An Emotional Day

June 19, 2019 12:11pm
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I know that I haven’t really blogged in a while, but yesterday was kind of crazy in a number of unexpected ways that really shook me, so I thought I’d take a minute to get a few things out of my head and off into the world…

The Ever-Rising Cost of Magic
First and foremost, yesterday Disney raised their prices for annual passes at Disney World. Again. Like clockwork.

This is after another 10% raise in the fall, so in less than 12 months the cost of our passes is going up 25%.

And that, coupled with the fact that this fall David and Matthew will turn three and also need passes, has been really concerned and sad that I’m not sure if we can afford to go to Disney World anymore. 

This is a subject that I’ve written about before, ironically from a previous rate hike that we were able to endure, however our financial situation has gotten tighter with autism therapies for two of the kids and just rising costs of everything, and where I stand right now, it just seems financially irresponsible to spend $5,000/year on theme park tickets when we’ve got so many other bills stacking up. Even with a monthly payment plan, that’s over $400/month … which is basically like a car payment!

And of course, that doesn’t even cover everything once we get in the door – snacks are more expensive, meals for five are more expensive than meals were for two … Disney becomes a much different world when you transition from Dual Income, No Kids to 1.3 Income, Several Kids!

It breaks my heart, and also somewhat enrages me, to see Disney making billions in profit off of their family theme parks each year while they continue to make it more difficult for families to enjoy them. And yet being so overcrowded, they’re actually hoping some guests like me will back off and go less to ease up on crowds for everyone else!

In part, this is a sliver of a much bigger issue as we come to terms with how expensive it is to raise kids with special needs, but for right now the whole thing just makes me really, really sad.

The Head Dickhead Comes to Town
This one is funny because he wasn’t even in my town, but I kind of look at Orlando as a second hometown and I love how socially progressive they are over there … so it was surprisingly bothering to know that Trump was in Orlando last night, spewing his lies and disgusting rhetoric and getting his base all riled up with absolute nonsense.

As I looked at the coverage from the Orlando Sentinel, I think a big part of what bothered me about it was seeing all of those people en masse who are willing to look past all of the terrible things he’s done to our country in favor of a more crude reality with occasionally better financial performance. For some.

It’s like seeing the country still struggling with things like race and gender and sexual identity, only to elect the guy who spent three years accusing the black president of being a Muslim, and now his last three years trying to ban Muslims, and continuing to make light of sexual assault, and moving the needle backwards in terms of LGBTQ acceptance … it’s hard enough seeing the guy at the top preaching so much hatred and bigotry, but to then pan back and see all of his followers who still agree with those toxic views.

I already have concerns that we might see this douche elected to another term, so to see his people rallying and cheering their own hatred for anyone different than themselves on just makes my skin crawl.

Artistic Beauty
At around 1:30am, after all of that, I was reminded of this new video on The Try Guys channel that I wanted to watch about Try Guy Eugene Lee Yang coming out to the world…

I’ll be completely honest that I felt like there was a lot that went over my head the first time that I watched it, but I knew that it was something special so I wanted to know more. And this behind the scenes video that they did really brought things into focus, both in showing more of the passion behind the project itself as well as helping to spell out the artistic vision for each of the scenes to really show the growth, and the pain, and the beauty in the process of coming out as a queer person.

At one point, someone is quoted as saying that it’s more of an ongoing process than an event, which makes a lot of sense and left me feeling even more sympathetic for the ordeal.

Later I watched a video of a gay man reacting to Eugene’s video – in tears most of the time – and it hit home the gravity of why the video has been so well received after only a few days.

This year I’ve found myself more tuned in to Pride Month than I have in the past, and I think a lot of it is out of an unspoken obligation to stand on the right side of this divide in this moment in time. I don’t necessary know how to do more, but I feel like I need to do something because I’m absolutely repulsed by how the LGBTQ community is looked down on by people, and the whole “straight pride” counter movement, and how we still have so many people around us who consider LGBTQ folks to be lesser people than they are.

And a lot of them don’t even realize it.

Comments like “I’m fine with the gays, but they don’t need to rub it in our faces…” and beliefs that equal rights for LGBTQ means more rights than they have themselves. We have elected officials who openly campaign on the ideals of religious freedoms that almost always mean undermining the rights of this group to exist in the community. They make themselves the victims because they’re afraid of people who are different from them … and I just don’t have any tolerance for that in my life anymore.

I think that’s a big part about why I was so offended by Trump’s rally because it’s like getting together tens of thousands of these terrible people who think that they’re incredible patriots for standing with the president, yet the disregard that they have for their fellow Americans is anything but patriotic.

Anyways, watching Eugene’s amazing video was breathtaking and inspiring and beautiful, and it also served as a reminder that we still have a long ways to go.

Which at the moment is exhausting.

Dream Journal : Passholder Kerfuffle

March 21, 2019 9:47am
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Last night I dreamed that I was trying to renew my Disney World Annual Pass, but the girl at the counter couldn’t figure out how to ring it up and thought that I was making up the name of what I wanted and was generally just being a pest.

After four or five different cast members tried to help, with the line growing larger and larger behind us … consisting mostly of strollers, a manager wanted us to just charge it to our room to get the transaction over with.

Which wouldn’t work because I explained that I wanted monthly payments and I wasn’t planning on staying at the resort for the next 12 months… 😛

We finally gave up and walked away, shortly thereafter realizing that we’d left one of the kids sleeping in his stroller under the Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom and had to go find him!

So how was your February?

February 28, 2019 2:12pm
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I feel like this month went by really fast.

And I’m honestly not sure how much I can say that I actually got accomplished, but for what it’s worth, the last handful of days have felt a little less stressful.

Not significantly less, but maybe from an 8 down to a 6? I’ll take it.

I’m looking forward to a couple of big things coming up in March, and also hoping that they don’t kick my stress level back up into overdrive! I already started making some changes in my diet, and I’ve been getting to bed a little earlier than usual, so my real goal is to continue with that stuff while also getting a bit more work done than I did for February.

Plus, March is Christopher’s birthday month, and we’re working on throwing him a monorail birthday, so I think that’s going to be super fun to plan for the end of the month!

It’s really weird – parts of my life are still running fast and others have slowed down … trying to make some sense of it and if anything, shift more parts into that slow column as we move forward. I think it’s gotten to the point where I’ve been living this high stress life for so long that now it feels bizarre when I’m idle. To that extent, I’m trying to rely on my to-do list more and keep it to a limited number of things each day so that I have realistic goals to shoot for.

I could sit here and psychoanalyze it ’til the cows come home … in February money wasn’t as tight thanks to our tax refund, I’ve spent more time doing fun stuff, I even did a little physical activity earlier this week raking leaves … but at the end of the day I just want to try to find a better balance where I can say I did some good work, I got some good family time in, I took care of myself, and I did some stuff just because I enjoy it.

I need to go find me some tea so I can wrap up this last day of February and get to work at making March great…

Funko Mania!

February 26, 2019 11:37am
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I just realized how many pre-orders I have right now for upcoming Funko Pops … this is getting kind of ridiculous!

Come on, Honeywell…

February 25, 2019 2:39am
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So you may have heard that recently I had to blow a bunch of money on a new air conditioner.

One of the very small silver linings that I was looking forward to, or so I thought, was the idea that with my entire system being replaced, I could finally get one of those cool smart thermostats that you can control from your phone and whatnot. I talked about it with the people who replaced my AC and although apparently they’re not big fans of the super-popular Nest thermostat, they instead had a Honeywell model that was said to have most of the same features and was a little bit cheaper to boot…

I say that with some frustration because two weeks later, I can’t actually use any of the smart features of my new smart thermostat.

Why?

Because Honeywell opted to not follow the security standards for connecting their thermostats to wifi!

More specifically, the thermostat uses WPA2 encryption … the most common form of wifi encryption in use right now … except that whereas normally WPA2 allows for a passphrase of 64 characters, Honeywell for some reason limits WPA2 passphrases in their thermostats to only 32 characters.

And guess whose wifi password is 58 characters long?! Mine!

So I reached out to Honeywell via their website, thinking that either A) maybe there was a firmware update that I could apply to fix this … though not sure how I would download it, or more likely B) maybe this was just a problem with older models of their thermostats and they could recommend a different one that my guy could swap this one out for…

No. Such. Luck.

It kind of shocks me that a company as big as Honeywell would take such a lackadaisical approach towards security. I mean, as the Internet of Things (I still hate that name!) grows by leaps and bounds, we’re always hearing of new compromises where thousands of devices at a time get added to gigantic botnets. And really, it’s a standard … so why would they expect users to just make shorter passwords because they didn’t feel like following it???

I suppose the easy solution would be for me to follow the rep above’s instructions and shorten my wifi password, but I’m not going to do that. For starters, it would be a huge pain in the ass to update the passwords for every device around the house connected to my wifi, and also, I shouldn’t have to do that to add a new IOT device that’s supposed to be making my life easier!

I guess I could also go back to my AC installer and try to explain to him why his preferred thermostat doesn’t work for me, and when I contacted Honeywell that was actually going to be my plan, but unfortunately knowing that this is an issue that plagues every thermostat that Honeywell makes, I know that he’s not going to have anything to change it out with anyways, and he hates Nest so if I twist his arm to give me one of those, it’s just going to make troubleshooting issues down the road a nightmare.

Ultimately I think what I’ve decided to do is just leave unconnected thermostats lie for the time being.

Eventually I want to upgrade the wifi in our house to a Ubiquiti router and access points, and from what I can tell those support setting up multiple SSIDs … at that point, I can actually make a completely separate VLAN just for IOT devices to keep them away from my servers and everything else … so I suppose my plan will be to do that, and just for this stupid Honeywell thermostat, I’ll create one SSID with a less secure passphrase that’s only 32 characters long so that the thermostat can actually use it.

Until then, I’ve got this swell red alert light that won’t turn off unless I disable it altogether to remind me that my new smart thermostat isn’t nearly as smart as it claims to be… 🙁

If anyone is curious for reference, the thermostat I have is a Honeywell Wi-Fi VisionPRO 8000 – part #TH8321WF1001.

And if anyone from Honeywell happens to stumble across this blog post, please for the love of god ask your developers why they aren’t following security standards for something as simple as this! If I were you, it’d make me wonder what other corners they’ve been cutting, too… 😯

pet peeves – Top Posts vs Recent Posts

February 24, 2019 1:30pm
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I’m getting really tired of algorithms deciding what they think I want to see on social media.

LinkedIn is the worst because it’s literally still showing me posts that I’ve seen a dozen times from 3 – 4 weeks ago. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t have enough content to push me … this honestly wouldn’t surprise me because I’ve also noticed that LinkedIn in particular has lots of pre-written posts that it suggests for telling people congratulations and whatnot, which to me just seems lazy.

Twitter has had this problem for a while, but at least the volumes there are so much higher that it’s a lot less frequent.

As for Facebook, I honestly can’t say how much of a problem it is there … advertising is more my frustration on Facebook because I swear I just think of something and five minutes later they’re serving me ads about it.

At the end of the day, all of these behaviors just remind me that these sites exist primarily to make money off of their users, with actual interaction between users being a distant second … or maybe even third?

Islamorada, please?

February 17, 2019 2:30pm
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Photo © Simon Dannhauer / Adobe Stock

The last couple of days I’ve kind of been daydreaming of a vacation down in the Keys.

And not a short one, either! 

I’m talking rent a house on the water for a month, spend my days laying in a hammock and snorkeling, cooking seafood for dinner every night and watching the stars, with little to no human interaction except for the people at the market and my family.

Maybe an extra set of hands could come along to help keep track of the kids, too.

This last week has been pretty chaotic, in that I’ve essentially been filling in for Sara because she had classes to take during the day at work for a couple of days. The amount of running around that this woman does all day for three kids is nuts, and I only did it for two days! It’s no wonder that our house is atrocious because by the time the end of the day finally comes, you’re too exhausted to actually do anything about it … not that it would matter when the kids will tear everything apart again the next morning…

🙁

So anyways, I think I speak for both of us that we need some time to relax and unwind – to truly unwind – and it doesn’t even have to be away from the kids, necessarily. Our Christmas vacation that we’ve done the last couple of years over at Disney has been great because it gets us out of the house and away from everything, it gives the kids something new to explore and a limited number of toys to clutter up our temporary home with, and with everything contained within Disney’s sphere, it’s great to be able to walk to all forms of food and entertainment and so on.

I would love to be able to just walk out the backdoor and have my toes in the sand in a matter of seconds.

Or to spend hours swinging in the breeze in a hammock without worrying about what’s going on at work.

Plus, I’d love for the kids to better enjoy the tropics of Florida because frankly we don’t take them to the beach much as it’s just really hard for two adults to contain three toddlers right now! At least at a theme park we can strap them into strollers, but you can’t push a stroller on the beach! Not to mention, I’m not sure that I’ve even been down to the Florida Keys since I moved here over 15 years ago…

That just seems wrong, and Jimmy Buffett would be ashamed, and I think the sunshine and fruit juice would do us all some good.

Addicted to … Light Bulbs?

February 11, 2019 12:49pm
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Over the weekend I splurged and bought a few of those fancy Philips Hue smart light bulbs with some of our tax refund.

And yes, before we get too far into this – I still think that they’re overly expensive…

…but they’re also undeniably really cool!

I ended up with two sets of lights – three of the color bulbs to update the ceiling fan in my office, and also a light strip to replace the cheap one I ran along the ledge in our living room that burned out about four weeks after I installed it.

All told, I spent about $250 … which I know is crazy for a handful of light bulbs!

(hint: Definitely shop around and pay attention to bundles for the best prices – I got a starter kit with 3 bulbs, the hub, and a switch for $120 that would normally cost $195 separately, whereas the two bulb and hub kit was $100 and the four bulb and hub kit was $200. Best Buy was also cheaper than Amazon for me.)

But so far I’m pretty impressed with their versatility and ease of use once I got the first one setup.

My biggest struggle was getting their hub installed, and to no real fault of Philips – turns out I didn’t have any empty ports left on my router, or outlets left on the nearby power strip, so I had to do some juggling there to hook up a new switch and swap out the power strip for one that better accommodates the bulky power supplies that way too many people still use.

Other than that, the only real setup pain was having to push the button on top of the hub to authenticate it with their app on my phone, which was only a pain because all of our networking stuff is on a high shelf in our bedroom closet, so I had to walk all the way across the house a couple of times to do it.

That said, from a security standpoint I kind of like that the Hue Hub requires a physical connection to your network rather than wifi because it’s a lot more secure than relying on customers to change the default password once they set it up, which would likely never happen.

So on to the lights themselves!

I mean, it’s still about 90% novelty, but I thought it was really neat to be able to change the colors of the lights in my office pretty much in real time just by moving my finger around the color map on my phone! I also like the preset scenes that you can pick from, although I wish that there were more of them. There might be a way to download more – I only spent a little time playing around with things in the Lab, but it looks like there’s a lot of experimentation to choose from as well as 3rd party apps that do animations and stuff, too.

I even let Christopher play with them for a few minutes and he thought it was pretty cool, too!

For my office, I’ve basically got the three color bulbs in my ceiling fan, and then I also have both a dimmer switch/remote thingy as well as a motion sensor linked to them. I’m still unsure on the switches because frankly, I don’t know where to put them where the kids won’t constantly steal them! But I thought the motion sensor was really cool because it actually let me not only set the lights to come on when I walk through the door, but also come on to different scenes based on the time of day!

Right now I have it set to normal lighting during the day and then a much dimmer, tropical scene of blue and green after 11pm.

really want to experiment with trying out different types of lighting for when I’m writing late at night because I think it might be a cool way to help set the mood based on what it is that I’m trying to write!

That said, my other purchase was a light strip (and an extension) to go out in the living room – mostly to be used as ambient light on this ledge we have that runs the length of the room up by the ceiling. I think you’re supposed to put plants and stuff up there, but we’ve just got a couple of pots, a pillow, and a Mickey & Minnie statuette from when we got married. And also now some neato blue lights!

This is a lighting scheme that has evolved for a couple of years now. I first just had some white Christmas lights up there, which turned us on to the idea of having ambient lighting up there but unfortunately burned out after only a couple of weeks of 24×7 use. Next I picked up a much cheaper version of these lights from some random seller on Amazon, which were fine for the most part except that the remote was very finicky and almost never worked, and sometimes the colors flickered and had varying brightness.

For what it’s worth, I paid less than $20 for those and $120 for the new Philips lights.

I honestly think that I like these ones even more than the ones in my office because although I initially set them to a light blue just for some nice ambient light, I changed them to white later after Christopher had fallen asleep on the couch and was surprised that they let off enough light that I didn’t have to turn any of the others on to do any work while he was sleeping. That was a nice bonus that I hadn’t expected.

Now – for the future…

Again, even though these things are still pretty expensive – about $40 for a single bulb whereas I typically buy CFLs or their LED replacements for maybe $6 a piece – I’ve already found myself scoping out the next places around the house where I want to install them!

I think they’d be really great in the hallway at night to add a nightlight effect that we sort of have with our Nest smoke detectors, but not nearly as bright or versatile.

I want to update the ceiling fan in our bedroom just like my office to give us a change while sitting in bed getting ready to fall asleep.

They also just recently released some outdoor bulbs, including ones to go on the front corners of the garage which I think would be really cool, although I might have to upgrade our wifi first because I’m not sure if our existing AP’s range goes that far.

I mean, sure, to do the entire house all at once would just be ridiculous. I think I counted up the other day and found a total of about 50 bulbs around my house, so that’s $2,000 in light bulbs right there and that doesn’t even include switches and sensors and stuff! But if you were to do it maybe a room at a time, I think that’s a lot more manageable, plus it gives me some time to work out the kinks like figuring out the best way to handle switches so that they don’t end up walking away on us.

Eventually I’d love to get to the point where everything is switched over, including adding some accent lighting around the garden out front and the pool area in the back. In theory it’d be neat to then start to tie some of these things together – i.e. turn on the hot tub, set the lights, turn on some music, and pour me a drink…

Ok, maybe not that last one just yet, but the future is right around the corner! 😉

movie thoughts … The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

February 10, 2019 11:45pm
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Today Christopher and I went to see the new Lego movie in the theater, and we both really liked it!

I was a little nervous because the last couple of movies we tried to see didn’t go well – I spent a good 2/3rds of The Incredibles 2 walking around the lobby with him and the Emmet Otter/Fraggle special we tried to watch at Christmastime went, well, poorly… 😯

But indeed, I actually got to watch the whole thing, which was nice because this sequel turned out to be a pretty good follow-up to the first movie after all. I thought it was neat, for starters, to see the plot literally pick up right where the last movie left off – it made for a nice flow, despite the story going just a bit downhill from there.

That said, I was admittedly surprised at how well Part 2 offered such a rich theme around the brother and sister playing together because I was honestly super impressed by how touching and sincere Part 1 was around the son wanting to bond with his Dad while the Dad struggled to give up control of his own childhood toys.

It’s definitely something that I’ve struggled with since having kids of my own who are impressively capable of climbing up the shelves where I used to store my own Legos, so who knows – maybe the moral of Part 2 will rub off on them once they’ve watched it two or three hundred times, too!

Maya Rudolph’s scene talking about the pains of stepping on bricks was quite amusing, too!

…as was Will Ferrell’s last line in the movie… 😉

Oddly enough, one of the most memorable sequences from the movie – just like last time – was the credit sequence, possibly because it was a bit slower than the rest of the movie’s action-packed scenes, so it was a little easier to really enjoy and appreciate the detail that went into all of the animations. Very colorful, and hyper creative – I really liked them!

Oh, and also just like the first movie, the Lego sets themselves that I’ve seen so far for Part 2 are also pretty crazy and out there, which makes for some super fun and unique sets. Overall, Lego has done a really good job with these two movies, both in creativity as well as making them meaningful and not just a mechanism for selling m0re toys. Not sure if they’re planning to do a Part 3 at this point, but so far I think they’re doing great, so I’m game for more if they are. 😀

Toddler Minded Nipping Turtle

February 9, 2019 1:23am
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Story Time!

David and Christopher have been growing this expanding foam turtle for a couple of weeks now. It’s the kind that starts out super tiny and then you submerge it in water and over time it grows to several hundred times its original size.

Last night we finally let Christopher open the bag it was in and take it in the tub to play with, and he had a lot of fun!

So tonight I thought I’d let David do the same because he’s been wanting to play with it all week and he didn’t get a bath last night, but when he came into the bathroom and saw the turtle already in the tub from the night before … he was very nervous.

He was also curious, and peeked over the side, but when I suggested that he take off his clothes – like I’d already done with Matthew and put him in the tub – he was not a fan of that idea at all.

I finally got him into the tub by picking it up and tossing it on the other side of Matthew, and then about sixty seconds later as the water level started to rise and Matthew started moving around, all of a sudden CRYING AND PANIC!

“TURTLE BIT ME!!!!!!”

It was then that I pieced together everything and finally realized … David thought that it was actually a real turtle!

And as much as I tried to reassure him that there was no possible way that this fake foam toy turtle BIT HIM, he was having none of it and I finally had to throw the thing in the sink to recover any semblance of a normal bathtime.

I also kissed the imaginary boo-boo that the mean turtle had apparently made when it bumped into his arm under the bubble bath…

Even so, that kid watched that turtle sitting on the edge of the sink like a hawk for the entire duration of his bath!

He also tried to warn Christopher about the turtle when he came in, but at least Christopher understood – thank god – that the turtle he’d been wearing on his head the night prior wasn’t in fact a real turtle in the slightest.

We even showed him how, unlike real turtles, this one happens to have Made In China stamped on his belly, which Christopher thought was pretty funny, but by then David’s trauma had already been done.

I really hope that kid doesn’t have nightmares about turtles tonight… 😛

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