Archive for December, 2012

Sledding

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what are GIF’s worth?

thelass.gif

Click on the image to see the GIF.

theboy

Click on the image to see the GIF.

Snow on the Brain

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I made a mistake.

On Friday evening, I told the boy it was supposed to snow the next day, which now is yesterday- Saturday. Not only did I tell him but I foolishly parroted more or less the exact forecast down to the start time and amounts. I may as well have told him that a second Christmas had been scheduled.

He spent the rest of that evening double checking that it was still going to snow. It was as if he’d decided that he needed to maintain vigilance on the matter, lest the foretold events not come to pass. He double checked the snowfall amounts, the start time, the end time. He was particularly fascinated by the end time, confirming on multiple occasions that the snow would end Sunday morning at 7, rather than Saturday morning at 7 (even though the start time wasn’t supposed to be until Saturday morning at 11).

When he woke up on yesterday, he wanted to look at a weather map and ensure that it was still supposed to snow. Perhaps he was concerned that his 10 hour slumber had allowed the probability fields to shift such that no snow was coming, or not as much, or- worst of all- that it would fall as rain.

It finally started in the mid-afternoon hours. I happened to look out and the first sporadic flakes were falling. Big, fluffy cotton balls from the sky that disintegrated on contact with the ground. I pointed outside and made a face like the people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both kids laughed, but then the boy rushed to look at the thermometer, wanting to make sure it would not turn to rain.

The start of the snow was the end of the worrying. The boy was noticeably more relaxed as the snowfall proceeded through the afternoon. His vigilance and wishing was paying off. It was now only a question of “How much?” not “Will it?” But the “How much?” question is more pleasant to fret over. It’s like momentum- once getting things moving, they tend to want to stay that way. Now that the snow was falling and the hard part was over.

By the time they went to bed, there was about 6 inches on the ground. The boy had been monitoring the situation and was keenly aware the amount now exceeded the prediction I’d given him the day before. Even better- the snow continued to fall without any sign of letting up. He went to bed easily, dreaming of snowmen, snowballs and sledding.

Here’s what he awoke to:

All pictures courtesy of the Wife and her Canon EOS60D.

Thoughts on the Nook HD

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My big Christmas gift was a new Nook HD, the updated version of the previous Nook Tablet. So far, the biggest disappointment is a less than obvious way to root the sucker. It has been done, but I’m not clear on whether it’s a permanent thing like can be done on the Tablet.

That said, it’s definitely an improvement. Almost all of the UI stuff is better including responsiveness, scrolling and speed. This isn’t entirely surprising since it’s based on the version of Android that supposed to have been a big breakthrough in terms of performance and polish. The HD is also lighter than the Tablet, which is noticeable when reading. It has a better feel when holding it one handed as well. Physically, I kind of liked the old carabiner look- it was distinctive and unique. But I’m not going to pitch any fits over it’s loss.

A pleasant discovery was that K-9, my email program of choice, is available from the Barnes and Noble store. It’s vastly superior to the stock program currently available. The HD also comes with calendar support, though so far I haven’t been successful in getting it to import my Google Calendar. The Store also now has Calengoo available, but I already purchased it from the Amazon Market, so I’m kind of holding out a bit before I repurchase it.

Another pleasant surprise was how all my previous purchases were immediately available upon entering my account information. In that, Barnes and Noble did well.

The screen is the other big differentiator and I have to say that it’s vastly improved from a reader perspective. Reading the small text is much easier on the eyes than on the previous Tablet, and I always felt the Tablet had a pretty damn good screen. The HD’s blows it away.

Battery life seems to be a bit worse than with the Tablet, I’m sorry to say. It’s not awful and I may be able to tweak it a bit to lend myself some improvement there, but it’s definitely not the same.

In all, it’s definitely an improved experience. If you’re looking for a general tablet, I wouldn’t recommend it until a reliable rooting procedure is available. But if you want a good reader, then it would be hard to beat the Nook HD.

The Armoire- A Mistake

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I thought I was done with the armoire, but as it turned out I made a mistake in my design. The mistake turns out to be obvious enough in hind sight, and it was easily remedied. This is more a matter of jotting it down so I remember for the next time this situation arrives.

The problem had everything to do with the drawers. They are large, solid wood doors made of maple, cherry and cedar on the bottoms. The shear size of them (nearly 3 1/2 feet wide and 2 feet deep) necessitated larger dimensions on all of the pieces, including the bottom which I made 3/8″ thick. The larger pieces means more weight, even before they get loaded up with whatever.

The drawers are mounted on Blum invisible drawer slides. These slides mount to the sides of the cabinet, but then hook under the drawer so when the drawer is pulled out the slides themselves are not seen.

To support the runners attached to the cabinet, I fashioned rails for attaching the slides. Those rails were mortised into the posts at the front and rear of the lower cabinet space. And that’s where the problem occurred. The glue holding those rails in place in their mortises let go under the combination of the weight of the drawers and the active, day-to-day usage of them. Because they let go, the drawers sagged and would hit the rails on the front that defined the drawer openings. The problem got so bad that one of the clips that attaches to the drawer itself, and then to the drawer slide, was knocked off of the drawer and made using the drawer basically impossible.

So, the fix was simple. First, I used a single screw in each end of the rails to reattach them to the post. Now, there’s not way for the rail to fail short of it actually breaking. Next, to make sure there is enough clearance, I reattached the drawers slide a little higher. The combination of fixes took care of the problem and the drawers work like new again.

The mistake I made was in not using the proper mechanical joint for attaching the rails. I should have used a sliding dovetail design instead of a straight up mortise. My assumption was I just need joint strength in the vertical direction. As it turned out, there was also a moment that I had to account for due to the drawer activity. A sliding dovetail would have handled the problem splendidly, pinning the rail into the post with no chance of it breaking out. Something for me to keep in mind for the next project I work on.

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

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One thing I’ve noticed about our kids is they have big mouths. Actually, my sense is this isn’t anything unusual and is more a normal kid thing. Possibly, it signals that they don’t get in trouble too much for running their mouths and therefore aren’t inhibited about saying whatever burbles up from the darkest recesses of their little minds. It could also just be that they don’t know when to shut up.

The lass had an amusing moment on Christmas day involving her Grandfather. One of her delights after a visit is to search the seat cushions for spare change that might have fallen from pockets. While sitting and watching the movie, she made a comment to her Grandfather that she was always finding coins after he left.

Later, he told the Wife that he was extra careful to make sure the change in his pockets was stuffed way down to the bottom and that the pockets weren’t riding up to dumping level. I don’t know if he performed an inventory as well- likely not. He was more amused by the exchange than anything.

Obviously, her loquaciousness redounded to his benefit. On the other hand, she won’t be finding spare change in the seat cushions anymore.

A Merry Christmas Day

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Christmas day was a pleasant affair this year. Not that that’s unusual, but it just stuck me this year more than other years. Though, it didn’t start that way.

Our adventure started the night before, at bedtime on Christmas Eve. They were excited and we’d already opened presents to from one another and to one another. All that was left to wait on the Big Guy. The lass had no trouble drifting off like it was any other night.

The boy was an altogether different story.

His excitement was such that he couldn’t fall asleep like he normally does. Once out of that comfort zone, he started to worry. And once he started worrying, well, he couldn’t stop. It was around 9:30 or so that I noticed he was quietly weeping in his bed. When I asked him what was wrong, he simply whimpered that he couldn’t fall asleep.

When he get likes that, it really becomes a matter for the Wife to deal with. I don’t have much time for weeping over these sort of things and I was likely to not be all that understanding. Getting harsh with him on Christmas Eve didn’t seem like a sporting thing to do, so I went downstairs and apprised the Wife of the situation. She went up to try and help him out.

When she came down, she dropped the bad news: he was worried that because he couldn’t fall asleep Santa wouldn’t come because Santa can’t come until after they’ve fallen asleep. So he was going to ruin Christmas. It was a vicious circle because the longer he went without sleeping, the more upset he got because he became more convinced he wouldn’t fall asleep. Rinse. Repeat. Weep.

Time ticked away. The boy remained awake. The Wife and I both assumed he would eventually collapse from shear exhaustion. But the longer it took, the more it seemed like it would take. We knew it would be an early morning; thus, neither of us had planned on a late night. But it was getting late. As the night wore on, we were both extra vigilant for the sound of footsteps, since the boy particularly will on occasion just pop downstairs when he’s having trouble sleeping. He’d already called down from the top of the stairs earlier to inform us he couldn’t sleep. All we needed was for him to waltz down the steps already upset.

Finally, around 11:15, I turned off our Pandora. We’d had it playing all day and allowed it to continue after we’d put the kids to bed because we wanted some sound cover for our setup activities downstairs. We heard the boy get up and go to the bathroom and then go back to bed. We waited longer and finally decided enough was enough. We both finally headed to bed around 11:45. There was no noise coming from his room, so we assumed he was safely asleep.

I was up briefly at 4 to deal with the fire. I was as discreet as possible, since I didn’t want the kids coming down; my plan was to get some wood on the fire and go back to bed. It worked.

We first heard them head down around 5. The Wife said both of them poked their heads in our room shortly thereafter. We’d told them both not to wake us and not to open any presents until we were all downstairs. The Wife and I both tried to get some more sleep, but they were both loud enough to make getting back to sleep impossible. The Wife gave in first. I followed a short time after around 6AM.

The present opening festivities were well done this year. In past years, it’s been an explosion of paper and gifts, with extended cleanup efforts afterwards. This year, they set about their business like seasoned veterans- they’d done it before and wanted to prolong the experience. They took turns opening gifts, working together to pull things our from under the tree. They were civil, they were excited. It was fun actually. The Wife and I downed a couple of cups of coffee while they did their thing.

The remainder of the day was spent with them exploring their various gifts. The Wife’s parents arrived around 11 and her Aunt arrived in the early evening. Despite his late night and early rise, the boy made it through the entire day without a nap. That was more than could be said for his Grandparents. And me. The lass also managed to negotiate the entire day without any naps. We watched a few movies and had an early dinner. The guests headed out shortly after the kids went to bed.

When the dust settled, the Wife and I sat down and enjoyed a quiet rest-of-the-evening. The boy had no trouble falling asleep Christmas night. Christmas had come and gone, nothing to worry about anymore. We had no trouble falling asleep either. A Merry Christmas for all.

Hope yours was a Merry Christmas as well.

Final Letters to Santa

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Both kids are in bed now. They’ve setup Santa with a nice spread of cookies and also supplied 9 mini carrots for his reindeer. They’ve also put a big bowl of water out on the deck for them as well.

The lass has 3 letters for Santa. The first:

Dear Santa,

Sparky has bin eating to much JUNK food
he ate a candy cane and skittles and a Tootsie Roll and a cookie.
Santa give Sparky a apple.

From: the lass

The second:

Dear Santa

We are going to store Sparky gift upstairs.

Sparky I hope you like your gift

To: Santa

From: the lass

And third:

Dear Santa Clause,

Thank you for the present that you are gave me.

Frim: the lass

The boy wrote one final letter:

Dear Santa Clause,

Thank you for all of the presents they are all really nice. I think you and your elves are the best toy makers.

Tell Sparky I will really miss him.

Sincerely, the boy

As always, spelling and punctuation (or lack thereof) are preserved from the source material. The lass’ final letter also has a drawing of Santa and his sleigh along with 1 reindeer. She also drew a separate picture of Santa flying through the night in his sleigh, complete with stars and a big sack of presents on the back of his sleigh.

Smoked Chicken and Lamb

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So, I received a Christmas gift a bit early this year. My parents got us a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. We received it on Thursday and I set it up Friday. Unlike some comments I’d read, I had no issues with assembly due to incorrect parts or missing parts. My only regret is that I didn’t wait for the boy to help me assemble it.

I was advised to cure the smoker prior to using it, so yesterday I purchased some Kingsford charcoal and let it rip. Basically, I filled the bottom with a half-bag and planned on letting it burn out and leave it at that. I didn’t bother putting any water in the bowl.

The Wife had pulled out some chicken thighs for dinner and as the afternoon wore on and the grill cooked, I started thinking it would be a waste of all that heat if I didn’t cook something with it. The curing advise I’d read and heard involved cooking some fatty meats to get the inside of the smoker good and greased up. Chicken thighs are pretty fatty, so I figured what the heck.

I let the WSM run wide open, so the temp on the dome thermometer read around 300F. I suspect the temp at the grill level was something hotter than that, but in a sense it’s irrelevant. The main thing is I ran it wide open and as hot as I could get it. The chicken took about 50 minutes to cook. When we served it, both kids had second helpings of the thighs, and everyone commented it was the best they’d had. The Wife, particularly, was impressed because I typically kill them on the gas grill, but here they were very tender and tasty.

So score that one a victory.

Cooking attempt 2 took place tonight or, more correctly, this afternoon. The Wife had prepared leg of lamb and she’d intended for me to grill it. Emboldened by yesterday’s success, I opted to use the WSM to cook it. Rather than running it hot, I opted to run it at about 250F as read on the dome thermometer. I put the lamb on the top grill and fiddled with the lower vents to get a consistent temperature. Once there, I put three chunks of maple wood on the coals. As with the chicken, I didn’t fill the bowl with water.

I also made sure to stick a probe in the lamb so I could monitor the internal temp. One thing I learned from the chicken is that when cooking, don’t remove the cover. Especially when using the upper most grill. All the heat disappears and it takes time to get things back up to temp. I didn’t want to have any problems wit the lamb, thus the temperature probe.

It took about two-and-a-half-hours before the probe read 155F. I pulled the lamb off and let it rest for about 10 minutes prior to serving. It was tender and cooked to about medium, with quite a bit of red meat. Tonight, the reviews were more mixed. The Wife didn’t like the smokey flavor and neither did the lass. The boy had a couple of helpings, as did I. Actually, for that matter, so did the Wife. For my part, I didn’t think the smoke flavor was that powerful, but I’m probably not the best judge.

So I think we’ll have to score that one a draw.

But even with only two uses under my belt, I’m excited about the possibilities. Prior to this, I’d used our Weber Kettle grill for this type of cooking and, frankly, did so rarely because it’s pretty time intensive. I’d constantly be monitoring the temperature and fiddling, plus I was constantly removing the lid to add charcoal to keep things going for longer cooks.

With the WSM, the entire operation is much easier. The side door will make it straight forward to add fuel for longer cooks, and not having to remove the lid will maintain the temperature while doing so. The grates on the bottom and the dome combine to make getting a consistent temperature much easier. Temperature monitoring is easy with the dome thermometer as accuracy isn’t as important as knowing that it’s consistent. For more sensitive cooks, like the today with the lamb, I can just use a probe.

So, I expect I’ll be doing much more experimenting with BBQ this year. In fact, I’ve created a new category here on the blog to help me keep track of my experiments. Right now, there’s a bunch of baby backs sitting in the freezer, waiting…

More on Guns

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I don’t have anything I’d put into an essay, but I have a lot of stray thoughts regarding the current “debate.” And yes, I’m being sarcastic because gun control advocates aren’t interested in a debate- they want to do something, anything. The only “debate” they want is how far they should go and the notion that other options event exist is completely out of bounds.

Before I list my gun control thoughts, I’ll also note that the current “debate” is following a similar arc to previous ones. Namely, Democrats come up with a problem they want to deal with and the “debate” starts. When it becomes clear that their opponents don’t agree with the Democrat’s solutions, Democrats quickly move to declaring their opponents “unserious.” Finally, they pass legislation or, as more recently they can’t just ram legislation through because of split government, they take to lamenting the “unseriousness”, “selfishness”, or whatever other form of demagoguery they can muster. The notion that someone else could think something what’s “best for the country” and have it not be exactly what Democrats think doesn’t seem to occur to them.

With that, here we go:

  • Kevin Drum basically wants some kind of gun legislation and is apparently on board with passing it by any means necessary. His second statement starts “I’m all in favor of Congress taking some action to regulate guns, …” He states it so breezily that a reader might think that the gun market is completely unregulated, which is unequivocally false. For a small sampling, it is illegal to sell fully-automatic weapons to civilians.

    Further, and I hold Mr. Drum up as paragon of this particular rationale, there is no attempt to connect the regulation to the crime. “Newtown was so uniquely horrific that something has to happen” Mr. Drum states. Nothing like passing silly symbolic legislation that makes the lives of normal, law abiding citizens more difficult with the only rationale that “something had to be done.”

  • I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing that might stop a future massacre in a school setting is allowing some kind of exemption for the “gun free zone.” Yes, this means I basically agree with Wayne Lapierre- at least let me justify it.

    1. Guns are here to stay for the foreseeable future. There are likely over 300 million in civilian possession. There no chance that changes. An outright ban that started now would be meaningless and a buyback program would do little to dent it. People want their guns in this country. Further, all evidence and common sense leads me to the conclusion that any ban at this point would only ensure criminals end up with guns. I read somewhere that the shooter at Newtown violated 40 something laws before he shot his first victim- think about that.

    2. There is no law that can be passed today that would have prevented the Newtown massacre. None. I understand this is frustrating, but that’s the reality we live in.

    3. The evidence we have about the personalities of mass shooters is they live in a fantasy world which is readily ruined. They are not, for instance, suicide bombers with a higher calling. Confronting them can quickly bring about an endgame that saves lives.

    4. This will piss people off, but I happen to believe it’s also a very unfortunate fact: the procedure that the teacher’s went through at Newtown lined up those children for slaughter. The teacher had no chance to stop the shooter once he arrived at the class room, locking the door was meaningless. The police arrived 20 minutes too late. The only reason the entire school wasn’t slaughtered was because the miserable piece of excrement shot himself.

    Given all of this, I think the only thing that has a chance of working is that a first responder already be on the premises. Yes, I also think there would be a preventative affect as well. What’s known about mass shooters points to the fact that they are drawn to helplessness- they typically choose targets where they know they won’t be confronted. The Aurora shooting this past Summer is an example- there were plenty of theatres in the immediate vicinity but he chose the one that had a gun ban.

    What form does this take? Well, I think some kind of general ability to wave the gun ban for qualified individuals is the way to go. Perhaps that means teachers and administrators can have concealed carry; or some kind of armed personnel like a security guard or police is on site. Notice I didn’t say “lift the gun bans”, I said “make qualified exceptions.”

  • I find the notion that the NRA or that gun owners in general are culpable for what happened odious. The NRA lobbies on the behalf of law abiding citizens and the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens. Using this form of demagoguery is absurd. Personally, people pushing this argument should be slapped, hard.

    Don’t agree? Well, then how about we agree that all people who voted for President Obama are culpable in the murder of children by drone strikes. If the shoes fits, as they say.

    I’ll say it clearly because it can’t be said enough: the shooter at Newtown is the criminal and he deserves the disgust and anger of everyone. Law abiding citizens did not kill those teachers and children.

  • Smaller magazines or lower capacity clips will be meaningless. Criminals will make their own higher capacity clips, and those in circulation will remain.

  • Banning “assault weapons* is meaningless drivel. First, no one can even define what an “assault weapon” is. Second, criminals won’t care and will end up with them anyway.

  • Gun control advocates get sick and tired of hearing the same reasons and arguments, but that doesn’t make them any less potent. It means they haven’t come up with a proper counter idea, argument or rationale. They can’t wave those reasons and the rationale away by waving their hands and screaming “something has to be done.”

  • The statistics regarding the “successes” of gun control are highly debatable and abusable to the point, in my mind, that they are largely meaningless. Certain forms of gun violence go down, while others increase dramatically. I’ll agree that in an ideal world, guns don’t exist. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in and we can’t legislate our way into it.

Anyway, that’s it. If you’re a gun control advocate then I’m firmly in the “fanatic” zone at this point. That said, at least I have logic and reason on my side.

On Gun Control

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This is probably the single best thing I’ve read about guns, gun control and useful policies going forward (via Instapundit). I’ll admit that my own conclusions went in this general direction including his opinion on concealed carry, so it could be a matter of confirmation bias on my part. Still, he takes on all forms of argument about gun control and throws in a number of surprises that I was unaware of in response to the usual arguments for gun control.

For instance, gun control proponents like to hold up Australia as a shining example of a success story. Why? Because in direct response to a mass shooting they banned guns and instituted a buy-back program. Since there have been no mass shootings. Sounds great, but, it turns out, the devil is in the details. Turns out there is little evidence that the new gun controls have had much effect on crime and violent crime in general.

There are other interesting tidbits throughout the article. Go give it a read.

End of School

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The world didn’t end today, but school for the current calendar year did. Go Mayans! I mean, seriously, what were the odds that they’d call a Friday in December for the day the world ended? They should get a little credit for that anyway.

Naturally, with 10 days off from school, the kids arrived home in their PJ’s and were bored 5 minutes later. As for the PJ’s, apparently, today is National Send Your Child to School in PJ’s day, or something to that effect. I hear it’s the latest thing in teaching technologies.

A Close Call

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I went out to the car this morning with the boy in toe. The lass was lagging behind a bit, as is her wont. I opted for the smaller car, which is my wont for the trek into school in the mornings with the kids. It’s patched up from the fender bender of a week ago, though it still bears the scratches from where I hit the guard rail.

I eased down into the seat because plopping won’t work for me. Really, the car is too small for me, but it gets good gas mileage so I make it work. Friends who have seen me drive it laugh because typically, I become invisible in the car. I have to tilt the seat back with the result that my head is obscured by the middle upright between the front and rear doors. Thus, it looks like the car is driving itself.

When I finished settling in, the boy was already in beside me and the lass was finally on her way. I stuck the key in the ignition and fired her up.

I always drive with the radio on. Lately, the kids have been disappointed that I don’t listen to Christmas music on the radio. The Wife has a Pandora station that she plays almost every day in the house, so I don’t exactly miss it for the 15 minutes I’m in the car in the mornings. Also, there’s a Boston radio station I enjoy listening to.

Usually.

This morning, the first thing that comes over the radio is one of the on-air personalities bleating out an excessively sarcastic “Wait a minute, you mean there really isn’t a Santa Claus?”

At which point I calmly, but quickly, punched the button to turn off the radio. The boy was futzing with his seat belt at that moment and the lass was just arriving at the car. Clearly, of the two, the boy was the one to be concerned with. Although, I was also concerned they might ask why I didn’t have the radio on since I always drive with the radio on.

If he did hear the line, the boy gave no indication whatsoever. Further, neither he nor his sister asked why I didn’t have the radio on. To avoid drawing their attention to it’s silence, I left it off for the entirety of the ride in, the whole 5 minutes worth. Plus, at that point, who knows what else they were going to blurt out.

All in all, my assumption is the boy didn’t hear the line. He’s not the sort who would have let that pass without asking a question like “Why did he say that?” or “What did he mean…?” I’m certain the lass didn’t hear anything, she wasn’t close enough at the time.

The Wife was rolling her eyes and shaking her head after I related the incident to her. She thinks that the boy is going to start figuring it out; he has at least 1 friend who already knows its a hoax, but I’m guessing his parents have explained that he’s not to say anything. I’m not so sure he’s ready to piece it together though. He wants to believe, and he isn’t asking any of the sorts of questions that indicate to me he’s thinking more critically about it.

Fortunately, this morning’s near miss hasn’t changed that.

Our Mischievous Elf

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Here’s our mischievous shelf elf:

Last week, he dipped into the Wife’s batch of chocolate chip cookies. He’s got a real sweet tooth this year. Much to the kid’s delight.

700 Pushups

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In addition to the various traditional techniques associated with martial arts like kicking, blocking and punching the martial arts school has a physical component in order to earn a black belt. One of those is to perform 100 push ups and 100 sit-ups. I’m assuming it’s supposed to be 100 straight, although we’ve never done more that 25 in a set in our testing. Regardless, I can’t do it at this point. Not even close.

From my years of weight training for football, I thought I had a decent start on this task. Further, the pitch the instructors use for making it seem more attainable is that a student only has to improve by 2 per month over the 4 year period towards becoming a black belt. Doesn’t seem so bad, really.

Well, I’ve been stuck at about the same level ever since my arm fully recovered from the surgery. And that level is about the same I was at prior to the surgery. I can complete about 35 for a single set, or I can manage a couple of sets of 25 before I run out of steam.

So, in order to try and make some progress, I’ve decided that over a 1 week period, I’m going to do 700 pushups- 100 per day. Today is day 3. I didn’t do push-ups per say yesterday, I used our Total Gym instead but managed to do the 100 reps in 2 sets.

My arms hurt. My chest hurts. Four more days to go. Yay.

Maybe Next Year

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Via Wired’s GeekDad twitter feed, here’s a list of the top 50 Dad blog’s. Sadly, yours truly isn’t on the list. I’ll have to cull through some of them looking for inspiration for future posts.

One of the hard things about the blog for me, which I kind of anticipated, is coming up with interesting material. Obviously, the main source has been the kids and my trials and tribulations with raising them on a day-to-day basis. But they’re in a kind of holding pattern now, where change is slower so I’ve had fewer new things to write about. At least, that’s how it feels.

Thus, I’ve supplemented the blog with stuff about woodworking, computer maintenance (Linux particularly), bread recipes, football and other items along the way. Yet even here, the posts seem to take on the same flavor over time. Even with football, the themes are similar or at least they seem that way to me. Thus, I’ve posted less about football this year than any year previous.

I’ve no plans for going anywhere, but I’d like to find a new source to tap or a new angle from which to looks at things. In the meantime, check out some of the blogs in the links above, if nothing else you should be able to find something interesting to read.

Girls versus Boys

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Last night, the Wife took the boy to his martial arts lesson, leaving me and the lass to hold down the fort here at the house. After cleaning up after dinner and doing a little reading, she wanted to play a game downstairs in the basement. So I finished up with a couple of things and then went down to join her in the basement, where she’d been preparing for the game.

Turns out her idea of a game was to have me pretend to be a kid and her pretend to be, well, either a parent or a teacher helping me learn to read. She had set out a bunch of the simple word books and had me pick one. Then, she started to read the book to me, complete with holding the book up and asking me to “try to read this” and such. I also had to figure out when she actually was stuck with a particular word and help her out on occasion. But for the most part, I had to try and recall all the difficulties they had with pronouncing words and mimic them so she could “do it for me.” We got along pretty well.

After reading the books, the game wasn’t over. She then told me I stunk and had to take a shower, though she was quick to add “Not really Dad, just pretend…” That was a relief. So we went through the whole routine of showering and bathing and brushing teeth and putting me to bed. I’m guessing getting up for school was next, but by that time the Wife and the boy returned home and the game ended.

I note this only because it occurred to me that, while this game is actually a variation on a pretty regular theme for her, the boy has never once played a game like that. The closest he could be said to have come are on the occasions where he’s come home and pretended to be a dentist and clean his sister’s teeth. Lately, fugettaboutit. He’s been fascinated by shows about the deadliest animals in the world like spiders and sharks and the like.

Just some anecdotal evidence regarding the differences between girls and boys. Both have had the same upbringing with perhaps the only difference in opportunity for them being her dance lessons versus his martial arts lessons. I know it’s improper to notice these things in polite company, but it’s there regardless.

A Problem with Gun Control Statistics

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This article came across my Twitter feed today and after reading through it, I had a thought related to the gun control argument going on right now.

First, the majority of the case against guns lies in statistics. For one, there is no data to demonstrate that having a gun for self defense purposes is actually valid in practice. For two, where massacres are concerned, gun control advocates are quick to point out that none of them have ever been stopped by a citizen with a gun.

As to the first, I’d guess there’s a data problem. While there are police reports and so forth to aggregate data related to gun usage in crimes and the like, how would a researcher go about figuring out how many times a citizen pulls a weapon on a would be robber or whatever, which immediately causes the offender to retreat, and then nothing ever get reported? I’ve personally heard of a couple of stories along these lines- I suspect that’s the only way anyone would ever know.

As to the second statistic, well, if you read the above link you might already know where I’m going. There’s a definitional problem. A massacre becomes one because there’s only 1 (or a group) armed person firing at unarmed, defenseless citizens. But when someone is present to confront the attacker, then a massacre becomes no one dead, hopefully. As a second data point, there was a shooting in Clackamas, Oregon recently where the shooter was confronted by someone with a conceal carry. Only 2 people died and the shooter took his own life shortly after the individual with the concealed carry permit confronted him. Also notice, our hero here doesn’t exactly sound like a cowboy (from the article):

“I don’t ever want to see anyone that way ever,” said Meli. “It just bothers me.”

Control is an Illusion

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So, when last I’d mentioned the subject, the Wife and I had decided there was no real virtue to telling the kids anything about the massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown. They’d arrived home and pretty clearly weren’t aware. So we had turned off the TV and not said anything to them.

Unfortunately for our plans, the boy had a friend over for a sleep over. When we picked him up, I asked the friend’s Mom if he knew anything about what had happened, just because we wanted to be prepared for the possibility that the topic might come up. She didn’t believe he had because he hadn’t said anything to her about it. She also said she really didn’t have any intention of telling him, which was no problem to accommodate on our part.

Well, turns out she was incorrect. She’d been working Friday night and he’d seen the news that night. The Wife was on the way home from seeing Rise of the Guardians (which was thoroughly enjoyed by all the kids) when he started talking about it.

The boy was incredulous, apparently blurting out “Why am I always the last one to find out about these thing?” or something to that effect. His friend also mentioned the shooting in Aurora from the Summer, which only annoyed the boy further because he hadn’t known about that either.

The Wife and I stand behind the decisions there- neither of us can really come up with any good reason for to make them aware of what had happened. If they’d been older, we certainly would have. But it just goes to show how easily the best laid plans can be circumvented. Ultimately, it’s probably a good thing because other kids in school tomorrow will almost certainly know about it. So there’s a very good chance their ignorance was only ever going to be temporary.

As a consequence, we touched on the subject again tonight, asking them if they had any questions. They didn’t. So now, we’ll see what they come home with tomorrow.

The Path Less Taken

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After yesterday, a common refrain has been “be sure to give your kids an extra hug.” Well, I’ve been giving mine an extra yell.

The first one was directed at the lass last night. We were getting ready for dinner and I needed someone to get some milk from our small fridge in the basement. So I called both kids over and told them to play a game of Rock, Scissors, Paper. The boy won (paper covers rock, if you’re curious) so I turned to the lass and told her to go downstairs and get the milk.

Well, the boy and the Wife were amused as they realized the little ruse I’d pulled. It’s always an argument about who goes downstairs to retrieve the milk or vegetables. I tried to end-run that whole thing and I thought I’d done a decent job of it.

The lass, however, was not amused. Not. In. The. Slightest. She immediately started whining, all the way downstairs. She came back upstairs and she was all but openly weeping and crying.

It was so egregious and, given yesterday’s events, I simply could not abide it. I called her out, telling her she was being ridiculous, that her behavior was way over the top and she’d better knock it off. I almost threatened her with the ol’ “I’ll give you something to cry about” but I refrained. At that point, she didn’t know about the massacre in Newtown, and I didn’t want to say anything specific. But I finished with something to the effect, “There are people out there with much bigger problems than yours right now.”

By the time I was done, she was also basically done. She huffed a bit, but the over acting had ceased. I cooled off while eating my dinner.

The second event happened this morning and involved both of them. They were getting ready for hockey, and the lass once again started in with dickering and whining about not being able to find socks or having problems with her tape, or whatever as she prepared for practice.

The Wife had given them a heads up almost an hour ahead of time, yet here we were, at the last minute and still not ready. And what’s worse, the attitude was starting to flow.

Once again, I let her have it. I finished with a promise that she’d be done with hockey if I had to go through this again. The boy asked if the same went for him and I wheeled on him and told him notice had been served. The antics over hockey and getting prepared for practice were done, or their participation in hockey would be done. Period.

I try to exercise patience as often as possible. My own thinking is repeatedly blowing my stack will simply desensitize them to it. But yesterday’s events put a certain perspective on things- thinking about those families in Newtown whose Christmas is ruined, likely for the rest of their lives. The stuff these guys are going through are trivial by comparison. I know I shouldn’t be taking that out on on them, especially since they’re not aware of what happened. But perspective is needed and, for the moment, I’m not of a mind to humor these sorts of antics.

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut

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The awful events that happened in Newtown today had an eerie familiarity about them. The way the news trickled out, it reminded me of how 9/11 unfolded for me.

I first heard about “a shooting” at a school in Newtown this morning, there were few details at that point other than there was 1 confirmed death and it was believed to be the perpetrator. Police were on the scene. I naturally assumed the best: the situation was stabilized, the perpetrator had been shot by the police. This is all very similar to when I first saw the news that “a plane has struck the World Trade Center.” To this day, I remember thinking “Great, some whackjob…”

Then the facts slowly started trickling in: there were some injured, it took place at an elementary school, the entire district was in lockdown. Bad news for sure, but not a disaster yet. Next I started hearing things about the perpetrator possibly going after the principal. Then that the principal was, in fact, dead and there were injuries among the children and faculty.

Then the bombshell that 27 people were dead, the majority of them children. My mind immediately recalled the fact that it was an elementary school and the gravity of the event finally hit me. At that point, it was like the Twin Towers had just collapsed.

All this took place over the course of an hour-and-a-half or so.

Newtown is on the other side of the state from where we live. But for all it’s distance, as I listened to the description of the town I had another disturbing realization: Newtown could just as easily be my town. Not in the sense that “it could be any town” but in the sense that much of the same qualities that described Newtown also describe my town. Something like this isn’t supposed to happen there, or here.

I’m mad. Mad that someone would commit such an atrocity. That bastard obliterated the lives of 28 families. He took their Christmas away from them. There are kids without their best friend now, gone because of the whims of a monster. There are families who, upon hearing the news, went to Sandy Hook Elementary praying to their God it wasn’t their child- and those prayers went unanswered. There are children who will have nightmares and who lost innocence today.

At the same time, I recognize the futility of my anger: it didn’t affect me personally, it won’t bring anyone back or change a damn thing. It’s likely more a reaction to a greater truth: the helplessness of the situation. Our kid’s school is locked and someone has to ring a bell to gain entry; but it’s a ruse. The people in the office barely check and if the person is known or familiar to them, entry is granted. Need I say more? I live 5 minutes from the school, but God forbid the worst, I might as well be on the other side of the state, in Newtown.

There is sadness as well, for all those families whose Christmas has been ruined. Sadness for a town that must deal with something that can’t be prepared for; a town that is an hour’s drive away.

We decided not to mention anything to the kids, assuming they hadn’t heard anything. What, after all, are we supposed to tell them? That monsters are real? That they aren’t big and hairy with sharp teeth and bad breath and drool, rather they look just like us? That we can’t even tell they are monsters, until it’s too late?

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