I hauled the PVC puppet theater up from the basement tonight. I had to take it apart in order to do that, but it was designed to be taken apart, so that was not a problem. I reassembled it and then opened up the canvases I had bought to cover it. Wouldn’t you know it, the one I bought to serve as the backdrop was the wrong size. I thought I was getting a 4×6 canvas, but it was a 4×5 instead. The theater is 6′ long too, so this will in no way work. Oh well. The other canvas is 4×15, so I could conceivably cut 6′ off of it and use that for the backdrop, but then I’d have to sew the 4×5 to the remainder so I’d have enough canvas to cover the front and sides. I suspect I will just get a length of white linen instead, so that I can opt to project scenery onto it someday.

I still need to make one more puppet, and I need to make clothes for six more, but until the sewing machine is recommissioned, that ain’t gonna happen.

I finished my first sock last night. I knitted it without any errors (that I know of), but I have decided I don’t really like the pattern. It’s kinda hard to tell that until you’ve knitted one though. I guess. So now I’m doomed to knit another sock just like it, or have a half pair of socks. I went ahead and started the second sock tonight. Maybe the pattern will grow on me after I wear them a bit.

Today at lunch, Jonathan and I went to the Tea Garden, a Chinese restaurant. We stopped at the bank on the way so I could make a deposit. I thought the food was pretty good, and Jonathan said he enjoyed it as well. Plus it wasn’t any more than a deli, except that I gave nearly a 30% tip (on $3.00 on an $11 check). Still a $3.00 tip seemed pretty lean.

We walked back to the office the back way along the railroad tracks. That’s the path I usually tread when I take a lunchtime walk in the summer looking for blooms to log. There were no blooms today.

After I finished the sock last night, I went down to the basement and sawed up some PVC. Then I assembled it into a puppet theater. I think it’s going to work out pretty OK. I had the idea later today that the back drop could be made from a thin white sheet (or white linen of some sort), and then we could project scenery onto it from behind. How cool would that be? Answer: All the way cool.

But of course there’s no time for that for this production. I still need to cut up and stitch the canvas covering together for it. And maybe paint it, but I think that will have to wait too. Plus with the sewing machine out of commission, I’m going to have to wait on doing any stitching anyhow.

I also need to wedge a little time in this week or next to paint my Pinewood Derby car. I guess I should go out and buy some paint.

I got the sewing machine out tonight so I could work on the puppet costumes. First I hand sewed the sleeves on to the rest of the garment, but then wanted to use the sewing machine to zip the sides together. It did not go well. First it made a huge mess of the bobbin thread, and it kinda wanted to suck the fabric down into the machine. I pulled it out and cut the mess off the seam and attempted to make another pass.

That’s when the noises started. I’ve heard that before. I opened the bobbin door and turned the wheel on the side of the machine. The needle was coming down on top of the bobbin case. And that’s bad. It won’t sew AT ALL when that happens, and it takes the point right off the needle. I needed to retime it.

Last time it did that I found instructions online. I couldn’t find them online tonight, but then I remembered that I had saved them on my laptop. So I opened the file, and there it was. So the next thing I opened was the sewing machine. I managed to retime it all right, but it wouldn’t stay retimed. So I reretimed it. Twice. The nylon bevel gear got its teeth all bunged up, so it was skipping gears on every rotation.

My uncle, a brilliant retired machinist and tool maker, was just writing the other day about how he had made a gear out of aluminum to replace a nylon one. I was going to ask him if he wanted to make a gear for me, but I found the one I needed online for $13.94 (after shipping). I ordered one, but it’s still nylon. It should be here in time for me to fix the sewing machine and then make a half dozen puppet costumes before the puppet show.

I also stopped at Lowes on the way home tonight and bought a bunch of PVC fittings with which I intend to construct a puppet theater. I might go down to the basement and work on that in a little while, but we’ll see.

I didn’t sleep well at all last night. In spite of going to bed exhausted, I had a million things churning through my mind – most related to preparations for Camp-in.

I still need to make a set of rollers to roll the scroll onto. Also, we still need to finish decorating the church. I was also thinking about making Ken’s prayer shawl (he’s playing the part of a rabbi). I did et to that when I got home tonight, and it did not go very smoothly. The sewing machine revolted on me again, and I was having an awful time with it wanting to tangle the bobbin thread. I finally figured out what was going wrong, and things got better after that. It didn’t help that Beth was in there with me whining the whole time. She has a school project she has been pretending to work on, and it was one complaint after another about why she thought she had done enough, and “I don’t know what else to write,” and “it’s too complicated for me to describe.” Grrr…

I was also worrying about an upcoming deadline for work. I really need to take some time off so we can get ready for Camp-in, but things are urgent again at the office, and that makes it pretty hard to take off. But then today at 3:30 I had a major breakthrough, pinpointing the bug I’ve been chasing for two days. It was beginning to look like I would not find it any time soon. It took me another 45 minutes to fix the bug, test it, and check all the changes into svn, and then I high-tailed it home. I think I will take off tomorrow.

Camp In is this Saturday, and we still have a LOT to do to get ready. In a little while, I intend to break out the sewing machine and make Va’s cloak. That could well be the last thing I sew for this event. I also need to make the scripture scroll to put in the velvet-curtained box I devised last week.

Tomorrow I expect we will spend some time at the church putting up scenery.

Not a whole lot happened today. So that makes for a short post!

Last night Beth asked me if she could have her own blog. I thought about it and decided that as long as she was willing to follow a few ground rules, it would probably be OK. First, she is not to post where she lives except very generally – i.e., in New Hampshire. Second… well. There was no second. I set her up last night, and she posted this morning. And this afternoon. And this evening. If you like reading the thoughts of a seven year-old, you might want to give her a visit.

I took the picture we’re using on her banner as we were driving to school this morning. As the road emerged from the forest, we saw a frost-covered field with a drop-dead gorgeous sunrise lighting it up. We were running a little early, so I stopped the car and took a couple of pictures, including that one.


One of my all-time favorite TV shows is The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS. I used to set that and The New Yankee Workshop up to tape while I was at church, and then I would watch it in the evening after the kids went to bed. Can’t do that anymore though, because TWS doesn’t come on here. Instead I watch it on the web now.

Almost invariably, Roy inspired me to go down to my shop and try something, while Norm hardly ever did. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have $80,000 worth of woodworking machinery. On one of those occasions, Roy taught me how to make hand-cut dovetails. I made a small box out of cedar, and we’ve been using it to store newspapers (for recycling) ever since. For Camp In (next week!) Va needs a small box with a fancy velvet curtain for storing a scripture scroll. I thought about making another box, but that cedar one was almost perfect for the job, so I decided to reuse it. Last night I made a set of curtains for it (my own pattern – more complicated than it might sound). I was rather pleased with the result. Tonight I drilled a couple of holes through which I ran a 7/16″ dowel which now serves as a curtain rod. Tomorrow, I will make the winders upon which the parchment will be wound to make the scroll.

I also need to make a cloak for Va, and if there’s time, I’ll need to make another costume or two. That might not be necessary though, as we found out that one of our church members has a larger collection of Bible costumes than we thought. That’s a relief, as next week is coming up FAST.

I cranked up the sewing machine again tonight. I’ve lost count of how many costumes I’ve made for the Adventurer Camp In, but I saved this one for last. (Well… I’ll prolly make a few more). I wanted to have practiced on the rest before I started in on Va’s.

Tonight I made her a tunic. I still need to put in the hems, but other than that, it’s quite finished. I start on her robe next, but I’m thinking about modifying the pattern for that. It’ll be an open robe rather than one that completely covers the front.

Once that one’s done, I’ll see about making some “leather” armor for David’s soldier outfit. So I guess I’m not really almost done after all, but I DO see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We’re supposed to get something like 16 inches of snow tomorrow. School has already been cancelled, and I might just blow off work tomorrow. I’d rather get snow than have what my relatives in Kentucky and Indiana are getting – ice. And lots of it.

I have decided to pull the plug on the gutter heaters I installed last month. They doubled our electric bill. Another way of saying that is that I found a way to cut my electric bill in half. I think what I really need to do is get up in the attic and insulate the roof. The ceiling is already insulated, but we have a walk-up attic, and we lose a lot of heat through the door to the stairway. Insulation might well eliminate the need for the gutter heaters. It’s also a much more green approach to combating ice dams.

Beth had another bout of emesis last night at about 3:30. I got up and changed her sheets. First I went to the basement to get her previous sheets out of the dryer. I spread them out on the bed, but then noticed that it had gotten wadded up in the dryer, so there was still a damp spot on them. I fetched another set out of the linen closet (that’s where we keep… the linens!) She had gotten most of her blankets this time too, so I swapped them for fresh ones one at a time. In short order, she had a clean bed. I tucked her in, and went to bed myself.

Today, being MLK day, she had no school. So I slept in a little. We had gotten two or three more inches of snow since I had last cleared the driveay, but I figured I could drive through that, and decided to put of clearing it until I got home. I made it to work by 9:00.

Today was much less stressful than the past several days at work have been. As far as I know, we shipped the card we were stressing over. I received a big “Thank you” from the management team. Hooray for me!

At lunch time I decided to fetch the school’s new server from the trunk of my car. I hauled it up to the office, hooked up the DVD drive to it, and tried to see if I could get it to boot from that. I did! I did a “practice” install. If I had had the Linux disc I wanted to put on there, I would not have practiced any at all. It took about two hours of churning and chugging, but I finally had a full OS on there, and everything seemed to be working.

But man… those fans are LOUD. There are nine of them in there. One of them appears to not work, but it is one in a row of five, and I think I can live without it. Two more are in the power supply, and another two are used for cooling the second CPU. Those two were the screamers. I disconnected them and the noise level dropped by a significant margin. So tonight, I ordered two “ultra quiet” fans to replace them. Hopefully they really will be “ultra quiet”. I do know that the ones I’m taking out are “ultra loud” though, so it will be hard to lose on that swap.

This server does have one bizarre component in it that I can’t figure out. It’s a card mounted in a drive bay and connected to the motherboard via a serial port plus a 50-pin ribbon cable. It has a battery. The major chip on it is made by Qlogic, and they make Storage Area Networking stuff. It has a flash chip on it, and the sticker on the flash has a MAC address with the same OUI as the on-board Ethernets. Here a photo:

What IS this?

What IS this?

None of my co-workers were able to come up with convincing theories either. I unplugged it, and everything booted just fine. If I can’t figure out what it is, I will probably remove it. No need to waste electricity on something I’m not going to use.

Tomorrow I will dash into the church when I drop the girls off at school, and I will pick up the K12LTSP Linux disc. That’s the “real” OS I plan to put on there. I’ll kick off the install sometime during the day, and hopefully, everything will be ready when I’m ready to come home.

Since I got to work a bit late, I decided to leave early to make up for it. (heh heh). Actually, I went home at my regular time because I had put in some extra on my darling wife’s birthday. That should count for SOMETHING. When I got home, I cranked up the snowblower and clear the drive in record time. Two or three inches of powdery snow just doesn’t take that long to dispatch. Then I drove the Pizza Hut and picked up our supper.

After eating, I got to work on another robe costume for Camp In. When we selected the cloth for this one, we found that the store didn’t quite have enough for the full robe. So… I’m putting short sleeves on it, and I’m going to run the bias on the sleeves in the opposite direction. This is, after all, a costume, not some clothing anyone will be expected to wear for a full day.

It looks like Beth is asleep now, so I’m going to slip back downstairs and finish that robe now.

I have nothing exciting to report today. I went to work and was pretty busy, but even most of that was somewhat mundane. There was a great quantity of mundane things to do, and they all had to be done right now though, so mundane does not equate to stress-free.

In fact, I worked a bit later than I normally do trying to get something out of the way. And I did.

Tomorrow my boss will be off site and has asked me to sit in on a meeting in his stead. I am not looking forward to that, but I’ll do what I can.

When I got home, Va had some supper ready for me, which was very nice. I ate it, and then went outside to see if there were any new tracks in the snow. It was very cold (it’s 0 degrees right now), but I do have a pretty warm coat, so that was not a problem. Penny came out with me and I threw a couple of sticks for her. She doesn’t like to follow me into the woods though, because she isn’t sure where the invisible fence boundary is, and I think she associates all of the woods with the fence. There were some new squirrel tracks, some new cat tracks (domestic I’m sure), and some new mouse tracks.

The snow cast I made is drying out nicely. I have it in the kitchen on the floor next to a heater register. Some of the surface has crumbled off, but it was a cast of some pretty crumbly snow, so that didn’t come as a surprise.

In a few minutes I’ll head downstairs (I’m in Beth’s room at the moment, sitting with her as she settles in for sleep). Then maybe I’ll fire up the sewing machine again and put the hems in the soldier tunic I started (and nearly finished) yesterday. Maybe I’ll cut out some cloth for villager tunic too, who knows.

Last night before I went to bed, I decided I needed to run another experiment in casting tracks in the snow. I had a bucket of joint compound in the trunk, so I went and got it. I cut up a plastic milk jug to make a casting form. I ran a little cold water in yet another cut-up milk jug, and added a couple of cups of snow to it. I stirred the water until most of the snow had melted and the water was good an cold. Then I scooped out the remaining snow and stirred in some joint compound.

Then I went out to visit my mouse tracks. It was snowing, and from the looks of it, it had been for 10 or 15 minutes. Big fluffy flakes too. I figured that couldn’t be good for the tracks I had found earlier in the evening, but since I already had the compound mixed, I decided to make a go of it anyhow.

I went out and placed my ring around a pair of tracks. I wanted to cast two tracks with the tail marks between them. Then I started pouring in the joint compound. Instead of pouring it into the tracks though, I poured it next to them and let it overflow and fill the tracks gently. That was a good thing too, because when I retrieved the cast, I could clearly see where the stream had poured in (from a height of only about an inch too).

I went back out and checked it after an hour, but it was still mushy. So I let it set all night. This morning as we were getting in the car, I dashed around back and grabbed my cast. It was nice and somewhat solid by then, so I put it in my car and we drove away for work/school.

I found that it was still a little soft, so I quit brushing snow off, opting to allow it to melt off in the garage at work. When I got off work, I checked it out, and I must say… it looks pretty OK!

It’s not nearly as good as a cast made in mud, but it’s certainly identifiable. Some of the detail has flaked off, and the compound is still curing, but I think it’s going to set up all right. I’d post a picture, but I haven’t taken one yet. Maybe later.

When I bought the joint compound, I had asked the store guy where I could find plaster of Paris, and he pointed to the joint compound. “Whatever,” I thought. That’ll probably work. Now what I want to know is – what’s the difference? They are NOT the same thing. Plaster generates heat when it sets, but I don’t know if the joint compound does, and if it does… how much?

I need to go get some plaster and run some more experiments. My theory is that joint compound either doesn’t heat up, or it doesn’t heat up as much. I also think that when it sets, it is merely drying out. Plaster OTOH, is undergoing a chemical reaction and will set under water (remember my underwater heron cast from this summer?)

So… we’ll see.

I started making another Roman soldier costume for Camp In tonight. I actually made a pretty good dent in it. I think another hour or so and it’ll be done. Camp In is coming up fast, so I need this kind of progress! I’m tempted to try making the soldier’s armor too, but that looks pretty complicated. I’ll try to get some of the villager costumes out of the way first, and then if there’s still time, tackle the armor. Again – we’ll see.

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