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The Catch-Up Brain Dump

This entry doesn’t have a central topic. It doesn’t even have a featured image, as you probably noticed. It’s simply a big, massive wall of text onto which I spew everything that’s been clogging up my mind for the past month while I haven’t been posting here. Hopefully you’re OK with that. If you aren’t, you probably ought to stop reading now and be on your way. Go find some sports scores or something.

What even was the last thing I posted here? I can’t remember and I’m too lazy to look it up. Suffice it to say, since whenever-that-was, I’ve been force-fed a whole boatload of crazy sauce. There we were, about ready to ring in the new year, and the water heater in our house decided to spring a leak. One minute I’m sitting there at the computer thinking that Mrs. Oddball sure is having fun crumpling up that plastic bag or whatever it sounds like she’s doing out there. The next minute Mrs. Oddball herself is in my computer room asking, “What is that pattering noise?” Immediately after which we turned on the hall light and discovered that it was raining in there.

The water heater is installed in the attic right above said hallway, and while it sits in an “overflow pan” equipped with its own drain line to an Undisclosed Location™, the pan filled up faster than the drain line could carry the excess away. The remainder spilled onto the hastily assembled particle board that passes for an attic floor and promptly found its way directly downward, which is to say, into the air return vent in the hallway ceiling. And of course, given the porous nature of most vent grilles, the water promptly left said air return vent and went in search of the floor.

Naturally, it was the end of December and cold as hell, which is the perfect time to not have any hot water. I worked from home the following day and got everything squared away with a replacement, which arrived and was installed same-day by a nice guy who seemed to know what he was doing. It’s been smooth sailing since. Still, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that our old water heater only lived for seven and a half years before crapping out. I remember being told when we moved out of Naples that our 10-year-old water heater was a ticking time-bomb that should be expected to fail at any moment, and thinking even then that that was a pretty poor commentary on how far manufacturing has fallen (in some ways) since the approximate 1950s. But seven-odd years is just really pathetic.

So that was the first taste of 2013 Crazy Sauce, which I guess technically was a final shot of 2012 Crazy Sauce since it happened on December 30th. But oh well.

Next on the docket was the flu, or something. Pretty much right after the water heater fiasco was resolved, both Mrs. Oddball and I were slammed with some illness or another that pretty much put us down hard on the mat and refused to let us up for about three days apiece. She got it first and I followed a day later, and by day three we were both lying on the floor weakly encouraging our son to entertain himself so that we could merely lie still for just one minute more, a minute that would have stretched on into days if we had let it.

It was the most miserable time that I can ever remember having, frankly. Devoid of energy but with so much to do, shivering violently despite three layers of sweatshirts, spending what little power our bodies had on arguing and sniping. While Mrs. Oddball’s symptoms were more akin to a severe cold, mine felt like the flu. Along with the typical flu-like symptoms came bizarre mottled, discolored patches of skin that still haven’t entirely cleared up, and which felt (and acted) like a combination of psoriasis and a severe sunburn until only just recently. Freaking miserable, I tell you.

Thankfully, our son somehow escaped the pain and suffering. I don’t know how, since my wife and I were both sick simultaneously and we obviously couldn’t avoid being near him all day, every day. But he did. Lucky stars, counted.

While all of the aforementioned Crazy Sauce was pouring on our heads, I was going absolutely apeshit at work with a huge product release that was three years in the making. In fact, I ended up conducting the release essentially solo since every other member of our U.S. branch was away on Christmas vacation at the time. Having run out of vacation days myself I was sitting at home doing the release on my own, after having worked late for nearly two weeks straight just to get to that point — a schedule so hectic that it prompted my wife to demand that I start going into the office an hour early just so I’d have a reasonable chance of getting home before she passed out from exhaustion. (Spoiler alert: coming in early doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get to leave equally early.)

And did I mention my computer’s attempt to burn the house down? Last weekend I was sitting in front of my trusty six-and-a-half year old desktop computer, playing a game of FTL in which my virtual starship was once again being shot to pieces and was approximately 67% on fire. Then Mrs. Oddball walks in and goes, “What’s burning?” At first I thought she was making a joke about the game, but then I realized she meant literally. After some sniff-testing, I discovered a very strong soot-like odor emanating from the exhaust grille of my computer’s power supply. Oh crap, it’s burning up! I shut the machine down and pulled the plug immediately.

This was fortuitous timing on Mrs. Oddball’s part, because we had been about to go out for dinner within the hour and I would have left the computer on while we were away. A sobering thought about what might have been. Fortunately, the restaurant we were headed to was just a few minutes away from Fry’s Electronics, so I stopped in and got a replacement power supply and had finished installing it by 11 PM that night. Painless.

It wasn’t until literally a couple of days ago that I finally felt like I had caught up on just about everything that slipped off my radar during the first three weeks of 2013. And it’s a good thing, too, because so far 2013 has been dumping an awful lot of Crazy Sauce on my company as well. Our already healthy docket of custom contract work is now completely filled to the brim, as the pace of incoming contracts accelerated massively in the past month, resulting in literally 100% of our resources engaged in such work. It’s a good position to be in, but it’s left a larger number of us scrambling than ever before, at a frenetic pace more rapid than ever before.

Although I haven’t personally had to spend more than a few hours a week on this new contract work, several of the bigger contracts include sizeable components that will eventually fall into my wheelhouse. In the meantime, I’ve been far from idle: we’ve finally gotten all our ducks in a row for a redesign of our languishing corporate website, including a complete architecture change, consolidating of three domains into one, and rewriting of all our marketing content. Which I’ll be doing solo, incidentally. Oh, and I’m now also the guy who modifies, fixes and maintains our sales systems and customer database infrastructure, since the only other guy who knows how to do that is exclusively tasked out on contract work for at least the remainder of Q1. It’s great to be needed, but sometimes it makes you want to emit an audible “gulp” and grab for a metaphorical handrail to steady yourself.

Anyway, I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t excited by all of the change and new projects at work. In fact, I’m into more awesome stuff now than ever before, and while the pace is daunting, it remains incredibly fulfilling and the team I work with are perhaps the most ideal group of coworkers imaginable. So I could hardly complain, which incidentally I’m not doing.

On the family front, our son continues to make great strides in numerous mental areas, including speech and memory, and is showing increased interest in a wide range of activities. Walking still doesn’t seem to matter much to him (he appears to have more fun zipping around the house on all fours, doing his “moonwalk crawl” and scuttling around in circles for our entertainment), but he appears to have put most of his energies into speech recognition and interpretation. It’s gotten so we have to be careful what we say around him, because he very clearly understands a great deal of our conversation — a fact that becomes obvious when he reacts to it in ways that prove his comprehension.

Mention going for a walk, and he zips to his stroller and attempts to climb into it. Repeat even part of a line from one page of one of his dozens of books, and he’ll run to his room, grab that book, open it to that page, bring it back and offer it to us, as if to say, “Here it is! You did ask for it, right?” He’s also taken to repeating the Thai words that his mom is teaching him, and has learned to wai (put his hands together and bow his head) in the Thai style when asked to do so verbally (not by imitable example, but merely by instruction). We’re all pleased as punch with how he’s doing.

Oh — and he seems to want to spend huge swaths of time each day playing with my 1:18 scale ’73 Trans Am SD-455, eschewing all the other cars in my collection. The kid has good taste, that’s for sure.

Speaking of cars, Mrs. Oddball and I have long had tentative plans to replace her car sometime this year. But those plans have recently started coming together more quickly than I expected, thanks to the arrival of a new employee at our company. To be specific, he’s actually a longtime employee who has served us from one of our overseas divisions. But this month he moved to the U.S. permanently, and of course he finds himself in need of transportation, a place to live, and unimaginable quantities of other resources that natural-born citizens like myself often take for granted (credit history, bank accounts, driver license, et al.). He’s expressed interest in purchasing our car, so I’ve been giving him the royal treatment throughout the pre-sales process.

It helps that our boss has apparently spent some time talking up my gearhead nature and the fastidious manner in which I maintain my vehicles. In fact it seems that I could practically guarantee a sale right now if it weren’t for that fact that I fear the buyer’s budget may not quite be big enough for my asking price. The gap isn’t significant though, and hopefully we’ll be able to come to some sort of amicable arrangement — if he really does decide to pursue a purchase.

Of course, I’d really like to get the deal done this way if I can. Private sale of an automobile is by far my least favorite part of the process of replacing a vehicle, filled with fielding phone calls from unfamiliar weirdoes at all hours, intense scrutiny from said weirdoes of every possible or imagined defect, haggling and wrangling, calls left unreturned, uncertainty about your next move, and on and on. Having a local buyer who knows the vehicle’s history on good authority — and who drops right into your lap, so to speak — takes about as much strife out of the selling process as is possible. Plus, the car’s registration is expiring at the end of February, and since it isn’t transferrable, I’d really like to sell it before then. The good news is that if my coworker wants to buy it, he’s going to do it long before then as he needs a way to get around ASAP. But it’s going to come down to budget and his impressions of the test drive which I’m giving him tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I’ve called up my dormant “vehicle research” subroutines (last used during The Great GTO Wait in the latter half of 2005, documented in excruciating detail on this very blog) and gone searching for the car which is to replace Mrs. Oddball’s Mazda. In October, while visiting my family in Michigan, we were quite smitten with my dad’s new 2011 Dodge Charger. Since then we decided that we’d probably get one for ourselves, so I’ve been quietly researching the local used Charger stock to see what’s out there. My dad also sent me a pack of very useful resources in determining what options were available and in which packages on the 2011, so I know what comes standard and what I need to specifically look for.

For instance, I’ve been saying for years that I would never buy another car without memory seats, thanks to the extreme size differential between the petite Mrs. Oddball and myself. The Charger offers memory seats, mirrors, pedals and radio stations, but only as part of the Driver Convenience option group (or the R/T Max package, which essentially comes with everything), meaning it’s not guaranteed to be there. I’ve learned how to identify the presence of this and other optional features through photos only, so I can weed out a lot of listings just by browsing the Internet.

Frankly, I’m quite proud of my ability to research the ever-loving crap out of things like this. I like to know everything there possibly is to know about a big-ticket purchase so that by the time I actually step foot in a car that I might want to buy, chances are I’ve already eliminated 99% of the alternatives and found the mathematically ideal candidate. That’s one thing when you’re buying a new car, which I historically have done. But it could actually work against me in the used car market by making it difficult for me to walk away from a specimen even if it turns out to be problematic or the seller tries to put the screws to me. I’ll need to keep my wits about me and my OCPD in check as I go through this process.

At this point I’ve pretty much described everything that’s happened since 2013 began, at least everything noteworthy enough to deserve mention. With any luck I’ll have the inclination to post here more regularly now that I don’t feel like I’d have to write an absurdly lengthy explanation as a comeback piece (since I, y’know, just did exactly that). Until then, though, this post shall have to serve.