Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Cooler of Death

I don't know how she did it, but somehow yesterday morning HannahC managed to convince The Mrs. that she needed "some Daddy time" where just HannahC and I would go fishing. She chose as a venue, "that pond at Riverbend where we caught all those bluegill last year."

Well, why not. We've been fishing twice this year at new locations, and thus far only The Mrs. had caught a fish, and it was a stinky green catfish. On the way, however, we made a slight (40 miles?) detour up to Wyoming to hit one of the fireworks stores that's right on the border. Ya see, in Wyoming, eveything is legal. However, there are a lot of people who moved from California to Colorado not because they wanted to get away from the creeping death that is California culture like we did, but because they wanted to preserve the god-awful California culture, only in a nicer place. Like Boulder or Fort TomCollins.

In the city of Fort TomCollins, all fireworks of all kinds are banned. This is purportedly because of the danger of brush fire, however one would be hard placed to find any brush in Fort TomCollins. What one finds is a lot of "progressives" who spend most of their time thinking up bizarre ways to legislate away traditional American values - like fireworks and lot sizes larger than 5000 sq ft.

Happily, we don't live in For TomCollins, so only a small subset of fireworks are banned: anything that leaves the ground, and anything that explodes. i.e., all the "fun" fireworks. But we still can get sparklers and spark fountains and smoke bombs and such. So it's almost like being in America.

But if you drive to Wyoming, you can get all the good stuff. The place I chose among the three stores at the very first exit in Wyoming offered quite a deal - 140 free bottle rockets with a $35 purchase. Needless to say, I managed to score 140 free bottle rockets. And some free smoke bombs (yawn).

MaxieC, however, was terrified of the fireworks again this year. He sat in the back of the pickup truck with The Mrs. wearing hearing protection and crying that the house was going to burn down while I lit off a few of the things last night. I think just about everything I set off was actually legal in my area, too. Nothing scary.

This morning, he told me how cool the stuff was.

So, anyways, HannahC and I got to the fishing hole around 11:00, which is when the bluegill around here start biting. There were a couple other fishermen there, but they were not in our special spot. You could see the water teeming with little baby bluegills.

It was a good day of fishing. HannahC caught a fish about every 10 minutes, for a total of about nine, four of which we kept. She got a 7-incher, which was the biggest bluegill we've seen in any of the ponds around. She also caught a couple of the babies, including one within 30 seconds of her first cast.

A big turtle swam around the whole time keeping an eye on us. I only caught three, but they were decent enough sized to keep. I spent most of my time at the gutting board while HannahC continued to fish. It seemed like as soon as I finished cleaning her last fish and got my hook back in the water, she had another one ready for me.

I spent way too long a time trying to prepare these little dude for the grill. Bluegill is a very labor-intensive snack.

Fish heads, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads. Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, yum!

A little onion and lemon and we're good to go.

HannahC is begging to go again today, only this time with the whole family. She thinks MaxieC might be able to catch his first fish at this place. Such an altruist.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Like Father, Like MaxieC

I came downstairs this morning and discovered that MaxieC had found a new storage place for his axe.

This scene so inspired me that I felt compelled to practice this evening. Like all practice sessions, though, MaxieC immediately appeared, gave me the thumbs-up, and then proceeded to wildly strum the guitar I was trying to playing. He also managed to knock one string way out of tune with the whammy bar. I guess the locking nut wasn't cranked down enough. You really gotta keep your eye on those nuts when you play with the whammy bar.

It's like prom night all over, as they say.

I tried to teach him classic Van Halen tapping technique (because, really, only a 4-year-old would be impressed with how well I can pull this off), but he became engrossed in the variety of colors of picks I had in the pick box and had to try them all out instead. And then it eventually degenerated into him pounding on the strings and singing "Down the draaaaain...Somebody get me a doctor" which is all he knows of the song.

Really, it's times like this that I wonder how anyone could ever possibly get any work done if they work from home and have childrens. Maybe if your work is like super-super boring and doesn't involve overdriven amplification, flangers, or whammy bars. Like, I dunno, binsplit estimation or pharmaceutical research or something like that.

And not the kind of "pharmaceutical research" you all did in college.

Poor HannahC had quite a day. Yesterday she was over at a friend's house, and she got something in her eye. When I picked her up, the mom said it was either bug spray or something from this plant, which she then handed me a sprig of. She said, "take this with you just in case you have to rush her to the doctor or something."

I chuckled cuz she looked fine.

About 11pm, her face started to turn red and swell. The Mrs. covered it with Benedryl cream and sent her to bed. This morning, it was worse, and the skin was even blistered in spots. So off they rush to the doctor, sprig of weed in hand.

And not the kind of weed you "researched" in college.

The diagnosis is euphorbia burns. I love this line:
In experiments with animals it was found that the terpen ester resiniferatoxin had an irritating effect 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than capsaicin, the "hot" substance found in chillies.
Capsaicin - you know, the stuff they make pepper spray out of to drop hardened criminals. And for whatever reason, she rubbed this stuff all over her damned face, in her eyes, and up her nose.

She's feeling much better now, though, with the medication.

I miss my medication.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Homeschool Rhyme

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Baldness involves the state of lacking hair where it often grows, especially on the head. The amount and patterns of baldness can vary greatly; it ranges from male and female pattern alopecia (androgenic alopecia, also called androgenetic alopecia or alopecia androgenetica), alopecia areata, which involves the loss of some of the hair from the head, and alopecia totalis, which involves the loss of all head hair, to the most extreme form, alopecia universalis, which involves the loss of all hair from the head and the body. Fuzzy Wuzzy was most likely suffering from alopecia unicersalis. Unfortunately for Fuzzy Wuzzy, there is no known treatment for alopecia universalis. So, while Fuzzy Wuzzy could lead a perfectly normal life in other respects, he would always look different from other bears, and this caused him a great deal of stress early in life until he learned to accept his differences and find friends who could see beyond his baldness to his inner goodness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Talented Mrs.

Sometimes I forget how funny The Mrs. is. I usually forget on account of her not being the least bit funny most of the time. But every now and then, she whips out the humor. Last night, she got excited about the novelty of the automotivator and produced this little gem:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


When I got home from work today, The Mrs. asked, "So, did you go to Lowe's?"

She, apparently, is under the impression that I'm still planning to rewire the oven myself, whereas I am of the rather firm belief that I am going to hire an electrician to do so. We shall see, we shall see.

Monday, June 16, 2008

But, of course

The advice the guy gave me at Lowe's for making the copper-to-aluminum connection was all wrong. It violates at least two electrical codes, plus it has another that's potentially a gray area of just being sloppy rather than violating anything.

So, I will shortly rip it all out and call an electrician, who will likely argue that the way I had it was just fine.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers' Day, Now Get to Work!

The Mrs. really found a way to make this Fathers' Day special for me - she made me install a wall oven.

See, it all started back when she willed our old oven to death. I said she could call our appliance guy to fix it (when you deck out your kitchen in quality GE appliances, you get to be on a first name basis with an appliance guy), or we could buy a new one and then she could call our appliance guy to install it. She chose the latter (I think I covered this before).

We ordered one from Lowe's, and it took two weeks to come in. I was out of town on a boondoggle when it arrived, but before I left, I asked The Mrs. if she would be able to handle calling the appliance guy and getting it installed when I wasn't home. She assured me that she would be able to "manage".

When I arrived home at 2am Thursday night, I saw a big giant box in the entrance way.


Then Friday night, The Mrs. said, "I thought tomorrow maybe you'd want to see how far you can get on the installation, and then we can call the appliance guy."

"Well, I can remove the old one and maybe cut the hole to the right size for the new one."


Saturday morning comes along, and I pop the old oven out pretty quickly. It is very light and flimsy-feeling, which is to be expected given it's a low-end GE. I can lift it and carry it to the garage with no problems.

I go to get the new one, and I can't life the box. Not to worry, I have a furniture-moving dolly because I own just about every bizarre little tool one could hope to. I get it up on that and wheel it into the kitchen, where I open it up to get the install instructions.

And this is when it all goes so horribly wrong.

The hole needed to be 1/2" taller and 1/2" wider. Not a big deal, except if I cut the opening 1/2" higher, it would violate the minimum clearance spec between the top of the hole and the thing above it (the microwave). So instead I had to lower the bottom of the hole.

Except the bottom of the hole has a shelf flush with it that the oven sits on. At this point, I tell The Mrs. that this is turning into a lot bigger job than I want to deal with, and that she should call Jeff (our contractor - not our appliance guy) to finish it, cuz an appliance guy isn't going to want to deal with carpentry.

She says, "No. You can do this."

"But you said I should just do as much as I was comfortable with, and I'm not comfortable doing this."

"Nobody else will do as good a job as you. You know what to do. Keep working."

"But you said... Grrr..."

So now I have to remove the shelf, remove the boards that hold it up, which are both nailed and glued to the sides of the cabinet, but then the electrical junction box didn't clear the support, so I had to notch that.

And, of course, I had to figure out how to connect up the copper wires in the pigtail to the aluminum supply lines. My house is wired for a double-oven (despite us having only a single), and anything higher than 30A has to be aluminum. That meant a trip to two different stores to get the proper stuff. The guy at Ace told me to rewire the circuit in copper.


The guy at Lowe's (a retired electrician), set me up with the goods.

But, all that extra work and chasing around meant I didn't finish Saturday before we had to go to a birthday party. It also meant I left the kitchen in absolute disarray with an oven on the floor, a shop vac, packing material, and an assortment of about 20 power and hand tools. Some very, very sharp.

So bright and early on Fathers' Day morning, I began the task of actually installing the oven, all while my cheerful fambly grouched at the kitchen table eating a breakfast of raspberries, having been unable to get to the cooktop to fry up some eggs.

It took only about three more hours, including the trip to the hardware store in the middle to pick up some wood filler to fill a hole left from the previous oven.

And then, joy of joys, it was time to go bowling to celebrate Fathers' Day. The Childrens like to take me either bowling or miniature golfing on Fathers' Day.

But first, we got to load up the back of the truck with the old oven, the packing material from the new one, a broken lawn chair, and a broken toy tractor with trailer. Why?

So we could go to the dump. After all, the dump is clear across town (~25 minutes away), but so is the bowling alley. So why not kill two birds with one stone?

At the dump, MaxieC's nose sprang a leak, and he covered himself with blood. So much so that he needed a change of clothes before we could set foot in public.

So, it was back home again, change clothes, then back across town to the bowling alley. There, we each bowled one game. They gave us two lanes, one with bumpers and one without.

Sadly, I could have used the bumpers. Both of my bowling balls were hanging up on my thumb, and that made my aim (which isn't all that great to begin with) completely erratic. This takes the joy out of bowling, and it's the main reason I always choose miniature golf if given a choice.

The Mrs. ended up beating me by over 40 points. Humiliating. I barely beat MaxieC, who was bowling with the aid of one of those ramp/chute things that you point and roll the ball down.

However, the pro shop was open, so we stopped in afterwards and he sized my thumb, and then decided the thumbs holes on both balls were too small (they hadn't been drilled the same size to begin with). As you get older, your knuckles get fatter. Anyways, he charged only $5 a ball to redrill the thumbs.

The Mrs., not to be outdone on Fathers' Day, bought herself some new bowling shoes that were on sale for $30.

Then it was back home, where I dropped off the fambly and then headed back out to get both propane bottles refilled. See, on Friday we had a BBQ that I didn't know we were having, and I ended up killing both bottles as I had the smoker and grill going simultaneously. Luckily, everything was done when the last bottle ran out.

Oh, I also got gas.

Back to the house, where I wanted to have a nice, peaceful ride on my lawn tractor while mowing the lawn. However, MaxieC needed a ride, and he needed to drive, so this delayed my joy.

The Childrens got me a T-shirt that says, "Life is Good," and has a cartoon of a guy grilling on it.

After mowing the lawn, I got to watch one hour of uninterrupted television before I had to go outside to watch The Childrens while The Mrs. heated up leftovers for dinner. I wrote most of this post while watching DIY.

So, to summarize, it was a normal Sunday here, except I went bowling, got a T-shirt, and watched one hour of TV. Oh, and I tried to be nice to the kids. HannahC only called me "the worst dad in the entire world" once. I had sent her to naughty corner for torturing MaxieC.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Let there be Light

Despite The Mrs.'s seemingly generous offer, I ended up doing low voltage lighting today. I tore out all the old stuff and started over, cuz the previous transformer had melted for some reason. I suspected it was perhaps a short, so I made sure all the lightbulbs were out of the old fixtures, and I measures the resistance from the supply to the ground wires.

It measured 475 Ohms. Now, for those of you who do not have an electronics background, that's waaaay too low to be a normal open circuit. So I decided to replace the wire in addition to the fixtures and transformer.

Later, as I was tearing out the old wires, I discovered about four more light fixtures that had been overgrown by ice plant (little spot-light jobbers, not the tall lanterns I had known about). Perhaps they were the reason I got a low resistance. It certainly in range for having a few 10W bulbs connected. But, whatever. I got to see how the previous owner had done junctions - just twisted the wire together, wrapped it with electrical tape, and buried it. That's asking for trouble. I bought fancy silicone-filled waterproof outdoor wire nuts.

I put in four carriage-style lanterns (one can be seen in foreground rock-pile of the photo) and one post-style light (seen in background between steps and dwarf spruce tree). It all went smashingly, except I ran out of time before I got to bury the wires.

We had little lamb chops for dinner. A great deal at Sam's club.

CherkyB and the Inappropriate Humor

It's almost like I'm a dentist or something.
The Mrs. [to The Childrens]: "I'm going to go brush my teeth so that I'll be ready to do whatever it is Daddy wants done."

Me, CherkyB: "Oh. You'll probably want to brush your teeth afterwards instead."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I am lazy

Thus, tonight I will resort to photoblogging. The worst of all possible blogging forms. Perhaps I should have started drinking earlier...

Today, we went to Sam's Club. We filled two shopping carts. As I was unloading the winivan, for some reason this scene made me think of Blogauthor.

And then, of course, I learned how hard the life of a stay-at-home mom is.

Do you drink Scotch or vodka with that?

TomTom customer support sent me a file to downgrade my firmware back to the previous working version. That has restored my GPS to its normal level of uselessness, as opposed to its especially-complete uselessness. To celebrate, today I had it navigate me to the koi store.

Koi stores are not "points of interest" that make the cut for a GPS map, as it turns out. So I said, "well, I know the intersection". But, as it turns out, I only knew the main portion of the street names. I didn't know, for instance, that it was "S Timberline" and "E Lincoln". I only knew it was Timberline and Lincoln. It turns out not to be able to figure out that if you put in "Timberline" that you might be interested in "Timberline," "N Timberline," and "S Timberline". So you end up pretty focacciad when you find that Timberline and Lincoln do not cross anywhere.

And, once again, I am reminded about just how much better the Alpine-based system in the wife's winivan is, as it never sweats the compass direction details. Those in-car systems cost like $3000, but they really are 10x better.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Garden of Rock

The long-awaited pictures of the rock garden:

And, of course, the fuel that keeps me going during such projects:

Monday, June 02, 2008


So it took about an hour, but I got the Harmony universal remote working. In a bizarre twist of fate, of all my A/V equipment, the one thing it decided it didn't already know how to run was the DirecTV receiver. I had expected it wouldn't know how to work my Kenwood A/V receiver, as I got that in the summer of 1986 with money I earned from working at a car wash, and none of the roughly 6 or 7 universal remotes I have tried on it has ever worked.

In fact, the RCA universal remote I bought a few years back cuz it could "learn" your IR codes could not even learn the codes from this receiver's remote. I actually ended up throwing that remote out, I was so angry with it. But not until I wrote a scathing review of it online. A review that is the only actual hit to me if you do a google image search on my real name with quotes around it.

The DirecTV receiver is not even seven years old, which makes it newer than the aforementioned A/V receiver and the VCR, and roughly contemporaneous with the TV. Yet, it didn't know how to operate it.

Or so it claimed.

After making me teach it the IR codes for like 20 different things, it said, "Another device has been found that shares the same codes," and it pointed me to a model that was the same as mine except for the last digit.


However, it turned out that it didn't actually know how to work my TV. It thought it had a different set of input lines than it actually had, so I had to go in and have it "learn" each of the buttons I push to select the different inputs. It sequences through the inputs normally, but then the remote depends upon you never changing it ever by hand or with another remote so that it can remember where it is in the cycle. I happen to also have hard-coded buttons for each of the inputs, so I just had it learn those. It knew the codes already, but I didn't know the name it had associated with each code.

I was most impressed that it was able to do the sequence for playing a PS2 game:
  1. Turn on TV
  2. Tune TV to channel 3
  3. Turn on VCR
  4. Tune VCR to channel L1
  5. Select "VCR" for output mode
  6. Turn on A/V receiver
  7. Select "Video" input
If The Mrs.'s PS2 was newer than fall of 2003, it would also have been able to turn on the PS2. But this "original" model does not include the IR hardware.

I may need to get another of these remotes for the upstairs setup. That setup is less complicated, but also the universality of the remotes is oddly lower. Like the satellite remote barely controls the TV and DVD, and the TV and DVD, despite being of the same brand and year, don't actually have the right button sets to properly control each other, and they can't control the satellite at all.

When is Fathers' Day?

Funky CherkyB

I am in a funk. Why?

Well, let me see:
  1. The DirecTV dish has decided to have slowly degrading signal strength over the last six months. It started with just one receiver losing signal, but now all three are frequently unwatchable. They were supposed to give me a brand new dish when I moved in as part of the moving package, but the installer said, "That dish is the same one I'd install, so let's just use it."
  2. The new oven cost over $2000.
  3. One of our 16" floor tiles began rocking back and forth in the kitchen. Now all the grout is out. It looks like the floor is sinking. The tile only covers about 800 sq ft, so if I have to retile, that'll only be maybe 12 grand. If I have to restructure the support beam in the basement that is right under this spot, well, I imagine that'll be more.
  4. Carl, Jr. is a better fisherman than I am.
  5. The DVD remote in the basement was lost (though HannahC just moments ago remembered where she hid it and "discovered" it without admitting any guilt). It was stuck up the arm of the couch between the wood and the cushion.
  6. I had checked there three times already.
  7. TomTom, in their infinite fucking wisdom, pushed out a firmware revision to everyone three weeks ago that causes your GPS to hang if you ask it to navigate to either a "point of interest" (eg., store, restaurant, gas station, airport) or to an intersection. So unless you know the address of where you are going, you can't get there with the GPS. They are "aware of the problem but do not have a timeframe for the fix" according to an online help forum. One of the users in the forum has posted a way to downgrade to the previous firmware, but I'm so far afraid to try it as it comes with a README that says, if something goes wrong, you may render your GPS useless.
  8. Not that it isn't pretty fucking useless already.
  9. I hate Mexican food. Really hate it. I can choke it down if I need to, but in general I try to avoid it.
  10. I decided to dig out my Harmony universal remote control. I got it for, I think, Fathers' Day last year, but didn't have time to tackle it. I got it out 20 minutes ago, and it is still farting around downloading revisions and making me create web accounts and the like.
  11. I don't like kids. Especially kids who feel the need to constantly be touching you, leaning on you, climbing on you, or need to spontaneously yell for no reason at all.
  12. Obama!

Failure and Success

You know, when I think of a "rock garden", I think of a garden with a lot of rocks in it, and some moss growing on the rocks, and maybe some tiny little desert plants here and there.

Apparently, The Mrs. thinks of something completely different. More on that later.

I made a gigantic mistake this weekend. I decided to take the fambly fishing at a spot highly recommended by Carl, Jr. However, we decided to go in the morning before it got too hot, and so that we'd have the remainder of the day to finish up the rock garden. It was nice cuz we had the entire lake to ourselves. No other people fishing. No fish. Just us. We fished for a while, using every fancy lure in the tackle box, and then finally switching to worms. It was over an hour before we found a spot where the bluegills were nibbling.

They ate a lot of worms without ever getting hooked.

The Mrs. managed to catch two fish. One was a dead trout that was all tangled in fishing line. The other was about a 7" catfish. These are her first two catches in Colorado.

Now, for some reason, The Mrs. got it in her head that catfish are somehow too dangerous to touch. So she sent HannahC running over to the playground to fetch me to deal with it. I was watching MaxieC on the swings, as he got kinda bored with not catching anything. The little train that runs around the park was broken due to mechanical difficulties.

We all hustled our sorry selves back to find The Mrs. standing on the shore with her line in the water with an unhappy-looking but remarkably calm catfish on the other end. This was very exciting, because I got to use for the first time my Berkley Pocket Lip Grip that I got for Christmas. Remarkably, it worked fabulously well. Held fishie-fishie nice and steady while I reached in with my Rapala stainless steel fishing pliers and removed the hook. However, being that I had been baking in the sun for a while, I neglected to use the built-in tape measure to measure the exact length. Such is life.

Much of the rest of the weekend was filled with rock garden activities. The Mrs. managed to spend about 3 hours in two trips to the nursery, where I was left to babysit MaxieC the whole time. That, of course, went very well. The rock garden is about 20'x8', and The Mrs. managed to cram in over $600 worth of plants. I didn't count, but it was probably 20 bushy plants and 40 groundcover plants. I took a bunch of pictures, but they're in the camera.

In the end, there were so many plants I had to go with micro-sprayers rather than individual drips. I put about 10 of them. It's a fabulously water-wasteful way to go, but these plants are all low-water varieties once they are established. So I'll water a bunch now and then back off in a couple months.

I also tackled the UV sterilization system in the back pond. I have one in the front and one in the back, and the one in the front always trips the GFI, so I have it unplugged. The one in the back was also unplugged, cuz it didn't seem to do anything.

However, upon discussing with Mugsy, I learned that these things were great for fighting algae, something I battle in both ponds. So, being a sooper-genius, I plugged the light back in, followed the wires to the lightbulb, and noted that the bulb was not glowing in the little window that they put there so you can see if your bulb is working. Online, I learned bulbs last ~1 year at best, so given that it wasn't new when I bought the house, and I've been here almost 2 years, it should be a bad bulb.

So, again with the sooper-geniusitude, I unscrewed the bulb and began to withdraw it from the sleeve. I pulled it out as far as it would go (it was 6" from a rock wall), and then tried to lift it out. I heard the wonderful tinkle of broken glass and water started to pour out.


It turned out the bulb was intact, but the glass sleeve around it was broken. After a while, I realized the bulb was too long to be removed out the end of the tube, so I had to figure out an alternate plan. After removing a lot more flagstone, I found that there was a big-giant tube that was close to three feet long down there with quick-disconnect compression couplings. So I took the whole thing out.

Turns out the lightbulb is also damn near three feet long.

I could read the make and model off the tube, so a quick check of the web noted that the glass sleeve (called a "quartz sleeve") is a frequently-replaced part. I also found my local pond store was a dealer for this model.

Cool. There are two local pond stores, and I didn't want to switch. Turns out the other one is also a dealer for this brand, too.

That stupid quartz sleeve cost $70.

Now, the water is much clearer, but I also dumped in a bunch of algicide, and changed the skimmer box filters (though not the bio-filter), so I don't yet know whether the UV is helping or not. Next week, I'll tackle the front pond. That one, I suspect either the transformer is bad or the quartz sleeve is broken and flooding the bulb electrical connection on account of the continual GFI trips. The pond store was out of transformers (more arriving tomorrow), so I put this off until next week.

The previous owner's solution to the GFI trip problem was to run an extension cord through the front porch door to plug into a non-GFI outlet inside the house. I'm hoping to do better than that.