The kids were rather subdued this morning. Probably wondering what the point is of going in today. The teachers pretty much mailed it in on Monday. Plus, today’s only a half-day. So basically, we’ve got a 3rd and 5th grader on our hands.
They should be happy when they get off the bus in 10 minutes or so.
Well, sort of.
Mainly, I wanted the cover off because I was concerned something might have been damaged during the winter freeze. There were quite a few pops and pings on the coldest nights and then, when things finally started thawing, I had a steady trickle of water from the skimmer.
Which made no sense, since there is a plate on the inside covering the skimmer opening; the skimmer itself was covered by the winter cover and finally, I’d drained the pool well below skimmer level. So why was water coming out of it?
Given all that, I was a bit anxious to get the cover off and see what the deal was.
Thankfully, nothing seems to have happened. No leaks, no damage anywhere. Just one very large block of ice. Give it another week or two and I’ll be able to hook up the filter and we’ll be in business.
On the way home from the tournament yesterday, the boy said something that’s stuck with me.
I had witnessed, during the tournament, his sparring opponent was being tended to by the judges and some master belt instructors. The boy was waiting for the match to continue while the adults seemed to be tending to the other kid. I asked the boy what had happened.
He said that his opponent had started crying for some reason. After a pause, he continued “I guess sparring against an apprentice belt must have been pretty stressful.”
I paused for a moment. Without more information, my own guess was the poor kid was overwhelmed by the environment and needed to vent his frustrations. The boy had jumped right to something along the lines of “he was trembling in the awesomeness of my being. LET ALL WHO LOOK ON ME QUAKE IN THEIR UNDERWEAR!”
I actually pointed out that there might be other possibilities. The boy was having none of is though. “Yeah, but I was, like, 4 bet levels above him,” he said in his defense.
I didn’t push any further.
The boy has many moments like this where he greatly overestimates his own capabilities and competence. He has other moments where he fails to recognize that his comparisons that make him look so superior to the person he’s comparing himself to aren’t fair. For instance, with the lass learning addition and subtraction, the boy will often test her by giving her a… multiplication problem. Then, he’ll claim “it’s so easy” to her. All the while, I can remember when he was in tears because he couldn’t remember the answer to the problems he quizzes his sister with.
Most times, I or the Wife will do our level best to give the boy a check on his ego. So far, no matter how many times we’ve done it, he comes up swinging for another round at some point.
More and more, I’m coming to wonder if there’s much point to pushing back against him. As long as he isn’t putting people down, I’m not sure I see the harm anymore. I used to think that his perception of reality was blinkered and often times, like yesterday with his sparring opponent, I still do. But I also think it’s just more of the myopic world view kids his age have. Most of his friends have put on similar displays at one point or another in my presence. I often call their bluff, and they just laugh it off and continue on their way.
In other words, I’m thinking it’s just the age, and the boy is just putting his own peculiar spin on the it.
The Malaysian jumbo jet that disappeared has been all the rage lately with people and the media all speculating about what happened. Wired has an article that’s now making the rounds which proposes the most boring, but plausible explanation: a fire.
The article is a quick read and written by a pilot familiar with the aircraft. The gist is a fire of some sort forced the pilots to shut down the electrical systems and ultimately caused the plane’s demise. The abrupt change in course was the pilot’s attempting to get to another airport. There’s more and it’s worth the read.
It makes so much sense that my only rebuttal is, surely they already considered this explanation, right?
For reasons some reasons I don’t entirely understand, and some that I do, I’ve been having SMTP server issues for awhile now.
The one I don’t entirely understand involves my hosting service, which provides SMTP services, but for some reason began blocking my server from connecting and sending email. I spent a couple of customer service sessions on the phone with them and wasn’t able to get any satisfying resolution. For some reason, my IP was blacklisted by them and I can’t appeal the IP’s, the owner of the IP’s have to. The problem is, I can’t get in touch with the owner of the IP’s because they don’t make any sense to me.
So I started using a different SMTP server (I have several emails accounts and thus have access to several of them). Unfortunately, the second one is not well administered and the SSL certificates for it recently expired, so I couldn’t connect to it.
I looked into ditching the whole ISP based SMTP server relationship and just setting up my mail server downstairs to use SMTP directly. The only problem is I don’t have a dedicated IP address. Rather, I have a DHCP issued one from my ISP and, while it can be stable for months at a time, it will change. Thus, my SMTP server would have a variable IP address and would cause problems with connecting to other email servers for mail delivery. Because of bulk-mailers and spammers, one of the first things email providers check for are dynamic IP addresses of SMTP servers, and they quickly block them.
I didn’t want to use Google or Yahoo because, well, I don’t particularly trust them. So that left me with one other option- finding a dedicated SMTP server service. Turns out, there are a number of them available and they each have their own take on services and pricing. They are all geared for bulk-emailing and marketing type emailing, but most have very low-cost plans that could suit a home need.
The big advantage for a home would be that, no matter where a person went, they could always connect to this SMTP service for email. I’ve actually already sort of done this- I just needed someone to help me send my emails reliably. After looking at services from the likes of mailjet, authsmtp, turbosmtp and several others, I opted to go with Easy-SMTP.
I went with their free service since it provides for 10,000 emails per month for an account and it plays nicely with my MTA, exim. It will also play nicely with just about any modern mail client. The other services either attached advertisements to emails or didn’t offer as much. Also, this one was clear about allowing multiple user email accounts to access the same account, which was a big deal since everyone’s mail would be using this server. I’m not saying the others don’t do that, it just wasn’t clear that they did. I was almost willing to pay for one of the services (less that $20 for a year for sending thousands of emails), but in the end easy-SMTP just seemed the best value.
The signup was extremely simple. I wish I could say I was up and running with it quickly, but I wasn’t. In this instance, I couldn’t blame easy-SMTP though. I had some latent configuration issues with my mail server setup which prevented it from working straight out of the box. I finally figured that issue out and my mail is once again working. Hopefully, easy-SMTP continues to as well.
Looks like the majority of the rain has passed us by. It was coming down in buckets earlier. Given the heretofore unrelenting cold, this could have been a real back breaker.
The cold returns tomorrow, but not for long and we won’t be getting any snow with it. Which is nice since we can finally see the stone of our driveway for the first time in a couple months.
This year’s Blue and Gold was, on balance, a much less stressful one for me. That’s in large part due to the fact that our Pack had a conscientious WEBELOS leader who took care of the business of planning the event well in advance of today. As opposed to last year when it all got dropped in my lap with 1 month to go. For the most part, I just had to show up and help a bit with setup.
Not that I was entirely without duties. I had to run the show again, like last year. It’s hard to gauge how well these thing come off from that perspective. Trying to figure out the proper pace for the evening is a bit of an art it seems. In some ways, I felt I did a better job last year. Not that things didn’t go well tonight, things just feel different. One good thing was on balance, I was less nervous than I was last year.
Which is to say, that’s one of the neat things I’ve gotten out of Scouting. Sure, I’m supposed to be teaching the boys some things about self-reliance and other Scout related qualities. But back when I had a job, I would have been content to sit back and let someone else take care of steering the Pack and running the show. In fact, I would have sought that outcome out because I would have considered myself too busy to be able to contribute as I am now.
But by contributing, I’ve stepped into some unfamiliar territory. I’m preparing Den meeting plans, running an entire Pack (with a lot of help for sure- but I’m still the final word), playing the MC at “big” event like tonight. Standing up in front of 70 or 80 people is not something that comes naturally to me. Yet, I’ve found that I can do it. I’m not saying the Grammy’s will be calling me anytime soon, but it’s a shell I’ve been forced out of at the least and I’ve found that I can do it.
Probably the nicest moment of the night was after we had finished and were busy cleaning up the cafeteria. One of the boys who had crossed over to the Boy Scouts, thereby leaving the Cub Scouts behind, came up to me and thanked me and said “I’m going to miss you guys.” He’s a good kid and had only been with our Pack since the fall. To his credit, he’d jumped in with both feet and was an enthusiastic and a willing participant. In my closing comments about him I said my only regret with him was that “he hadn’t been a member of the Pack longer.” So the feeling was mutual.
It’s nice to think we’re doing some things that will be missed. But that’s growing up, I guess.
The kids went to bed around 9 last night. After saying my “Goodnights” to them, I came back downstairs and laid down on the couch. The Wife sat down in her rocking chair. I recall closing my eyes…
… I woke up and it was dark. The Wife was not in her chair anymore. I glanced at the clock and it read 10 o’clock. I glance at the fire and saw it was still in good shape. So I closed my eyes again…
… and opened them to see the fire was way down. I glanced at the clock and it was midnight. Bleary eyed, I got up and tended the fire. I noticed the lights were still on outside so I turned them off. I then went back to the couch, laid down and closed my eyes again…
… and woke up at 3AM to see the fire was a bit sluggish. I was still bleary eyed, but I got up and stoked it a bit to get it going again. Once it was burning, I wandered back to the couch. The dog got up and changed his position as well. I saw that my phone was lit up telling me the battery was low. I plugged in the charger and set it down. I laid down and closed my eyes…
… and woke up about 6 feeling great. The fire was down and ready for a new load of wood, which I took care of. The light of the morning was coming through the windows now and the birds woke up. I went and got a drink of water. I took the dogs out for their morning pee. I came back in and made myself a cup of coffee, then went back to the couch and sat down. No need to close my eyes this time.
6 hours of flurry followed by a few hours of fury. At my snowblower. For crapping out before the job was done and generally making getting the job done a real PITA.
It’s too tedious to go into details, despite this being a blog and thereby designed for tedium, but I had to finish digging out yesterday, literally, by digging out. This wasn’t the most pleasant snow to be shoveling either.
The silver lining in the whole thing is the boy chipped in. Unasked- as far as I’m aware anyway. It’s possible the Wife asked him to do something. But he cleared the cars off for me and shoveled the front walkway and also shoveled a path across our deck over to the grill. So it was nice that I didn’t have to take care of that stuff.
After I was done, I fell asleep for about an hour. The boy was working on his computer and the lass had fallen asleep doing battle with the latest disease running through the school. I think she picked it up from the pool party she was at over the weekend.
I was recovered enough by yesterday evening that I was able to rally and go outside with the boy for about 45 minutes and have a snowball fight. He was amazed at how quickly I could manufacture snowballs out of the snow. Large hands definitely helps. For the most part, I pelted him pretty good. Including one moment where I’d ducked down behind our wheelbarrow to wait for him. He cam barreling around the corner and I pelted him with a barrage of snowballs I’d been manufacturing while waiting for him. He was taken completely by surprise and in trying to dodge the snowballs, he fell flat on his back in dramatic fashion. I then just started scooping snow and throwing it on him as he flailed about trying to protect himself. He kind of resembled Ralphie’s brother at that moment.
We arrived at the rink today for the boy’s game and the Wife wanted to know if he could hear her when she cheered him on. He gently informed her that he could not, which I think was a relief for the Wife since she now didn’t feel the need to scream herself hoarse since he couldn’t hear anyway.
He went on to say that he could; however, hear me.
So as we walked in, I asked him if he actually hears me and listens to what I’m saying or if he just kind of thinks “There goes Dad again…”
He turned to look at me and said with a grin “Yeah, it’s more like that.”
I may have to get more creative with my yelling.
Bummer about the Pats. I thought for sure Manning would give them some gifts like he typically does in big games. He played great all day though. Tough to beat him when he’s playing like that. The Patriots just didn’t have the horses.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, certainly appear to have the horses. This is another one of those great defense versus great offense matchups. Another chance to answer the age old question of what happens when an unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
Our morning consisted of hockey practice. After that, we just kind of took the day as it came.
I worked with the boy and the lass to get their Pinewood Derby cars a little closer to completion. This year, they’ve both gone small. The boy didn’t have much choice and the lass was going to have a tough time topping last year’s car. I told the boy early on that he would be responsible for the majority of his car, including the cutting, weighting and painting. He deliberately kept it simple as a result. As for the lass, she wanted a pretty simple curvy car design and then just wanted it one color. So she too, completed the painting today. Tomorrow, in between hockey games I suppose, we’ll get the wheels installed as well as get the cars running straight. Then they’ll be ready for race day.
I got some archery practice in this afternoon. I’m actually starting to get to the point where it looks like I can aim at different points on a target bag. As opposed to just hoping I could hit the target bag. It’s definitely a satisfying feeling to have attained just that rather meager level of control.
After dinner, the kids watched their own movie and I made some brownies so we could assemble brownie sundaes. While the kids watched their movie, I watched Jack Reacher.
It was good. Tom cruise definitely nailed the Reacher character. My only quibble was his face-off with the bad guy at the end. Jack Reacher would not have put his gun down and then beat the guy to a pulp. Jack Reacher would have beat the guy to a pulp with the gun, then finished the job with this fists. Regardless, it was still an entertaining movie and Cruise, despite his lack of physical qualifications, pulled it off.
After that, the Wife went to bed. We’d already put the kids to bed during the Reacher movie. We had to shoo them out of the room a couple of times since that kind of violence wasn’t something we wanted them seeing. At one point, the boy walked in during a flashback of sniper shots and I told him to look away. Luckily, there were no gunshot sounds and he looked away, so he doesn’t know what he missed. Though I’m sure he’s curious.
I worked on a web sign-up page for our upcoming Pinewood Derby. I’ll let the Wife test drive it in the morning and assuming she has no trouble with it, I’ll go live with in tomorrow night.
And as I sit here, the fire in the wood stove has rekindled and the house is heating up for the night. Time for me to hit the sack.
Good night all.
After last week’s shenanigans involving the lass, I thought it worth noting that this week is a complete 180 degree turn. She’s been eagerly doing her homework. She hasn’t been complaining or particularly disagreeable. She hasn’t been fighting with the Wife. She’s basically been a model child.
Next week is gonna suck.
The following is a short story the lass wrote for homework today. As always, I have endeavored to reproduce the story in it’s original form as written by the lass.
Once there was a bat named Bruce who was scared to fly because he was afraid of heights. One day his mother said Bruce had to fly to find his own food because he was old enough. He didn’t want to but his mom had some advice for him. She told him not to look down. Bruce went to the entrance of the cave that night. He ran, then jumped and then flapped his wings hard to fly! From that day on, he never looked down again.
Via Instapundit, a cool grill design for campers. The “grill” portion rolls up and the stakes are the only other component for the system. Read the article for the gist of setup steps, but the entire design is just dead simple. It wouldn’t take up any space when packing and who doesn’t start a campfire when camping? Very nicely done.
As I type this, it’s 7 degrees outside with wind chills below 0. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be around 10 before the bottom falls out and we go below 0. Oh, and it’s snowing too. Lovely weather this time of year.
Fortunately, we’ve got fire and warmth in the house. The kids are sleeping after a half-day of school after their 11 days of Christmas vacation. School has already been cancelled for tomorrow, which makes for 2 weeks with only 4 hours of schooling or so. With the cold it’s hard to say how much they’ll be able to enjoy the snow though. The boy is already grousing that the snow will fall but then it will melt before he can have any fun in it. He’ll be right eventually, of course but for the moment the snow won’t be going anywhere.
This particular storm is getting a lot of attention because of the cold. Most of the news has been wall-to-wall storm, with what seems like minute-by-minute updates. It would be easy to forget we live in New England- you know, an area of the country somewhat renowned for it’s cold weather. Stories about the predictions and the Governor’s plans and the road crews and the weight of the snow and every other conceivable detail.
Anyway, it’s cold outside.
Around 8 o’clock each night, the cat makes his daily appearance. He comes down the stairs and sits his butt down at the front door. If no one notices him in what he considers a timely fashion, he starts to yowl. Someone, one of the kids, myself, the Wife, eventually lets him outside.
A couple hours later while sitting on the couch, I hear him. Or, more precisely, I hear him scratching at the screen. The dog reacts by starting to bark. I react by getting annoyed. I hate him poking at the screen. On occasion, I’ve sat here with the window opening and a squirt bottle. When I’d hear him scratching at the screen, I’d let him have it with the bottle. Another time, I let the dogs out to chase him.
Neither has stopped him. I’ve come to accept that he’ll do it each night.
I don’t let him in via the screen door anymore though. He won’t always come in that way, which is even more annoying than the scratching at the screen. Now, I go to the front door and call him. After a couple seconds, I can hear the jingle of his bell as he jogs around to the front of the house from the back. He comes up onto the porch and waits for me to pick him up.
I do so, and bring him in the house. Upon opening the door, the dog is waiting for me. He knows what I’ve gone outside to do and the cat is a constant source of temptation for him. I bark at him to back off and leave the cat alone and he slinks off to a safe observing distance. He knows where the cat is going and he contents himself that he’ll get his opportunity.
Sometimes I let the cat go right there and he’ll scamper up the stairs to safety from the dogs. Sometimes I’ll escort him to his food and water bowl. It’s the only variation in our routine.
He’ll load up on food, and then do some exploring through the house. Eventually, he’ll find his way upstairs onto our bed where he’ll fall asleep. He’ll wake up eventually, and then make his daily appearance.
When I woke up this morning, it was 1 degree outside. An hour later, it was 2 degrees. The high today topped out at a whopping 20 degrees and it was in the teens most of the time the snow was falling.
Winter in New England can be pretty harsh at times. The thing of it is, it isn’t Winter yet. Usually, this kind of cold is reserved for January. We’ve had a number of days already where the high didn’t get out of the teens. Frankly, it’s getting to the point where I’m happy to see temps break the freezing mark.
For the moment, it looks like we might get a little relief sometime into next week. That can be a long time away though and, as they say, if you don’t like the weather in New England, wait 5 minutes.