In Pathfinders, we work on “honors” which are most easily described as being very similar to Boy Scout merit badges. The organization has a couple of official publications relating to honors. The most obvious one is the Honors Manual which sets forth the requirements for earning each one. There are also four “Answer Books” that serve as the teacher’s manual. These four volumes cover four of the nine different categories under which the honors fall.

Back in 2005, I was getting ready to teach an honor, and I didn’t realize that the Answer Books were incomplete. So I started a project on Wikibooks to start to fill that gap.

My friends on the Pathfinder forum encouraged me to go ahead and address all nine categories rather than just the missing ones. The official Answer Books hadn’t been updated since 1998, so this would be a good way to provide answers for the honors introduced since then, and also to refresh some of the thinking.

When I started the project, I had hoped Pathfinders from all over the world would contribute material, and that all I was doing was organizing the work and supplying some of the answers. There were probably a half dozen people who did that on a regular basis at first, and countless others who made the occasion correction or addition. But truth be told, I ended up doing the bulk of the work.

And I learned a lot. I started with the honors with which I was most familiar. Then I started working on the ones in which I was interested. Then I worked on some in which I had less interest. Forward wind to today, and there are 255 honors which have answers to every requirement (out of 380 honors).

When our club went to Oshkosh for the North American Division (NAD) camporee, I could not help but notice that a lot of the honors being taught were making extensive use of the Wikibooks answers. I noticed the same thing at the Atlantic Union camporee last May.

But tonight, something even bigger happened. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with a member of the NAD Pathfinder leadership team. They are looking to set up a Wiki to address the Pathfinder curricula, and they want me to help them with that. Furthermore, they would like to host the Honors Answer Book that I started, making it decidedly less “unofficial”. 🙂

There. I just spent six paragraphs giving background information for news that only took one paragraph to recount. Suffice it to say that I am pretty excited about this!

Man. The tangelos I got from our fruit supplier are as good as I remembered them. In my opinion, these are the best thing we offer all year. The only drawback is that you just about have to eat them in a bathtub. I cannot peel one with getting both hands soaked in juice. So I usually eat them as I hang my face over the kitchen sink. This may be my favorite fruit.

I brought almost all my co-workers fruit to the office today. After I dropped the girls off at school I loaded their orders into my car. It’s great having an indoor parking garage – I just leave the fruit in the car. When my co-workers are ready to leave, I walk down to the garage with them and we move it from my car to theirs. No more lugging cases of fruit up two flights of stairs.

I did forget that two guys ordered fruit after the deadline. I keep track of post-deadline orders separately, and last night when we were divvying up the orders, I completely forgot about theirs. I will bring them in tomorrow.

This evening I noticed that someone had been editing the answers to the Model Railroad honor. The edits were constructive (as opposed to vandalism), so I left a note on the contributor’s on-wiki talk page. He got back within an hour or so with an email address. So I struck up a correspondence. He’s a pastor in Minnesota with an undergrad degree in Computer Science. I thought the domain name for his email address looked familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on it for a bit. When I visited his church’s website, I knew – our church based our website on theirs.
Compare Anoka SDA Church with Concord Adventist Church and you’ll see what I mean.

Today I had to drive to Concord for a 10:00am rendezvous with a citrus customer. I placed an ad on Craigslist in hopes of getting rid of some of our surplus grapefruit, and two people responded, and each bought a case of fruit. Yay! I ran a few other errands while I was there, including the purchase of three shear pins for the snow blower. The only ones I had until I bought these are installed on the snowblower now, so if one broke… that makes it hard.

I’ve been going through my digital photo collection tagging everything. The vast majority of my collection consists of photos of wildflowers – most of them not very good. I’m tagging each of those by species name. I’ve also got an impressive collection of mushroom, slime mold, frog, insect, and spider photos, with a handful of snakes for good measure. I’ve been making attempts to identify the insects and spiders, but the fungi can wait until some other time. Maybe later this winter.

And speaking of which… I can hardly wait for the next snow. I am eager to try out my snowblower now that I have fixed the clutch.
I also stopped at the office to pick up the Fedora 10 DVD, but I couldn’t find it. I somehow managed to break sound on my laptop, and I’ve already spent more time trouble shooting it that I did installing the OS in the first place. At this point, I’m ready to just take the plunge and do a reinstall.

Then I came home. A little while after that, Va and I went back to Concord and left the kids at home to fend for themselves. The boys had the laundry train going, and Beth expressed a desire to stay home. So it was just the two of us. We ate at Olive Garden, and went to Michaels and Walmart. At Michaels, I bought some clay sculpting tools. I intend to sculpt a lapel pin of my Wikibook project. One I have it in clay, I will cast it in plaster. Then I’ll use the plaster to cast it in something else with a pin backing. Dunno if I’ll use brass or plaster (probably plaster first, and then try brass. I want to give these out to the people who have contributed to my Wikibook project. I could have them professionally made, but there’s usually a minimum order of 100 pins, and I’d be out $200 or so. I don’t need 100 pins, and I don’t want to spend $200 on this either. I’d like to learn how to do copper enameling, but the equipment needed for that is more expensive that having pins made commercially.

I really wish I could think of a way to make the clay version four to five times larger than I need, and then reduce it. I’m sure it would look better that way. I suppose I could design a milling machine, but now we’re looking at money (and time!) again. No thanks.

I got a letter from Australia today. It was from the South Pacific Division Honours Committee. I’m pretty sure I wrote about my contact with them last summer. They have been going through the process of reviewing every Pathfinder honor and re-doing the documentation on them. During that process, they came across the Wikibook project I’ve been working on for the past three years. They basically adopted my answers to their Wattles honor, and in the letter, they included the patch and declared that I had earned the honor! How cool is that? Here’s the letter:

Letter from Australia

Letter from Australia

Wow. This is something that I find very exciting. I was not expecting to get the Wattles honor for quite some time, thinking that I would have to take a trip to Australia to meet the last requirement. The “Law of Equivalency” means that if a Pathfinder cannot meet a given requirement, something requiring equivalent effort can be substituted. I will admit that coming up with the answers to this honor DID require a lot of effort, more than most of the others in fact. So it’s fair that they’ve awarded me the patch. Also, they certainly have the authority to do that!

I will sew this patch to the front of my sash, near the top.

Beth had a half day of school today, so I drove her (and our riders) in. I came home after that and had the idea of making a fly for one of those mesh tents I bought this summer. David used it on our backpacking trip, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember how well it fared in the rain (hint: not well at all).

I planned to use some superfluous interior tents walls for this, so I laid a couple out on the floor and took some measurements. They are not quite right, but I think I can stitch a couple together without too much difficulty. And so that’s what I did. But that’s as far as I got. Maybe more on that tomorrow, we’ll see.

When Va was ready to leave the house this morning, I volunteered to go with her so we could pick up some fabric. She’ll be running the Adventurer “Camp In” in February (?) and the theme is “The Jerusalem Market Place.” We will therefore need several costumes. We picked out a couple of prints for the villagers, but they didn’t have enough of it there for two of the three outfits. So we bought enough for one villager outfit. Also some for a rabbi and enough for two Roman soldiers.

But all that was after we picked up Beth. Today was the first day the school kids got on the computers I set up for them. They were all pretty excited about that, and Camille seemed to be happy with it too. That’s a good thing, because we are piloting a Linux Terminal Server setup, and if all goes well and it meets all their needs, the software will cost exactly $0. Plus, I know how to set up and maintain such a system. I’m pretty helpless when it comes to Windows (see yesterday’s post). So if this doesn’t meet their needs, I will not be of much use to them.

After the fabric store extravaganza, we came on home. I started working on a villager costume, but could only take it so far. I need some interfacing. Oh well.

Then I helped Beth with her piano lessons a bit and put her to bed. After that I started researching the ancient art of thatching. As in straw roofs. There’s a Pathfinder honor from East Africa for that, and I thought it might be an interesting one to tackle. To my surprise, I found a couple of pretty thorough resources on d’web. I also ordered a book from a retired thatcher (not Margaret!) from England for $16.00. Cool. Right now I am thinking that I will thatch the log cabin I’ve been building for Beth for three years. Maybe this will spur me to make some progress (though I suspect a chainsaw might spur me even more). I was originally inspired to build a log playhouse by Richard Proenneke, but man… a chainsaw sure would be nice! But right now I’m excited about the prospect of thatching the roof, and documenting it as I go for the Wiki answer book.

It has been rainy all day. It may have snowed a little last night, but that was long gone by morning. We may get some snow tomorrow, but with the high forecast at 40 degrees, I’m not expecting any trouble.

I also got a call from an Internet friend today about a meet up. He’s the guy who founded the Bloom Clock project, and he’ll be up here for T-Day. Currently, we’re considering a meet up at the Boston Arboretum on Friday. If that happens, I’ll bring the family.

Well, that oughta be enough for tonight! Thank you both for reading!

I felt pretty good a quitting time today at work. I was able to resolve on of the emergencies that had been dropped in my plate. I ended up writing a short application to exercise some features of our card, and it really turned out to be a beautiful piece of code. I like it when it starts working and the code hasn’t deteriorated into a messy heap. Sometimes it does, but not this time. So now I’m off for a week. I decided to take vacation days for Monday-Wednesday to make the Thanksgiving break extra long. I can sure use the break, that’s for sure.

Tonight I finished writing up answers to the Home Nursing honor. That was the last unanswered honor in the Health and Science series. I was thinking I’d order a printed copy, but just remembered a few minutes ago that I need to revisit the Brain and Behavior chapter first. Several of the images I used in that one had been removed from the Wikimedia Commons because they did not have an appropriate license. Once I replace them (by finding new images or creating them myself), I may go ahead and order a printed copy.

Tomorrow one of my old Pathfinders will be preaching the sermon. Scott was brought into our church by his now-wife when they were in high school. I am very fond of them both and am looking forward to hearing Scott speak. They are both attending school at Atlantic Union College, and Scott is thinking about entering the chaplain corps in the U.S. Army. His dad has been in the army for almost 30 years, and has spent plenty of time in Iraq (both in the current conflict there, and the first one back in the 90’s). So I think he has a pretty good idea of what he’s getting into. I wish him the best of luck in that.

Today Jonathan had an orthodontist appointment. Their office is a five minute walk from mine – maybe less. So Jonathan came to work with me today. I put him in what we call the “Starbucks” office. That’s the office where our remote workers set up shop when they come to Concord, so named, because they usually pick up a cup of Starbucks when they get off the plane. I guess. It also has a window into the hallway, which reminds us of a drive-thru window. The usual greeting for them is “You want fries with that?”

We didn’t have any remote workers today, so Jonathan camped out in there with my old laptop and an Internet feed. He does his school work online. Unfortunately, distractions are only a click away, and he suffers mightily from his inability to resist.

Wednesday is code-review day, and the company picks up the tab for lunch. I went ahead and bought Jonathan some lunch though, but he had to eat it alone. Well – he was alone in meat-space, but I’m sure he was not alone in the virtual world.

It was another stressful day at work. I did manage to get one problem knocked off my plate, but it was replaced with another even before I was done with it. My emergency queue is still too deep. Va picked Jonathan up at about 4:00, and I worked an extra two hours longer. I’ll be glad when next week rolls around, because I plan to take the whole week off. I haven’t taken much time off all year so far. I will use that time to help get the house cleaned up (my idea), and also to tweak the network at the school/church. And maybe get a little relaxing and recreation in as well. I do plan to meet up with a Bloom Clock friend if we can both squeeze it in. He has family in Western NH. The nice thing about NH, is that no part of it is more than two hours away from my house. (But I haven’t actually checked that. I merely assert it without support.)

When I got home, Va had a hot meal waiting just for me. Sautéed mushrooms and quinoa. Man, it was good too. Then I had an orange for dessert. The orange was fantastic, but I enjoyed the hot food even more.

I ordered up a copy of the Pathfinder Pocket Guide. I wrote about that either yesterday or the day before. I can’t wait to lay my eyeballs on it. But now I must wait.

Yesterday when I was leaving my fruit customer’s workplace, I saw a skunk come ambling across their driveway. I stopped, and seriously considered waiting for it to leave, and then looking for some skunk tracks to cast. But I wasn’t sure I had enough plaster in the car, and the family was waiting for pizza. Someday though, I will cast a skunk track.

I couldn’t seem to work on anything at the office today for more than half an hour. As soon as I got into a project, either another one would come along with a higher priority, or I’d have it solved and be done with it. I do by far prefer to spend a lot of time crafting a careful (and sometimes clever!) solution to a problem.

But for me, “clever” is a red flag. Any time I think I am being clever about something I force myself to stop. As they said in the movie Spinal Tap, “There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.” I always bounce my “clever” ideas off another person just to make sure which side of the line it’s on. Sometimes it really is clever, but sometimes it’s colossally stupid. If there’s no one around to bounce the idea off of, I let it stew for a couple of days. That’s usually all it takes for the verdict to become clear.

After work I had to drive to Laconia to deliver a crate of grapefruit. The GPS was in Va’s car though, so I swung by the house to pick it up first. Then I drove to my customer’s place of employment. It was pretty hard to find too! By the time I got there, it was pitch black outside. This place was not a retail establishment, so the sign wasn’t lit either. I eventually called, and the receptionist guided me in for the last 200 yards or so. I dropped off the fruit and picked up the check. Then I called the Pizza Hut in Tilton and put in our weekly order. It was ready by the time I got there. I took it home and gobbled a bit of that down. Then I ate an orange. The orange was far better than the pizza.

This morning Beth woke me up around 5:45am. She needed some stuffy-nose meds. I didn’t think we had any, because I emptied the last of one bottle into her last night. But I went and looked again. Bingo. Found some. She drank a half dose plus some water. I thought she might be running a border-line fever. She asked me if I would feel her forehead in the morning, and I promised I would. That came another 45 minutes later. I didn’t think she had a fever then, but it was pretty clear to me that she had no business going to school. So she stayed home. Meanwhile, one of my riders was to have a dental appointment today, so I was not to pick her up. That would leave just me and another rider (a ten year-old girl). My Pathfinder training has taught me to avoid “alone time” with kids, so I called her mom and told her I could not pick her daughter up this morning. She just about panicked. But she managed to get her to school herself.

I still ended up going to the school though. I explained the situation to Mrs Brace, and then she had some computer questions for me (the official Network Administrator!) to answer. I think I answered them to her satisfaction, but I also know that I still have a lot more work to do down there. Then I slipped out and grabbed the fruit I still needed to deliver.

It has been a long day.

But there is other news! One of my collaborators on the Wikibooks project told me that he had just gotten his hands on a copy of The Pathfinder Pocket Guide and found some of our work in it! That’s really cool! All I know for a fact is that some of the campfire diagrams he made for us are in there. I don’t know how much (if any) of my own handy work is in it, but I’m going to order a copy post haste and find out! My unofficial answer book appears to be becoming less and less unofficial! I could not ask for more than that!

Some great news from Wikimedia Labs today – they have finally released their Wiki-to-PDF generator on Wikibooks. It generates some very nice looking PDF’s too. The first one I tried was for the Basic Sewing honor, because that’s what I was working on when I got the news. It turned out pretty decent! I have tried several wiki-to-pdf converters over the past three years, and this one is hands-down the best one.

The next one I tried was for the Edible WIld Plants honor, because that one has always caused grief in the past. It’s a pretty complicated chapter layout-wise, but this pdf generator knocked it out of the park. Very nice.

This means I can group all the honors in the Nature series together into a collection and generate one huge PDF. The Edible WIld Plants honor by itself was 53 megs, so the entire Nature series is bound to be about a gig (there are 75 honors in that category). The nice thing about a collection though, is that is that the GFDL license is only included once at the end, rather than once for every honor. Now – maybe I’ll see what Lulu has to say about this.

Today Jonathan and I started running wire for the computer network at the school. The first thing we did was figure out where the switch would be located. We found a perfect place in a closet. It was pretty close to the bulk of the computers too, so it should not take much wire. All we needed to do was put in a shelf and an AC outlet. Then run the Cat6.

First stop was Home Depot. The networking face plates require electrical boxes. Also, I needed something to make the shelf from as well as some BX and an outlet for the AC. We found everything we were looking for and returned to the school. First I put up the shelf, and then I marked where the outlet would go. I was almost ready to saw a hole in the sheet rock, but decided to move some boxes of crap out from underneath so cleanup would be easier. Moving the crap exposed an unused outlet! Yay! So I didn’t saw a hole in the wall. Instead, we knocked one in the ceiling to run Cat6 through, and then put the switch on the shelf.

That’s when I hit a snag. I couldn’t remember the “standard” way to wire the end of an Ethernet cable. If you’re wiring both ends, it doesn’t matter too much because as long as you do them the same and know where how the pairs pair up, it’ll all work itself out. But the jacks on the other end were already color coded.

Furthermore, there are two standard ways to wire the jacks: T568A, or T568B. I couldn’t remember which one I preferred, so we just randomly chose A (I found out later that I had memorized B previously, but that doesn’t matter too much). We decided to just leave the switch end unterminated and wire up the jacks according to the standard. When I got home, I looked up the standard so we’ll know how to wire the other end.

We ended up putting in 12 Ethernet jacks. I’ll be back there on Tuesday to finish off the basketball goal project, so I might spend some time then crimping RJ45’s onto those cables.

We still need to run a wire from the kitchen closet to the switchin’ closet. I expect the satellite feed will come in near the kitchen, since it has a southern exposure (satellites are in the southern sky). That run can be Cat5 instead of Cat6 though, as it will be a lower speed connection. Oh – and we need to run a high-speed line to the AV room so we can hook that computer into the network as well.

We finished up around 6:00pm. Jonathan went and gathered up the AV computer (we plan to install the terminal server software on it) and I swept up the sheet rock crumbs. We put all the tools in the car and put the networking supplies in the closet. Then we drove home. In a little while I’ll get that PC out of the car and start installing software on it.

In other news…
My Wikibook project got a paragraph in the September issue of The Visitor, a denominational magazine published by the Columbia Union! You can download the magazine here if you want (the blurb is on page 20), but here’s the paragraph:

Youth Honors Textbooks – Many Adventist
schools use ecology (basic and advanced) and
environmental conservation honors as part of their
outdoor education programs. Download free
textbooks about these two honors—written by
Seventh-day Adventist youth leaders and teachers—

It only mentions three of the honors that are there, but I’m not complaining! As of last night, there were 210 honors with completed answers. There are a total of 354 honors, so there’s still plenty of work to do on that front. But it sure is nice to get some press!