Wednesday 30 June 2010

Chickens' Progress

The chickens have a cage without a bottom so that they can get at the grass in the yard. This is nice for the chickens but they not so gradually mess up the grass. For this reason Mom has to move the cage every few days. This leads to a fading trail of dead grass behind the cage, kind of like a comet trail except in brown, yellow, and green. I expect it’s part of the whole “chicken experience” that Mom has been looking for.\

One of Mom’s plans for the chickens has come to fruition. The chickens are even better than Polynomial at eating scraps. Or perhaps it’s just that she’s more willing to provide scraps to animals which aren’t permitted to drag it back in to the house or yarf them up on the rug later. The chickens continue to get bigger but not enough to start laying eggs yet.

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Tuesday 29 June 2010

ISYM

Back on Sunday Corwin started his music camp. He once again opted to just go during the day rather than stay over. Perhaps we will make him do that next year. I suspect he wants to come primarily to minimize interaction with the other children. During the day they are kept busy with classes and practice but after dinner it’s unstructed and Corwin would almost certainly have to talk to other children.

The camp is at the local university and this means they have meals in the dormitory cafeteria. This is for Corwin the best part of the entire camp because it is self service which means no limts on how much food he can have. Corwin actually skipped some meals so he could take more advantage of this feature. It’s good to know that he’s making the most of the opportunity.

Corwin did make first violin in the “Symphony” group which, Mom tells me, is good and better than he’s done in the past. On the other hand, one of the classes he signed up for was the digiredo. I think we’ll regret that.

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Monday 28 June 2010

GARLO 2010

Corwin and I woke up late for GARLO on Saturday so we had to pack hastily despite my preparations. Still we managed to get loaded up and out to the field before the official start.

I should have known it wasn’t going to be a good day because of how poorly things went at the launch the previous night, messing up motors and not getting motors to ignite. But in the usual triumph of inertia over experience we headed out.

Basically, it was just a wrong day. Nothing went right, except the orange Kool Aid we mixed up was very tasty. Corwin couldn’t get a motor in his rocket for unknown reasons, which he had to overcome with a lot of sanding on sight. I had hoped to get a flight in first thing but I had problems with my motors and helping Corwin and didn’t manage to get anything ready until an hour in to the day. Corwin’s rocket, that he had started a year ago, failed to deploy and ended up smashed. We’re not sure what went wrong but it likely was too much wadding. Naturally, because of various distractions including ignition failures, I didn’t manage to get any pictures. Corwin had brought a camera as well but also didn’t take any shots.

While we had a few good flights with Corwin flying some of my older rockets. I managed to lose two of my rockets, including one of my favorites. I tried a smaller motor on it which turned out to be under powered. It landed near the edge of the field. I thought it was OK but it drifted in to traffic and was smashed by passing cars. Another rocket that I had finished after a few years for this launch had a deployment failure as well and was totaled. I, and several others, had to spend 10 minutes or so digging the nose cone out of the ground. After all all the other problems that was it for the two of us. Mom came by and took Corwin away while I packed up for the day and was grumpy for the rest of the weekend.


Last flight of the Xenographic


One of Corwin’s successful flights

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Sunday 27 June 2010

VBS

Last week was Vacation Bible School for Charles and Alice. Somehow Corwin managed to avoid having to help out officially this year but Mom made him go there a couple of the days to assist. The theme for the summer was “Heroes” and the kids made various hero themed projects, such as a cape. Charles was somewhat indifferent to his but Alice was very taken with hers (for a day or two, then it faded out). I think they both had fun.

For some reason, Alice decided to take along her red silk scarf, which she used as a sash as well, and played with despite my desperate hand motions from the audience during the performance. At least she didn’t leave it at the church.

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Saturday 26 June 2010

Raising butterflies

Mom generally plants some milkweed for monarch caterpillars but this year it seems that her dill is also providing home and sustenance for them. We counted five caterpillars on the plants, originally noticed by Alice.

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Friday 25 June 2010

Pre-GARLO practice


Spitfire on a G54-S

I went out to the company picnic launch to fly a few rockets and had lots of bad luck and mistakes. I ended up breaking two rocket motors without even flying the target rocket and I had to use three different igniters to get this one in the air (for my only flight of the evening). I managed to sit on some wet ground so I could work on the rocket with a wet butt and then soaked my shoes retrieving it. At least it landed on the grass and not on the runway.

I managed to finish three not yet flown rockets (I hesitate to call them “new” since all of them were started at least a year ago, and one three years ago). Corwin has his rocket (an Aerotech Strong Arm plus another small 13mm kit he built last fall.

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Thursday 24 June 2010

Crying before spilled milk

I had another bonding experience with Alice at dinner recently. She asked for a glass of milk which I poured and brought over to the table. I tried to set it down and Alice insisted on grabbing it. Given Alice’s history of spilling I wanted to be sure it was on the table but Alice refused to let me put it there. I wanted to discourage Alice’s typically premptory manner so I took the milk back. I was also seriously concerned that if I put it down while Alice was whining she would simply knock it over in a fury (she will still frequently just throw things on the floor at dinner if she is sufficiently displeased). I just left it in the kitch and Alice eventually retrieved it on her own, not without spilling some on the counter.

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Wednesday 23 June 2010

Preparing for launch

My big thing this week is getting ready for GARLO on Saturday. I am finally going to actually finish some rockets, including one that’s been primed with a base coat for a couple of years now.

I am also forcing Corwin to finish the rocket I bought for him at the previous GARLO which has been half done for about a year. This has sparked some interest in Charles. The two of them were bugging me for more kits to build, of which I had a few that were the appropriate skill level. I had one that was a snap together which Charles finished with Corwin’s help, although Charles’ has been using it as a toy in his games with Alice so I don’t expect it to remain flyable. Charles has started on another kit which requires some gluing (he took quite a bit of prodding to remember his after school rocket building which, sadly, he’s never actually flown the result.

I am hoping that I will be able to attend in the morning without my normal complete panic — sort of a mild panic is my goal. To make that more challenging, the rocket club got a request a month or two back from a local company to do a demonstration launch this Friday, the day before GARLO. I thought that wasn’t too bad but the guy who took charge of the scheduling ended up scheduling a 5½ hour effort which is long to start with but right before GARLO? I don’t know what I am going to do about that.

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Tuesday 22 June 2010

Charles does like his cheese ...

.. especially dry Monterrey Jack but I do object to him consuming it via licking rather than chewing. It’s just a bit off putting to see him licking the cheese for an half hour or so.

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Monday 21 June 2010

So as we were out driving ...

… while listening to my i-Pod when Corwin turned down the volume. That’s just wrong.

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Sunday 20 June 2010

Under the weather

We got a call from Corwin down south that the scouts had some weather problems and would be back at two on Sunday. I figured fine, I would drop by in the afternoon to pick him up. What Corwin neglected to clarify is that he meant “two AM” — we got a call and Mom popped out to get him at 2 this morning.

What we learned later is the day started well for them, but a massive thunderstorm hit and when they got back to camp most of the tents were smashed flat and most of their gear soaked. The crew decided to call it a day and head back that evening leading to the early morning return.

Corwin, needless to say, was rather bummed out by the experience, although he admitted it was a fun day before the rain. I think the lesson is to not leave things scattered around inside your tent when there’s a possibility of heavy rain.

We also found out that Corwin and many of the other boys had not had lunch or dinner. We had provided Corwin with money to purchase such things but, he said, he hadn’t been hungry. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess a reason for that. I think junk food gorging should count as “fun” for the trip to weigh against the weather.

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Saturday 19 June 2010

Gratuitious Video of the Day


Alice at the pond

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Friday 18 June 2010

Big Weekend

Corwin headed off today for a trip down to Six Flags with the Boy Scouts. There is a camp ground nearby so they camp there and hit the amusement park during the day. We managed to get him packed up for the trip, although he was a bit grumpy about it, especially having to pack clean underwear. We can only hope he remembers to use the sun screen.

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Thursday 17 June 2010

Lightning in a bottle

We have a bumper crop of fireflies this year. Alice and Charles have spent a few evenings out in back trying to catch them. They tend to go for the fast snatch technique. I tried to show them how a slow and gentle hand will cause the fireflies to land for easy capture. Still, they did get a firefly in to their cheese dispenser (although I think it turned out the holes were large enough for the fireflies to escape — they had three at one point, after I captured two for them).

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Wednesday 16 June 2010

Scheduling

Charles is still visiting twice a week with Josie (once here, once there). Alice and Corwin, in contrast, aren’t spending much time with friends. Matt and Claire have left for the summer and so even the local gang isn’t spending much time en masse. Corwin I think would be fine with just playing on the computer all summer. Alice plays mostly with Charles, although she ends up spending some time playing by herself when Charles is absent. Mom and I suggested to Alice and Corwin the idea of play dates with friends but can’t generate any real interest.

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Tuesday 15 June 2010

Charlie the Unicorn

One thing the kids have found online that they find extremely entertaining is the adventures of Charlie the Unicorn. It seems like something parents would appreciate more as Charlie’s adventures are very similar to what parents of young children experience. Charlie is a grumpy cynic with two bouncy bubble-headed overly perky companion unicorns and the videos consist of the latter convincing Charlie to do things which he initially realizes are bad ideas. Sound familiar?

Anyway, Mom and I discovered this when the kids started singing the main song from the second video, “Put a Banana in Your Ear”. We have since watched some of them on the big TV, the result of circumstances remarkably similar to the video plot.

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Monday 14 June 2010

Gratuitous Picture of the Day

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Sunday 13 June 2010

Back to nature

We liked having Erica around watching the kids in years past but one legacy with which we are still struggling. That is Alice’s potty breaks at the pond. Alice apparently has a favorite “potty spot” that she uses when it’s time for that. Mom tried to convince Alice not to use it but the best she’s managed is to convince Alice to pick a new spot that’s a bit further back in the woods. Mom has now taken to carrying a poop bag for Alice as well as Polynomial. This will be fun if Alice every joins the swim team.

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Saturday 12 June 2010

Too much gushing

Charles has taken to making fun of my less than Mr. Universe quality abdominals. Sometimes he just grabs on and other time he just punches massages. Mom is generally amused by this but the other day Alice suggested trying this on Mom. I have to admit, I was less than sympathetic .

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Friday 11 June 2010

Chicken times

The chickens are getting big. They look like chickens now, not chicks or half plucked. They are still not really distinctive enough to tell apart except for one that’s more lightly colored. The chickens are going through a lot more food as well. Mom’s starting to use them as an alternative compost pile because they’ll eat just about anything. The chickens are also no longer running away but now associate people with food and crowd around the edge of the coop if someone comes by. This actually makes things more difficult because the chickens will crowd the door so much that one has to be careful lest they escape in their eagerness for food.

Corwin likes the chickens and he sometimes tries to hug them. They respond to this by scratching and pooping. Corwin was moved to comment “gosh the chickens have sharp claws!”. I was just happy that some learning was going on, perhaps I should try the “draw blood to increase attention span” technique myself. It is funny to see Corwin run inside to wash the chicken poop off his hand. He commented about how disgusting it was. I noted that it would be even worse when he became so accustomed to it that he no longer worried about it.

Alice, meanwhile, has learned that chickens have sharp beaks and will peck at anything.

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Thursday 10 June 2010

Gummy Girl

Alice is starting to lose teeth. She’s quite happy about it although she says that I shouldn’t call her “gummy girl” because of it on the theory that she’s going grew new teeth to replace the lost ones (as if!). Alice came home the other day from school with a tooth in a bag which she immediately showed to Mom and me. She lost her first tooth at dance because bloody injuries at dance are a tradition for Alice.

Oddly, Alice like her siblings never asks about the Tooth Fairy. Despite her greediness for presents, cash doesn’t excite her very much.

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Wednesday 09 June 2010

Rediscovering the magic

The boys have rediscovered the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. I had tried playing it with the boys a few years back but it didn’t really catch on. However, Matt showed up one day with a deck to show Charles and so I brought out my small collection of decks to play against that. Corwin still had his Little Bashers deck (second edition, as he lost the first one somewhere) which he has upgraded a bit.

The best part was being able to bring two of my older decks, “Turbo-Timmy” and “The Annoying Deck”1. Both of those have been playing well for me, after all the tuning I did back in the day. Certainly not the strongest possible decks but decent and frequently very annoying. Corwin now generally refuses to play against either one, but definitely not against The Annoying Deck. On the other hand, Corwin did play through until I decked2 him with it, which I hadn’t ever done before (opponents caught by it would always resign first). Now, though, I will probably have to build a couple of new decks or they won’t play with me.


1 It’s a Blue-White permission deck with lots of general destruction and anti-speed cards. It takes a bit to get running but once in place it’s extremely difficult for an opponent to actually do anything. Then you just play until your opponent runs out of cards to draw, because this deck has several recycling cards to keep it going almost forever.

2 Losing because you have no more cards to draw.

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Tuesday 08 June 2010

Works for me

[Alice and Charles were playing together, something that involved her Ken and Princess dolls on a date, pursued by a paparazzi Pacific white-sided dolphin]

Alice: Pretend the cameras can move Charles. They have all the pictures, you need to put them on Facebook.

Dad: You mean when people go on dates, cameras follow them and take pictures?

Alice: Yes.

Dad: So when you go on a date, I will have to follow you, take pictures, and put them on Facebook?

Alice: And YouTube!

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Can't it last a little longer?

Today is the first day of summer vacation. Mom has decided that we will be trying to make Corwin the official baby sitter for his younger siblings, rather than hiring out. We tried to negotiate with Corwin in terms of pay but he just accepted my first (facetious) offer of $10/day. He’s also handling lawn care for free as well, so it might end up being a good summer even with the kids around.

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Monday 07 June 2010

Gratuitous Picture of the Day

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Sunday 06 June 2010

Neighbor pond

Today as the annual neighborhood picnic at the pond. It was originally scheduled for yesterday but it rained on and off all day leading to a postponement until today.

The turnout was somewhat down from previous years, probably because of the last minute date change. Initially the only children were our crew along with Mara and her older sister. More children showed up later and we ended up with a decent crop of younglings.

The beach had been a bit thin but a couple of days ago the annual load of sand had been dumped so the kids had a 5 foot high mound of sand on which they could play. Not only that, but it was a goal to spread the sand around so there were no complaints about making a mess of the pile.

Other than that, it was a standard picnic with good hamburgers and hot dogs. The kids had a good time, although Corwin wimped out and went home early.

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Saturday 05 June 2010

Manual drive

We have been having problems with our electric lawnmower for a while. The battery life seems to be getting ever shorter. It is just not going to be cost effective to have to buy 2 or more new batteries every season. Mom’s response was to get a manual lawnmower and that’s what we (by which I mean mainly Corwin) will be using this season.

It works reasonably well but it does very poorly on tall grass. If the grass is long enough, it gets bent down under the front guard and doesn’t pop up under the blades and is left untouched. This simply means that the boys will have to work on the lawn more frequently so it doesn’t get overly tall. We can still use the electric one for spot application on tall grass (or send the kids out with scissors).

Mom has gotten two kinds of interesting reactions from the neighbors. The first is the “go green, yay!” sort of reaction, when they realize what an earth goddess gaia worshipping person she is. The other is sympathy for our dire financial state, so bad that we can’t even afford gasoline to run a powered lawnmower. She has received offers to borrow a powered lawnmower. Our solution has been, as noted, to make Corwin work on the lawn. Somehow no neighborly sympathy is generated for him.

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Friday 04 June 2010

Bottle boating

A while back Charles got a kit to make a boat out of two 1-liter plastic bottles. The kit uses them as two pontoons with a air fan between them for propulsion. Charles was very excited about it when he bought it but it had languished, unopened, for quite a while. But this week Mom made him put it together, having been forced to purchase two bottles of soda for the family in order to have bottles we could “recycle” for the boat.

After all of this, we finally made it down to the pond with the boat. Charles put it in the water and turned on the fan. It definitely moved, although with a very pronounced curve. We fiddled with it a bit and succeeded in making it go a bit straighter. After about 60 seconds of intense fun, Charles moved on to general swimming. Still, the boat made it home without being broken so we’ve got that going for us.

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Thursday 03 June 2010

Getting ghilli

Charles has been bugging Mom and I for a while about a ghilli suit. This is a special type of camouflage suit with lots of stuff hanging on it to make it blend in with the terrain even more so than normal camouflage. I hadn’t planned to get any for Charles but Mom was weak and bought an XBox game for Corwin, so I thought I would get something roughly equivalent for Charles and looked up some kids sized ghilli suits.

It arrived yesterday and Charles is very happy. Isn’t it obvious?

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Wednesday 02 June 2010

Who's the geek?

When Corwin got his XBox we needed to hook it up to the house wireless network. The XBox does not come with built in wireless so Mom decided that since we had another system in the media table that needed to be connected we should get a wireless bridge instead of the XBox wireless connector. It seemed like a good idea at the time but it turns out that if you use a Linksys wireless router and a Linksys wireless bridge, it doesn’t work.

Mom spent quite a bit of time tracking this issue down. She netsearched and discovered that many other people had this problem. One solution was buying from a Linksys competitor, which didn’t seem like a good corporate strategy to me. But Mom (haha!) had disposed of the packing material so she couldn’t send the bridge back. Instead she kept researching and finally started debugging the network packets to find out what exactly the problem was. She eventually tracked it down1 but there was no actual fix. She had to change the bridge back to routed mode (which makes certain other things annoying) but she got it to work. Yay Mom!

P.S. Corwin helped by asking Mom every 5 minutes or so while she was watching the packet sniffer output “can I play XBox now?”.


1 The bridge was messing up the IP checksum when the IP packet size was less than the Ethernet minimum packet size. I suspect it was using uninitialized memory in that case but Mom was dubious.

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Tuesday 01 June 2010

Winny boy

Charles had a good time at Cub Scouts tonight. He won a sleeping bag as a prize for getting his candy bar money in early. They do a drawing every so often (week, I think) and you are in the drawing if you’ve turned in your money. Charles thought it was quite nice to get a new sleeping bag.

A few months back they made all the kids draw patches for a contest. Charles’ patch design won the contest and will be used as the official patch for the local council Day Camp. This means he also gets a free week at camp this summer. Charles had originally not wanted to go to camp. I had decided to make him go to Parent & Pal as we did last summer but our family vacation conflicted and no one else in the troop was going so I let it slide. But for some reason Charles is OK with going to camp, because it’s free, even though he didn’t have to pay for it in the first place.

But having his own patch is cool.

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