Friday, March 31, 2006

If you are reading this, you may want to wipe down your monitor and wash your hands. There's a nasty stomach virus making it's way through our house. It is not fun. So take whatever precautions you feel necessary, and don't spend too much time around this page.

Uh oh. My digestive system is blogging again... I'd better go.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stream of Consciousness

I didn't get much sleep last night. I got paged at 4:00 this morning for my job. It was something really dumb, and only took 10 minutes. But I couldn't get back to sleep. I'm tired. I'm in the mood to just mindlessly type for a bit.

The guy who paged me really should have been able to figure out the problem. It's a bit like if you had your car in the shop, and the mechanic calls you to say, "Hey, I was test driving your car and the fuel light came on. What should I do?" "Um, did you check to see if the car needs gas?" "No. Do you know if it needs gas?" ... Now imagine this conversation at 4 AM. It's a good thing I'm paid well.

I've been tinkering with the look of this blog a little. The strange thing about the template I'm working from is that it doesn't have a subject line when I post. I'm gonna try just putting a title in the first line, in bold, and see how that works. Pfft. Like it matters.

Blog. What a dumb word. It seems like it should be some sort of onomatopoeia, like the sound your washing machine makes when it's unhappy. "Uh oh, the washer's blogging again." It makes you feel dumb just saying it. Blog blog blog. Kind of like when you go to Wendy's and order a Biggie sized drink. Biggie is a dumb word too. Welcome to my Biggie Blog. No, I am not drunk right now.

In this country, as in most, we drive on the right side of the road, and walk or the right side of the sidewalk. Why is it then, that almost every grocery or big retail store has their "In" doors on the left, and their "Out" doors on the right? Kroger, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Staples. Almost every place I can think of. I'm 35 years old and I still have a hitch in my step when I go into a store because it takes me a second to realize I'm going the wrong way.

Help! My blog is turning into a Larry King column! Somebody save me!

I have had ten cars in my lifetime. Three were driven off the lot new, one was leased. Most were either slightly old or very old. But here's the odd bit: I've never owned the same brand twice. The list, in approximate chronological order: Volkswagen, Chevy, Saturn, Mercedes, Mazda, Nissan, Acura, Subaru, Honda, Ford. Now granted, Chevy and Saturn are both GM, and Acura and Honda are very nearly the same thing. But still... And not a Toyota or a Chrysler in the bunch. Strange. (They've been steadily going down in cost lately too. I'm in the $1500 range now. Just think what my next car will be like!) But now as I mentally walk through my house, I realize that all of our appliances are different brands, all of our electronics are different brands... Apparently I have absolutely no brand loyalty.

My son's favorite TV shows are Dirty Jobs and Family Guy. My son is not yet 3. I think that makes me a bad parent or something. And I think it pretty much ensures that he has no chance of growing up to be a normal person. But I guess the genes he got from me already took care of that. We may have to nix his Family Guy privileges though. He doesn't miss anything, and he understands too much.

Dirty Jobs, if you haven't seen it, is actually a pretty cool show. The host goes around the country and spends a day doing some awful job cleaning sewers, inseminating cows, sweeping chimneys, collecting owl vomit, or whatever. The guy is hilarious, in a very subtle, unassuming way. The jobs aren't always dirty in a literal sense, just hard, thankless, or unappreciated. They had one the other day about drilling an oil well. Very interesting. Edson was fascinated. There's one part where they're attaching this big metal rod to the end of the previous big metal rod that's already gone down into the ground. The foreman is explaining everything to the host of the show, and there's this square part of the rod attached to the round part, and the guy says "That's called the 'kelly'". I know this seems like a random anecdote, but stick with me. A few days after watching it, E5 is outside helping Daddy, and looks at the base of the downspout, where it goes into a drain pipe underground. A square thing that turns into a round thing. He calls me over, saying, "Look dad, it's a kelly. See the kelly, dad?" I made some noise of acknowlegement, but didn't really have any idea what he was talking about until about 10 minutes later I remembered that segment and figured it all out. The kid is scary when it comes to memory.

Of course, this is the same kid that visited my Dad's house at 18 months old, and met their dog Max. Sadly, Max died of cancer the following summer. The next time E5 was up to visit E3, it was almost a year later. One of the first things he said when he walked into their house was, "Where's Max?"

Okay, so now that I've thought about it, I do have some brand loyalty. I am very loyal to one brand in the areas of crunchy peanut butter, deodorant, raisin bran, and underwear. But I think that's about it.

I think that's about it for my blogging today too. Blog blog blog...


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Agent of Chaos

My daughter is an agent of chaos.

Amelia has a very strong compulsion to dispose of things that bother her. This could mean throwing all of the books, papers, and other objects off the end table and onto the floor. It could mean dropping her brother's toys from the loft down into the living room. It might mean pushing her bowl of applesauce off the table and onto the floor. It might mean opening up the printer, pulling all of the ink cartridges out and throwing them on the floor. She likes to drop random items over the baby gate into the basement. This morning, she must not have liked her shirt, because she took it off and threw it into the basement. You know that scene in The Sixth Sense, where the little boy is sitting at the kitchen table and all of the kitchen cupboards and drawers are mysteriously open? Amelia does that at our house. Only she takes out all the pots and pans, mixing bowls, small appliances, potatoes... whatever she can get her hands on. Any bowl of popcorn, crackers, Cheerios, potato chips - anything really - gets shaken about and scattered around the room. If she takes a few bites out of a cookie, it's no good any more so she just drops it wherever she's standing. She loves those little Ritz peanut butter sandwich crackers, but if it's not constructed properly, it must be discarded. We actually have to pull all of the chairs away from the dinner table after we're done eating, lest she climb up there and dispense all of the salt and pepper, and disseminate the napkins throughout the land.

Now, keep in mind, this isn't like an occasional thing. I'm sure it's related to her autism, or whatever it is. This is what she does. This is her occupation, her raison d'etre. It's like a small but continuous natural disaster is occuring in our house. It's no more effective telling her "NO!" than it is to tell the wind to stop blowing.

I love my daughter more than the English language allows me to express, but man, I can't keep up with her! Lori was sick yesterday afternoon with a fever, and I got a full dose of Chaos Girl. After an hour of losing ground, I threw both kids in the bath, just to get a breather from all of the mayhem and destruction. Of course Amelia proceeded to take every last bath toy out of the tub and drop it over the edge onto the floor.

By bedtime, the house was trashed. I just couldn't keep up. I truly appreciate my wife's ability to deal with Hurricaine Amelia every single day. I don't know how she does it...

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Red Fox

These pictures are something like the grainy Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and UFO photos we've all seen a hundred times. I just wasn't quick enough with the camera to get a closer shot.

I think this is the third time we've seen this fox around our property. Before we moved here, I'd never seen a fox in the wild before. He came through at dusk, checked out the pond to see if there was anything interesting going on, ran up our driveway, and cut through the neighbor's horse pasture. Zippy (the horse) seemed very interested in making friends. The fox didn't seem too concerned with the horse, but he didn't linger either.

Hmm, I think he's been to visit enough that he needs a name. Or she...


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Afraid of the dark

Our son suddenly became afraid of the dark one day. It was like it hadn't occurred to him before then. I'm not sure what triggered it. We told him that it was okay to be scared, that lots of people were scared of the dark, but that there wasn't really anything to be afraid of. We told him that monsters were only pretend - that they were only on TV and in books. He accepted all this, but usually had to remind himself, "There's no monsters," if we were in the car after dark, or if the wind was particularly noisy at night.

The other night he asked to go outside. This is not unusual, as he pretty much wants to go outside at all times. But it was after dark.

I didn't really think about it at first, but after wandering with him for a little while outside, I asked, "You're not afraid of the dark anymore, huh?"

"No," he said. "There's no monsters."

"Yeah, monsters are just pretend, right?"

"Yeah, I threw them in the trash."


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Friday, March 24, 2006

Fermented Satan

We have a vermiculture habitat in our kitchen.

Okay, so it's a worm bin. We put our kitchen scraps in a little tiny trash can, and periodically, I put the scraps into the worm bin along with some shredded paper. The worms (and with a host of other micro-organisms) break down the scraps and turn them into worm castings (and more worms). Worm castings are fabulous for the garden, and it seems a better use of our kitchen waste than just dumping them in the trash.

Of course, sometimes I wait a little too long before I get the scraps into the worm bin. They start to compost in the little trash can. Not that this is a big deal, it just smells a little. Unlike a properly turned compost pile, the contents of the mini trash can are decomposing anaerobically. Translation: It smells bad. I go ahead and give it to the worms anyway. They're perfectly happy with slightly rotting vegetable matter, and after a day or less, they even magically take care of the smell. (The smell is pretty localized anyway.)

A few days ago, I realized the little trash can was getting full, so I made some room in the worm bin for the contents, shredded some paper, and added everything to the bin.

Whoa, what a smell. I guess it had been a while.

"It smells like Satan," I told my wife. "Fermented Satan." For some reason, she left the room at that point. I'm not really sure why.

The next day, I took the lid off the worm bin to check on them, and there must have been at least a couple hundred worms writhing at the top of the bin. They're normally pretty reclusive.

"I guess they don't like fermented Satan," said Lori.

Huh. I guess not.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mail order orchard

Wow, I just bought an entire orchard. It should arrive by mail in early April. I've got six different apple trees, two each of three different blackberry bushes, three blueberry bushes, two serviceberry bushes, a mess of strawberry plants, a chestnut seedling, clumping bamboo... I would have bought some cherry trees and peach trees too if they hadn't been out of stock. And if I can ever get the arbor built, I'll add grapes. I'd like to try some of the more uncommon nuts and berries, like gooseberries, currants, etc. And then there's pears and plums... But I think I've done enough damage to the bank account for now. I just hope the first week of April has some decent weather so I can get all this stuff in the ground!


Monday, March 20, 2006


We decided to get out of the house last Friday and go out to dinner. Nothing fancy - we have two toddlers - just a little change of scenery. So we drove up to Rooster's (our favorite wings on the planet). Now, if we'd thought about this plan at all, we would have realized that A) it was Friday night, and we were going to a favorite Happy Hour destination, B) it was St. Patrick's Day, and C) the NCAA basketball tournament was in full swing, and Rooster's is wholly infested with TV's tuned to sports.

Not being the type to think these things through, and not being the type to take hints, we forged ahead. We saw the parking lot was overflowing, so my lovely wife hopped out to check on the wait times. The next table that opened up was ours. Meanwhile, I had to find a place to put the car. I circled and circled and circled the building, hoping for somebody to leave. People with styrofoam boxes in their hands! Perfect. I'll just zip around the building and catch their spot on the way out... Of course, you already know that somebody else popped right in and beat me to it. So round and round we drove, like sharks in a tank at feeding time. Finally, I got a spot, right next to the dumpster. The rotting onion smell was almost enough to make my knees buckle.

So I got the kids out of the car and hustled them in. Surely all that time circling the parking lot put us closer to having a table. No, the people at the tables weren't even eating their food yet. So we waited in the foyer. The kids bounced off the walls, and pestered people talking on their cell phones.

After a good long while, a table finally opened up - and was promptly filled by a group of slightly sleazy looking women adorned in their cheesiest green apparel.

Wait, what about our table? What about being next on the list? They called our name, the hostess assured us. Yeah right. And we didn't hear because we were standing RIGHT NEXT TO HER! I'm sure those girls weren't her friends either, right?

So they managed to squeeze us in to a booth... right next to the bathrooms. That turned out to be convenient, since my son announced that he had pooped just as we got to our table. So I took him into the bathroom, nearly vomited from the sickly smell of his diaper, (what has he been eating?!?) got him cleaned up and dressed, washed my hands, and ducked around the corner to our table.

Five minutes later, he pooped again. This one smelled even worse than the first one. (Is there a doctor in the house?) My eyes burned and I felt woozy. The room swam a little. At this point I realized that I had used the last of the wipes for the previous biohazard, so I had to resort to flimsy restaurant toilet paper.

(Okay, I need to interject a rant here... Do restaurants and businesses really think that buying that super-thin toilet paper is saving them money? Don't they realize that people are just going to use three times as much? Frankly, when it comes to getting shit on my hands, I'm not into cutting corners. That's an area where I'm just not willing to skimp. Please, spend the extra 50 cents and buy the good stuff, okay?)

Sorry. Back to Rooster's. So now we finally get to order our food. The twice-requested booster seats have still not arrived. My daughter is in hyperactive hyperdrive, and my son is arguing about which sippy cup is his. My wife and I have now swapped sides, which upset the kids to no end. I just couldn't handle another round of toxic cleanup.

At long last, we get some booster seats, and some beer. Guess who immediately plunges her hand into my glass and spills it all over herself, the table, and her daddy....

What were we thinking?

The wings arrived.

And they were Good. So good, in fact, it was all worth it. And no, I'm not kidding.

We still had to go back by the dumpster before going home, just to make sure my nasal passages were abused to the maximum possible extent. It may have been worth it, but we will definitely think things through a little more before our next trip....

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Night Hawk

So here's something unusual. A hawk sitting at the table on my front porch...

My job occasionally (okay, all too frequently) makes me get up in the middle of the night. Most nights, I get up, and working through bleary eyes and a raspy voice, I fix whatever lame "emergency" has come up. (You'd think we were running life support systems, or missile guidance operations...)

But one night a couple weeks ago, I was startled to see this rather large raptor out the front window. That woke me up. He stayed for a while, unaware of, or at least unconcerned with, my presence. Even the cat walking into the room didn't seem to impress him. It was pretty dark even with the porch light on, but from what I could tell, I'm guessing it's a red tailed hawk.

The photo is blurry, and had to be brightened quite a bit in Photoshop. I imagine a lot has been lost in the upload too, but you get the idea. I was too lazy/sleepy/unmotivated to get out the tripod and get a proper picture in such low light. It's hard to feel like a photographer at 5 am when you had just gotten to bed at 2 am from the last "emergency."

Yeah, my job is not good. But at least on one occasion, I got the small reward of seeing a hawk up close.

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Sickle bar mower

Well, here's the sickle bar mower. As you can see from the background, it's a little wet. We got a few days of monsoon weather, and as I mentioned previously, we have some drainage issues.

Now I just need to figure out how this beastie works...


Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

I won! I got that monster out of the truck bed. It was a Rube Goldberg setup involving straps, chains, a propane tank as an anchor, a crowbar, a shovel, some plywood and fiberboard, a few scraps of drywall... It was ugly, and it was messy, but it worked.

Of course, within six hours, the truck was stuck in the mud so bad that we had to eventually call a tow truck. You'd think that a rear-wheel drive truck with it's rear wheels on packed gravel would have been able to pull the front end out of the mud, but I guess the engine was too heavy and the mud suction too strong.

And speaking of mud, I think we need to go off on a tangent here for a moment. We have soil that is mostly clay, but after being farmed for years, then graded after construction on our house, it's pretty pulverized. When it gets wet, it gets gooey. It gets sticky. It gets mucky. If you walk four steps in the mud, your boots will be twice as big as they were moments before. And if you were wearing shoes instead of boots, well, you may not get to keep them. If they don't get swallowed into the murky depths, they'll never be clean again.

The truck's front wheels were about eight inches deep into the mud when it got stuck. Now keep in mind, these are the front wheels, and the truck is rear-wheel drive. So it's not like they were spinning and digging themselves deeper. That was just from sinkage.

Anyway, the truck is out of the mud, and the mower is out of the truck. I'll post a picture or two soon.

Now for the next challenge: The Tractor.

I had it running briefly, but I shut it off and now I can't get it to start again. The initial problem was a dead battery. With the battery fully charged though, it'll crank and crank, but never really turn over. Spark plugs? Fuel problems? I'm just not sure.

I like to think I'm a fairly smart guy, but I am definitely mechanically challenged. I'm pretty sure I could learn what I need to know, I've just never been taught. And frankly, it's a hard subject to learn from a book. Believe me, I've tried.

Having said that, I guess it's not the smartest thing in the world to own so many old engines though, huh? I've got the tractor, which is a half-century old. I've got the truck, which has 230,000 miles on it (and it's a diesel). I've also got a Honda with 147,000 miles, and a Subaru with 92,000 miles. Of all the vehicles, we have one working A/C, and one working stereo (well, sort of... it resets itself when you shut off the car, so forget about presets, or keeping your place on a CD), and one hood latch that works properly. We've got dents, scrapes, rust, a busted taillight, mysteriously draining batteries... Even the tractor needs a new alternator.

Maybe I should take back the claim about being smart...


Saturday, March 11, 2006

My arch-nemesis

This post is about my arch-nemesis: A real villain that I can't figure out how to defeat. My formidable foe is over seven feet tall, weighs hundreds of pounds, has lots of nasty sharp teeth, and won't get out of my truck.

But let me back up a little...

We moved into a new house last fall, just as cold weather was setting in. Now, with winter winding down, I have a huge list of outdoor projects lined up. And I'm pretty sure I can hear Spring lurking in the woods nearby, waiting for its opportunity to pounce.... I really want to get a vegetable garden started, build a grape arbor to shade our south-facing windows in summertime (and to provide tasty grapes), plant a windbreak on the northwest edge of our property, plant a small orchard, do a little landscaping, take care of some drainage problems around the property...

So here's the real issue: Dependencies.

I don't want to order the grapevine from my favorite mail-order catalog until I'm sure I can get the grape arbor built. I can't build the arbor until I get the sickle bar mower out of the truck (more on that later), because I need the truck to transport the materials. I can't get the sickle bar mower out of the truck until I get the tractor started because it's too heavy to move any other way. I can't get the tractor started because... well, because I don't know what's wrong with it. The truck has something wrong with it too. It's batteries can't hold a charge. Something is draining the charge even when the keys are not in it. I even had a mechanic wire an on/off switch to the batteries, so that, theoretically, when the switch is off, the batteries are totally disconnected. (Keep in mind that this is an old, sad truck.) Too bad the switch doesn't work.

So how about another project? Fruit trees. What could be simpler? Well, I can't plant the orchard trees until I get the drainage problems worked out. I can hire somebody to fix the drainage problems, or dig some very long ditches and drop some drain pipe in them and hope I know what I'm doing. The first option reqires access to a fax machine so that the contractor can send me a detailed estimate for the various things I want to get done. Getting the fax machine ready is just a matter of figuring out our fax number. We use our second line for internet access as well as fax, and since we never use the fax machine, we don't have the number memorized. I'm not even sure if I have it written down anywhere at this point. Of course, hiring somebody costs more also, which would cut into money for another project. The second option requiers use of the truck, and as we established in the previous paragraph, that's a non-trivial requirement.

I could give several more examples, but you get the idea. I have the dominoes all lined up, but in most cases, one key domino is my rusty, toothy acquaintance in the truck. The thing only has one wheel. One wheel! How does that work? A farm implement that doubles as a unicycle?

So you're probably wondering why I bought a sickle bar mower. That's a very good question. I knew they were handy for very small scale haymaking. I got it off eBay for next-to-nothing. Unfortunately, the more I look at it, the more I poke at it, the more mystified I get about how it's actually going to do anything. Or how I'm going to get it out of the #@&% bed of the $@#% truck.


First post!

First, before anything else, thanks for reading.

It's a strange feeling to have no concept of who my audience is, or who I think it should be. I enjoy writing, but usually it's to somebody specific. Or at least about something specific.

This is a little different. This is just rambling. This is an outlet for my desire to write. I'm sure I'll talk a lot about my family, my hobbies, my interests.... but it will take some getting used to.

So here's my background. By day, I'm a database administrator. I live near Circleville, Ohio. In less than a month, I'll be transferring from a job that I hate (and I don't use that word lightly) back to a job that I used to love. The job is about an hour and a half away, but they're going to let me work from home four days a week. I hope it'll be as cool as it sounds.

By night, I'm primarily a dad. I've got a son and daughter, twins, who will be three years old in May. My wife stays home with them during the day, so I go on duty from the end of my work day until their bed time.

I'll save the more interesting stuff for the next post. Or the one after that. Well, if I keep at this long enough, I'll eventually get to something interesting, I swear...