Thursday, December 18, 2014

Have More Holiday Cheer For Your Fellow People

 Something interesting happened today.

I went down to the store to pick up a pack of butter.

Well, it was actually margarine. I call all margarine butter and all butter butter and... anyway. I was picking up the butter in the little Italian store down the street. No. I didn't pick up any pasta. A person can walk into an Italian store and just pick up butter. I needed it to make an almond pound cake, which was delicious by the way....

Anyhow, there was a guy standing in line behind me. The Overlord was sitting in her stroller. One of the legs was bent on the stroller as I cocked my head down to look. He looked down at The Overlord and mentioned how quiet she is. I agreed and said it was a good thing because she is always quiet in the store.

In less than a minute, the guy unleashed his life story. How he was going to be a grandfather soon (congratulations). On how they hoped this baby would come because the daughter had a miscarriage before (so sorry). How he never sees the other grandkids because they live in Virginia (well, maybe the holidays will bring you together). How he is blamed for all the wrong happening in their lives and not seeing the grandkids because of this daughter's divorce even though he was homeless for awhile (Oh, okay).

When I looked at him at one point, he had a weird expression on his face -- something like a cross between satisfaction and bitterness.

During the holidays, there will always be people who just need to vent about the bad stuff happening in their lives. Just listen quietly and be supportive, even if they are strangers, family or close friends. Letting them unleash the frustration can be a very satisfying gift for them, and it will only take a minute of your time to listen.

A little understanding goes a long way, and I hope something good starts happening in his life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just Keep On Keeping On.... And Complete The Surveys

Life has its ups and downs. It is how we deal with the downs that make us unique, spur us to greater things, or sets us up to bigger failures the likes of which we have never seen.

That wasn't very encouraging, was it?

What I meant to say is that there will be things in our lives that cause us the temporary bump in the road. Yet losing perspective and thinking that this bump is the "End of the World" when it is just a stumble along the path is what hampers us from succeeding at what we want to do.

Take, for instance, the Overlord's pediatrician appointments.

I loved the first pediatrician we had. A wonderful woman with a great sense of humor and she listened to what I had to say. So when she left that practice and suggested a replacement in the same office, I wasn't worried about getting a lower level of service.


The first time I was to meet the new pediatrician, I waited nearly 3 hours. At one point, the nurse came in, surprised, and asked if the doctor had come in to see us. Obviously not, or we would have left by then. Duh.

The next appointment was the fire alarm one. Another hour appointment turned into several hours as we all stood outside waiting for the fire trucks to show up.

Now, for some people, they would rant and rave and cry and scream and throw fits until security tossed them out of the building. I didn't do any of those things. I quietly came home and waited for the pediatrician office survey to be sent to my email address. In that survey, I spoke up my concerns.

After that survey, the quality of service increased. Instead of waiting an hour, I only waited 15 minutes. The doctor listened to what I had to say. It was marvelous. It was fantastic. And I said as much in the following surveys.

So the time finally came when the surveys stopped. Perhaps they had enough information about the practice. Whatever the case may be, I haven't received a new one.

So did the quality of service decrease? Yes, it would seem so. The last appointment we went to he didn't listen to me. He was preoccupied. He even went so far as to give my daughter a book to read, which would have been great if it wasn't in Spanish.

I have a whole year until I see the doctor again. And the next appointment will allow me to decide if  I should stick with this pediatrician or switch to someone else. We experienced a few bumps in the road, had a few low points, had a few high points, and even was set up to a big failure with her pediatrician.

But I'll keep moving on. I won't stay with someone I don't like, because it wastes my time and his. It is not the END OF THE WORLD. It is just a minor inconvenience we will have to overcome.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Sandy Day

Give a child a grain of sand, and they will joyously toss it around until it gets into their eyes. Give a child a bucket of sand, and they will throw tantrums and scream their heart out if you try to take it away from them.

Yes, I just made that up. But it does illustrate that children love to play with sand even if they aren't at the beach. The Overlord had the opportunity to play with sand today at the EQT Regatta at Point State Park.

Okay, so that isn't sand. This is a picture of the geese and ducks along the river waiting for someone to toss a spare piece of bread or crackers out to them. It does show that we were right down by the water.


And this picture shows The Gateway Clipper boat making its way up the water. I've been on those boats several times and it is a very relaxing way to take a boat ride.

Finally! The Overlord playing in the sand. She had a ball, but it was HOT. It was suppose to be partly cloudy with a chance of rain. The rain never came and the clouds didn't show up until we were about to leave. Also, the wind showed up. If you have ever been by the river or sandy beach when the wind shows up, it is very strong with no trees, buildings or bushes to block its path. And it picked up the sand  like it was... uh... sand to blow it into our eyes.

While the sand on the beach wasn't wet/compacted enough to make into grand masterpieces, The Overlord still had fun. She also threw a tantrum as we were about to leave. But kids will be kids. And we did leave some of The Overlord's masterpieces by the river.

 Okay, I would like to claim The Overlord made this with the bucket and shovel. But no. This was made by Colcom as it is the reenactment of the Battle of Fort McHenry. If that doesn't sound familiar, start singing the Star-Spangled Banner. This sand sculpture was based on that poem that is now our national anthem.

 It took three photos just to capture the entire sand sculpture and I still didn't get the whole thing in. This sculpture is HUGE! Those people in the sculpture are almost life-size that you could grab one of their rifles and drag the injured soldiers away.

And so this captures our trip to the EQT Regatta. Sandy fun.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Day At The Point

If you aren't from around here, then you have no idea where this picture is taken at. Locals call it "The Point." Visitors call it Point State Park. Other people call it where the three rivers meet, or rather the Allegheny and Monongahela meets to form the Ohio River. And then there are still a few who  may call it the place where people swim in dirty fountain water.

The Overlord did NOT swim in the dirty fountain water. But there were other kids romping in it. If you want to compare how dirty it is, then look at the photo below.

If you are wondering what is with all the water photos, let me explain. We are not at a water park. We are, in fact, at the Three Rivers Art Festival which was held at The Point. This annual event allows those with an artistic bent to come hock their wares, sing on stages and sell overpriced food.

 Of course, there has to be something interesting for the kids. Here at the Heinz Cultural Trust section of the park, they had a small marina activity where kids could push boats around the fountain. At the creativity center further into the park, there were tons of kid-related activities. They could throw bean bags and win prizes, make dolls out of recycled materials, make worry dolls, hula hoop, skip rope and get their face painted. The Overlord has a butterfly painted on her arm with small gems glued onto the suns.

There was also several stages with bands playing. And they were awesome. While  you may think this band is playing classical music with their trombones, they are actually playing hip pop music.

This photo is taken closer to The Point. You can see Heinz Stadium where the Pittsburgh Steelers play and part of the Science Center on the left side across the river.

I suppose I can't go to an arts festival without showing some of the art. This outdoor art exhibit is under the bridge leading to The Point. Yes, it is a bunch of tee shirts hanging on displays sitting in water. No, I haven't the slightest clue on how this is considered art. Yes, there are all types of logos on the shirts, even a few AC/DC ones. Perhaps it's supposed to symbolize our culture drowning in the corporate-controlled waters. I don't know.

And last but never least, Jaq got another balloon art piece. A hat. It is currently taped to another door so it doesn't pop. We had a very exciting time, and The Overlord may even be featured in an art exhibit in the near future. But I don't want to say anything until that actually happens.

I will mention that we almost didn't get home. There was something else being held downtown as bus transportation was being diverted. Many of the streets were closed and there were rainbow banners set up.... Okay, I just Googled it and found out it was a "Pride in the Street" event and a Chaka Khan concert. Wow, what a busy Saturday!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fizz, Boom

It might sound like I am about to talk about a major soft drink, but instead I am about to talk about the Carnegie Library Extravaganza that was held last Sunday that was called" Fizz, Boom -- Read Your Way Into Summer" This extravaganza was open to the public as it encouraged people of all ages to come spend the day learning and engaging in activities.
The extravaganza was separated into several tents scattered outside the Carnegie Library in Oakland (I later found out after the event that there were also activities inside the library). There was music from Radio Disney, The Obama Academy Steel Band and other musicians playing on stage. It was also an opportunity for vendors to hock their businesses although everything was free except the food from the food trucks. The Overlord even got an airbrushed temporary tattoo of a butterfly on her leg. They had everything there.

We tried to visit most of the booths, yet only made it through half on the one side of the library. The Overlord was able to plant seeds in a pot (they are starting to sprout now so we will be able to see what type of plants they are.) She was also able to build sculptures out of things found in nature, make a paper book worm, make a bookmark, paint her own cookie (thanks to Eat N' Park) and go down the massive slide above. Yes. The Overlord went down that huge thing by herself. And she climbed up it holding onto ropes. What a little trooper!

We also rode on the trolley by Molley's Trolleys. This is an actual trolley that they converted into a street vehicle. They played songs such as Mister Roger's Neighborhood, The Sound of Music and other kid-happy musicals and shows. Then we waited an hour for a balloon figure. And it was worth it. They were making spiders, octopuses (octopi?), rainbows, pirate hats and swords, and the flower bracelet that The Overlord is wearing on her wrist.

The Carnegie Library Extravaganza was a very large event with tons of people there. We listened to storybook readings and took home a free storybook. I can't think of a better event to go to when supporting the local library and getting kids interested in books. I can't wait to go again with The Overlord next year.

The only downside was the rain. It rained about two minutes after we arrived, stopped for about half an hour and then poured again for a few minutes. After that last shower, it was sunny for the rest of the time. I had the umbrella there, but must have left it on the bench somewhere. Oh well. There were holes in the top of it so I guess it was time to retire it and buy a new one.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Evening At The Shrine Circus

 One of the things about having a writing gig and working from home is that I can schedule special events where we don't have to go out in the evenings. A trip to the zoo? We head out when the zoo opens at 9am. A trip to the movies? We are there for the first showing of the day at 10:30am. A trip to the Barnum & Bailey Circus? We are in our seats before 11am.

 So why did we go to the Shrine Circus at 7pm? It was opening night and the seats were less expensive. They were only playing a 3-night gig. If we showed up on the second or third night, it would have cost twice as much for the same seats. But the only show available was the 7pm one. So that is when we ventured into downtown Pittsburgh.

There were clowns everywhere. The Overlord was nervous about meeting them, yet then again she is still shy of people as she places her face into my shirt. Yet, we walked up to almost every clown. And every clown who asked for a "high-five" from the Overlord received one from her.

Perhaps the one thing different about the Shrine Circus from other events is the really high pressure selling. You couldn't get anything cheap, not even the programs that were 4 bucks each. Before the show, during the admission, and after the show they set up rides. Kids could get their face painted, ride on a small train, jump on a bouncy slide, go on a camel/pony/elephant ride (I'm talking about the ACTUAL animals -- not on plastic ones) for a price. I guess this is how the Shrine Circus funds its trips across the country and pays the actors. Yet they could have skipped asking the audience, during the show, to buy the overpriced trinkets hocked by the sellers going up and down the aisles. That was a bit too much.

The acts were amazing. Lions -- and house cats -- doing tricks. People doing acrobatics in the air. Bears dancing Gangnum style. And a gigantic crossbow that launched a flaming guy through the air. We had front row seats, and it was worth the price. The only downside was the two boys sitting behind us who fidgeted and rolled about in their seats. They were there to see Spiderman. They didn't want to see anything else. But overall, it was a fun time. Got there at 7pm and got home a little after 11pm.

Monday, April 7, 2014

LinkedIn - Don't Spam On Me

So today I opened my email to see a message with the headline "company I work for member." I'm a little confused. "Okay, what did I do now" ran through my mind. I open up the email to see this message:

Hi Michelle - It's [name deleted],

Hope all is well. I'd like to recommend clients to "company I work for" so I've added you to my referral network.

Simply click the link below and we can start exchanging referrals. Thanks!

[name deleted]
[business deleted]

There is a link to a business called Referral Key. Since I always do my research (because I can't imagine a person who is in the writing business wants to refer his clients over to someone else in the writing business so he makes less money while I get his clients), I Google the heck out of all of this.

A good article that talks about this is here.  Another good article is here.

Basically, people from LinkedIn are asked to refer their client contacts with other people. As an extra incentive, you can receive prizes such as "money" or money that can be exchanged for gifts like clothing or steak.

Wow! Isn't that just a great service! Makes me want to sign up in a heartbeat. And while it sounds like good business sense, there are several things that jump out at me immediately.

Why would I refer clients to other businesses that I don't know, have never done business with, and can't vouch that their services are any good?

Why would I refer clients to other businesses for "supposed cash" that can be used to buy things from the website's collaborators?

Why would I work with a referral service that is in collaboration with a competitor of "company I work for?"

Why would I work with a business that spams the crap out of all my LinkedIn contacts?

Of course I didn't sign up to the service or even click on the link. I'm debating about deleting the contact, but they may not know that Referral Key spams the crap out of contact lists. Just a heads up! Think about things before you click on them.


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