Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Renee Triumphant

Last conference we had with Renee's teachers (actually Jean usually does these solo) we got bad news. She was hanging out exclusively with the boys in her class, and was excluded from the 'girly-girl' circles. She argued with her teachers, made faces, generally seemed to be having a hard time making the transition to the classical 'next stage'. What is worse, she was telling us everything was fine, just ducky folks. And of course, apparently unaware that we'd hear about it from her teachers...

So we sat her down and had a long talk. We've done that a number of times, and I was despairing of how to impress on her that she was building bad habits for life. This time, we talked earnestly, and I shared an anecdote from work.

It seems that a guy where I work, who is one of their top engineers, was as big of a jerk to everyone else as he was to me. He was combative, agressive and rude in almost every setting. Time passed, and I hadn't worked with him for several years. One day it became clear that I'd need to talk to him about some of his software, and I was quite reluctant to expose myself to such a prat. But I girded myself and went to see him. And he was nice! He was pleasant and helpful, took nearly two hours out of his day to try to nail down my problem. Not once was he in any way rude or snide. I just couldn't figure it out.

Anyway, much later, I was telling one of my work friends about it, and he shared this with me. It seems that the mystery guy was in a meeting with marketing and a couple of customers. When it was done, the marketing guy pulled him aside, and said, "you know, everyone thinks you're an ass." He was stunned. "Really?" He just didn't perceive his 'out front' style as insulting. The marketing guy laid it on the line, and told him that he could get so much more done if he'd just get his attitude under control.

Well, that explained what I had seen. He got this candid and unpleasant insight into how people saw him, and he decided to change it. And he acted.

So I told this story to Renee. I don't claim that this story was the main force for change. Jean also tried in a sincere and heartfelt way to impress on Renee that she was sabotaging her own life. Renee seemed to really listen (for a change). Then in the following days, Jean took Renee in hand, and they went shopping for 'girly-girl' clothes, and worked on hairstyles, and on and on.

Well, Jean got back from another teacher conference today (my excuse for not going this time is that I had a doctor's appointment), and the report was night and day. Renee scored at the extreme high end on state testing in literature, science and math. She has been regularly sitting with the 'girly-girls' during lunch. She talks with them, compliments them on their choice of clothes, and is even asking them out on movie dates. Her teachers were apparently near tears in their happiness with her transformation. She's not currently being combative, and doesn't roll her eyes when given a task she's not happy with. In short, she has remade herself.

So this evening, we entered collective bargaining with her to see what her reward would be. She's getting an extra half-hour on the computer (Neopets!!!) every Saturday and Sunday. Oh, and if her grades hold, a gameboy game.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


We had a little family outing tonight. It wasn't planned, in fact it kind of popped up without warning. Jean wanted to reward Renee for various reasons, and Renee picked going out to a restaurant, especially one with noodles. I knew she meant soba noodles, so I did a little Googling for Japanese restaurants in Tualatin. We ended up going to Fuji's in Sherwood.

Turns out that Fuji's is one of those Japanese grill restaurants where they prepare your dish on a grill at your table. Renee got her yakisoba, in fact we all got yakisoba, and grilled veggies. Jean got gyoza, Renee got chicken teriyaki, and I got grilled calamari steak. It was good. I took a chance, considering that I'd never been to this restaurant before, and squid is too often overcooked, to the point of becoming rubbery. Here it was smooth, buttery and rich.

I talked to the sushi chef, asking him about the toro, which was on special for $6.95. I don't think I'll be blowing a big chunk of change on sushi at Fuji's. That seven bucks get's you two pieces of fatty tuna on rice planks. Even at Mugi's, which is a really good hole-in-the-wall sushi joint, I can get more for my money.

Anyway, it was a fun outing. The chef, who was a young guy, definitely not Japanese, did a trick where he stacked ring slices off an onion into a cone, filled it with oil, and lit it to make a 'volcano'. Renee was tickled, and claimed it was 'scary'. Too much fun!

Sunday, March 5, 2006


Saturday was a NOVA night, and though Jean's parents were visiting, I just needed some time with my friends. I watched two episodes of Yakitate, excellent as usual, then hung out with Tom, Alan, Bo, Lisa, Chris and Valeska, ping-ponging around the conversations.

Over at the other end of the room, I saw a familiar face. Sam (Samantha) used to attend NOVA meetings several years ago, then disappeared. I was never really in her clique, but I did know her by name, enough to say hi, ask a question now and then, and generally be civil. But never did I know her well enough that my loud obnoxious side came out.

So here she was. I nodded to her, and returned my attention to the show. Later Paul had 'newbies' introduce themselves, and I pointed to her, saying don't forget the oldies. Turns out she's been in England for the last three years, and she was totally macking on the British Accent, London Standard. I gotta know if she's cranking it up on purpose, or if living in England for three years really did saturate her language centers.

In any case, she was there for half the meeting, and even came over and talked with a couple of people nearby. But I didn't once actually talk to her. In retrospect, I feel sort of bad. This is totally natural for me, to hang back when there are people I don't really know. But she comes back after three years, and drops by NOVA, of all places, to get in touch with her past, and there are very few faces from that past. I'm one, and I can't really bring myself to strike up a pleasant conversation.

In all likelihood, I'm overestimating how isolated she may have felt, and I doubt she was hankering to have a conversation with me. I just wish I'd been more civil, since after all, she wasn't a total stranger.

On the brighter side, Alan brought his D200, and while he and I were gabbing about it, cruising photo equipment websites and generally comparing features against the D70 (which I own), I mentioned that I'd read a post on a photography mailing list I subscribe to. In it, the poster responded to the question of why anyone would want to use the multiple exposure feature on the D2X. This poster explained that when one is in the field, say at a trade show, one can set up a tripod, and take multiple exposures of a static subject by moving a single flash around the subject, and generally successfully mimic a set of studio lights.

Well Alan just about hopped out of his seat. The D200 has this feature too, and he immediately started experimenting with it. He and I had both asked the same question, "why would anyone want the multiple exposure feature?" So we were both tickled pink with the explanation, and I especially was admiring the mind which said instead, "how can I use this new feature?"

I'm not particularly good with my camera, and I'm rather lazy about it, but times like this really excite me about the technology and the hobby. That was a very fun part of the evening.

Saturday, March 4, 2006


Renee and her grandfather John Moyer enjoy a moment together with their new birdhouse, which they put together with a kit. There was a bit of debate over which of two birds were more common in our area, chickadees or nuthatches. But this picture convinced us that nuthatches were more prevalent.