I went into Northfield’s town forest with Penny today. There’s a place at the end of the trail where inconsiderate people like to camp. I do not understand these campers though. They tend to haul in a bunch of gear and then just abandon it. I picked as much of it up as I could in one trip today and hauled it to the trash cans at Sandogardy Pond.

I had it in my mind that that’s what I was going to do on the way. I didn’t have a bag or anything, but figured I’d find something bag-like when I got there. And I did, in the form of a pillow case. Here it is after I loaded it to the point where it began to tear. I took a picture with Penny in it for scale.

Pillow case full of trash

Pillow case full of trash

Here’s some of the trash I was not able to take care of.

Comforter and a heated air mattress

Comforter and a heated air mattress

I picked up all the plastic bottles, as they would take an eternity to decompose. I suppose this heated air mattress (who brings one of those camping?) will also never decompose, but it was too big to fit in the pillow case.

We hiked out again with me carrying the loaded pillow case. I spotted something bright green about 20 yards off the trail. At this time of year, there’s not a lot of bright green out there (save the wintergreen and partridge berry). I left the pillow case on the trail and went for a look.

A Trampoline.

A Trampoline.

I assume someone dragged this out here to dispose of it, but I cannot imagine a reason why. I might have to go back for that. I’ll have to bring the wagon.

The pond was pretty close, so in no time, the pillow case and its payload were deposited in a trash receptacle. Then Penny and I headed back towards the house when some ice crystals in the path caught my eye.

Ice needles

Ice needles

I’ve seen these growing here in the past. I’d like to know how they form some day.

Beyond that, I saw some turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) growing on a fallen log.

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor)

Couldn’t leave my readers with a trash-only post.

On Friday when Beth and I went to my Little Cohas Brook cache, she lamented that she had left her snow pants and sleds at school. I told her that if she remembered to bring them home on Saturday, I would take her to the sand pit today. So she did remember.

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I joined her on the sled for several runs, and we had a lot of fun. I also realized that I was standing only 50 feet or so from her geocache (Sand, Sand, Sand!) and that I had a geocoin in my camera bag. I picked it up in Arizona, and its goal was to travel far and wide. According to the geocaching web site, I moved it 2,125.11 miles, which accounts for about two thirds of its total traveled distance. If it’s still there next week I will move it again to a cache that gets visited more often.

We sledded for about an hour and then hiked back to the house (she in her boots, me in my snowshoes, and Penny on her four paws). On the way home, Beth suggested that we go to Dairy Queen to get some Blizzards. She is her mother’s daughter.

When we got home I replaced our mailbox. Last summer some kid went down the road with a baseball bat whacking every mailbox along his path (including ours). Ours was still usable, but on one particularly rainy day this winter (would that it could have been a snowy day instead!) we found that he had compromised its ability to protect our mail from inclement weather. So we bought a replacement. Problem is, I didn’t have daylight available to put it in place.

Until today.

The old one was bolted onto a frame, and I managed to twist the bolts in half while trying to get them off. So I had to go back down to the basement to find some different bolts. Then back out to the mailbox again. In short order the job was done, and I took the family to the Dairy Queen in Franklin for some blizzards.

We had already suggested DQ to Va, and she thought that they were not open during the winter. So she checked into it and found that they are closed through February. This is March. So off we went, all five of us.

Nothing like ice cream on a sledding day. 😀

Today after supper I decided it was time to hay the lawn. Or mow it. It was pretty tall. I’d have cut it days ago except that it has been rainy. In actuality, I cut the front lawn and had Jonathan cut the north lawn. David was to do the south lawn, but it started raining by the time Jonathan finished his segment.

American Toad (Bufo americanus)

American Toad (Bufo americanus)

While I was cutting the front lawn, the mower chased four frogs out of the grass and into the woods. So I shut off the mower and went in for the camera. Frog photography is more important to me than short grass!

Last summer, frogs were conspicuously absent from my place. I used to see green frogs, bull frogs, American toads, wood frogs, spring peepers, and even a pickerel frog on occasion. But that was not the case last summer. I hardly saw any. It looks like they might be making a comeback now.

I think the frog absence was because my neighbor flew into a panic. She and her daughter have both been diagnosed with Lyme’s disease, so she got a pest control company to give all the neighbors quotes for spraying our property. This is the same person who refused to put DEET on her kid two years ago, and now she’s advocating the wholesale poisoning of even her neighbor’s property.

I did not want to have our place sprayed. I like observing (and photographing) insects and frogs. I figured that spraying would put a damper on that. So I told her I wasn’t going to do it.

Then I heard from the kids in the neighborhood that the pest company had indeed sprayed our property when we were not at home. I do not know how reliable that information is, so I said nothing, but I think she paid them to spray our place.

Then this spring we got a renewal notice from the pest company, which raised my suspicion even more. I called them and made it clear to them that they were under no circumstances to spray my property. They insisted that they had not, but could not explain why we had received a renewal notice if there was nothing to renew. I was pretty irate.

After I hung up I noticed that the address on the renewal notice had the wrong address on it. Our street skips numbers, and this was a number close to ours, but non-existent. It’s the same address that our neighbor uses when she sends Christmas cards, etc.

I called the pest company back and told them that I think they had our address wrong. By then, there was no way they were about to admit having sprayed our place without proper authorization. And honestly, if my neighbor was less than truthful with them, it was really not their fault. Too much (they should check these things!) But I guess business is business.

Of course this is all conjecture, and I’m not a litigious person. But all the same, I’m pretty sure I know what happened, and I’m not happy about it. Other than this incident, we have been on good terms with our neighbor, and I wish to remain on good terms with them. So I will not pursue this.

Then we had another neighbor move in (different house). I stopped and chatted with this guy last month, and he asked about the catchment pond. He was sure that it was causing his yard to flood. I explained that the city had built the pond, that they had a right of way to do so, and that they come and remodel it every couple of years. Therefore, there wasn’t much I could do about it, so if he wanted something done, he should contact the city.

Instead, he came onto my property at night with a flashlight strapped to his head, and dug a ditch, draining my pond! This didn’t make me any happier than when my other neighbor had my yard sprayed. This pond is where the green frogs and bullfrogs live, and without water, they pack their bags and move out.

I assessed the situation from an engineering standpoint. Fact: the city’s catchment pond is uphill from my neighbor’s place. Fact: draining a water body uphill from a flooded area is unlikely to reduce the flooding – instead, it adds more water to the area. Ergo: this guy is an idiot. I filled his ditch back in. If he comes back onto my place to re-open it, I will have words with him. I’m pretty sure the law is on my side on this one.

So with all the rain we’ve had the past couple of days, the pond has been refilling. And since the pest control company has been strictly enjoined from spraying my place, maybe the frogs have a chance to make their comeback. The four that fled the wrath of my mower are a very good sign.

Va has some very particular tastes for foods, and sometimes, that can get me into trouble. I seem unable to predict when those sometimes are.

A few years ago we were travelling far from home and stopped along the way at a grocery store. She saw some canned, beanless chili – something that we never see here. She has always preferred that very brand of chili because it is available sans beans. She likes chili. She does not like beans. Chili with no beans gets an A+ in her book, so she bought several cans and we brought them home.

Yes, we all know that homemade chili is far superior to canned chili of any variety, but sometimes you’re in a hurry and can’t spare the time to make a batch from scratch. It is at times like that when canned chili is a good thing to have on hand.

Several months elapsed after this trip, and I found myself feeling somewhat peckish. I started digging through the pantry to see what would hit the mark. I found the last can of her beanless chili. I like chili and beans, so I kept digging until I found a can of kidney beans. I opened both cans, dumped them in a pot, and stirred.

That’s about when Va came around and saw what I had done. She was not happy. Nevermind that the chili had been forgotten in the pantry for months. If I had eaten the whole 15 oz can all by myself without adding beans, she would have been just fine. If I had eaten all the chili and then ate the beans separately, she would still have been fine. If I had heated them both up and served them to myself side-by-side in separate dishes, there would have been no trouble there either. But no. I mixed them together in a pot, thus rendering them into an abomination in her sight. The horrors!

Tonight I found myself feeling peckish again. Va was eating some maple-flavored oatmeal squares – a breakfast cereal. Like all cereals, she prefers this without milk. It looked pretty good to me, so I poured a bowl for myself,emptying the box. It was the last of the oatmeal squares cereal. I like my breakfast cereal with milk, so I turned towards the fridge to get some, and that’s when synapses began to fire. I remembered the chili.

Just to be safe, I asked if she would mind if I ate my bowl of oatmeal squares with milk. She could not figure out why I would even ask such a question, so I reminded her of the beanless chili. Apparently, milkless cereal plus milk is not a problem, even while beanless chili plus beans is most definitely a problem. Perhaps this is because we can go to the grocery store and get more cereal tonight if we so desired, but we’d have to drive some 600 miles for beanless chili. In my opinion, this is a very subtle distinction!

It’s no wonder men cannot understand women!

Last night some guy was caught on surveillance video at Concord’s parking garage next door to where I work. He was recorded carrying a TV to the elevator. Nothing wrong with that. Then he was recorded running across the lot at the top of the parking structure, still carrying the TV. Nothing wrong with that either. The next thing he did was not recorded by the cameras, but was reported by someone pulling out of the garage – he heaved it off the fifth floor to the entrance of the garage. Something wrong with that for sure!

It landed on the car, causing what I imagine is some serious damage. Luckily, no one was injured or killed. That was at 5:15 last night. Jonathan pulled out of the same garage 10 minutes later, so when he found out about this, he was pretty shaken up.

Some people – are morons.

Here’s a link.

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.

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.

When it rains it pours. And if there’s a massive hole in the roof, that’s not really a good thing.

For the past five years I have worked in a very old building in Concord owned by a man who does not much seem interested in maintaining it. Ever since I came here, we have had a leak in the kitchen ceiling. He has been called about this numerous times, and has always hired the lowest bidder to address the problem. This usually involves spackling compound. Then it rains again, and all the spackling comes off in chunks, landing on the kitchen floor (or on the tables). Nice job guys.

Monday, he hired yet another crack team of low bidders. They sawed a large hole in the ceiling, right through the roof. To no one’s surprise (landlord perhaps excepted), the ceiling beams were in an advanced state of decay. So the crack team swung into action:

How do you fix a hole in the roof? Cover it with an extension ladder!

How do you fix a hole in the roof? Cover it with an extension ladder!

Yup. The best way to patch a roof these days is apparently to cover it with an extension ladder and then throw a piece of sheet metal over that. I can well imagine half a dozen bricks on the topside holding it down. Being deeply suspicious that this approach might prove to be somewhat inadequate, and thinking that it might indeed have potential as a source of humor and/or amusement, I surreptitiously snapped this photo.

More on that later.

Last night, I loaded up the dishwasher and then curled up with my laptop for a while. I usually go to bed after starting the dishwasher, but I had an upset stomach (the jelly sandwich at 11:30pm was not a great idea), so I decided to sit up a bit and let it settle. The dishwasher made a funny noise. Kind of a “Kchgggggnk!” sound with no vowels at all. Hmmm. Since I don’t usually sit up and listen to the dishwasher, I rationalized that maybe it did that every night and was semi-normal. A bit later I strolled towards the bathroom when I caught a whiff of a smell very familiar to me (not related to the bathroom at all!) – hot electronics. My senses are attuned to this odor, as I work with expensive, unproven electronic designs every day. Sometimes things go wrong. Anyhow, I followed my nose straight to the “Kchgggggnk!” sound making device. It was quiet. The “run” light was blinking. Not knowing what that meant, I pressed the start button. The light went out. No way it should be done washing the dishes that quickly – it had only been 15 or 20 minutes. I pressed it again. Thick black smoke began pouring out of a vent just below the start button. I quickly opened the dishwasher door. Then I went down to the basement and threw the breaker labeled “dishwasher.” Oddly enough, that breaker feeds the dishwasher.

Did I mention that my washing machine is not working at the moment either? Yes, I did. At least all it does is threaten to flood the basement. No tendency there to burn my house down. Maybe I should just ignore these two problems and hope they cancel. The dishwasher will try to burn the house down, but the washing machine will put it out for me. While that may sound good on paper, I seriously doubt that I would come out with clean clothes or clean dishes in the end.

Frankly, the loss of the dishwasher is much less a problem than the loss of the washing machine. I can do the dishes by hand. I thought about stopping at an antique store near my office today and picking up a washboard for my lovely bride. But then I thought, “Nah! She can scrub the clothes out on a rock in the catchment pond.” Yeah. Right.

She was already asleep when the dishwasher attempted arson, so I didn’t disturb her. I lay awake all night trying not to think about it. When the alarm clock went off, I let her know though. She was about as thrilled as I am.

I shuffled off to work and noticed Joan (our office manager/bookkeeper/HR department) puttering around in the kitchen. “Good morning, Joan!” I called. “Grrrmmph” she returned. Hmmm. Why does she have a mop? Could it have anything to do with the rain we had last night (no snow here) and the ladder/sheet metal roof patch we were endowed with yesterday? Maybe it could!

She said we had two inches of water on the floor when she got in. I offered to help, but she told me it was unneccessary. So I went to my own (dry) office and got to work on my more usual duties instead.

Shortly after that, the roofing crew returned. They were feverishly shoveling water off the roof, but I don’t know why they bothered. Their previous efforts were doing a pretty good job of draining it onto the kitchen floor, and Joan was still in there with the mop. I went back to my office and noticed that someone who had been wearing heavy work boots had tracked roofing tar all over the carpet. I wonder who that could have been? Joan will be so happy! Yes, it was an exciting day at the office.

When I got home, I opened up the dishwasher for a look-see. Va had the brilliant idea of checking to see if there had been a recall. While she looked into that, I got the cover off the control panel. Here’s what I found:

Charred connector

Charred connector

Notice the black markings around that connector? Yeah, so did I. I began pulling off other connectors so I could remove the control board and found that the one in the photo there was not the main culprit. Instead, there was a much larger cable whose terminal had melted off. Guess it was a good thing I turned it off when I did.

Meanwhile Va had the dirt on the recall idea. At first it looked promising. That model did have a recall on it, but it was for a motor which had a tendency to overheat. Also, they indicated that not every serial number in the series was affected and gave a phone number to call to find out. It seemed plausible to me that a motor could draw excessive current in the controller board, so I called. Nope. No recall. I informed them that it had caught fire last night. Thought they might like to know. They gave me the phone number for the Consumer Product Safety Commission and then patched me through to Sears Repair. I fiddled with their idiotic voice menu and then gave up. No thanks Sears! If this thing was going to be repaired, I’d be doing that work myself.

The burned connector is quite deformed as well, and that’s part of the wiring harness. Frankly, I’m not too keen on replacing the wiring harness and the control board. The control board is probably going to run $150 or so, and the wiring harness another $40 (these are my guesses). Plus I can’t see the other end of the wiring harness, meaning that getting it out and putting a new one in is probably a multi-hour project. And when I’m done, I still have a five year old dishwasher with two new parts that together cost roughly a third of what a new dishwasher would cost. Also, the controller board has no moving parts, so there’s nothing in there to go “Kchgggggnk!” My guess is that there’s a jammed mechanical part in there that caused the motor to draw more current than the connector on the controller board could supply. Replacing the wiring harness and the controller will not fix that. In short, I don’t think this dishwasher still has any working parts.

I briefly entertained the idea of “going green” by hand-washing the dishes every single night for the rest of my miserable life. But hand-washing one load of dishes was more than sufficient to disabuse me of that notion.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

Tonight on the way home, I stopped at the home of two of my Pathfinders. I wanted to make sure they were both ready to go to Oshkosh with us next week and give them their T-shirts. When I got there, I found that one of them had changed his mind and would not be joining us.

This did not exactly make me happy. They did not buy their tickets because they cannot afford them. Instead, some donors covered that cost for them. Easy come, easy go.

An email went out to all the Pathfinder directors in our conference yesterday, asking if anyone had a ticket (they have been sold out for months). In the back of my mind, I suspected that I might, because this kid has a history of agreeing to do things like this and then backing out. Frankly, if he doesn’t want to come with us, I would rather he no go. So when I got home, I answered that email. Yes, I have a ticket. So now someone who really does want to go will be able to. She can’t afford it either. I did contact our donor and clear it with her before committing the ticket.

In other exasperating news, I got a message from another Pathfinder tonight. He’s on vacation with his family, and they wanted to know what time we were leaving Sunday morning, and if there was anything else they needed to know. Well, there was plenty! Like we want all of their stuff at the church Thursday evening so we can load it up. I do NOT want to be loading stuff on Sunday morning. We have arranged to spend the first night in a church (for free) in Ohio, and I want to get there before 10:00pm. I have asked that they FedEx his stuff to Oshkosh. The other monkey wrench this throws into the works is that I need his medical release form by Thursday too. Filled out and signed. I have to make copies of these – one for each staff member, and each kid wears the original in a plastic badge holder. I need time to make those copies, stuff them in envelopes for the staff, and fold & insert the original into the badge holders. Looks like there will be some faxing in his future.

I killed about 20 Japanese beetles tonight. Plus I killed at least that many Friday, and again on Sunday. These little blighters are doing a number on my green beans. I am probably going to break down and buy some Sevin for them to dine on later this week, as I will not be able to pull them off and crush them when I’m at Oshkosh next week.

While I was out beetle-killing, Beth came out and reminded me that I wanted to go to the library tonight. She had some books that are due tomorrow, and I wanted to go check the place out and get a library card. So we did that. I checked out a book on macrame, and another on house painting. Not that I am all that interested in either. Rather, I would like to learn about them so I can write up some answers to the Macrame and House Painting – Interior honors in my Wikibook project.

My approach will be to actually earn the Macrame honor first, then write it up. I may do the work twice – once to earn the honor, and then again a second time so I can photograph the steps to illustrate the chapter. Of course it would not hurt to photograph the steps the first time either, and if everything turns out OK, I’d be finished. Yeah. I’ll try it that way.

As for house painting, I have done that more than once. I just wanted to see what the professionals had to say about some of the finer points.

Sunday night I went to bed early (after clearing brush, etc all day, I was tired). I woke up at 3:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Then I remembered that the International Space Station would be visible at 4:10am. I got up and checked the web to make sure. Nope. 4:35. I surfed a bit, and then went outside at 4:34. It was a little cloudy, but I could still easily make out all the stars in the Big Dipper. And then the ISS appeared. It slowly crossed the sky, passing right across the lowest star in the Dipper’s Bowl. Cool.

I came back in after it disappeared (a four minutes show) and then went to bed. But while I was up waiting for it, I went to the bathroom and found a tick near my knee. I pulled, but it was hanging on pretty doggedly. I kept pulling firmly and eventually got it. But it wasn’t moving any more, which leads me to believe that its tiny little head is still under the skin. Bummer. I chucked it in the toilet, but it did not struggle or swim or anything like that. Hmmm.

Next day I checked the site and noticed two things: a nasty bruise, and a red ring around circling it, about the size of a dime. It was also itchy and sore to the touch. When I got home from work I asked Va who my doctor is. I haven’t been to a doctor since we moved up here five years ago, so I figured maybe it was time anyhow. I called and made two appointments. One for the tick, and another for a physical.

The tick appointment was this morning at 8:00am. Doc didn’t seem concerned at all, so I don’t see a reason that I should be either. Since the tick had been in there for only about 12 hours, he said there was very little chance of a Lyme’s infection. His recommended course of action was for me to keep an eye on it, which I will do.

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