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What Do You Do For A Living?, Or, A Psychological Thriller in Four Minutes

I've worked for The Salvation Army for over five years now. I recently asked our marketing department to print me new business cards...for the 5th time. This is not because I drop my business cards like leaflets from an airplane, but because I recently got a new title. I'm officially the "Theater Manager" at The Kroc Center. How that all happened is for a different blog post though. What I want to talk about today is a terrible, frightening, invert-cold-sweat-inspiring question that I get asked a lot:

"What do you do for a living?"

I can already hear you saying, "Can't you just say 'I'm the Theater Manager at The Kroc Center'? you cold-sweaty fool?" Yes. Yes I can say that. But that's not good enough for you people. You all want to know what that means. What kinds of things do you do for a living? Walk us through your routine. Tell us about your schedule of activities. Ok, no. No one really asks me that. It is sort of hard though to explain what all I do with my time at work.

So I'll show you.

One of my favorite things to do at work is to make videos. I am responsible for producing all the video content for the Coeur d'Alene Kroc Center. I've had that responsibility since around the end of 2010. I inherited that role from the amazingly talented Jordan Halland. He left us to be famous and I had to figure out this video stuff by myself. I'm still learning, but it's really fun and I enjoy doing it very much.

You can check out The Kroc Center's youtube channel here to see some of my work. I do a lot of development stuff and life change/testimonial-type stuff. One of my favorite projects though comes every summer at Film Camp. We host a junior high film production camp for a couple of weeks every summer. I work with acclaimed actress Jillian Kramer and we teach kids to script, storyboard, act, film, edit, composite, score...basically to make a short film. It's so much fun and one of the only times every year I get to create something dramatic in nature.

This year however, Jillian's connections with The Arts & Humanities Council in McCall, Idaho led us to teach a similar camp in that fine city. We finished that project last week. The film we made, called X, can be found here.

We have one more camp to teach at The Kroc at the end of July. I'm excited to see what the kids come up with.

 

Shopping At Target, Or, Super-Human Style Sense

I sometimes shop at Target. Sometimes at Target I shop for clothes.  The upside to this possible course of events is that I purchase relatively cheap, relatively good looking clothes for myself.  The downside to this arrangement is that I semi frequently run into people who happen to be wearing the same clothes that I am, because everyone shops at Target. That's awkward. In order to avoid this awkward turn of events, I have taken to developing a strategy for shopping for clothes at target. I only purchase from the clearance section. This strategy presents two advantages. Firstly, it ensures that I spend as little money as possible shopping for clothes at Target. Secondly, it diminishes the possibility of the awkwardness.  The way I see it, if there are 10 red plaid shirts marked down from $29.99 to $6.88 on clearance, no one bought them.  I can deduce from this that either A) they are so hideously unfashionable that even the people of North Idaho won't be seen in them, on B) they are so awesomely ahead of their time that the people of North Idaho can't comprehend their fashion-forwardness.  I tend to lean toward scenario B and assume that these value priced items are the work of fashion prognosticators that can see into the future of what New York and Paris will only begin to realize in the 2015 season.  In this scenario these super-human fashionistas have forsaken the riches of this would and have dedicated their lives and abilities to bettering humankind through design....for Target.  Obviously I am going to trust their sartorial prowess and purchase these clearance items and show the world how trendy I am.  Obviously.

Anyway, that's how I buy clothes at Target.

ClothingZak AdamsComment
My Healthcare Journey Part Four, Or, Welcome To Idaho, How May I Help You?

In our last episode, I ended up finding out that the ones and zeros at healthcare.gov are both absolute in their dictates and shrouded in mystery.  Like a modern day Wizard of Oz for healthcare, not even their humble servants in the marketplace call center have ever seen them or know how to contact them.  ACA the wise and powerful hands down verdicts of eligibility with absolute sovereignty.  Due to this reality, I was advised to call my congressman. So I did. I contacted both representative Raul Labrador and Senator Mike Crapo. Thankfully, I got responses from the representatives of both offices.  They were lovely ladies that were more than happy to help.  If we are keeping score, Labrador was about a week faster in his office's response than Crapo, but they both get A's for effort there.  About a week after contacting them, I got an email from Lisa at representative Labrador's office indicating that she spoke with the Department of Health and Human Services (people! actual people!) and they said I needed to bypass the healthcare.gov website and apply for medicaid for my children directly through Idaho Health and Welfare.  Thanks representative democracy!

So I sat right down and filled out an application from Idaho Health and Welfare for medicaid for my kids.  Medicaid eligibility requirements really surprised me.  A family of 4 can make up to $3631.00 a month and still qualify for medicaid for children up to age 19.  Craziness.  The application was an interactive PDF.  Most of the questions were the same as the federal website, so I had had plenty of practice.  I filled it out, provided appropriate income verification form copies and mailed it off.  That was on the 8th of January.

On the 16th of January I got a letter in the mail stating that my application for Medicaid is denied. Here's why:

Charis Eleanor Adams elected to decline their Medicaid eligibility.

Nora Jane Nicole Adams elected to decline their Medicaid eligibility.

Those crazy kids! Somehow my seven year old and 15 month old contacted the State of Idaho behind my back and told them they didn't want Medicaid coverage! Part of me is proud of their American self-reliance.  They don't need government support! They are patriots! Libertarians! Free citizens of the greatest nation on earth! They don't need the nanny state running their lives!  I didn't know I had imparted so much political theory to my children through my parenting, but apparently I've got a couple of Tea Partiers in my house.

Or maybe not.  I called Idaho Health and Welfare on the 17th and the lady I talked to laughed when she looked at my file.  She said that it looks like they made a mistake and that someone with more cred than her would call me back within 2 business days.

 

Us PeopleZak AdamsComment
Makeup Culture, Or, How To Effectively Market Using Frightening Words

My wife wears makeup.  Not always. Not a lot. She looks nice.  This post really has nothing to do with that, but I thought I'd just throw it out there. My wife gets the Ulta ad magazine in the mail.  Today I decided to read it.  It's amazing.

First of all, do you have skin concerns? Of course you do! Read on to find out the horrific ways that a combination of modern chemistry and ancient soil/minerals/plants/bugs/etc will solve them.

The crazy thing about the Ulta magazine, or perhaps just the makeup industry (my experience here is limited), is that it effortlessly rocks back and forth between extremely sterile medical sounding products and vials full of something-the-neighborhood-witch-doctor-whipped-up.  For instance, there's Stila.  Stila is a line of products, some of which are called "Glowing Reviews," "Coming Clean," and "Undercover."  These products are made with

Alpine Rose Stem Cell Technology, Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamins A, C & E.

Stem cells from alpine roses? I didn't know that was a thing.  And what's the "technology" part about? Is that just the procurement of alpine rose stem cells, or is there more to it than that? I looked up Hyaluronic Acid on Wikipedia.  It seems pretty legit. It's used in all manner of medical and cosmetic products for its skin firming benefits.  It's also used in the "equine industry." I found this nugget:

Note that, according to Canadian regulation, hyaluronan in HY-50 preparation should not be administered to animals to be slaughtered for horse meat. In Europe, however, the same preparation is not considered to have any such effect, and edibility of the horse meat is not affected.

Europeans eat horses? How did I not know this?  Also, Canadians, did you decide the skin on your horse meat was too firm and needed regulation? Is that actually what happened?

Sometimes the doctor talk and voodoo speak are mixed almost poetically, such as in Glow by Dr. Brandt - Ruby Crystal Retinol Hydracrème.  I think I've seen how that's made.  There is a giant Nazi base under a volcano somewhere where the retinol gets infused with the light of a ruby laser...or something.  Anyway,

The synergistic ingredients of time-release retinol and micronized ruby crystals come together to resurface & instantly illuminate skin.

Does that mean your skin will glow?  Will it glow red?  How long will that last?  The best part is the bottle contains 0.5 oz.  I guess you only want to glow on special occasions.

Bliss makes a whole line of "Fat Girl" products.  Wow.  How's that working for you?  Fat Girl Sixpack is a

tummy-toning gel with 6 active ingredients and ab-activating applicator.

This is not a weight or fat loss product.

What are the 6 active ingredients? Are they activated by your abs or do they activate your abs, and if so, what does that mean?  If it's not supposed to be a weight loss product, what does it do, and why is it for Fat Girls?  Again, how did the guy in your marketing department that came up with that not immediately get fired?

My favorite part about most all of these products is the fine print.  Normally on products the fine print is something that the manufacturer has to put out there, but they don't want you to really focus on.  I have a jar of peanuts in my cupboard that has "Peanuts" and "Made with Sea Salt" in large letters and "Enlarged To Show Detail" in small letters.  The peanuts aren't really giant mutant peanuts, and the manufacturer is afraid you will sue them if they don't explain that to you, but doesn't want to draw a lot of attention to that.  I get it.

With the makeup thing though, the fine print is almost always what the product actually does.  There is a company called Philosophy.  They have 3 products they are selling on one particular page of this magazine.  They are "Miracle Worker," "Hope In A Jar," and "Time In A Bottle."  This is the large print on the bottle/jar.  Below that are phrases like these:

your eyes are the windows to your soul not your age.

to witness a miracle is to know yourself. vital, brilliant, heavenly in body and spirit.

where there is hope there can be faith. where there is faith miracles can occur.

time can be on your side. when you focus on what really matters, time becomes your lifelong friend.

Then at the bottom, in the fine print, is a description of what you are actually buying.

Miraculous anti-aging retinoid eye repair

Miraculous anti-aging moisturizer

Original formula moisturizer for all skin types

Most of them contain the French version of those phrases in italics as well, because you know, French people are beautiful.

So I guess the thing is, ladies, what you really want to know that you have access to is "hope in a jar."  Whether or not that is moisturizer or serum, miraculous or age-defying, hydratant anti-âge or formule originale pour tous types de peaux, doesn't really matter much.

I'm sure I'll never really understand this.  I guess I'm ok with that.  However, one last observation.  There are several "Acne Starter Kits" in this magazine.  Is that really the best way to market that?  Surely they aren't for people that want to start acne, right?  It's for getting rid of acne isn't it?  Isn't there a thesaurus full of words that could be used to sell this product better that "Acne Starter Kit?"  Does it come with a petri dish?

My Healthcare Journey Part Three, Or, Soothe Me With Smalltalk

In part two of my fanciful adventure through the A-for-caring-F-for execution Healthcare Marketplace website, I had appealed the silicon-based quality-of-life-determiner's decision to deny my 7 year old daughter health insurance.  I did this through the certified mail.  Because of this, I knew that my appeal had been received on December 18th.  So I waited.  I waited until after Christmas in fact.  On December 26th I called the Health Insurance Marketplace one more time to see about checking in on this appeal process.  I spoke with a lovely lady who wanted to rehash my entire history with the ACA so that she could better solve my problem.  She put me on hold for awhile and came back with the news that there was no way to check on my appeal and it might take up to 90 days.  This was concerning because my daughter's healthcare is due to end in 5 days.  When I asked her what I should do, she told me that she would like to help me reapply for coverage over the phone.  She was hopeful that the electronic guardians of affordable healthcare would rule in my favor this time.  The process took an hour.  During that time I learned that she was married with children, had friends in the town that I live in, and had a son who always wants to travel to Athol and go to Silverwood.  I also learned that she is unable to put her husband on her work insurance policy because it is too expensive.  There is nothing wrong with that exactly, I just find it ironic. After my hour of pleasant conversation interspersed with social security numbers, birthdates and annual salaries,  the HTML lords of health handed down a new PDF ruling.  My wife is eligible for healthcare on the marketplace, my 1 year old is eligible for CHIP again, and my 7 year old is eligible for nothing.  The process has failed me once again.  My friendly marketplace representative quipped, "Well at least we tried, right?!" Indeed.

So, what's next? A letter to my congressman, Raul Labrador, and my senator, Mike Crapo.  Let's see if this representative democracy thing works.

randomZak AdamsComment
My Healthcare Journey Part Two, or, You're Right, That Doesn't Seem Fair!

Last time we got together, I had just been told for the second time by our automated health-conscious overlords that my 7 year old is not eligible for health insurance.  I was slightly disturbed by this, as was my 7 year old.  (I really need to stop talking about these things with my wife when she is within earshot.) So, it's December 6th at this point, and I gave the Health Insurance Marketplace a call.  Before I relaunch into my tirade of continual disappointment with this system, I have to say, every single person I talked to at the Health Insurance Marketplace has been lovely.  I have also been in contact with representatives of The Internal Revenue Service this fall (that's a different blog post) and they could definitely take a few pointers from the Health Insurance Marketplace call center staff.  Everyone I have talked to there has been kind, empathetic and engaging.  In fact, only occasionally did I get a hint of the fact that they all get yelled at constantly and hate their jobs.

At first I spoke with a young man (I assume) with a nice thick southern accent.  I told him my problem and read him the Eligibility letter that I had received informing me that my 7 year old daughter was not eligible for health insurance while the rest of my small family was.  He asked if he could put me on hold while he looked into that.  I said yes.  He came back on the line a few minutes later having pulled up my file.  He then read me the Eligibility letter that I had already read to him.  I have to admit I enjoyed it more with the accent.  He then exclaimed, "That doesn't seem fair at all!"  It was at this point that he ran out of helpful ideas.  I asked him why the robo-insurance system might have made that determination.  He did not know.  I asked to talk to his supervisor.  He assured me that his supervisor would not know either.  I insisted.  He obliged me with a slight downturn in his mood.  I can only assume that a customer asking to be transferred to a supervisor reflects poorly on his performance record.  If you're reading this Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center frontline southern kid, I'm sorry.

I was transferred to his supervisor.  If I had to guess, I would say mid-twenties, young father, maybe a California vibe. (Actually, he told me the young father part)  He was very nice.  He too reread my Eligibility notice back to me.  I reminded him that I was actually the first person to read that notice, hence my call.  He also remarked that this set of circumstances was "unfair" and "weird."  He had a solution though!  He was going to reapply for me over the phone.  I thought, hey, maybe that's a great idea. Maybe.

We were about 15% of the way through the application when I realized that he was just filling in the fields on the website that I had already filled in.  At this point my hopes fell slightly, but I thought "at least we can rule out operator error on my part."  So we did it.

"Is your wife a woman?"

"Yes"

"Does your 7 year old have a job?"

"No."

I almost threw him when he asked the question about anyone in the household needing assistance dressing themselves, going to the bathroom or eating.  I told him that my 1 year old was still working through some of those things, but he decided that my situation probably didn't apply to the question the way our cybernetic medical benefactors intended.

We finally finished the application and he remarked "40 minutes for a family of four is a really good time!"  I sincerely hope he will get recognized for that achievement.  And then....drum roll please...

I'm eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my wife is eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my 1 year old is still eligible for medicaid and my 7 year old is NOT ELIGIBLE FOR ANYTHING!

My friendly application record breaking Health Insurance Marketplace supervisor said, "huh."  Then he said, "I'm really sorry man.  I've never seen anything like that."

I asked him what I should do now.  He said I should appeal the decision.  He said there was a form and I could download it and mail it in to the Department of Health and Human Services (what exactly does "Human Services" encompass anyway?)  So I did that.  I mailed it certified mail.

Tune in to part 3 of my tale to hear what happened next...

randomZak AdamsComment
My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now

In this series of posts it's my intention to detail my journey through the Affordable Care Act. While I am fairly Libertarian in my political views I'm not in principle against the idea of the ACA, however my experience with the healthcare.gov website has been incredibly frustrating. My tale begins back in October when the website first came online.  I enrolled in order to look into insurance options for my family.  I am covered very well by my employer but to add the family to my plan would be unaffordable.  They currently have an individual plan.  It took several attempts to create a login at healthcare.gov, but I finally succeeded.  After creating my login however, it was 2 weeks before the system would let me create an application for health insurance.  At first I just got blank pages.  These were followed by error messages with the "error id" listed as "unknown error."   Finally though, I got an application submitted for my family.

Good news, my wife and both my kids are eligible to purchase insurance on the marketplace!  Great! Where do we sign up?

This question was answered by over a month straight of "Select a health plan for: null" messages.  I chatted and called the Marketplace call center several times and was always told that there are bugs in the system and to try back at a time that was less busy.  Finally I spoke to a call center employee who thought I might just want to delete my application and try again.  So I did that.

I then proceeded to reapply for coverage for my family.  I told the system all the important things it needed to know for the second time.  I told it that my wife was a woman. I told it that my 7 year old hasn't been employed in the past six months. I told it that my 1 year old doesn't have any alimony to report on her taxes.  All the important stuff.  My application went through, but this time, something was different.  While my wife was still eligible for insurance through the marketplace, my 1 year old was eligible for Idaho CHIP (Children Health Insurance Plan) and my 7 year old was not eligible for any coverage whatsoever.  The friendly government-issued pdf document said, and I quote:

Based on your application, you don’t qualify to purchase health coverage through the Marketplace. In addition, you don’t qualify for a tax credit, cost-sharing reductions, Medicaid, or Idaho CHIP.You still might be able to get health care at a lower cost. The health care law has expanded funding to community health centers, which provide primary care for millions of Americans. These centers provide services on a sliding scale based on your income. Learn more about getting care at a community health center on HealthCare.gov.

Sorry small child, you don't qualify for mandatory insurance that we will fine you for not having.  Good news though, if you can find a "community health center" they might cut you a deal, as long as your income is low enough.

At this point, I knew something must be wrong. So, I deleted that application and started over.  I had the same family for this application, same wife (still a woman), same children, but the soothing blue and green prompts asked me slightly different questions this time. (Does my 1 year old need help paying off the last six  Huh.  That application was successfully submitted and my wife is still eligible for health care.  My 1 year old is now eligible for Medicaid, not CHIP and my 7 year old is still ineligible for anything.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series where I call the Health Insurance Marketplace and hilarity ensues...

randomZak AdamsComment
Grand Theft Auto V, or, Women as Sex Objects, As Sex Objects

I haven't blogged for awhile. Seems like a good time for a post. I have been coming aware lately that we are turning a corner in our country around the issue of public nudity. I know our culture has been going this direction for a long time (since before I was born) but several pieces of work have been produced this summer that seem to be pushing those few boundaries that we have left really hard.

Several popular musicians have released music videos this summer with either incredibly sexual near nudity or actual full-frontal female nudity. This has got me thinking (and talking with Joanna) about where our culture is headed and how we will raise our daughters in this world. That's not exactly my point tonight though.

I have heard that the new installment of the Grand Theft Auto franchise continues to push the envelope when it comes to sexuality. I did a little internet research into what that actually means, and I ran across a review of the game in Time where author Matt Peckham has this to say about the sexuality of the game:

Let’s talk about one last, debatably uncomfortable thing: the game’s portrayal of women. Forget the partial nudity and softcore sex you’ve maybe heard about, both well within the bounds of other art forms and beneath mention here. I mean the way the game often portrays women, from the perspective of adolescent or misogynistic men, as sexual objects. Is Rockstar satirizing the objectification of women, or just objectifying?

Basically, the playable characters in the game are terrible human beings. They are criminals (which is a major plot point) and they visit strip clubs and cheat on their girlfriends in full digital view of the player. The crazy thing to me is not the premise of the game, it's not the violence, the fact that you play a criminal, not even the nudity and sexual content. I think we are way past outrage at that. That's where our culture is. The thing that I can't figure out is that Peckham isn't concerned about the nudity. He's concerned that the characters are portrayed as objectifying women. He seems somewhat put off by this. He wonders if maybe Rockstar, the company that makes the game, is being satirical. Are the characters in the game trying to tell us something about the way men treat women in our society?

What (if I am understanding him correctly) he misses in his concern over the way the characters treat their female relations, is that precisely by buying and playing the game the gamer is treating women the same way. Using simulated sex and digital nudity in these video games is objectifying women. The young male demographic that is buying GTAV is being sold that game, at least in part, by its ability to give the gamer sexual objects to do as they want with. The problem isn't that the characters objectify women in their in-game portrayal, it's that the gamer objectifies women by playing the game in the first place. Peckham seems to be saying that if the digital sex scenes in the game were taking place in the context of committed, loving relationships, everything would be ok. He doesn't see the fact that the gamer is still left as a voyeur in the sex lives of the characters and is still objectifying women by their being used as sex objects by the gamer.

Crazy.

FamilyZak AdamsComment
Plan For Holiness' Sake

I'm reading Proverbs 29 this morning. In the ESV, verse 18 says this:

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

I learned that verse in the King James back in the day. It reads like this:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

There is a lot of popular church work these days in the field of strategy, vision casting and leadership. Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, the whole Catalyst movement, Driscoll; they all deal heavily in vision casting, strategic planning and management and leadership systems. While proponents of these philosophies would say that they simply exist in the field of human relations much like gravity exists in physics and the leadership of the church can choose to make use of them or choose not to heed them at their peril, opponents of management philosophy that I have encountered online and in person tend to accuse "planners" of worldliness. "The church is not a business." "God's ways are foolishness to the world." Stuff like that.

I tend to attempt to walk in some middle ground in this area (assuming there is some) but what struck me about Proverbs 29:18 this morning is that the vision of leadership impacts the holiness of the people under that leadership. While it's easy to accuse planners of just wanting big churches, or money, or fame or whatever, God's Word, at least to some extent, says that people aren't motivated to discipline and personal holiness when they don't have someone providing them with clear direction for the future.

I think Paul expresses this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 when he says:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

When I read literature about strategic planning, or am in discussion with our ministry team about vision, we typically have our eyes on evangelism (not money or fame btw). However, Proverbs 29:18 is a good reminder that the people of God need vision too, if only as motivation for their own holiness. Vision casting isn't just about the external mission of winning souls, but the internal mission of feeding sheep.

Bible, MinistryZak AdamsComment
Facebook Dinner, or, Scaling The Wall With My Peas

So, the last time we went out of town, back when we adopted our daughter Nora, we had some friends house sit for us. One of these friends must have left a Banquet TV dinner in the freezer (because my wife would never buy one nor let me buy one.) Last night for second dinner I thought I'd give it a go. The following will constitute my review.

There were a lot of flashy words, some in English, all over the box. It was however easy to find the picture of the microwave and the clock. The nearby directions told me to remove the plastic covering from the potato cell of the dinner and microwave the dinner for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes I was instructed to stir the potatoes and heat in the microwave for three minutes more. After this came a rest period of 2 minutes and a thermometer test to ensure that the product was 165 degrees. As I was doing dishes at the time, the 8 minutes went by rather quickly. Had I not been otherwise engaged, 8 minutes would have been a rather long time to wait for the satisfaction of eating. At least in the mood I would assume I would need to be in to be satisfied by eating a Banquet TV dinner. However, that is neither here nor there. The 8 minutes expired and my meal was ready. I'm not sure if the typical TV dinner diner has a food grade thermometer to ensure that his or her meal is outside of the temperature danger zone when consumed, but we have one just for these sort of occasions. I was in possession of one hot rectangle of food products.

I carried the dinner underneath a paper towel (to protect my hand from scalding) to my desk upstairs. I made sure to bring a fork along. The footprint of the black plastic service container fit nicely on my desk, with plenty of room to spare for a glass of water and possibly a 2nd or 3rd place bowling trophy, had one been available. The meal was organized thusly: the aforementioned potatoes had slightly less than 1/4 of the area. The nearby, equally sized compartment held green peas.  The major area, and star of the meal, was the chicken, or possibly turkey sitting atop stuffing with gravy.

I must briefly turn my attention to the chicken/turkey. While the packaging indicated a rather large piece of chicken, likely a breast, the actual meal contained what amounted to 2 half circles of thick deli sliced sandwich meat. One slice was white and the other was dark. Choices. The stuffing was a crouton-like material soaked in gravy. And by gravy I mean gelatinous brown salt product. It was really tasty. (By the by, I really struggled to start that one sentence back there with the word "and." I wouldn't have done it, but I got a nice letter from the Vice President and General Manager of AT&T Pacific Northwest and Alaska today offering me $100 off any tablet with a new 2 year service agreement as a holiday gift and he did it, so I thought I could probably get away with it.)

Now for the sides. I immediately recognized the potatoes as instant. Instant potatoes are translucent. The peas however, were remarkable. The problem with peas is that I grew up being asked to eat canned peas. I despise canned peas. They are chalky, and sweeter than they should be. They don't taste like food from the garden. They taste like food from the basement. Only mushrooms can taste like food from the basement. These peas though were frozen peas. They were great. It was at this point (when I was enjoying the peas) that I realized the major positive in the TV dinner model for me as a child is a major negative for me as an adult. I very badly wanted my peas and my potatoes and my chicken/turkey crouton salt gravy to blend together and combine their flavor powers on my fork prior to entering my mouth. The barriers between the food products were just too high and too slippery to make this an enjoyable task. I had to fight my way over the wall with my peas like a band of little round green Orcs at Helms Deep. Just as many fell down into the rainy abyss as lept over into the elf-like translucent potatoes on the other side. It was a lot of work.

I was successful in the end though. I finished my TV dinner. Not in front of the TV, but while surfing facebook. Eating and browsing the internet is much easier than eating and watching TV. One can pause for a bite and pull one's gaze away from the screen without the fear of missing something important. Status updates don't happen that quickly. If I had to give my Facebook Dinner a rating, I would say 3.5 out of 5 stars. 8 minutes is far to long to wait for a good meal and I must be able to mix my food. Points off for those things.  However, the flavor packed chicken/turkey section of my meal really hit the spot.

 

randomZak AdamsComment
Nora Jane Nicole Adams, or, I Almost Forgot My Wedding Anniversary Under Oath

On Friday, we had a court date. Joanna and I were sworn in in front of the judge at the Kootenai County courthouse to testify that we were willing and ready to take on Nora Jane as our full child, equivalent in every way to our natural child, for the rest of our lives. So, Nora got our last name on Friday. The judge signed off on our adoption paperwork. He asked me the date of our anniversary though while I was on the stand, and I almost totally blanked. It's scary being under oath, even if you know the answers to the questions.

FamilyZak Adams Comment
Vanity Plates, or, I Can Say Something Better With 7 Characters Than You Can

I just realized another way that I arrogantly judge people. I'm seldom shocked when this happens, but it's still amazing to me that these kind of attitudes are buried inside my heart. I was driving today behind a van with a license plate that said "PINAPLE." I immediately thought, "That would make more sense if it said, 'PINAPPL.'" I then realized that I do that every time I see a vanity plate. I try to figure out what it says and then I check to make sure that there isn't a better way to have spelled it. Then I judge the person as somehow intellectually deprived if I can think of a better way to communicate that "I'm a sexy grandma" (SXYGRMA) or "This family is made up of 3 cats and a woman" (3KTNLAD).

I never consider than maybe the best vanity plate spelling was taken and they had to settle for second best. I just judge.

The Slow Boat To Freeport, or, My Bahamas Cruise Vacation

My wife and I have been married for 10 years. That's a long time these days. I'm hoping for 10 more, but she said we'd take it day by day and see (just kidding. I probably said that...in jest...) Anyway, we have a yearly anniversary tradition. Money is always tight, so I let her believe that since we don't have any money I haven't made any plans. Then I surprise her with the plans I have made. This happens every year. She's precious like that. This year I saved all the extra money I could find for 8 months and bought us a 5 day Carnival cruise in the Bahamas. She was surprised. What follows is a set of pictures as well as my commentary on the trip.

Ecstacy

Ecstacy

Me near Ecstasy

Me near Ecstasy

There's our ship. The Carnival Ecstasy. 14 decks. 3,500 people on board. Ginormous. At least I thought so until we docked next to the Carnival Magic at Nassau.

Boat Envy.

Boat Envy.

That's the Ecstasy on the left. The Magic is in the center and I think it was the Imagination that was pulling on the right. The Magic was way bigger than our ship. It also had 2 waterslides. And a basketball court. And a ropes course. And five more decks. Boat envy.

Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay

After a day at sea we stopped at Half Moon Cay. It's a private island owned by the cruise company. It was great. The picture looks pretty overcast, but it was sunny and warm. The water was gorgeous and clear. We snorkeled. <-- Weird word.

Tourists under sign.

Tourists under sign.

Here is a picture of us standing at a sign. Please imagine us standing at a sign at every port, because we did. I'm not showing you all the signs though. Also, I wore shorts. For most of the week. (I actually had to buy said shorts for this trip because I didn't own any)

Squinty.

Squinty.

This is me standing on a bridge that crosses over to Paradise Island in Nassau. That's Atlantis Resort in the background. I think it was a really cool place, but the staff kept hassling us because we weren't staying at the resort, so we didn't get to see much of it.

Police Booth.

Police Booth.

This is a mobile police booth. In this booth Bahamian officers of the law operate with courage, integrity and loyalty. They are also very tall and skinny.

Nassau Light House

Nassau Light House

Goodbye Nassau! Goodbye snobby resort! Goodbye skinny policemen! Goodbye giant ship that I would not rather be on!

Tourists under sign again.

Tourists under sign again.

Ok, I lied. Here's another sign. The only thing Joanna wanted to do in Freeport (I had no ambitions this trip besides sunshine and books) was see the "International Bazaar." This site was featured prominently on internet advertising, onboard excursion literature, and a sign at the pier. When we asked a taxi driver to take us there, he said it had been destroyed in the hurricane. The one in 2003. *sigh*

Napping.

Napping.

This is what I did and looked forward to most of the trip.

Who is this picture for?

Who is this picture for?

I didn't take any pictures of myself. But Joanna did.

After we got back to Port Canaveral, we had a day to spend in Florida before we went back home. So, naturally, we went to the Kennedy Space Center to see ROCKETS!!!

Medium rocket.

Medium rocket.

Rocket Garden.

Rocket Garden.

Small Rocket.

Small Rocket.

Wife rocket.

Wife rocket.

Gemini.

Gemini.

Fake Apollo capsule.

Fake Apollo capsule.

Pew. Pew. Pew.

Pew. Pew. Pew.

All of these rockets were well and good, but I waited all afternoon for the mother of all rockets. The largest rocket ever built. The most complicated machine ever engineered by man: the mighty Saturn 5. We were not disappointed.

Large Rocket.

Large Rocket.

Very Large Rocket.

Very Large Rocket.

Much Size. So Rocket.

Much Size. So Rocket.

Large Rocket Inside Largest Rocket.

Large Rocket Inside Largest Rocket.

It's hard to conceptualize how amazingly huge this rocket is. It's just so big.

At the end of this long building, we got to see actual Apollo command modules and a lunar module as well as space suits, artifacts, moon rocks and a rover.

Little Moon Rocket House.

Little Moon Rocket House.

Space Suit.

Space Suit.

That was our trip. Mostly. I have a lot more pictures, but I'm not showing them to you unless you come over to my house. Or my desk at work. It's too much of a pain to upload them.

To Love And Have Lost Is Better Than To Have Not Loved At All, or, I Miss My iPhone

I have been without an iPhone for several months. I got rid of my iPhone so that I could save money. That sort of back-fired though. Here's that story:

"$30 a month is a lot," I thought. "My contract is up. I will use my free upgrade for a new dumb-phone, sell my iPhone on craigslist, and have an extra $30 a month." Unfortunately, in resigning my contract, I had to accept the new terms of AT&T texting plans. My old plan was defunct. All new plans were more texts and more expensive. I went with a family plan sized texting plan which ended up costing $25. I lost my iPhone for $5 a month.

Why do I miss my iPhone? Here's a partial list.

  • Instant directions.
  • Cataloging my life through pictures and twitter updates.
  • My guitar tuner/metronome app.
  • My voice memo app. (for recording song ideas)
  • It doubles as a flashlight.
  • A really solid alarm clock (with a custom playlist to wake up to)
  • HD video.
  • Not having everyone that calls me go "hey, let me call you back. There is a weird echo on the phone." (granted, that's more of a anti-current phone thing than a pro-iPhone thing, but still)
  • Calendar access.
  • Instant information. About anything.

Granted, that's just a partial list, but it's a start. Hopefully I will get another iPhone someday. Maybe.

Car For Sale!

UPDATE: We sold the car. Yay!!!!  

Hey there. This is my wife's car. It is for sale.

It's a 2006 Ford Freestyle. Here are some features:

  • 3rd Row Seating (seats 7)
  • Fold Down Seats (all but the driver's seat)
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • Aftermarket CD player w/mp3/iPod dock (stock stereo included as well)
  • 67,500 miles
  • 25mpg highway

It's been a great family vehicle/SUV alternative.

$7500. Leave me a comment if you are interested.

 

FamilyZak Adams Comment
A Short Story, or, The Last Pound Cake

Trips to Walmart are always exciting for me. It's part Star Wars style pod race, part mission impossible theme song driven time trial, all kinds of exciting. At least when I go alone. I don't like shopping with others. Anyway, my Walmart story today begins last night at 8pm. I breezed through the store, strategically choosing my route based on where my predetermined items were located. I arrived at the express line within minutes. The following people were in front of me.

  1. A 50ish year old man of African descent. Big hair, big smile, short shorts. He was purchasing a chocolate pound cake. How do I know? "Have you ever had a chocolate pound cake?" he asked. "They are delicious!" Apparently he had called ahead to check on said cake's availability at the store and was told that they were all out. Undeterred, he made the trip anyway (forgoing proper footwear in his haste) and snatched the last one, hidden from the bakery attendant's eye. He had just enough milk left at home for one piece before bed.
  2. Behind him was someone's grandfather. He had had something of a beer belly, but the sheer force of age had worn most of it down to his former, lanky figure. He too had a big smile and enjoyed his brief cake-related words with the man in front of him. He had 4 large bags of pre-popped white cheddar popcorn...and 5 apples. I can only assume it was movie night and his wife was watching her calorie intake.
  3. Next in line was the portly gentleman. Shirt tucked in, slacks, burnt orange mustache. He was on a mission, just like me. He didn't care about the cake, the popcorn, or the apples. He was bothered to even be standing in line. He had work to do. There was a 1/2 gallon of vanilla and a 1/2 gallon of strawberry in his hands, and two packs of dark fabric iron-ons for inkjet printers. Yes, his evening consisted of making custom logo'd t-shirts and eating ice cream.

The cashier's name was River. He had the earrings of a 22 year old and the mustache of a 14 year old. I paid with cash. He placed my goods in the bag on the opposite side of the carousel from me. I waited. He just stared into the bag. Finally, after a thoughtful pause, he picked it up and handed it to me. It was 8:20pm.

I walked out of the store with my jar of caraway seeds and my can of tomatoes and drove home.

His Brain, Her Brain, or, "No, Go Back, We Haven't Seen That Yet!"

My wife and I will have been married for 10 years next Friday. Overall, it's been a good thing. I can pretty heartily recommend marriage to most people...seriously though, it's been great. I am a holier person, more dedicated to Jesus, and my life has direction that I'm not sure it would have had otherwise. All of this is due to my marriage. My wife is a wonderful woman. But that's not the point of this post. Joanna and I are really different. Really. Really. Different. Case in point:

A couple nights ago, we were watching a movie on the computer. It was only half over but we were ready for bed. I waited until the movie got right up to the 1 hour 30 minute mark and stopped it. That way, the following night, when we wanted to finish the movie, I could just run the timer up to 1:30 and we would be right where we left off. A solid one and a half hours is easy to remember so I wouldn't have to look for the right place. Joanna found this to be hilarious. She said she would never do that, opting rather to just fumble her way through until she found the right scene. She laughed hysterically at how weird I was. She's the one with the plan to ruin the movie by getting the scenes out of order, but I'm the weird one.

Marriage, kids. It's good for the soul. :-)

I Am The 99%, or, Just In Case He's In A Serious Fingertip/Acid Accident

I really don't want to accuse the government of taking my money unjustly...but I just can't understand why a criminal history fingerprinting only lasts a year. It's $55 to have your prints taken, and the results from the background check are only good for 12 months. When we started our adoption journey 3 years ago, we were advised to have all our ducks in a row because it could all happen quickly. So we got fingerprinted as part of our required state home study. 3 years later, it looks like we are going to actually be adopting...and we have to get fingerprinted again. Now, I can understand the need for a new background check, and a charge associated with that, but why the whole procedure? Some of my $55 must be going towards the labor of taking my prints (which is the majority of time spent in the appointment, btw). So for a renewal, use the old prints and charge me less. I'm not sure why I even need to come in at all.

The whole thing would be less ridiculous if it weren't for the concept of the fingerprint in the first place. You know, the marks that you have, from birth, that never change and can be used to identify you anywhere, even after you're dead. The state needs updated copies of those every year. Sure they do.