Archive for May, 2013

More of the Same- But Different

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Completion of the other wall is only part of the project. Now, I get to do the same basic stuff on the other side. This wall will be easier in some ways, and more difficult in others.

As should be obvious from the excavation, it will have more curves to it. This will help to increase the patio area quite dramatically. Really, under the deck looks bigger already, excluding for the two massive pile of dirt I have in the center. But where it has the “S” curve feature, it won’t be nearly as tall- standing only about three-and-one-half feet at it’s tallest.

Aside from that, it’s more of the same. The next step is to dig down about a foot, line it with rip-rap and then fill with stone. Then I get to start building and backfilling.

Oh, almost forgot. I’ve also got to do something with that drain pipe. Don’t worry, I’ve got plans for it.

Model Rocket Pictures

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Rather than post them here on the main page, because there’s a ton of pictures, I’ve created a page of it’s own to showcase a couple of the launches of the model rockets we made with the Scouts. For now, the page can be found this way. I’ll eventually make a permanent icon for it like the other pages.

UPDATE: Icon added. Can you guess which it is?

Model Rockets are AWESOME!

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I think what I’ll remember most about last night’s Pack meeting were the screams of the kids.

We finally got a break for an outdoor Pack meeting. We’d tried a few other times, but Mother Nature always served up some rain so the events were either cancelled or moved indoors. Yesterday, the rain stayed to our South and allowed us to have what may have been our best meeting ever.

We offered up some awards last night, which was a very Cub Scouty thing to do. Our Wolf Den had earned belt loops and we had a number of boys earn Gold Arrows for arrow points. I took care of those awards early on and then got things down to the nitty gritty.

We had “Cub Scout Amazing Race” which our other Den leaders had come up with, including the props necessary to pull it off. There were 5 activities they had to participate in. Upon completion of each activity, they got a clue about where they had to go next and what they’d have to do at that next station. There was a paper airplane station, a soccer station, a potato station, a jumping jack station and one other which I’m failing to recall. Regardless, for 15 minutes the kids flew around the park, finishing all of their activities.

Then we setup to launch the model rockets.

I have no way of knowing what they expected. I can only report on the absolute huge success that the rocket launches were. The first rocket stands out because I’m pretty sure it blew their minds when it lifted off. They’d done the countdown, and when the engine ignited and propelled the rocket up, the squeals of glee and joy were something to behold. I used C6-3 and B6-2 engines in the PVC based rockets my Bears put together. Those suckers must have gone a couple to 300 feet in the air.

After each launch, the boys would tear off after the rocket to recover and inspect it. In between, we would get them to calm down long enough to perform another countdown. Then, as soon as the rocket launched, they were lost to our reality. Screaming and running and completely mindless to anything else.

The greatest moments happened with the final 2 rockets we launched. These were kit rockets. Nice, light, more or less foolproof rockets for launching. Both of them used C engines. I set things up by explaining how much the other rockets weighed, about 5.5 ounces with the engine, versus how much the kit rockets weighed, about 2 ounces with the engine. Even with the thought-experiment, the results surely surpassed their expectations.

The roar that went up when the first kit rocket launched was awesome. The rocket was there on the launching pad on moment. Then, a hissing noise, some flame and a plume of smoke later, it was gone. It must have gone somewhere close to 1000 feet high- high enough that if you took your eye off the rocket while it was up there you lost it. I couldn’t help but laugh at the spectacle. About a minute later, it drifted back down to Earth, it’s parachute having successfully deployed.

The last rocket of the night was the boy’s rocket. The other kit rocket. It too had an identical launch and reaction. Even knowing what was coming, the shear spectacle of the takeoff and watching it drift slowly back down overwhelmed their minds. It landed a quarter-mile away in a cornfield. The boys ran the entire way, tracking it as it fell. Parental requests to stop were simply not capable of being processed at that point.

It wasn’t just the kids who enjoyed it. The parents all loved it as well. They were all impressed with the PVC rocket successes, and the kit rockets were the icing on the cake. It was truly a great meeting to end the year with and one I hope none of the boys soon forget.

Coping

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For a change, I was waiting in the car for the boy and the lass this morning. My plan was to get the kids to school, then head up to gas up the car as well as grab some gas for our mower, since we were out. Then I’d spend a couple hours this morning taking care of the grass, including using the weed wacker for all the edge stuff. It always looks a lot neater that way. Then, I’d spend the afternoon digging.

The boy hopped in the car, grabbing the coveted “shotgun” position. His sister wasn’t too far behind. In case there was any doubt about the value of “shotgum”, she immediately started in on her brother for “always” trying to get the front seat. I just let it ride.

As we started up the driveway I glanced over at the boy and noticed he was missing something. I also took a quick glance at the lass, whom was not. I then said “Didn’t Mom ask you to wear a sweatshirt this morning?” Yes, we’re 3 days from June and the kids still need cool weather gear on occasion.

The boy took a look at himself, then sighed an irritated hissing noise. His face screwed up in a grimace. I thought of saying something, then chose not to. Let him learn to deal on his own.

Halfway to the school, the boy grabbed his backpack and started rifling through it, looking for something. He got progressively more agitated in his searching. His back pack is only so big, so I figured he was missing something.

“I forgot my black notebook,” he said through clenched teeth. His jaw was set in a grimace and he was staring like he was trying to light small objects on fire with his gaze.

Two things he’d forgotten this morning in the rush to get out the door. I considered turning around to bail him out. Again, I chose not too for the same basic reason as before. He was in the middle of getting himself all worked up about forgetting his notebook, so let him learn that it’s not the big deal he thinks it is.


I took my time when I got home. I had a second cup of coffee, caught up on some WwF games, did some reading. The Wife came down and chatted for a bit before her morning regimen of phone calls began. I finally headed out the door to start my day.

The weed wacking went off without a hitch. I was done with it in about 20 minutes. Then I went to start the mower.

No dice.

I noticed fuel was spitting out of the muffler. I took it to a spot where I didn’t want living things and tipped the mower up. Gas drizzled out of the muffler. Not good. Not good at all. I tried a few more times and the mower started. Maybe running it would act to clean out whatever was causing the problem.

5 minutes later, I had my answer. Now, when I tried to pull the cord it held fast. I tried a few things I was capable of mechanically, but none of them worked.

I was pissed. The mower is less than a year old. My previous Toro never gave me problems until the final years that cause me to get a this one. That was 10 years of service without issue. This Husqvararna was letting me down big time. The grass is already 6 inches high since our current weather is perfect grass growing weather. Now, I was going to have to bring it in for repair and lose a couple more days, maybe more.

I spent the remainder of the morning draining the gas tank, since the gas continued to flood into the engine, and then finding and bringing it someplace to get it serviced. My frustration abated after I’d dropped it off. I had other things to do and started focusing on those.


The boy got off the bus from school today with his arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face. Hmmmm, perhaps things had gotten worse for him after the morning’s forgetfulness?

His sister was in a good mood. She scuttled on into the house, chirping at the dogs as she went by. I had to ask the boy 3 times to check the mail because he was so busy with his funk he didn’t hear me the first 2 times. He was walking slowly. Deliberately. The weight of his troubles squarely on his shoulders.

“You want to talk about it?” I asked. I took the mail from him.

“I forgot my notebook. I forgot my library book. I forgot my planner. I forgot my homework. I forgot my Friday folder,” he spat out. He continued staring down at the ground, dark clouds swirled around his head.

So much drama.

“So what happened?” I asked. Surely, he must have received a speech or something from a teacher or something.

“Nothing,” he said. “I just forgot all that stuff.”

“The teacher didn’t yell at you?”

NO!!

Wow.

“Kid’s didn’t make fun of you?”

NO!!

I paused for a minute. He was in a hell of him own making. He’d forgotten a bunch of stuff and the penalty had been minimal, if there’d been any at all. His anger was solely about his forgetfulness. It wasn’t like he’d had a lawnmower die on him and now had a looming repair bill, and growing grass. I decided to try and lighten his mood a bit.

“Did you get kissed by a girl?” I ask slyly.

NO!!!!” he bellowed. His eyes focused on me like lasers.

My first thought was “That was a bit defensive…” but I held my tongue and let it drop.

Someday, he’ll have different sources of frustration. Hopefully he learns how to cope better by then.

Stage 1 Complete

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I tried to find a suitable quote from A Song of Ice and Fire but was unable to do so. So, suffice it to say, this wall is complete.

By the end, even the kids wanted to help. Mostly, I think, because they were able to climb up onto the top of it and “play.” I had them grading the backfilled area. If nothing else, it was an initial active load test to make sure the wall is solid. It seems to have passed with flying colors.

Next up, the other side of the house, where the next wall awaits. That one won’t be as high as this, but it will have more curves and, I think, be a little longer. I’ll enjoy this one for a day or so before starting the next one.

A Statement of the Obvious

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We were supposed to go camping for Memorial Day weekend, but the weather has been too uncooperative. We can deal with rain and we can deal with cold, but both at the same time while with the kids wasn’t happening. The main point of the camping is, well, the camping- meaning outdoors, campfires and relaxing. Huddled, shivering in a tent with kids complaining about being bored is know way to suffer through a weekend. Unless it’s Hell.

So we let the kids sleep in our basement last night. They setup a small play tent and their sleeping bags and camped out in the basement. They went to bed late and started kibitzing. Shortly thereafter, they were talking, burping, farting and laughing. Anything but sleeping. Since our basement door is right next to the family room, we got to listen to it all.

The Wife was smart and went to bed early. I stayed up a bit later, listening to the antics going on downstairs. Finally, around 10:30 I gave up on them and started getting ready to head up to sleep myself.

Which was when the boy padded up the stairs and made what, given the circumstances, is a top 10’er for him.

“Dad, I can’t sleep because my sister keeps talking.”

Let’s just say, I was speechless.

Wall Updates

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The latest status on the wall. It’s taken shape nicely. I’ve got about another foot to go at the house side and I’ll taper it into the lower side as it comes around. Stone wall building is definitely a discipline where focusing on the details can get you in trouble.

The probably deserves a bit more exposition. Details are important in every project. In fact, the details make the difference between a successful project and an unsuccessful project. The trick is knowing which details are important.

In the case of stone wall building, I think a natural detail to pay attention to are the joints between rocks. This details lends to hunting for only stones of a certain size, shape and flatness. The problem is, those particular sorts of stones, at least in my project, are rare.

It turns out the more important detail to pay attention to is how it sets on the wall. The shape is almost completely irrelevant because other rocks can be used to build around the odd shape. Take a look at the picture closely and there are quite a few odd shape rocks. They end up being an accent, even though the rocks around them don’t necessarily fit exactly. In fact, the overall effect of the varying rock sizes and shapes, along with the gaps (assuming they aren’t completely egregious) makes for and overall nicer look.

The back filling has been moving along as well. I don’t think I have to worry about collapses so much anymore. I’m using landscape cloth over the stone filler to keep the dirt and sand from filtering down into the stone. That should help with drainage over the life of the wall. Which better be very long.

Just for the stone, I’ve moved about 12 tons of material I figure. I’ve gone through better than half wall stone and 5 tons of the 3/4 inch stuff. Still got a few tons to go as well. Then it’s on to the stage 2.

Success!

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So this is the basic rocket that my Scouts built. The main tube is 12 inches, the fins are just cardboard and probably 4 inches long. They’re attached with hot glue, as are the pieces of straw which serve to guide it up the pole during launch.

And that’s what I’ve been nervous about. Would the available engines successfully lift the rocket?

When I first embarked on this, I considered it a non-issue because I was going to use a D size engine, which has plenty of lifting power. The problem is that the inner diameter of the main tube is not big enough to accept a D size engine. Rather, I have to resort to a C or B size engine. Thus, the set screws at the bottom to hold the engine in place.

I first started getting concerned when I noted how much lighter the boy’s kit based rocket is than the PVC versions. So I decided to weigh one of the PVC rockets and it comes in at 4.5 ounces. Looking at the chart, the maximum recommended liftoff weight is 4.5 ounces for a B6-2 engine. There are a bunch rated for 4 ounces. Making things worse, the 4.5 ounce weight did not include whatever engine I’d be putting in there.

I searched on the Web for something to give me some reassurance, but came up with nothing. In the end, I decided I was going to have to test it out. So this morning, I took the rocket and the boy’s launch pad and went out to where we’ll be launching these things from. In all, it took me about 5 minutes to setup. Thankfully, the place was empty as well.

I’m happy to report that the weakest engine I had, a B6-4 successfully lifted it off. Unfortunately, the parachute system didn’t deploy, but I can live with that. The rocket went up about 75-100 feet or so, traced a nice arc through the air and then buried itself about 3 inches into the ground on impact.

So the boys should have a good time shooting them off next week.

Homework

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The boy had a miserable time with homework this week. He hasn’t melted down quite like he did in a long while. Tears and crying that he couldn’t do it, it was too hard, it was stupid. The Wife and I were finally able to convince him to walk away long enough for him to calm down.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that shortly after that, he was able to finish his homework.

while he was suffering through it all, I realized this was the first time where I sympathized with him. There are times when a child breaks down in tears and my first thought is “This kid is trying to manipulate the situation.” That’s one of those survival instinct residuals from their infancy. When they needed something then, they cried. We parents try to wean them of that behavior as they mature. Who knows how long it takes.

This episode struck me as sincere. Not in the sense that he couldn’t do it, but in the sense that he was really struggling. He was putting effort into the work and it was frustrating him that he couldn’t finish it. Then, the frustration overwhelmed his still meager coping skills and he did the only thing left for a 9-year old when everything seems hopeless: cry.

The Shotgun Wars- A Hollow Victory

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I’d intended to blog about this the day of but, you know, life. Unfortunately, the result is I’m fuzzy on the details. I do remember the punchline though, so I’ll do my best.

The boy had woken up with a case of the runs. Not runs as in his “drawers”, rather runs as in “couldn’t stop running his mouth.” It typically manifests as a nearly endless series of verbal jabs at his sister on everything from the way she prepares her breakfast to her general existence. In extreme circumstances, he’ll get a tad physical with her as well. Usually that happens when she tunes out his verbal diarrhea. When he’s like that, he can’t stand not being acknowledged. Nothing too bad, kid’s stuff like blocking her from the refrigerator or taking “her” spot on the couch or out wrestling her for the remote.

It’s enough to tick me off though.

So after a steady stream of his antics coupled with my pushback, which increased disproportionately to his own efforts, he was in full retreat and had turned into a whiny mess. His sister never made any mistakes. She always gets all the breaks. She’s an evil-genius capable of manipulating probability fields such that he’s the one that gets in trouble.

Do I need to say “blah blah blah”?

So it was that, when it was time to head off to school, his sister was out the door like a shot. I’m guessing the chance to experience a few moments of quiet were part of the motivation. I envied her at the time. The boy was whining more now about how he had to turn off the TV and whatever other frustrations he had.

I followed him out the door and noticed that his feet had barely hit the sidewalk when he broke into a sprint for the car. He flung open the front-passenger door and dramatically dove into the car, slamming the door shut behind him. It all happened so fast I’d barely had time to stop and witness it.

Upon closer examination, I realized that his sister had been hiding in the back seat. He must have noticed that the shotgun position was available, thus the maniacal effort to obtain it.

I got to the car, climbed in and started up the driveway to bring them to school. I then asked the lass what was up. Why was she sitting in the back?

Her reply had to be like a stiletto between the ribs to the boy: “He was whining so much this morning that I let him have the front seat. I didn’t want to listen to him whine about the front seat.”

Almost Too Tired to Post

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The weekend has been exceptionally busy for me. Saturday basically started with me digging. I had to complete the excavation portion of the wall project because it was too difficult for me to find stone to fit in the few spots I had to work with. I couldn’t extend the wall further because excavation and refilling hadn’t bee completed. Thus, Saturday became that day.

That only took me about 4 hours of digging and then filling with rip-rap and then the small stone. By the time I’d complete that I only had a couple of hours to work on actually building it.

Because the lass had a softball game I had to go coach/pitch/work. The hard part was I wasn’t even sure she would have a game because I hadn’t received any confirmation from the Woodstock coach. I finally did get confirmation when I arrived at our field and he flagged me down to tell me that his girls would be ready to play.

Two hours later, the game was over and I was helping to prep the field for a Minor League Softball game. Then, it was back home to have some dinner and try to relax. Except the boy was having a slumber party with 2 of his buddies. Anyone who has had sleepovers knows there is no relaxing for the host family. The other families tend to sleep well though.

Today was more work on the wall, actual building this time around. I worked on that from 9 until 3:30 or so and then had to figure out a mounting scheme for the engines in the home made model rockets I did with my Cub Scout Den. Just when I though I was done, I remembered I had to go tutor high school chemistry at 8.

The good is I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the wall and hope to make more tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m going to run out of filling stone, so that will hold me up for a day or so. The bad is there’s a lot more to go.

Movies and Killing

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We were listening to Pandora Radio this afternoon. The Wife was on the way home, dinner was marinating on the counter and the kids were playing World of Goo on my Nook. More on that in another post. Pandora changed songs and the soundtrack from Gladiator started to play.

For whatever reason, the boy noted the music and then looked at the artwork floating on the screen. We listen to Pandora through Tivo and they put up a graphic of the cover art for the album and it floats around the screen. The kids like to check it out. He noted the word “Gladiator” and asked me about it. I told him it was a movie, but not one he could watch.

“Because it has a lot of killing in it?” he asked.

“Yeah, that’s part of if.”

“Ah man. Killing in movies is cool.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. My tone remained neutral. I was genuinely curious as to where this would go. I knew if I came on too strong, he’d clam up and get defensive.

“I don’t know. Killing wouldn’t be cool in real life, but in movies it’s cool the way the do it.”

Interesting. Without any prompting he distinguished between reality and fantasy. Now, I was actually curious about something else- perhaps he was ready for a movie like Gladiator?

“Why do you think killing in movies is cool?”

“I don’t know,” he answered and started to fidget. He was getting a little defensive.

“Well, what movies have you seen with killing that make you say it’s cool?” Off the top of my head, the only movie I could think of was Avengers. I was having a tough time thinking of any other movies he’d seen like that.

Avengers,” he started “and that other one…” He was trying to remember. Nothing came to my mind. Then he blurted out “Oh, the one we just saw… Les Mis.”

Ah yes, Les Miserables. We’d let the kids stay up and start watching it one Saturday night, not expecting either of them to watch the whole thing. The lass didn’t make it, but the boy did. He was particularly interested in the battle scenes towards the end of the film.

Thinking about it, I realized he was likely swept up by the emotion of the movie. The singing and the music are very powerful in Les Miserables, even if the lyrics are a bit beyond his understanding. The fighting and death likely seemed glamorous because of the skillful portrayal done by the movie. Plus, as he’d alluded to earlier, he understood no one was really dieing so there was no consequence, no sense of loss.

I then went into an abbreviated discussion of what Gladiator was about. Explaining the basic plot, without getting into too much detail. I also talked about the violence in the movie, how it was all hand-to-hand with swords and shields. He was perplexed that there were no guns or explosions in the movie. At one point, he wondered why they didn’t just use gas. I had to keep explaining that the story took place at a point in time where there was no gas or other explosive technology.

By the end of the discussion, I was convinced he wasn’t ready to watch it yet. It’s one thing if he could pick up on the themes involved in such a story. It’s another to just be swept up by the emotion brought out by a film. Some other time.

Meanwhile, Back on the Wall…

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Alright, that post title is deliberately trolling George RR Martin fans. And if you don’t get that reference, well, it wasn’t meant for you.

I should have known that moving all that earth and stone was going to cost me. My whole body has been hurting for the past couple of days. Shoveling out several yards of earth by hand and by wheelbarrow is not for the faint of heart. Literally- don’t do this stuff if you have a heart condition. Now that I’ve started moving rocks around for the wall, my forearms ache. Plus the blisters.

So this is the progress so far. I’m not sure if I should be pleased or not. On the one hand, that represents 3 days worth of work. On the other hand, the first day I only got to work on stacking rocks for a couple of hours, and yesterday for about 45 minutes. Today, I got another couple of hours worth of work into it. So from that standpoint, it’s not too bad. Still, days are ticking away.

The second picture shows my general tact for buttressing the wall against collapse. I’m back filling with large stone right now for weight purposes, and filling the gaps with the smaller three-quarter inch stuff. As I get a bit higher, it’ll start to narrow up since there will be less weight pushing against it up there. The big rocks should provide stability, the little rocks drainage as well as locking everything together.

That’s the idea anyway.

I’d intended to spend the day working on the wall. Life conspired against me to a degree though. First, there was the trip to the grocery store, 90 minutes gone. Then, I had made arrangements to get new tires for our car, so I went to take care of that. Another 90 minutes, gone. Next up, the sidelights for our front door needed to be painted. It’s a small paint job, so I figured I could bang it out in a few minutes. After 10 minutes, I realized I’d underestimated the time because it’s all cut-in work. Chalk up an hour there. Throw in whatever other random odds and ends needed attending like dogs, laundry, lunch, phone calls, email and it’s almost 1 o’clock. In 2 hours, I have to pick up the kids from school and then my evening starts. So I got my couple of hours worth done on the wall, which was actually more like 90 minutes since I stopped so I could squeak a shower in.

Then the shuttling began. Pickup the kids from school, bring them home. Listen to them fight. Remind them they have to get ready. NOW. Listen to more fighting. Remind them again. WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE. The lass can’t find her dance stuff. THERE it is, at the bottom of a load of laundry. WTF!?! How do they have that much laundry? Go start a load while they finish getting ready. Finally get them in the car and off we go. Get the obligatory “What are we having for dinner?” question. I threaten them with chicken.

Drop off the boy at martial arts, continue on with the lass to dance class. Stop at dance class long enough to see her class start, then off to wait on the boy. Stop and gas up the car along the way. Wait at martial arts class for 30 minutes, then back to the dance school. Wait 40 minutes for her to finish up. It’s 6 o’clock. The boy has homework to complete and I never got anything going for dinner. Probably my biggest shortcoming on the at-home-parenting qualification list. So we stop at Wendy’s.

Now we arrive home. We eat our gourmet meals. Feed the dogs, feed the birds. The boy has to finish his homework. The lass has to practice her “easy” spelling words. I go do the laundry shuffle (washing machine to dryer), then I have to put a second coat on the sidelights (remember those?)

CRAP! The boy’s birthday is this weekend and he wants to bring brownies into his class tomorrow. Start the brownies. Time for bed- for the kids. Get them to bed, then it’s back down to fold laundry.

Finally, sit down. Eat a quart of ice cream. Sit down, type a blog post. With lots of typos. Proofread.

What did you do today?

Climate Change

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Pretty sure this isn’t what was meant by “climate change.” However, this is the first time I can ever recall a frost this late in May since I’ve been in New England. Just sayin’.

I Rock

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The beginning of phase one of the patio project has, uh, begun.

The idea is pretty simple. We’ve got a lot of space under our deck that would make for a nice sitting area. Until now, it’s just been a pit. That is going to change rather drastically over the next several weeks. We’re putting in a paver patio down there.

But before I can lay any pavers, I need a couple of retaining walls. For one, they’ll increase the usable area down there because otherwise the slopes of the ground eats up a sizable portion of the available space. The other benefit of the retaining wall is it will provide a nice border to build the pavers out to.

I’ve dug the hill out here by hand. Yes, I did that with a shovel, an adz and a wheelbarrow. I’ve pull some finished level lines that aren’t visible in the picture, but I’ve dug down about 12 inches and then put a layer of rip-rap down. The edge of the wall won’t actually be lined up with the edge of my digging here, rather it’ll be back about a foot, thus why there’s a void between the edge of the digging and the rip-rap.

That’s the pile of 3/4″ stone I’ll be using to create drainage for the wall. Tomorrow’s job will be filling the hole with this stone. I’ll also be back filling the wall using some of this stone as well. Whatever it takes to keep the amount of water behind the wall to a minimum.

And here’s what the wall will be built with. That’s about 10-ton of stone. It all looks gray, but there’s actually quite a bit of color in it- orange and red to be exact. Some of those rocks go about 150, maybe 200 pounds. Those are the ones I’ll want to get things started with. Best eat my Wheaties tomorrow for breakfast.

Oh, and the digging isn’t done yet. It’s just done enough that I can start laying some wall now. The wall is going to continue out from under the deck and create a semi-circle going up the little hill there. The Wife can do some more planting or something there when it’s done.

Karma

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The scream that came from the upstairs was an other-worldly cry of anguish. A passerby could have been forgiven for thinking some horrible act of torture had been perpetrated. Dog #1 got up and started pacing around, panting- a sign of nervousness and confusion. The birds went on alert.

Unperturbed, I got up and went outside to check on the Wife and the lass, whom were busying themselves with more plantings. The Wife had a shovel full of dirt and the lass was bringing a flower to her. The lass saw me first and asked “What was that scream?”

“Well, it wasn’t me,” I responded. Clearly, things were going smoothly out here. Several pots were already filled with flowers. Next door, the neighbor was mowing his lawn.

From the second floor emanated the sound of plastic objects colliding at high-velocity.

The Wife then answered the lass’ question. “That“, she paused for emphasis, “was your brother.” She was packing some more dirt into a pot.

Wordlessly, I turned and went back into the house. I trudged up the stairs with my hands in my pockets, my head hanging forward as I prepared to deal with an enraged boy. As I approached his room, the crashing plastic noises ceased. They were replaced with stomping noises.

I turned the corner and entered his room. The boy pretended he didn’t notice. He then very deliberately and with great flourish tossed another block into the container. I didn’t need to say anything.

“I can’t get these stupid blocks to hold together. They won’t work,” he spat at me. He gestured towards the blocks that were assembled to form a wheel and axle. These aren’t normal blocks. They’re Wedgits. I won’t try to describe them here, other than to say they aren’t the normal stacking type of block. Check the link.

“You mean like that?” I questioned. There was a wheel assembly sitting there, exactly like he wanted assembled. So clearly, they could be assembled that way. Even more clearly, he’d gotten frustrated trying to accomplish the assembly and coped by screaming and throwing things. He’s 8, how else should he respond?

“Yes, they won’t go together because they hate me.”

Anthropomorphizing. The ultimate way to dodge personal responsibility. Clearly, the blocks have it in for him. Probably paying him back for all the time that’s passed since the last time he’d played with them. Wonder if they were silently taunting him the whole time? Was Woody hiding somewhere, orchestrating things?

“Here- watch,” he commanded. So I did. He huffily knelt and started grabbing the necessary parts from the basket. A wheel, an axle, the support parts. It wasn’t enough to simply reach in and pick the pieces out. He had to thrust his hand in and grab haphazardly, scattering the uninteresting pieces. In some instances, he did this two, three, four times before he finally nabbed what he was after. By God, he was going to punish those miserable pieces of plastic!

Having procured all the pieces, he muttered “Like this” as he hastily began assembling them. I didn’t even have time to tell him to “Calm down” before he’d finished. The pieces had gone together exactly in the way moments earlier he’d claimed they couldn’t.

He sat there, dumbfounded.

“Interesting…” I said and started walking out.

He’d recovered from his success now. “I know why they went together, Dad.”

“Oh? You mean other than the fact that you put them together?” I quipped.

Undaunted, he explained “They went together because you were here and they wanted to make me wrong. That’s how it always works. I always have to be wrong in front of you.”

The plastic objects still got the better of him, apparently.

Mischief Managed

2

The boy finished the third Harry Potter book today, The Prisoner of Azkaban, so he got his wish and was allowed to watch the third movie. The lass pretended this didn’t bother her, but failed miserably at it. She tried to disguise her discontent by claiming that it wasn’t fair her brother could stay up later while she couldn’t. Knowing her though, it’s as much to do with that as her brother getting to watch the movie while she can’t.

I’d forgotten how enjoyable this movie was. By that I mean, had I not read any of the books, this movie, out of the lot of them, was the most interesting and entertaining in many ways. Perhaps it was just the one that lent itself the best to being adapted to the big screen. Perhaps it was the way they manage the ending, which yes was obviously laid out by the book. Still, there are plenty of examples of the movie adaptations screwing up the source material. Somehow, they managed not to do that with The Prisoner of Azkaban. The result was a well told story on the screen.

The boy is plunging ahead with his reading. He’s already started The Goblet of Fire. He figures it will take him 2 months to read it, since it took him 1 month to read this last one and it’s half the length of TGF.

Time will tell.

Good Stuff

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Another item thanks to John Gruber.

The following video is from a commencement speech by a guy named David Foster Wallace. I’d never heard of him prior to seeing the link. Listening to the video, which is about 8 minutes long, led me to read the actual source material.

It’s well worth the read. I found the following bit interesting:

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

Highlighted portion is what I found interesting. His audience is actually actively missing the entire point of his speech. To the point he feels compelled to break in and remind them that he’s not actually ranting about “evil, SUV-driving” whatevers.

Man, college kids are dumb.

Here’s the video:

THIS IS WATER – By David Foster Wallace from The Glossary on Vimeo

Kiddom

1

The boy had just finished dinner and was in the process of pouring himself a glass of milk. He poured it well past the point of full and paused.

Then, he began a process of dribbling a little more milk into the glass, then pausing, and dribbling some more in. He was completely focused on his task and in this way, slowly brought the level of the milk up to the edge of the glass.

But he still wasn’t done. Once he had the milk close, he squatted down and eyed the level of milk compared to the edge of the glass. Not satisfied with the current circumstances, he dribbled more milk into the glass. He repeated this process several times before he was satisfied.

It wasn’t until then that he finally looked over at me. It was almost like he had only just realized I was there, watching. He gave me a goofy grin and shrugged his shoulders and kind of half-pointed at the glass. I didn’t say anything, although I did smirk. Then, he leaned over the glass and attempted to slurp some milk out of the glass.

And promptly dribbled the milk down his chin and onto the counter.

I remained silent in my spot. He rolled his eyes over to look at me, his head frozen over the glass. He had a “hand in the cookie” jar kind of face, then gave a small laugh. He wiped his chin with a dish towel and then turned to the cabinet and began rooting around. He pulled out a plastic straw.

After inspecting the straw for … something … and deeming it worthy, he took it in his mouth and hovered it over the glass. To accomplish this feat, he braced himself with both hands on the edge of the counter, stood up on his toes, then craned his neck out. Once in position, he slowly lowered the straw down until it just touched the top of the milk. Then he started slurping. He took the level down enough so that he could safely move the glass without further spillage and then cleaned up the spilt milk.

Having cleaned things up, he returned to the straw and drew a length of milk out, then pulled the straw out of the glass, put his finger on the end and withdrew it from his mouth. The milk remained suspended in the straw. He stood there, shaking the straw above his glass of milk trying to see if anything would come out of the straw. At some point his finger must have slipped and the milk came pouring out. Half of it went on the counter, the other half into the glass.

He looked over at me immediately. His hand with the straw remained hovering over the glass, frozen where the straw had emptied. He smiled again. A big teethy, wide-eyed cartoon grin and threw in an “Aw shucks” shrug. I remained silent, a smirk still on my face.

Returning his attention to the glass, he dropped the straw into the milk mechanically- simply releasing it from his fingers while his hand remained where it had been. He remained frozen like that for a moment, staring at the glass, hand hovering over the it, unmoving. He considered things for another second or two after it plopped into the milk, then he grabbed the dish towel and wiped up the spilt milk.

Apparently deciding the game was done, he took the milk and sucked it down through the straw in three gulps. Then, he placed the glass and straw in the sink, and headed off for the next thing.

Who knew a glass of milk could provide such amusement?

Wine Tasting- The Science is Settled

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Here’s a hilarious look at wine tasting, and the fact that it’s a bunch of crap. With science to back it up!

After siting a study by MIT behavioral scientist Coco Krume on how the price of wine affects the words used to review it, comes this gem:

Using her scientific metric, Krume goes on to create the most expensive-sounding wine review ever penned: “A velvety chocolate texture and enticingly layered, yet creamy, nose, this wine abounds with focused cassis and a silky ruby finish. Lush, elegant, and nuanced. Pair with pork and shellfish.” If that sentence made you yearn for a glass of classy red, congratulations, there’s a very real chance you’re a pompous asshole.

All I can add is she forgot “oaky.”

Do go read the whole thing.

(hattip: John Gruber)

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