October 2009

I have come to the conclusion that our GPS unit is not really suited for geocaching. Since it’s supposed to stay in the car, it always assumes that you’re on a road. If it finds that you are not on the road, but near one, it “makes the correction” and plots your position on the road. This is not a good thing when you are trying to find an off-road cache.

Beth, Penny, and I walked down to Sandogardy Pond and looked for the two caches that are down there. We utterly failed to find either of them. So we went back home. I checked out the geocahing website again and read the clues. Then I looked at the “spoilers” showing more precisely where to find the cache.

Now I have spent an awful lot of time hanging around at Sandogardy, so when I saw the photos, I knew exactly where this thing was. At that point we were both too tired to walk down there… so we drove.

In short order we had found the cache. It was nowhere near where the Tomtom said it should be (though Google Maps had it exactly right).

The cache itself was pretty tiny! Just a little aluminum capsule about a half inch in diameter and maybe 1.5 inches long. I unscrewed the cap and found the log inside. The log was a sheet of paper about an inch wide and I guess 11 inches long, rolled up onto a toothpick. We unrolled it and signed the second-to-the-last space. Beth signed first. I instructed her to leave enough space for me to sign too, but she didn’t. I squeezed “jwt” and the date in there anyhow. Then we came on home.

I fell asleep on the couch, and Beth played on the computer.

Tomorrow I am going to Portland, ME for a seminar on Disaster Response. I’m going to get certified to help run a donations warehouse, accepting donations, bundling them up into useful packages, and distributing them. So when a disaster strikes, I will be qualified to assist.

Last week at the Pathfinder meeting we worked on the Fungi honor. One of the requirements is to identify and either photograph or draw 15 species of fungi. There are a lot of honors like that, and I always have the kids do the drawing. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that not all the kids have cameras and I’m not about to loan them mine. Another is that drawing requires closer observation of the specimen.

But there are problems. Specifically, David isn’t very good at drawing, and hates to do it. He asked why they couldn’t just take pictures, and I explained the reasons I just mentioned above. Then he suggested that maybe he could take photos later. I said he could, but that I wanted him to keep quiet about it so I wouldn’t have a revolt on my hands.

Today when I got home from work, I suggested that he should go outside and take the pictures, and he agreed. We went out together, because I had already spent a considerable amount of time scouting the property for mushrooms (I had collected several specimens for the meeting last week). I showed him how to operate the camera in the manual mode, because the results are so much better that way. F-stop, macro lens, tripod, 2-second delay (so the camera can stop shaking after the button is pressed), and setting the exposure time. It looked like he was doing a decent job, but I haven’t reviewed his pictures yet.

Now all he needs to do is identify them. I had identified over half the ones I brought in last week, and other Pathfinders (staff and kids alike) worked on identifying the rest. So in the end, all of them had tentative ids, which is good enough for me since we’re not eating them.

Tomorrow he and Jonathan will be visiting with some friends from church, so that will leave Beth, Va, and I here at home in the afternoon. My plan is to take Beth and Penny for a hike down to Sandogardy Pond, even if it’s rainy. We’re going to try our hand at geocaching, and I found that there are two geocaches there. If that goes well, the next honor the Pathfinders do could very well be Geocaching. We’ll see!

As planned, the whole family went to Plimoth Plantation with Beth’s school today. I think everyone had a good time. After our orientation, we went to see the Mayflower II, which is a replica of the original Mayflower. The replica was built in 1957 in Plymouth, England, but they pretty much keep it parked in Plymouth, MA now. Here it is:

The Mayflower II at Plymouth, MA

The Mayflower II at Plymouth, MA

Nearby was… Plymouth Rock:
Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

It’s not a replica. It’s the real thing. But it looks like it has had some repairs over the years. They keep it housed in a temple-like structure, and people tend to throw coins down to it.

After that we headed back to the plantation and checked out the Wampanoag village, staffed by the Wampanoags themselves. They were dressed as if it were 1620, but they weren’t “role playing” like they do in a lot of places like this. The role players were over at the colony (which we’ll get to later). Beth said she liked their village the best. They were making a dugout canoe which was pretty cool. They also had some wigwams set up. Here’s an incomplete one:

Incomplete Wigwam

Incomplete Wigwam

I guess we hung out there for an hour or so, but I’m not sure. I lost track of the time. Afterwards, we shuffled over to the colony. It was quite a bit bigger than the village. All the buildings were timber-framed with wattle and clapboards for siding, and thatched reeds for a roof. When the English first arrived here, they built houses the way they were built in timber-scarce England. When the Swedes arrived here, they saw all the timber and quickly realized it was crazy to build English-type houses here. So they introduced the log cabin. Those exchange labor (no need to rip hundreds of planks) for plenty of wood (and there was plenty of that available). Cool stuff.

Unfinished house at Plimoth Plantation

Unfinished house at Plimoth Plantation

Most of the houses were complete though, and here’s Va and Beth inside one of them:
Va and Beth in one of the houses

Va and Beth in one of the houses

We eventually made our way up to the top of the hill where they had a church/fort. Yup. The lower level was a church complete with pews and a pulpit. The upper level was decked out with half a dozen cannons facing in different directions. Not a bad place for cannons (except for it being in a church) as it commanded a respectable 360 degree view. Here’s the view of the village below with the Atlantic beyond:
Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation

Then we visited ye olde gifte shoppes. I didn’t get anything, but Beth bought a skeleton key, and Va picked up a coin depicting Mary Queen of Scots (who has been her main historical interest since she was a wee lass). We bugged out at about 5:30pm and then had to slog through Boston’s rush hour traffic. We finally got home at about 8:00pm.

Penny was glad to see us.

I worked late tonight. It’s near the end of a quarter, and this particular quarter will also bring the company to the end of a fiscal year. So it’s crunch time. There is a lot of pressure to get stuff out the door.

In spite of that, I’m planning to take a vacation day tomorrow. Beth’s school is going on a field trip to Plimoth [sic] Plantation in Massachusetts. and having never been there myself, I’d kinda like to go. So I worked late tonight to meet my workly obligations.

I was embarrassingly old when I one day realized that the Pilgrims did not come over the Atlantic with Columbus. I’m sure I would have figured that out a lot sooner if I had ever given it an ounce of thought. Just hadn’t until one day I guess! If I’m feeling cocky tomorrow, I’ll pretend that I still think that’s the way it happened. I just like to see the look of horror on a historian’s face.

“Yeah, kids, this is where Columbus parked the Mayflower. They had to hurry and build this fort so they could defend themselves. As soon as it was built, the redcoats showed up, but Paul Revere warned everyone in time.”

That ought to make one of them have a stroke.

I can’t remember where I read this now, but I sure liked it. Maybe it was in a web comic. Anyhow, one guy was saying to another, “What’s there to not like about history? It’s all a bunch of stories about people doing cool things!” That’s my take on history too.

Most of the reading I do any more is non-fiction for that very reason. Historical accounts are really fascinating, and I think the fact that they really did happen makes them even better. I’ve read biographies of most of the founding fathers (McCullough’s John Adams was an excellent read). I’ve read about Lewis & Clark, Ernest Shackelton, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Krakatoa, and plenty of others.

What’s more geeky than regular history? Math history! I’ve read “A History of Pi”, “e, The Story of a Number”, “The Nothing That Is” (which is about zero) or “An Imaginary Tale – The Story of SQRT(-1).” Yeah.

Engineering history is another topic I’ve read quite a lot on, including the invention of the telegraph and the first transatlantic cable, as well as the solution to the longitude problem (can’t find your longitude without an accurate clock – and it has to be accurate at sea.) Oh, and I’ve read a book about ENIAC, the first electronic computer. It didn’t use binary by the way. It was base-10. Pretty bizarre stuff.

So. I guess this post pretty much pegs the geek meter.

The valve assembly for the washing machine came in today. As soon as I finished eating supper I went down and took the old one out. The plan was to see if I could fix the old one once I had a new one there as an emergency back-up. But I failed. I managed to get the non-moving parts of the solenoid off, but I just can’t get into the sealed part. Also, I’m not positive I can get the solenoid back on there, as the metal bracket was sorta pressed in place. I worked on it for half an hour I guess, and then decided it was time to put the new on in and put this sad story behind me.

So I did. Then I gingerly removed the new timer that I didn’t need. As it turns out, instructions for removing the timer knob were stamped into the timer’s housing. Duh. It’s not hard to get the knob off at all if you follow the instructions! I put the old timer back in, and zipped everything back together. Then I ran a load of sheets that had been abandoned in the laundry room who-knows-when. I was delighted when the fill valve closed at the very beginning of the cycle (it’s supposed to do that while the detergent valve is open). So – yay!

Then I watched carefully to be sure the old timer would advance. It did sustain some damage when I removed it, and I wasn’t sure that I had not ruined it in the process. But I guess not. It ran through the whole cycle with nary a complaint. I’m going to hang onto the new one for a week just to be sure though. Sears said they’d take the new one back if it were still in good condition, and it is, so I anticipate no problems there.

Glad that’s over!

Now I’ve got five working solenoids to play with, plus one broken one. I wonder what I can do with that? Lawn sprinkler? As if! Solar water heater? (We’re getting warmer). Occupier of shelf-space in my shop? Now we’re talking!

Nothing noteworthy happened today. I took Beth to school. David came along because he left his netbook charger at the church yesterday, and he needs it for his school work. He stayed at the church and (hopefully) did school work there. I went to the office where nothing noteworthy happened.

Then I came home. I went out with Penny and kicked the ball around for her a bit as I went looking for mushrooms. I found a few, and even had some idea of what some of them were. Maybe.

Then I ate dinner. Showed Beth a new secret alphabet that my Dad taught me when I was her age. Hmmm, maybe that’s noteworthy.

This code starts with a tic-tac-toe board. Each space in the grid gets a letter, and since there are nine spaces, that gives us nine letters. The shape of each letter’s space is the code, so C (in the upper right) is shaped like the capital L. E is a box because it’s in the center. But we need more than 9 letters. So I put a dot in the space for the next 9, and an X in the space for the last eight letters. Then we passed notes. My note said “ITS ALMOST BEDTIME.” Shortly after that, I put her to bed.

Then I washed a load of laundry. Still not part, so I had to manually cut off the water again. This time I brought my laptop down with me and read some online comics while I waited for the machine to fill. Seemed to go quicker that way.

Maybe tomorrow the new valve assembly will come in.

Yesterday evening, Va and I went on a mini vacation to Kittery Maine. We left the kids at home. We ate dinner in Concord on the way to Kittery and stayed in a fairly nice hotel right across from the outlet mall(s). We slept in, watched Myth Busters until 10:00am, checked out, and then did some shopping. I bought a lid lifter for my dutch oven at the Kittery Trading Post, and she bought… I dunno. Stuff. We got home a little after noon.

Before we left I tramped around the yard and woods (in the rain) and gather as many different types of mushrooms as I could find. I came up with 15 different species or so. Then I sat down with my mushroom field guide and made a stab at identifying them. All that was in preparation for this evening’s Pathfinder meeting. We finished up the Fungi honor.

Tomorrow we induct two new Pathfinders into the club, so I have been getting ready for that tonight. We used to do rehearsals on Friday evenings, but we found that rehearsals didn’t make much difference in the long run. So now I just go over the program with the kids (and staff) 30 minutes before the program starts, and then we do it for real. It works out pretty well.

That does mean that the kids don’t have much opportunity to memorize their lines, but that’s OK. They never memorized them when they did have time, so it’s not much of a loss. The ones who did memorize them still do in the 30 minutes they do get.

I always hand out slips of paper with their lines printed on them so they can get up and read them. And every year when they give them back to me, they are folded, torn, chewed, or otherwise mangled so that I have to make new ones again the following year. But this year I had Va laminate them for me. She also reprinted them and made them look very nice (so they would be worthy of lamination I guess). She’s really amazing when it comes to stuff like that. I always turn to her when I need something printed up and nice looking. She made up our citrus order forms this week too, and they look great. Also, she turned my rough outline of the Induction ceremony into a program. No wonder I married her!

Tonight I ended up making several modifications to our Induction candle stand. Thing. During Induction, we end up lighting 25 candles, all of which are mounted on a stand that was built (not by me) for that purpose. Every year I promise myself that I will build a new one for next year, but that never happens. I did haul it home with me today though and addressed its major problems. First, it’s not all that stable, having a tendency to want to tip over. That’s not a great feature to have, especially in an object sporting 25 lit candles. The other fault I addressed is that the holes into which the candles are supposed to fit… don’t fit.

For stability, I got a largish piece of plywood (about 48″x30″ I would guess) and mounted it to that with a couple of stove bolts and matching T-nuts. I also bought a table cloth for this, and it will go over the plywood, but not over the stand. That means I will have to cut some holes in the table cloth, but thems the breaks. I bought the table cloth for this very purpose, so that makes it OK.

For the holes not being sized right, I reamed them out a little. I also shaved some wax off the base of the ill-fitting candles. They fit better now, but not as well as I would have liked. Hopefully between the new base and the better holes, we won’t set the church on fire tomorrow.

Speaking of fire, the landlord at work most definitely had one lit beneath his posterior yesterday. He was in there today measuring windows, so I know that my request was passed along. It will be nice to have a window that actually separates my office from the weather.

Beth playing in the dishwasher box

Beth playing in the dishwasher box

Tonight I looked up and saw Beth playing in her new “house” and had the idea that I should take a picture. This one came out best. She had rigged up a flashlight to shine through the gap in the top. That gap was actually a little too wide and the flashlight would slip through, so she found another box with a narrower slot. She stacked that one on top (open side up, slot down), lined up the slots, and placed the flashlight over the smaller slot. Yay! Engineering at work! Or at play.

I took a few shots of the yard tonight when I got home. These days the sun isn’t quite up when we get out of bed, and it’s not quite down when I get home from work. There’s still about an hour of daylight when I do get home, so it makes for a nice walk outside. This shot shows part of the path I made through the woods last summer:

My path through the woods

My path through the woods

This path is along the western border of our property. There’s a small beech tree right in the middle of the path. I was going to cut it down, but Beth asked me to leave it. I did trim the lower branches off though, so we could walk by it without getting slapped in the face.

When I got to work this morning, I found an inch of water on the kitchen floor. Normally that would be somewhat alarming, but we’re lucky in that our building doesn’t have any level floors in it anywhere. Last year they “levelled” the kitchen – or tried to. The south end of the kitchen is level now anyhow, but the north side slopes away to the south. That leaves something of a valley in the middle, so the inch of water was “only” about four feet wide. It did, however run the length of the kitchen and beyond into one of the offices (where my office was in fact, when we first move to NH).

This is apparently the last straw for our company founder, so I’m thinking we can expect some action. I had taken a picture of the floor as one of the VPs was mopping it up, and that photo has been turned over to the company now (by request). I asked if maybe they could do something about the window in my office while they were at it, and was assured that that would go on the list too. If it’s the last straw, after all, it’s the last straw.

When I moved out of the now-flooded office into the one I’m in now, there was a day when the downstairs tenants were cleaning the floors or something. Whatever they were doing involved plenty of volatile liquids which came wafting into my office and just about overwhelmed me. I made the foolish mistake of trying to open the window. I have one of those completed idiotic windows consisting of narrow slats of glass that louvre open with a crank. When they’re closed, they block about 60% of the wind. It was covered over with a storm window, but only barely. I had to remove the storm window, and to do that, I loosened the screws holding the clips down, rotated them out of the way, and began to pry on the window frame. It was stuck tight, so I pried harder. With all that prying, I managed to torque the frame, and glass does not like to be torqued. It shattered. Our landlord was called, and he “fixed” the problem by removing the glass. Done! At that point all I had were those idiotic slats with their 60% wind rating. So I covered the window with foam padding from a shipping box, and covered that over with cardboard. It has been like that for three years.

Hopefully that will change soon.

I’m taking a break from appliance repair today. I did swing by Sears and order a new valve assembly. I also confirmed that I could return the timer I bought (and which didn’t fix the problem). Maybe I’ll swap out the timer tomorrow, or maybe it’ll wait until next week.

Beth has been enjoying the dishwasher box. I cut a door and a window in it, and she has decorated the inside. I completely understand how enthralled she is to play in a box, because I felt that joy myself many times as a kid.

Tonight I stopped by and visited with the kid I had to suspend from Pathfinders last month. He’s the same kid who got run over by the wagon on the hay ride a couple of weeks ago. He’s healing up nicely. I especially wanted to be sure that he and his parents both heard the story of the drunk guy who invaded one of the camp sites during our Camporee last month. It just stresses how important it is for him to not run off when he’s upset. While I was there I also went over some of the things he has missed at our meetings so that he can do the work at home and not be too far behind when he can return. Hopefully he’ll learn from this. At least… I sure hope he does.

Next Page »