Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Inimitable HannieC

The Mrs. has had her new minivan for not quite 5 days now, and HannieC has just managed to wreck the DVD player. Interestingly enough, in the exact same manner she managed to wreck the one we had at home about two months ago - by trying to load in a DVD, seeing that it didn't want to take it (cuz it was already full), and then just pushing really really hard until it went in.

HannieC isn't allowed to touch DVD players.

But she does anyways.

[Update: Two hours later, when The Mrs. returned with The Childrens, I got the extra disc out using two putty knives as pliers. The DVD player is working fine, and it doesn't look like I scratched the disc, either. Yup. I'm The Man.]

Friday, September 29, 2006

The old bait

and switch.

Today, I'm having a detailed technical discussion about the many options we have for implementing multi-VID on multiple power supplies with the guy who replaced StinkyJ when I changed sites, and my cell phone rings. I look. It's The Mrs. The Mrs. calls me for all kinds of inane reasons, so I've stopped interrupting my work to take her calls. Like the postman, if it's important she'll ring twice.

Like just Tuesday when she called to ask me where the hospital was, since she had to take HannieC there for a trampoline-induced injury. I don't actually know where the hospital is, but I know where the urgent care facility is, and I sent her there. By the time they had the x-rays developed, HannieC was jumping around and dancing. A false alarm.

I get the voicemail buzz, but The Mrs. does not call back again. Thus, not important. I finish up my discussion. When I check the voicemail (about 20 minutes later), I hear this message from The Mrs.
About half the men in the neighborhood are at home right now riding on their lawn tractors. You aren't.
I look at my watch. It's 4:45. The parking lot is almost empty at this time of day on a Friday. I'm still not used to that concept. But I figure, hey, The Mrs. wants me to come home and drive The Childrens around on the lawn tractor. Fine. That'll be fun. I head home.

When I get there, I find that the neighbor is parked in my spot in the driveway, and two of her kids are running around with my kids in the front yard. This does not bode well.

She and The Mrs. are engrossed in some conversation about the new minivan and the rear view camera that turns on and displays on the GPS screen when you go into reverse. Then she says, "OK. I have to go put groceries away. I'll be back." And she leaves. I came home to drive the lawn tractor, and now there are not just the normal two screaming childrens, but there are four. The Mrs. says, "I didn't want you to mow the lawn. I just wanted you to come home."

But wait, it gets worse.

The Mrs. decides to take MaxieC to go get the mail, leaving me in charge of three childrens, only one of which is mine. Happily, they are a pretty well behaved bunch, and all I had to do was explain the working of the ponds and pumps to the boy while drinking a Keystone Ice.

Then The Mrs. came back with MaxieC, and things got even easier.

Then the neighbor came back with a martini shaker in her hand. She and The Mrs. disappeared into the house, and came out with little glasses of something. The Mrs. then proceeded to instruct me that I was in charge of all four childrens so that she could sit with her friend by the waterfall and pretend they didn't have kids, since her friend had "brought happy hour with her." Naturally, at this point MaxieC decided he needed to go inside to watch TV, the girls needed to go to HannieC's room to play, and the neighbor boy had to play on the swingset. So I had to watch 4 kids in 3 locations whilst two perfectly able womens sat and drank something that came from a martini shaker. (The Mrs. now informs me the were lemon martini's.)

Yesterday was the second installment of Fat Camp, Mile High Edition (FC MHE), since the boys weren't capable enough to organize one last week without me. It was my 10th anniversary last week, and I figured I had better spend it at home rather than out drinking with the boys. Looking back on it, I'm not sure if that was the right decision or not.

I had an epiphany at FC MHE. That is that there are four things that when combined, really exceed the sum of the parts. The first two are an air hockey table and a tube top. Your going to have to guess what the other two things are.

I promised The Childrens we'd get an air hockey table if we moved here. Now, I'll have to get The Mrs. a tube top.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Yet another dimension of fun

Just when you think you can't get any happier...

This Sunday, day of rest, I tried out a new theory. That theory was that if'n I drank beer and smoked a cigar while mowing the lawn, it would be both inherently more fun, and it would keep The Childrens from interfering. So I snuck a stooge out with me when I went to the garage to fire up the tractor.

I still have to sneak stooges around, as The Mrs. always makes a big show out of coughing and disapproving if she gets wind of it ahead of time. I don't have to sneak the beer. To make the experience complete, and because it was sunny, I wore my NRA baseball cap that I got for donating money to their Institute for Legislative Action.

Now, this was slightly problematic. I normally wear my shooting ear muff hearing protection, as can be seen here. But, oddly, you can't wear shooting ear muffs and an NRA baseball cap at the same time. Not without it feeling ridiculous, at least. So I dug out my last pair of free SC9 test floor ear plugs (OSHA approved for working in noisy environment), and stuck those in my ears. This caused no end of disapproval from HannieC and The Mrs., as they couldn't see the ear plugs and had decided that I had thrown caution to the wind and had decided to wreck my lungs, liver, and ears all at once. When I finished mowing, HannieC came running over to yell at me, but I couldn't really hear her cuz of the ear plugs. I gotta get me some more of those. If you happen to swing by the test floor, maybe you can inter-office mail me a few. It's probably a better use of the internal mail system than sending poptarts.

Even if we do have poptarts here for only 40 cents a two-pack.

I gotta tell you, I'm pretty sure that mowing the lawn on your lawn tractor whilst drinking beer and stooging is one of the Great Joys in life. Theoretically, maybe not quite at the level of sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of naked lesbians, but certainly quite close. And without all the frustration.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oh, I almost forgot

During our test drive of the slightly lower-model Odyssey they had in stock, I flipped on the butt warmers for The Mrs. About 10 minutes later, she was sold. Damn fine butt warmers in the Honda.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

So Much Joy

So little gin.

Did you know that right now, you can get a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan with pretty much every option made for about $7000 less than a similar top-of-the-line '06 Honda Odyssey? I know this.

At this point, you're thinking one of three things:
  1. I'm not at all surprised that CherkyB knows this. He is, after all, a master of minutae.
  2. Oh dear God. The Mrs. is getting her new minivan for her anniversary despite all that.
  3. I wish blogger had some kind of crap filter on their "next blog" queue. My hand is starting to cramp up from all the clicking.
And you'd be right no matter which of these you were thinking. That's the great thing about being a regular reader of Me, CherkyB. You end up smarter. Not smart enough to generate all that much ad revenue, but smarter than the average bear.

After the trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, during which the old Montana shimmied and shook and generally made the kind of racket that 7-yr-old General Motors products are infamous for, it became apparent that we needed some change. So I began the arduous task of researching new minivans online. I had it narrowed down to the Grand Caravan and the Odyssey in a day or so. Mainly because I already knew I hated the GM products (minor sheetmetal facelifts of my 7-yr-old Montana, which was just a renamed 2-yr old Trans-sport model when we got it), the Kia, and the Ford. One of the joys of traveling with a family is that you get to rent a lot of different minivans and learn that you hate them all. Except I didn't hate the Grand Caravan.

As for the Toyota and the Honda, they don't show up in the rental fleet at Hertz all that often. All I really had to go by was numerous rides in Scooter's Lunchmobile, which is a previous-generation Odyssey, and one single ride to the safe store in StinkyJ's Toyota rental. And there is really no comparison. The Lunchmobile's seat warmers far outpace those of the Toyota, which were downright tepid in comparison. And, let me tell you, nothing settles Taco Bell better than a good butt warmer.

So I had it all narrowed down to two winivans, and I even had figured out all the option packages. The Mrs. got up Saturday morning all riled up for a new van. I hate when that happens. I talked her down off the ledge by telling her I needed to send email to the local Dodge and Honda dealers (two of each) to get some price quotes from the internet sales doods, since those guys always give you a better (or at least, easier) deal.

I fired off the emails, using the interface at for getting dealer quotes. This way, they know I've got the Edmunds numbers already, so they need to match that at least.

Then I learned that the email interface for to the dealers is retarded. You spend all this time configuring the car with the option packages you want, get the price, then click, "Get Dealer Quote", and it doesn't forward to the dealer any of your option choices. It just gives them make and model. Then the dealers email you back asking for option choices. Wow, is that ever stupid.

So I fired off the emails, and replied to those that got back to me right away with the options I was looking for, then I went out to clean the van so's we could get a decent trade-in. The Mrs., bless her heart, does not keep a very tidy van. I emptied out a giant box of junk, removed the seats, shop vac'd, cleaned the seats with leather cleaner, cleaned everything else with Meguiar's cleaner, and shampooed the floor mats. I never got to the windows. But it looked and smelled much nicer.

During all this, I had been running in and out responding to various emails, mostly from Dodge dealers. They found me one and only one van in the area (actually in Cheyenne, WY) that came close to the options I was looking for. Both dealers were trying to sell me the same exact van, as they provided VINs on their quotes. The Fort Collins dealer was a bit ahead of the Loveland dealer in price, and he also had an email response time of about 15 minutes compared to an hour for the other.

One of the Honda dealers called me in the middle of all this to see if I was interested in the thing he had in stock that wasn't the model I wanted. I sent him off to locate what I was looking for from another dealer, having already an email from the Greeley dealer saying he had one in stock. Since Honda makes roughly 5 configurations of the Odyssey, as opposed to the 3 models plus 20 different options on each of the Dodge, it's not hard to find the exact package you're looking for. The only thing you really need to search for is if you need a particular color.

In the meantime, The Mrs. talked on the phone to her mother. She talked for like 3 hours while I cleaned the van. During that time, her mother convinced her that she didn't want a minivan because they were unsafe in the winter and prone to rollovers. She came out and said, "I think I want something safer in the snow. Like an Xterra."

I see. minivans roll over too easily, so we should get an SUV? This is why you should never take car advice from you mother-in-law. Or from your wife, for that matter.

Once again, I had to explain to The Mrs. about how she could never possibly live without a minivan, and how minivans are perfectly safe in the snow.

Then, about an hour later, The Mrs. is fresh from another round of conversations with her mother, and demands, "The only thing I think we should consider is how safe the minivan is. I don't think we should look at anything else when deciding which one to get."

So I had to show her that inthe gub'ment crash tests, they were all identical. Then she started asking about safety features, and I had to admit that the Dodge did not have stability control available, whereas both Honda and Toyota did.

That little sentence cost me $7000.

Thanks a lot, Fat Moother.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My new hobby

I'm not sure it realy rises to the level of a hobby, but I've been spending a lot of time tonight searching out the quality blogs in blogger by clicking the "next blog" button. I've found that the people who have the most elaborate websites also tend to have little or nothing to say, whereas the people who use a prety much stock blogger template also have little or nothing to say, but at least the website isn't so distracting.

After a while of this, I figured I'd try out a new hobby. See, the way the "next blog" button works is that whenever someone puts up a post, they go to the top of the "next blog" queue. You come across an awful lot of blogs that say stuff like, "I decided to start blogging today." Little, one sentence posts just to try out the interface. My first post was one of those, too. But I quickly deleted it and posted some pap. Not really the quality pap you get today. That didn't really kick in until the third post.

So, anyways, since people who are just for the very first time trying out blogging are very unlikely to have installed that wonderful free code from statcounter that tells you if people are viewing your page (answer - yes they are, but they're immediately clicking "next blog" cuz they're really just looking for pictures of topless girls in the stands at world cup soccer matches), I figured I'd leave a little comment whenever I came across one of the maiden voyages. A little shock for the new poster. Then, I sit back and watch my statcounter log to see if I got any trackbacks from it.

Well, so far just the one. Someone in LA on, which is apparently a subdivision of Earthlink, since Earthlink owns the domain name. Can't tell which one of the blogs it was from, because of course no personally identifiable information is reported by statcounter. And, like all such junk traffic, it was a zero second duration visit.


Today, I told someone to go talk to BrainkyP, and the person said, "I will next week when he gets back from vacation." So, while I was researching if it was true that he had gone off on vacation, I had an epiphany.

Big giant head and bovine growth hormone are both abbreviated "BGH".


Monday, September 18, 2006

The Childrens are Soft

But before I get to that, let me tell you something funny HannieC said. We were up early Sunday morning so that The Mrs. could sleep in, and I was standing in the kitchen making coffee and HannieC was talking to me. All of a sudden, she just started stomping her feet in place. It was early, and my head hurt cuz I woke up with stuffed up sinuses. So I said, "We could do without the stomping." To which HannieC replied:
Well, you're just going to have to get used to it if you have kids. Kids tend to be on the noisy side.
Then, she started giggling and screaming, and she ran laps around the first floor of the house stomping her feet as loudly as she could.

Didn't wake up The Mrs., though.

So yesterday was the big day that we do our first touristy thing since moving here. We decided to go to Estes Park and then to Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is about an hour away, and Rocky Mountain national Park maybe 30 minutes from that. Our goal in Estes Park was to ride the aerial tramway. We stopped at the Visitors' Center (a very nice one at that), and The Mrs. got a little map with direction to the tramway. We drove about 10 minutes, and there it was in gigantic letters:

Aerial Tramway
Entrance behind this sign.
Closed for the season.

Rats. That pretty much kills everything there is to do in Estes park with two little childrens. So we wandered a little downtown until we found an eating establishment that had meat-smelling smoke pouring out of the chimney, and had lunch. I had the buffalo sausage. It was tasty, but not as good as pork, honestly.

Then we hit a candy store where we got about 4 lbs of candy. That was by accident.

The trip up into Rocky Mtn Nat Park was uneventful. We had decided to go to a lake called "Bear Lake" cuz the lady at the Estes Park Visitors' Center had said the kids would like it. We got most of the way up, and a sign told us that the parking lot was full and we'd have to park and take the bus. So we parked and took the bus. The Childrens love riding a bus.

While on the bus, it started to snow. The womensfolk got very excited about that. The Mrs. spotted it first, and then HannieC got all worked up about it. When we got off the bus at Bear Lake, there was even some snow on the ground.

HannieC immediately began making a pest of herself by throwing the snow at everyone else's head. This went on for half the walk around the lake. The trip around the lake is probably about a half mile or so. Exactly at the opposite side of the lake, both Childrens burst out into wailing and tears. They sat down and refused to move. They even refused to be carried. The reason?

They learned that their hands got cold if the kept grabbing snow without gloves on, and their hands were now cold, and they reused to put them in their pockets to warm them up because they don't like to put their hands in their pockets. So for like 15 minutes, the kids sat on cold boulders and hollered. People came by and gave us dirty looks for breaking the serenity of the park. Except one group of guys who looked the situation over, and then one of them said, "Are you folks having a good time today?"

Wise ass.

I told him The Childrens had just now learned that if they stick their hands in snow, their hands get cold. He said, "Well, the good thing is that's a lesson they only need to learn once."

Clearly, he's never met my childrens.

After much cajoling, I got MaxieC up onto my shoulders, and then I got him to stop crying by posing for stupid pictures with our arms outstretched and pointing at stuff. Then, that morphed into us doing the YMCA song (in stereo, I guess you could say). Then, of course, I don't know the words to the YMCA song, so I made up a lot of my own words. These mostly focused on all the things on the trail around Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Forest that you could pee on.

This kept MaxieC very interested. Later, he recited for The Mrs. all the things you could pee on. You can pee on a tree. You can pee on a rock. You can pee in the lake. You can pee on the snow. Etc. The Mrs. observed, "That's why it's important to have a daddy to teach you this stuff."

We eventually got HannieC moving (after The Mrs. tried to carry her on her back (as MaxieC refused to leave me for The Mrs. and neither child would allow me to carry both)) and made it back to the bus stop, where we sat on a nice worm bus for 10 minutes. Then we started the ride down the mountain, and The Mrs. gets a brilliant idea.

"Now that The Childrens are all warmed up, let's get off at the next stop and walk to the waterfall. "

I don't know why I accepted this plan, which was so obviously flawed. I think the altitude had gotten to our brains. But off the bus we got. We got from the bus to the trailhead, which was all of about 20 yards, when The Mrs. realized MaxieC didn't have his jacket with his hood on anymore but had the other jacket on, and it was windy at this stop. So she tried to put his hooded jacket on, and all Hell broke loose. He wouldn't put the hooded jacket on; he wouldn't put the other jacket back on; HannieC recalled that she wanted to go home, not hike around in the wind and snow.

I declared an end to the adventure, and we went back to wait for the next bus. There was lots of whining while we waited, but the nice park ranger talked to us, and that quieted The Childrens down.

On the way out of the park, there was a little herd of elk grazing by the side of the road, and The Mrs. leaned out the window and took a couple photos. She declared that it was the closest she'd ever been to elk in the wild. I, of course, was closer the one time I went elk hunting and had to stop to let a herd cross the road in front of me inside the residential subdivision in which we were staying. No shooting in the subdivision. That's the only time I got within a mile of an elk during the hunt.

I shoulda run one over.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Little Defensive, Aren't We?

The Mrs. read my last post, and rather than focus in on the hilarity of the "I love animals, too" line, instead she chose this tack:
I don't want you talking to college girls when you're at Fat Camp.
Like I was having some kind of long, drawn-out conversation. Like the fact that I made the poor girl flee in terror was actually some kind of come-on.

Today over dinner, however, she said, "I loooove animals," and then she cracked up. I myself still smile when I think of the line. It's a classic.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I Love Animals, Too

As CJ notes, we actually were able to organize and execute the first local Fat Camp, which he has dubbed the "Mile High Fat Camp". That got me to thinking how, if it were "Fat Camp, Mile High Edition", it would be "FC MHE", which makes a kind of funny license plate.

And a smashing success it was. It started out just like the old Fat Camp, with a confused person who had not been reassured for about 2 hours that Fat Camp was still on sending out an email asking if it was still on.

We made a last-minute decision to substitute a fellow CJ calls MoodyT for MoustachioP. MoodyT and I go way back, and he was even my boss for a couple weeks about 5 years ago. Plus, he's one of the few people in FC who has attended the original Fat Camp. I was a little worried that he would bring a too much happiness to Fat Camp, because we don't really cotton to happy people, but CJ assured me he was in an angry phase.

I'm not sure it's true. He seemed pretty happy. But it didn't get in the way.

MoodyT brought with him his little sidekick, Rico. For some reason, they frequently travel together. When I pointed this out and said that it answered a lot of questions, MoodyT said, "Like you and StinkyJ ever use to be seen apart," and then he talked about the number of earrings that StinkyJ had. So I think he's going to work out.

My lovely daughter, HannieC, also decided to get in on Fat Camp in the usual manner. She refused to take her bath and get ready for bed, as she knew The Mrs. had assigned me the completion of this task before I would be allowed to leave. So I wasn't able to leave until 5 minutes before I was supposed to meet the boyz at Fat Camp, which was 20 minutes away.

Right when I was driving up to the bar, looking for parking, CJ calls to ask if I'm still planning to come. That's an odd question, given that I had said a bunch of times that I'd probably get there a little after 9, and because the whole thing was my idea. The correct question would have been, "When are you getting here?"

But I find some parking in a garage that costs 50 cents per hour, and wander into The Crown Pub, where CJ, El Toro, MoodyT, and Rico are sitting there nursing their beers. Now, this was the first big difference between FC MHE and the old Fat Camp. Being only 15 minutes late, no one would have had their drinks yet at The Duke, as it takes a good 20-25 minutes to get a drink there. Plus, no one at the old Fat Camp was an on time person, so if I got there 15 minutes late, probably everyone would be calling me to order their drinks rather than already be sitting there.

Very slow drinkers, these fellows were. Obvious that they are jumping into Fat Camp without having trained for it. CJ even switched over to drinking water after just one beer.

El Toro, being an old old guy, started reminiscing about how he used to have lots of parties at his house where he'd drink a lot, and then told the story of why he hates BrainkyP again. Rico started referring to that timeframe as "The [BrainkyP] Era."

We hung around for a while, then everyone got excited to show me some nasty little bar called "The Town Pump". They wanted to show me the bar because it is the smallest bar in town, has off-color bumper stickers covering the wall behind the bar, and has an airplane-sized bathroom every square inch of which is covered in graffiti.

Well, it was quite a dump, but they oversold the smallness of it. It was probably about the size of my kitchen.

After that, we went to another place called something like "Tailgate Tommy's" because they had a rooftop bar that we could hear from down in the street was loaded with people having a good time. The name of the bar started up another round of discussion about MoodyT and Rico and their close friendship, but this quickly ended as we ascended the stairwell and were overcome by the distinctive odor of fresh vomit.

Ahh, the joys of a college town.

When we got to the roof, the place was packed with college kids, most of them wearing matching yellow T-shirts. They were all drinking from plastic cups filled with beer. We managed to wedge our way over to the bar to get some drinks. I think CJ had a Coke. I had a Jack and Coke. Someone corralled one of the young ladies in a yellow shirt and asked what the dealio was with all the shirts. Turns out they were all in some veterinary-related field of study, and they were celebrating the completion of their first exam of the school year. Then the girl kept talking. At some point, she says, "And I just loooove animals sooo much!"

So, naturally, I respond with, "Hey, I love animals, too. Though not necessarily in a way that is legal."

She got a horrified look on her face, turned around, and hustled away.

One of the great things about being married is that you can go out drinking and leave your game at home.

I'm not sure where my game is at home. It's probably in one of those boxes we didn't unpack that's in the storage room.

El Toro and CJ bugged out shortly thereafter. MoodyT, Rico, and I hit one more bar. A place called "Lucky Joes" that I hadn't been to in probably 6 years. The best thing I can say about Lucky Joes is that they have free peanuts. I never managed to get a drink there, but I didn't try very hard. I had hit my limit already. The guys kept saying, "There's a waitress here," but there obviously wasn't. There were just bar patrons, including a bunch of people in yellow T-shirts. I stuffed my face with free peanuts. Then it was time to go home.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

There's a Fire, There's a Fire

There's a fire in the middle of my oven.

I was able to order home warranty service today. Took them ~1 day to get me into the system. A day they charged me for but for which they did not provide service. I'd say they were cheating me there if, in fact, I weren't cheating them by having a bunch of stuff that was broken prior to the warranty fixed. They cheat me out of $1.51 worth of days of coverage, and I get a new range igniter and a fixed microwave for a total of $55 out of the deal. The guy had to order parts for both of them, so neither is fixed yet. But soon!

We're toying with getting the dryer fixed as well, or maybe just getting a new washer/dryer set. The ones we have now are 9 years old, and those fancy front-loading, high efficiency washers are awfully spiffy looking. I figure, I get The Mrs. one of those, and it'll be to her what the lawn tractor was to me. She'll spend all her time thinking of excuses to wash clothes.

So, the appliance repair guy told The Mrs. to run the cooktop's BBQ burner through the self-clean cycle in our oven. It was all nasty and caked with burned-on grease, and this is also what clogged the igniter. The manual does actually say to run it through the oven on self-clean to clean it, so this wasn't just some wacky idea the guy came up with. I put it in there a little while ago. Then I went off to do some stuff, and when I came back, it was flaming. Not gigantic flames, but little 4-6 inchers. I went to get The Mrs. to show her (and explain why the kitchen was getting a little smokey), but they burned out before we got back.

I've been sitting here at the kitchen counter watching it for about 20 minutes now. No more flames.

Tomorrow looks like it'll be the first Rocky Mountain Front Range Fat Camp. I learned from TommyO that he and Spanky are still having fat camp occasionally, so perhaps there will be overlapping fat camps. The one here is starting out small, but larger than the California edition started. We have three confirmed attendees: CJ, El Toro, and Me, CherkyB. We'll be out at The Crown Pub, which is the nearest FC equivalent to The Duke, excepting of course that one of the reviewers said they had good service, and no one would ever say that about The Duke.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fat Camp?

CJ thought it would be a great idea to port the Fat Camp concept from San Schmose out to Fort Collins. In keeping with official Company naming conventions, the Fort Collins Fat Camp would be called FCFC.

However, that sounds stupid.

In keeping with Fort Collins tradition, the stupider the better, so probably it would be called FC-squared, or 2FC, and then everybody would giggle and nudge-nudge-wink-wink and then not show up. But I've only been here a month, and my brain still remembers what it was like to have a full complement of oxygen, so to me it all sounds very stupid.

Now, as dearly as we all love CJ, his organizational skills are somewhat lacking. What started out as Fat Camp with The Depressives somehow almost immediately morphed into swinging by Old Chicago after work for a beer during happy hour. It was even being referred to as "Happy Hour at Old Chicago", and big spam email to practically the whole company was being readied.

See, for some reason, I had thought that since the only things CJ had known about Fat Camp he had read here, he was somehow clear on the concept. But I'm learning a lot more about CJ and clarity.

I bumped into El Torito towards the end of the day today (which is not difficult to do given that he is diagonally across the corridor from me, and thus all I have to do is turn my head a little to the right to look right at him), and asked him if he was in for Fat Camp on Thursday. He said, "What?"

CJ told you about it, right?


So I explained the concept of Fat Camp to him. He liked it. Said we should go to Old Town (which is what the locals call the old section of town down by the college where all the bars are). Then he said something quite funny:

"As long as we don't just end up at happy hour at Old Chicago. Everything always ends up like that, and it sucks."

I haven't checked with MoustachioP as to whether he has heard of the gathering and whether he can be counted on. MoustachioP is an interesting fellow, as he has a similar outlook on life to my own. I worry about his level of commitment, though. He seems to be quite a Family Man, which is problematic for Fat Camping. I'll have to chase him down tomorrow, which will involve crossing over to the other side of the building where they house the Delicate Geniuses (tm).

Without all three of those guys (CJ, El Torito, and MoustachioP), it's really not Fat Camp with The Depressives.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Spoke Too Soon

Today at lunch, MoustachioP asked me what broke over the weekend in the house. My house has become legendary for being, shall we say, unreliable in the mere 1 month (today!) that we've owned it. I responded that nothing had broken.

Tonight, I got home from work and was happily enjoying my dinner when The Mrs. casually says, "The microwave is doing something funny."

What's that?

"Well, when I try to cook anything, the timer just runs, but it never actually cooks."

Then, naturally, I spent the rest of dinner trying to get the microwave to work. It's very difficult to get a microwave to work if it doesn't want to. Pretty much, you can unplug it and plug it back in, and you can bang on it and curse. I tried the latter approach first with no luck. So then I tried the former.

Naturally, this is a built-in microwave, so unplugging it involved removing a number of screws (7) and pulling it out of the wall. That worked just as well as the banging and cursing, but it took much longer and was not nearly as satisfying.

So tonight I broke down and bought the stupid home warranty. I repriced it at the "under 5000" sq ft price, and that came in just a little over half the "5000-10000" sq ft price. I figure I can go by the California rule that you can only claim finished square footage (which puts me around 4950) and not total square footage (which is over 5000). I'll get the microwave and range burner igniter fixed for one deductible, and then the dryer fixed for another. At the rate stuff is breaking, I'll have the warranty paid for in about two weeks.

[Editorial Note: the middle of this post got lost. I am trying to recreate, but really the original cut was an irreplaceable masterpiece. It appears the root cause of the problem is that I used the less-than sign in my text, and that completely messed up the html editor which swallowed everything from that point until the next greater-than sign as as invalid HTML, which it discarded.]

Flash back to right before dinner. I had just come home, and I was looking over the mail when The Mrs. says to me, "You need to figure out what you want to drink with dinner." This is The Mrs.'s way of saying that she plans to get everyone a drink except me, and I can GFM. I used to be offended by this. I note we are having king crabs legs for dinner again, as for some reason King Stooper has king crab legs on sale for remarkably low prices every two weeks. I say to myself, "Self, what goes better with king crab legs than white wine."

So I schlep downstairs to my bar and grab a bottle of Chardonnay from Sonoma out of the bar fridge. I come upstairs, and The Mrs. has poured herself the remainder of the bottle of cab that she had opened yesterday.

See, about 3:00 yesterday, two of the kids from across the street came over to play with The Childrens. About 20 minutes later, their mom showed up. The Mrs. offered her a glass of wine, which she accepted, and The Mrs. opened up a bottle of Napa Valley Vineyard cab that I got on sale last week.

Now, somehow, the neighbors got the impression that I was some kind of expert on wine. This happened because I was telling the story about how I had planned to move all my alcohol through Utah without getting arrested, and I tried to drink through it all but only got down to 26 bottles, and then the movers packed it all anyways. I was telling this when we were over to their place for dinner a couple weeks ago. Somehow, this seemed to get understood as I had an extensive wine collection and was some kind of expert. I let that slide, since I didn't know these folks at all at that point, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to say, "No. It was 26 bottles of liquor."

So, I'm up in the loft gluing in the banisters for the loft area, which the builder had improperly installed and thus were removable, and MaxieC discovered how to remove them Sunday morning, and I'm watching the Packers get their butts kicked by the Bears on the big screen in the family room below, and the neighbor lady asks me to tell her what she's drinking, as she doesn't know much about wine. So I say, you're drinking a red wine that I got on sale at the liquor store that's to the left at the stoplight, and they have free wine tasting every Thursday and 10% off most wines during that time. The Mrs. gives me the third degree about how I already know where and when there is free wine tasting. Truth is, I showed up there at random on a Thursday after work, and there was free wine tasting, and then I got a "welcome to the neighborhood" coupon pack in the mail that included one from this liquor store touting their Thursday wine tasting and sale.

I imagine we'll all have to run down there on Thursday.

So, the womens sit at the kitchen breakfast bar and sip wine whilst The Childrens run around in the house. It was raining. But it then stops raining and The Childrens need to go outside. Fine. Out you go. The womens follow them out, ostensibly to watch them, whilst I complete the gluing exercise.

When I come out a little while later, I find the womens sitting on the stone benches that flank one of the water falls in the water garden. The Childrens are all screaming their heads off, but it seems to be just the general exuberance for life that childrens have while in the innocence of not being in that "every day I die a little more inside" phase of life we call marriage. I play with the dog.

I toss the tennis ball for him to fetch. After about 5 fetches, he decides he needs a water break, so he goes to the pond nearest the womens, sets the ball down in the water, and has a drink. The ball starts slowly drifting from shore.

I watch as the womens, not more than five feet away, completely ignore the situation. They are deeply engrossed in coversation. I waltz myself over there to retrieve the ball before it gets sucked into the skimmer. As I arrive, I overhear The Mrs., "...and they have this thing with lasers that makes it all tight like new again, and [CherkyB] is fine with paying for that."

I know what she's talking about. But I wonder why she's talking about this with a lady she only met 4 weeks ago and has talked to maybe 6 times in her life. Then she proceeds to start listing all the various types of things I'm willing to pay for. I cover my ears and run away.

Man, you get like one glass of wine into The Mrs., and she's quite a different person. Though, I've decided that it's a good idea to buy a house across the street from people you can drink with.

Anyways, The Mrs. has her glass of leftover red, and I am opening up the bottle of white. She looks over and, vaguely reminiscent of the egg salad incident, she says, "Oh, is that white? I'll have white instead of the red," and proceeds to take her wine glass filled with red and set it down at my place at the table.

I say, "But you already have red. What do you plan to do with that?"

The Mrs.: "Oh, you'll drink it."

Me, CherkyB: "What if I don't want red?"

The Mrs.: [blink]...[blink]...

So I had a glass of red before getting to the white.

I'm an enabler.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I'll Have the Egg Salad

This morning, we went to a Koi pond store to figure out just what in the heck we're supposed to do to take care of the fishies and the ponds. We spent quite some time there, with me talking to the guy working there and getting all the maintenance directions and chemicals and whatnot, and The Mrs. talking to the lady there and buying all new pond plants because the ones we had were not quite spectacular enough.

Oddly, she mostly just bought more of what we already had, because there are like 4 plants you can buy that will survive the winter without you having to bring them inside.

The Childrens hollered a lot, and then they discovered Fred, a 9-yr old tortoise, who lived in the back of the store. HannieC really liked Fred. MaxieC liked Fred for a while, then he wanted to look at all the pump equipment they had on their Koi holding tanks.

That's my boy.

When we got home, The Mrs. immediately set about some pond maintenance. She needed to play with her new plants. So, since it was already 12:40, I went inside and cooked up lunch. We had had Frenchie toast and bacon for breakfast, and The Mrs. had left the griddle attachment on our indoor BBQ range (a GE Jenn-Air knockoff). She hadn't even cleaned the bacon grease off. I spent some time wondering if I should fry something up on the bacon grease, but instead I cleaned it off.

I like to fry in butter.

For the kids, I made cheese quesadilla, and for The Mrs. and Me, CherkyB, I made grilled turkey, ham, and Swiss. I had it almost done when The Mrs. came in from the pond. She looked at the griddle and said, "Oh, you made lunch. We have egg salad. I'll have the egg salad."

I won't be making lunch again any time soon.

After lunch, The Mrs. puddled around (literally) quite a bit more in all three ponds. Then, she eventually came inside (where I had very patiently been watching The Childrens so that she could enjoy her puddling without screaming brats climbing all over her) and announced, "OK. I did my thing and had a good time. Now you can go do your thing."

So I went to mow the lawn. I got about 10 feet, and HannieC showed up all indignant that I hadn't told her I was mowing the lawn. So I shut down and waited for her to put on shoes and her hearing protection. Then she climbed up on the lawn tractor and we began to mow again. I got, quite literally - not exaggerating, about another 25 feet when MaxieC showed up all by himself. Now, he's only 2.5 years old, so I can't mow the lawn with him wandering around unsupervised, so again I shut down. I wander over to MaxieC just as The Mrs. shows up. I expect she'll whisk MaxieC away so that I can "do my thing", but instead she starts lecturing HannieC about going out front without telling her. Then MaxieC wants to ride the tractor, and The Mrs. tells him to climb up on it.

At this point, HannieC has a fit because she's only gone about 25 feet, and it's her turn. She and MaxieC start battling over the hearing protection. I'm thinking about how this fits into me "doing my thing."

I separate The Childrens, and The Mrs. distracts MaxieC and tricks him into going into the back yard. HannieC and I start up mowing again. It takes a long time, since she insists on driving much of the time, and she only drives in loopy-loops and tries very hard to only go over places she's already been.

I was sitting there today, working the pedals while she drove, and I realized I had the exact same feeling that I used to have when I owned a swimming pool. Those of you with pools may know what I'm talking about here. You get yourself a pool, and you pretty quickly realize that hiring a pool guy to take care of it is for suckers. It's a much, much worse deal than paying someone to mow your lawn, since it costs more and there's a lot less work involved. So, instead, you get yourself one of those "random path" robot vacuums.

Then, you spend half of every Saturday sitting in the backyard with a beer, watching the robot go around. It starts out as pure entertainment, but then you find you start to notice the spots it has missed, and you start to hope for it to hit those spots. Slowly, you get more and more emotionally involved in the spots it missed. You start getting excited when it heads for one. Then, at the last second, it veers off randomly to the side and just misses it. At first, you feel disappointment. Then, as it happens again and again and again, you start to get angry. Eventually, you're fishing the thing out and messing with the directional jet on the back to see if you can get it to hit that spot.

It starts out as fun and ends in frustration. That's what it's like to work the pedals for HannieC as she mows the lawn. She seems to get great pleasure of heading straight for a big patch of unmown lawn, and then veering off at the last second to completely miss it. Eventually, you take over the wheel. Then she gets bored and starts to fidget. Finally, she gives up in disgust and goes inside. Then the fun really starts.

Except you're left with mostly edging to do, which is not all that much fun.

Today, for instance, I managed to pick up a landscape border stake with the blade while going around the edge of the pumpkin patch. It stalled the engine. I got the stake out and restated, but something wasn't right. Upon investigation, I noted that the end of the blade was bent down at a 90 degree angle. Shoot.

I took the blade off. I think I could have bent it back, but the blade edge was pretty badly mangled. So I took HannieC off to Lowes and picked up a new set. $28. I only replaced the one, so now I have a spare.

I didn't take a picture of it.

I have some nice pictures taken by my former neighbors, C&D. Well, probably only one of them took the photos; probably D, as C appears in one of them that I have not posted. They're wonderful shots of my old house and what the flipper's crew has been up to.

Here, you can see how they've torn much of the wood trim off the front, removed all the windows, and cut a new window hole in what used to be HannieC's room in the front, left above the garage.

Oh, and they managed to set their dumpster on fire in the driveway, too.

By an incredible coincidence, the fire started right when the dumpster truck came to haul it away, so he was able to pull it into the street and save the house. Since he was there, the fire department had him dump the contents of the dumpster all over the driveway and street so they could extinguish the fire more easily.

I hope things go more smoothly in the future. Many thanks to C&D for the pictures and narrative.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Speaking of which

Why isn't there Fat Camp out here yet? Probably lack of organization skills. I'll have to discuss that with The Depressives tomorrow. All people seem to do around here is play in poker tournaments at various houses. And there isn't even any cigar smoking during them.

I wonder if there has been a Fat Camp in San Schmose since I left.

A Funny Story

I picked up HannieC from gymnastics at 5:30 Tuesday, as is my regular assignment. When we got home, The Mrs's minivan was not in the driveway.

Me, CherkyB: "Uh oh. Mommy's not home. I wonder where she is."
HannieC: "Let's drive the tractor around!"

That's my girl.

HannieC ran inside and got some normal clothes on, we hopped on the tractor, and started zipping around in the back yard. About 10 minutes later, The Mrs. drives up. We wave hello and continue driving. A few minutes after that, The Mrs. comes over to the gate and stands there looking angry. We drive over.

Me, CherkyB: "What's the matter?"
The Mrs. (hollering, waving her arms, and turning all red): "I've got groceries in the car that I need to put away, and you're out joyriding in the yard!"

I'm starting to like the tractor more every day.

Me, CherkyB: "I didn't know you had groceries. Why didn't you ask for help?"
The Mrs.: "You wouldn't have heard me."
Me, CherkyB: "Why didn't you wave? You could see me, and I could see you. You could have called my cellphone. I have it right here, and it vibrates. You could have walked back here and gotten my attention. Why did you just stand here and decide to get angry?"
The Mrs.: "I'm too busy to try to get your attention."

No, instead we chose the path of an angry glare, which is always so much more attention getting from 100 yards away. Whatever.

So I prepare to put the tractor away, and I have HannieC opening the gate so I can drive back to the garage, and The Mrs. asks MaxieC if he wants a ride. I figure she means a ride to the garage. He comes over, and I hike him up onto the tractor. Then HannieC closes the gate and she and The Mrs. wander off to put away the groceries, leaving Me, CherkyB and MaxieC sitting in the back yard on the tractor.

MaxieC: "Let's go fast Dad."
Me, CherkyB: "OK son."

So we got to joyride around while the womenfolk put away the groceries. I'm telling you, this lawn tractor is the best thing that's happened to me since the king size bed.

MaxieC even was able to steer some. He can't turn very sharply or very rapidly, but he can steer. We went mostly at minimum throttle, and he did almost all of the steering.

We got the general contractor's bid today to finish up the non-plumbing work in the shower. Added to the plumbing bill, it's almost exactly $7k. This is without painting or the purchase/installation of the new shower door, where the sub we had chosen for that was the same one this contractor uses, so he is letting that guy continue to deal with us directly. Included in the general contractor's bid is some fixing up of misc. other stuff throughout the house as well, much like the plumbing bid includes some upgrades and work on other fixtures besides the shower.

I priced a home warranty today. It was $800. The price jumps significantly when you cross the 5000-sq-ft boundary. I'm just over that, though finished sq-footage is less. I'll reprice tomorrow at <5000 sq ft. I doubt they'll measure. Then maybe I'll get a bunch of the windows fixed and the stove igniter. And the dryer, which stopped working quite as well after the move.

I got the big news that I have to go back to my old site for a day long retrospective of the last project in a couple weeks. I may have to stay there two nights, as there is only one flight back that is late enough that I won't have to leave the retrospective early, and that one gets me back home at like 1am. It's also $80 cheaper for the flight if I come back the next morning, which will offset much of the cost of the extra night in the hotel. I had to get third-level management approval to go on the trip, as we're in cost-cutting mode even more seriously again, what with all the layoff and everything.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Where to start?

I suppose I should start at the top, the master shower. Dave the Plumber came back on Friday to demolish the floor of out shower. The old floor pan was made of some very heavy conglomerate, and he had to bust it up into a bunch of small chunks to get it out. He also took out the door and part of the wall (into which he will install the 4-head body wash system. After the floor pan was out, we could survey the extent of the damage. Looks like the water leak in the corner was fairly localized, which maybe 2 sq. ft of area affected. Also turned out the other three corners were leaking as well, one nearly as badly. Now, I'm trying to figure out if I need to take out the walls completely, or if this mess is patchable without causing even more leaks. There's a tile guy coming on Tuesday to give his opinion, but I'm kind of at this point leaning towards calling in a general contractor as we are now dealing with a plumber, a tile guy, and a glass guy (for the door), and no one yet has signed up for the drywall.

The plumbing work by itself is a little over $4k. Tile should also end with a "k".

Yesterday, we went to Best Buy to get a new TV. See, the new house has a lot more family rooms, so we need another TV. Our old 32" tube TV was just a mite too big for the built-in entertainment center thing in the upstairs family room, and we planned to stuff it in the entertainment center in the basement family room, which was the one we bought for it when we had first gotten the TV about 6 years ago.

Now, normally, I know that Best Buy isn't the most fun place to buy stuff. It's frequently hard to get any kind of service there. But I have one of those Best Buy Rewards Cards, and they keep sending me coupons. This time, it was a coupon for 12% off TVs (among other things) for this weekend only. The one thing I like about Best Buy is they usually have pretty good prices. And, hey, they're easier to deal with than Circuit City.

We wandered around the TV section a bit, looking at all the different kinds of TVs: plasma, LCD, tube, and projection. A guy named Jeff came over and asked if we needed help. And we did. We spent a long time chatting with him about the various types of TVs and their advantages and disadvantages. It seems if you want a plasma TV that is guaranteed not to hum at high altitude, you have to get a Panasonic, which are guaranteed to 10000 ft. But Panasonics start at $3k, and I was determined not to spend more than $2k.

That price range puts you down into the 32" LCD range, but nothing in the 32" LCD range looked too good to me. I didn't really like the pictures. Then, we ended up over at the DLP projections. Man, those are a much better deal. We got a nice Samsung widescreen HDTV, and it was only $1425. Then, we needed to get a new DVD player to go along with it, since HannieC had stuffed a sixth DVD into our 5-disc changer right before the move and totaled it. Our buddy JeffE suggested the matching Samsung DVD because it will hook right up with HDMI and will do "upscanning", which is kind of similar to the old scan-doubling from when projection TVs first came out. It interpolates extra lines that aren't on the DVD to make the image look smoother. It does look awfully, awfully nice playing DVDs. It makes the DirecTV signal look really lousy by comparison. An HDMI cable, however, turns out to cost $90. Sheesh.

Now all the fun started. I had a 12% off and a 10% off coupon. I told him I wanted the 12% off the TV and the 10% off the DVD. I also had the cable and another, cheapo (<$40), DVD player for the basement. He rang me up, I asked if the coupons got applied correctly. He said yes. You can't see the screen at Best Buy, only the total. I paid, he gave me the receipt and went to get a cart. The Mrs. told me to check the receipt. I looked. Why was 12% of $1425 only $72? And why was 10% of $98.99 $11.87? Clearly, the 12% went on the DVD and not the TV. But what in the heck went on the TV? It wasn't the 10%.

So JeffE comes back, and I tell him the coupons didn't work right. He says, yeah, one of them keep beeping at me, so I kept doing it until I finally took.

Well, it only did 5%, not 12%. That's $100 difference. I want my $100.

But we've already run the credit card through. I'll have to post-void it. I need a manager for that.

Just then, a customer service rep comes by, and he tells her the story. She tells him to post-void it, and give me 12% on both the TV and DVD for my inconvenience. But he'll need a manager to sign authorize the post-void.

Just then, a manager walks by. He gets the story, and he authorizes the post-void. Then he sticks around again to watch JeffE re-ring up the transaction. This time, I want to see the screen, so I'm leaning way over the counter to try to read the screen, but I can't. He rang up the TV by itself, cuz he couldn't do the 12% twice on the same ticket. He gives me my total, which is in the high $1300's. I say, are you sure it took 12% off? That should have been around $170. This seems like it took off less than that. He says, "It was a $1400 TV and it rang up at $1300, so yeah, it took it off." I said, "It was 1400-what?" He says, "$1425." I say, "$170 less than $1425 is less than $1300. How much did it actually take off?"


Now, the manager is standing right there, and he's going, "Yeah. This is wrong. Where in the heck did it get $103 from?" Just then another manager wanders by, and JeffE asks him if he knows what the computer is doing with these 12% coupons. The other guy says, "Yeah. It's giving random smaller discounts. I don't know why. I've had to manually override those coupons on every TV I've sold this weekend."

Well, it's nice that you told your employees about that problem. It's not like every damned TV in the store doesn't have a sign on it with a picture of the coupon telling you to download it from the Best Buy website to save 12%.

This is a scam, is what it is. For people who can't compute 12% in their head.

The nice thing is that JeffE and this other manager guy seemed to really want to fix it. But there was a lot of paperwork involved with first the post-void and then the manual override of the discount. We got through all that, got the right price in there, and I swiped my credit card again.

The card did not authorize. I was well below my credit limit, even considering the void of the first transaction hadn't yet happened, as credits take an extra day generally. JeffE calls the phone number for an authorization. The connect him to fraud prevention. He explains the whole thing. Then they need to talk to me. Then to him again. Then they finally give him an authorization code. We are now, mind you, about 20 minutes after I bought this TV for the first time, and we haven't rung up the two DVD players or the HDMI cable yet.

I use a different credit card for those.

Our neighbor across the street came to help me move the old TV downstairs and the new one into the family room. The new is is so much lighter than the old, despite being a 42" widescreen and the old being a 32" 4:3. I hooked it up with the new DirecTV tuner, as I had taken the old tuner downstairs with the old TV since its remote was already programmed for that TV and VCR, and I don't have any idea where the programming manual is for it. This is when I learned that the DirecTV guy had not actually activated the new box, despite saying he had to. This was nice, as there was no TV on it. But now I had to call DirecTV to get it turned on, and it was already mighty late given all the shenanigans at Best Buy (I didn't even talk about how the TV box didn't fit in the back of my truck with the camper shell on).

The thing I love about DirecTV is their responsiveness. Took about 30 seconds to get a person, and it took her maybe 3 minutes to get me activated. This is not the cable company.

Hmmm...I skipped over bar stools.

A few days ago, The Mrs. had called me at work to ask where there was a public library. It went like this:

Me, CherkyB: "I don't know."

The Mrs.: "Can you look it up on your compooter?"

Me, CherkyB: "You have a compooter and internet at home. Two even. I'm at work now."

The Mrs.: "It's a lot easier for me to call you at work and have you look it up than it is for me to try to look it up here, what with The Childrens and all."

Me, CherkyB: "Sigh. Hang on... 720 3rd St in Windsor. Go down main, and turn right at 3rd."

The Mrs.: "Is it right or left of main."

Me, CherkyB: "Right. Turn right on 3rd. It's to the right. There are railroad tracks to the left. You can only turn right."

The Mrs.: "Right as I'm going? Or right as I'm coming back?"

Me, CherkyB: "720 3rd St. Go down Main, turn right on 3rd. Go to 720. It'll be the library. I'm at work now."

The Mrs.: "Fine. I was just asking. "

A little while later, the phone rings.

Me, CherkyB: "Yes, ma'am."

The Mrs. "I'm on 3rd Street, but I don't see a library."

Me, CherkyB: "Did you go to number 720?"

The Mrs.: "I haven't seen a number yet. I'm right on the corner. But I found this great bar stool store. We're in it right now. They have all kinds of bar stools. And pool tables, too."

Me, CherkyB: "Well, the library is at number 720. Hmmm...there's a park in the middle of third street that you have to go around to get to 720. So go right at the park, then left on"

The Mrs.: "Yeah yeah yeah. I can find my way around a park. You don't need to tell me how to do that."

Me, CherkyB: "Then how come you can't find #720?"

The Mrs.: "Cuz I'm in a bar stool store, and I haven't looked for it yet."

Me, CherkyB: "Then why did you call telling me you couldn't find the library?"

The Mrs.: "I called to tell you I found a bar stool store."

Me, CherkyB: "Then why did you open with you didn't seen any library?"

The Mrs.: "Fine 720. Be like that. I'm going now. "

We went back to the bar stool store yesterday. HannieC had picked out bar stools for my bar. She was very proud of herself. I looked at al the bar stools. The one she picked out was the best. It wasn't the most expensive, either. Though not by all that much. They had one in stock, and we had to order two more. So I sit an blog from my new, cushy, swivel bar stool.

Today, The Mrs. got on me about the windows, and how I hadn't tried to fix them yet. I really wanted to use the windows in the eat-in portion of the kitchen, so I got out the little "E-clips" I had bought at Home Depot a couple weeks back, and got to work. I was able to fix the first window very rapidly with a 1/4" E-clip. The second window took a little longer, and required a 3/16". The post that was missing its clip was a little hard to get to on that one, plus it was hanging down rather than pointing up, so I had to hang my fool head out the window upside down to see what I was doing. But I got it fixed and headed up to MaxieC's room to look at his windows.

It's strange, given that the house is only 8 years old, that about 80% of the windows don't work. They're a brand called "Hurd", which I never heard of. Pardon the pun. Apparently, a Wisconsin outfit. Reviews on the web are kind of middle-range, so maybe the fact that the ones I have are complete crap is an anomaly. Or perhaps, it's just my bad luck.

I can't rule out that it is some kind of message from God, either. See, the guy who quit out here whose job I now have had Hurd as his last name.

Up in MaxieC's room, one of the windows seem to be OK. The other has a gear-alignment problem, where the crank gear has about 1/16" of vertical play in it, and it slips off the window arm gear when you turn the crank. This really needed something like a 1/2" E-clip, I think. But I improvised and jammed a washer in there for now to take out the play and keep the gears aligned. It's a temporary solution, but the window works fine.

The Mrs. did report to me just a few minute ago that the window I said "appeared fine" didn't close far enough to be latched. I got it latched. You just have to work the latch up and down a couple times. It closed much better than this in the morning when the sun was on it.

I have about 2o more windows whose cranks are not on them, and thus far every one I have inspected has been broken. I'm going to have to go buy a bunch more E-clips. But I have working windows in the master BR, MaxieC's room, and the eat-in kitchen spot. I think HannieC already has two working windows, but I'll have to check again. This'll cover most of the windows we'd ever need to open. Nights are nice and cool here, and so most nights when the wind is blowing so you can't smell Greeley, it's awfully nice to have them open and shut off the A/C.

Which brings me to my favorite part of tonight's story: The Magic Waterfall.

I was out in the back yard looking at the two little ponds. What got me to thinking about the ponds was that one of them was making the pump-sucking noises of needing to have water added. In that one, the water has turned fairly murky, and the other was on the verge of going south. I wondered what in the heck I was supposed to be doing for pond maintenance besides adding water every couple weeks. I knew that I was supposed to be taking chlorine and pH measurements, but I didn't have the gear for that. All the guy left me was some algaecide and some pool shock. I threw in a bunch of both.

Then I said to myself, "Self, maybe you ought to clean the filters."

So I opened up the first one and found all kinds of nifty stuff in the skimmer. Like bark, pine needles, and a disposable cleaning wipe. Then I went to the second skimmer, and I noticed that it wasn't skimming. Hmmm... I got to thinking about if I had ever seen it run or not. I wasn't sure. That pond had two of them, one at each end, and I couldn't remember if this one ever worked. But, I used my learnings from the previous waterfall problem, and I went inside and turned on all the switches that didn't seem to do anything. Still nothing.

So I set out to debug. I started following the cord back from the pump, but it was buried in the ground and I quickly wasn't able to track it. I went to the hole in the deck behind the grill (a hole which is there because a board was ripped away and broken off, but which also provides the only access to 6 electrical outlets that run the ponds, the timer that runs the LV lighting in the back, and the gas shutoff for the grill. So you kinda wonder why an access panel wasn't put there instead of a built-in bench. Oh, and the framing for the built-in bench is also all charred from being on fire in that same spot. Perhaps some heat shielding between a wooden bench and a built-in BBQ was in order?), and I started unplugging things and checking the outlets for power with my handy-dandy outlet tester. Everything had power. So I started to try to follow the wires as they went off under the deck towards the ponds, but again they all headed underground fairly quickly.

So I got to thinking again. "Self, you have no idea which of these 4 wires you should be following. Wouldn't it be smarter to work back from the pump rather than forward from these four outlets?"

"Why, Self, I believe it would be."

So I started moving rocks. From poking around before, I learned that whoever did most of the landscaping in and around the ponds liked to hide stuff behind and under rocks. Like electrical boxes will have landscape rocks piled around them, hiding them. So will flow valves. I got a general feel for where the pump cord was heading, and then I went to the next pile of rocks in that diection and started moving the larger ones.

Bam! There was the pump cord, coiled up and plugged into a yellow, outdoor extension cord. I got out my handy-dandy outlet tester, and the extension cord tested dead. I wonder what it's plugged in to?

I start pulling up the cord, which is also buried in the dirt. It heads not towards the deck, but directly away from the deck. It goes under the grass. Odd. It's heading for the little landscape patch where the pumpkin patch is. Ahh, but the pumpkin patch is in one of these little aborted ponds that sits now without a pump and collects rain water to breed West Nile mosquitos. I have two of these. I wonder if there is power over by that abandoned pond, and this is plugged in there. I go start removing rocks. I find yellow extension cord. I go a little further, I find the end of the yellow extension cord not plugged into anything. But I also find an electrical outlet box lying on the ground (just like all the others). I open it up.

Yikes! There's a wasp in there. I close it up really quickly and go get the wasp spray. Foaming wasp spray that lays down a foam coating so that the wasps can't try to fly after being hit. I hit him. And his friend. I wait a bit. I check for dead. They're dead. I had also retrieved my inductive line tester that glows when you hold it next to something with live AC voltage when I got the foaming wasp spray, and I held it next to the line feeding the outlets. It glowed. I put it into the hot hole of the outlet (the narrow slot), and it didn't glow. I figure, "Rats. The outlet is bad." It's a GFI outlet, and they go bad a lot. On a lark, I put it in the common hole (the wider slot), and it lights up. Oh. Not a bad outlet. Wired backwards. I plug in the outlet tester to make sure. Yup. Red, yellow, off. Hot and common reversed.

Easy enough to fix. I go unplug a cord from the under-deck outlet bank, and as luck would have it, it was the right one on the first try. Hot dog. I go to start unscrewing the outlet cover, and a wasp wanders out. I flip the lid over, and the whole thing is one giant paper wasp nest. How could I not have noticed that? I drench it with foaming spray. About three more wasps crawl out, dying. I wait a bit. Then I clean off all the nests and start to work.

When I get the outlet out, HannieC has arrived to observe. I do one of these:

Me, CherkyB: "Hannie, what does it say right here?"

HannieC: "Black."

Me, CherkyB: "What color is this wire?"

HannieC: "White."

Me, CherkyB: "And what does it say over here?"

HannieC: "White."

Me, CherkyB: "And what color is this wire?"

HannieC: "Black."

Me, CherkyB: "You see, Hannie, hooking up an outlet is pretty easy. It tells you where to put each wire. You just have to read it. The person who did this was too lazy to follow the directions."

I switched around the wires, re-assembled the outlet, and plugged in the yellow extension cord. The pump came right on.

Later, I was standing on the deck looking out over the ponds, and I noticed something. "Hey. There's never been a waterfall there before!" Yes, hidden beneath a pile of rocks and some overgrown vegetation was a second waterfall in the big pond. That's what this pump drove.

Wow. Now I have three waterfalls in the back yard.

Its been a while

I've been lax in my posting over the last week. I'll get a big new post up tonight, I think. It'll cover the following topics:
  1. The current state of the master shower.
  2. Bar stools
  3. Our new television
  4. Window repair
  5. The magic waterfall
  6. A plug for Ellie's (AKA The Sister's) new blog
  7. Why dows my lawn tractor have a Wisconsin engine in it when it's supposed to be Swedish?
  8. Does my house have a carbon monoxide problem, or is it just me?
I don't have time to write much right now, as I need to help put The Childrens to bed.