Archive for August, 2009

So we need to get our roof done soon. The previous owner bought the house in 1983 and never put a roof on it. Rather than wait until our cielings cave in on us, we want to do some preventative maintenance. What does this have to do with chimneys you ask? Well, most of the roofing companies we got quotes from said that we need to have our chimney repaired before they would do the roof. One offered to do it for $600. I said I could probably do it myself for just a bit less than that. How about $30. Yeah, that’s right. $6 for some mortar, $24 for two ceramic flue liners, and a bunch of free, trash-picked bricks.

I borrowed some books on it and got to work. First I had to chip out all the old mortar and clean up/ remove the loose bricks around the top. Then I removed the old broken flue liners. Whoever repaired it the last time put the larger one in crooked so that the small one that serviced the furnace and hot water heater only fit when they broke one of the sides off. Then it was just a simple matter of carrying all my supplies out of our bedroom window and up to the chimney. Being a rock climber, I’m used to heights, so I didn’t tie off or anything. I was comfortable with that but you may not be. It was my first time working with bricks and mortar, so there was a learning curve. It’s not real pretty, but it will do the job. Here are some before and after shots:

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I found these Napa Valley wine crates at the Rescue Mission Thrifty Shopper for $3.00 each. Then I got some thin oak and made wider shelves so our spices could fit. I just had to cut the oak to length, drill some holes, and cut in from the edges so that the shelves can twist in between the dowels. They’re just held in by tension, but it seems to work well so far.

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Ahhhhhhh.

Posted: August 29, 2009 in baby, Family, Food, Parenting
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Time for a cute baby update. A few mornings ago, I was drinking my coffee as usual. Andrew had his sippy cup. I took a long swig and when I put the mug down, went “Ahhhhhh” in satisfaction. Andrew promptly picked up his sippy cup, drank some milk, put it down, and went “Ahhhhh.”

Now every time he takes a drink from his cup, he says, “Ahhhh.” I rate it a 9 on the cuteness scale.

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A few nights ago, I heard the sound that new parents fear in the middle of the night. A big bump, and then crying. Andrew climbed out of his crib in the middle of the night. I threw the covers off and ran in to find him lying on the floor, crying and shaken, but no worse for wear, at least as far as I could tell. Just about a month ago, I lowered the mattress to it’s lowest setting so climbing out would be harder for him. Obviously, it didn’t take him long to find a way to power up and over the railing. I mean, the top of the rail is still at chest height on him. I thought that would be enough. It wasn’t.

So we made the decision that we would rather deal with a new crib set-up and an altered bedtime routine (again) than have him fall out of the crib for a second time. I measured where the new rail would be, and Lydia got the old bumper rail that went on her bunk beds from her parents. I think it turned out rather well. I just need to stain it to match the color. Andrew can climb in and out and there are cushions there if he falls out. The bad part is that now he can climb out of bed and walk into our room.

We just got him used to falling asleep on his own by using the progressive waiting method. (one of the best thing we have done, by the way) Now, his routine is changed, but he won’t be falling four feet down onto hardwood floors anymore either.

Just quit your job? Still at your job, but haven’t figured out what you’re going to do with the other 849 business cards that are stuffed in a desk drawer somewhere? Well I have a solution. Just take all those old business cards with your name and wrong/old phone numbers and e-mail on them and flip them over to the back. See? A brand new blank business card, ready for your creativity. Now you can name your job title as you really are, not what cubicle you sit in. (Dad, Adventurer) in my case.

So I had all these extra business cards that I still wanted to use, but I’m not with that company anymore. Easy, flip it over, search through the closets untill I find my old typsetting kit  from when I was eight, and BLAM! New business card. I threw in a shark and celtic knot for good measure, because I like both of them, and now that I am using the cards for myself, I don’t have to be quite as professional anymore. Here’s how they turned out. (I blocked my phone number because I’d rather not have people from teh intarnets calling me up all the time, no offense)

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When I tell people about how I made my own wallet to protect myself from arphid snoopers, they look at me like I’m crazy. When I say it has aluminum foil in it to block the signals, they know I’m crazy. Like tin-foil hat so the Government can’t hear my thoughts, crazy. And maybe, in a way, I am. Crazy like a FOX!

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RFID, or Arphid in lingua franca, stands for Radio Frequency Identification. They are tiny computer chips implanted in things like hotel key-cards, quick-fill gasoline keychains, ID badges, and easy-pay credit cards. This last one concerned me the most. Ever since I opened a new account a few years ago, my new credit card has the “convenient” Pay Pass option. When I go through a grocery store checkout, instead of going through the labor-intensive process of getting my card entirely out of my wallet, I an just hold my wallet up to the Arphid Reader on the register, and it will scan my card and read all the relevant information it needs. Bank account numbers, my name, date of birth, etc. Quick and easy. Great! Right?

Wrong! With a little know-how (easy to glean from teh intarnets these days), and some cheap hardware, any punk kid can make their own arphid scanner/cloner. These devices are usually about as big as a pack of cards and can easily fit into a pocket. With an antenna coiled in the palm of his hand, an arphid hacker could brush up next to you in a supermarket aisle, and walk away with all your bank account and credit card numbers. You would not feel them touch you, they would just need to be close (2-4 inches). The arphid chips themselves do not actively transmit your vital information at all times, and do not have their own internal power source, but when in close proximity to a reader, they will transmit all they know to whoever just gave them a little wireless elbow in the ribs.

So what can you do about it? Do what I did. Make a radio frequency proof wallet. At first, I didn’t believe that the whole tinfoil thing would work. I mean, I read it on the internet. Home to crazy conspiracy theorist who where tinfoil hats. But I found a site with simple instructions, and more importantly, a way to test it. When you’re all done, slip you cell phone into the dollar section of the wallet and watch as the signal strength drops to zero. Close the wallet completely with your phone inside and get someone else to call it. It shouldn’t ring.* ( the very first time I tried this, my phone rang, and I was mightily disappointed. I made sure the flaps were closed, waited 15 seconds or so, and tried again. No ring.) But the best way to test it is out in the real world. I went to Wegman’s and brought a pack of gum up to the register. When it was time to pay, I said, “Here goes!” and held my closed wallet right up to the arphid reader. Nothing. I flipped it over and tried again. Nothing. I pumped my arm in the air and said, “Yes!” while the cashier just looked at me funny. Why was I happy about my card not working? Still holding my wallet up to the reader, I pulled up my credit card from the little pocket. As soon as it cleared the top of the wallet, the reader picked it up and the transaction went through. Whoo hoo!

So make sure that you protect your privacy by covering your Arphid devices so no one can steal your precious information (and maybe even your money!) You’re welcome.

My love of ice cream was shaken tonight.

Posted: August 21, 2009 in Food
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I questioned my belief in my love of ice cream tonight. I ordered a medium, banana flavored, hard ice cream on a cone from Arctic Island. What I got was enormous. Now here’s the thing. I should have been excited that the girl gave me SO much more than what any rational human being would consider a “medium” amount. But because it was still close to 90 degrees, it started dripping as soon as she handed it to me. Add to that a wriggly 14 month old, and I had a problem. Until I could eat and lick my way down to a manageable size, it was going to be a messy, and more repugnantly, gluttonous few minutes for me.

We rode our bikes down to the café/ ice cream place for something to do on a hot evening. We ordered scrumptious sandwiches from the Broadway Café. I even tried something different than the same thing I always get (a toasted Italian sandwich packed with goodness) and a cranberry/ grapefruit Vitamin Water. I was looking forward to the banana ice cream because they make all of their flavors in-house. The other local ice cream joint, Gannon’s, is also good but doesn’t carry banana. I ordered the cone because that has become the “green” thing to do. No Styrofoam cup and plastic spoon in the trashcan for me.

So there I am with a pint of banana ice cream about to topple off my cone. Why did the girl at the counter subject me to this forced speed binge? And why aren’t I enjoying it more? Am I at a point in my life now where I don’t love pigging out on ice cream? I guess so. Pity.

So I suppose my future solution is this, go with the less eco-friendly option, and not speed my way through some delecious home-made ice cream that should really be enjoyed slowly.

Here are a few recent coincidences that have happened recently. They deal with me leaving my job I have been at for nearly ten years. They are both musical.

The day came at work when I decided that I needed to resign. It was time to go. I packed up a few of my personal things that had acreted over the years, and typed up my resignation letter.The next day, I planned on telling my boss, but she was in meetings all morning. She returned after lunch and I waited until she was off the phone to go in and meet with her. Our offices are just down the hall from one another, so I could hear when she was free. As was my habit, I listened to Digitally Imported radio on iTunes. I especially like the female vocal trance channel. Just before I went in, the lyrics of the song playing were “It’s going to be a fine night tonight, it’s going to be a good day tomorrow.” This repeated as few times as techno is wont to do, and then the ad cut in, the first line of which was: “I had a great idea at work yesterday!”  Hmmmm.

Two weeks later, the day I left work for the last time, I got into the car and pulled out of the parking lot. The CD I was listening to had continued from where it left off in the middle of a song from that morning. The lyric was: ” Farewell! Farewell. Parting is such sweet sorrow!” (It was metal-core, hence the exclamation points from him yelling)

So coincidence? No. I don’t believe in coincidences. I think it was God hinting to me that I had made the right move. He does that occationally. Like the time I was flying to Australia, and everyone was asleep on the 16 hour flight there. It was 3:00 in the morning and I woke up very thirsty. I was in the middle of a 5 person row, so I would have to wake up at least two people. Just as I was about to unbuckle my belt, a flight attandent showed with with one glass of water on a tray and handed it to me. She was not handing them out to anyone else, there weren’t empty glasses or other people awake, it was just me.  Amazing.

This was Andrew’s first time at the Scottish Games. He had a blast  listening to the bagpipes. We even got to be in the parade of Clans, representing Donald of course. My wife made his kilt out of the material I used for my own homemade kilt for prom 10 years ago. It’s the MacDonald dress tartan.

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My life is going through some rather large changes at the moment. The biggest of these is that I have just given my two weeks notice at my job that I have had for the better part of a decade. Yes, after nearly ten years, it is time for me to go. So…I’m crazy right? I just quit my job in a terrible economy. My wife is also not working. We have a one year old who still needs to eat. What am I doing?

Who knows? I just knew I could not stay at my job any longer. What started as a great career leading groups through a ropes course, being outside and working with my hands, has led to me sitting behind a desk for 8.5 hours a day, filling out government forms and shuffling papers around. Enough was enough.

While I am not naive enough to think that I can make it as a professional writer (seeing as how I’ve not been paid for one single word I’ve written so far) I still hope to get my novel published. I’m sending it out to agents right now. That would be super cool. But it will continue to be a side hobby until it really pays off.

I imagine I will just do odd jobs until I can find one I really like. I always liked working with my hands, but I don’t have a trade, per se. I can do carpentry, but I wouldn’t call myself a carpenter. If you have a specific set of skills, you will almost always have a job available to you. But I don’t like my skills as a Workers Comp and Disability form filler-outer. I want something new. I am blessed with a smart wife with a good job, so I can afford to take a little time to look for just the right fit for me. I will also be finishing my Associates Degree in Business this December from OCC. This will help me if I ever want to get another desk job, which at the moment, I do not.

The other big change, or area of weakness on the fault line of change, is church. Ahh church. The peaceful serene escape from our worldly life and a bright shining respight from our toils on Sunday morning. Yeahhhh, or not. There are several issues that we are dealing with, but the biggest of these is childcare/ nursery. To make a long story short, our congregation was kicked out of the building we had used for over a hundred years by the Episcopal church. We are now in a storefront space. The people who own the space are very gracious and are letting us have church there for free. The space next door is available with the same situation. However, it was never meant to be a baby-safe nursery. There are big metal bookshelves with exposed edges, a carpet that is so dirty it turns Andrew’s knees black when he crawls on it, and a door leading out to a busy street that a baby can push open and crawl out of.

Due to many factors, we don’t see this situation improving much, so we are kind-of looking around at other churches right now. The sad thing is, we like the service and the teaching there. But there are other issues I won’t write about here that contribute to the fact that we are looking elsewhere.

So I will soon be out of a job, and possibly going to a new church. Big changes.

My first rejection

Posted: August 4, 2009 in Books, writing
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So now I’m officially a writer. I’ve received my first rejection from an agent.

Thanks for your query, but I’m sorry to say I’m not the right agent for your book. I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.