Content

If I’ve learned anything at work it’s how to technically write. I’ve become more aware than ever of how important clear writing can be, and how something that seems perfectly clear to one person can be completely misconstrued by another. I’ve learned to write boringly. Regardless of all the talk of creativity, there is very little room for a beautiful phrase or an artistic sentence in technical writing. There seems to be a strong inverse relationship between the amount of data that can be conveyed in a sentence and how exciting it is to read.

I like to write, and this makes me kind of sad. But it begs a couple of questions that I find pretty interesting. If exciting literature is more fun to read but carries less content, are we more inclined to read things that contain less information? Does this relate to the burnout we sometimes feel from being perpetually stimulated day in and day out as we maintain our busy lifestyles? Do we actually prefer things we don’t have to think about very hard, which contain less information for our brains to process? I’d argue that we do. But I’m not entirely convinced that technical writing is the best example.

See, there will always come a time when it’s necessary to communicate things for purely informational purposes. Speaking from an engineer’s standpoint, there is no requirement that this information be presented in an interesting way. After all, it’s pretty difficult to make cold hard facts interesting, much less entertaining. This being said, without at least a little bit of fluff and creativity, the entire literary world would be dead.

Because I’m an engineer and a dork, I’ve included a quick graph depicting this situation. Based on what I’ve said so far, a graph will probably make this post even less interesting or maybe even scare everyone off. I’ve included some of my personal opinions of “common household items” on the graph in an attempt to give other like-minded people a feel for what I’m trying to say. In engineering, this is a prevalent option for explaining something after you’ve given up on technical writing.

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Click image to view

I wonder sometimes if it’s possible to ride that fine line between content and entertainment value successfully. It’s much too easy for a data-rich report to be a little overwhelming or an entertainment-centric sitcom to be annoyingly vapid. One could imagine that a compromise would harm the strong points on each side as much as it improved their deficiencies. Preferably, we’d be able to make credible data content enjoyable in an entertaining way.

If successful improvements like this could be made, our graph would exhibit a bubble of the sort depicted below. Ideally, as entertainment value increased, data content would remain high and steady up to the points where our heads explode. Who knows, maybe someday this upper right region will be filled with some kind of hypnopedia.

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Click image to view

These are just some things I’ve learned in the last few months. I think it’s good to think about the kind of content we spend our time with, regardless of its flavor. But until you make your own conclusions, you should keep reading this blog until your head explodes, because that’s just how amazing our lives are over here.

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No More Employment Blues!

It has been 87 days since my last blog update. So much for posting once a month, huh? Those 87 days have been filled to the brim with visitors, trips to see family, lots and lots of substitute teaching, a job interview, a job rejection, more subbing, a few friends, lots of food, and no blogging. We have been busy busy busy, and we love it! I wish I could go into detail about every little thing that we have been up to. Just know that we are well and enjoying life and each other each and every day. Maybe I will retrospectively share some stories from the last 2 months in the coming weeks, for I am going to try and be better with this thing over the summer months. (More than one post a month? Maybe? No promises though.) Not that we are going to be any less busy, but you know, goals.

There is one exciting piece of news to share, though, which is probably the most important new development over the last 87 days. I have been offered and accepted a teaching position for the 2015-2016 school year! Halleluiah! I will be teaching 3rd grade in my very own classroom! The school is a small, private, Christian school close to where we live, and it is filled with the most fabulous educators whom I am so excited to work with and learn from. To everyone who has kept my job situation in prayer for these many months, thank you. Looking at the experiences I have had and the people I have met over the last 10 months, I can see God’s guiding hand in bringing me to this opportunity, and I could not be more grateful.

I am not going to lie, I have thrown myself more than one little pity party over the past year while I failed to rely on God and instead felt that I needed to make things happen on my own. I would not say that I always handled being unemployed gracefully, as I am sure Andrew will confirm. There were moments of stress, feeling overwhelmed, frustration, anger, and hopelessness. Yet once again I am reminded of the great provisions only God can bring! He brought about a job that I never could have found on my own. He closed doors that I would have chosen and brought me where I needed to be, and I never saw it coming. Once again I am humbled at my need of Him, and my prayer is that I will enter this new position fully reliant on Him. And as I prepare for the fall, I pray that when I start to feel stressed again and overwhelmed, I am reminded to be one thing above all else: grateful.

With all that said, you must excuse me. I have a very large pile of children’s literature calling my name.

We Eat Stuff

From time to time we get hungry. And sometimes we try to put something on the table that’s a little nicer than Ramen. And sometimes we get a little carried away trying to accomplish that. There have been numerous times when we haven’t sat down to dinner until almost 8:30. Fortunately for us, the wait usually pays off. I think the only time it didn’t was when Katie decided to deep fry tortellinis.  Other than that, Katie is pretty much an all-star chef, and thanks to the Pinterest gods, she’s never short on ideas. You can find most of them here.

There’s that good old saying that goes like “blood is thicker than water.” Let me tell you my own version:

Chicken is cheaper than beef.

That’s probably why most of our little dinner experiments center around the bird that clucks. Chicken is mostly an empty canvas; throw any number of spice patterns at it and it will hold them together. That is, except curry. Curry is evil.

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The other day we made chicken piccata

Chicken piccata is one of those dishes that has a great potential to make people angry because it tastes like pine sap. But the good news is that with the right ratios of lemon, vermouth (heh heh), and capers, you can end up with a really wonderful variation of the bird that clucks. The second time we made it, we marinated the chicken breasts in a little lemon and pepper before cooking them, and I think it made the dish even better.

This past weekend, I tried to make chicken lollipops.  I had seen this at some point on the food network (it is educational, I swear!), and thought I’d give it a shot.

I started by removing the skin and tendons from the lower part of the chicken legs by just chopping the joint off. Once I scrapped the meat over towards the other end, I put them in a Ziploc and marinated them in our super top secret family chicken marinade recipe. That was a nice touch. Like I said earlier, chicken can get kinda boring on its own.

So dinner came around that evening, and I started by searing the lollipops with a little cornstarch in our cast iron skillet.

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Somehow they all fit

Then I threw them in the oven with a half onion, a head of garlic, carrots, and a red potato. About half an hour later, the kitchen smelled like the cloud of steam that comes out of a red hot dutch oven, and the meat thermometer made the happy noise. With the softened garlic, I added some olive oil and a bunch of parsley and made a sauce out of it. Here’s the finished product. It was pretty damn great.

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hnnnnnggggg

Pork is more than chicken but still cheaper than beef.

Everything is cheaper than beef.

One time we had some pork, and Katie made this wonderful glazed deal. It might not look super fancy, but let me tell you, I’d never had a pork chop I liked until then.

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Pork chop, ooh-ha-ha.

One time we had a couple sourdough loaves from Pittsburgh’s strip district and turned them into bread bowls. There’s something very comforting about soup and bread, probably because you eat soup when it’s cold and rainy / you’re dying from pneumonia, and bread is, well, bread.

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I don’t have a spoon. *sobs*

Let’s face it though; there are lots of times when the table is not the place to be for dinner. For us, that’s usually for two reasons:

  1. The table is covered in crap
  2. Netflix

This happens about 100% of the time, so we improvise and make a few plates of odds and ends that we can snack on until we feel fat. My family has always called this sort of thing a “nosh.” Really it’s mostly like eating appetizers for dinner, or dining at a tapas bar. There have been more occasions than I’d like to admit where dinner was just a giant bowl of guacamole.  (#guacfest)

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This one came with margaritas!
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This one came with wine!
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Having a loaf of french bread makes everything better

I hope you’re hungry now. I am. But that’s mostly because Katie’s cooking bacon.

There are days when we get an immense joy out of cooking together. Don’t get me wrong, cooking can be stressful when you have to do it. But with the realization that the experiment you’re about to start can be both exciting and extremely rewarding, I think it’s one of the very best stress relievers. I don’t plan on giving it up any time soon, that’s for sure.

Anyway, this is just a little insight into our life. Or our food. Or our life of food. Let’s face it, life’s pretty boring if there isn’t nice food. I guess that’s why there’s Netflix.

Happiness is… a new bed.

We got a new bed! And not just any old bed; a QUEEN sized bed. No more nights of elbows is sides. No more legs mysteriously appearing in the space meant for my body after coming back from the bathroom. No more struggling to roll over (or breathe) without shaking the entire mattress. Hallelujah! This was probably the highlight of the entire month of February.

For the last six months Andrew and I have been sleeping in a full sized bed. For some, that might not seem like a big deal. Yes we fit fine, but here’s the difference: this is a full sized bed that Andrew had spent about 10 years of his life sleeping in alone (read “diagonally”), so sleeping in it together was quite an adjustment. But now we have a new, big, beautiful mattress and it is like sleeping on air.

Okay, great. We have a new mattress. Why is this blog worthy? Well, here it is; the story of the “slight mattress fiasco of 2015.”

The mattress arrived on a Sunday. At 12:15. Right in the middle of church.

Wouldn’t have been a big deal if the most us thing ever hadn’t happened.

We even had a plan! Andrew’s sister Anne was visiting so we were able to take two cars to church. Andrew was going to leave when the mattress guys called so he could let them in and Anne and I were going to stay at church so she could meet some of our new friends. Simple right? What a fool proof plan! It would have worked absolutely perfectly…if we had remembered to bring two sets of keys to the apartment.

Que phones ringing during sermons, feeling pretty silly, rushing out in the middle of church, confused looks, Anne not being able to meet a single one of our friends, and arriving home to Andrew and two very large plastic wrapped things in the hallway. Missed the delivery by about 2 minutes.

How very us. At least we have a story.

Employment Blues, Part 2

Seven months. That is how long I have been trying to figure out what I should post here. When Andrew first broached the idea of having a blog together as we began our new married life I thought it would be fun. I had toyed with the idea of starting a blog before but never did it. He made the site and even made a post and then the ball was in my court. And there it has stayed. For seven months.

The main reason I have yet to post is that I haven’t felt that I really have much to say. We have been in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 6 months now and until quite recently, I was the one stuck in unemployment land. All summer while Andrew was dealing with similar situations, I would tell him to be patient; that everything would come through and that he should cherish this hiatus from work. “Enjoy the time,” I would say as I went off to work each day, for he would never have so much time to do whatever he wanted again. And for the past 6 months, he has been saying the exact same things to me. Funny how it doesn’t really make you feel any better. Due to piles of paperwork and the wonderfully efficient systems we like to call bureaucracy, it took me until the end of December to have my name changed on everything important and to get my background clearances done to begin working with children. Granted, plenty of things have happened that I could have written about. The wedding, the move, frustration over talking to yet another automated phone menu, but I’ve been in kind of a funk. Not being able to work has made it really difficult to feel motivated to do anything at all.

Which brings me to another reason (and major personal flaw) that has prevented me from posting until now. In all honesty, if left to my own devices with nothing urgent on my plate, I tend to lean towards laziness. Not always and not about everything, but combined with feeling down in the dumps about being unemployed, it has been a real struggle throughout the fall. Anyone who knows me knows how much I procrastinate anyway (which I believe is genetic. Sorry mom.) Everything always gets done, and I have never missed a deadline, but I am the kind of person who thrives in the craziness of the last minute. It’s really no wonder that I began drinking coffee in college. So, if I don’t have to make a blog post today, I probably won’t, even though I really want to.

How am I going to fix this problem of never posting? Well, as one of my New Year’s goals, I want to post at least once a month on here. (Considering it is February and this the first post, you can see how well I am doing so far.) I really want to keep doing this because I think it will be cathartic in some ways, as well as a way to keep far away friends and family semi-informed of our life. Not that we are all that interesting, but hey, occasionally we have some pretty good stories, too. Also, on the plus side, I have begun substitute teaching! I am so excited, for I know the business is healthy for me and I am finally able to go to bed at night feeling like my day was worthwhile.

So, if you are even a little bit interested in keeping up with the new Joneses, this would be a good place to do it.

Employment Blues

“I guess I’m stuck here.”

That’s what I thought about a month ago when I found out the US postal service had lost my employment forms.

Turns out I was only slightly wrong. I wasn’t stuck in any particular place. I was stuck in unemployment land. Since then I moved in with my friend from school for a month until the lease for Kate and I’s apartment kicks in. So here I am in Pittsburgh with nothing in particular to do and no income. Awesome.

Whatever. Ignore the fact that there is a random copy of my security reinstatement floating around in space somewhere. Ignore the fact that the government didn’t like the that I didn’t state something twice and rejected my paperwork the second time around. I’m a free man! I can do things like hang out in coffee shops and pretend to be cool. After all, it’s all about the image. I think doing hipster things like using a pen and paper is really the way to get people to think you’re a free thinker. It might help if I could grow a five o’clock shadow or something. Maybe more chest hair.

At least in this situation I have time. In all seriousness, I think at this point in most people’s lives they would give anything for a chance to distance themselves from the craziness a little. With the wedding nearly a month away, it’s helpful to be able to sit back and try to grasp the idea of being married, to pray about the anxiety, and to make a full time job out of  feeding myself.

That’s all I can do. I have to trust that God will get me where I need to be right now. Even as I pray for the phone call from my employer, I’ve got to recognize that this time of limbo is purposeful and necessary. Soon I’ll be looking back and wishing I was free to roam the streets of random Pittsburgh neighborhoods again. The good news is that if the opportunity does come my way again, Kate will be with me.

Maybe by then I’ll have more chest hair.

-Andrew