Archive for October, 2009

I wish you a fun day of chaos and mayhem. For a fun look back at some of my previous costumes, check here.

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. I think I’m ready for the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month, but please check back here occasionally and give me some encouragement, or scorn if I appear to have given up. Cheers!

I think this is on my list of movies to see in the theaters. I may even try to catch the 3D showing.

My wife is one of the least sneaky people I know. When the baby is sleeping, she will just walk down the stairs like normal, not bothering to skip the second step (which is squeaky) or stepping to the inside of the 4th one (also squeaky). If she’s going down to the basement to do laundry, she will just wrench the door open, not pull up first, so that it opens quietly. So I find it very frustrating when I am trying to be quiet and the baby still wakes up if I step on a board wrong, but will sleep quietly with her banging around somewhere.

This is my log book for every kayaking trip I’ve ever been on. I typed it up to have a digital copy. I hope that some fellow kayakers might find it useful as I do include river levels, descriptions of rapids, etc. However, this is my personal log, so if it seems like I’m a little self-absorbed with entries like: “I surfed Awesome today!” it’s because at the time, I was only writing it for myself. So, anyway, enjoy. And I hope someone else might use this to find as much fun on the rivers as I have. Just a note, most of these rivers are in Upstate NY. The Salmon river features prominently since it’s only 45 minutes away from Syracuse. cfs = cubic feet per second.

Dan’s Kayaking Log:

9-30-02

I first got the itch when I went whitewater rafting on the Lehigh in ’99. I was like, “This is fun, but look how much more fun they’re having.” meaning my guides in the safety kayaks. (more…)

I just got back from Moosefest on Sunday. A great whitewater festival up in Old Forge. I did the Middle section on Saturday, then we watched people go down the Bottom on Sunday.

I am working on typing up my entire kayaking log, which includes every river I’ve done, water levels, rapid descriptions, etc. Look for that soon. It may be of some use to fellow kayakers, but I’m doing it primarily so I’ll have a copy around incase something happens to my notebook.

This is Crystal Falls, Class V on the Bottom Moose

Crystal Falls

Climate change. Does it exist? Yes. Can we do something about it? Maybe. What the world needs now (besides love, as they say) is concerted action. We need to educate people on the true consequences of their actions, and what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. For a few things you can do individually, check these out:

1) Live close to work & play. I know that for many people, they are settled in to where they are living. But the average American only lives in a house for seven years. So you still may be able to do this at some point in the future. Look at where you live now, and how far you commute. Can you live closer to where you work? Can you get a new job closer to where you live? When my wife and I were buying our first home, we took this into consideration. We decreased her commute time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and I was close enough to ride my bike to work most days.

2) Ride a bike. If you are physically able to ride a bike to do short errands, do it. Many car trips in the U.S. are for distance of less than a mile. Have to run down to the drugstore for something small? Take a bike. This alone will reduce your carbon footprint a great deal. Plus it may be quicker. What? you ask incredulously. Yes. My commute was 12 minutes by car and 7 minutes by bike…because of all the traffic. I can always go to the front of the line at a ed light, and speed by cars that are bumper to bumper.

3) Get an energy audit for your home. Many companies that deal in windows, insulation, or heating will offer these for free. A technician will come in and go around your house check for leaks. Not leaks from water in pipes, places where heat is leaking out. They seal off your front door with a big plastic gasket with a fan inside. This creates negative pressure in the house, so any place where heat would have been going out is now coming in. They use a thermal IMG_0251imaging camera to spot areas of cold. (white is hot, black is cold. You can see in the picture that the bottom panel of our back door is very cold, and cold air is seeping in underneath the door.) It was very cool to follow him around and see cold seeping in through the baseboards and around the door to the attic. Then I knew exactly where to seal with caulk or expanding foam. We also got our furnace replaced with a 95% efficient model and insulated all the exterior walls with blown-in cellulose insulation. This cut our utility bills in half! I wrote in more detail about that here.

There are so many other things you can do, so I will say that the biggest one is:

4) Read. Educate yourself on how you can live a better life for yourself, and the environment. You’re doing it right now! There are tons of simple things you can do. There are also things that many people believe will affect the climate a great deal, but actually don’t.

I focused on only one small part of the climate change issue, but there are myriad facets to this. I expect to read posts from other people doing Blog Action Day today about how coastal regions may be affected, our food supply, desertification, water shortages, international policy changes, new advancements in science, and much more. So just try and do your part, and we can make some change for the good of us all.

For more info, go here:

http://www.blogactionday.org/

This is great news. I just commented on this story yesterday as it was rattling around the blogosphere. I said: “Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Why expel a kid for forgetting to take his nail clippers out of his bag? Oh wait. I’m sure that he actually meant to shiv someone in the lunch line, and that he wasn’t just hygienically conscious. Now if it’s an actual knife, that’s different, but clippers, or in this case, a spork/ camping cutlery, that’s just crazy. You have to question the priorities of whichever administrator brought attention to this in the first place. Let’s hope this gets resolved soon. Unfortunately in today’s news climate, with war, healthcare, and the economy, it may be overlooked.”

Well, I’m happy to say no, it didn’t get overlooked, and justice has prevailed. For those who don’t know, 6 year old Zachary Christie was suspended and forced to attend an alternative school for violent offenders when he brought in his new favorite camping utensil to eat lunch with. He is a model student and excited about learning. Apparently he would wear suits to school of his own volition. Being a Cub Scout, he loved his newest camping implement and wanted to use it at school. But his school had a zero tolerance policy against weapons and he was suspended, facing a 45 day sentence. His mother protested and bloggers (like you and me!) spoke out and brought dialogue to the national stage.

I understand that we need to keep our schools safe, and if kids bring box-cutters, knives, guns, etc. to school they should face the consequences. However, I think the zero-tolerance policy needs to be amended for special circumstances. For example: we have a technical school in Syracuse that teaches local high school students trades like automotive maintenance, fashion, cosmetics, cooking, nursing, carpentry, etc. Imagine a student enrolled in the cosmetics program. She doesn’t have time to go home between classes to get her beauty supplies, so she carries them with her in her backpack. Her school on the southside conducts a random weapons search and finds her nail clippers, file, and maybe some shears for hair. Uh oh. She a violent offender for sure! Lock her up before she stabs someone! Nevermind that she’s a straight A student and always nice to everyone. She planning something. Policies like this need to be under constant scrutiny so that we can protect our young people rights and make sure they feel like America is a good place to live and not some dictatorship. Enough of their rights are taken away already in school. How to dress, speak, where they can or can’t walk and when. For the sake of good students everywhere, review your local school’s policies before another six year old’s bright vision of school is shattered and re-fused from the ashes as bitter cynicism at a broken system.

I just watched the LCROSS Mission bomb the moon live on NASA TV. Wow! Pretty lame. They didn’t even show the explosion or the plume of dust that would show the evidence of water-ice on the lunar surface. I’m sure a better video will surface on youtube in an hour. Just a computer simulation and a camera getting closer and closer to the surface. No shot from space of a spectacular explosion of dust. No plume 30 miles high. They were too busy adjusting the infrared levels on their cameras. I hope a better video will surface. I’m sure one of the thousand independent obsevatories watching will upload one soon.

Break-in

burglar

My garage was broken into last night. Whoever did it had vehicular support because they stole my lawnmower, my 80 lb. truck jack, and saddest of all, my bike. Now I can’t ride around the neighborhood with my son on the back in his child carrier. (one of my favorite pastimes). They did my nextdoor neighbor’s garage too and got their mower as well. The garage door was padlocked, and the two side windows were boarded up, but they stood on a trash can and broke in the rear window, taking it entirely out of the frame.

If you have ever had a break-in, you know how it feels. Awful. You feel violated. You feel watched, like they might just come back the minute your back is turned. You feel regret at the things you lost. You feel apprehension at having to report all this to the police and your homeowners insurance. You feel stupid for having a $1,000 deductible. You feel ineffective at keeping your home and family safe. So what do I do now?

I made a list of things missing and their replacement cost. $2,090. I boarded up the back window, and changed the padlock around so that someone from the outside can’t access the screws. What else? Reassess security.

Please do this now before it’s too late for you. Go outside. Now look at your house/ garage/ property with a burglar’s eyes. Where would you break in? What looks like the easiest way or the weakest area? What is stored where? Thankfully all my expensive rock/ice climbing equipment was left untouched, due to the thief’s ignorance. But you may not be so fortunate. Go out to your garage and write down the serial numbers of the most expensive things there. I did not do this to my bike, much to my frustration. Keep this list in a safe place. Realize that if someone really wants to get in, they will, but do not make it easy for them. A single-pane window held in by rusty nails ended up being the weak link in my garage. Make sure you know yours, and then do something about it so that this does not happen to you.

Being a bit of a hopeless romantic as a teen, I discovered that the Romans had three kinds of kisses.

The first kiss was called osculum. This kiss was used for greeting acquaintances, much like the Bisou that the French use today. A quick peck on the cheek.

The second was the basium kiss. This was a kiss shared between two close (but platonic) friends. Still used in greeting, two lips meeting each other, maybe lingering for a second, maybe not.

The third kiss was suavium. This was the lovers’ kiss. Lips on lips with tongue included. Long, passionate, and repeated.

Why should you know this? No reason at all, I just remembered it and wanted to write about it. For those interesting in delving deeper into this subject, I found a great blog post all about it here.

Since it’s so popular right now, I give you: More Space Pictures! (as taken by NASA’s Hubble space telescope)

The Horsehead nebula:

horsehead_tan_big

M42 (a different view of the Orion Nebula):

m42_christensen_big

The Rosette Nebula:

rosette_gendler_big

The Eta Carinae Nebula:

EtacarinaeSGL_gendler

The Veil Nebula, sometimes called witch’s broomstick:

veil_noao_big

M31 galaxy (messier object 31, better known as the Andromeda Galaxy):

m31_gendler_Nmosaic1

I thought I would catalog my son Andrew’s language so that I can look back and remember what he did and didn’t know when he was 16 months old. So here are all the words he knows:

Mommy: self explanatory

Daddy: self explanatory

mum mum: nursing

ba ba: his sippy cup

doggy: dog

buhdy: birdy

boo berwee: blue berry

bye: as in, goodbye ( with waving)

pwee: please

no: no, sometimes he means yes, though.

uh oh: when he drops something

wahdy: ready?

pee pee

pahdy: potty

Oh wow: when he learns something new.

On my trip to Australia, I experienced the worst selection of in-flight movies, ever.

The first was Titanic: a disaster movie about travel where most of the passengers die.

The second was Lost in Space: A travel movie about navigation error while in flight.

The third was Armegeddon: In which the world’s most advanced aircraft, the space shuttle, explodes.

Great job flight crew. I really feel much safer flying now.

Making money in a down economy:

This is a short list of ways to make a little extra money for you and your family.

1)      Become a scrap peddler. Now, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. All I mean is, look around your house, basement, and garage for any scrap metal that might be lying around. Then find a metal recycling place that accepts individual drop offs and take it down there. You give them rusty metal, they give you cash. I did this a few weeks ago and made $60. Of course, most of that was from the furnace that I ripped out two years ago and has been sitting in my garage ever since. The price for scrap metal at the time was $128/ ton. So I figure that I had around 900 pounds of steel and cast iron to get rid of. I took me two trips in my little Subaru, but I did it. If you’re really serious about being a scrapper, get a pick up truck and troll the neighborhoods on trash night. Get a friend to help you lift all those washing machines and bed frames into the back and share in the profits.

2)      Sell stuff on Ebay/ Craigslist. Look around your house for anything that you haven’t used in a few years but might be of use to someone else. I found my old GPS in my office. I hadn’t used it in years, and actually preferred my map and compass, even when I was hiking a lot. So I put it on Ebay and made $80. Easy as pie.

3)      Sell books/ video games to local used bookstores/ video game shops. Take stock of your shelves and see what you can bear to part with. There are some PS2 games that I really enjoyed, but might not ever play again. Ex: Prince of Persia. A great game with lots of involved environmental puzzle solving. But I don’t think I will spend another few weekends working through the same traps and pitfalls that were so frustrating the first time. On the other hand, if a game is easy to pick up and play again, like SSX Tricky (snowboarding), that may be one I keep.

4)      Mow lawns, rake leaves. I know, you’re not twelve anymore, but this still remains a viable option if you really need the cash.

I just read a very eloquent and thoughtful letter from a librarian to a patron asking that the children’s book “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen be banned. I feel strongly about reading, freedom of speech, and even gay marriage, so this was a good read for me. The librarian, Jamie Larue, basically states that he will not pull the book from the shelves because of free speech (but the letter is so much more than that). He also makes an important point that if parents feel that a certain issue is wrong, or sensitive to the values they are trying to instill in their children, don’t read that book to them. It’s as simple as that.

This is like parents that get upset when their children start swearing or getting violent from just having played 17 hours of any Grand Theft Auto video game. How can they be upset when they bought it for them, silently endorsing the game by their purchase of it.

So while I may not agree with gay marriage for religious reasons, I certainly agree with the library’s decision to stock this book. Comments?