Christmas is officially over at our house. We took down the tree and stowed it in the attic. Beth took off the ornaments, David took down the lights, and Jonathan took down the tree.

After that I went to Lowes and bought a couple of 1×12’s so we could use them as knot boards in Pathfinders. I have six members now that were not with us in January of last year, so I needed six new knot boards. Last year I started cutting these from lumber, whereas before we used poster board, or display boards. But those look tacky. With lumber, it’s something a person might want to hang up in their bedroom or in their office (which is where mine is).

Several of the knots are hitches though, meaning they have to be tied around something. Hard to do that on a board. I went out to my woods and found a small maple tree that had its top bent all the way to the ground. I cut it into 2 foot sections, and attached one to each knot board, suspending it from the top (or bottom) of the knot board with dowels. Kinda like a handrail along the top. The kids can tie their hitches to that.

We will continue with the knots next week, but I need to buy more rope. I also need to cut it into pieces (with the ends taped) ahead of time, as I felt I spent twice as much time taping and cutting lengths of rope as I did teaching kids to tie knots. We only managed to get through four knots that way, and those were the easy ones!

I love the holidays, especially when I’m not selling citrus in the freezing cold wind. I stayed in bed today until breakfast was ready (pancakes! my favorite!) Then I surfed the web for a bit and worked on the scarf I am knitting. This is my first knitting project, which I’m working on so I can earn the Pathfinder Knitting honor. I’ll still need to knit a second item as well.

I did a little reading in Wikipedia on knitting, because I wasn’t sure if I was creating a stockinette stitch or a garter stitch. Turns out, it’s a stockinette, which is unfortunate. Once I figured out that’s what I was doing, I read further:

Stockinette-stitch fabric is very smooth and each column (“wale”) resembles a stacked set of “V”‘s. It has a strong tendency to curl horizontally and vertically because of the asymmetry of its faces.

Yeah, it has that tendency, and I can attest that it is quite strong. Oh well. I should have used the garter instead. I had originally intended to use an all together different pattern, but I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong – all the way wrong. It was turning out to be a mess. I experimented, but eventually gave up, turning to something simple (with a strong tendency to curl). Anyhow, this scarf is nearly a foot long now I guess.

If I can master some of these other techniques, maybe my next project will be a viking hat complete with horns. But that might be a wee bit on the ambitious side. But if I could pull that off, it might make a decent fundraiser for our mission trip. Or not. I’m pretty sure I’ll be pulling far less than minimum wage if I try to knit my way to Latin America.

Beth and I went over to our next-door neighbors’ house. I’ve only met them once, but thought it would be good to bring them a gift basket of oranges. Selling them in ten degree weather makes you think of all kinds of reasons you should buy them, and gifts to neighbors you don’t really know ranks pretty close to the top of that list. We rang the bell and the door was answered by the woman of the house with a two-year old in tow. She thanked us for the fruit and then told us that they had all come down with some sort of bug last night and hadn’t even opened their presents yet. They must feel pretty bad!

Then we went to Don and Melissa’s house (behind us) with their platter of oranges. They invited us in and I sat down and visited for a bit. Penny had followed us there and was barking every now and again to remind me that she was out there and wanted in. But we didn’t give in! Melissa told me that the sick neighbors had the pukes and were out of clean sheets. She had offered to bring them some clean ones, but they declined, and since they were already friends with them before they moved in, I figured they wouldn’t accept clean sheets from us either (or I would have offered).

After 20 minutes or so, Penny started howl-barking as if to warn off an intruder. Yeah, it’s a different sound compared to the “let me in the house” bark. I decided it was time to go, because I didn’t want Penny eating any of our neighbors’ guests!

We hiked back down to the house and chillaxed a little more. I did more knitting. And then I went to the attic and insulated two more rafter’s. Well, maybe that’s three rafters, I dunno. I was two rows of insulation, and two rows fit between three rafters. That took me all the way to the north wall of the house. I also started on that wall a bit, but didn’t finish it. After all, I was chillaxin. While I was up there I found I had eight more rolls of insulation than I thought I did. It was neatly stacked behind the stack I could see, but since it is piled up against a sloping ceiling, it wasn’t as high, and I didn’t see it until tonight.

I will need to buy another 48 rolls or R13 to finish the job, and I plan to do that before the end of the year so we can claim it on our taxes.

I didn’t have to go to work today. I stayed in bed until 9:00 which felt great. When I got up, I puttered around the house for a bit, and then around noon we all piled in the car and went to Pizza Hut for lunch. Then we did some shopping, which is crazy, I know. But it wasn’t too bad. The kids bought gifts to exchange with one another, and they also bought a few small things for Va and me. Then we came home and quickly cleaned the house so it wouldn’t look too deplorable for photography. The kids quickly wrapped the gifts, and then we opened them.

We did end up getting Jonathan a laptop, even though he has not yet graduated. He has done everything possible up to now anyhow. He’s waiting on teachers, and I expect he’ll be finished next week sometime. Or the next. Anyhow, he had the laptop for less than an hour before he had Linux running on it. Then he started moving his files from his old clunky desktop to his sleek new lappy.

All the kids seem happy. What more could a person ask for Christmas?

Today we did a bit of Christmas shopping. David got a replacement Nintendo DS, and Beth got her very first one. We offered her a choice between a DS and horse riding lessons this spring/summer. I was kinda surprised at her choice, but the “right now” thing is pretty strong in an eight year old. I just thought the horse thing might have been stronger.

We plan to get Jonathan a laptop as a combination Christmas/graduation gift. But he has to graduate first. That’s part of the deal. He was none too happy with us tonight for sticking to that plan. He’s close, but he’s not there yet. He’ll make it before the spring semester starts though. He’s going to take classes at the community college for this spring, and maybe next fall he’ll go elsewhere. We’ll see.

After shopping, we ate at Applebees, and then I headed to the church to meet the crew from Portsmouth. The arrived at the arranged time, and David and I helped load their fruit. Then we hung around waiting for the Pathfinder meeting to start.

During the meeting we wrapped up several trays of fruit into “giftable” packages. We’ll try to sell that at Sam’s Club tomorrow. And keep at it until it’s either all gone or we bump into Christmas. At that point, anything that’s left goes to the homeless shelter.

Here’s one way to make sure your Christmas tree doesn’t tip over:

Christmas tree stand being nailed to the floor

Nail it to the floor!

I’ve been doing it this way for several years now, and it works very well, even with rambunctious kids and dogs underfoot. It’s impossible to see the nail holes when I take the tree down, because the carpet covers it quite well. If I do this for another 20 years though, I’m bound to start finding old nail holes. Oh well. Maybe when the rambunctious family members move out I can quit doing this.

I noticed this morning that the snow on my roof over the attic stairway is quite a bit deeper than it is elsewhere. That used to be the first place to melt. This change can only be because of the insulation I added there. It drives home the need of finishing that job. I’d like to get it done this year, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. I have several other demands for my attention (besides my kids).

  • Develop a web site for selling fruit to the public
  • Implement a web filter at the school.
  • Knit a scarf

Yeah, I’m still trying to learn how to knit. I made pretty good progress on it yesterday, but I am seriously thinking I should just start over. I made the first row way too wide, covering the entire length of the needle with the loops compressed together. From what I can tell, that compression was roughly 50% of the natural width of the resulting knit, and that makes for a scarf about 18 inches wide. It would be a lot faster (and use half the yarn) if I just started over on that.

I think my strategy is going to be to work on the tech tasks first, and then use the knitting to clear my head before bedtime. That way I won’t lie awake all night thinking about solving intractable tech problems. Maybe.

We opened our presents last night, and everyone seemed pretty happy with what they got. Besides my new camera, I got some moccasin slippers which are nice and cosy. We were in Target yesterday and Jonathan picked out a pair of headphones for himself (his were broken). SO we had to tell him he might want to put them back and wait to see what Santa brought him. Surprise!

This morning I slept until 10:00am. Beth woke me up so I could watch her horse show (we had gotten her a pretend horse for Christmas for her dolls). The horse show lasted about a minute (the rider was thrown).

After the horse show, I got busy working on the snowblower. I cut the caulk gun apart and fashioned a clutch handle from it. Then I installed it and replaced the bolts on the scoop guide. I now have a working clutch! (Thanks for the prompting Dad.)

Caulk gun clutch handle

Caulk gun clutch handle

The hardest part of this for me (aside from actually doing it) will be throwing away the parts of the caulk gun I did not end up using. I know I will never have a use for any of it, but… springs! levers! Arrrgghhh!

After that, Daniel (David’s friend) came over and they wanted to go sledding. I thought that was a fine idea, but Va had just thrown Beth’s coat and snow pants into the washing machine. I told them we could go after lunch.

And we did! Beth, David, Daniel, and Penny all piled into the car and I took them to Tilton. They have a legendary sledding hill right downtown, but I hadn’t ever been to it, or even know exactly where it was. There were maybe another dozen sledders there. The sledding lived up to its reputation too. Penny got plenty of exercise chasing David and Daniel down the hill (with a stick in her mouth, as is her regular practice). I went down a couple of times, and on my second trek back up the hill happened to spot some car keys in the snow. They were mine! I’m sure I had lost them on the first trip down, and I was very thankful to have found them – even before I knew they were lost!

The citrus company called me today. Pioneer must have ordered more fruit just like I did, and their final tally exceeded ours. So I get to go to Keene to pick up the fruit next week. Oh well. I am not complaining though, because this is still the biggest fruit order we have ever placed.

Today after work I went home and helped get the house in order before sunset. Then Beth read us all a story about a guy who built chipmunk houses. I don’t think I would ever do that. Yes, they are cute, but they have a tendency to overpopulate (they’re rodents after all!) and then they start digging up the flower beds.

Then I took the kids, three dozen cookies, and a gazillion brownies (all baked by my lovely bride) to the church where we met Cheryl and Dirk (Cheryl was the Pathfinder director before me). We wrapped the cookies and brownies on some trays, and I put them in a tub for safe keeping until tomorrow. We will take them to all the fire and police stations in Concord after potluck tomorrow when we go caroling.

That’s about it for tonight! Thank you both for reading!

Yesterday, a woman from Jefferson, NH called the house wanting to know if it was too late to put in a citrus order. Well, technically, it was past the deadline, but I had ordered some extra fruit, just in case. Also, the fruit company will let me amend the order until noon on the day following the deadline. So I gave her a call. She asked if she could buy about 15 cases. I nearly dropped the phone.

She wasn’t ready to commit yet, because she wanted to be able to put heads together with her husband to figure out exactly how much of what to buy, but she said she’d call back. I told her I had to know before noon today.

She called at about 9:00am, wanting a total of 20 cases. I had already ordered 51.5 cases, so her order now represents almost a third of my new total. Woot! But it gets better.

When I called the fruit company with my new total (73.5 cases – I also added a couple more from where other people had ordered after the published deadline), we started talking about where we would have it delivered. I have to place a minimum order of 100 cases if I want it delivered to a place of my choosing, but that has never happened in the three years we’ve been doing this. The sales rep thought that Pioneer Memorial had ordered some (they’re in Keene, about a 90 minute drive from the church), which would be great compared to Freeport, ME (a three hour drive). And then she saw that not only had Pioneer placed an order… ours was bigger. That means that instead of me picking up at Pioneer, Pioneer will most likely be picking up in Concord.

This is going to be so nice. The woman from Jefferson will also be driving down to Concord to pick hers up, so I don’t even have to deal with THAT. Woohoo!

When I got home, I ate some dinner and then helped Beth with her piano lesson. It began in a most unpleasant manner:

Me: That was supposed to be a G. You played an F.
Me: No, you played this key (bing…). That’s an F.
Me: No. It’s an F. Look. (pointing to the keyboard, which labels the chords at the lowest end of the keyboard). See. That says F, and that’s what you played. It’s not a G.
Beth: THAT’S WRONG THEN!!! THIS IS A G! (plink, plink, plink)
Me: It’s not wrong. Look at the book (pointing to a G in the book).
Me: If you don’t stop whining, I’m going to make you quit taking piano lessons.

And I would have too. She straightened up immediately and became much more pleasant. There had been even more arguing before then, with her insisting that the teacher had told her to do something different from what she had written in her instructions. And placed an asterisk by. And underlined. Twice.

I dunno exactly why Beth reversed her attitude, but it was nearly instant. And then she did so much better and played beautifully (for a six year old). Then she asked when we were going to put up the Christmas tree. I figured that had to be worth something, so I told her we would do it if she would practice an extra 15 minutes. Which she then did, diligently.

After 15 minutes, I went to the attic and dragged the tree downstairs. David was excited about the tree too, so I made him carry a box of decorations. We set the tree up, and I strung up the lights. Then I positioned it where I wanted it, and nailed it to the floor. I do that every year. We have carpet in the living room, so the nail holes completely disappear once the tree comes down. And the tree stays put, and no one ends up on or on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Once the tree was nailed down, I turned David and Beth loose with the remaining decorations.

Beth kept pretending to decorate it just like the kids on Merry Christmas Charlie Brown – by gathering around the tree and waving her hands. When they finished, they wanted to watch a Christmas video, but it was Beth’s bedtime. But hey – the tree only goes up once a year, so I figured a 30 minute extension would be OK. They could watch a video if it were 30 minutes or less. They chose… Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.

I’ve got server fever. I found a web site that has some pretty incredible deals on some computer equipment – almost to the point where it seems too good to be true. Except that I have ordered from these people before and have been satisfied. They’ve got a couple of servers I’d like to buy for the school, but I’m having difficulty choosing between them.

The first one is a refurbished IBM. It’s super fast with lots of memory, but with a tiny hard drive. The upside of the HD is that it is an industrial grade drive – a SCSI Ultra320. That means it’s incredibly fast and well suited to what I want to use it for, but it’s short on capacity. The other downside is that if I go with SCSI, adding capacity will be expensive.

The other server is a no-name machine with about the same specs as the IBM, but not quite as fast, and with a commercial-grade hard drive. Meaning it’s not terribly slow, but I can add gobs of storage capacity on the cheap. It won’t perform as well, but it will perform good enough. I worry about it being made by a company I have never heard of though.

So that’s my quandry. Both are under $200. On to other things.

Today at work, two female coworkers were going around putting fake, electric candles in all the windows. The company does this every year. The woman who installed the candle in my office window was wearing a tad too much perfume, and she was also having a very difficult time getting to the electrical outlets. Meaning she spent a long time in there exuding perfume. Up to maybe 83% of her perfume in fact, escaped her person and infested the air in my office. I had to leave, because I really can’t stand perfume. I especially don’t like it when I walk through a department store during Christmas season and a “helpful” clerk is standing there with a spray bottle of the stuff dousing anyone who comes within shooting distance. Not that I go to department stores anymore. Va hardly lets me, because one time(several years ago) I actually ran the perfume gauntlet, with an actual running sort of motion. In a store. With perfume purveyors staring in disbelief.

Dave dropped in my office just as I was about to leave to get some fresh air, and he noticed it too. Then he taught me a neat trick – light a match! For whatever reason, I happened to have a box of matches in my coat pocket (left there from my last camping trip no doubt, even though that was well over two months ago). So I “fired one up” (ha ha!), and man – no more perfume smell. I will not soon forget that trick.

Shortly after that, I went to the drug store and bought an ingredient for making crystal meth. Not that I’m planning to do THAT or anything – I just needed some Sudafed for my sinuses. But they sure make you feel like a criminal these days, don’t they? It seems almost stupid to buy something that helps you detect odor even better when you’re choking on perfume fumes, but to me, being able to smell and breath through my nose is a mere side-effect. The main thing I was after was to relieve the pressure in there that was causing a tremendous headache. And it did. Also, by the time I got back, the perfume AND the burning sulfur odors had completely dissipated.

When I got home, I was planning to hang lights on the gutters. I went to the attic and brought down maybe 83 strings of lights. Then I started testing them. Several had over half the bulbs out, so I pitched them in the trash. I was trying to decide if I wanted to try to cobble together a set out of the ones that still worked, or just go out and blow another $1.83 on a new set, when Va suggested that maybe it would be OK to forgo the outside lights this year. She didn’t have to suggest that twice. That means I won’t have to risk electrocution by setting my aluminum ladder up on an insanely steep hillside mere inches from the power lines that feed the house. Hurray!

Maybe next year though.