Thursday, May 25, 2006

This Sounds Good...

I'm a Jimmy Stewart movie! Woohoo!

This is interesting. I especially like the "save/destroy the world" part.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

And no, that's not a joke. Neither is their playing Nirvana songs. I've never heard the original, but I've heard the Weird Al parody., well, not bad!

Video Clip

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Finland Wins Eurovision 2006

There's a really big song contest that takes place in Europe every year (ABBA, Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves have been past winners, Olivia Newton-John got fourth). Finland has never won, until this year, when the group Lordi scored a record-high win. Interestingly enough, they did it with a hard rock song. The contest has largely been more pop oriented.

I've seen the video. I can't say I care much for the song or the video, really. I've never been a hard rock kind of guy. Demon costumes don't do much for me. Sorry. But hey, good for them. If nothing else they get to host next year's contest, which can't be a bad thing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Potpourri De Jour

If I've said it before I'll say it again. If I ain't, I shoulda. I like Michael Totten. Today he's got a post about spending some time in the Palestinian West Bank. You won't get this sort of stuff anywhere else. Well, except for Michael Yon, but he's got a different take on things, and goes different places. They're both good. I wish I could pay them what they deserve.


I spent some time outside last night sanding a shelf for my wife to paint and talking to my mother on the phone (no, not at the same time). In spite of temperatures in the 90's, the evening was pleasant. It had that sigh-of-relief quality about it that come almost like an apology for having tried to melt you earlier in the day.

A red winged blackbird paid me a brief visit, and a trio of ducks did a flyby. I didn't get a single mosquito bite. Did I mention I love our neighborhood?


Speaking of which, I've come to realize I feel a little more connected to this neighborhood than I did the last one. I can think of only one real reason for it, though: a two-story house. Our last one was a single-story, and we could never really see over the fences in the back. Yeah, we knew there were neighbors over there, but they weren't really that real to us. Even the ones who helped us rebuild the bad section of fence fell off the radar once the fence was back up.

Here I can see into most of the other yards in the area. We are in the middle of a subdivision. I don't know most of the people, but I know they are there. I get a reminder every time I look out my window. We are not alone.

And yet we have 25% fewer contiguous neighbors in this neighborhood.


"Hello, and thanking you for calling! My name is Rahjiv! Which country would you like us to be attacking for you today?"

Is it just me, or does the thought of the world's outsourcing capital and robotic armies sound just a little scary?


Have a good weekend, y'all. I know I'll sure try!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I spent the evening last night upgrading my Win98 computer to WinXP. And I do mean the evening. Their "estimated time remaining" indicator really is an estimate--nigh unto guesstimate. At one point I watched it take eight minutes for four minutes to elapse. On the bright side, I also got the dry spots in my front lawn watered.

Once it was completed I eagerly rebooted and awaited computing nirvana. No, I did not take flight. I was quite bummed about that. But it does boot up faster as promised, which is pretty darn close to computing nirvana in my book. A few other notable points:

- I despise the XP windows scheme. Fluffy rounded windows in primary colors, with puffy buttons. It's a kinder, gentler Windows. Ick. I notice they don't have that in XP Professional, which I use at work. The good news is they anticipated my curmudgeonly reaction and included an option to use the old windows look. And I do.

- They don't seem to think I'd ever want to disconnect my dial-up internet connection. Hey genuises, if I could afford another phone line I'd just get DSL! They do give you the option to add the monitor icon to your task bar, but it seems to forget that setting when you reboot.

- On the other hand, my dial-up internet connection seems to have lost its case of bit-constipation. It would tend to download just fine for about five minutes, then just hang for about two minutes. Then, like an old codger who drifted off in the middle of a sentence it'd wake up and resume downloading. Annoying as all get-out. Also, hasn't happened since I finishing installation last night. And here I was blaming my phone line, my ISP, and the Bush Administration.

- We take a lot of digital photos, so the photo viewer they built in is well worth the price of the upgrade in my book. It'll save us skads of time.

- All my desktop icons (of which there are far too many) got randomly rearranged. Would it have been too much to ask that they remember where they all were and put them back when they're done?!

- I can access my mp3 player now. But I still can't find the files I put on it while I was at work when I first bought it. The memory manager can tell that they're there, but they won't show up in Explorer or any other tool I've tried to use. And since that time my work computer crashed and had to be rebuilt. Now IT can't find those files again, either! Evidently the only one who can see my files is my friend, whose computer I used last weekend just to test my theory. And silly me, I didn't delete the darn things when I had the chance! I thought that maybe, just maybe, when my XP upgrade came it would fix the problem.

- Even though the computer is not connected to a network, XP is convinced it should be. I'll have a useless icon on my task bar forever! Hey geniuses, see point two! If I can't afford DSL, I can't afford a second computer and networking gear, either!

- This darn thing is going to nag me every day that I don't have virus protection. I did once, but it took over my computer and made it so I couldn't use certain things--just like a virus!

- I need a new monitor. This one is dark, and the picture I've had on the desktop for the last year and a half has been burned permanently into the screen. I've known about the former, but I didn't notice the latter until the install forced me to use a new picture.

- The CD jacket is oversized. Way oversized. Turkeys.

So, my overall impression? I'm a moderate geek. What do you think? I LOVE IT!

Moderately, of course.

Take That, Michael Moore

Ray Bradbury has written a poem about America. While probably not a direct response to Michael Moore's pirating of Bradbury's work, it's certainly a strong statement against Michael Moore's beliefs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Slow Bike To China

Heinz Stücke has been biking around the world for over 44 years and 335,000 miles, only to have his bicycle stolen in England. He lives on $4,000 a year. It's not, perhaps, the type of life I'd like to lead, but I can't help but admire him and envy his freedom just a little.

On the other hand, he describes being shot, hit by a truck, arrested, stung by bees, and being so hungry after a long ride that he was glad to get a banan leaf. I think I'll pass.

For The Strength Of Youth

This post from The Anchoress gives me hope that perhaps our kids will be smarter than us:

“We had a substitute the other day who seemed to think it was a teacher’s job to ‘mold’ us into ‘good citizens,’ and that this can only be accomplished by embracing dissent. One of the guys in the class told her, ‘you and I have a very different idea of what constitutes good citizenship; dissent for the sake of dissent is called being a teenager - that’s not citizenship.’

When the teacher got annoyed by that, Buster couldn’t help but chime in, “C’mon, you should have loved that answer - he was dissenting from what you pronounced. That makes him a good citizen, right?”

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dirt Cheap

I have found a store that makes Home Depot feel wimpy. It's our local farm and ranch supply store. I spent an hour there with my son on Saturday and absorbed so much second-hand testosterone that by the time we left I felt like I could go carve a hundred-acre farm from the untamed western desert armed with little more than my bare hands and the t-bone from last night's steak.

To put it another way, Home Depot is grilled salmon--yeah, grilling is manly and all, but it's still salmon, and there's an air of domestication about it. This store is a five-pound, inch thick sirloin. Home Depot displays their bar clamps in neat pegboard rows. This place hangs them around the edge of a barrel full of yet more bar clamps, sat next to wooden crates of bolt cutters--as if to imply that you're the type of person that buys tools by the barrel and crate, so large is your spread. There are leather saddles, chemicals in bulk quantities, and warmed tubs full of chicks of breeds I've never even heard of, let alone appreciate the differences.

Why was I there? To buy dirt. Fifteen cubic feet of it. For a flower garden. Yeah, kinda makes the burly shoulders sag a little, doesn't it. I could have salvaged the situation had I had a pickup truck and had them front-loader a scoop or two of dirt in the back (they do that), but no. Fifteen bags. In the back of my minivan.

In my defense, my minivan is buff. There's very little it can't haul. I've taken home loads in that baby that no SUV short of a Suburban could handle. On the testosterone scale a truck may be beef, and a minivan grilled salmon, but SUVs are grilled eggplant. So there.

Incidentally, don't let them fool you. Dirt isn't cheap. On the other hand, it sure feels good to run your hands through it. My son had the right idea. While I was pouring the bags into the flower bed he got his toy backhoe and front loader and started moving dirt around. When I finished I stopped and joined him for awhile. There's nothing like fresh, black dirt.

I wonder what the homeowners association would say if I put up a barbed wire fence.

The Code War

Robert Bidinotto at the Bidinotto Blog offers up evidence that the lessons learned from the Mohammed Cartoon controversy were probably the wrong ones.

Speaking Truth to Power

I know, I hate that phrase, but quite frankly, I think this might actually apply more than many of the cases where that phrase is employed:

Andrew Klavan has written an editorial for the LA Times insisting that Hollywood should make pro-war movies. Let the backlash begin.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Last night the children had difficulty getting to sleep. At one point my youngest son started crying. As he sometimes will get turned sideways in his crib and gets cramped, I thought I should check on him. He was not sideway, just crying. At first he wouldn't stop crying, and I was starting to wonder if he was still half asleep when suddenly his eyes popped open and he started smiling.

Seeing that he was okay, I tried to cover him with his blanket again before leaving the room. I pulled the blanket down over his feet. He grabbed the blanket and pulled it up over his face (uncovering his feet again). I pulled the blanket down again. He pulled it up again. I pulled it down. He gave me a very dirty look and pulled it up.

It was finally at that point that I remembered my wife mentioning that he'd learned to play peak-a-boo with the blanket. He was trying to play with me, and I just wasn't getting it. No wonder he was getting upset.

Unfortunately it was bedtime. He wanted to play, but I wanted him to sleep. Though his smiling eyes nearly sapped my will, I finally left the room. He cried some more, but went to sleep soon after.

Fortunately children at that age have short memories. This morning all was forgiven.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Our house came with a deck, but it wasn't original equipment. When they built the deck they covered over the faucet from the house. To make up for it, they attached PVC pipe to the faucet and ran it under the deck out to the yard. Then someone else (our house has had at least two other owners)removed the second faucet and extended the pipe along the deck rail over to the garden area.

I suspect the second pipe extension (and the garden, for that matter) were recent additions by the previous owners, as they also installed the raised bed garden along one side of the deck. This meant filling in one deck exit, as exiting there would put you in the carrot patch.

I also suspect the second pipe extension is recent because it started leaking this Spring. You see, the line under the deck is parallel to the ground, but the addition runs up to the top rail of the deck, then parallel to the rail over to the corner. This means that the pipe does not drain well. Water collects in the elbow joint connected to the vertical section.

And while I shut the water off before the weather got below freezing last Fall, I didn't beat it by much. I suspect the water had not evaporated out of the line (I left the faucet open) by the time it started to freeze, and that one elbow joint is the place most likely to still be full of water. Not coincidentally, I think, it's that section that leaks.

Or leaked. Last night I fixed it. I cut off the vertical section (that's just asking for more leaks) and installed a new faucet at the end of the line under the deck. I'm hoping that will not only fix the leak (it should, as the leaky part got cut off), but make the line drain better.

In the process I got to do a little archaeology, which is partly why I think I know the history of the deck and the pipe extensions. The deck was originally gray. Now it is white. Right below where the original line comes out from under the deck there is a concrete slab with children's handprints and signatures, dated 2000. Before the deck was built it would have been in the middle of the yard (bad place for a concrete slab), so I suspect it was placed there when the deck was built.

I also suspect the slab was placed there to catch the faucet run-off, so I think I've clearly established that the deck and the main faucet line were built at the same time. What is more, the water line has gray paint on it, but only as far as the vertical joint that I removed.

When I removed the vertical and deck-rail sections of pipe, the paint under the mounting brackets was also gray. The only reason to even run the faucet to the far corner of the deck is to water the garden, which didn't exist until the raised beds were installed. So I'm betting the second extension to the garden corner, the filling-in of the south-side exit from the deck, and the white paint were all part of the same project.

I know the raised beds had to have been used for at least one year, as they were full of garden when we moved in. The names on the slab do not go with the family we bought the house from. The deck was built in 2000, but the extension and gardens had to have happened sometime between 2001 and 2005. I don't know a lot about PVC, but I suspect if it were added in 2001 it would have cracked before last winter, considering the design. I'm placing the extension at circa 2003-2004.

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Just remember where to come back to if you ever suffer from insomnia. Bookmark this post!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Shelf Life

This weekend I built a new set of storage shelves for our closet under the stairs. Until last week it was a toy closet. Now it's additional food storage for things that might not endure the temperature extremes in our garage.

I learned something in building the set of shelves for the garage. This set took me only four hours, even with some additional design considerations. The shelf unit would be nearly seven feet long and six feet high, so there is no way I could build them elsewhere and move them into position. Instead I built them in sections and finished assembly after getting them in place. Except for a last second change in positioning, it worked pretty slick.

The kids were fascinated with daddy's tools, especially the mitre saw and the skill saw. Whenever I used them they'd sit nearby on a box, their fingers jammed in their ears. Every time I got ready to make a cut with the mitre saw my son would remind me, "Careful not to cut your fingers, Daddy!" His concern, no matter how unjustified, was touching nonetheless. As often as I tell him to be careful I suppose I had it coming.

My daughter was so eager to help she volunteered to blow away the drill shavings for me after I drilled each hole. She found out pretty quickly that it's not as exciting as it looks. After a few minutes I was back to blowing my own shavings. My son volunteered for it later, and though two years younger, actually lasted longer at it. Of course once it became evident I was through using the saws they both drifted away before long.

After I got the shelf frame installed in the closet I went back outside to cut the shelves themselves. Before long I had two spectators again--this time looking like hobbits. Emma had decided it was too much work to put her shoes on again, so she "borrowed" her mother's. Walter followed suit. Two little kids with big shoes, perched on a box, eagerly watching daddy cut boards. Straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

I finished up just in time to help get the kids to bed. Before I got back outside to clean up we had a nasty windstorm come up. Most of my sawdust ended up inside the garage. Silly me. One of the reasons I'd built the shelves outside was to avoid a big sawdust mess.

Our downstairs entryway, where the closet it, smells distinctly of particle board.