain our daughter while trying to stay cool. We still have another 3 months of 90-100° heat coming, so we’ll be A/C hopping until Octoberish.

I don’t know how long Jen will be able to keep up those monkey sounds..

Okay, see you guys soon.

j.s.

The Life Aquatic

Hey there.

So Daphne is in full swing with her summer regimen. On Mondays she has speech therapy, and I wish there was more to report on that front. Sadly, there hasn’t been a whole lot in the way of movement there. In fact, yesterday was one of the worst vocal stimming days we’ve heard in a while. (For those unaware, kids with autism often make a constant noise while playing/handling things. In Daphne’s case, it sounds like a sustained “uhhhhhhhhh, uhhhhhhhhhh.” This is referred to as “stimming,” a derivative of “stimulus.”)

However, in entirely brighter news, she’s also started swimming lessons.

She goes 4 days a week to the local Texas Swim Academy and she’s doing fantastically. She loves going underwater, she’s getting to the point where she can float on her back by herself, and today she actually kicked and moved her arms underwater for a short way to reach the side of the pool. And all this after just 2 weeks.

The Texas Swim Academy itself is a great little facility, although if we’re being totally honest here I do find the biblical graffiti that’s scrawled all over the walls (in paint pen) a little unsettling. But that’s a tiny issue; the instructors there have been really great.

Honestly, the hardest parts about these swim lessons have been:

1. Getting her to wait in the lobby beforehand. She takes my hand, walks me over to the glass door that leads into the natatorium, and points forcefully at the pool as if to say “Dad. Seriously. What are we doing just standing here? The pool is right there. I’m already in my swimsuit. Do I have to spell this out for you?”

“Come ON! Let’s do this!”

2. Consoling her once they’re over. Each daily session is only 15 minutes long, which goes by in a blink. And when her instructor tells her what a great job she did and that it’s time to get out of the pool, there are often a few tears and protestations. Hey, the little girl loves to swim.

Not today though. Today she wanted to dole out the wet pool hugs.

And better that than the howling shrieks of the other little ones we’ve encountered there, who have ZERO interest in being dunked underwater.

The other great part about these lessons is that we decided to do this as a family. So all of us get in the car every day to drive over to the Swim Academy together. Not only is it huge amounts of fun to watch Daph in the pool, it forces us to get up, get dressed, and get out of the house each day. Whereas otherwise, there isn’t much of a call for such things right now…what with me unemployed and Jen on her summer break.

We’ve gone through enough school breaks to know that if you don’t get up, get going, and do something every day, the summer rockets right by and Jen feels like she missed it, or didn’t make the most of it. So having a daily errand/to-do is a really good thing.

And finally, I want to wish a happy 11th birthday to one Señor Jib.

It was 11 years ago today that I drove him from the cage at the SPCA, and brought him home to my little garage apartment in the Heights, where we became the bestest of friends.

I’d had him about 6 weeks when this picture was taken.

Happy birthday my Jibbous.

Okay, see you guys soon.

j.s.

Circling Around

Hi there.

Yeah, it’s been a bit. Last you saw me I was returning home after a long trek to California. One that, sadly, turned out to be a waste of time.

No, they didn’t hire me.

And just between you and me, internet…that one stung a little. I had mentally prepared myself for that to be my life. For my family to be Californians. To work with drones. I’d even started looking at school districts and commute distances. That’s how far I thought we’d gotten.

Turns out it was only me who thought that.

And it hit me really hard when they did eventually tell me they weren’t “moving forward.” (Which took 10 days of agonizing waiting.) It still does, actually. Moreso now that I’m back to grinding job sites, and getting slapped with several rejection letters a day. It’s hard not to be a little bitter.

But listening to me feel sorry for myself is not what you’re here for. So let’s get to that instead.

Daph, Jen and I have indeed started our summer together. And one of our first major outings was to Comicpalooza at the George R. Brown downtown.

Sadly, the convention was not worth even talking about. Except to lament that it was $100 that I really wish I hadn’t spent. Not even close to being worth it. It looked like a giant flea market with a celebrity bazaar next door.

What was worth the price of admission, however, were the fountains in the park nearby.

This picture says a lot. I’m happy (and saddened) with how it came out.

Anyway, that part was a good time, and totally worth the trip downtown.

There’s also been quite a bit of snuggle/nap time while the job hunt ensues.

Jib is happy about all this time we get to spend together as well.

The dog who isn’t happy with us, however, is Alex.

We’d become increasingly concerned about the mass that had grown on his forehead. It was a huge pink lump that had tripled in size in as many months, occasionally bled, and it was not far from growing into his eye.

And so, we took him to the vet to have it removed.

And I’ll tell you, when I picked him up after his surgery, I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right decision.

Look how miserable this poor little guy is…

“Perhaps” I thought, “he’s old enough to where I should’ve just let it be.”

He had to wear that cone for almost 2 weeks, and in all that time he never got used to it. This very morning, just before we went back in to have his stitches removed, he was still walking into walls and accidentally flipping his food bowl over with it.

But, as I said, today he got his stitches out and was finally emancipated from the cone of shame.

Happy puppies make all of it worthwhile.

Okay, I’m off. Have a great week everyone.

j.s.

 

BumbleDadventure – California: The End

Time to begin the trek back to Texas.

The Treksas.

But first, because hope springs eternal, I did some circuits to various little towns that are near the flight facility, just in case they do hire me. (Have I mentioned I wasn’t all that enthralled with Davis?) And I found a couple, with the help of one of the guys at the company, that I believe might fit my little family perfectly.

Highest on my list would be the town of Winters, CA.

Center of town.

This is a brand new, huge playground area that Daphne would love. (The dedication for it is actually today.)


The Preserve is part of the farm-to-table paradigm that seems to be very big in this area. And I gotta say, my turkey pesto sandwich was the best I’ve ever had…and this was after it’d been catered out to us on the work site.

This walking bridge spans “Arroyo Putah.” (I guess “Whore Creek” didn’t quite have the ring they were looking for.)

Anyway, I really liked Winters. Should these things come to pass, this will undoubtedly be my first stop for potential places for us to move.

I also looked at Woodland, which was…also nice.  But very suburban. Lots of strip malls, fast food and mass market stores. All of which are part of what I’d like to leave behind in Texas.

At around noon it occurred to me that I was actually 2 hours farther away from LA than I was on the trip up, and so it was time to make my way back to the train station.

A VERY long drive ensues down I-5 (and there’s absolutely nothing to see but farmland and/or brown grass along the way) and, many podcasts later, I arrived at Union Station in LA. At which point I drive in circles for 15 minutes looking for the Hertz Rent-a-Car drop off, until I’m told by an attendant that you have to drive up to a plastic barrier (that has no signs), and tell a police officer (who is hidden in a chair) there that you want to return a rental car, at which point he’ll part the barriers so you can drive down a very small ramp into the parking garage.

Of course. How foolish of me. Such a tourist moment.

Who wouldn’t drive straight for the nearest cop and demand entry through a blockaded area and down into an impossibly obscured pit?
This is L.A., after all.

Speaking of L.A., Union Station is pretty sketchy at night. I had 2 homeless guys demand bites of my pretzel as soon as I bought it, and a jacked up crackhead pooped her sweatpants while passed out in a corner outside. But the pictures I took in there make it look really nice…

Like a trendy coffee shop.

It isn’t. Trust me.

I boarded my train at 9:30pm, and we were on our way back to Tejas by 10.

At which point, this became the scenery once again…

And as I’m writing this, we just passed over the Colorado River, and are about an hour and a half away from Houston.

I have yet to hear back from the company I interviewed with, but should anything come of that gamble I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about it here.

Still has me a little nervous, though.

I mean, does the lack of correspondence mean they’ve decided they DO want to hire me and have to begin pushing it through the proper channels before calling me back and officially offering me a position?
Or maybe it means they’re undecided, and need time to sleep on it?
Or does it mean I was so not even close to what they were looking for that they’re not worried about getting back to me, and they’ll shoot me a “thank you but no” email next week?
Maybe more people interviewing/doing site visits?

Clearly I’ve had a lot of time to sit on the train, stare out the window, and ruminate on this.

Although, while I’ve been waiting, one Mr. Musk reopened the same position in McGregor that I already applied for once…so I just rang that bell again.

Can’t hurt.

So anyway… Here endeth the BumbleDadventure – California series.Thanks for coming along with me. And I’ll see you guys soon.

j.s.

BumbleDadventure – California: Day Six

The day has arrived. The on-site interview. The reason I did this whole thing in the first place.

I’m up at about 5:30 and get ready,  choke down a couple terrible cups of in-room Best Western coffee, and my ride picks me up at 7:30.

Sadly, there are no pictures of any of my time there because it was against the NDA I signed. In fact, I can’t really talk a whole lot about any of it without jeopardizing my chances at getting hired. Suffice to say I did really enjoy it, and it was like no vocation I’ve ever had in my life.

It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever done in my life, nevermind as a job.

And yes, I very much liked it. I was there for almost 8 hours, and not a single moment felt like work. Learning an entirely new nomenclature, technology, and rudimentary aeronautical physics was daunting, a little frustrating, and really exciting…all at once.

Generally speaking, I think it went well. And I’m contenting myself with the belief that they got an excellent picture of who I am, what I’m like to work with, my endlessly inquisitive nature (I must’ve asked what 3/4 of the things on their whiteboard meant), and where many of my strengths and weakness lie.

They drove me back to the hotel at around 4, and informed me that they would all convene about me that evening or the following day (Friday) and they would get back to me after they’d made a collective decision.

And yes, before you ask, that’s a little nerve wracking.

Anyway, after the day I was pretty tired. So I grabbed another quick bite at the pub and then headed back to my room to finish proofreading, and try to replay everything that I’d learned on the site that day, in an effort to actually store it all.

I didn’t get far in the proofreading before my eyes got heavy, and I crashed out at around 10, which ended a very, very interesting day in my life.

And, regardless of the outcome, it’s one I’ll never forget.

j.s.

BumbleDadventure – California: Day Five

As Day Five opens, we see our BumbleDad strolling down to the local coffee shop/book store (Bookworks) at 7am, and doing a lot of writing/photo uploading for you guys.

 Just like this, actually. How very meta.

I spent about 2 hours there, then headed back to the little house to pack up my things. Although along the way I bumped into a random falconer on the side of the road…like you do.

Got things packed, locked the house, thanked the AirBnB landlady, and so long Monterrey.
Thanks for all the pics.

It was a relatively short drive to Davis, and you’re looking at pretty much the most scenic part. (Unless you really have a thing for nut trees.) The most interesting facet of the drive was the temperature. When I left Pacific Grove it was 61°. When I arrived in Davis 3 hours later, it was 85°.

Once there I checked into my hotel, which was just down the street from UC: Davis.

Not much by comparison to the place I’d just left…

Which meant kids.
Kids as far as the eye could see.
All of Davis is unmistakably, unequivocally College Town™.

It’s pretty. Just collegiate. Which, if we’re being totally honest, did give me a bit of pause since our plan is to rent in Davis for a bit until we get our feet under us. The prospect of accidentally moving next door to a party house adds a slight wrinkle to things. (Yes, I’m getting old. Get off my lawn.)

Plus the housing market in California… Asinine. But I’m sure you all know that already.  –And I’m getting way ahead of myself here. As of the writing of this post, they haven’t even offered me a job yet.–

So I grabbed a quick bite at a local pub before heading back to the hotel to work on my proofreading project some more and call it an early night.

And that was pretty much the entire day. Slow by design.

Tomorrow…the interview day.

j.s.

BumbleDadventure – California: Day Four

And lo had he rested, and lo had his headache subsided back to the nether realms…

Which did beget a shower, which did beget an entire urn of the holiest of mana, coffee, which in turn did beget a new day.

And with it brought a fresh appreciation for the adorable little house that I was staying in…

Cute stuff.

About Pacific Grove… I honestly couldn’t tell you why I decided to come here. It seemed like a good stopping point between LA and Davis, it was near the ocean, and that little house up there was available on AirBnB. Other than that, I don’t really have a reason I could point to.

It was just a “yep, that’s the place” moment. And it’s been really nice.

The city looks to me like someone took some Wickford Bristle Blocks, and pieces of The Heights Lego Set, mixed them together, and built a new thing.

So after my coffee, the next stop was breakfast. So I hit up the first place I came to, “The Red House Cafe.”

Adorable. This entire town is adorable.

A delicious breakfast sandwich and a bowl of fresh berries later, and I was on my way to explore Pacific Grove. And, me being me, that meant a beeline toward the water.

Um. Okay. Full disclosure.

Just in front of these rocks there was a sign warning people that “Beware! Climbing rocks is dangerous!” Which, as most of you know, is the absolute WRONG thing to ever say to me.

3 minutes later…

What they don’t tell you on the sign is that it’s also fun, and good exercise, and clambering around on them is a reminder that you’re a capable person and that these are just rocks and people have been climbing on them and ones like them for thousands of years…just, you know, don’t be stupid about it.

And do things like cling to the side of them and lean out, just to get a good picture…

And remember that slipping and falling down there would really hurt and probably put a damper on any job interviews you might have in the next 48 hours.

Yes. That’s a cliff I’m standing on the precipice of.
Sorry sweetie…
In my defense they never should’ve said “DON’T DO THIS THING THAT LOOKS LIKE IT’S PROBABLY PRETTY AWESOME, OKAY?

From here, I walked down Lighthouse St. to the titular site itself…

And wouldn’t you know, it…the lighthouse was closed.

I guess it’s a good thing that no shipwrecks happen on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

From there I headed to the water again, and was rewarded with this little spot:

    (I’m a fan of cairn stones…)

  And, down between the rocks, I saw dozens of these weird little furry squirrel things.

Which were basically wharf rats, but with a luxurious tail accessory.

And after a few hours out here searching for decent seashells for Daph (and coming up empty)…

I decided to head back for an early dinner and to get some proofreading work done.

So I ordered a perfectly mediocre pizza (hey, everything can’t be amazing here I guess…) and got some work done. Then called it a night.

The following morning was checkout of the little house in Pacific Grove, and time for the 3-hour jaunt over to Davis.

But that’s tomorrow’s post… Talk to you then.

j.s.

BumbleDadventure – California: Day Three

When we last left our intrepid hero, he was at the train station in Los Angeles, trying to choke down a Starbucks coffee while renting a Chevy Cruze.

Exciting stuff.

I did get my car, though, and then headed off into downtown LA at 7am on a Monday.

I stopped to get some gas and water (and was in dire need of a quick pee after that godawful coffee) but the restroom in the Valero station was out of order. So I walked across the street to a 7/11 and bought some water, hoping it might allow me access to the restroom.
No. No public restroom. Sorry.”
Lovely.
Now I’m carrying 2 huge bottles of water and really needing to pee, so I go to a hotel nearby, smile at the attendants and try to look like I’m supposed to be there. I round the corner to the restroom and…there’s a key lock on it.

Gah!

Desperate, I go to the front desk.

“Look. I tried to use the restroom at the gas station next door and it was broken. I tried again at the 7/11 across the street where I bought these, but they wouldn’t let me use it. I just need to go really quick and then get on my way out of LA. Is that okay?”

The guy gave me a once over, decided anyone carrying 64 oz. of Smart Water couldn’t be all that bad, and nodded.

Refreshed, I walked back to Penelope (that’s the car’s name), and settled in for a long drive.

And if you’re interested, THIS is the place where that little circuit of nonsense went down. (Thank you once again to the kind concierge at Loewes Hollywood Hotel.)

It was at this point that I plugged in my phone, input the address of the house where I had my reservation, and began the process of trusting Google Map directions implicitly.

Turns out, the California Google Map Gnome…is actually a troll.

One who likes to send you in random directions before “recalculating” and then telling you to turn around at impossible junctions.

“Quick. Turn left he–oh God no, don’t do that…recalculating route.”

I guess it decided that I shouldn’t leave LA without going on a tour of Hollywood, so it inexplicably led me by Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the El Capitan, where I hung a right at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum…and then went straight up to the Hollywood Hills. At which point I’m beginning to wonder if this is the most efficient route out of the city.

“Seriously Google. I just want to get the hell out of L.A., okay?”
WELL OKAY. IF YOU SAY SO. I KNOW THE FASTEST WAY.”
“Wonderful.”
TAKE A LEFT AHEAD ONTO… BEAUTIFUL MULHOLLAND DRIVE.”
“Great. Mulholland Dri–what?”

I’m pretty sure this is Uwe Boll’s house.

And what followed was about 30 minutes of hairpin turns and 15-20 mph plodding, along with what I’m pretty sure were some Google Giggles…

“Seriously Google! What the hell?!?”

until I got to the other side of the mountain and reached a real freeway, at which point I was off and running.

Much better…

I reached Pacific Grove about 5 hours later, at around 3:30, and finally pulled up to the little cottage that I’d rented on AirBnB. But I was so damn tired, and had such a ripping headache, that I couldn’t even be bothered with its cuteness. All I wanted in the world was a shower, an Advil and a nap…in that order. I laid down in bed after rinsing off (sadly, there were no Advil in the house), and before I knew it…I’d fallen asleep.

That little bed and I were simpatico.

I woke up at 9pm, still pretty headachey…but not nearly as bad as I’d been before. I gave some thought to getting up and trying to find something to eat, then decided to skip the whole thing and just went back to sleep. And did so until about 6am the following morning.

Yep, the 15 hour snooze session. That old chestnut…

And once I’d awoke and saw that the lovely person whose house I’m staying in had prepped it with both a coffeemaker and fresh coffee, I was ready to start a new day…

But that’s for tomorrow’s post.

j.s.

BumbleDadventure – California: Day Two

Hi there.

So Day Two began, well, at the tail end of Day One really.

We pulled into San Antonio at around 11pm.

The hotbed of activity that is the San Antonio Amtrak station ’round midnight.

And there we sat…for nearly 4 hours. Apparently we were supposed to hook up with (quite literally) another train coming down from Chicago, and they were running ridiculously behind.

At around 3am, we began rolling again. Which in turn caused sleepus interruptus for the remainder of the night. This was exacerbated by a cacophony of snores, farts, voices talking way too loudly on cell phones, and several jackwagons who don’t know what the term, “please use headphones” means.

I’d fall sleep for about 20 minutes, then get woken up. Fall back asleep. Rinse. Repeat.

All night long.

I’m pretty sure they cast this commercial with the people on my train.

And so I eventually gave up at around 6am, and wandered off to the dining car toward the promise of coffee.

And it was there.
And it was good.

While having breakfast, we passed over…a river. (I don’t recall which one.)

This one.

Afterward, I came back to a find our train car completely empty and smelling vaguely like the bottom of an outdoor Diaper Genie in August. The scrambled eggs and bacon I’d just eaten signaled a quick retreat before I performed the “dad ninja” maneuver and covered my nose with my shirt.

An Amtrak rep wandered over and explained that the bathrooms downstairs had blocked up, and that I should “go back a couple cars and just find a seat anywhere.”

Ick.

So I did. And, quite a while later, we arrived at El Paso.

How very welcoming. They do love their fences down here.

Honestly, I’m a fan of El Paso. There’s a cool vibe in that city that I’ve always dug. Back when I was driving between Houston and Utah 4 or 5 times a year, I always stopped to stay the night there. Cool place.

But we weren’t to stay long. We were still trying to make up time from the San Antonio meetup, and so off we went, into New Mexico/Arizona.

Or perhaps toward the dual suns of Tatooine.

Ah. Moisture vaporators.

A little while later, we arrived in Tosche Station Tucson, which holds the distinction of having the coolest Amtrak station I encountered on this entire trip.

They had a real restaurant, with outdoor tables and candles…and beer.

I had a “Kilt Lifter” from the local Four Peaks Brewery, which was really quite good.

Alas, after about 45 minutes we were on the move again, and I attempted to sleep…again. And was met with roughly the same success. 30 minutes asleep to every 15 minutes awake…from 9pm – 4:30am.  At some point the toilets backed up again, but this time they just left us to wallow in our own crapulence until we rolled into the station in LA at 5:45am.

I didn’t get any pictures of that because I was a bit on the delirious side. But I did, however, snap a picture of the world’s worst coffee…

Seriously. I cannot fathom how people drink this bile-flavored swill.

At which point I picked up my bag, rented my 2018 Chevy Cruze, and began the second leg of the trip…the drive north from Los Angeles to Pacific Grove.

And that, will have to be a tale for next time.

j.s.