July 2008


I ordered a new wireless card for Va’s laptop. I got a Dlink, and so far so good. Our network here at the house had gotten so bad that we’d have to reboot the routers three or four times a day. But now that we have replaced her card, we’ve only needed to reboot it once. I was going to say we hadn’t needed to reboot it, but… I did about an hour ago. We’ll see how it goes.

At work today I helped James solve a small problem. Turns out a resistor was missing from a card. James Skyped everyone that I had resolved the issue, to which I responded “Hurrays for me!” That’s a nod to one of my most favoritest comic strips on the web, Dinosaur Comics. Ryan North is an excellent writer. I don’t know how well he can draw though, because he uses the same artwork in every episode. And yet… it fits. He’s a genius. And T-Rex is all the time saying stuff like “Hurrays for me!” Our director of engineering remarked that perhaps I should be given the title of “honorary HW engineer,” to which I responded, “I have said for a long time that I’m a hardware engineer trapped in a software engineer’s body.” I work in the software group, but my degrees are both in electrical engineering. I don’t think Steve (the director) knew that I really am a bona fide HW engineer already. My software is so good, it’s hard to tell! (Hurrays for me!)

On the way home tonight, I was expecting Va to call me, since she was running another Adventurer adventure this afternoon. She always calls me when those are over. I fished my phone outta my pocket just in case, and it started to ring within seconds. Off goes the CD player (Triumph, Midsummer’s Daydream, for the fifth time in a row – it’s under two minutes long, but it is a fantastic acoustic guitar piece). She was going to get home about 30 minutes after me. So I decided to stop at the Merrimack River again and see if the forget-me-nots (Myosotis) were still in bloom. And the mint too. They both were, and I saw several animal tracks too. I think one set was left by a pair of foxes, but there were also coon prints and some left by some birds (don’t know what kind, maybe plovers or sandpipers?) I also decided to take a picture of yesterday’s crow breakfast – the dead turtle. I will send that to RAARP and let THEM identify it. Not much left to identify though, but they say they’ll take not only photos of roadkill, but actual specimens of roadkill as well. I guess if it’s a rare species it’s good to have the remains.

I like to spend the last day of the month looking for newly opened flowers. That is to say, species of flowers that are just starting to bloom. If I find them in July, I get to log them as blooming in July. I saw nothing new at the river, and I didn’t see anything new at the house either. But I didn’t spend a lot of time looking, as it looked like rain. And it poured all right, but only for ten minutes or so.

I will look for more blossoms tomorrow. The beginning of the month is good for looking for flower species that are almost finished blooming, because then they get logged as August bloomers. I think I’ll have to make a concerted effort to find any Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen) in bloom. It’s getting harder and harder to find them.

Some flowers quit blooming rather suddenly. The Chimaphila umbellata (pipsissewa) was like that. One day there were dozens of them, and then next… nothing. I also saw several more blueberries ready for picking, but the mosquitoes were trying to pick me, so I didn’t hang around. I had not sprayed myself before going out.

Last night after I cut the grass Beth offered to get me an ice cold glass of water. That was sweet! She had put a water bottle in the freezer earlier, but it was not quite full. There were maybe two inches in it though. When she gave it to me, I thanked her and started chugging it (I was thirsty!) That’s when she hollered “Don’t drink it all!” Apparently both inches of water were not for me. I stopped drinking and gave her her water back. But I sure thought it was funny that she offered me about three tablespoons of water.

On the way to work this morning I spotted a murder of crows (for that is the “official” name for a group of crows) on the side of the road. I’m still looking for crow tracks, and it looked like some of them were on the shoulder. I figured it might be sandy enough there to take prints, so I pulled over and parked. The murder flew away. They had been picking over a turtle, and had nearly finished their meal when I interrupted them. The shell was open and I could see the turtle’s vertebrae. I didn’t take a picture, but I should have. Maybe the RAARP people could have identified the species. I also didn’t find any crow (or turtle) tracks. The shoulder there was mostly gravel and I really did need to get to the office.

Wednesday is Pizza Hut day, but I forgot about that until I got to my driveway. I saw the garbage cans out by the road which reminded me that yesterday was garbage day (Tuesdays) and no one had yet bothered to fetch in the cans. And that reminded me that today was Wednesday and I was supposed to pick up a couple of Pizza’s for dinner before I came home. So I turned around, called Pizza Hut, and placed my order. Then I called Va to let her know that I had almost forgotten and would be running 15 minutes late.

After we ate, Va, Beth, and I piled into the car to go back into Tilton to get a few things. Va needed some white beads for a craft she’s working on for Adventurers (or maybe Sabbath School, I don’t remember). She wanted me to get some mulch. When we got there, we split up. She went after the beads and a few other sundries, and Beth and I went after the mulch. I bought six bags, which was about all I could fit in the trunk. When I got home, I got out the weed trimmer and trimmed (what else?) the weeds. I wanted to do that before it rained. It has not rained yet, but it sure looked like it was going to. Then I was too tired to do anymore with the mulch than remove it from the trunk of the car. I figured I should go grab the garbage cans too, and that’s when Beth decided to offer me yet another refreshing tablespoon of ice cold water. Only this time she brought me a whole cup full, and I got to drink the whole thing. Mostly. She had already drunk what she wanted out of it before she gave it to me. But I got at least 10 ounces out of it which was a far sight better than last night.

It was nearly dark when I suggested that she might want to shoot a few more arrows. She did want to, so we went out and shot three rounds.

Beth the Archer

Beth the Archer


(The picture makes it look a lot darker than it really was.)
Her form is not too bad! She needs to alter her stance a bit, but I hadn’t noticed that until I looked at the picture. I will offer her more instruction next time.

Va has decided that she will go camping. She wants to earn her Master Guide, and one of the requirements for that is to earn the Camping Skills I honor. I always say that Va likes nature, she just doesn’t like it on her. She has thus far steadfastly refused to go camping, and I have never pushed her in that direction. I know better!

The plan is to take off Sunday afternoon and camp until Tuesday morning. I will take a few days off work (obviously). This way we will not have to arrange for substitute Sabbath School teachers, and hopefully, we won’t find the campgrounds too crowded.

The major prerequisite was that I had to select a camp ground with indoor toilets. Camping Skills I requires that the camping be done under a tarp or in a tent. We will opt for the tent, as that offers protection from mosquitoes (which I hate) and black flies (which I hate even worse). I choose Lost River. I still need to call and make reservations though, and I keep forgetting to do that. I will be taking the Pathfinders there in September, so this will be a good opportunity to check it out. I think it’s a bit less than an hour away from home too, so that’s a bonus. We chose Lost River because the Adventurers will be having their Fall Fun Day there on the Sunday of our club campout, and the Pathfinders will be there to help out. I need to call the conference and let them know about that too I guess.

I have been making a list of stuff to remember to bring. I have been camping a couple dozen times in the past four years, but this time, I really, really can’t forget to bring something we need. I doubt that Va will ever go camping again, so I need to make this one count! I have no illusions that she’ll love it so much she’ll want to go all the time (though that would be cool). I just want her to not get too much nature on her and not be too miserable.

We will be cooking over an open fire. I have to be careful about what we bring because we will not have a trailer to haul a bunch of gear along. We don’t even have an SUV or a van. Our biggest vehicle is a Honda Accord. That means I won’t be bringing a separate canopy for a kitchen. We will set up a tarp and eat under that. I also won’t be bringing a camp stove (except for some soda can stoves the boys and I made last year). We might not need them, but I want them for backup, and they take up almost no space.

For the honor, she needs (among other things) to participate in cooking at least two of the meals. I dunno which meals she’d like to participate in – maybe breakfast? She wants pancakes which are a fabulous selection for camping. We’re also planning to eat grilled cheese Sunday evening, Velveta Shells and Cheese and Ramen noodles for Monday’s lunch, haystacks (like a taco salad) for Monday’s supper, and then do pancakes again Tuesday morning. After breakfast we will break camp and hit a restaurant for lunch on the way home. Va will probably have had enough camping by then.

I also want to make a dump cake. This is done by dumping peaches, yellow cake mix, and a few pats of butter into a dutch oven, putting the lid on, and tossing it in a bed of coals for about 20 minutes. It is some kind of good. We’ve made it several times in Pathfinder campouts, but I don’t think the boys have ever even tried it. Va will eat one serving, and I will eat the rest. By myself if I have to!

I read several Internet comic strips each day. Today, I really liked this one In Which a Dog is Sneaky. You might wanna take a look before reading further, or I’ll spoil it for you. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

It always amazes me when dogs engage in scatophagy. Penny does that every now and then, particularly when I find a pile of deer scat on the trail. I was trying to get a photograph of some once for the Animal Tracking honor when she saw what I was doing, scooped up my subject, and ran off with it in her mouth. Ew! Don’t say she was trying to prevent me from taking a picture of that which should not have its picture taken! She’s done the same thing even when I was not taking a picture. She is not the only dog that will do that either.

Great. That’s two days in a row I’ve posted about scat. Sorry.

I have been reading about Scrabulous, a Scrabble-like game that has up to now been available on Facebook. I don’t do Facebook, so I haven’t played it, but the game has gotten rave reviews. Unfortunately, they did not have permission from Hasbro to make a Scrabble-like game, and were taken down in the US and Canada today. I had an idea back when I was in college that might save their butts though, and being the nice kind of guy I am, I gave it to them. The idea is to make a 3D version of the game played on a 9x9x9 cube. They got back to me with this:

Alright, lets see! Will try out a demo 🙂

So… if you see this happen, remember you heard it here first. You’re welcome. I do have to admit that my main reason for giving them the idea is because I want to play it, but I do not want to develop the game. I have had the idea for over 20 years, but have not written a single line of code to make it happen, so it’s safe to assume that I will prolly never write a line of code to that end. But I still want to play it. Good luck Scrabulous guys!

Beth and I counted 11 Rana clamitans (green frog) specimens in the storm water pond tonight. I have been taking their pictures for pretty much the same reason I take pictures of flowers – such as the one in my banner up there – Sisyrinchium montanum (Blue-eyed Grass). The NH Department of Fish and Game runs a program they call “Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program” or RAARP. They want to know when and where citizens have spotted any species of reptile or amphibian. So I said “Hey! I’m a citizen!” I have been keeping the data they want, and I will send it in this fall. I wish they would implement a program more like the Bloom Clock, because it’s a lot easier to participate in, and it lets the other users interact with one another. Kinda like Facebook I guess.

After our frog spotting concluded, we went along the trail in the woods behind the house. I started picking some of the wild blueberries growing there, and pretty soon, I had about more than I could hold in one hand.

One handfull of blueberries

One handfull of blueberries


Now that’s not really a lot of blueberries, but you have to remember that I did not plant any of them, fertilize them, or in any other way provide them with care. Beth insisted that we save them for this fall and winter “like squirrels do” and I thought that was a fine idea. She ran to the house and got a plastic container and we collected a little more. Then I chucked them in the freezer. I will add to it as I can, and maybe by this fall we will have a quart.

Afterwards, I cut the grass. I think it was the third time this year. I don’t have what most people would consider a great lawn, but it suits me pretty well. Instead of a grass monoculture, I have all sorts of plants (most would say weeds) growing there, and I enjoy them all. I hate cutting them down! I mowed around a couple of my friends (i.e., more weeds), but here’s a list of the fallen:

  • Trifolium pratens
  • Trifolium repens
  • Potentilla arguta
  • Prunella vulgaris
  • Ranunculus spp.
  • Oxalis stricta
  • Vicia cracca

Sniff! I’ll miss you little guys!

Today I went to Market Basket to buy some lunch. I often buy a box of instant oatmeal for $2.00 and get 5 lunches out of it. This time I spotted some bing cherries on the way to the cereal aisle, and noted that they were $2.99/pound. They looked good. I saw a package for $1.16 and figured that was about right. Then I grabbed my oatmeal and checked out. As it turns out, the cherries were not at all $1.16. Rather, they were 1.16 pounds, or $3.47. The thing that makes me reely stoopid is that it said $3.47 in huge, gigantic print. Duh. But I bought them anyhow they tasted pretty good. I ate about half of them and stowed the rest in the fridge.

A little later I glanced out the window and saw that it was raining. Wow. I wouldn’t have predicted that based on my lunchtime excursion. It was beautiful then! A little after that it was beautiful again. Go figure! It was gorgeous the rest of the day too.

When I got home I decided to rehang David’s and Beth’s bikes. I have two little bike racks that were attached to the wall, but somehow, I tore them off a while back. I don’t remember how, but the heads on the screws holding them to the wall just popped off! I grabbed some quarter inch by 3″ lag bolts from the basement and socked those in. I think the studs will come down before the bike racks come off next time. Hopefully though, it won’t come to that!

After I hung the bikes, I collected the tools I had abandoned in the garage a couple of weeks ago working on Samuel’s bike and my snowblower, and I put them away. I really ought to collect them as soon as I finish whatever I’m doing, but that almost never happens. Once I had all that squared away, I was able to park my car in its designated space. Yay!

Beth and I shot a few arrows after that. She was doing pretty OK until I thought it was time to teach her how to aim. After that, she was not pulling the string back far enough, and the arrow would just kinda amble out from the bow and plunk unceremoniously on the ground in front of her. No hurry! She found that frustrating. I shot a few rounds myself and managed to hit the hay bail with every arrow (from 60ft). That’s a bit of a trick with this bow, as it will barely propel an arrow that distance, even when fully drawn (and then some).

While we were out there, we saw Ila and her mom Melissa for a few minutes. She asked if Don (her husband) had spoken to me about a community garden. They are thinking about clearing some ground and planting a large garden next year and wanted to know if I wanted in on it. Yes I do, thanks! I have written before about the severe lack of sunshine on my property. I would frankly rather have trees here though than a garden, but if they’re going to put one in and invite me to plant, I will be there in a heartbeat. They also want to put out an orchard. Melissa wants to learn to can and freeze, and I have done both, though not very much. I will share what I know.

Va told me the other day that Mellisa and our other neighbor Hadley were talking about some animal leaving scat in their driveway. They all agreed that I (of all people!) could probably identify the animal based on the scat. I think I probably could, but I would rather not go poking around someone else’s driveway looking for scat without an invitation. Also, I have mixed emotions about being pegged as the “scat guy.” On the one hand… well – it’s scat. But on the other, it’s wildlife. I guess I’ll have to take it either way.

I’ll end this post with a couple of halfway decent green frog photos I took at the storm water pond:

Green frog

Green frog

Another Green Frog

Another Green Frog

This morning Beth went out to play and saw our next door neighbors shooting arrows. She remembered that the boys each have bows, and came in asking me if I would teach her how to shoot. I figured why not? I asked David if I could borrow his bow (if Beth had asked, we would have gotten a different answer). Then I showed her how to nock an arrow, draw the string, and release. We’ll work on aim another time. She got to the point where she could actually shoot pretty decently. She’s not hitting a target yet, but the arrows aren’t coming out sideways either. I call that pretty good for a six-year-old.

I planted seven more squash seeds in the places where they did not come up. Surely this is too late in the year, but hey! we’ll see what happens!

Around lunchtime I loaded a bicycle into the trunk of my car and took it over to Samuel’s house. Samuel is a refugee from Sudan who is in our Pathfinders club. He asked if he could have a bike at the yard sale we had on Memorial Day, but the only ones we had left when it was over were both broken. One was missing a pedal and the other was missing a seat. I took the seat off the one that was missing a pedal and attached it the the other one, so that left me with one pretty worthless bike and one fully functional one.

I had intended to take it to him last week, but it rained almost every day, and I did not relish the thought of loading and unloading a bike in the rain. I was planning to go into Concord anyway today, so it was not really a special trip. I did stop at Walmart first and bought him a $4.00 bike lock. Otherwise, I don’t think he would have that bike for very long.

Samuel was not home when I went by, but his aunt Paska was walking up the sidewalk just as I arrived. She knocked and hollered, but no one came out. I dragged the bike out of the trunk and reattached the front wheel (had to take it off to get it in the trunk). Then Paska and I wheeled it behind his house, parked it outside his back door, and I locked it up. I peeled the sticker off the lock and stuck it to the inside of his storm door. I meant to call and let him know where it is, but I forgot. Maybe Paska will tell him, or he’ll figure it out, or he’ll call me (he does have my number). I’ll call tomorrow and check on him if I don’t hear anything.

After that I went over to the church to meet Warran. We had arranged to install a vent on the roof of the Pathfinder trailer, and we did just that. I had forgotten to bring my caulk gun, so after Warran cut a hole in the roof with his saws-all, I hopped in the car and went to Home Depot for a caulk gun. The first one I saw was nearly ten dollars. The one I bought was a buck ninety-seven. Woot! As soon as I got back, we took a look at the sheet metal screws that came with the vent. Torx! Neither of us had a properly-sized torx-head driver either. So… back to Home Despot. We got some Phillips sheet metal screws instead, and finished the job just in the nick of time. A few minutes after we put the last tool away, it started pouring.

On my way home I got a call from Va wanting me to pick up some yogurt. So I went to Shaws. Before I found the yogurt I found the novelty ice cream freezer and bought a box of drumstix. I ate two of them on the way home (don’t tell anyone!)

I read today that if you drive 75 MPH vs 65 MPH over an eight mile stretch, you will save yourself 59 seconds of time. That’s not very much. A while back I started driving 55 on the Interstate when there’s not much traffic (i.e., when people can easily pass me). My gas mileage went from 33 MPG to 36MPG. I did the math and found that the speed difference costs me 73 seconds on my drive home. I can live with that.

Dennis and I went to Subway for lunch today. Just as we arrived, another co-worker, Marco, arrived from the other direction. As we were waiting in line, the woman behind him pointed out that there was some sort of beetle on his collar. He was having difficulting finding it and she did not want to touch it. Ew! So I plucked it off his shirt.

Hmmm, what am I going to do with this? My plan was to release it outside, but I the Subway people were making my sandwich, and I needed to let them know what I wanted on it. So I dropped the beetle on the front of my shirt. He hung out there until we left the restaurant, and then I snatched him (or her? Let’s assume him!) off and carried him in my hand back to the office. I put him down on my guest chair and took a few pictures. This is the best one of the lot:

beetle

beetle

Last night as I was helping David with his science experiment we decided to soak a chunk of quartz in a muriatic acid bath to simulate chemical erosion. Outside. On the deck. I poured some acid in the beaker for him (the rock was already in place) and then got to thinking about the possibility of rain. I suggested that he cover the beaker with some aluminum foil to keep the rain out. Here’s what it looked like when I got home from work today:

Muriatic acid in a beaker covered with foil

Muriatic acid in a beaker covered with foil


Whoduh thunk it? The acid evaporated and burned a hole clean through the foil! luckily, it did not rain.

On the water erosion front, we had great success. Here’s a picture of his water-eroded chalk next to an uneroded piece.

Eroded chalk

Eroded chalk

I stomped around the property a bit this evening and took a few photos. Here are the best ones:

<i>Rana sylvatica</i> (Wood Frog)

Rana sylvatica (Wood Frog)

<i>Monotropa unifloar</i> (Indian Pipe)

Monotropa unifloar (Indian Pipe)

<i>Lotus corniculatus</i> (Birdsfoot Trefoil)

Lotus corniculatus (Birdsfoot Trefoil)

<i>Rana clamitans</i> (Green Frog)

Rana clamitans (Green Frog)


Some of them do not peg the suck meter! Yay!

Last night I finished putting together the answer to the Marsupials honor. The last time I had worked on that one, I found myself stuck on one of the requirements. That was in November 2006. There are not very many Nature honor left without answers, so it was definitely time to revisit this one. Luckily, the intervening months gave me a chance to quit thinking about it, and this time I was able to come up with a decent keyword: pouch. Armed with that word, Wikipedia saved the day.

Apparently, marsupial pouches come in two basic configurations: rear facing, and forward facing. Marsupials with rear-facing pouches give birth to multiple young. The Tasmanian devil gives birth to up to 50 babies, but having only four nipples, 46 of them don’t make it. The mother is unable to interact with the babies while they are in the pouch, and once they leave, they do not return. Quoll’s behave in about the same way, and have the same rear-facing pouch configuration.

Kangaroos, on the other hand, have a forward facing pouch. They give birth to one baby, and they are able to interact with it during its stay in the Pouch & Breakfast Inn.

It rained here today. A lot. I kept thinking I might get out at lunch and take a walk, but everytime I looked out the window, it was either pouring or threatening to. So I stayed in and wrote code.

The DMA driver I’m working on started giving me fits. As soon as I tried to make it do anything other than the easy move-data-from-point-a-to-point-b schtick, it quickly fell apart. I ended up rethinking its internals, and may have come up with a decent, and perhaps easy-to-use solution. The balancing act is to make it easy to use while preserving its ability to do bizarre things. I thought about it quite a bit while staring out the window watching the rain come down.

After I got home I helped David a little more with his science experiment. We have a large plastic tub filled with water sitting in the dining room floor. We attached the aquarium filter to it and got that going. The trick remaining was to position a sample beneath the stream pouring out of the filter. David attempted to build a Lego tower to set the sample on, but its propensity to float overcame the friction holding it together. He had weighted the base down with a three-pound rock, but the upper part continually kept breaking away and floating off.

We solved it by putting a glass pitcher on top of an upturned glass casserole dish, and putting the dish’s lid atop the pitcher. The height was perfect, and with both the dish and the pitcher filled with water, it was negatively buoyant. He positioned the chalk on the lid right under the stream, and within minutes little chalk particles were accumulating on the edge of the dish lid. Cool.

We then turned our attention to wind erosion. For that, the plan was to use an aquarium air pump and direct the stream onto the sample. Unfortunately, the pump does not make much of a stream. And while we were working on that, Penny came ambling into the dining room and started drinking the water out of the tub! She drank his science experiment! Not enough to matter, but that still makes a great headline!

I doubt we’ll be able to simulate wind erosion. I am not buying an air compressor for this!

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