Monday, March 30, 2009

Oh, my back

I am so old that I don't remember what it was like not to have my back hurt.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poor Fishies

I got up early today to take The Childrens sledding. It was supposed to get up to 47 today (and I think it did), so we were expecting the snow to mostly disappear by later. Hence, getting up early.

When I looked out the bedroom window, I noticed that it sure looked like the back fishie pond was completely frozen over and that neither waterfall was running. I hustled outside and discovered that it was true. Poor fishies.

We had just added 11 goldfish to that pond last weekend, all prizes from the 4-H carnival (and only one of which has thus far turned up dead, stuck to the pump intake. And we had roughly 8 fish in there already, so the possibility of a massive winter fish kill was upon us.

I noticed that it sure seemed like the pumps weren't running, in addition to the heaters not heating, so I checked the breaker. The GFI was tripped. I reset it, and it stayed on.

I got out the pickaxe (or, as I like to call it, the marriage counselor) and busted up all the ice. The fishies were all there at the deep part looking fishie-like without a care in the world.

Tragedy averted.

The ice is all gone now. I wonder if this thing is going to start tripping all the time. GFI's don't last forever. It's also possible that snow got into one of the non-water-tight connections (one of the pumps and heaters is run on an extension cord from an improperly-installed outdoor outlet that isn't sealed to the weather - one of my fix-it projects for this summer).

The Childrens had fun sledding. They had the hill to themselves for the first two hours, then they had a neighbor kid there for the final 45 or so minutes. By then, the main sledding area was mostly mud, and they had to move off to the lower part of the hill where mostly they just played in a snow drift.

Buddy the robin flew out of the garage on Friday morning, so we're back down to 9. Well, 29 if you count the fish.

Last night, The Mrs. noted how funny my blog used to be, and then she took credit for it. She said, "Back then, I was so tired that I was just angry all the time. That made your blogs funnier."

So, she's vowed to become a big, giant biotch again in order to push me deeper into my art. Good thing I have the marriage counselor in the garage.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And birdy makes 10

Today, I worked from home all day because we had a blizzard warning. Plus, it was actually blizzarding when I got up.

When The Mrs. went out to get the newspaper (which somehow she found under the snow), she noticed that a robin had taken refuge from the storm in the corner of our front porch. So she took out a box and a dog food bowl full of birdseed.

Of course, everyone knows robins don't eat birdseed. Everyone except The Mrs.

Later in the afternoon, there was a lull in the snow, so I got out My Beloved to plow the driveway. That went quite eventfully, with me breaking the shear bolt when I picked up a landscape rock, then with the snow freezing solid in the chute while I changed the shear bolt, then me finally getting back up and running and promptly running out of gas. The robin got quite scared of the engine noise from My Precious, and it came out to look at me, then it flew away.

As it turns out, flying away was a clever ruse. When I wasn't looking, it snuck back and took up residence in our garage. I opened up the doors and tried to shoosh it out, but it has decided it is much happier in the garage than out in the blizzard, thank you very much.

So, now "Buddy" will be spending the night. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be better, so perhaps I'll be allowed to drive this squatter off.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Americans fall into two distinct categories today

"Those who remember how devastating the policies of Jimmy Carter were, and those who are about to find out." - Ron Hart

"It is a mere germ of an idea now. I need to let it bloom like a newly-released fart." - CherkyB

I was young (8-11), but I remember Carter. What I remember most was that we were too poor to buy any meat other than chicken, and my mother did not then and does not to this day believe in putting spice in food, so we had day after day after day of every conceivable recipe for dry, flavorless chicken. Plus, we had to drink KoolAid instead of Pepsi. That really hurt more than anything.

We didn't have to give up cable, though, cuz we never had cable to begin with.

I am, however, quite grateful that we always had a house, a car or two, three meals a day, and proper medical care. It is in that spirit that I have decided to try to restructure some of our finances now so that when the fiscal policies of the failed Obama presidency and those of his incompetent cronies at the Fed lead to the spiraling inflation that is inevitable when you decide to "stimulate" the economy by simply printing more money, I'll be somewhat insulated from it.

That, and my bank froze my HELOC. So no time like the present to lock in some low, low interest rates before they shoot up due to "punch drunk" fiscal policy.

On Friday, I had a little free time in the afternoon, so I printed up all my "here are my assets" documents (and, no, ladies that doesn't mean I photocopied my ass. I'm a man - I'm valued only for my money. I know that may seem foreign to you womens, but we men have to contend with this sexist attitude every day of our lives.), and shuttled off the one block to my local bank branch.

Now, I bank at one of your big-name banks. It also happens to be one of the roughly two big-name banks in the country that is not insolvent and does not need bail-out money. They're a well run bank, as far as I can tell. Plus, I like how they put a stagecoach on all their documents. That's cool. I checked out prior to heading out, and I found their rates on 30-yr fixed were quite competitive, so WTF, it's way easier to deal with just one bank for all your stuff. I'll pay 1/8% more for that.

Well, it was not to be. The mortgage guy was on vacation. Seriously? This is a bank that doesn't have a backup mortgage guy, so when he goes out of town for a week, you can't do any mortgages at all?

OK, I always forget that Fort TomCollins is a teeny tiny little place compared to the thriving metropolis of San Schmose. That's one of the main reasons we moved here, after all. So, note to self, before going to a bank, call ahead to make sure someone is working today. I'll file that along with the note to self that there is no reason to pay Fandango $1.50/ticket for online movie tickets, even if it's a popular movie, cuz it won't even be close to sold out if it isn't opening day.

Now, the weird thing was that they had 3 tellers at the bank (none with customers, cuz they have 5 drive-through lanes plus a drive-through ATM), and they almost had hysterics when they told me the mortgage guy would be back Monday and I said, "OK. I'll come back then." They were all, "Well, like, it it an emergency?" And I was all like, "No. I just wanted to refi while rates were low."
"Oh. Well don't you want his card?"

"No. Not really."

"But you can call him with any questions!"

"Isn't he on vacation?"

"Yes. But if it's an emergency, you can call him!"

"It's not an emergency. I'll just come back next week."

"At least take his card. Here. Take his card. You can call him."
I took the card to make them happy.

Then, I drove the 8 miles to the next branch over (which is right near my house, as opposed to right near work). This branch, as it turns out, doesn't even have its own mortgage guy, but instead uses the one from the next branch even farther south. But at least that guy wasn't supposed to be on vacation. The lady here took some info from me, looked at the rate I had, and said they could do much better than that. Then she tried to get me to open a savings account and convert my checking acount over to a more modern one (mine is "grandfathered") that is identical in every way to the one I have already except that they won't send me mini-scans of my cancelled checks with my statements because that's a service they just don't offer anymore.

"So, it's the same, except I don't get scans of my checks?"

"Right. But it would be a Colorado account instead of a California account."

"Does it matter what state my account was opened in?"


"So, it's the same, except I don't get scans of my checks?"


"So, it's actually worse than what I have?"

"Well, I guess you could say that. But it would be a Colorado account."

"Yes, well I'm not feeling compelled to sign up for something that's worse. Have you got anything that's better?"

"No. This is the closest we can get to what you have."

" do I get in touch with this mortgage guy? Is he at the Loverlyland branch now?"

"Let's call him!"
She called him at two different numbers and left messages for him to call me back. I went back to work.

Monday comes around - no call. Tuesday - no call. Wednesday, I finally have a free 90 minutes or so in the afternoon, so I whip out the card of the guy at the first branch near work and call him. Those tellers were right - I needed his card. He had time right then, so I zipped on over.

I locked in a rate that was 2.125% lower than I had, and he waved the 1/4 point I was supposed to pay to get that rate. Which means I got a rate 0.375% lower than said was possible at this bank, and that was for a 1/2 point loan. He's still screwing with my HELOC, cuz the rate I had on that was better than what they're offering no, so he's trying to get it unfrozen with a much lower limit (about 1/4 of the original - I used the HELOC as a bridge loan so I could buy this house before selling my old one).

But still, thanks to the motivation supplied by the failed Obama presidency, I'm going to save $300/month and have locked in a simply fahbulous rate on my mortgage.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'd blog more

But, quite honestly, two months into the failed Obama administration, and I'm too depressed to.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A 4-H Carnival Booth Design

This post will be a work-in-progress for a couple days. Because of the hectic nature of a 4-H build project that involves 10 children aged 5 to 12, a few moms, a few dads, and a few pizzas, and starting at 7pm, I didn't take many pictures during the actual build (OK - I didn't take any). So I'm taking pictures of the completed project, plus I'll backfill with some drawings of the plans as I get a chance to draw them.

The story: my delightful daughter, HannahC, joined a local 4-H club this year. One of the activities that all the local 4-H chapters participate in each year is a fund-raising carnival. For the carnival, each club builds their own booth and designs their own midway-style game. For reasons unbeknownst to me (other than possibly I am the world's foremost expert on building a retaining wall for an inground trampoline), my wife volunteered me to "sit in" on the building committee. The rest, as they say, is history.

The parameters of the carnival specify 10'x10' booths, with the option to get two adjacent booth sites to make a 10'x20' area. The 10'x20' is what the club chose. The requirements from the club were that the design be re-configurable to be a 10'x10' booth, that it be easy to assemble and break down for storage, and that it's budget come in at something like $100-$150 not counting the "decorations".

The design we came up with was to create free-standing poles out of 8' 4x4's with bases and then to connect them together with 10' lengths of steel electrical conduit. We're really just building a frame upon which to hang decorations, not something that needs to withstand the elements (the carnival is indoors). Here's a picture of the completed structure, including most of the build crew. I've pixelated the faces of non-family members because a lot of folks get upset if you put their picture on the web without permission.

The cost for supplies was $135, and we put in about 12 man-hours of labor plus an additional 8ish child-hours of labor.

Materials List
  • six 4x4x96 posts
  • five 2x4x96 studs
  • eleven 10' lengths of 1/2" steel electrical conduit
  • box of 25 #8x3" machine screws with nuts
  • fourteen 1/4"x3" hex-head lag screws
  • fourteen 1/4"x4" hex-head lag screws
  • six 3/8"x4" hex-head lag screws
  • twenty-eight 1/4" flat washers
  • six 3/8" fender washers (fender washers are larger in diameter than flat washers)
  • one 23/32" 4x8 sheet of plywood
  • six 50 lbs. bags of sand
  • coarse and medium grit sandpaper
  • six 4" deck screws
  • two 1x4x24 boards (can be scrap - used for temporary spacers)
  • one 2x6x12 board (can be scrap - used for miter saw stop)
Tools List
  • circular saw with plywood blade
  • tape measure
  • 12" power miter saw (or 10" sliding power miter saw)
  • drill of reasonably high power (18V or higher or corded)
  • belt sander
  • orbital sander
  • 3/4" spade drill bit
  • 5/16" drill bit
  • 13/64" drill bit
  • xxxx? drill bit (for #8 machine screws)
  • wood chisel, 3/4" wide or smaller
  • rubber mallet
  • socket wrench set
  • safety equipment (eyes and ears)
  • chalk line

Step one: Preparing the 2x6

You can skip this step if your miter saw allows you to set it to 60 degrees. Chances are it doesn't.

Take your piece of scrap 2x6 and make a fresh, square cut on the end using the power miter saw. You'll need this later when cutting the 2x4's, but once you set the angle for the miters on the 2x4's, you won't want to disturb it until you're complete with all the 2x4 cuts, and you'll need this right in the middle of that. So square it up now.

Step two: Cutting the 2x4's

We'll be making three passes through the power miter saw with the 2x4's. The first pass is to cut them to 31" lengths, the second is to put a 30 degree angle on one end, the final pass is to put a 60 degree angle on the other end. You'll want to do all of one step, then adjust the saw, then all the next step, then adjust the saw, then all of the final step. This way, you assure each piece comes out as close to identical as possible, and you don't have to keep screwing with the saw angle.

In words:
  1. Set the saw miter to zero degrees. Cut all five 2x4's into 31" lengths.
  2. Set the saw miter to 30 degrees. Cut one end of all fifteen 2x4x31s from step 1.
  3. Set the saw miter to 60 degrees (see below for how if your saw doesn't go that far). Cut the other end of each 2x4x31 making sure that you orient the cut such that it goes in the opposite direction from the first cut (producing a trapezoid) as in the picture above.
We'll end up with 15 pieces, and we only need 14, so feel free to screw one and only one of them up.

It's very helpful if you have a saw table that has an adjustable materials stop that you can just set at 31" and then bang out the lengths one after another. I have a cheapie table from Harbor Freight, but it does the job. It was on sale for $70, regularly $90.

Here's a picture of the 30 degree cut. For you geometry buffs, remember that miter angles are specified with respect to a square end perpendicular to the fence.

Now, what to in the likely event that your saw can't cut a 60 degree angle. We're going to use the 2x6 board to create a little jig that will let you cut the complementary angle to the one you cut first. This setup cuts an angle that is 90 minus whatever you cut already, so 90 minus 30 is 60.

One of the great things here is that if you were off a little bit on the angle of the first cut, if you don't change the angle of the miter at all, this will produce a cut that cancels out that original error, and that'll make final assembly much smoother. So, say, if you cut 31 degrees instead of 30 degrees, this setup will produce a second cut at 59 degrees so that the sum is 90. You need the two angles to sum to 90 to make the legs fit properly, but you don't need them to be exactly 30 and 60 degrees.

Here's how to do it. Leave the miter angle set at whatever it was for the first angle cut (in our case 30 degrees). Then, bring down the saw blade without turning on the saw. Put your 2x6 up against the backstop of the saw with the fresh-cut end towards the blade, then slide it up to the saw blade so that it is just a hair away from touching the blade. Now, clamp it in place using the miter saw material clamp.

Now, you load in your 31" segments of 2x4, making sure you put the "long" end up against the 2x6. In my picture, that'd be to the right. Don't get it backwards - you only have one extra. Check it twice before you cut.

Finally the fun part. Hold the 2x4 up against both the miter backstop and the 2x6 and cut it without putting your hand anywhere near where the cut is going to be. It'll be a little awkward, and you'll be tempted to try to hold the 2x4 by that back corner, but there are very few wood shop tools that'll cut your fingers clean off as quickly as a power miter. Take your time and don't cut your hand off.

You may note in the above picture that this is a pretty long cut. This is a 12" miter saw, and you can see there's not a lot of length left over to the saw slot. I'm guessing a 10" won't quite do this, but a 10" slider would. If you followed directions, you should end up with at least 14 (15 if you were perfect) of these:

Step three: Cut the plywood

You are going to cut the 4'x8' sheet of plywood into four 2'x2' squares and two 2'x4' rectangles.

With a hand-held circular saw, it's pretty hard to cut a sheet of plywood in half lengthwise, so I cut it the short way first as shown in this diagram:

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I was going to open today's post with a joke. It was going to go like this:
Q: "Soooo...How was your March 14th?"

A: "It blew."

Q: "Really?"

A: "Well, I suppose more accurately, it sucked."
But, unfortunately, I certify that all my stories are true (as far as you know), so I can't post anything that would be likely to leave a false impression. My March 14th could be best described as hectic. And I didn't eat steak at all during the day. For breakfast, I had 2 soft-cooked eggs. For lunch, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And for dinner, I had one single solitary slice of cheese pizza that was cold, being nearly two hours old when I ate it. The rest of the holiday tradition was even less adhered to - I mean, even though it wasn't steak, at least I ate, so we got closer on that part.

For the record, I am now out of Captain Morgan, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, and Knob Creek, and beer that is not Keystone Ice in cans. Things are not progressing smoothly.

Saturday was a whirlwind day. For some reason - I don't know why - I was assigned the task of taking HannahC to her Odyssey of the Mind competition. The other parents were equally stymied:
Many other parents: "Where is [The Mrs.]?"

Me, CherkyB: "She's at home with MaxieC."

Many other parents: "Wow. That's really weird. Is he sick?"

Me, CherkyB: "No. He's fine."

Many other parents: "Then why did she send you here?"

Me, CherkyB: "I have no idea. I am assigned tasks. I carry out those assignments. I have learned that it is best if I don't ask questions."

Many other parents (if women): "Yes, of course."
Many other parents (if men): "Ooooh yeah. You definitely don't want to ask questions."
I was also assigned the task of bringing all the equipment to the competition. I was assured that the coach would be watching for me, on account of her concern for the equipment.

This was not true. The coach had no plans for the equipment and seemed quite surprised that I intended to unload it from the wini-van. She was also quite surprised when I asked her to check it over to assure everything was there (a necessary step because it was all just dumped into the wini-van, and The Mrs. carried the contents of your average sized Target store in the back of her van at all times).

Next year, the team will need a designated equipment manager.

We hung around for hours and hours until the team had completed their competion. No, they didn't win. They came in sixth, which is one place out of the money. Largely I think this is because they had to make a vehicle that moved around, and their vehicle moved just once, than it lay on its side and started shedding pieces. That was a 15 point deduciton (out of what looked to be about 130 possible points).

When it was done, we haul-assed back home in order to go to Lowe's to buy all the material for the 4-H project. That went pretty quickly, cuz I had scoped eveything out ahead of tie when building the prototype. There were just a couple decisions that needed to be made (like OSB vs. plywood, and what kind of retention devices to use on the crossmembers - spring clips, cotter pins, or machine screws). Whenever I have a big home improvement project, I hate my truck. It's a midsized "quad cab" truck, which makes sense for the vast majority of the time, but when you have a big load of different-sized lumber to get, the small bed is quite annoying. In particular, there isn't 4' of space between the wheel wells, so sheets of plywood have to sit on these 2x4 stringers at the height of the top of the wheel well. Them you know, you load up the bed of the truck under the plywood, and it becomes difficult to secure both levels.

But difficult is not impossible, and we did fine.

At 7pm, the build crew came over, which was a whole bunch of 8-12 yr old girls and their parents. At 7:15 the pizza arrived, and the build crew mostly disappeared. I estimated a 4-hour build, but it ended up at about 5. We worked from 7 until 10:30 and got all the wood done (which was the hard part), then just two of us got back together today to finish the metal, and another family showed up to assist with the final assembly.

The girls had a great time sanding the wood smooth, though the smaller ones found the belt sander too much to handle and stuck to the oribitals. We dads took care of the big, scary power tools.

The assembly went smashingly well, except we took a little side-trip to Ace Hardware in the middle to see if we could purchase a slightly more elegant solution for one part than I had devised. Answer: no. Don't doubt the CherkyB.

I have some picture I'll post tomorrow (maybe). I don't have pics of the whole build process, unfortunately. I had expected to have a bunch, but normally I assign The Mrs. the task of photo-documenting builds because I'm busy building, but she spent the entire time yakking with the other moms, so there are not a lot of "in-progress" pics. There goes my hope for a third big money-making post. "How to Build a 4-H Carnival Booth" will not join "Inground Trampoline Project" and "Berco Snow Blower Review" as a top draw. It'll probably fall into the same category as "CherkyB's Guide to Carpet Cleaners", to which I get the occasional hit.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is it just me...

...or is every single one of these waaaaaay better looking in the "after" photo?

Today is Friday

And there are no towels in The Childrens' bathroom.

Well, OK, now there are cuz I put some there.

The 4-H club decided to go with my design for these because of the lack of any alternative designs presented. Then, they allocated me 150% of my proposed budget. Then, they stipulated that the decoration committee's budget would come out of the construction committee's budget, so I won't be able to get the gold-plated fasteners after all.

So in order to do my part to stimulate the economy, I went to the local Harbor Freight junk-tool store and got me one of these. It's got a roller and a bump stop. Perfect for this project. Would also have been perfect for the in-ground trampoline project, but what can you do? I noticed that little disclaimer under the price on the website that said, "Prices on our website may or may not be current prices in our stores," so I expected to pay more. Imagine my surprise that this happened to be on sale for $20 off. W00t!

I almost bought me this thingee, too, cuz it would be remarkably helpful for hauling lumber. It was $39.99 in the store ($5 more than the web). I was worried that it wasn't depth adjustable, and as a 3 foot extension, it would make my bed effectively 8' 4", which is 4" longer than anything I want to haul, thus making the stuff not reach the bed extender and rendering it without value.

The build is now tomorrow at 7pm at our place. An odd turn of events given that I wasn't supposed to be involved in the construction committee at all, but that I was just going to sit in on one of the committee meetings to see if I could add any value. The CherkyB, however, has a natural tendency to take stuff over.

I borrowed a couple hand-held orbital sanders from Rico for the build, so I'll have three orbitals and a belt sander. That should keep the 4-H childrens busy, since we've decided small children shouldn't be running the miter saw or circular saw. There will also be some drilling that the kids can do, as well as some socket-wrench work on the lag screws. It'll end up taking 4 hours, so we'll have to get together again on Sunday I imagine. The Mrs. has suggested I do all the sawing before the build crew arrives, but that defeats the purpose. We're supposed to be teaching them how to build stuff as part of their 4-H work. I think it's the "Hands" H, as well as the "learn by doing" motto.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If I were a dog...

I'd be licking myself.

Tomorrow is the big 4-H meeting in which the team votes on if they adopt my design for one of these, or if they go with one of the none other designs. I'm not sure why anyone would reject a custom design by the world's foremost expert on both in-ground trampoline design and Bercomac snowblowers, but it's possible that they guy who apparently volunteered to build the whole thing on his own (and then was never heard from again) might come swooping in with a competing design that would be better, because my design is made to be as cheap as possible without being dangerous.

I tried to avoid being involved with the 4-H building project, as I have this tendency to, well, curse a lot in front of children. Plus, I am embarrassed not to own a table saw (though the story of how I destroyed the table saw I used to own still brings a chuckle). But The Mrs. volunteered our house for the place to hold the construction, decoration, and prize committee meetings, and then she volunteered me to "sit in" on the construction committee.

And that's like volunteering a dog to sit in on a meeting of the steak-eating committee. On March 14th.

The problem in all of this, though, is that the club votes on the design Thursday night, then we're supposed to construct their design Saturday. Except Saturday HannahC and I are at Odyssey of the Mind until 2:30. So we'll have like 4 hours to construct the whole thing, including dealing with a bunch of children and power tools. So I dunno when the construction materials get purchased. I guess Friday night.

I imagine that it will be all very whirlwind and stressful. And that'll probably lead to cursing.

I probably shouldn't be involved.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beware the Ides of March Eve

Ah, exactly one month after Valentine's Day is the eve of the ides of March. It also happens to be a holiday that is as important to men as Valentine's Day is to womens. A day in which you are given free rein to pass judgment about the inadequacy of your woman's love for you by rating the quality of the gifts and service she provides to you, an exact analog of Valentine's Day, only without the candy-filled heart. A day when men can call each other up to discuss how utterly disappointed they were in your trite little treatment of the holiday or to brag what a great womans you are to make them jealous.

So I suggest you womens out there start studying up so that you are ready for March 14th. You can start with some of the helpful hints on the left, and they even include a bunch of printable greeting cards in case you can't find the perfect card at The Hallmark Store (I'm kinda partial to card #2). And, probably, you should research this from home and not from your office. Don't want your co-workers to know what you're up to, lest they steal your ideas.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Communication Media

My parents called me yesterday, and one of the first things my mother asked me was if I had purchased more towels, a clear reference to The War of the Towels (which, in case none of you picked up on it, was named after The War of the Roses that to this day represents the most accurate portrayal of marital bliss ever captured on film, except maybe 4 or 5 of the seasons of Married with Children). Now it is somewhat unusual that my mother makes reference to one of my blog posts because, quite simply, she doesn't read the blog. Nor does my father.

But then it struck me - my parents had just returned from a visit with my sister and her husband, and my sister is the one and only person from my fambly who reads my blog. Yes, despite near universal acceptance of the blog by The Mrs.'s fambly, I have but one regular reader from my fambly. And she's a bit of a lurker, having not left a comment in over a year. Now, I do have a strangely large number of hits from the Boston area to the blog, so I like to pretend that perhaps my niece also reads it, but it could just as easily be one of my co-workers from out that way since our sister site is outside of Boston. Brothers/nephews/cousins I have no evidence of.

The interesting thing is that I always know when my parents have talked to my sister, because they mention all kinds of stuff from the blog. My dad will spend 2-3 hours a day on the computer, but he will wait for my sister to fill him in on what is happening on the blog.

My favorite is when I get a call out-of-cycle (my parents call me only on Sundays, as it is my job to call every weekend, and if I haven't called by Sunday afternoon, I get a call to see if we're still alive), and my mother asks very hushedly, "Is everything alright? I heard you were fighting with [The Mrs.]." Well, my goodness but it's hard to figure out which blog post that might be referring to on any given day.

So, I'd just like to say this for the record - If The Mrs. and I are actually, really, honest-to-god fighting, you aren't going to see a blog post about it. What you get to see is the absurdities that two people who have been together for so long (23 years as of January this year) have little quarrels about when they are both tired and both have trying jobs and (very) annoying Childrens. This is, after all, primarily a humor blog.

And, really, the towel thing was more about humor than about domestic strife. She does too much laundry? I'm pretty sure that doesn't rise to the "I'll give you half my stuff if you go away" level. But it does drive me f'ing insane.

And insanity makes good blog posts (I'd insert a link to Blogauthor's blog now, but she's gone underground and not only is the blog private, but I don't even have a link due to my penchant for using netvibes as an RSS reader. It looks like Google Reader is able to handle private blogs, but I haven't figured out how to use it yet (having spent a grand total of 16 seconds looking at it)).

So, I find it humorous that most of what my parents know is going on in my life they have gotten via talking to my sister, who has gotten the information from reading this blog. (They don't seem to know much about the weather here, so I'm guessing my sister doesn't read my weather blog.) Now the really odd thing is that I actually talk to my parents every week, and I very close to never actually talk to my sister, and yet most of what they know about me they get from her. I really suck at keeping up with the siblings, and I'm not sure I even have her phone number (I have 3 numbers with 3 different area codes - 315, 585, 239 - and I do know that they don't live anywhere near 315 anymore).

Of course, I can't complain too much because my sister invited me to her Facebook thingee, but I am too much of a luddite to figure out Facebook. And thus, the proliferation of communication media serves not to bring us closer, but instead serves to separate us into provincial little groups of ATT vs. Verizon free mobile-to-mobile, vs. email, and blogs vs. Facebooks.

But at least I can sell advertising space on my blog. Hah. Beat that.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Today was yard cleanup day, which means I hauled out my largely-ornamental chipper (how it gets a 3.5 star rating is beyond me) and shredded up last year's garden plants plus some of the branches that have fallen off the trees in windstorms during the winter. I managed to get through the afternoon with only one jam, which is much better than normal. Though I did discover that this year, it has decided it can only chip branches less than 1/2" in diameter. 1/3 the width it is advertised to handle. I guess I'll have to sharpen it's cheap-ass blades again. They hold an edge about as well as PVC does.

Both MaxieC and HannahC at some point came out to help (though not at the same time), and both got bored within minutes. That's good, because there is nothing I hate more than help with anything. I am like the lone wolf, never wanting help with anything, and always ready to stop everything I am doing that I am not getting help with to help someone else on a task much easier than what I am doing but that they're so shocked, Shocked!, to have to be doing any work at all that they need to whine and moan and complain until I come over and do the work for them while they stand back and tell me I'm making too much noise, and then turn off my radio station because it played an ad, and then turn off my ad-free music stream because it makes too much noise because the kitchen/family room is actually a study hall, and the room I slaved away getting set up upstairs as a school room is no good because The Childrens feel too isolated in there, but the kitchen on the other hand is right in the middle of everything, but they find that too distracting to work, so I better shut my sorry ass up and make like I don't even live here so they can get their schoolwork done because it's 9:00 at night and it still isn't done on account of all the distractions in the kitchen that were my fault, like when I got a glass of water.

That kind of lone wolf.

A married lone wolf.

But, at any rate, after I spent hours upon hours chipping/shredding/mulching all our garden refuse, and after I had been yelled at because the tarp I used to protect a big pile of cardboard from sawdust happened to have some shredded redwood bark mulch dust on it, and how inconsiderate of me not buying a brand f'ing new tarp to cover the cardboard that The Mrs. volunteered we'd store in our garage without asking me, right in my way all the time blocking my access to any of the garden tools and the tractor and all my power tools and the gun safe, until the Odyssey of the Mind competition which is thankfully next weekend, I was topping off the hot tub with the garden hose that I had to move cardboard out of the way to get to, when I blinked.

It was an ordinary blink. Just the kind of blink a lone wolf would do when his eyes started to dry out a bit.

However, it became a bit of an extraordinary blink in that, upon completion of said blink, my right eye was only in focus on the left half of my field of view.

Something had disrupted the lone wolf's contact lens. After a bit of poking and prodding, it was decided that the best course of action would be to cover the eye with my hand, lest the contact fly out never to be found, and head inside for a look-see in the mirror.

Upon examination in the mirror, no contact could be found. Though my eye felt a bit scratchy. I rolled my eye all around and lifted up the lids and everything. No contact. I removed the contact from the left eye, and then that one felt scratchy, too. Probably from all the dust from the chipper.

So I sat down to watch Ultimate Fighting Championship in the basement, lest my presence disrupt the train of though of all those schoolwork-goofing-off childrens upstairs. After about 45 minutes, I blinked, and it felt like an eyelash was stuck to my eye. So I again checked a mirror.

There was my contact, folded up taco-stylee, poking half out of my eye from under my lower eyelid.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

UPS is maddening

I ordered something last week from North Carolina. I know, I know. Hold all you jokes about East Bumpkinville. The truth of the matter is that it's a lot cheaper to buy stuff in East Bumpkinville and have it shipped here to America than it is to buy the stuff here in the first place. I imagine it's because the East Bumpkinvillians don't have to worry about dental, but I don't rightly know, having never set foot there after seeing Deliverance.

On top of the already fantastic prices that can be had by shopping online in North Carolina, I managed to get this shipment of goods at half price, thanks to El Presidente. Yup, I got stuff on a 50% off "Obama's first tax increase" clearance sale being held to clear out stuff that won't be profittable once a 100% tax is added onto it in order to fund socialized healthcare for minors, which was an Obama campaign promise (and signed into law in early February).

Well, these North Carolina folks, they don't cotton so much to those new-fangled aero-planes, so they shipped me my goods via diesel big rig. UPS Ground, baby.

And there is almost nothing more frustrating than tracking a shipment that's going UPS Ground. I say "almost" because there is one firm that manages to out-frustrate UPS, and that would be the socialized shipping industry of the US Postal Service. There is nothing broken out there that a good dose of gubment can't make worse, and package tracking at USPS is almost a cruel joke. If I can sum up the government's philosophy with respect to package tracking, I would say it is this: we will acknowledge that someone has claimed to have given us a package to deliver, though we will not confirm having received it, and we will announce the successful delivery of the package that we may or may not have received, but what happens in between should really be left up to us professionals and is none of you bidness. Feel free to file a Freedom of Information Act request if you like to know more about the inner workings of this finely tuned machine.

And you want to leave these guys in charge of the health care of your childrens.

The frustrating thing about tracking packages shipping via UPS ground isn't the utter incompetence of UPS. UPS actually seems quite competent. They get the package to you right when the predict they will, and ground shipping is dirt cheap. But fast it is not, and, as you watch your package crawl across the continent, you wonder if it is intentionally needlessly slow in order to assure a good market for 2nd day air shipment. My package was picked up from the shipper at 6:18pm on the 5th. Having passed through four trucks already, it it now parked in Earth City, MO, where it has been sitting for 24 hours a mere 780 miles from its origin.

Why? Because UPS Ground doesn't move packages on the weekend. And on top of that, it is scheduled to take 4 more days (or three working days) to traverse the remaining 880 miles to my house because, I imagine, the traffic on I-70 across Kansas is just a nightmare at this time of year.

One of these

Today I made one of these:

It's apparently some sort of farm implement.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Blog about Work

Work has been getting me down lately. And not for the generic reasons you might expect. No, this is for a bizarre little reason that probably is something that would bother only Me, CherkyB.

Yes, you guessed it. I have found myself repeatedly quoting Cavitation at work. No like once or twice, but every single day for over a week. And this annoys me because he's an even bigger yahoo than I am, and yet I am using him as an authority in arguments. Plus, lest anyone think that I am just riffing, I always feel compelled to start out by crediting him:
Me, CherkyB: "It really is what Cavitation said - they only check they have in place to say if the computation was done right was whether the result came out to what they wanted it to be."
Sadly, this is a true characterization of the state of things. Though it's actually somewhat worse than that - the calculation has a tendency to oscillate between something like 1.5x-2x what the target is and a number very close to or actually zero. And every time it produces a number greater than expectations, we say, "It is trending badly, and we need to take immediate action to absorb that much growth," and every time it comes in lower than expected we say, "well, that's obviously wrong, so we'll continue planning to the previous, really big value."

This week, the oscillations occurred daily, as this is the week we decided to scrutinize the overall results that include this particular input. And we had to fight a lot about which number we were going to believe - the big, obviously wrong one, or the small, obviously wrong one. Except we couldn't agree that the big one was obviously wrong because the people swore up and down it was right even though the very next day, once they updated their exact same calculations with recent data, it dropped to zero. We had to assume it was right, and we spun it as, "This is the lowest number they've quoted us so far, so it's really good bad news" something which was true only if you bought in to the hypothesis that anything below target was wrong, but anything above was right.


But enough about work. Nice weather we're having these days.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

CherkyB, The Man

Yes, it's true. Womens flock to me like flies to a rotting carcass. Why, you ask?

No, of course you don't ask that. You know. You know it's that magical combination of my fahbulous good-looks, professional-grade sense of humor, and high-paying yet unusual job.

But mostly, it's my ability to fix stuff.

Womens looove it when you can fix stuff.

Unfortunately, The Mrs. is one of those insanely jealous individuals who simply assumes that if some woman I have never met is leaving a comment on my blog, it must be because I'm secretly banging her. Thus, it is with great hesitation that I post yet another blog about me fixing something. But, you know, how can I blame her? I am, after all, quite a catch.

Today, in addition to the normal Sunday chores of cleaning the hot tub filters, the pond filters, and topping off the ponds with water, I had decided to figure out what was wrong with one of our outdoor speakers. See, ever since The Dave Guy set us up with our Sonos whole house music system, I've been wondering about the left speaker out on the deck. It buzzed a bit when we first hooked it up, but not too badly. But lately as the weather has been warming, we've been spending more time in the hot tub, and the buzzing has been getting worse. And it doesn't help that The Mrs. has recently switched over to listening to nothing but Hawaiian music while we're in the hot tub. Hawaiian music is somewhat sparse, and thus the buzzing is far more noticeable.

I figured it was a blown cone, but these guys are about 14 ft up under the eaves over the deck, so I figured I'd rule out other stuff first.

See, that's the kind of big brain you get when you marry Me, CherkyB.

I even kept notes as I went, because I've learned that between The Mrs. and The Childrens, there is no hope of me completing anything longer than about 5 minutes without interruption.

I first ruled out the amp buy changing the channels that the speakers were connected to over to ones that had been driving the master bedroom until we added another Sonos zone last week. Those channels I knew worked. No improvement in the buzzing, though.

Then, I tried bridging channels (the recommended setup for higher-power 8 Ohm speakers as most outdoor speakers tend to be). Again, no improvement.

I then took the volume control out the wall and swapped left and right wires. If it were the volume pots, the buzzing also would have swapped, but it didn't. So, most likely it was the speaker. Sadly, this would be the most expensive part to replace, thus it was almost a foregone conclusion that this was where the problem would lie. But I like to hope, despite hope being an express ticket to crashing on the rocks.

Witness the failed presidency. A presidency based on nothing but hope.

So I got the damned ladder out and took the grill off the speaker. No visible damage to the cones, but I did notice that if I placed my finger on the center of the "woofer", the buzzing stopped. Something fishy there. I also noticed that if I jiggled the black wire, the sound would cut in and out. There was visible corrosion on the wires, so possibly a bad connection was involved.

I pulled down the speaker. I learned that it was a CSI SP-250W, which is a brand I've never heard of, and it was 8 Ohms as suspected. I took it into the garage to fart around with.

I cleaned the contacts with WD-40 and a jewler's screwdriver. I inpected everything, and it all looked fine. Then, I grabbed my can of compressed inert gas to spray all the dust out of the tweeter.

Unfortunately, I actually grabbed the can of spray foam insulation. Those cans look identical. You know, excpet for the writing. Happily, the spray foam takes its time coming out the tube and I was able to avoid gobbing up the speaker with insulation.

Then I grabbed the actual compressed inert gas and shot out the speaker. A couple pine needles came out. Then, I sprayed the woofer to get the dust out, and the little center dome flipped up. What is this? Another shot, and it pops up again. Upon further inspection, that little dome had come unglued almost the entire way around. A quick application of cyanoacrylate glue ("medium" variety) fixed it back in place. After a suitable drying time (medium takes forever compared to fast, but it's thicker, so it stays where you put it rather than running all over), I tried it out on my basement stereo. It worked fine. After reinstalling it outside, it worked fine.

Yup. I am The Man. That's an $85 savings for a couple cents of glue and some compressed gas.

Now that they are confirmed 8 Ohm, 80W speakers, I'll have to set them up with bridged channels on the amp. I'm only getting 30W/channel right now, and the sound doesn't carry all the way to the neighbors' houses no matter how much I turn it up.

And maybe we'll be able to hear the music with both high-speed hot tub pumps running.