Monday 28 February 2011

Shazam wammie

Ouch. We got hit by a big lightning strike last night. We’re still assessing the damage. Mom said she heard a giant peal of thunder around 3AM but I slept through it.

The cable modem is fried, and our firewall, a network hub, and the networking for both Alice’s and Charle’s computer. Charles also lost his speakers and a network cable went bad. Our laser printer seems fried as well — it won’t turn on at all.

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Sunday 27 February 2011

God and Family and Dogbert

Charles has completed his God and Family work with the Cub Scouts. He’s been doing this on Sundays for the last few weeks. The big project in this is to build a pizza out of his religioius faith. Charles actually did a reasonable amount of work on it, although I am not sure the finished effort was quite what was intended.

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Saturday 26 February 2011

Junked and gone

Mom says the garage sale went well. Many goods were sold, some of which were ones Mom recoginzed that we had contributed an iteration or two back and were going through once again. Apparently some people were lined up half an hour before the sale even opened.

Both of the monitors we dumped contributed went quickly. We actually got rid of three, as I foisted off a 1600×1200 monitor on one of the staff. It mostly worked but it could take a minute or two (literally) to warm up and turn on after having its displayed blanked by the screen saver / power save mode. It was just too irritating for me to use, but for some one who only had one computer it is probably livable.

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Friday 25 February 2011

Junk out

This weekend Mom is helping with a charity junk garage sale on behalf of the local group that sponsors the kids’ music lessons. It’s really amazing how much stuff can fit in a large room. Mom spent a lot of time helping set up and then sent me at the end of the day to lock up the church afterwards. Everything had to be ready the night before because the serious shoppers all show up as early as possible.

We contributed a couple of LCD monitors and a box of culled toys the kids were no longer willing to pick up. We had to ask about the monitors because there was a general rule against electronics, probably on the theory that too many people would try dumping non-working stuff by making it cheap. If had had some old CRT monitors I would have tried it myself.

While I was waiting and trying to keep Alice from sharing her entropy with the carefull arranged goods, the remaining volunteers tried to ask me questions but all I could do was repeat my orders Mom’s request that I leave last and lock up as I went. One of the other moms stated that she appreciated husbands like me, who mindlessly obeyed followed cooperated with their spouse’s requests.

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Mom, Charles, Alice, and I were driving back from somewhere on the road just south of the neighborhood when we spotted a coyote sitting out in the middle of the field between the road and the neigborhood. It was early morning but the coyote was just sort of squatting there, looking unconcerned. Charles saw it but Alice (on the far side) didn’t get a glimpse.

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Thursday 24 February 2011

Comfortable pets

Way back on Alice’s birthday one of the gifts she received was a gift card to a local grocery store. Somewhat odd, I thought. The previous year Alice had been willing to let people donate presents to the less fortunate but this year Alice wanted as much loot as possible.

We had the card sitting around for a while until Alice was programmed by TV advertisements for some kind of pillow pet. Charles was going around the house singing “It’s a pillow! It’s a pet! It’s a pillow pet!”. As it turned out, the local grocery store sold them for just about the amount of the gift card. Alice became obsessed with this and pestered Mom for most of a week without success, even though Mom agreed in theory with the purchase. Finally, about a week or so ago I was out with Alice and no other kids, waiting for Corwin to finish Boy Scouts, which is right next to the store. We popped in to get the pillow pet. The selection was rather limited and Alice finally decided on a blue whale / dolphin / cetacean of some sort. I don’t know what will happen with her old duck pillow pet. Perhaps the two of them will get along and become friends once Alice’s attention has moved to the next big toy.

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Wednesday 23 February 2011

Vidiot 2

Back on Saturday our new “Home Theatre Personal Computer” arrived. It’s a little Dell Zino which would have been a really buff desktop machine a few years back. It’s actually smaller than Corwin’s XBox but runs Windows 7, streams HDTV from the network, and plays DVDs. Alice likes the cute little remote it comes with, although not enough to learn how to play things by herself. Charles was convinced to like it by installing the game Spore on it. I put a wireless keyboard and mouse on it which can be used from the couch, although the kids like to sit a lot closer than that.

We had had one of the boy’s old game boxes there but it never worked that well and would just shut itself off every so often, more and more frequently in the last couple of months. It’s worked well enough that we got rid of our dedicated DVD player (which was at least 5 years old, if not more). So we have fewer devices and they’re smaller which is an improvement. We did keep the same computer name of “Vidiot”.

Charles having a Sporific time gaming on the big screen

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Tuesday 22 February 2011

Not learning the right lessons

Alice is home sick today and watching a lot of TV. One thing was the Kim Possible episode Downhill which features DNAmy as a villain. She gets a crush on one of the other characters, and when he doesn’t respond appropriately DNAmy decides to genetically resplice him to make him more cute and cuddly. I asked Alice if that was going to her plan for her boyfriends and she said “no”. Apparently she’s learning nothing from the role models in her shows.

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Monday 21 February 2011

Don't make me sleep in the comfy bed!

The kids don’t have school today so Corwin had Levi over last evening for a sleep over. They basically played video games the entire time they weren’t eating. They went to bed a little after midnight. Levi fell asleep on a little foam chair wedged in between the bunk bed and the wall, buried under a blanket of plush animals from the Sleepy Time Crew. I made him get up and sleep in a bed, which thought a rather brutal treatment. He still had his hoodie on, I didn’t have the heart to make him take that off and use a blanket.

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Sunday 20 February 2011


[Alice is laying on the couch, mostly passed out, because she’s been sick for the last few days. She briefly stirs]

Dad: Alice!

Alice: What?

Dad: Dad wants you to go potty.

Mom: On the toilet.

Dad: Thanks. That’s what I meant.

Mom: It’s best to be clear.

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Saturday 19 February 2011

Not yet fully programmed by toy culture

Alice and Charles are playing together this morning. Charles was enthused about playing with toy soldiers at last night’s Blue & Gold banquet so he got his set out this morning. I haven’t been paying too much attention but I have noticed that the game is Charles’ Army vs. The Barbies. They are spending their time building up defenses against the expected Attack of the Barbies. Alice has also noted that when Barbies grow up, they become devils with knives for teeth. Charles wondered why Barbies would have to grow up to become devils and I helpfully noted that they were kind of like “devil interns”. Charles thought that was so funny he actually smiled. Alice took it straight up.

Waiting for the Barbies

Devil Barbie

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Friday 18 February 2011

Blue and Gold

Tonight was the annual Blue and Gold banquet for Charles’ Cub Scout pack. It seemed more crowded than usual. They even ran out of food, which I haven’t seen before. Only some taboli and vegetable trays were left. I brought both an side dish and a main dish so I think they had a lot of unexpected people show up.

It was uneventful. Mom and Alice skipped out because Alice had a dance class. Corwin went along to help with the setup and clean up. He managed to to a little bit of that. Charles helped out a bit although mostly he avoided assignments. He’s clever that way.

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Thursday 17 February 2011

This is a revelation?

Mom took Boyen off to Chime Squad practice and left poor Alice1 home with me. Alice came in to my office to pester me about supper and something else and, as she was leaving the second time, said “Ha ha, I was in your office twice and you couldn’t mess with me! Twice!”. I pretended to not hear her until she (in an effort to force me to acknowledge my epic fail) came within reach, at which point I dropped a lot of messing on her. She then observed “that’s what you get when you tease Dad”.

1 Alice wanted to go along to get a milk shake afterwards. She promised to sit quietly for an hour but Mom (for no reason at all) didn’t believe Alice.

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Wednesday 16 February 2011


The boys were sent out today to take Polynomial on a walk. We found out recently that our definition of “a walk” and the childrens’ were not quite the same. So today I fired up the activity tracker on my cell phone and sent it with the boys. They both were excited to carry it along, which I thought.

When they returned I was able to verify they had followed the appropriate route. As I was examining the GPS generated map trail, the light suddenly dawned for Corwin that I had let him carry my phone around in order to track his movement, and not because I wanted him to be cool. The look of shocked horror on his face is something I will always treasure.

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Tuesday 15 February 2011

Reading is fundamental

Mom had been convinced to get tickets to a local folk music performance and, as part of my outreach for Valentine’s Day, I agreed to go. However, Mom had neglected to read the announcement carefully and got the starting time wrong. As we prepared for departure, Mom realized that in fact the event was already half over because the actual concert was preceded by a dinner. So we ended up going out for sushi. And it was good.

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Couch gang

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Monday 14 February 2011

Lighting up his life

At the suggestion of someone who is now on Mom’s excommunication list I bought Charles some little Lego™ lights that he can use in his projects. I think they would look interesting in some of his spaceships. Below is one of his early tests, of a minifig with a light saber and a light.

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Sunday 13 February 2011

Return of the Choooks

Today our big project was moving Chooks out of the garage to the back yard. It’s warmed up and the snow is melting rapidly. Fortunately there was still a good layer with a hard crust so moving the coop back was much easier than putting it in the garage. I moved it most of the way without hurting my back (much). The chickens seemed to like having an outside to look at, even if they didn’t like the snow very much.

Mom was able to get the mess up from the garage floor because she had cleverly put down a thick layer of shredded paper bedding so the mash of bedding, food, and chicken poop just peeled up. I think it ended up in the garden. We did have to dig the power cord out of the snow so the chickens could have their sauna. And the garage is starting to not smell quite so bad.

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Saturday 12 February 2011

Fly time

Today I took Boyen to E-Fest which is a gathering of indoor remote control air craft enthusiasts. It was held in the Amory at the University which provides a nice open space for flying (although not always enough). All of the aircraft are electrically powered by really tiny “lithium-ion polymer”: batteries. Some of the planes looked like they weighed just a few ounces even with the battery. They have to fly inside, one bit of a MidWestern wind and you’d never see it again.

Charles and Corwin seemed excited about going when we left but didn’t seem to get in to watching the flying. I thought it was interesting. There were a number of odd planes, including an Iron Man, a missile, a flying car (I think Harry Potter based), and a surfboard. The Iron Man (pictured below) suffered an unfortunate mid-air collision and was down for the day shortly after I took the picture.

We wandered the vendors which they liked and I found some cool things I will have to order when Mom’s not looking. Corwin thought about buying a plane but was daunted by

  • The initial cost. The planes are (in some cases) affordable, but you have to buy a controller which is a couple or few hundred dollars. This is fine for the enthusiast because you only need one controller for all of your planes, but it’s a bit of a hurdle for a first timer.
  • Flying locations. You can’t fly these outdoors, which somewhat limits where Corwin could use it.

In the end we settled for Charles building a free glider at a children’s workstation.

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Friday 11 February 2011

Wood stocks

We burned almost the last of our firewood this week and had to restock. We bought a full cord of wood which was a bit pricey but it should age well over the year and be nice next winter. Technically a cord is 128 cubic feet. We ended up with about 100 cubic feet, which we figured was close enough.

What’s left of the old wood pile is all inside now and we’ll use that up over the weekend, which is projected to be cold, after which it should warm up and not return to the deep freeze of the last month or two.

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Valentine's Day

Mom got her Valentine’s Day present early. Last night we went out to see Lyle Lovett and John Hiat who are doing a concert series together. Mom is a BIG fan of Lyle Lovett even though it would be only her fourth time seeing him in concert.

It was a very nice concert. They had an open camera policy, as long as you didn’t use a flash. I tried to get a video on my cell phone but the user interface is whacky, although at least now I know what the problem is1. So you’ll just have to imagine everything.

1 If you pause the video and then switch applications it just discards all the recorded video. Gah!

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Thursday 10 February 2011

And a pheasant in a bare tree

We had a little flock of five pheasants drop by the other day. I managed to get a picture of one even though they’re very skittish.

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Wednesday 09 February 2011

Theological locations

Charles: Keep your pillow pet the BEEP1 away from me.

Alice: You almost used the H-word!

Charles: You should just say “underworld”. It’s more polite.

Alice: Just send them to the underworld! Where do you think the underworld is?

Charles: Under Mom’s bed.

Alice: Are you sure?

Charles: Where else could it be?

Alice: Mom’s drawers?

1 Not an elision — Charles really does literally say “BEEP”, except he makes it sound as much like the actual censoring “beep” as possible.

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Tuesday 08 February 2011

Cleanliness is next to cluelessness

Cleanliness, as a concept, just doesn’t seem to be apprehensible to our children. Many is the time we have been required to inform them that rubbing one’s face with a wash cloth is a means, not an end, the actual goal being to remove dirt and debris from the face, and that one might look in the mirror during or after washing to verify the success of the effort. Repeatedly, this is a revelation.

The other night I was tasked with helping Alice with a shower1. Naturally she had to poop right before hand. Rather than deal with the wiping issue2 I sent her in to the shower to get clean there. I told her to hold her butt cheeks apart to she could get clean. I didn’t expect to have to tell her to put her butt under the water as part of this process. It only took me two tries to achieve this. The first resulted in Alice showing me her butt while managing to get under the shower without any water actually arriving on her posterior. I had to explain that water was an important part of the cleaning process and therefore she needed to get the water to the place to be cleaned. She laughed brightly at this and said “Oh!”. Who would have guessed that?

1 Alice, who not so long ago acquiesced to showers only under duress or emergencies (such as a shower in the middle of the night after a containment failure) now refuses baths and insists on a shower.

2 A whole ’nother issue I will write about at some point.

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Monday 07 February 2011

Action Boy!

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Sunday 06 February 2011

Dog of all she surveys

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Saturday 05 February 2011

Heat is hot

Our downstairs heating system went out recently. We’re not sure exactly when. I thought it had been particularly cold downstairs for a couple of days but I put it down to the general weather. Mom finally noticed that even so, it shouldn’t be 55°F in the media room. She checked the vents and noticed not even an effort at heating the room. We went down to check the heater and yes, it was definitely not operating. I power cycled it and thought it sounded like the fan was full of water before it gave up again. It looked like a costly repair as I presumed it meant the fan had thrown a bearing and the lubricating fluid had leaked out. Things were staying warm enough that we didn’t feel too much stress, especially since Mom’s office is upstairs which still had a working furnace. For once, my vast yet barely adequate array of computers came in handy, keeping my office sufficiently warm.

Mom called the heating guys and we got on the list for a call back (there being a bit of a rush on furnace repairs on Thursday night as the cold settled in). Friday morning we got a call back for a visit and in the afternoon the repair showed up. It took him about 10-15 minutes to verify that yes, there really was water in the fan from internal condensation, which prevented the fan from spinning up to speed. The drain had clogged for some reason, so he cleared that and the water drained and the furnace fired right up. I for one miss the brisk bite of the downstairs coolness but everyone else seems to like the sweltering mid-60s temperature.

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Friday 04 February 2011

Special Treats

Corwin was student of the week last week, for the first time since he entered Middle School. In interrogation later, he said that a prime factor this time was that he took the unprecedented and radical step of participating in class. While we like to seem Corwin excel, perhaps the fact that he resorted to such measures indicates a bit too much parental pressure.

Mom decided that we (his parents) should reward him. She decided on going out to dinner and letting Corwin pick the restaurant. I demurred on the theory that Mom wouldn’t want to go where Corwin picked, which I predicted to be Sonic Drive In, a place Mom can’t stand and Corwin knows she doesn’t like. I figured the combination would prove irresistible and so it was. As I anticipated, Charles mentioned it and Corwin immediately latched on to the concept. Mom worked him over for a bit to choose something else and eventually got him to pick Monical’s (a local pizza chain). Corwin refused to actually go out and Mom’s reward for her compassion was to drive out in the cold and snow to get Corwin pizza.

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Thursday 03 February 2011

The little triumphs are the sweetest

Corwin’s big success today: Mom had to ask him to find the TV remote. Quoth the Corwin — “Who’s observant now?”.

I will admit that Corwin has been doing better about finding things, especially things that are sitting right out in the open. Of course, Corwin’s highly motivated to find the TV remote. Hopefully the exercise will transfer to other things.

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Wednesday 02 February 2011

Looking ahead

Alice: When I grow up, I want a flying car!

Dad: When I grow up, I want loving and obedient children.

Charles: Dream on, Dad.

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Tuesday 01 February 2011

Chook Rescue

The news of the last couple of days has been the big storm incoming. It started up today with some wind, freezing rain, and snow. It was very strange snow, not flakes but more like little glass beads. You could run it through your (gloved) hands like sand or birdseed. Mom became worried about the Chooks surviving not just the cold but the wind (as they have gone through a rather cold spell in the past).

Mom decided the only thing to do was to move the chicken coop around front and in to the garage. This was made more entertaining because the coops had long since become frozen to the ground. I had to use a crow bar to detach it. Mom wanted to carry it but I thought it would be easier and less likely to trash the coop if we slid it over the snow. That mostly worked, except I had to pick up the front to get it turned around. This caused me some serious back pain. I still managed to help Mom and Corwin push it over to the garage. Once there, Mom was able to use the back wheels to put it in place. I went inside to lay down. Mom, after making sure the chickens were all OK in their new location, came in to minster to my injury let me know the chickens were safe if a bit confused. All part of her plan I think.

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