Monday, December 31, 2007

DrinkPact #5 - Water Torture

I was sooo happy to hear that one of my cherished readers has been sampling the DrinkPacts that I even was able to overlook the blatent ripoff of titling a post "never blog sober". I was also inspired to give you the final DrinkPact of 2007 (or the first of 2008, depending on when you log in).

We have guests coming over at 10am tomorrow morning, so it's very important that I try to minimize the hangover potential of the drink. Though, truth be told, if you don't get a hangover, you're not really trying. The key to avoiding a hangover, besides hydration and vitamin B12 (and, you know, sipping like a wuss), is using nothing but clear liquid. And thus is born yet another masterpiece. Or something.

Water Torture

1 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Puerto Rican Light Rum

Stir with ice and garnish with an olive.

Drinker's Impressions:

It tastes surprisingly like gin, which is almost something you might consider a damned shame given that nasty pine-needly taste of gin. Except that the dilution of the vodka and the rum take the edge off the strong gin flavor. I think it very important that a quality gin is used here (I'm using Bombay Sapphire). There is just a delicate hint of rumminess in the drink, and that defines the finish so nicely.

I wonder how it will go with champagne later tonight.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I know, I know

I only have two days in which to post the New Year's Drinkpact. I wanted it to be champagne-based, but as it turns out, champagne is expensive. And you're kind of committed to drinking the whole bottle once you open it because it's hard to reseal due to the pressure. And I drank that bottle on Christmas and forgot that I was supposed to experiment with recipes. So now I just have the one bottle, and tomorrow is Sunday, so I can't get another until Monday when it will be too late.

I may have to experiment with it tomorrow.

Or, perhaps, have a drink recipe that uses the next best thing - rye whiskey.

Not that any of you care. You never try my drinks. It's as if you fear my genius.

Something is very wrong with me

I don't know what it is. It's always on a weekend when something is wrong. Doctors are closed on weekends.

I was outside in the driveway using My Beloved to clean up the snow that the plow had piled at the end of the driveway as well as the roughly 1/2" more that fell after the last time I ran My Beloved over the driveway. Then, I got to thinking, "I wonder if The Mrs. is jealous because I call the snowblower My Beloved? I wonder if she thinks it's mean?"

I hope to be back to normal soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

You'd think

that by now I'd have something to say.

I don't.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In the World of MaxieC

The Mrs. put out on the coffee table a bowl of Christmas nuts. Christmas nuts, you say? Yes. An assortment of nuts: walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, something that looks like acorns without the tops (possibly Barcelona hazelnuts), and pecans. In the shell, of course, as that's what makes them Christmasy.

MaxieC dragged me over there to eat them, as he finds them fascinating given that he can rarely crack one open even with the nutcrackers. He didn't actually want to eat any himself; he just wanted to watch me open them and eat them.

Well, eating Christmas nuts is thirsty work, so by and by I said to MaxieC, "Hey, I need a beers. In the fridge in the garage, on the door, there are bottles of beer. Can you bring me one?"

He dashed off, quite happy, as he recognizes that fetching me a beers is a task generally handled by his older sister. Thus, it is a badge of honor and big-boyhood to be trusted to fetch a beers. And not just a can of beers, but an actual glass bottle.

He came back all excited with the beer in one hand and the opener that hangs on the wall next to the garage fridge in the other.
"Look Da! I even brought you the opener from the garage so you can open it!"

"Thanks, son. You know, I have an opener in my pocket, as all men do, so it wasn't really necessary to bring it. But that one works much better, so thank you for thinking of it."
I quickly release my Isolation Ale from its cold prison. Than I hand MaxieC the opener and say, "Can you put this back, now? Oh, and you can keep this bottle cap. Here, I'll put it in your pocket for you."

I stuffed the cap into the pocket of his overalls. And then, out of nowhere, my son was transformed. He get these big eyes, like he'd just seen the real Santa Claus, and he said in a voice of wonderment, "Wow Da! It's like a dream come true!"

Then he went running off, "I have a beer top pocket! I have a beer top pocket! ..."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Listen All Of Y'all It's A Sabotage

MaxieC got a Spy Master kit Thursday. Yet, for some reason, it makes me think more of The Beastie Boys.

This is annoying

The laptop that The Company provides me I use as my own compooter when at home so I don't have to fight with The Mrs. for the desktop system and so that I can log in to work to check email and IM with work people. I also do most of my blogging from it cuz I'm right there. Well, on Wednesday night, the backlight control decided to flake out. Now, whenever the compooter gets warm, it shuts off the backlight and I can't see the screen anymore. I have to do a standby and let it cool off for about a half hour, and then the screen comes back. I've learned that if I set all the power management features to absolute lowest power levels, I can keep it up about 45 minutes.

I tried to get the IT guy to swap the hard drive into another body, but these are being end-of-lifed, and they're dropping like flies. Can't get the chassis anymore. So instead I get issued a brand new compooter. But the Windows build failed on it Thursday night, so I couldn't get it Friday like I was supposed to. I get it Wednesday instead. Then, I imagine, I spend most of Wednesday migrating files and installing software.

Blogging is so much more dangerous now, knowing that at any instant it could cut out on me. Happily, [Gaaa!!! I just lost the screen. That only stayed up for 5 minutes.]

Happily, blogger autosaves every minute or two, so when the screen cuts out, I just sit a couple minutes, then complete the post from the desktop compooter. As I am doing now. I could hook up an external monitor, but that would be a royal pain to dig the 17" CRT out of the storage room. Especially at Christmas time when the storage room is like a war zone of wrapping paper and ribbons and secret secret stuff squirreled about.

I completed the re-lighting of the kitchen cabinets today, right on schedule. It required a quick trip to Ace hardware to pick up a couple 1/2" knockout wire grommet thingees. Those are the little plastic jobbers that go in the knockout holes to keep the bare sheet metal of the light chassis from cutting into the wire running through the knockout hole. I had been scavenging the ones on the old fixtures, but when I got to the second-last one it didn't have one (code violation!). I bought two, just in case the last one also didn't have one. And it didn't.

I learned why the light fixture over the cooktop only had the left side working. The wire that powered the right side was not hooked up. It was just sitting there, happily, like the day it was born. I couldn't find any indication that it had ever been hooked up as the stripped conductor tip was nice and smooth and didn't have the the thread bites in it from the wire nuts that everything else had when I unhooked them. Odd.

The dimmer switch (a Lutron Faedra) is fancy-schmancy. When you turn it on or off, it ramps the light level up or down, respectively, rather than doing it abruptly. And it had little LEDs that tell you how high it is set. When The Mrs. saw it hooked up to all the new lights, she said I was "pimping our kitchen."

I've been practicing the guitar again. I know you're all very happy to know that. I had let it go roughly since we moved, but this week I was sentenced to sit next to HannahC in the office while she did her homework. After a couple days, I decided there must be something better for me to do during this time than play Bubble Shooter. So I brought up my favorite guitar and a couple songs that I had once kinda learned though not at full speed, and I started re-learning them.

Now my finger tips hurt.

Tomorrow, HannahC and I will run out for some last-minute Christmas shopping. Not much. Just a couple quick things.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Let there be light!

The Mrs. finally, finally, finally allowed me to begin the kitchen cabinet re-lighting adventure. As with all adventures, I headed off for Lowe's with MaxieC in tow. MaxieC doesn't like to shop very much, but we bribed him with a Tootsie Pop that he could eat only while sitting quietly in the cart.

But let me back up - the kitchen cabinet re-lighting adventure involves replacing six under-cabinet light fixtures of which only two have worked correctly since we bought the house. The ones in there are cheap, contractor-grade mini-fluorescents that are in pretty rough shape. The previous owners left us a box full of starters for these, which was our first clue to the problematic nature of the lights. In fact, we didn't even know most of the lights existed until quite some time after we bought the house, given that most didn't come on when you turned on the switch. When I discovered the lights, I managed to get one and a half more of them working (total of 3.5 of the six), but then the half gave up last week (the one over the cooktop).

Some of the fixtures were missing diffusers, one had the starter somehow melted and fused in there. This was not worth salvaging. I decided to replace everything.

Fast forward to Lowe's - everything is crap. Some of it is as cheap crap as what is in there already, and some is nicer, but the nicer stuff is not designed for hardwiring. It is designed for plug-in wiring and requires an external junction box, where you snip off the plug and wire that to the box, in order to hardwire. F- that. I did manage to decide I wanted Xenon, as opposed to halogen or LED, based on their selection. Fluorescent was already off the table.

So MaxieC and I headed to The Home Depot. The Home Depot managed to make the stuff at Lowe's look good, though they did have a number of fixtures designed for hardwiring that were marginally better than what I had. Only fluorescent, though.

I said to MaxieC, "Well, son, it looks like a trip to a lighting store is called for."

He said, "No. I want to go home."

I drove to the lighting store (which was on the way home), but he still insisted he wanted to go home. Now, a lighting store is not a particularly good place to take an angry, betrayed 3-year old boy. I guess maybe an antique store or the proverbial china shop might be worse, but a lighting store has got to be up there in terms of the kinds of places small children can do thousands of dollars in damage very rapidly.

So we went home.

Later, I headed out to the lighting store by myself. The Mrs. said, "You're going out in this weather?" She is intimidated by virtually all weather. It was clear and dry, but we had a bit of wind. I'm not actually afraid of wind. Not wind of the 20mph with gusts to 40 kind, at least. Hurricanes and tornadoes I try not to go shopping during.

At the lighting store, I was met near the entrance by a very friendly woman. Here in Colorado, a lot of people are actually friendly, so you never know just how much of the friendliness is faked for the purposes of a sale. Being that I am a remarkably attractive man, I'm going to say only 10% was faked.

It's not like I was in a car dealership.

I said, "I need to get some under-cabinet lighting."

She said, "Wonderful! Do you have the measurements?"


"Oooh - you made my day!"

OK, now that was probably fake. Though I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people actually went to buy this kind of stuff without realizing that they needed to choose sizes. But that's because I'm no longer surprised with how stupid people are in general.

Global warming. Snicker.

So I told her I was retrofitting, so I didn't want anything that needed me to run lots of new wires or install transformers (like those fancy halogen spot systems). She asked me what I had now, and I said, "mini-fluorescent."

She stopped dead in her tracks with a horrified look and said, "But you want to go to Xenon, right?"

"Yes." Thank you Lowe's.

So she showed me the Xenon lights they carried, which were Kichler (a high quality but overpriced brand), and happened to be exactly what I was looking for. So I got them. After she rang it all up, she said, "Oh. Let me give you a discount," and then she gave me 20% off.

That's the kind of thing you get used to when you're as strikingly handsome as I.

I also picked up a little solid-state dimmer switch that's lightswitch-shaped so it fits in a regular switchplate. Then we talked about pet fish and our children. An odd segue.

I managed to get two of the six fixtures up before The Mrs. shooed me out of the kitchen so she could cook. In this photo, it is the two on the right. You can see the nice, cozy yellow glow of the Xenon bulb compared to the institutional coldness of the fluorescent to the left of the cooktop. The cooktop's light is non-functional, so it is bathed in darkness.

Probably about 2 more hours of work tomorrow, and I'll be done.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Mrs. and Ham

Over a year ago, as happens every year, there was a charity auction at work for the United Way drive. Being that the United Way, if we are to believe my take of the scandalous news reports each year, is an organization that seems to unfortunately employ a rather large number of grifters, I usually don't contribute directly despite the fact that you can now direct your donation to a particular charity.

I'm not sure why I'd need the United Way to direct my gift to a particular charity. If I wanted to give to a particular charity, I'd cut out the middle-man and write them a check (or, as I do with the NRA-ILA (technically not a charity, but working for the betterment of mankind nonetheless) charge it on the old plastic). I think this charity direction business is akin to the "Green Energy" option your electric company may offer you. Electric companies have, by nature, a small amount of their electricity coming from "Green" sources, and they have a small number of customers who are willing to pay extra to pretend they are better than the rest of us by buying "Green" electricity. So they sell the electricity they already had at a higher price to the Greenies so the Greenies can fell smug and superior. With the United Way, a certain small percentage of people designate a particular charity, so they send the money to that charity without graft or corruption, and they just double-dip into the non-designated majority of the donations to line their pockets - oops, I mean pay for overhead. That's just my opinion, of course. A man is entitled to his opinion without being sued. Except in Canada, where freedom of speech does not exist for non-popular opinions.

So they had this auction, and one of the things I like to do in charity auctions is bid below the value price because charity auctions aren't like eBay where everything is guaranteed some level of action. I managed to score a gift certificate to a day spa for $5 less than face value.

Now, that was over a year ago. Why do I bring it up now, and what does it have to do with The Mrs. and ham? I could tell you if you'd stop interrupting and try to quiet down your breathing. Try using your nose. It's really cool how it works. You close your mouth, then breathe.

The Mrs. has a shoulder with tendonitis. She's had a bad shoulder for somewhere around 6 years. Last week, she finally went to the doctor here and got another cortisone shot in it. Then it started to feel fine, so she became obsessed with some "knot" or something she had in her shoulder blade from overcompensating for the shoulder pain. Rather than just let it go away now that the shoulder doesn't hurt anymore, she decided it'd be a great time to use the gift certificate. Especially since I'm on vacation.

So she called up the place a few days ago and made an appointment for today for a one hour hot stone massage. Then they called her back a little later to say that the woman she had signed up with wasn't working today, but they had a man masseur available at the appointed time. Would she be OK with that?

The answer is, apparently, "Hell Yes!" She "much prefers a man to a woman" because "women can't really rub hard enough." With stones. Women can't hit you hard enough with stones?


But, I figure, when I got that one and only massage in my life, I had a woman masseuse, and I'm quite fine with that.

I'm not so happy that the guy was named "Mr. Stephen Ham Hands".

So off she went this morning. Like all spas (and hair salons and any place catering to womens), they try to get you to buy product before you leave. The Mrs. is a sucker for this kind of thing when she's spending my money, so she bought one thing.

Does anyone besides me find the name of this product to be humorous, given that it is sold at a massage parlor?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


That is what it is like in that space of time between when you've cleaned the house and when the dinner guests arrive. Especially if you have an almost-four-year-old boy who, like all of his ilk, sees a clear floor as a clean palette on which to create his next work of art by dumping out buckets full of toys and spreading them thickly.

As a child, I think between my brother and me, we had maybe three buckets of toys. My childrens have about three in every room of the house. My childrens are spoiled.

I measured up the kitchen cabinet lights for replacement today. Then I remembered I couldn't start anything because we were having dinner guests. Perhaps tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It is fixed!

"What?" you ask, mouth hanging slightly open at the end of the question, "What is fixed?"

Well, not my colon. That is still suffering some of the lingering effects of The Illness I had yesterday, though happily all the chills and aches are gone today.

I've been on a bit of a fix-it tear this week. That often happens when I take vacation. I have fixed countless things over the past few days, but my grand triumph of the moment is that I replaced the GFCI outlet that powers the bar, and now it doesn't trip when I run the bar dishwasher. Oh, it was very exciting. I got to use the little gizmodo that plugs into the outlet and then I point the magic wand thingee at the circuit breakers and it beeps when I'm pointing to the one that powers the circuit I plugged it into. It identified one of the unlabeled breakers, and it was the right one.

The marvels of science.

Now, that circuit is labeled.

I also fixed the ear piece for my bluetooth headset that I had broken, I kid you not, while emphatically slamming my fist down on the center console of the truck while screaming at The Childrens to stop fighting with each other in the back seat. I'm not sure exactly why the bluetooth headset was involved in the discussion. It was a while back. I used the magic epoxy clay to fix this. I had tried any number of varieties of cyanoacrylate adhesives to no effect. This time, I used the Dremel tool and a thin cutting bit to trench the earpiece down the center, then I filled it with epoxy clay and also wrapped the outside in a thin layer. After drying, I shaped it with a grinding bit on the Dremel. I'm happy I didn't have to buy a new headset.

I also fixed a picture frame, a ceramic Christmas tree ornament, the little robot yapping dog, the electric connectors for the train track, hung up the CD racks, hung up the hanging toy sock jobber, and countless other things I don't even remember. I am The Man.

I've been pondering writing a digital camera buying guide, but the reality of it is that there are only two cameras you should consider, and the Canon SD850IS is by far the superior of the two if you don't insist on having something that uses standard AA batteries so you can travel and forget the charger.

I'm getting, literally, about 80 hits a day to the snowblower post this week. That's great, cuz I have an add that pays 1 cent ever 20 page views. So I'm making 4 cents a day! The guide to carpet cleaners isn't doing nearly as well.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I don't do Requests

By request, I am tagging Ellie of the improbably-named Ellie323 blog and Fat Moother of Flatulent Granny fame. As I understand it, they each now have to post five little-known facts about themselves, then we are to nit-pick how little-known those facts are in their comments section. Finally, they're supposed to tag 5 other people or suffer seven years of bad luck.

In the style of the immortal Sam Kinison:

Bad luck? Bring it on baby! I'm not afraid of your bad luck. I'm married! Aaaaaaaa! Aaaaaaaaaa!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

That blasted tag stuff

As off of you are well aware at this point, there is a vicious game of tag going around, and I was tagged during one of my black mood periods. Probably triggered by the impending holiday, as holidays make me insanely depressed for no really good reason. Oddly, while I was backing out of the garage Wednesday, I was pondering what it could be that makes me not enjoy holidays so much, and the only thing I could come up with was the disappointment I felt as a child when I asked for the same present for Christmas and my birthday every year for about four years running, and never received it.

But then I wasn't sure it was a real emotion, as I'd watched A Christmas Story the night before. The Mrs. picked it up on DVD on sale at Wurst Buy, so this was the first time I'd ever seen the moovie without commercials or TV edits. I noticed a number of things I'd never noticed before. And I was without a doubt absolutely convinced that she broke the lamp on purpose. On every previous viewing, I was pretty sure it was an accident. Seeing it on widescreen on an upconverting DVD really let me see the subtle facial expressions of the mom. She did it on purpose. For sure.

Of course, Ralphie ended up actually getting his dream present in that movie, making it largely unbelievable.

So I guess the way this tag thing goes is that you tell five little-known facts about yourself, then you tag 5 more people. Now we here at Me, CherkyB have a longstanding editorial policy against tagging people. Just like in real life I throw chain letters in the garbage. But, since I don't have a darned useful thing to blog about, I'll play along with the little-known facts thing.

Here are five little-known fact about Me, CherkyB:
  1. I think cognac is an abomination, and I don't understand how anyone can actually drink it.
  2. I bought my first bottle of Captain Morgan a few months ago when we were having a couple over for dinner, and I said to myself, "Self, what is it that chicks like to drink?" And I recalled two stories from years back, one from a fellow we called Boesky, and the other from a fellow we called Skittle, both of which involved Captain Morgan and banging stewardesses. Now, no one else has ever told me a first-person account about banging stewardesses, so I figured all stewardesses must like Captain Morgan, and thus it must be an extraordinarily good chick drink. So I picked up a bottle of it. As luck would have it, the lady guest spent the whole time sipping red wine, so I was left with 1.5 liters of the Captain. Now, this was also the time that The Mrs. had decided to stop buying anything but Berries and Cream Diet Dr. Pepper, and she had stocked my bar fridge full of it. I quickly learned that Jack Daniels does not mix well with Berries'n'cream prune soda, so I said to myself, "Self, what in the hell can I put in this stuff?" Naturally, the big bottle of The Captain came to mind. And it's really good in Berries'n'Cream Diet Dr. Pepper. It also turns out to be really good in lots of other stuff. Right the minute, I'm drinking it in eggnog. I drink a lot of Captain Morgan now. More than anything else, except perhaps beer. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.
  3. When I was in my teens, my friends used to call me Lewie, because they thought I looked like Lew Zealand. I didn't.
  4. Despite all the bravado, I don't own more firearms than I can count on one hand. And I've lived in Colorado for more than a year and still don't have my concealed carry permit. I expect both of these facts to expire before next Christmas.
  5. A day where we "just stay home and relax" is a nightmare for me. It's not that I'm against being home or relaxing. It's just that there is nothing about being home with my fambly that is the least bit relaxing. I often invent marginal reasons for having to go to Ace Hardware or Lowe's or the liquor store just to get out of the house on these stay-home-and-relax days.
Now, if you'd like to be tagged, drop me a line and I can tag you. But I think I only know about 3 bloggers who haven't been tagged already.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I like my new tires

Yup. Very excellent in the snow, which we've had quite a bit of over the last three days. The Firestone Destination A/T's are definitely living up to their high (#2) ranking on TireRack. I drove The Mrs.'s winivan on Sunday in the snow, it it really underscored the difference. The stability control was constantly kicking in there, whereas I can drive the pickup in RWD through much nastier stuff with no troubles at all.

Being a pickup, it doesn't have stability control. What it has is a little knob that says "2WD, 4HI, 4LO". You leave it in 2WD until you slide off the road into the ditch, yelling, "Hold my beer and watch this!" Then you flip it to 4HI and drive back out.

I haven't had to do that at all this year. Which is good, cuz I hate spilling beer.

I believe that I may just very possibly finally have gotten the tire chains onto My Precious lawn tractor so that they don't fall off when I blow the snow with My Beloved. This morning was now the fourth time this season I have gotten to use My Beloved, and it was the first time one (same one every time) of the chains didn't fall off. The first time, I actually broke a link. After repairing that, I just couldn't get it to stay on. I even had to google for pictures to see if I was doing something wrong, but I wasn't.

I think you just have to put it on, drive a little bit, and if it's loose, tighten it up, and repeat for a while. That's what I ended up doing last time, and it is holding up nicely.

Not that you care.

I had a whole wonderful blog thought up yesterday when I was waiting for HannahC at her swimming lesson. It had to do with the relative popularity of sweatpants and sneakers vs. nice clothes and shoes among the mothers in the audience, and reasons for that disparity. But, I decided the majority of my readers (since Me, CherkyB, like daytime television, skews mostly towards the mommy crowd) would be offended by my observations. I'm like The View.

Only funny.

And not rabidly left-wing.

See above about funny.

We got our first blog Christmas card Saturday from someone I've never met but who has somehow, in a bizarre twist of fate, become e-pals with The Mrs. It included in it a sheet of paper with many photos of the fambly printed on it. Naturally, The Mrs. said, "Hey! A sheet of photos! We could do this!"

Naturally, by "we" she means "Me, CherkyB," as The Mrs. has steadfastly refused to learn how to lay out a bunch of photos on a page in Powerpoint, which is one of those skills that takes maybe 15 to 20 seconds to learn. In previous years, we've special-ordered custom Christmas cards with a photo of the fambly on the front from Snapfish, but we just haven't gotten off our butts to do that this year, and now it's too late.

So we'll be sending out store-bought cards. If you're lucky, The Mrs. will insert a page of photos in a blatant ripoff of the C, H, C-H fambly, but I wouldn't count on it. She's pretty lazy, and I post every decent photo I take onto the blog.

Oh, and MaxieC today decided that he wasn't really potty trained, and that it was more fun to play games on than to go potty. So he pooped himself at the compooter, and then peed himself a couple hours later. No compooter for him tomorrow.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Gem and Train Show

We drove about 30 miles to a gem and model train show today. We had been planning to go ever since the dood at the train store told me I'd have to go to train shows to try to find the part to fix my commemorative bicentennial American Flyer diesel engine. Plus, we'd gone to a gem show in San Schmose a not long before we moved, and HannahC really enjoyed it.

Honestly, the gem side of the show was a lot more impressive than the train side. There was a surprising amount of N-scale stuff - both layouts and gear for sale - followed closely behind by O-scale. Not much HO stuff, despite that being the most popular scale by far. Perhaps that's why there isn't much at the show, as you can get a good selection and just about any hobby store.

I came away empty handed. Though about 20 minutes after our arrival, The Mrs. won a random drawing for a door prize. They gave away two about every half hour. She got herself a carved jade(?) iguana. I call it "El Lizardo." She was very happy.

HannahC and I watched a guy "scratch building" a wooden house. That means it wasn't a kit. He had made up a little drafting of the building and was cutting tiny pieces of wood to put it together. I don't think he was doing the 16" on center stud distance to scale, though. More like 24". He wasn't particularly inclined to interact with the audience, as he complained about all the interruptions he experienced at the show while trying to build.

Maybe if he didn't have a big sign that said, "Scratch Building Demonstration," in front of him, and wasn't sitting at the demonstration table at a train show, he could have had a more peaceful time. But it was nifty to see the tools he was using to make the thing. Really, the only thing he had that I don't already own was a thing that looked like a hybrid of a miter box and a paper cutter that was used to cut the little sticks to length. Mostly, he just cut them with an X-acto knife, though.

He was the only guy actually doing anything at the train demonstration table. The other guys were just sitting around with stuff they'd already built in the past handing out fliers about how much they'd charge to make you something like it.

Now, over on the gem side, HannahC and MaxieC both learned to pan for gold. HannahC also got to grind and polish a rock into an oval shape on a six wheel wet grinder bench. They called this "making a cabachon". She spent a good 20 minutes on it. Afterwards, she and The Mrs. headed off to the gem vendors' section and found a little necklace mount in which it fit, and now HannahC proudly displays her art around her neck.

On the way back, we stopped at a brand new TGI Friday's. We almost never eat at TGI Friday's, and The Mrs. was nostalgic for it. It is apparently one of the favorite hangouts for her sister and mother, though not the one in Longmont.

So, I didn't manage to find a replacement piece for my engine at the train show. But, not to worry. As you all know by now, I am the master of fixin' stuff. I had decided to take a crack at fixing this before having to plunk down like $20 to buy a whole engine just to scavenge one little part off of it. My dad had tried and failed many years ago to fix this by trying to reform the plastic with a plastic-melting tip for his soldering gun. I decided to go more high-tech.

I schlepped MaxieC off to Ace while the womens were seeing that godawful hopping-around-in-tights and toy-soldier-marching Christmas tradition, "The Nutcracker." Ace, as it turns out, has a dizzying selection epoxy clay. They probably had 8 to choose from, including one that was even Ace-branded.

That was 8 more than Lowe's had, but at Lowe's we did manage to score a whole lot of hot tub chemicals. I've learned that, around here, Lowe's is my best bet for inexpensive hot tub chemicals. See, they sell the non-chlorine shock (that my hot tub seems to require about a half pound of every time we go in it) packaged both for hot tubs and for pools. If you buy it for pools, it's about 1/4 the price. They also, for the first time, had water clarifier and filter cleaner, so I got everything I needed. Except for epoxy clay.

I got the second-cheapest epoxy clay at Ace, as the cheapest didn't claim to stick to plastic. $4.99 for the tube. Epoxy clay is cool, as it's like what you'd get if a cheese log were a tool. It has an inner core of one color clay and an outer shell of another. You cut of a slice, then knead the two together until they're mixed. Then you have about 5 minutes to work it into whatever shape you want, and it's completely hardened in an hour.

The one I got was called "Quick Steel", which made me kinda wistful for twenty years ago. I don't know why.

I put the stuff on there (which I had to do twice cuz the first time I didn't get enough of the black core and it never hardened), shaped it as well as I could with some mini-screwdrivers, let it dry, and then used my Dremel tool with a grout cutting bit to shape the tab until it fit just right on the engine. Now the wheels don't fall off anymore, and I can use the engine that matches the caboose.

I only needed about 20 cents worth of the Quick Steel. I have three years to figure out uses for the rest. I'm thinking of using it to fill the holes when I change out some of the old hitches for the new style, which requires some filling and drilling. I just fixed my Leatherman, which had a little tab break off that would keep the pliers from getting stuck against the screwdriver when you closed it. Oh, the joy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

HannahC - Sexist

The fambly watched The Santa Clause 3 tonight. None of us had seen it before. It was the weakest of the three, I think. After the moovie, they showed a bunch of "extra features" that include an extended bloopers reel and also a music video by "Aly & AJ" that was one of those moovie soundtrack videos where you cut back and forth between the band and scenes from the moovie.

Aly and AJ both sing and play guitar. About halfway through the video, little HannahC says with disgust, "Why do they have girls playing the guitar?"

So I have to muster up daddy-mode. "Well, hon, girls can play the guitar." [stifle a snicker]

"But, you know, they're just strumming and singing. If you watch, you'll see there's a guy in the back on the right playing a Flying V, and he's playing the actual hard guitar parts. Uhhh...a Flying V is a guitar whose body is shaped like a big V. An awful lot of bands that have a girl that sings and plays guitar have a guy in the back who plays the hard guitar parts."

"Oh yeah. I see him," says darling HannahC.

"Yes, well, girls can still be good guitar players and play the hard parts. They don't always play rhythm guitar. For instance, ummmm.....hmmmm..., that girl in The Donnas, she's a really good guitarist and she plays all the hard parts. And there are probably a lot of other bands, too."

Yeah. Right.

Duh or No Duh 4

A co-worker of mine, who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this discussion, has been hosting a couple designers from an out-of-town site at work this week. Sometimes, when hosting someone from an out-of-town site, you need to take the folks out for dinner and/or a good time after work. That's why they never let me host anyone from out-of-town.

So anyways, at lunch today:
Nameless Co-worker: "Man, I did not need that last shot of tequila last night."

Me, CherkyB: "Nobody ever needs a shot of tequila."
It's not like it's frickin' Yukon Jack.


Monday, December 03, 2007

A Glorious Timesink

People have been unusually interested in the train that I set up under the tree. As though this is some kind of bizarre thing that requires great talent and mystery. Like if I said I had a snowmobile or a hot, young girlfriend.

Anyways, as much as I like to say, "We here are Me, CherkyB have a thoughtful and coherent editorial policy. We do not do requests," in reality I do requests. Shhh. Don't tell management. I'll end up having to do another "CherkyB's Guide to [some crap one of you wants to know something about]."

I'm such a blogging whore.

So here is the train set:

Well, OK, that's only about half the train set. The half I haven't dug out yet cuz it's either missing parts, or I can't use it on the temporary setup around the tree (like bridges and electric switches), or I just can't deal with anything more that's broken yet.

Roughly 2/3 of the stuff comes out of the packing broken. Not cuz it got broken in the shipping, mind you, but because it got broken in the approximately 10 years it was set up in my parents' basement. The core package was purchased in 1976, after all. Most of the accessories came later, but during the presidency of one James Earl Carter, Jr., a man who almost single-handedly destroyed this great country of ours, and continues to try to do so.

Here is the train set as of Saturday afternoon. The engine is not the original from the set, as that has a broken truck that causes the wheels to fall off, and the guy at one of the largest model train stores in the word told me good luck finding that replacement part, and that my only hope was to buy a whole used engine at a train show (and there's one this coming Sunday, as it turns out), though I think I found one on eBay today for ~$20 with shipping, which is about what an engine of this quality costs brand spanking new. The crane car is also a later addition. I have just a couple of the model buildings out here, plus I've hooked up the electric whistle and the "Arco" fuel tank with flashing red light on top.

The kids love the flashing red light. I like it cuz I can easily tell from a distance if the crappy little transformer was left plugged in. I learned today that my transformer is completely inadequate to run a proper engine. I also learned that all three of my engines have many of the qualities on the "avoid this" list. Hell, I learned I have the wrong track, the wrong transformer, the wrong engines, the wrong cars, and the wrong couplers. The only thing I have that is "right" are the little metal connectors that hook the track together.

It's amazing that I've had so many years of fun with everything being so horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, out of the crate, two of the three engines and the trolley car didn't work. I got the engines working, excepting the aforementioned problem with the wheels falling off the diesel, but I hadn't gotten the trolley car working. When we were in the local hobby shop Saturday morning picking up some misc. track and electronics parts, HannahC fell in love with a new trolley car. It said "Main Street" on the side.

So we got the dood to open up the cabinet, and when he took out the box, behind it was the same trolley only painted in Christmas colors with "Happy Holidays" on the side. So we got that one instead. $23. Pretty cheap.

Later that day, HannahC was doing schoolwork, so I decided to take MaxieC out to the workbench to try to fix the original trolley car. We took it all apart and cleaned everything with Grease Grizzly and Q-Tips and lubed everything up with BreakFree CLP. Then I put it back together, and it didn't work at all.

Using my advanced electronics debugging skills, I got out the multimeter and did a little probing. I determined that it was making electrical connection with only one track rail. I then realized I'd put the axles in backwards. I always forget this with HO trains. Usually the wheels on one end of the axle are connected directly to the axle, and on the other they are isolated by a plastic insulator. That way, the engine needs to have wheel pickups on only one set of wheels, and it doesn't short across the rails through the axle. But if you put it backwards, only one side is connected.

After reversing the axles, it ran fine.

As of tonight, things are more elaborate. We have two more buildings (unpacked them), a pond (new), three trees (new), two sets of HO scale people (new), and a very high end sulfuric acid tanker car that has high end couplers that do not work with my old stuff (new).

DrinkPact #4 - Miracle Martini

It is rare that God speaks to me through vodka. I find that I am closest to God when chugging shots of Yukon Jack, which I don't do very often on account of I was very upset to learn that God was Canadian.

So, last week I sat down to make the perfect Christmas drink. I quizzed HannahC on what she thought Christmas flavors would be, and she chose chocolate and peppermint. Thinking this was awfully close to the ingredients list of the most horrible Minty Fresh (who, interestingly enough, happens to be a recurring character in Christopher Moore novels - though I knew it not at the time, not having ever even heard of Christopher Moore last year, though he today firmly occupies the space of CherkyB's favorite author, displacing Hemingway or maybe Davie Foster Wallace), I decided to keep it simple at first. I tried three different minor variations of the theme - Boozettos, I like to call them - and this was the most palatable. It wasn't by any means heavenly, but more on that later.

The Miracle Martini

1.25 oz. premium Vodka
0.5 oz. Creme de Cacao
splash of Peppermint schnappers

Shake with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a stick of candy cane for a stirrer.

Drinker's Impressions:

Ahhh, at last the wonderful flavor of Andes Candies in an intoxicating beverage. The chocolaty undertones from the creme de cacao banish any errant thoughts of "toothpaste", which can be such a recurring problem with minty drinks. After two or three of these, you might be inclined to cut out the creme de cacao and the peppermint schnapps, go with straight vodka in the glass, and simply munch on a candy cane. And that's the great thing about this drink. It is as much or as little as you want it to be. Really, the exact opposite of a spouse.

So from where does this strange name, "Miracle martini," come? What is miraculous about a martini, especially one with no Yukon Jack? Well, feast your eyes on the photo below:

Note the glowing stars shining on the glass. Here's the thing: there are no stars in that room. None. I took three pictures, all from the same angle, and this one came out with stars in it. Real, perfect Christmas stars. The other two, just ordinary light. I didn't notice this until I downloaded the pictures from the camera and looked at them on the screen. To this day, I have no f'ing idea where those stars came from. Really. Not making that up. I did, for this one shot, use a different mode on the digital camera. Now I have to dig out the manual to see if it does a digital "star" filter on it.

If not, it's very clearly a message from God.

And God has bad taste in drinks.

Which is kinda what you'd expect. You know, God being Canadian and all.

The Cycle of Life

Here is a beetle that MaxieC and I found on the floor of the Denver Museum of Natural History on Sunday afternoon. I'm not really sure what it is. It could be a type of "long-horn beetle". The picture is, unfortunately, slightly out of focus despite the use of the macro zoom.

This is a picture of the beetle moments later, after MaxieC had stomped it.

The life cycle of a beetle is tragically short.

Something Not to Do 15

Let's say, purely hypothetically, that your wife has told The Childrens that tonight is "Mommy and Daddy time night", and put the younger to bed, and sent the older to read books in her room. Then she has poured herself a glass of wine and said to you, "Let's go in the hot tub."

So far, so good, you are thinking. And you'd be right. And James Dean was driving just fine up until that last curve, too.

The Mrs.: [Looks at herself in master bath mirror] "I'm not any fatter than I was when we got married."

Me, CherkyB: "Uh, yes you are."

Self: "Doh! You idiot! That was a trap!"

Me, CherkyB: "I mean, no, you're not at all."
That would be Something Not to Do.™

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The tree! The tree!

I took all these pictures on Friday, and I planned to post them right away. But I was overcome with the "I don't cares", so I didn't. The Mrs. today complained that I haven't had a post in a long time, so I'm photoblogging. I have very little to say right now as, oddly, I've been spending a lot of my evenings working at home rather than ruminating.

Here's the "before" picture of the tree room. It's officially our living room, though we have never used it as such. The previous owners (who had the house built for them) had a pool table in it, so I wonder if it has ever been used as a living room.

Here's the fambly in Stinky Greeley huddled at the fire pit waiting for the tractor hayride to take us to the Christmas tree field. A ride that is about 30 seconds and which you could walk in 2 minutes. I'm practically standing in the field to take this picture. By the hayride is part of the schtik, and if there's one thing the day after Thanksgiving is all about, it's schtik.

At last! It took longer to wait for the hayride than it took to pick a tree and cut it down.

Another tradition - the photo of the fambly right before the killing of the tree. See that dark tree in the background on the left between the two buildings - that's where the hayride starts.

The problem with having a back seat in your pickup is that you end up with a 5.5' bed, and the Christmas tree hangs out. The fambly headed into the building for the free cookies and hot apple cider, which meant a delay of about 20 minutes. MaxieC didn't like his cookie, so I had to eat it while he got a fresh one.

We got the tree all stood up, and then the first thing I installed was the angel on the top. I realize this is somewhat against tradition, but the little 3' cord on the angel dictates the placement of the extension cord, which then in turn dictates the placement of the lights. So it needs to go first.

The Mrs. thought it was hysterical that I took my beers up the ladder with me, so she needed to snap this photo. Unfortunately, I'd finished long before she scared up the camera, and I was just standing at the top of the ladder drinking beer. So she made me pretend to be installing the angel.

"Installing the angel" sounds kinda dirty, doesn't it? I'm not sure what it would mean, but it just sounds dirty. I may have to use it as a new catchphrase.

MaxieC could only reach the low branches. This branch was his favorite for whatever reason.

Here's the view from the loft down to the "completed" setup. It's not really 100% done yet, and the train isn't up yet (it was two more days before tackling that). Note the little village lighted of ceramic houses on the display shelves along the staircase. They were a gift from someone named "Q" who I think I have met once in my life but is bestest friends with The Mrs's mother.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ha HA! Triumph!

Blogging is oddly cathartic. When I find myself frustrated to the point where I can't think straight anymore, it's nice to be able to kick back with a big giant drink and write about it.

Strangely, as I was writing about maybe needing the low voltage Fluke VoltAlert, I got to thinking about why I would need the low voltage VoltAlert. Christmas tree lights have the bulbs strung in series connections of 25 or so bulbs, and then they have a bunch of these strings in parallel so that if you unplug one light, you lose only the series that that particular bulb is part of and not the stuff in parallel.

Now, each of the series-connected strings divides the voltage across the bulbs such that if the string is working, each bulb sees a progressively lower voltage. That explains why the VoltAlert (which is only good down to 90V) can't find voltage present in the last bulb of a string but can in the first. However, if you unplug the last bulb in the series, suddenly there is no current, and every bulb sees the line voltage, and will light up the VoltAlert. I tested this on a working series just to make sure.

Now, the very first light in the bad series didn't register any voltage. I unplugged its bulb just to make sure there were no downstream shorts (though that should have blown the fuse), and still no voltage. That means a bad supply line, not a bad bulb. I'd been searching for the wrong thing last night, in the dark, in the cold, with the lights strung up on a snow-covered tree.

So I started at the plug and found that the supply was fine. I followed it along with the VoltAlert, and within 30 seconds found a place where the wire was severed. A couple minutes later after judicious application of a soldering iron and a water-proof wire nut, and the lights were back in working order.

Sometimes, it helps to work during daylight hours.

My luck with the HO trainset I tried to set up under the tree today was much more agonized. It's a trainset I've had since I was a kid, but it was nailed down to a sheet of plywood forever, and my parents just brought it here on their last visit. It sat in a suitcase since then. Until today when, in a momentary lapse into good parenting, I decided to show it to MaxieC.

I think it's kinda sorts working now. It's very hard to run HO tracks on a carpet, so I cut out a platform for it out of 1/2" blue rigid styrofoam insulation I had left over from the garage door insulating project. I still need to tack down the track and shim the turns, though, as there is still a tendency to roll over at the corners and for the track to separate if the foam is bumped.

I haven't hooked up any accessories yet.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Today, I feel lousy

Not lousy in a sick way. Just devoid of any energy or will to do anything. I think this is because today was outdoor Christmas light day, and it ended in failure. I got everything hooked up, but some of the lights don't work and I can't figure out why. I though I had one string root-caused when I found a light bulb that was broken off, but upon replacement, it still didn't work.

I was out there with my inductive AC voltage sensor, but it wasn't picking anything up. It wasn't even picking anything up on the wires going to the lights that actually worked. I found that it worked for the first 30 or so lights, then after that, it got nothing. These strings have about 100 lights in series. It seems I need the "LAC" (low voltage AC) model.

I got out my digital multimeter and tried to do continuity checks, but my probe tips wouldn't fit in the slots.

Yeah - there's a prom night joke in there somewhere.

So I was reduced to removing a big giant handful of bulbs and then doing continuity checks on them individually. I got through 22 (all passed) before I gave up and went inside for dinner. These lights I hung on the tree last year, and I left them up all year. They are "commercial grade" lights that are supposed to last forever. But, they are the same made in China crap as everything else.

I got fed up with this same problem on the indoor tree, and I bought LED lights this year. I read an article that said they were about the same price as conventional lights. However, it was comparing C4-sized lights (those big 4W bulbs you put outside). For mini-lights, it's $10.99 for 50 LEDs vs. $3.99 for 150 incandescents. But if it saves me one day of Christmas light hell, it will be worth it. I plan to gradually convert everything over to LEDs.

They flicker, by the way. LEDs only emit light when the voltage is applied in one polarity. Household AC alternates. So you get this really cool 60 Hz flicker that you can only see if it's moving. If the light is still, it seems to be on solid. But if you wave the string around, they strobe. It's wicked hooper-dooper.

I think what bother me the most, though, is the I have a g-damned Ph.D. in electrical engineering, I've spent much of my career becoming an electrical debug expert at The Company, and I can't get a stupid string of Christmas lights to work.

Friday, November 23, 2007

And the winner is...

...The Mrs.!

We had expected to be alone this Thanksgiving weekend, on account of how none of our friends or relatives like us or something. But, yesterday at dinner time, our good friend Big D dropped by. OK, so maybe one unexpected guest.

Well, this evening as we were decorating the tree, another of our old friends popped in to see The Mrs. I was in the living room hanging ornaments when I heard the commotion in the kitchen. The Mrs. was talking to Ralphie.

Later, she described the meeting thusly:
"I stuffed like four of the pickles in my mouth at once. Then the vinegar went down the wrong pipe, and I had a problem."
Curse you, pickle and olive platter.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving Tradition

Somehow, I thought this year might be different. No Granny Moo Moo. No visitors at all. Just the four of us for a nice, peaceful Thanksgiving dinner.

We sat down to dinner, and as people were beginning to eat, I started to deliver my prepared speech on the meaning of Thanksgiving, as that is my job as the patriarch of the fambly. I had just gotten through thanking The Mrs. for "slaving away in the kitchen all day", and she had just finished interrupting me to assert, "two days!" when MaxieC ripped a big one.

I made a pithy comment about how MaxieC was also giving thanks in his own special way, and then I continued. However, I was having a hard time being heard, as MaxieC had started yelling, "Diarrhea! Diarrhea!"

The Mrs. got up to check. Yup. Diarrhea.

Thanksgiving Morning

A photoblog.

Here is the fambly room. You may note the traditional Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on the TV. You may also note that the room is devoid of inhabitants, as no one in the fambly actually likes to watch the parade. But The Mrs. always requires it to be on. I turned on the gas fireplace as it's only 16 degrees outside, and one wall of this room is glass.

Ahh, good. The pond heaters are working.

Cinnamon buns for breakfast.

Someone may have gotten tired of waiting for cinnamon buns and started the morning with a Screw Yu.

The Mrs. and HannahC decide to do crafts. Something they call "paper quilling" but that I call "twiddling."

Happy Thanksgiving

Nothing goes better with turkey than a Leaf Blower.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fame and Fortune, Fame and Fortune

They said if Rupert Murdoch bought The Wall Street Journal, the quality would suffer, and they were right!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'd like you all to pay close attention

However, I have nothing today that warrants it. If you concentrate enough, you probably won't notice.

HannahC is sick. This is problematic, as it means The Mrs. has an excuse to stay cooped up in the house all day, which in turn means that MaxieC has an excuse to be especially crazy. And there's a long weekend coming up for which I have stockpiled only 4 beers. Plus, I'm pretty much out of Captain Morgan and Bushmills.

Friday, we will all have to head for Greeley, which smells, and cut down a Christmas tree. Last year, we had Granny Moo Moo with us, but this we we are alone. That means we can take the pickup and just throw the tree in the back instead of having to tie it down to the roof rack. Oh joy of joys. And likely no one will throw up.

I always am irked by the day after Thanksgiving. The Mrs. desperately needs to turn it into an all-day Christmas affair, including cutting a tree, setting it up, trimming it, getting out all the holiday decorations from the storage room/shed and putting them up, and decorating the outside trees. I, on the other hand, am usually pretty tired from all the eating the day before, and I mostly want to nap.

Only one of us ever wins.

And it has never been me.

I spend most of the day being accused of being "Bah Humbug". But I'm not. I'm just tired. And I don't see why Christmas has to arrive 100% completely the day after Thanksgiving. Don't we have a few weeks to prepare for it?

The answer is, apparently, "No."

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Mrs. - Loving Wife

The Mrs.: "It's supposed to snow on Tuesday! You'll get to use your new tires when it snows."

Me, CherkyB: "I think I'll get to use my new tires even if it doesn't snow. It's kinda hard to drive anywhere without using the tires."

The Mrs.: "Oh. Yeah. Please don't spin out with the kids in the car."

Me, CherkyB: "I never spin out with the kids in the car."

The Mrs.: "I worry so."

Me, CherkyB: "You have such a low opinion of me."

The Mrs.: "No. I have a low opinion of your judgment."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You see...

...there's gold leaf in Goldschläger. See? Gold leaf.

And tequila.

Leaf blower.

You get it? Huh? Huh?


CherkyB - Master of the Wood

And I'm pretty good at building stuff, too.

A long, long time ago, we were driving down the street and noticed a big giant pile of toys thrown out at a neighbor's house. I believe it was right after Christmas, as some households have a "zero growth" policy on the quantity of toys. The Mrs. hollered, "Stop!" So, as a dutiful hubsband, I stopped, grumbled, and reversed back to the pile of junk so that The Mrs. could pick through for holiday treasures - a habit she apparently picked up when younger.

There was a lot of misc. stuff that still had a useful life to it, and one big piece of piratey bootie - a Lego table. It had, unfortunately, only two legs. But its Lego holding bag was even still filled with Legos. The Mrs. said to me, "You can fix this," and we tossed it in the back of the vehicle.

So on and off for almost a year now I have been pondering how to fix this thing. It's all plastic. It's hard to fix plastic things. But finally, after we'd reached that plane of Zen in life where the Lego table has reached the top of The Mrs.'s "nag my husband until he can't take it anymore" list, I formulated a plan.

I would fashion new legs out of wood.

Well, that had kinda been the plan all along, except I kept wondering how I would be doing this. See, the previous plastic legs were exactly 2"x2", and they had a truncated cone at the top that fit into a conical hole in the bottom of the table that was recessed in a 2x2 hole. There's no way I would be able to duplicate the cone without a lathe. And I'm not buying a lathe so that I can fix a garbage-picked Lego table. A brand new Lego table is a lot cheaper.

I decided to get a 4x4 and mill it down to 2x2 at the end (keeping in mind that a 2x2 is only 1 -5/8 x 1-5/8, or something like that, so too small to use for a 2"x2" hole). To mill it down, I would use my router table with a straight-cut bit, as I exploded my table saw a couple years by trying to use a dado blade on it and never replaced it. So we hit Lowe's and picked up a 4x4. I also picked up a few right-angle Simpson ties and some paneling anchors in case I needed to secure it to the bottom of the table.

After about 2 hour of labor, I was finished. One of my easier creations. Much the way The Mrs. thinks about MaxieC.

It turned out that just making the wood fit the hole perfectly made it stay in, so I don't need to use the right-angle brackets. I can also just pop the legs off to move and/or store the table without having to remove screws.

I was telling The Mrs. how I fixed this for $8 - the cost of an 8' 4x4. But then I got to thinking about all the tools I actually needed to own in order to be able to do this. I don't know the prices of everything, so all the dollar costs are ballpark estimated.

Hitachi 12" compound power miter saw: $300
12" blade for miter saw: $25
Porter Cable router: $175
Craftsman router table: $100
Craftsman 3/4" straight-cut router bit, 1/2" shank: $25
Bosch 1/2" self-guided roundover bit, 1/2" shank: $30
Tape measure: $5
Combination square: $15
Skil belt sander: $50
Belt for sander: $2
DeWalt palm sander: $40
Sandpaper for palm sander: $0.50
1" wood chisel: $10
Hearing protection: $35
Safety glasses: $8
20A extension cord: $25
3 outlet Y adapter for extension cord: $10
Rigid canister vac: $80
Pencil: $0.25
Craftsman #2 philips screwdriver: $8

Which means I had to invest almost $950 in order to be able to fix a garbage-picked Lego table for $8. Happily, none of these tools were purchased just for this project, but I need to charge some of their depreciation to it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

DrinkPact #3 - The Leaf Blower

It's very difficult to create art by committee.

Especially if everyone on the committee is an idiot but you.
- Little known addendum

Last night, I decided it was time to get back to the grind and churn out another of my holiday cocktail recipes, as I know you, my slack-jawed fans, are probably going to make your final run to the liquor store this weekend in preparation for the big Thanksgiving feast where you will be put on the spot during dinner to name something for which you are thankful, except Gramma will get to go first and will use the, "thankful for being surrounded by so many of my loving fambly" rot, and by the time it gets to you, all the good answers will be gone, and you'll be left picking between, "I'm thankful that people are starting to learn that the al Dura scandal was a hoax manufactured and propagated by a left-wing media," which is maybe a little too morbid for Thanksgiving, even for you, and, "I sure am glad that 'The 64 Effect' doesn't happen with Code Red Mountain Dew." Personally, I'm going with the latter.

But you'll want to impress your friends and/or family somehow, and given that you've gotten this far into your life without witty banter being part of your repertoire, you've pretty much resigned yourself to it being something more mundane. Like a card trick. Or a joke that is either hysterical (to you) or doesn't make any sense at all (to your family and friends) and leaves people shaking their heads and excusing themselves to get a drink.

"Ah HA!" you yell. "A fancy drink!" That's how you'll impress your friends and/or family. Or, at the very least, you can get good and sloshed on something either too sophisticated or bizarre for the rest of the pedestrian bunch you holiday with.

So, the chances of this particular drink being your salvation are somewhat low. That because, during the moments the creative juices began flowing (i.e., when my drink was empty and I needed to fill 'er up), I happened to be YMing with one of my long-lost grad school buddies, Dr. A-berg. And he kept yelling "Add vermouth!" after every step.

I can't think of many situations that vermouth is the answer to. In the end, I broke down and added it. It really destroyed the drink. You should never take drinking advice from someone who would serve gewurztaminer at his wedding.

Anyway, this was my first shot at a Thanksgiving drink. And if you can get past the first sip, it's actually remarkably not anywhere near as bad as the Minty Fresh. I should have an alternative selection available in a couple days. That way you can have two fancy drink recipes to ask your host to make when they say, "Can I fix you a drink?"

The Leaf Blower

3 oz. Cranberry juice
1 oz. Tequila
0.5 oz. Goldschläger

Shake with ice, strain, enjoy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Mrs.'s new best friend

This weekend was a difficult weekend that the C household. The Mrs. woke up in a veritable funk on Sunday, and proceeded to storm around the house slamming every door she came across. Eventually, tiring of this, I went to the kitchen to get myself a glass of orange juice. I slammed the cabinet door good and hard.
The Mrs.: "[snarl] Why'd you slam that? [growl]"

Me, CherkyB: "I dunno. All I know is that something is wrong, and it is apparently made better by slamming doors. I'm just trying to help."

The Mrs.: "[roar] I can't believe you're such an idiot that you don't know what's wrong!"
At which point she proceeded to not tell me. She didn't actually tell me until the next day despite me asking a couple times (just for show - I didn't actually want to know), as that is the way a "normal" woman communicates.

Eventually, she calmed down enough to decide that, despite me being a gigantic idiot who couldn't read her mind to know her every whim and thus simply sense how it was that I had disappointed her today, the alternate route to happiness was to just have me buy her something. Again, very much like a "normal" woman "heals" emotionally. I have long ago accepted that all I am to The Mrs. is a wallet that speaks, which is how a "normal" woman perceives her husband if he is a wonderful man, like I am. If he had serious character deficiencies, then he'd be a no-good wallet that speaks. If he had a job that paid poorly, he'd be a lazy good-for-nothing bastard. But a kind, loving, good provider man like Me, CherkyB and most husbands can aspire to reach the pinnacle of happiness in a marriage, which is that your wife doesn't routinely use derogatory adjectives when describing you.

Now, my transgression, which at the time was still unknown to me, clearly did not rise to the level of, shall we say, diddling the hotel staff. So the gift The Mrs. needed to make it all better happily did not require measurement in karats.

Those of you who have followed The Mrs.'s mother's travails know that there is very little that I have not provided for my wife that she has expected on account of her mother having it. Really, it comes down to just two things: cats and a chest freezer.

Those of you who know me know that I am deathly allergic to cats. They throw me nearly instantly into an asthmatic attack that generally lingers for upwards of a week, and, more interestingly, they make the whites of my eyes turn red and swell up. Really, it is a sight to behold. If you've never seen swollen eyeballs, it is truly breathtakingly disturbing.

And it simultaneously itches and hurts. Every blink is as though the backs of my eyelids are covered in gritty sand. And there is no truly effective way to scratch an itchy eyeball.

Having noted this, one by one each of my in-laws has acquired two or more cats, and most of my own blood relatives have as well. I can visit my parents and one brother, and that's pretty much it for me. Others I am forced to visit, but am often reduced to sitting alone outside shivering in the freezing rain while catching pneumonia. Literally.

So, at this point you are wondering if what I did to anger The Mrs. was so bad that she would demand a cat or two. Thankfully, the answer is no.

Which leaves a chest freezer. The Mrs. has been going on an on about wanting one, especially since the over-abundance of our garden required us to let a great deal of food simply rot on the vine due to lack of freezer space. But The Mrs. never cleared a spot to put one. The perfect spot, the incomplete wine cellar, has been turned into an "art room" where paint can be splattered on everything due to the incomplete nature of the finishing. The other "brilliant" idea was to locate it at the end of the storage room beyond the shelves.

Way the hell back there:

I had done some measurement and had discovered that it was unlikely I could get a freezer way back there without taking down the shelves. And the chances of keeping the pathway clear to get to the freezer were perhaps even more remote.

Oddly enough, on the morning of freezer acquisition I was struck with the though of simply removing part of a shelf right by the door and putting the freezer there. Only an upright freezer would be a better fit than a chest freezer. After discussing the merits of an upright freezer vs. a chest freezer and dispelling the myth that an upright was twice the cost, a plan was hatched. A trip to Lowe's ensued, a proper freezer was selected - one that was not frost-free so that things would stay good and frozen rather than constantly thawing slightly like they do in a frost-free, loaded into the truck, and brought home.

Everything went smoothly until we got the freezer stuck in the stairwell. We have a curved stairwell, which is pretty and all, but not really what you want for moving freezers through. The Mrs. was able to muster enough upper body strength to help me pull the thing back up the two steps we had gotten it down and to strategize.

Her strategy was to call The Dave Guy from across the street to come over to help. The Dave Guy suggested I remove the door from the freezer. That made it about 4" narrower, counting the handle. The Dave Guy and I got it down the stairs and into place in short order, in large part because we were able to move it more vertically than had been possible with The Mrs, as we were now bearing the load at both ends rather than just one.

I don't know why I always think of my wife as someone who can help move heavy things. She has time and time again proven to be incapable of that. Much in the way I have proven to be incapable of reading her mind when she is angry at me.

So here is her new best friend:

And, naturally, a trip to Safeway was called for yesterday. Now we are ready to brave any storm.

I had best go shoot me a deer before the whole thing fills up with french fries.

All fixed

A picture I have called, "You Bastard."

I'm not good with ladders. Luckily, MaxieC is.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Maxie Dice Clay

MaxieC told us a joke at lunch today:
Q: What did the director say to the over-tentacled cow?

A: Those are nice boobs.

CherkyB, Patron of the Arts

MaxieC and I were watching Sunday Night Football last night, as fathers and sons often do. As a father, I know it is my responsibility to pass down to my son the ways of men lest he grow up to one of those men people accuse of "being raised by his mother". Part of this, of course, requires some knowledge of football, and in particular the intricacies of watching it on TV.
[ Closeup of a cheerleader right before we cut to commercial. ]

Me, CherkyB: "Whoa! Check out the ti...uhhh...mmmm... What do we call those?"

MaxieC: "What?"

Me, CherkyB: "You know, the big things here." [makes arthritic gesture with hands]

MaxieC: "You mean the shiny things she was holding in her hands and shaking around?"

Me, CherkyB: "No. Those are pompoms."

MaxieC: "I knooow. You mean the big, fat things on her chest."

Me, CherkyB: "Yes! Those. What do we call those?"

MaxieC: "Deet-deets."

Me, CherkyB: "Yeah. Deet-deets. Did you see what nice deet-deets that cheerleader had?"

MaxieC: [puzzled] "Momma has those."

Me, CherkyB: "[Sigh.] When you're older..."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

That didn't last long

Tonight, I happened to glance upwards at the entrance way chandelier. One of the bulbs is burned out. I have to figure out what we did with the two extras...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Again, Too Obscure?

Did you understand the Neville Chamberlain reference without looking it up?
Free polls from

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My mother will never forgive me

But my inner European is an Irishman.

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.

Truth be told, though, I do have a bit of Irish in me.

Something Not to Do 14

Let's say, purely hypothetically, that after a long, hard day of work, you come home to enjoy a home cooked meal with your family. Then, part way through, something akin to this transpires:
MaxieC: "I want a cupcake."

The Mrs.: "You need to eat your dinner first."

MaxieC: "No! I'm done eating! I want a cupcake!"

The Mrs.: "You haven't eaten your dinner. No cupcake until you eat your dinner."
So far, so good.
MaxieC: "But I'm not huuuungry! It's too spicy! I want a cupcake!" [stomp stomp stomp]

The Mrs.: "It's just the sausage that's spicy. Eat this part."

MaxieC: "Noooo!!!! I'm done eating! I want a cupcake NOW!"

The Mrs.: "Well, at least eat your salad before you have a cupcake."
MaxieC: "No. I'm getting a cupcake now." [climbs up on counter, gets a cupcake]

The Mrs.: "OK, but right after you eat your cupcake, you have to eat your salad."
[Snorf snorf cupcake munch munch mmmm yummy]
MaxieC: "OK, I'm done."

The Mrs.: "Now eat your salad."

MaxieC: "Noooooo!!!!! I'm fuuuuuullllll!!!!!!!!!"

The Mrs.: "Well, OK, eat your carrots at least."

MaxieC: "Noooooo!!!!!!"

The Mrs.: "Come one. Just one bite of carrot?"
Now, I know it may be tempting given the wonderful warmth you are feeling from your first glass of genuine French Beaujolais in years, a tanginess that really cannot be matched in even your finest domestics, but this is really not the right time to whip out, "You are the Neville Chamberlain of motherhood." Possibly true, but definitely not helpful.

That would be Something Not to Do.™

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Monday, November 05, 2007

If you measure it will improve. An old management maxim.

Today is a new session for swimming lessons. HannahC has a new teacher. The new mommy'n'me class now has 3 bikini-clad moms. The original one looks pissed, as she's clearly the oldest of the three. She thinks she should get extra credit for that, but you don't get extra credit for having "for an old lady" appended to your description.

Most everyone is unsick now. The illnesses were short-lived, for the most part, though little Maxie-squirt-bottom seems to have hung on longer than anyone really needed it to.

This weekend was a particularly trying one at the C household. Saturday there was a lot of whining about being sick, followed immediately by a movement in the clock. People without small children see the end of Daylight Savings Time as a night where you get an extra hour of sleep. People with small children realize it is a day when they just get to be up an extra hour, because Jr. is going to get up at the crack of dawn as always, only that's going to be 5:30am Sunday morning, and The Older One, who can tell time, is still going to insist on staying up until 10pm Sunday night because her bed time is triggered by the wall clock.

I, of course, suffered in silence, as I am wont to do. There was quite enough complaining to go around despite my resolve, though.

Yesterday was the first day since we bought our house that all the light bulbs in the entrance-way chandelier worked. When we moved in to the house, there were burned out light bulbs all over the place. This house has too damned many bulbs. There are like 40 in the basement alone. The entrance-way chandelier has 16. Two were burned out.

So, first I discovered that I needed a taller ladder to reach the bulbs. My 6' A-frame ladder did no good in one of these 2-story vaulted ceiling things where the bottom of the chandelier is 12' above the ground, and naturally the 16' extension also was of no use given this hangs out in space away from any walls. So a couple months later, I bought one of those nifty convertible ladders that does a 13' A-frame as well as a 26' extension.

Then, I got up there and tried to unscrew the old light bulbs, with one breaking off in the socket. After much futzing with needle-nose pliers (no, the potato trick does not work), I got that out. Then, upon examination of the old lights, I realized they were 25W bulbs.

But I didn't own 25W bulbs. Nobody owns 25W bulbs. It's a useless denomination. Too dim to light anything up, but too bright to use as background mood lighting.

Unless, of course, you gang 16 of them together.

So I put the ladder away and queued this up for "next time you're at Lowe's."

Naturally, Lowe's doesn't carry 25W bulbs. They don't carry useless stuff. Only high-volume stuff.

So, I had to then queue it up for "next time you're at Ace."

Only I didn't remember for a couple months. Then I finally remembered and got some bulbs, but I was at Ace for some other task, so I set the bag down in the garage when I got home and went off and did that other task all day.

At some point, we reorganized the garage so I could park in there. I never saw those bulbs again.

Until last weekend when we were stowing some garden stuff up on the storage shelves, and I had to move some boxes to get the ladder over by the shelves, and the lid collapsed on one of the boxes, revealing two 2-packs of 25W light bulbs.

Ah Ha! The Mrs. immediately moved them from the garage to sit on the banister below the chandelier. Where they sat for a week.

So a week later, I had the ladder out on Saturday to remove a big-giant yellowjacket nest from the eaves that had mysteriously grown without anyone noticing it until all the leaves fell off the tree near it. Big. Like as big as The JohnnyB's head. Maybe bigger. I have pictures:

And since I had the ladder out on Saturday, when I was in the garage on Sunday, I saw the ladder and said, "now where in the hell did those light bulbs go?" After a few minutes of searching, I remembered where they were. So I replaced the bulbs.

From start to finish, just 14 months and two weeks.

Not bad, huh?