Thursday, March 27, 2008

Signs of the Seasons

It's becoming obvious that you can tell what season it is by how many trips I make to Home Depot in a month. I'm pretty sure that pattern analysis would indicate that I make very few trips during Winter months, an enormous surge in Spring, then tapering off through Summer into Fall.

It must be Spring.

I made another trip last night to get some more composter materials to finish the production run. And we need a new hose. We hooked the old one up on Saturday to water the strawberry transplants and found out we've sprung a serious leak.

So I found myself driving home last night in a rainstorm, watching the lightning illuminate the western half of the sky, and listening to NPR, who was doing a show with the soundtrack to the new Battlestar Galactica series and the composer's explanations of why he used the instrumentation he did (taiko drums and ancient instruments as much as possible). I've never seen the new series. I find myself wanting to.

It was a somewhat surreal moment, and I felt strangely alive.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Date Nights and Genocide

Both my wife and I have said before that we should watch "Hotel Rwanda". This weekend we finally did. If you're looking for a "feel good movie," this isn't it. But it's an important movie, and I say that without any sarcasm. Many movies act important. This one is.

The movie is an eye-opener on so many levels. The characters and situations display the whole spectrum of humanity from its foulest depths to its most noble heights. We in the West really have no clue. We have a hard time believing the world could be that way because we live such insulated lives.

It's so easy to believe it can't happen here. Don't bet your life on it.

It was not a movie one can watch and forget. One aspect of it or another has been gnawing on my mind ever since. I've been questioning who I am, what I would be willing to do, and what I'm capable of. Hard enough questions in the context of my current, cushy life. Much, much harder in the context of the movie. Even more difficult in the context of the movie and my religion.

The movie is meant to make us think, and it's certainly done that.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Only A Trash Can

I've got the supplies to make my composters. Now I just need the time and the space. We've been getting a fair bit of rain lately, which makes working outside difficult. Working inside could be a bit noisy and messy--and subject to close supervision by cats and kids. Perhaps tonight I'll get a chance to give it a try. I think everyone at the store thought I was crazy, but they at least gave me good advice on the practical details. I hope.

Spring officially starts today. At least I think that's what the Google logo was trying to tell us today. I'm ready. Bring on a little bit warmer and drier weather and I'm so there.

I know, before long it'll be too hot and too dry, so enjoy it while I can.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Attack of the Replechauns

My two-year-old was telling us all about the "replechauns" over breakfast today. I found it rather cute. My oldest has gone hog-wild over St. Patrick's Day. She spent much of the day yesterday, with her brothers' help, making little paper shamrocks, pots of gold, and leprechaun hats that they'd sneak around the house and attempt to "surprise" their mother and me with. She even set up a treasure hunt.

Her reach exceeded her grasp, however, and before she went to bed she had to delegate some of her plans to her mother and I. To me she bequeathed the "making of the sign." She'd drawn letters for a sign, and I was supposed to cut out the letters and attach them individually to a string to hang up across the top of our stairwell. I colored and cut them out, but instead pasted them to cardstock, drew some extra thematic elements and hung it. It seems to have passed muster.

In other news, though, I seem to have contracted Khan Syndrome; as in "You've managed to kill off nearly everyone else, but like a poor marksman you keep missing the target!"

No, I haven't killed anyone. In my case I've managed to buy just about everything else, but I keep missing the compost bin. You see, my clever design to build composters into each of my planter beds didn't turn out as well as I'd have liked. We're going to remove that feature to secure some more garden space.

Instead we need to find some compost bins that will work. The way our yard is arranged there's really no place to build a big one like we had at the old house, so I've got to come up with something smaller and/or portable.

The other night I took the boys with me and went to Home Depot to see what they have. They don't. But I bought some solar yard lights and a bulk pack of canvas yard gloves. Then we went to a local garden/pet store chain. They had two models, both as expensive as all get-out, with not much capacity.

Saturday I took my older boy and we set out again. We went to a larger farm/ranch/home chain. They don't have anything...yet. We can't wait. I've got to get the compost out of the way so my wife can start planting things. So we went to a local nursery. They don't have anything. We finally ended up at Lowe's. They don't have anything, either, but by that point I was hatching plans to make my own.

I had hoped to pick up the materials I needed. Instead I ran out of time. But as we were leaving I noticed a chipper/shredder. It was electric. It was inexpensive. It was on clearance. It was the only one left in the store. I bought. I took it home. I demo'd it for the kids. It's nice. It's very nice.

And it's not THAT unnecessary a purchase. It will help with yard waste and making our composting efforts more successful. But still, I've spent over $200 in my pursuit of a composter so far and we don't yet have a composter.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Upping the Awwww Factor

They say Congress' approval rating is the lowest it's ever been. I can believe it, after their Daylight Savings in Early March maneuver. Curse them!

In related new, this morning our two boys slept in, and it was starting to look like they wouldn't even be up before I left for work. I was brushing my teeth before heading out the door when two sleepy-headed boys in flannel pajamas padded up to the bathroom door, wanting a hug and kiss before I left.

I was only too happy to comply. My boys give good hugs, though the two-year-old's are sometimes in short supply. He must have been especially sleepy this morning. It was quite a long hug.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Ghost of Service

A few weeks ago we upgraded our DSL connection from 256 kbps to 1.5 mbps. Or at least we thought we did. Call it the placebo effect--at first I thought it was indeed faster, though I was a little disappointed, expecting it to be markedly faster. Over time, though, I'd come to the conclusion that it there really was no difference from before. Yet both my ISP and the phone company were charging me to price for the faster service.

Last night I had some time to sit on tech support lines. I called the ISP first--not because I suspect the problem was on their end. Quite the opposite, really. I have high confidence in my ISP. I don't think they've ever told me wrong. In fact I was counting on them to tell me correctly so I'd know what was going on. They ran a few quick tests and decided it was the phone company that was the problem.

So I called the phone company. Sure enough, they'd updated my billing, but had not actually adjusted my connection speed. They did so while I was on the phone. Yay! Hooray! I can watch YouTube videos without interruption!

The motto of our phone company is "The Spirit of Service". If by "spirit" they mean "something insubstantial, even mythological" then I suppose they're correct.

My ISP, on the other hand, rocks. When I called in to find out what was wrong with my connection previously (my modem kept freezing up) they not only diagnosed the problem correctly and helped me resolve it (bad modem from aforementioned phone company-who denied having a problem), they actually refused to sell me a new modem. They'd tested their latest batch from the manufacturer and found them to have unexpected problems. They advised me to call back in a few days when they hoped to have a new, good batch.

In short, they refused to sell me something that would not ultimately satisfy me. They apologized for being unable to meet my needs immediately, but I was far from upset. I was all the more determined to buy from them, because I knew I could count on whatever I did buy to work.

And then they proceeded to inform me that I could upgrade my connection speed by six times for less money than I was currently paying. They were restructuring their rates, and if I was willing to move up to the next level it would save me money (and cost me more from the phone company, but it's nearly a wash). Gee, let me think about this a moment....

I don't think I've ever had a company voluntarily offer to charge me less for more. They could have left me on my old service paying the higher prices for years before I might have noticed. They didn't.

I can't recommend Fiberpipe Internet enough. I don't have to call them very often, and when I do I can honestly say I come away "delighted" by their service.

Some other company needs to undertake a Qwest to improve their service, but I'm not naming names.