Last night we were out at Ken’s farm building a raft for the Pioneering Honor. Before we were finished, I found out that Ken’s mother Emma had been admitted to the hospital on Monday. She took a turn for the worse, so Ken, his wife Joyce, and his two kids left before we were finished.

I am not terribly perceptive when it comes to these things, so I didn’t think too much about it. But when I got home, there was an email from Joyce conveying the gravity of Emma’s situation. She died last night around 1:00.

Joyce was the one who suggested we work on this honor, so it was largely because I wanted her kids to get it that we’re working on it now. Therefore, I told her I wanted to cancel our raft trip. She got back to me right away, telling me that Ken wanted us to go ahead with it and that she and the boys still wanted to go on the trip.

So we’re going to go on the trip.

Ken was scheduled to lead out in church tomorrow, but since he won’t be able to, I’m going to stand in for him. The sermon will be a DVD, which means that I would have been leading out solo, which I don’t like. So I asked my friend Jeff to come up with me. He agreed, and I do like it so much better that way. I think it goes much smoother when two people can tag-team through the service instead of just one person doing it all.

After work Jonathan and I headed to a co-worker’s house to get her canoe, life jackets, and paddles. Then we met Va, David, and Beth at Olive Garden for supper. Service was a little slow, so David and I had to hustle out to make it to the last evening of Honors Week. David taught the Endangered Animals honor.

We had a pretty good turn out too. This has been the most successful Honors Week ever if measured by the number of honors earned. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents on it too, so that’s also good.

I think this year we’re going to have 21 kids in the club – the most we ever had before this was 16, so that’s a pretty good-sized increase. I’ll also have 7 staff members, so I need to take a look to make sure we have enough tents and other equipment for camping. I’m pretty sure we have enough dinner gear, so that’s no worry.

It’s shaping up to be a good year!

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Today has been a long day. We went to church, and then after the services Va had an Adventurer meeting. I helped her set up, and I cooked some mac-n-cheese for some of the refugee kids (and my own kids) that go to our church. They don’t usually bring food to a potluck, and that is entirely understandable.

The Adventurer meeting ended at about 3:00pm, and the fruit truck was due to arrive at 5:00. So rather than drive home (30 minutes) and then drive back (another 30 minutes), Jonathan, Beth, and I went geocaching. Va went on home, and David hung out at the church with his netbook surfing the web.

The geocache was on the other side of a pond that I am convinced was built to be an artificial wetland. We walked around it and about the time I decided we were at ground zero, Beth found the cache. Even before I had started looking! Then we hustled back to the church to wait for the truck.

It was a short wait. Beth wrote a few things in her blog while we waited. She had also written a little this morning which I found pretty funny.

When the truck arrived, Jonathan, David, and I were the only able-bodied people there. Several had told me that they had intended to help us unload, but none had yet arrived. I directed the truck to park in the back, and by the time he stopped the truck and opened the doors, people started to arrive. At first they came in a trickle, but then in a torrent! I didn’t count them all, but I feel confident in estimating the number at about 25, and that was just the people from our church. We were also the drop point for the church in Manchester, and they had plenty of people on hand as well.

The truck was unloaded in record time. I think this was the most people I have ever seen at a fruit-truck-unloading. We began sorting the fruit and dividing some of the crates (we sell half- and quarter-crates in addition to full ones). Va had printed out some mailing labels for me that had people’s names and their orders on them. Cheryl took on the task of applying the labels to the boxes, and pretty soon everyone who was there and who had ordered some fruit had gotten theirs.

And all the while this was going on, other church members were arriving and buying more. I had bought an extra 28 cases of fruit, and as of this writing, I have only 14 left unsold. We will take that to Sam’s Club Monday evening and try to sell the rest of it. I am quite confident that people will snap it up too, but that remains a matter of faith.

After all that was sorted out, Jonathan, David, Beth, and I headed over to Taco Bell and had some dinner. I was pretty tired by then. We had a nice time together though, and then we came on home. Penny was glad to see us (and very excited).

Tomorrow we have a Pathfinder meeting, and will (hopefully) have the rest of our customers come out then for their fruit. I will probably spend the morning raking the yard, as it needs it pretty desperately. The leaves are off the trees and the snow has not yet fallen. What better time for is there raking?

This morning I got up a little early and hopped in the shower. It was a little cold in the bathroom when I got out, so I went ahead an put on my undershirt before I brushed my teeth. Then I got dressed, and Beth and I set out for school. I noticed I was a bit more chilly than usual as I pulled out of the driveway, and then I realized why – I had not put on an outer shirt.

Now before you get any ideas, my “undershirt” is simply a shirt I wear under a heavier shirt. It is often a solid colored T with a pocket, and sometimes it may even have long sleeves (as it did today). In the summer, that’s all I need, but in the winter, I use those as an inner layer.

But since I had intended to use it as an undershirt, I feel it is not really that much of a stretch to say that the most common nightmare among all mankind – going to school (or work) in your underwear – came true for me today.

At first I thought, “Meh. It doesn’t matter.” But I kept finding myself feeling cold. So at 10:30 I called Va and asked her to bring me an outer shirt when she came into town. And she did. She also brought me a second “undershirt” (by my definition). She thought I was running around the office in a white crew-neck T-shirt. I guess I didn’t explain it well on the phone. I felt much better after getting “dressed” and she felt much better knowing I wasn’t as naked as she thought I was.

After I got home and we got the house cleaned up a little,I went outside to see if there were any new tracks in the snow. I found what I’m thinking were fox prints. Maybe I just have fox on the brain, but these prints were definitely canine (foxes are in the Canidae family), and they were smaller than the tracks Penny leaves. They crossed the property from north to south in pretty much a straight line. I took photos, but none turned out that well. Afterwards I read in my tracking book that red foxes leave a V-shaped ridge on the heel pad. These heel pads were pretty small, and the pictures aren’t good enough to tell if there was a V-ridge or not. I’ll go out and look again tomorrow.

After that, I took the kids over to the church for the Agape Feast. Va opted to stay home and have a bit of alone time (which she can most definitely use). I enjoyed the service very much, though there are a few people who weren’t there that I missed.

Pastor Cliff had his hip replacement surgery today, and it went well – a textbook case. That’s good. I expect he’ll be out of the hospital in another day or two. We’ll all be glad to get him back.

Church was not postponed this morning, so right after breakfast, I went outside to crank up the snowblower. I broke a shear pin and didn’t have another on hand, but that only cuts its effectiveness in half rather than to zero. I didn’t blow out the turn-around, figuring I would do that after I replaced the shear pin.

Then I took a shower and went to church. In Sabbath School we were reading Jeremiah 38, where Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern. A Cushite protests his incarceration and is given permission to lift him out. So he gets some rope, some old clothes, and 30 men. He throws the clothes down to Jeremiah and instructs him to use them as padding on the rope. Then he slips a loop under his arms and they haul him out.

So I thought it would be cool to reenact that story. I brought some rope and some old clothes (but I didn’t have thirty men). I lifted a ceiling tile and tossed the rope over a girder, then I tied a bowline and tucked it all back up into the ceiling and replaced the tile before any of the kids arrived. When we got to that part of the story I moved the ceiling tile again and produced the rope. The kids took turns letting me hoist them up about six inches or so. I think they really enjoyed it.

Several children in our church are home-schooled, and they presented a Christmas play for our church service today. They did an excellent job too. It really felt Christmassy today too, because I could see the snow still coming down during their play.

We drove on home. I had some lunch. I took a nap. Before I went for my nap I told Beth to wake me at 3:00, and she did. I was thinking we’d hike down to Sandogardy Pond, but I sure didn’t feel like doing that when she woke me up. So I told her to wake me at 3:30. And she did.

I got up then, and we went outside and did a little sledding. The sled refused to pick up any speed though. I guess the snow just wasn’t right for it. It was about a foot deep and it was real fluffy and dry. Penny chased snowballs.

After that, we had a bit of supper, and then the kids and I went back to the church for a Christmas social. Not a whole lot of people showed up, but enough did to make for an enjoyable evening. David beat all the kids at chess. Jonathan played his first ever game of Clue. I learned a game called… uh… Phase 10? We ate lots of popcorn, fruit salad, cookies, and brownies too. We stayed long enough to help clean up, and then I went to Home Depot to pick up some shear pins. Only I couldn’t remember what size to get. I took two guesses and bought them both. I’ll return whichever one is wrong, but that will wait for tomorrow.

This morning when my first rider got in the car I told her that she should remain seated when we got to her cousin’s house and that I’d call her on the phone instead. She protested, and perhaps even made up a story – I dunno. “I left my journal in her house! If I don’t bring it to school I’ll get in trouble and miss recess!”

Well… that’s too bad. I’m putting an end to the dawdling. I called just as we were pulling up to her driveway, and she came out within 30 seconds. That’s more like it! Then I dropped them off at school and went to work.

Work was busy. We have this deadline, so I’ve been working furiously trying to meet it, but at the same time, I know it’s more than likely going to be a futile effort. We are going to be late. We have told management that we are going to be late, but they keep hanging on to the “best case” delivery date. This assumes that all the hardware is working perfectly and that it will continue to work over a wide temperature range. The only thing missing are the tests to prove it. Except that it NEVER happens that way.

The tests will fail, and the first thing they will do is blame the test. “Look into that” and “Did you remember to do this?” and “Try this instead.” Eventually, we will turn up incontrovertible evidence that thie hardware is at fault, and they’ll bring in the hardware team. The hardware team will need us to make changes to the test software to help pinpoint the problem. And we’ll do that. Eventually, all the problems will be resolved, but this will take a minimum of two weeks. Longer is more likely. And of course, it’s due tomorrow.

Actually, we’re already well into the process I just described. We were able to pretty conclusively determine that the test I am developing was failing because there’s a real problem. We presented it to the guy in charge of the hardware and he told us “That’s impossible.” He basically refused to listen and insisted that he knew more about it than we did, and that what we were contending was absurd. Only it’s not. We pushed back and he agreed to look into it. So – blame the test! The hardware is just fine! Even though we’ve never tested it!

I find it pretty irritating when someone acts the way he did. When someone comes to me and says “I think I found a problem in your code” I put on my humility hat and say “We’d better take a look at that. It won’t be the first time something I wrote was incorrect.” Then I dig into it with an open mind, and we find the problem. The fault is not always mine, but it has been enough times that I’m not going to make blanket declarations about how my superior engineering abilities immunize me from error. In my 20+ year career, I have known only a few people who refuse to admit the possibility that something they created was less than perfect. “It can’t be in that code. I wrote that myself.” I can’t think of a more annoying characteristic to have in a co-worker. (But I’m not trying very hard.)

Man. This all sounds pretty bitter, but I guess it’s because I’m not looking forward to the coming storm. They will probably ask me to work between Christmas and New Years even though I was planning to take some vacation then. And my guess is that we will still be blaming the tests at the end of January.

I worked today until 5:45pm. We had a church board meeting at 6:00 so I went to that. After the meeting I returned to the office and worked until 10:00pm. We found a way to work around the hardware fault that we have asserted to be there, and I did get the test to run. And pass. A couple of times. The next step will be to put it all in a temperature chamber and run it for 12 hours as it cycles from -40° to +80°C. That’s not an easy test to pass.

On the way home I drove by the Holiday Inn and could not help but notice about 50 utility trucks. I stopped and took a picture:

Dozens of utility trucks at the Holiday Inn

Dozens of utility trucks at the Holiday Inn


What does this mean? Well, it means that the utility companies are still putting in some long hours trying to restore power in the aftermath of last week’s ice storm. I think NH had something like 340,000 customers without power at the peak of the outage. We’re now down to bout 70,000. Some people won’t have their power restored until after Christmas. So I guess I really shouldn’t gripe about unreasonable co-workers. I am a very lucky person!

Ice storm

Ice storm


This is a photo of the woods in front my house today. It was absolutely, stunningly gorgeous, and made me think that this is what it must be like to be inside a diamond. But man – here’s a beauty filled with treachery. This same ice storm knocked out power to over half the residents of New Hampshire. We were lucky in that our power was restored in about 12 hours. I know many people who still do not have electricity.

I woke up sometime Friday morning. The radio was playing, but I couldn’t find the clock. That’s because the power was out. It was around 6:30, I guess. I didn’t know that the battery would still try to wake me up when the power was off, and I had actually always wondered about that. Now I know. It was still pretty dark outside, and it was still raining (and presumably freezing).

Va got up and called Mrs. Brace. Yup – school was canceled. Listening to the rain, I just snuggled deeper into my covers and went back to sleep. No WAY was I going to be able to get in to work today. I got up around 10:00 and went outside. There were several bent-over trees in the yard, and several pines had their tops snapped out. It was a little weird – I could see what looked like a fallen pine tree, but didn’t see the stump. That’s because the stumps were over 20 feet high. I took several pictures, including the one at the top of this post. Penny helpfully chased sticks.

Without electricity, we have no heat and no water. We have forced hot air, but that runs on an electric blower. We have a well, but the pump needs electricity to do its job too. So we decreed moratorium on toilet flushing and fridge opening. Flushing was allowed in SOME cases though. We did take a few things out of the fridge every now and then too, but instead of putting them back, we just put them out on the deck. By mid-morning the temperature was up above freezing, so the deck made a pretty decent fridge anyhow.

By noon, the ice was melting out of the trees so heavily that it looked like it was raining. The rain had stopped by then and the sun was out. And the beauty was stunning. The road actually looked somewhat drivable, so I called Pizza Hut to see if they were open – and they were. So the whole family piled in the car and we went to Tilton for some hot food. Then we hit the Walmart and bought a couple of six gallon water jugs, and some other items too. We dropped the kids off at the house, and then I drove to the spring on Intervale Road in Canterbury. That spring is a pipe coming out of the side of the hill, and it flows at about a gallon per minute. I filled both jugs and returned home. We used that water to refill the toilet tanks (even though it is some of the best tasting water in the state).

Then Va and I decided to sneak into Concord. I had a form I needed to return to HR so we could have medical insurance next year. It was due that day (no excuses they said, but I’m betting they would have accepted “ice storm” as one). Then we went to the church and set up our laptops to grab our email, etc. When we finished with that, we grabbed some food to go and started back home. We stopped at the spring on the way, but there were already two pickup trucks there. One of them had half a dozen coolers and 20 gallon tubs in the back, and they were emptying buckets into them. These people live just up the road from the spring – the sign in front of their house says “Centerbury Tales”. I found out that Canterbury Tales has ten tales: five horses and five dogs, and the horse drink way more than the dogs. They were very nice people though, letting others slip in and fill their jugs between their buckets. I guess it took 20 minutes before we had our six gallons. Then we waved goodbye and set out for the house. No sooner had we pulled back onto the road than the boys called Va’s cell phone – we had electricity again! And had for 20 minutes! If they had called right away, they could have gotten their dinner sooner, because we would have left the spring as soon as we heard.

When we got home we ate. We had been planning on using paper plates, but since we had power again, we went all out and used the china. The furnace kicked in, and the water heater started doing its thing again too. The house had gotten down to 57 degrees – not bad. But I’m thinking I really need to get a generator now. I don’t know how long the house would stay above freezing under these conditions, and I sure don’t want any frozen pipes.

Even though we had electricity, we still didn’t have any Internet access. Jonathan was devastated. I think he might be slightly addicted to the Internet, and I can’t say I was sorry he had to go without it for a day. He jokingly (but perhaps… only half jokingly) declared that the three essential items for survival were water, electricity, and Internet access.

I spent the evening going though my digital photo collection and started tagging them. I made a scratch, and I was at it for maybe three solid hours. I also got ready for my Sabbath School class, and then I went to bed. I noticed that the clock was claiming it was 3:00am, but it wasn’t THAT late. I corrected the time, and then went to sleep.

This morning we got ready for church and then went in. I brought my laptop so I could let my family know we were OK, and I posted my previous missive here. We had a light crowd today, which kind of surprised me. The church had power and heat, which is more than could be said for most of the members. One of my friends had a tree fall on her car yesterday. Big tree. Little car. She was in a rental today. Others have generators. Some have wood heat. Many were hauling water. Concord itself was in pretty decent shape. There was no ice on the trees by this morning, and I didn’t see much tree damage. Others reported massive tree damage around where they live, some comparing it to the tornado that blew through NH this summer. Many stayed for a potluck dinner, even though that wasn’t on the regularly scheduled program. It was a great idea though. We would have stayed, but we had power at home and a dog in a crate who needs exercise. So we cruised home. We still have plenty of ice in our trees (unlike Concord).

Once the dog was freed, we had some lunch. Then Beth and I took Penny for a walk down to Sandogardy Pond. I brought my camera. Again, it was like walking around on the inside of a diamond. There were plenty of sticks for Penny to chase, so she was in doggy heaven. But man – it was cold. Sixteen degrees. David opted to stay home because of the cold. Beth and I had bundled up pretty good, so it wasn’t all that bad. We got home around 3:30.

At five-ish, Beth reminded me that I said she could go to child-care night tonight. I had forgotten that I had promised that, but Beth is pretty good at remembering fatherly promises. So we got a grocery list from Va, got in the car, and drove in. Beth had a good time playing with the other kids who were there. They played Uno and watched videos. Beth and a few other girls were pretending they were circus animals (except one of them who was apparently the circus master).

While they played, I washed the cookie sheets we used at our previous Pathfinder meeting. We had filled them with sand and had used plaster casts I had made previously to make new tracks for them to cast. A few people picked up their oranges while I was there, and I did collect payment from them, so that’s good.

We bugged out early. I wasn’t on duty tonight, so I didn’t have to stay the whole time. We did give Joy a ride home though. She lives about two miles from our house, and since I offer extra merit points for anyone who helps on child care nights, Joy wanted to be there. Her mom had brought her, and asked me if I would take her home. I was glad to do that.

So now I’m home and everything appears to be back to normal. We have power. We have water. The Internet came on again at about 1:00pm. So according to Jonathan, we NOW have the three essentials.

It is amazing to me how dependent we now are on something that didn’t exist 120 years ago, and most people didn’t even have 60 years ago. But we sure are! I hope to change that soon, but we’ll see how it goes. Maybe Barak Obama will incent me to install solar cells on my roof.

When the alarm went off this morning, Va went to check on Beth. She still had a stuffy nose and a cough, but she seemed rather chipper. So… keep the doctor’s appointment, or not? I knew what would happen if we blew it off. She would get sicker at an even more inconvenient time. So I thought it best to take her in.

Va and Jonathan both had dental appointments, so taking Beth to the doctor fell to me. They left the house to pick up my usual riders and take them to school. They hit the dentist some time later. I guess. Taking Beth to the doctor myself was OK with me though, as I had a chance for a more leisurely morning than usual. I took a long, hot shower. I made an egg sandwich. I set Beth up to practice the piano. Then I grabbed my camera and went outside. The main mission was to retrieve the garbage cans, and the secondary mission was to take pictures of… whatever. I found some silverod gone to seed, as well as some aster gone to seed. Silverod is like golden rod, but it has white flowers. I liked this picture best:

Daucus carota gone to seed

Daucus carota gone to seed


Daucus carota is more commonly known as “Wild carrot” or “Queen Anne’s Lace.” I uploaded the photo to Wikimedia Commons, because they didn’t have a photo of this plant in this phase of its life cycle. But now they do.

Then I taxied Beth to the doctor’s office. Her appointment was at 9:30, but we got there at 9:15. And sat in the waiting room for almost an hour. Good thing I was early! I always feel a little stupid waiting to see the doctor with a kid who seems for all the world to not be sick, and that was most definitely the case today. She was chatting up strangers, playing happily with toys, and just generally bouncing off the walls in there. But once she saw the doctor, the infection was confirmed. Both ears. And her nasal passage. And her throat. One prescription later, and we were out of there.

I called Va to see if she would fill the prescription (that’s her domain), and she said she would. But today was also ice skating day, so I was instructed to drop Beth off at the ice arena, which I did. We got there about two minutes before the rest of the students from her school did. Then I went to work.

Soon after arriving, I got a call from the guy in Keene where our fruit was to be delivered tonight. It showed up last night! I made arrangements with him to pick it up at 6:00 as we had originally planned. And then at about 1:30, I got a call from Ken. He was concerned about the weather and the fruit delivery we had been planning on. He teaches at Coe Brown, a school on route 4, and they let out early – so he was thinking maybe we could go up together and get the fruit before the weather got too bad. I made several phone calls to make arrangements, and then bugged out. We grabbed a tarp from the trailer, and decided that it would be a good idea to bring Jonathan with us (he was still in Concord after his dental appointment). Then we set out for Keene. It was slow going too, because it was raining. And freezing! They don’t let school out early for no reason, ya know!

We got there before dark and loaded the fruit – all 73.5 boxes. Then we drove it back to Concord. I had decided to store it in the table closet. Andy was there, and he helped us unload. About the time we finished unloading, Cheryl called wanting to know if we were in Concord yet. I had forgotten to call her, as she and Dirk wanted to help unload. My bad! Instead, she came in and put names on the boxes. Jonathan and I then carefully drove home – the roads were a mess too. I decided it would be better for me to drive rather than allow Jonathan to. He was disappointed, but the tread on my tires could be a lot better than it is, and it was pretty slick.

We got home in one piece though. And I will be astounded if school is not canceled in the morning.