February 2010

I didn’t do much at all today. I stayed in bed until 9:00 and then had breakfast. Then I lazed around the house in my sweats & bathrobe for an hour or so while I read the Internet. I got dressed around 11:00 and went outside to gather sticks up from the yard. I had been thinking I would burn my brush pile today, but it was pretty wet. I’m pretty sure I could burn a wet brush pile, but it would take way more effort than I felt like making today. So it’s still there. I do want to burn it before the snow melts, because then I won’t need to get a fire permit. I imagine that today was my last opportunity for that this season though. I’ll either wait for it to snow again, or I’ll get a fire permit.

After picking up all the sticks that were poking up out of the snow, I went in, and watched most of the first half of The Return of the King with Beth on DVD (now that we have finished the book). I really wish they had not killed off Saruman in the movie the way they did. They could have left him locked in the tower and reserved the Scouring of the Shire for a fourth film.

At lunchtime, Va, Beth, and I went to Tilton and ate a Chili’s. Then I bought a new pair of shoes, and then we came on home. After a while, Jonathan and I headed over to the school to see if we could make any progress on the Internet connection there.

His laptop came with Windows 7 on it, though he usually boots it into Ubuntu Linux. But the tech at HughesNet couldn’t handle a non-Windows machine, and that’s why we brought Jonathan’s laptop. To my surprise, it DID connect, even though the modem didn’t give us an IP address. I’ll have to ask around about how on earth that could possibly work, because it doesn’t make any sense to me. At all.

Confusion and surprise aside, we were able to confirm that we were receiving no signal from the satellite, and Hughes promised to dispatch a tech to realign our dish. They will call me tomorrow to make arrangements, and I expect they’ll be out in a day or two. In short, the school will not have Internet access for a couple more days.

We have no Internet service at the church. Since I’m in charge of that, I stopped in tonight to see what the problem was. It’s most likely related to Thursday’s wind storm. We did lose power at the church, but it came back pretty quickly from what I can tell.

Tonight was our annual church talent show (which is always a lot of fun), so we went early so I could check things out and so Jonathan could set up the PA system downstairs. All of my equipment checked out though. I tracked the problem to the satellite modem, then I called HughesNet which is always a joyful experience.

I won’t go into details, but the technician’s suggestions didn’t make sense. I did them anyhow, knowing exactly what the result would be (and being right). But those guys won’t proceed down the script until you do what they ask. The short of the matter is that he got to a point where I was required to plug a Windows PC into the modem, but I don’t have one of those (and am very pleased about that). By then I had been on the phone with him for forty minutes and was about to miss the talent show. I told him I was going to let him go and we’d give it another shot tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes, but I am not hopeful.

We had a tiny bit of wind here last night. Indeed, the winds here were near hurricane force, gusting at up to 60MPH. It sounded pretty dramatic outside from about 10:00pm until after midnight. It also rained an awful lot, and we got zero of the promised snow. 😦

As Jonathan and I drove to Concord this morning, there were branches down on all the roads. The road I live on was literally carpeted with them, some as big as two inches in diameter. Then we got to a bigger road and found this:

Tree lying on power lines and in the road.

Down to one lane

I’m glad someone had gotten there before we did, as I’m sure the road had been completely blocked before they sawed the top out of that tree. About three miles down the road we saw another tree on the power lines. Some of these lines were snapped and flapping around in the breeze, but the tree was not in the road. We got Jonathan to the campus without incident.

When I got to the office, I found that the building next door to us had undergone something of a roof collapse. We could see the roof from one of our conference room windows, but it was hard to tell that it was collapsed. Unless you already knew, you wouldn’t have noticed. They had Hills Ave blocked off, and that pretty much prevented anyone from parking in either of our outside lots. Wayne called the police to find out when he’d be able to park, and to ask what had happened. That’s how we knew about the roof. The fire department had condemned the building:

Sign reading "Building condemned. No entry by order of  Fire Dept"

This means you

If that weren’t evidence enough of a problem, how about this?
Cracked crown molding along the edge of a building's roof


With the integrity of the roof compromised like that, they were afraid the walls might come down as well, and that’s why they blocked off Hills Ave, as well as the building’s own parking lot. Ouch.

That was not the only damaged building in Concord either. There was a huge pile of roof debris next to Citizen’s Bank, but for the life of me, I could not tell where it had come from. The Fire Department has taped that off too:

Roof debris behind a fire line

In front of Citizen's Bank

Jonathan and I had gone to an ATM at my bank (which is not Citizen’s) and passed this on the way there. A lady on the street claimed that it had come from the roof across the street, but I couldn’t see any damage on that building either (not that I’m saying she’s wrong).

About the time we left the bank, Va called. They had closed the road Jonathan and I had driven on earlier in the morning, and she was detouring around it. We made some hasty plans to eat together, or rather… we were in the process of making such plans when her phone died. She said something like “Meet me in ten min….” and then her phone died. I figured she’d come to my office, but I wasn’t positive that that was what she meant. So we headed back to the office. I grabbed my solar phone charger so she’d be able to get her phone going again, and we went down to Storrs Ave to wait for her. We didn’t have to wait long. And of course, since Hills Ave was blocked, she couldn’t turn into our lot. Instead, she turned into the Market Basket lot across the street. I proposed that we should eat at Sal’s. They don’t take anything other than cash, and that’s why I had gone to an ATM – because I wanted one of their calzones. Va thought it was a splendid idea, and since they are located in the same plaza as Market Basket, she was already parked appropriately. So in we went and had some calzones. I had a spinach-mushroom-feta, and those are fantastic.

After lunch, Jonathan and I returned to my office, and Va and Beth went shopping. When we came home, the road was open again, but that tree in the first photo above was still there. The radio said that 300,000 customers were without power in New Hampshire, and half a million in the Northeast in general. Luckily, we have power at our house and at my office. We had lost it at the church for a bit, and someone called me to tell me that the Internet there was down. I’ll look into that tomorrow evening.

In other news, our building was not sold in an auction today. The owner has filed for chapter 11, so that pretty much freezes his assets. It also pretty much guarantees that I’ll have a cardboard window in my office for at least another year. Sigh.

I dunno how long I’ve been doing this, but every time I think of the phrase “pair of socks” it makes me think of “Frere Jacques”. And then it becomes “Pair-a-sacques” in my head. Luckily, I don’t think the phrase “pair of socks” every time I put a pair on, or I would be insane by now. Or maybe that explains a lot, who knows.

Anyhow, I’m thinking “pair-a-sacques” tonight, because I have finally finished knitting my first pair. Here they are.

Pair of newly knitted socks

Penny is not impressed.

Man… these things are warm.

Oh – and this was my second post tonight. I don’t usually post twice in a day, but I also don’t usually finish knitting a pair-a-sacques.

There’s a Geocache near my office that has stymied me for a while. Eventually, I realized that maybe it wasn’t there any more, because no one else was finding it either. This was later confirmed by the cache owner, and he replaced it.

Though this should not be confused with the cache nearest my house that I wrote about earlier this month. This one is in downtown Concord.

The owner had to move the cache to a slightly different location because it had been stolen from the place he had been keeping twice. Anyhow, this happened sometime late last week, or maybe it was this week, I don’t remember. I went looking for it yesterday during lunch, but couldn’t find it. Then today I found myself nodding off at my desk and figured some fresh air might increase my productivity. Jonathan was hanging out at the office too, so I asked him if he wanted to join me for a breath of fresh air. He did.

We went to the site and looked around. We did not find the cache, but we did find this magnet:
magnet formerly attached to a geocache. It’s a common practice to attach a cache to a piece of iron (such as a park bench) with a magnet, and this was right next to… a park bench. I thought the cache would be on the bench somewhere, and as soon as I saw the magnet, I figured we had found what was left of it. I took this picture and emailed it to the owner, asking if maybe this was part of the cache. He said that if there was no cache on the bench, then that was indeed its remnant. I assured him that I had conducted a most thorough search of the bench and found nothing – other than this magnet.

Looks like it’s been stolen again.

We had six inches of snow on the ground when I got up this morning. School was cancelled for Jonathan, so I wasn’t in much of a hurry. I cranked up the snowblower and began clearing the driveway. This was a very wet, heavy, and sticky snow. In spite of my having raised the lip of the snowblower off the ground by three quarters of an inch to avoid picking up gravel, the snowblower was gulping it down anyhow. The wet snow was sticking to it and hauling it in. As a result, I broke a shear pin.

This snowblower has four shear pins instead of two like my last on did. So I still had three quarters of the auger running. I decided to press on without changing it. Up near the garage, I managed to pick up a good sized rock, and it got wedged between the blower and the blower housing. Clunk. Engine died. I had to get a long screw driver and a hammer to knock it out of there. And while I was at it, I went ahead and changed the shear pin. It started right up, and I finished the job. Then I went to work.

I left for home a little early, but not as early as I had intended to. I wanted to take a bunch of recycling to the recycling center, and they close at 5:00, so I needed to hustle. I got home, tossed three bags of newspapers into the trunk and five sacks of milk bottles into the back seat. Beth went with me. When we got there they wouldn’t let us in. They don’t allow anyone to enter after 4:45, and it was 4:48. That supposedly gives the people who are already there time to get out before they close. I say… what a crock. I didn’t yell at the attendant or anything, as I’m sure he’s just doing what he’s been told. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

Northfield sure makes it hard to recycle. They are only open two days a week, and that’s during business hours. Plus we have to separate everything. Paper, metal, glass (by color), and plastic (by type). I don’t have room to sort four dozen kinds of recyclables as I collect them, and I don’t have time to sort them when I take them to the station. I do not recycle everything I could, because it is such an ordeal. Instead, I just do newspaper, PETE, LDPE, and soda cans. And now even doing that is hard.

I may or may not try again in the morning. They open at 8:00, but there will prolly be another foot of new snow on the ground then, and Jonathan may have class to get to by 9:00. We’ll see what happens.

I finished the heel and gussets (i.e., ankles) of my second sock tonight. Now it’s just a matter of straight knitting until I get to the toe. I have found myself pegging the geek meter as I knit. I guess it’s mandatory for an engineer. For example, when I was knitting the above-the-ankle part, I was doing some ribbing. Knit two, purl two. So the pattern repeats every four stitches. So I counted them. Starting from zero. In hexadecimal.

Hexadecimal (or hex for short) uses the number 16 as its base instead of 10 (with which most people are comfortable). It’s used in computing because a hex digit translates directly into four binary digits (aka bits). Decimal doesn’t do that. Anyhow, I’ve been using hex for so long that I know the binary representation of each digit pretty much automatically. It is deeply engrained. So all I have to do to know if I need to knit or purl is consider bit 1. If it’s zero, I knit. If it’s one, I purl. But that only works if I start from zero, which is why count from zero.

In other news, I found some strange tracks on our property yesterday. I suspect they may have been made by a mink. They were about the right size and they have five toes. I took several pictures, but the light was quickly failing. I didn’t try to make a cast, because it’s hard to cast tracks in snow (plaster melts them), and I wasn’t sure I had any joint compound. Oh well. Here’s a shot:

Mink tracks?

Mink tracks?

If anyone has an opinion on whether these are mink or not, I’d like to hear it.

Beth didn’t have school today, but Jonathan did. When I was getting ready for work he was downstairs retching as if to clear out his sinuses, only worse. Yep. He “sold the Buick.” But he thought that it was nothing more than a mucus problem, so I drove him to school (he didn’t feel like it).

He lasted through one class and hurled again. Actually, all I really know is that he hurled. Dunno if he made it through his first class or not. He didn’t feel up to attending his afternoon class, so he emailed his prof and told him/her (dunno which) that he wouldn’t make it. In my opinion, that always has more credibility if it’s done before the class is missed rather than after. He rode the trolley to my building, found an empty office, and tried to take a nap in the chairs. I called Va to see if she’d come and get him.

She was already in town making a grocery run. We figured it would be best if she finished her shopping before she fetched him, as I’m sure he would prefer sleeping in a chair as opposed to cruising around Concord. She finished up in short order and then picked him up. He was napping when I got home.

We have two feet of snow in the forecast. It’s about time. We haven’t had more than that all winter, and here I am with a brand new, hardly used snowblower! Bring it on!

This morning Beth and I decided to go geocaching. The closest cache to our house was missing when we looked for it the first (and second. And third) time. I guess someone who didn’t know better (or who didn’t care) made off with it. But it was replaced a little while ago, and this was our first good opportunity to go find it. It was right where I expected to find it too. We signed the log and logged the visit on the Internet. Beth took a tiny goat from the cache, but we didn’t have anything small enough with us to put in its place. If we find something around the house, I guess we’ll bring it next time.

This particular cache is on the path the Sandogardy Pond. We went there while we were at it. There were a couple of bob houses on the ice, and we walked out onto the pond about 100 yards or so. That’s when a four-wheeler showed up. I hate listening to those things, and to me, the walk was pretty much spoiled. I prefer to get my recreation a little more quietly, and without burning gas and adding pollution to the air. So we turned around and went back to the shore. Beth played on the swings for a bit while I threw sticks for Penny. Then we headed back to the house.

At home I needed to get ready for tonight’s Pathfinder meeting. I had decided that we would work on the Internet Honor which was written by an online friend of mine. It took them five years to make the patch available, and when we could finally get it, I ordered 25 of them. Six were for the people who helped pilot the honor in our club way back, and the rest were for people who would earn it this year.

The kids were pretty excited about working on that one too, so I guess that’s good. After the meeting, Jonathan, David, and I went to the Taco Bell and ate faux-Mexican with Warran.

I know I promised to post pix of the Pinewood Derby, but… I’m tired again. Maybe tomorrow?

My Plane Car got 1st place for ceativity in the adult division, and second place for craftsmanship. My friend Warran got first in craftsmanship, and it was well deserved. I think my car was fourth fastest, but they don’t hand out ribbons for fourth place.

David got second in the teen division for creativity. His car was a log flume. He had glued some birch bark to his and mounted Lego men in it.

Beth got first place for creativity in the under 10 division. Her car was a subway train. I think my family were the only people in our club who entered non-cars. I’ll see if I can post some pix tomorrow. I’m too tired right now.

The puppet show went well too btw.

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