Those Beat Up, Construction Worn Out Roads

This one has been on my mind for a few weeks because there has been construction on my normal route to work. Construction is a regular part of our lives, there is no way of avoiding it. Living in a place where we have all four seasons, I do get a break from it for part of the year but only because there is so much bad weather that they can’t do it with any consistency. But, come spring and into the summer, and that the construction begin! Construction really doesn’t bother me all that much, it is the lasting effects on our roads that they get away with that does bother me. So this is what I write about today.

My wife and I had our home built a few years ago with the intent of never moving again. We’re very happy with their home though of course, it is one continual project after another it seems. Fortunately, the home is new enough that the projects are not so much inside rather slowly fixing up parts of the yard as we can afford it. With the weather warming up my wife has already started planning out her honey-do list, and I have my work cut out for me. We built our home in a new subdivision, so all of our neighbor’s homes were being built at the same time for the most part. Our roads were a mess well all the homes were being billed from all the construction debris, dirt and refuse that are a natural byproduct of the construction process. When we were all done, the contractor cleaned things up and we were all happy. Now new homes are being built in a subdivision just behind ours, so we are seeing some of the debris happen again.

Again, the temporary effects of the construction do not bother me. These are new subdivisions and everything gets cleaned up in the end. What bothers me is when construction or city maintenance takes place that requires tearing up roads. This really bothers me when they are tearing up a road that was put in the last couple of years. Our modern roads take a beating from all the driving that takes place and the weather. For some reason, we find it cheaper to use expensive products and replace the roads as needed rather than build a high-quality road, to begin with. Because of this, we are prone to potholes and roots breaking up and generally needing repair seemingly every year. What we don’t need is construction tearing up these roads and weakening them so they need to repair all that much sooner.

Now to what really bothers me. So construction gets a permanent to dig a trench in the road for whatever reason and then a patch it up. Why do cities not require a certain level of quality control on these things? I really don’t know what takes place in the permit process, but I do know that it seems like every patch job on these trenches is poorly done. They are either put into where they are virtual speed bumps because they are too high, or they slap in some asphalt to fast before letting the underlying Phil settle so they turn into a new trench down the middle of the street. There doesn’t seem to be any happy medium in this. Trust me, our roads do not need man-made potholes, they get plenty all by themselves.

It must be very hard to do these things well because I can only count on one hand the number of places I have seen it done right. 99% of the time (yes, I just made up that statistic) these patch jobs are done so rapidly and with such poor workmanship, they are bound to end up being a section of bumpy road in the future. What I really don’t get is when I see these type of projects tearing up the roads in fairly new subdivisions.

The recent construction that has been going on for about a month along the route I take to work has just recently been patched, and this time by the city. You would think with all those people that stand around holding up those shovels and watching, that someone would be able to direct the patch job to get it right. This one hasn’t even made it to the quality level of the least being good for a while. I was driving on it within a week of the patched up, and it’s already a rough road. Grr”¦

Unfortunately this as well those rants where I just get to complain about it and I really don’t see anything that can be done to fix it. I am not going to be one of those guys that attends a city council meeting just to wind about potholes in the way that things are patched up. I’ll just do what I usually do, and drive like I am doing some sort of vehicular slalom course, winding my way down the road avoiding the rough spots. Actually, I have made somewhat of a game of this trying to travel the most efficient path to work remembering he each spot to avoid or straddle along the way. I just read what I wrote and realized how geeky that sounded, but I don’t have any explanation for it, I am what I am.

Cell Phone Drivers

I was searching a bit today for which topic I wanted to cover, so I decided to jump on over to the “Suggest a Rant” archives and start right from the top. Pamela started her suggestions with you “evil driving and talking on cell phones” which is as good a topic as there can be to discuss.

I heard a great quote on the radio the other day which I thought would be a great introduction to this topic. We have a local radio station here that lets listeners calling in the voicemails which they broadcast on the air. One listener shared a joke for his 10 seconds of fame, “what is the first thing you should do in the event of an accident? Hang up your cell phone.” We tend to find the things most true the funniest, and unfortunately, this one hits right home.

Though it may come as a surprise, I would like to take a slightly different tack on this topic. I am not so much opposed to people who talk on the phone while driving, as I am too bad drivers overall. Admittedly, if my phone rings while I am driving and I am not in a situation that would preclude me from answering it, I’ll go ahead and talk on the phone while I drive. I do feel like my driving abilities are a step above the norm though. Truth be told, I think I am a better driver than a lot of others out there. That is not because I have a huge ego as to my driving abilities, that’s because I think so little of the driving abilities of others. I am comfortable in my ability to stay focused on the road while I talk on a phone and keep my priorities straight.

The question is, are you a good enough driver to do other tasks while driving? In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy’s you might be a redneck act, here is a few tests to see if you qualify:

If when you are driving, and he reached to the dial on your radio to change the station and you end up drifting into the other lane… you might be a bad driver.

If you find that when cars are slowing ahead of you it takes you a few additional seconds to decide whether you should put your foot on the brake or not and you end up having to stop rapidly… you might be a bad driver.

If you have a tendency to find yourself in the left lane on the freeway and realize at the last minute that the next exit is your exit and make a NASCAR worthy maneuver across three lanes rather then admit your mistake and wait until the next exit to flip a U-turn… you are a bad driver.

If you find that unless you are paying absolute attention to your driving, that you tend to drift into other lanes… Yep, you are likely a bad driver.

This list of examples could go on, and on and on – and I would like to invite readers of the site to give some other great examples of you might be a bad driver quotes. Please include them in the comments on this post if you have some of the great ones to include.

My point is that a cell phone does not a bad driver necessarily make. Yes, a cell phone can be an unnecessary distraction, and you really should avoid speaking on the phone while driving if at all possible. Even using a wireless or wired headset, a bad driver is likely to become a worse driver when speaking on the phone. It is just a simple fact is that drivers cannot handle any distractions, they have enough on their hands just to not cause an accident while they are behind the wheel.

So good driver or bad driver, do us all a favor and avoid cell phone speaking while driving when you can. If you are going to talk on the phone, keep your priorities straight and pay attention to the road. Your conversation on the phone can be interrupted and life will go on; the same may not necessarily be true when it comes to making a mistake while driving.

Thinking Ahead to College Prep

Thinking Ahead to College Prep

Mary, the “mom”

So summer has finally started and my son still doesn’t have a job, but, it’s okay. At least he’s actually looking for a job, which is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to make the best of the free time. He’ll be a junior next year. Time to get serious about college. Looking at schools. Deciding where he wants to apply. Taking the SATs. I know his schedule next year is killer, so I think it will be good to start some of this now when he has so much time on his hands.

For starters, we’re going to visit a couple of schools this summer, so he can get a feel for the different environments such as a traditional college campus versus a city campus, private versus public, North versus South.

Thinking Ahead to College Prep

We also need to decide how he’s going to prep for the SATs. Do we try to go it on our own or take a prep class? Knowing my son’s penchant for procrastination, I think it had better be a class. But, there are choices there as well. Does he take the prep class in a classroom or online? Online would offer the flexibility to “take” the class when you have the time – and save gas money, both of which are a real plus. But, again, I worry about procrastination.

So, we’re going to use this free time to evaluate and weigh these various options so that come September there is one less thing to think about.

Rach, how did you prepare for SATs (or ACTs)? And, Brad, how did the Valk prepare? Would you do anything different?

Brad, the “dad”

Hey, “Mom…”

Do you know what worked best for me? The 3 F’s: Fear, Finagling, and Flexibility.

The “fear” part was having the Valkyrie take her first PSAT as soon as possible – like right at the beginning of her junior year (ultimately she took the PSAT three times, just as most of her friends did). She’s a smart gal, so she didn’t prep for it at all (just as I planned … heh heh heh), and her scores were…well, not very wonderful. It scared the beans out of her — just as I hoped it would — and suddenly motivation and procrastination were no longer major issues. She couldn’t live with the concept of “not going to college.”

Not that I quit there. I reinforced her newfound sense of focus with Finagling – that is, getting to know her high school counselor on the sly – you know, the one whose obsession was getting as many students into college as possible? I enlisted her help in keeping the Valk in the right classes and her grades up and stayed in regular contact. Oddly, Ms. Counselor was actually grateful to have a parent help do the pushin’. All too often, she told me, she had to do it on her own.

Meanwhile, “flexibility” was the key to really successful test prep for the Valk – flexibility as in, “whatever works, when it works best.” Tutoring was the right answer for a real hole in her math education, but classes in writing and history were a better fit…and online classes were best, because of all the other demands on school time and even weekend hours, especially as she got heavy into her senior year. I swear that poor kid worked harder than both her parents combined in the summer and fall of last year, between test prep, tests, college research and visits, and college apps. And yet…she survived. She’s off to the College of Her Choice in eight, count ‘em, eight, weeks. (Say no more. I’ll start to cry.)

Choosing the college? Applying? Two whole different kettles of squirmy, squirmy fish. But test prep? Trust me. You can’t go wrong with the Three F’s.

Rach, the “teen”

Test prep was the easiest thing about the whole high school to the college process.

We signed up for the classes because I was using the books and CDs my parents bought me as coasters. That is, brightly colored books and CDs aren’t going to get me motivated to study. Whereas making me go to class every Wednesday night is hard to get out of.

The class was pretty much like any other high school class (except it was in a hotel lobby) – we had “homework”, we filled out worksheets, and we took tests. It was the tests that made the class worth it.

Not only did I have a scheduled time to study for the SATs, but I got to take a whole bunch of full-length practice SATs. Did it help? Yeah, it did. I only had to take the real test once, that’s how well I did. I’m completely and entirely crediting it to the practice tests.

It doesn’t matter how your kid gets the practice. If it’s a full-length test, in test conditions, with real questions – he or she will learn from it.

“Micro-managing”, Revisited

Mary, the “mom”

About 2 months ago, I blogged about my concern that I was micro-managing my son with Edline, a program which allows students and parents online access to assignments, course calendars, grade sheets, absence reports, etc. I knew that managing his responsibilities for him wasn’t going to help in the long run, but Edline made it sooo tempting.

Well, when our virtual teen, Rach, joined in the conversation, it was a dose of reality for me. I always find it so helpful getting a real-life teen perspective from her. So, I took Rach’s advice to heart and backed off. I still peeked at Edline, but for the most part, I was simply supportive.

Well, come to find out that there’s a big difference in the maturity level of a 16-year boy (or at least this one) and an 18-year girl. Shocking, I know! So, while I really do value Rach’s advice, it turns out, my son is not really ready to manage this completely on his own. And, I’ve decided that he’s got two more years of high school to come around to the maturity level that Rach obviously has. So, it’s OK that he’s not there yet.

So, with all of this swirling through our home, I open my Sunday New York Times and see an article titled “I Know What You Did Last Math Class” which reports on families using Edline and similar services and how they are popular but can stress out families. It was interesting and funny and now I know I’m not alone in trying to find the right balance in using this service.

I want to try and use it as a means of communicating with my son about what’s happening and as a tool to help him to organize his work – not organize it for him. I definitely don’t want it to be confrontational or nagging. (Rach helped me understand just how unproductive that can be!) I’m thinking this can be a learning experience in itself. And, hopefully, by the time he’s a senior, he’ll be managing it all himself and ready to face the workload of college without Mom looking over his shoulder.

So, now I need to go look at Edline and try to remember not to jump to conclusions, not to nag and not to be confrontational when we discuss it. I know what you’re thinking…” there is no way a self-professed control freak is going to be able to walk that line.” Maybe not, but I am going to try!

Brad, the “dad”

Let them alone, but stay involved. Help them, but don’t help them too much. Stay close, but not that close. Yipes. Nobody told us that the national pastime for parenting was Tug O’ War.

I’ve actually given up on subtlety when it comes to grades. Our middle-schooler made that possible when a Progress Report (one of those surprising little middle-of-the-term-it’s-not-a-grade-yet-but-watch-out mailings) showed up on the doorstep with a D+ on it. Yeah: DEE PLUS. From then on, worrying about whether I was being too interventionalist, whether I had to “let her fail” so she could learn, whether I was slowing down her personal development by making things too easy … all that? Floop! Out the window.

We don’t do D+’s in this house. And Edline is now only one of a whole arsenal of tools that I use without a moment’s hesitation to keep her on the straight-and-narrow (and she is: I’m proud to say the Elf was even more ashamed of losing academic control than I was, and the instant she realized there was no getting away clean, she buckled down. We’re back to A/B’s again.).

I know we can’t protect them from everything. But we didn’t teach her how to look both ways before she crossed the street by letting her play in traffic and get ding-bopped by a couple of cars. There are places she can fall down “safely” and places where it’s just plain stupid to let her fall. And I’ve come to the conclusion that grades mean too much – that the schools themselves have made grades mean too much – to let her report card be one of the “let them fail” places.

So I’m on her like a duck on a June bug …. and any time she gets a little grumpy about that, I only have to say two words and her ducks down and accepts it. It’s amazing what the simple utterance of “Dee Plus” can do.

Look on the bright side, “Mom.” Maybe your son can get a D or an F – just once! – and then you can lose the guilt, just like me.

Rach, the “teen”

For a few years in middle school, I consistently brought home D’s. I acted a lot as the Elf did – I was so much more disappointed in myself than my parents were (that says a lot, they were heartbroken).

I agree though, too much focus is put on grades. It’s not about “the great war” or the quadratic formula anymore. It’s about getting an A. Learning has gone out the window in most schools. Grades, test scores, and resume builders are what school is about. And, that’s really sad.

But this is a problem we can’t really bring up with the students or the schools. This is something we need to bring up with the government. Funding is determined by test scores, not students, and certainly not learning.

Nonetheless, a lot of emphases is still put on grades. I still think programs that let parents “check in” on their kids are a bad idea. But the few parents that encourage their kids to use it a tool are making it all worthwhile.

I must admit if I had kids and they were doing badly in school. I might use a program like that to make sure they were getting their grades up. I guess it’s a good thing, for parents whose kids don’t honestly tell their parents about schoolwork.

I€™m a Sucker for the Upgrades

All of those famous 10 step programs always say the first step in is admitting you have a problem. Well, I admit I have a problem. When it comes to “man toys” I research the heck out of anything that I’m going to buy, to the point that I have typically convinced myself for and against every possible product numerous times. I am in the middle of one of those dilemmas right now.

You see, in my situation, I can usually find a professional reason to justify buying the “better” option when it comes to most any electronic device. Whether it is a computer, camera, or anything of this nature, I have made my hobbies so much a part of my work that they have become one and the same. Not that I am not complaining, because I love what I do, but it does create a situation where I am always looking at the high end, expensive options. I do have a level head on my shoulders, and I don’t gravitate to the highest priced option available. I do have a taste for quality though, so when I read about the shortcomings of one option I start to climb the ladder up to the next best option.

When I talk about an upgrade, I’m not talking about what that uninformed sap at Circuit City tries to convince you to buy just because it has a better commission for him. I’m not talking about that extended warranty but you get the high-pressure sale on. I’m talking about better models with better quality results. I researched things that I’m going to purchase way too much until I practically know their spec sheets inside and out. I could quote you the stats on one camera versus another, and I often do. That’s another one of my problems, I talked way too much about what I’m currently researching, to the point that everyone around me I am sure is thinking just “buys it already so we can quit hearing about it!”

Sometimes I think that if I could just settle with a good option, that would be good enough and I wouldn’t notice the difference. The problem is I know that wouldn’t be true. What I know of a shortcoming my mind gets stuck on it and watches for it in everything I do. Is that shortcoming shows up when I kick myself for having been too cheap to get the better option?

In today’s world of electronics though, when you spend that big money to get the best of the options that year, you know it’s going to lose it’s not you within the next year to come. The new options will come out with better technology for less money and you’ll be stuck with either using the device you bought in the past and try to be happy with it, or selling it for a loss from what you paid in buying the next best option. I hate that ride as well.

Right now my big dilemma is on a video camera. I have a project this year that could potentially require a high-quality HD camera and plenty of other personal projects that I could make use of it as well. I’ve had my eye on the Sanyo HD2 for some time, but now that it’s released I’ve read several customer reviews that point out many of the shortcomings. I’ve seen some sample video and noticed things that would likely bother me. I was so excited for its ability to save HD quality video to SD cards that I had built up my hopes beyond what it appears to have become now that it is released. I have also looked at the JVC Everio line of HD video cameras, but they have their shortcomings as well; particularly that they cost twice as much!

So that is my big dilemma right now. Not all that interesting, but I figure I had to write about it since it’s been bothering me so much. I’m spoiled, I know; but when you do some of these things were living it becomes a big part of your life. More than likely I will just continue to research the options over the next coming months and try to make some decision. In the meantime, I’ll stick to the lower quality video I get out of my wife’s point-and-shoot camera.

Other Features Of Lipsense Lipsticks

LipSense is a brand that is well-established in terms of its lipsticks. This is because they have never failed to produce good-quality lipsticks which not only give you a good look on your lips, but also help to nourish them. Their lipsticks make use of natural ingredients, and are filled with plenty of healthy, nourishing oils and high-grade paraffin for that great look and feel on the lips whenever you wear it. One site that talks about it is no other than lipcarespot.com. More than just these traits, there are even better characteristics that LipSense has that other brands don’t. Here they are below.

Gluten Free

Those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Chron’s Disease, among others may be hypersensitive to gluten. In this case, even the slightest exposure could send them rushing to the bathroom. It can be used in applications aside from food, and lipstick is one of them. With LipSense, you are spared from the fear and the negative effects of ingesting gluten, even in trace amounts.

Lead Free

This heavy metal is what gives them the luster in some products. Lead can find its way in lipsticks in its production, or from the raw materials from which it is produced from. Lead, when accumulated in the body can impact mental health, and can contribute to memory loss, and the like, and that is something that you would not want to happen.

Non-GMO

GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms have caused alarm in people, as this “splices” or “edits” an organism down to its gene level, and can cause certain plants to have characteristics that it does not naturally have. This gene editing has freaked out the health-conscious, as it makes them uncertain of what they actually are producing, and some have even questioned its ethics. To spare anyone from this controversy, LipSense shies away from this controversy by not using the products altogether.