bragging


This weekend we had our Pathfinder Bible Bowl and Pinewood Derby in Vernon Vermont.

The View at Mountain View Adventist Church

The View at Mountain View Adventist Church

We arrived there in time for the church service with all of us in full dress uniform. After church we ate lunch and then settled in for the Bible Bowl.

The Bible Bowl is basically a quiz that we answer in teams of no more than six. Adults and kids are on separate teams and do not compete with one another. Then the moderators ask questions, we write down our answers on slips of paper, and then run them up to the judging table. The kid team who gets the most right sets the bar. Any team scoring 90% of their score or higher gets a gold bar to hang on their Bible Bowl pin (though we will not get them until this spring sometime). Any team that scores below 90%, but above 80% gets a silver bar. All others get a bronze bar.

Beth’s team got a gold bar. They had the second-highest score for any of the kid teams which is pretty good! She was stoked. My team also earned a gold bar, but we had a very good team. I took our portrait:

My Team's Portrait

My Team’s Portrait

When that was over, we had supper, and then prepared for the Pinewood Derby. That took longer than anticipated, as Paul (our conference director) had brought a lot of equipment for car weight modification. He, another area coordinator, and I weighed the cars and added (or subtracted) weight until they were not more than 5 ounces, and as close to 5 ounces as we could get them. We probably should have just subtracted weight from the overweight cars, as we were not able to get the derby started until 8:30pm.

Here is Beth’s car:

Beth's Pocketknife Car

Beth’s Pocketknife Car

And here is mine again:

All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up


I actually modified mine since I posted it last week. I was at the recycling center and I stopped in the “junk exchange” room and found a tiny little candle holder. It was a better bowl than the plastic jug I had pressed into service, so I snagged it, and replaced the other one. I think it looks a lot better. I put it on the scale, mixed up some epoxy and cocoa, and poured it in until it weighed five ounces.

I also like Saralyn’s car (she is one of my Pathfinders).

Saralyn's "1st Place" car

Saralyn’s “1st Place” car


She was not able to come to either of the Pathfinder meetings during which we worked on our cars, so I helped her get started and sent her home with my tools last week. I think she did a pretty good job. She won third place for creativity in the teen division. But no matter what, she knew she’d go home with a blue ribbon.

Paul has been competing in Pinewood Derbys for a long time, so I knew his car was going to be the one to beat.

Paul's "Seven Dwarf's Mine" car

Paul’s “Seven Dwarf’s Mine” car


Here is is from the front.
Front of Paul's car

Front of Paul’s car


And I was right. His car was the fastest, and he earned second place for most creative. I am too humble to tell you who edged him out on that. 😉

My car placed second for speed and third for craftsmanship. I think I could have done better in the craftsmanship department, but the strangest thing happened. I already wrote that I poured epoxy into the mixing bowl until it weighed five ounces. And I weighed it again before taking it to the registration table – it was 5.00 ounces. But when we put it on the exact same scale at the registration table it had somehow gained half an ounce. I cannot understand this. I can understand the other thing that caused problems though – my car was too tall. I could have chopped the handle off, but instead, I sliced the whole top off and removed a chunk from the center. It was still way over the weight limit, so I spent another ten minutes hollowing out the inside of the mixer. When I finally got it down to 5 ounces again I glued the top back on. Where did that extra weight come from? I think I will never know!

In the end though, it still looked good enough to gain a third place ribbon for craftsmanship, a second place for speed, and… yes, a first for creativity. But I think that had to have been a difficult decision for the judges.

Meanwhile, Beth snagged two blue ribbons!

Beth collects a blue ribbon for fastest car in her division

Beth collects a blue ribbon for fastest car in her division

Hers was the fastest in her division, and she too took first place for creativity. The blade on hers would open and close. I did help her with the engineering and the power tools, but she did most of that work herself. I am very proud of her, and she was obviously pretty pleased about this too.

The derby ended at about 10:00pm. We had arranged to spend the night at the church there, and I was very grateful to be able to do that. I think the next time our church hosts the Derby, we will certainly make ours available to anyone who wants to stay. I will even stay with them.

I got up at 6:30, got dressed, and then put some water on for oatmeal. The rest of the club got up in their own time. One we were all dressed and fed we loaded the cars up and made sure the church was clean. Then we went home.

First thing I did when I got home was take a nap!

After the weekend’s adventures, I was one tired guy today. A single night’s sleep was not sufficient to revive me, and I found myself dragging after lunch. I gave up, went home a bit early, and took a nap. Now I feel a ton better, so I will attempt to share with you the adventures that caused all this fatigue! But I will limit it to just the cardboard boat race. There were a lot of other things that happened over the weekend, and by “The Full Account” I mean, “The Full Account of Our Cardboard Boat Adventures.”

I have already posted video of the maiden voyage of our canoe. Our boat was one of the two selected for the first run (by what criteria, I have no idea). I gave the camera to David, and he shot the video. I have not listened to it (because I don’t really care for listening to screaming crowds), but I understand that he might have made a few comments comparing the Redux to the “HMS Sinkeytowne” which we entered in 2009. While I agree that the Sinkeytowne was a better boat than the Redux, the Redux was Good Enough.

Anyhow… I diverge. Because he was shooting video, I have no stills. You’ll just have to look at this morning’s post and watch the video (if you are able – sorry to those of you who can’t, C!).

Natasha had the most merit points so far since January, so she got to go first. And since she chose the canoe over the kayak, the next two girls who also chose the canoe got to go with her. None of them had ever paddled stern before (which is the position that controls 90% of the steering, or 100% of the steering if I’m back there with inexperienced paddlers in the front).

Go!

I dug in as hard as I could, and the canoe was handling pretty nicely. We rounded the buoy, but that could have been done better. I turned downstream, when I should have turned upstream. That way, the current would have caught the front of the boat and turned us faster.

In 2009, we went out to the buoy and made a 90 degree turn, then went to the next buoy and made another, returning to the opposite side of the dock from which we started out. This year they modified it, and we were to make a 180 degree turn and return to the same starting point. That way is more fair, because then there’s no paddling upstream for one team, and downstream for the other.

Even though the turn was made with suboptimal execution, it was still not bad, and we managed a 58 second run. That was the fastest time at that point (duh) but it was also only the first run. I was pretty pleased with it.

We got out of the canoe, and I put my next four girls in. Jane has been in our club for six years, and I know she has done some canoeing. I’ve taken her out more than once myself. I just didn’t remember that she had never paddled stern before.

The second voyage of the Redux

The second voyage of the Redux


That was my mistake. They paddled out to the buoy straight as an arrow. But then they could not get the boat to turn. Usually kids have the opposite problem in that they can only make it turn and they can’t get it to go straight at all. They passed the buoy which was maybe 80 feet off shore. Then they went another 80 feet before they finally managed a turn. If the race had been all the way across the lake, they might have done pretty OK. But it wasn’t.

At that point in their journey, they switched from not being able to turn to not being able to go straight. Pretty soon the current caught them and they were just headed downstream. When they got too far off course, the safety canoes showed up, threw them a line, and began to tow them in.

When they got within 50 feet of the dock, the girl holding the line let go. That was a mistake. They were no more able to steer that canoe 50 feet from the dock than they had been 100 yards from it. It started going all screwy on them, and in short order, they rammed it into some rocks on the shore. I headed to the bank to swap out with one of them, but before I could get there, they had backed up and were far from my help. So I scrambled back up the embankment. When I got to the top, they came in and rammed those same rocks again. So back down I went. Again when I got there, they had reversed and were back out in the lake a pretty good distance, but I stayed put this time. Again, they came in and rammed the rocks on the bank, and I grabbed the canoe.

I told the girl in the bow to get out, and for the rest to stay put. I got in. They asked, “What do you want us to do Mr Thomas?” and I told them to stay put and keep their paddles in the boat. In short order I had them back at the dock. The crowd was cheering wildly, but I think they were pretty embarrassed. At that point, our team had both the fastest time and the slowest time. We hung on to the slowest time. That was not a statistic that changed as the other nine boats ran the race.

There was a club from the Bay of Fundy up in New Brunswick, Canada who came down for the Camporee too. They had built a boat, but did not wrap it in plastic for the trip down. It poured rain, and their boat was no longer intact when it arrived. I offered to let them take a cruise in ours, and they gratefully accepted. So back at the dock, I stayed in, and the two Canadian girls boarded. While I was waiting for them to board, I noticed a little stream of water gushing in through the hull. I was kneeling in the ex-bow (but since I was facing the other way, that was now the stern). The bow had taken a beating on the rocks, and we had probably 20 gallons of water aboard by the time the timekeeper told us to go.

With all that water aboard, the Redux was a lot less responsive to the paddle. I still hadn’t figured out that I should turn upstream around the buoy, and the boat really, really didn’t want to make the latter 90 degrees of the 180 degree turn. But I insisted. We got back, and by then, the Redux had shipped about 30 gallons of water. At that rate, it was not in danger of sinking for at least another 10 minutes. The water wasn’t coming in any faster than a kitchen faucet could fill it, and just think of how long it would take to fill a 300 gallon bucket from the kitchen sink. Yeah – a long time.

I got out of the boat, as that was its third and final voyage. Then came the task of getting it up out of the lake. Thirty gallons of water weighs about 240 pounds, and the cardboard was quite limp at that point. It took four of us to lift it up onto the dock. We flipped it over to drain, and then hauled it up the hill next to the fire pit.

The Redux awaiting its funeral pyre.

The Redux awaiting its funeral pyre.


During the trip up the hill one of the ends split open. Ahhh, you had a great run Redux. But this was your expected fate.

By this time I was pretty spent, having run two races full out, one rescue mission, and then hauled the sodden mass of cardboard, duct tape, and glue up the hill. I had a brief rest while they ran some other boats. And then it was time for “KAYAK spelled backwards” to race.

Beth was the first to go. I posted a photo of that last night, so you could go see it here if you wanted to. I was nervous that she might not have a good run, and that maybe she would steer it as well as the foursome in the Redux did, wrecking on the rocks, and with it, our chances of winning the fastest time. But she amazed me with her performance. She took two port-side strokes before she cleared the dock on the starboard side, and by then, the boat was crooked. She compensated with two starboard strokes, and then she was crooked the other way. But she got it straightened out pretty quickly and then made a beeline for the buoy. That’s when the kayak showed its real strength.

The plastic kayak upon which “KAYAK spelled backwards” was formed is a white water kayak (a “Prijon Rockit” if you must know), and it was designed for quick turns in whitewater. Doing a 180 around a buoy was childsplay, even for a child. She rounded the buoy in an instant and headed back to the shore. I think she finished in something like 90 seconds.

Then it was Joy’s turn.

Joy powering "KSB" back to the dock

Joy powering “KSB” back to the dock


She also turned in a stellar performance, as did Connor and Trevor.
Connor captains the KSB

Connor captains the KSB


Trevor in the KSB

Trevor in the KSB


And finally it was Cody’s turn.
Cody rounds the buoy in and instant.

Cody rounds the buoy in and instant.


Cody was the strongest paddler to pilot KAYAK. He finished the race in 45 seconds, and that was good enough to get us a second place ribbon. The 58 second run in Redux earned the third place ribbon. And yes, that means we did not have the fastest time. The Woodstock Whitetails pulled that off with a four-man kayak in a very impressive 38-second run. Wow. My hat is off to them. They had a couple of other runs that were also faster than Cody’s 45 seconds, but the judges only considered the fastest time by each boat, as the prizes were awarded to the boats rather than to individual runs.

While Cody was making his run, a mother from another club asked if her daughter could take a turn. They did not build a boat, but the girl wanted to give it a try. So I said, “Sure, as long as it’s still seaworthy when all the kids in my club had taken a turn.” It was still exceedingly seaworthy, but it had shipped maybe five gallons of water by the time Cody got out (he was our last kid to run in the kayak). The girl stepped in, but tried to kneel in the seat instead of sitting in it. I told her, “No, your legs go in front, and you sit here on the seat.” Then she decided to not go. I must admit, that five gallons of water did take the waterline up to the level of the seat. Since she declined, I hopped in instead. Yeah. It was wet all right.

By that time I had figured out the turn upstream tactic, and that’s exactly what I did. I powered the kayak out, made the zero-radius turn in record time, and then powered it back. But my time was 47 seconds. Cody. Beat. Me.

Ah well. I am a geezer compared to him. Also, I had already been out three times and was pretty well flogged by then. When I got out and we lifted the boat out of the water, we flipped it over to drain the five gallons of bilge and saw that a sheet of un-corrugated cardboard had partly come off. We had an underwater sail. Surely, that came off between Cody’s run and mine, right? Also, there had to have been more water in the kayak by the time I got in compared to Cody, right? It couldn’t be that I’m nearly 50, and can’t compete with a strapping teenage lad. That could never be it!
😉

We hauled KAYAK spelled backwards up the hill and placed it next to Redux. Then we got out a knife and cut out her name ot keep next to Sinkeytowns’s name in our trophy case.

Connor removes KSB's name from the bow

Connor removes KSB’s name from the bow

Some of you might be sorry to see that our boats lasted only one day. But that was what I fully expected. I knew these weren’t as waterproof as the Sinkeytowne, and the Sinkeytowne was disposed of in exactly the same way. This is How It Was Meant To Be.

I didn’t think to cut out the Redux’s name until it was already in the fire.

The Redux in flames, and KSB getting ready

The Redux in flames, and KSB getting ready


You can see how KSB could no longer hold its shape. Some of that was due to the removal of the front deck, but it was mostly because… it was a sodden cardboard boat. So sodden, that these two were unable to heave it into the fire. Peter from Limington stepped in and gave a hand.
With a heave and a hoe, KSB joins Redux in a fiery ending

With a heave and a hoe, KSB joins Redux in a fiery ending


The End

The End

So Redux had three voyages, and Kayak spelled backwards had six. Not a bad performance!

Jonathan managed to convince all his professors to let him take his finals early, so he’s going to Budapest next month to attend the Ubuntu Developers Conference. He got his itinerary today.

He’ll fly from Boston to Budapest with a layover in Zurich, and then fly back home with a layover in Frankfurt.

He’s a tiny bit excited.

We also attended the awards ceremony where he was named Outstanding Freshman of the CPET department today (he was one of about 50 students named something). I think CPET must be something like Computer Programming/Engineering Technology or something. I made that up, but it kinda fits. The ceremony ran 100 minutes, and his part took maybe two.

2011 Outstanding Freshmen in CPET

2011 Outstanding Freshmen in CPET


He was a tiny bit happy about the award too. I left work just before noon to be there and arrived before Va, David, and Beth. Jonathan found me in the auditorium, about the time Va called me to figure out where the auditorium was. She described her surroundings, and I relayed that to Jonathan, and he trundled off to find them and guide them in.

Just as he was leaving to do that, one of his professors approached me and asked if I was his Dad. Why yes, I am! Then he told me how unanimous the whole department was on his selection, and that they all really felt he deserved the award. I told him “We kind of like him too!” and he laughed.

Va and the kids arrived a few minutes later and we found some seats in the nosebleed section. I took some crappy photos (low light conditions plus long distance from subject equal noisy photos). The least crappy one on is shown above.

On the way home he said (in his usual subtle manner) “Today was a good day.”

I think he was right.

Today after work I went to the church to set the garage canopy thing up again. The first time I did that I had help, and the next day (or was it two day?) we had 45MPH wind gusts which uprooted it and threw it into the trees, bending several of the steel joints beyond all hope of repair.

Luckily, I had a full second set of hardware, and asked the guy who hauled it away if I could rummage through them again for replacements. I found enough replacement parts, and today was the day I chose (based mostly on the weather forecast) to work on it again.

I replaced the parts, stretched the canvas over the frame, and anchored it with several 18″ steel stakes. That should hold it. Next step is to move some pallets into it and then move yard sale junk on top of the pallets.

While I was there I also set up a broken computer that I had taken home to fix. I ended up swapping out the power supply. Hopefully that will do the trick.

Some local geocachers found Beth’s cache today and left some very nice notes. I emailed them back thanking them for their kind words. It’s kinda neat that they were able to find it so quickly.

Jonathan got back to us sometime between when I left the office and when I got home. Sounds like he’s having a good-but-not-TOO-good time. Just what I wanted for him. 😉

The guy from Craigslist showed up and bought my old snowblower today. Jonathan was the only one home, so he helped him load it and took the guy’s $50. Yay! Jonathan said that the guy figured the humor in my ad was worth the $50. But maybe he’s just trying to earn brownie points with me. If so, it’s working!

Here’s the ad.

This is an ancient snowblower probably built during the Ford Administration, but I’m not positive. International Harvester went out of business in 1984, so this beast dates to before then. The engine runs remarkably well, and I was able to start it on the second pull when I got it out for the winter. But then I ran it out of gas and couldn’t get it restarted (I tried again today, and it started on the third pull – go figure). In frustration, I went to the store and bought a new one.

This thing is a tank. But you shouldn’t think “M1 Abrams” when I say that. It would be more accurate to think “Republican Guard circa 1991.” A soviet-built tank abandoned on the side of the road. On fire.

My old snowblower is of course not in mint condition. The master clutch lever is gone. It was sheared off last year. I found the lever and set it atop the garbage can with the intent of fixing it the following day. However, the following day was trash day, and my son took the lever off the lid, deposited it in the barrel, and wheeled it out to the end of the driveway. It was long gone when I got home from work. I had intended to someday fabricate a new master clutch lever, but the screen door spring I pressed into service held it engaged well enough that I never got around to it.

The drive clutch handle broke off too, but I never did find it. Instead, I made a new clutch handle from a caulk gun. It works rather well, even better than the original did. One of the handlebars broke a weld joint last year too, so I cobbled a new one together from a length of steel conduit. Not the prettiest repair job, but quite functional.

This machine was built back in the days when men were men and snowblowers did not have all those sissy safety features they have today. If you let go of this while it is running, it will just keep going. If it’s headed for the garage, it will claw its way right through the back wall, then continue down the back yard into the woods where it will plow over trees and run over ground-nesting birds and mammals both large and small. It would only affect deaf critters though, as this thing would give a jet engine a run for its money on the decibel scale. They will hear it from a mile off.

If you don’t have a problem with that, then this is the snowblower for you. I have several spare shear pins and a couple of replacement belts that you can have with it. It also comes with tire chains. I’ll take $50 for it or the best offer that comes around.

Today after work my mission was to get permission for the Pathfinders to sell fruit at Sam’s Club as well as at two Walmarts (Concord and Tilton). I went to Sam’s first and spoke to the same person who was so helpful to us in November. She gladly put our name on her calendar and seemed happy that we had done well last week,

Then I went to the Walmart.in Concord. I was expecting that it would work out about the same, because the form I filled out at Sam’s also had the name “Walmart” on it. From that I concluded that it was a uniform policy that applied to all their stores, if not across the country, then at least across the region. But that conclusion was incorrect. Walmart handed me a different form which wanted to know all kinds of details about who we were, what we wanted to do, what we would do with the money we raised, how we benefit the community, etc. I filled all of that in and gave them the form. They said they’d be in touch. Hrmmm. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but not completely discouraging either.

Then I headed to Tilton. I didn’t know if it would be a Sam’s experience, one like the Concord Walmart, or something different. It was something different. They told me I had to submit a request in writing on our organization’s letterhead. “OK! Thanks!” I said, but on the inside I was rolling my eyes. We don’t even have letterhead. But we can make some. And I guess we will.

Anyhow. Subject change.

This morning I got a call from a lady in Concord who wanted to donate some food. She told me she had missed the pickup time and wanted to know if it was too late. I told her that we could still accept food donations, got her address, and drove over there to pick it up during my lunch break. She didn’t live in the area where we distributed bags, but that’s OK with me. We had another person do that last year, only they seemed really put out that we didn’t hit their neighborhood. I’m glad and thankful that people respond to these requests though.

This marks my last post in November. The goal was to post every day this month, and with this post, I have done that (plus one – I posted twice in one day a little while back). So I guess I’m an official NoBloPoMo something or another now. That means I get to show one of these: Yay me!

I slept in the backyard in one of the new tents last night with Beth. She went to sleep around 9:00 or so, and I went to sleep around 9:30. That’s pretty early for me, so to make up for it I woke up pretty early. Like 4:00am. I couldn’t get back to sleep, and the biggest part of that tragedy was that I had convinced myself it was 5:00, not 4:00 (an analog dial in the dark will do that). At 4:45 I realized it was not 5:45, but that didn’t help me sleep any better. I may have dozed off a couple of times, but when 6:00 finally did roll around, I got up, and that woke Beth.

We went to the back door and found that it was locked! When we went out last night, we exited through the basement so Penny wouldn’t know we were in the backyard. If she had known that, she would have spent the whole night barking out the back door. That’s why the door was still locked. Of course when I jiggled the door, Penny went into a barking frenzy, as someone was trying to get into the house! Red Alert!

We went around to the basement and came in that way. Penny just about wet herself when she was we were not killers. Actually, she did wet herself, but I didn’t notice.

I made some waffles for Beth (no big deal – freezer to toaster to plate, not from scratch or anything like that). Then I washed the dishes. By then Va came down and saw Penny’s puddle in the hallway. So I cleaned that up. Then I had an egg sandwich for myself (egg, cheese, veggie-sausages, and mayo on an English muffin). Then I went to bed and slept for real until 10:30 or so.

After I got up I took a shower and got dressed, and we went out for lunch. What a life! Sleep, eat, sleep, eat. When we got home again, I started cleaning the family room. I bagged up all the newspapers for recycling too. Then I drove to town to drop off some overdue library books and went to Lowes and bought a tarp.

I wanted the tarp so I could make a custom-fit ground cloth for this new tent. I laid it out and dragged the tent onto it. Then I marked it off with a sharpie, pulled the tent off again, and cut it out. I still need to add some grommets to the corners where the poles and stakes go.

David got full credit for his ethnic food assignment. I knew his teacher would like that, because it was a little more involved than microwaving a frozen burrito. She wrote something to the effect of “That was the most authentic example of ethnic cooking I have seen. Ever!”

Yay! Maybe he’ll realize that ol’ Dad occasionally gives some good advice.

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