Archive for July, 2013

A Letter for the Boy

1

I handed the letter to the boy and he was initially excited. He figured it was from his martial arts instructors congratulating him on his latest belt advancement. So I pointed out the return address area on the envelope and he immediately became more subdued.

It was from the school.

But mail is mail, especially when you’re 9 so he ripped it open with some enthusiasm and pulled out the contents. Two sheets of paper. One had a list of the other students in his class. The other was a letter from his teacher.

At first, he was upset because there are 9 girls in his class, which is apparently 9 too many. “My WHOLE class is girls!” he claimed. I pointed out that the 8 other boys in his class would probably disagree with his assessment. After doing the math, he still felt it was 9 too many girls in the class. But he wasn’t as upset anymore.

Then he read through the letter, which was just a quick intro of his teacher as well as some of the topics they’d be covering this year- more math, more reading, more writing, book reports, physics (well- studying motion anyway) and a couple of neat field trips. He wasn’t excited about the reading, the writing, or the math. He thought the physics (motion!) stuff might be interesting, but then went into a rant about how it would probably be “babyish.”

After a few more moments reflection, he declared “I think I know why I hate school. It’s too slow for me.”

I almost choked on the air I breathed in.

I’ll have to remember this one when that first book report comes due and he’s whining at me “I CAN’T DO IT! IT’S TOO HARRRRRRRRRRRRD!”

Patio Pix

4

When this whole thing is done, I’ll have to put a page together showing the various stages of progress. As originally envisioned, the project is complete. However, due to realities on the ground, I have a final stage to complete- construction of a small retaining wall around the pool. Once that’s completed and then filled with river rock around the pool, everything will be done.

Minor Twitget Improvement

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I noticed today that the Twitter feed over there was not displaying my tweets properly. Specifically, any links are displayed using the t.co URL structure which Twitter uses. I’d fixed this once before for the old feed, I figured it was worth investigating to see if I could fix it in the new one.

As it happens, the modification is pretty trivial, with only a few lines of code added in 1 source file.

The file to modify is twitget.php. Start by changing the function process_links to look like the following:

function process_links($text, $new, $urls) {
    if($new) {
        $linkmarkup = '<a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href="';
        $text = preg_replace('/@(\w+)/', '<a href="http://twitter.com/$1" target="_blank">@$1</a>', $text);
        $text = preg_replace('/\s#(\w+)/', '<a href="http://twitter.com/search?q=%23$1&src=hash" target="_blank">#$1</a>', $text);
    }
    else {
        $linkmarkup = '<a rel="nofollow" href="';
        $text = preg_replace('/@(\w+)/', '<a href="http://twitter.com/$1">@$1</a>', $text);
        $text = preg_replace('/\s#(\w+)/', '<a href="http://twitter.com/search?q=%23$1&src=hash">#$1</a>', $text);              
    }
    if (!empty($urls))
        foreach($urls as $url){
            $find = $url['url'];
            $replace = $linkmarkup.$find.'">'.$url['expanded_url'].'</a>';
            $text = str_replace($find, $replace, $text);
        }
    return $text;
}

Here, we’ve added the argument $urls, which will come from the entities field of the tweet data. This data is used to create the appropriate anchor markup, in the foreach loop. The actual link URL is maintained, while the display URL is changed to the expanded_url field supplied by the entities information. Note I’ve also modified the replacement string for hashtag searches, adding &src=hash to the href attribute in the achor tag.

Now we need to add the entity data to the function calls. Search for the process_links function within the file. There were only two instances of it used in my version. Add the third parameter to the function calls as follows:

$link_processed = process_links($whole_tweet, $options['links_new_window'], $tweet['entities']['urls'])

That third parameter should be added to every invocation of process_links. That provides the URL information to make our earlier changes work.

That’s it. Save the file and Tweets should now display the proper link text, while still linking to the t.co URL’s as specified by Twitter’s guidelines.

YIKES!

4

For purposes of scale, the deck board the hive is attached to is a standard 1×6 PT decking board.

Pavers Done

2

Polymeric sand.

In two words, that was my problem with finishing the pavers. That’s the short explanation. The long explanation is … considerably longer. And follows.

First, a quick education. Polymeric sand is special sand with an acrylic polymer that when exposed to moisture, activates and forms a pliable matrix, essentially making the sand a solid mass. A simpler explanation is that polymerized sand is to pavers what grout is to tile.

Polymerized sand is highly sensitive to moisture. There doesn’t need to be a steady stream or puddle of water, just dampness in the pavers is enough to activate the polymer.

So, yesterday was a beautiful day. Sunny with a few clouds with reasonable humidity levels. Unfortunately, it followed a couple of days of heavy persistent rain. The pavers were soaked. A fact that was made quite clear over the course of the 13 hours I spent working on them yesterday. For giggles, I’ll note that I was told it would only take a few hours to get complete the sand portion of the project. If only.

The pavers next to the pool dried first, a not inconsiderable amount of area, so that’s where I began spreading sand. I assumed that the rest of the pavers would dry out as I worked. I was only partially right. More pavers did dry out, but only those that saw persistent Sun. The pavers sheltered by the deck continued to linger with their dampness.

I started around 9AM. I put all the edging around the exposed portions of the paver edges. I then started sanding the area next to the pool, which was exposed to a steady diet of Sun and very dry. As I worked my way along, more of the pavers dried, but spotty patches of dampness still remained. With the rep’s warning that “Make sure it is ABSOLUTELY dry before spreading this sand…” echoing in my mind, I decided to try spreading it over a small area where there were a couple of damp spots. Just the dampness was enough to activate it. So I was stuck at that point.

I decided to compact the area that I’d done. I worked through it, hoping in the meantime the remaining damp areas would dry out. I started running a fan over those areas around 1 o’clock. It helped, but there was still a lot of dampness. Around 5 o’clock, I decided it was time to take more drastic action.

I pulled out a hair dryer and went to work.

It worked, but now time was against me, as well as a number of other factors. I still needed to finish spreading the product, compact it, re-spread it, re-compact, finish spread and then wet it. I now only a couple hours or so until I had no sunlight. Trying to think ahead, I checked the weather and our local forecast was showing the possibility of a thunderstorm in the early morning. With the humidity, I also started thinking that morning dew would screw me up.

In short, all the factors I could think of lead me to believe I had to finish it last night. So I continued working.

One thing about spreading sand over pavers that is hard to appreciate is the film that coats the pavers. The instructions on the bag and my inexperience with the product led me to believe I needed to clean the pavers thoroughly. I could never completely remove that haze from them though and finally, around 9:30 last night having filled, compacted and swept it several times over, I decided it was time to start wetting and hope I could wash the sand off.

By that time, I was working by flashlight. I had a porch light to help, but none of it was enough to really allow me to see the state the pavers were in. Making matter more difficult, the acrylic caused a foaming in the water which would have made it difficult to see the sand in good lighting conditions, let alone what I was dealing with.

By the time I’d finished wetting the pavers, it was almost 11 o’clock. I could still feel the grit under my shoes. But there was nothing more I could do. I couldn’t see the grit and couldn’t tell if I was actually moving it or not. Exhausted and sore, I finally wrapped things up for the night. Thus, my disappointed posting from last night.

A slight tanget- polymerized sand really sucks. I mean really sucks. The clouds of it from sweeping stick to sweaty clothes and skin. It goes up your nose and creates weird boogers. It gets in your hair and acts like a nasty mousse. There is literally a layer of muck on you after working with it.

This morning, I woke up and came down around 6:30 to see what kind of mess I had to deal with. As I’d suspected, I still had tons of sand and grit on the pavers surfaces. Also, as I’d suspected, it looked awful. Pavers that had dried had a haze that completed obscured their real color pattern.

I wasn’t without luck though. The overnight humidity had kept the pavers drying and sand from setting completely and I quickly figured out I could still clean the pavers using one of the spray settings on the hose nozzle. So I set to work with that job.

It was slow.

I essentially had to go paver course by paver course, washing each paver and pushing the sand down slope. About halfway, I had accumulated so much extra sand that I was having difficulty pushing it with the water from the hose. I then had to resort to a combination of sweeping it with a rubber broom and pushing it with the hose water.

The process was tedious, but it yielded results. I was able to walk on the pavers without feeling the grit under my feet nor the tackiness from the acrylic material. It ended up taking me several more hours and repetitions of sweeping, but I finally finished up earlier this afternoon. Pavers that have dried now look proper, without the haze from the acrylic. I’m not completely happy with the edges by the walls, but there’s only so much I can do there. Water tends to pool and it’s difficult to get the sand to flow away from those spots.

It never did rain this morning. Knowing that might have saved me a lot of work last night, but I wasn’t willing to gamble. Probably due to impaired judgment from breathing polymerized sand. Ironically, letting the sand sit wet for several hours overnight seemed to work in my favor. The surface sand could still be removed, but not at the expense of the joints that I wanted filled, so I was able to avoid gouging the sanded joints.

Whatever mistakes I made, the main thing is I was able to make it work and satisfactorily complete the project. Last night, I was concerned I might have to redo the sanding. Tonight, I’ll rest easy knowing I’m all done. A pleasant change of circumstance. I’ll post pictures when things have dried out a bit more.

Pavers Done?

1

I just finished up about 30 minutes ago after a marathon effort to get the sand in before tomorrow.  I’m too tired go explain why right now.  I’m also apprehensive about the sand.  I think there’s a good chance it didn’t come out right.  More after a night’s sleep.

Walking Amongst the Wealthy

0

The last couple of days gave the kids a chance to see what money can buy. Yesterday was spent in the company of the Vanderbilts. Today, we visited with the Pequots.

Visiting with the Vanderbilts up here in New England means visiting the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. They were responsible for a number of those “Summer Cottages”. In particular, we checked out The Breakers and The Marble House. The Breakers was built for Cornelius Vanderbilt, grandson of The Commodore. It is the largest of all the mansions in Newport, and it also what has to be the best view.

Amusingly, when we first got to The Breakers and started approaching, the first thing the boy said was “I thought it would be bigger.” Keep in mind, The Breakers is a 4 story mansion with 70 rooms. Upon entry through the main doors, one steps up a series of stairs and into the Great Hall, which is roughly 60 feet high, 60 feet wide and 60 feet long. To that point, one has only just begun touring the The Breakers. A two-story, 2000 square foot home could easily fit into the dining room.

After walking through the whole thing, the boy had changed his mind a bit about it’s size. His favorite room was the Dining Room. The Wife was thoroughly impressed by the kitchen, particularly the 26 foot long stove and oven. Both kids took interest in some of the various rules of the household. For instance, there no kids were allowed in the Dining Room in the Vanderbilt’s day. Similarly, no women were allowed in a game room off the Great Hall, and no men were allowed in a corner study room, also just off the Great Hall.

A couple of hours later, we drove down the road a piece to The Marble House. It too was Vanderbilt property, built for Alva Vanderbilt. Over 500,000 cubic feet of marble was used to construct it. The Marble House isn’t as impressive as The Breakers, but it’s still an astonishing building to visit.

Of the two, both kids were more impressed with The Breakers.

Having seen what old money could accomplish, today we went to the Pequot Museum. Actually, the visit had nothing to do with wealth in that regard. But it’s hard to go to the Pequot Reervation and not be impressed with what they’ve accomplished in the past 30 years or so. The museum is there to document the heritage of the Pequots as well as their climb back from near extinction. The building is an impressive structure in it’s own right, with a large glass atrium. They spared little expense in creating it. The Foxwood’s Resort is the most famous part of the reservation, but it’s far from the only part. The museum itself was large enough that we were unable to see it entirely.

We ended our trip with a ride up to the top of an observation tower at the museum. I’d say it stands about 13 stories high and provides a nice view of the countryside. The elevator ride is tough for someone with an aversion to heights- after the initial couple of floors, the shaft opens up on 3 sides so the riders can watch their own ascent. It’s … disconcerting would be one way to put it. The kids had their fun at my expense for a bit. At least I wasn’t screaming and clawing to get out.

Incidentally, when we got up to the top, I could swear I could feel that thing swaying. Just a bit. The kids spent the whole time running from one glass panel to the next, looking out and down. I stood in the center and tried to look out. No need to look down.

Reading Comprehension Fail

1

First, some quick throat clearing. This post is a bit outside my wheelhouse- I don’t typically try to call people out. That said, after reading this article and a bit of my own internal debate, I decided I could keep this pretty narrowly focused and still make my point, all without getting personal and calling people names.

So here goes.

At Outside the Beltway, a political blog one of the author’s has written an brief article related to race. Doug Mataconis analyzes an essay by Victor Davis Hanson and all but concludes Hanson is a racist. First, here’s the excerpt from Hanson’s article (the accused) that Mr. Mataconis highlights:

First, let me say that my father was a lifelong Democrat. He had helped to establish a local junior college aimed at providing vocational education for at-risk minorities, and as a hands-on administrator he found himself on some occasions in a physical altercation with a disaffected student. In middle age, he and my mother once were parking their car on a visit to San Francisco when they were suddenly surrounded by several African-American teens. When confronted with their demands, he offered to give the thieves all his cash if they would leave him and my mother alone. Thankfully they took his cash and left.

I think that experience — and others — is why he once advised me, “When you go to San Francisco, be careful if a group of black youths approaches you.” Note what he did not say to me. He did not employ language like “typical black person.” He did not advise extra caution about black women, the elderly, or the very young — or about young Asian Punjabi, or Native American males. In other words, the advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.

It was after some first-hand episodes with young African-American males that I offered a similar lecture to my own son. The advice was born out of experience rather than subjective stereotyping. When I was a graduate student living in East Palo Alto, two adult black males once tried to break through the door of my apartment — while I was in it. On a second occasion, four black males attempted to steal my bicycle — while I was on it. I could cite three more examples that more or less conform to the same apprehensions once expressed by a younger Jesse Jackson. Regrettably, I expect that my son already has his own warnings prepared to pass on to his own future children.

Here’s the relevant part of Mr. Mataconis’ analysis:

So, because Hanson’s parents had one bad experience with young black males in San Francisco and he had another in East Palo Alto some years later, he’s decided that it makes sense to teach his children to inherently distrust every young black male that they encounter. But, of course, he’s not being racist.

Here’s the problem, Mr. Hanson didn’t decided to teach his children to “inherently distrust every young black male that they encounter.” At least, not based on what he’s written in the article. Also, Mr. Hanson didn’t have one bad experience in Palo Alto, he claims to have had 5. He cites two explicitly and then goes on to state that he could cite 3 more. Those are in the third paragraph of the excerpt from Mr. Hanson’s article.

As to the other accusation, Mr. Hanson implies something much more narrow than what Mr. Mataconis accuses him of. Mr. Hanson implies, he does not provide a quote of the actual lecture to his sons, that he advised his sons to “be careful if a group of black youths approaches you.” That’s quite clearly not “every young black male they encounter.” I’ve highlighted the source quotes above.

Mr. Mataconis goes on to make some reasonable and well-worn points about race and so forth. While I generally agree with those points, his stepping off point and analysis is, I think to any rational evaluation, hyperbolic at best. If he wants to argue that Mr. Hanson shouldn’t be giving his sons advice based on Mr. Hanson’s own personal experiences in this instance, then he needs to go a lot further than he went here. If he wants to argue that Mr. Hanson is a racist, again, he needs to go a lot further than he went here. Dictionary.com defines racism as follows:

a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

Mr. Hanson pretty clearly has not gone to that length here. Frankly, I don’t see how one gets there from here without a lot of sketchy supposition.

Not Knowing

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At her new digs over at Bloomberg, Megan McArdle has penned an article about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. She concludes with the following:

Here’s my opinion of what happened on that dark night in Sanford, Florida: I don’t know. I don’t know what Zimmerman and Martin were thinking. I don’t know who said what to whom. I don’t know who threw the first punch, or why Zimmerman got out of his car, or why Martin didn’t go home.

What I know is that we find it very easy to imagine the worst of people who are not like us. And we frequently confuse our imaginations with reality.

I think this is what every political pundit that’s touched the case should have concluded as well. Ask yourself this- what good has come from all the discussion? Have we agreed on anything? Is there any law everyone agrees will benefit society? How has the “discussion” benefited the country? Does anyone even agree on what happened that night? Is everyone in comfortable that justice has been served?

I’d say that, if anything, the “discussion” has made things a little worse. Trayvon Martin is dead and his memory is being established by innuendo and armchair detective and psychology work. George Zimmerman, his family and his friends fear for their lives now that he’s been acquitted. LDP’s (Liberals/ Democrats/ Progressives) are uniformly disgusted with “Stand Your Ground” Laws. CRT (Conservative/ Republican/ Tea Partiers) are stinging from another round of being called racists and violence enabling thugs.

Worst of all, everyone is 100% convinced of their righteousness and the motivations of “the other side.” It’s been a pretty pathetic display all the way around.

Contrast that with what likely would have transpired if everyone had had the humility to conclude “You know what, I just don’t know what happened and I don’t think I’ll ever know.” I think it’s a pretty simple case we’d all be better off now.

New and Improved Twitter Widget

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I’ve been aware that my Twitter feed was not working. Twitter deprecated their original API and that pretty much killed the stock widget that my theme, Mystique, provided. I knew what need to be done to make it work again, but I never could find the time needed to sit down and work it out. Such is the life of an at-home Dad.

Thankfully, I’m not the only WordPress user out here on the Interwebs. I’m also not the only Mystique theme user. I checked in at the theme author’s web site to see if there might be anything in the works. There, I came across this forum posting. The topic title pretty much says it all.

So that lead me to Twitget which I’ve determined is a perfectly delightful little widget that does exactly what is needed. It handles the credential side of Twitter and grabs all the desired info to build a Twitter widget. Even more impressively, it provides an area within it’s settings to completely customize the look of the tweets.

I started with the coding concoction from the forum link, and then slowly molded it into the following framework:

<div class="latest-tweets">
<div class="info box clear-block">
    <div class="avatar">
        <img width="48" height="48" src="{$profile_image}" alt="{$user_real_name}" />
    </div>
    <div class="details">
        <a href="http://www.twitter.com/{$user_twitter_name}/" title="">@{$user_twitter_name}</a>
        <span class="followers"> {$follower_count} followers</span>
    </div>
</div>
<ul class="tweets box">
    {$tweets_start}
    <li class="entry first">{$tweet_text}
    <ul class="twitter_social">
        <li class="tweet_date"><a href="{$tweet_link}" rel="nofollow">{$tweet_time}</a></li>
        <li class="twitter_reply"><a title="Reply" href="{$reply_link}" rel="nofollow"></a></li>
        <li class="twitter_retweet"><a title="ReTweet" href="{$retweet_link}" rel="nofollow"></a></li>
        <li class="twitter_fav"><a title="Favorite" href="{$favorite_link}" rel="nofollow"></a></li>
    </ul>
    </li>
    {$tweets_end}
</ul>

This snippet of HTML goes in a text box within Twitget’s settings page in the blog admin area.

I also had to engage in some CSS magic to take care of the Reply, ReTweet, and Favorite buttons. Well, I call it magic since it was a first for me using the technique. Basically, I used a single PNG file with all of the necessary icons in it to generate the links, along with the hover effects. Googling “css sprites png hover” should turn up plenty of useful examples.

So a big thanks to the guys in the forum as well as Twitget’s author. This solution integrates well with Mystique and makes for easier customization as well. A solid solution all the way around.

BOO!

1

We heard the first rolls of thunder while in the pool. I glanced up and could see the sky starting to turn. It had been extremely hot and humid again to that point and the water in the pool was almost 90. It was pleasant only because it was wet. We’d been expecting thunderstorms, even looking forward to them. And here they were.

Finally.

We eventually retreated to inside the house as the thunder got louder, closer and more frequent. The sky got darker as well. The storm developed to a point of a near constant roll of thunder. No rain. The first shot of lightening happened so fast we wondered if we’d really seen it- a light blue blinked across our eyes and vanished. The thunder moments later was our only confirmation it had happened.

The waiting finally ended about 45 minutes after those first rolls of thunder. The rain came down in a heavy stream. All the water that we knew was in the air finally condensed and became visible. The temperature dropped 10 degrees seemingly in an instant.

The thunder wasn’t rolling any longer. They were loud claps. Lightening didn’t blink and vanish. It lit up the darkened sky.

The dogs were pacing, unnerved by all the noise from the rain and the thunder. The kids bounced around a bit, excited by the intensity of the storm, the lass most of all.

My opportunity came at the height of the storm. She was sitting on the edge of the couch, talking excitedly to the Wife. I could tell she was amped up because of the storm by the way she stuttered along in her speech. Her brain was sending words to her mouth faster than it could produce sound. She was worriedly asking the Wife what would happen if a certain flower broke because of the rain. Her concern for all things great and small is endearing.

I was standing two paces behind her, in her blind spot. She was staring out the window at the buckets of rain pounding down. I had just jokingly ZAPPED! the boy a few times to make him laugh, thus the idea was fresh in my mind and when I recognized the opportunity, I acted quickly.

I silently took the two steps towards her while she still faced away from me. Outside, more thunder rumbled and the rain continued to pour. I reached out with my hand and ZAP! I quickly but gently goosed her in the side while yelling.

Her reaction was instantaneous and hilarious. She screamed and jumped out of the couch, right from her sitting position to fully standing and ready for action. She’d spun 180 degrees during her jump so that she was now facing me. Her arms were out in front of her, ready to ward off potential attackers. Her eyes wide as she continued to process what had just happened.

My reaction was instantaneous: I laughed. I kept laughing even as she started chasing me into the kitchen. I laughed more as she started swatting at me playfully- expending the jolt of adrenaline she’d just received. The Wife and the boy were laughing as well now.

She was an exceedingly good sport about the whole thing. She’d been had and she knew it. After enduring her swats for a bit, I told her to settle down and she did. She walked back to the couch and got a hug of reassurance from the Wife, even though she was still chuckling at the lass.

Nothing like a good ol’ thunder storm.

Low Carb Diet Addendum

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I’d noted a few days ago that I’d changed to a low carb diet for the past year. As it happened, I had to have a physical so I could participate in a Scout camp with the boy in a few weeks. They performed some simple blood tests, including checking my cholesterol levels.

I didn’t get any numbers (frankly- they’d be meaningless to me) but I thought it worth noting that after a year of higher fat, higher protein, lower carb eating my cholesterol levels are “outstanding” with lots of good cholesterol. I also had excellent blood sugar levels and completely normal liver and kidney functions.

Ideally, I would have had something to compare against from when I started the diet change, to see if these numbers started trending in a particular direction. Even so, I think it’s encouraging that after a year, I haven’t messed myself up with a “crazy” diet.

Paving Done

0

This is the best shot I could get of the final section of pavers I’ve laid. Actually, a friend came over to help me out so I shouldn’t claim I did it all myself. With it being as hot and oppressive as it was, that’s a good friend. Thankfully, we didn’t have a lot of pavers to lay so the work didn’t take us all day, we completed it a little after lunch time.

The little inner curve will give the Wife a place to plant a bush or tree or something, while the other section gives a path for people to access the yard from the patio. The guy who helped me out actually convinced me to go this rout versus what I originally had in mind. It took us a few more pavers to complete it, but I like his result better than what I had in mind.

At this point, I have to put the retaining trim in place, then spread the sand and perform the final compaction. Almost there.

Know Where to Squeeze

1

The thing about kids is knowing where their pressure points are. Perhaps it’s a favored toy that they couldn’t bear to part with. Or maybe, it’s an early bedtime. Perhaps, it’s being forced to do chores. Whatever it is, it’s a good thing to know when dealing with unruly kids as they get older.

Because at when an adult knows that, there is no reason to scream and generally act like a crazy person. Rather, simply put a finger on that pressure point and squeeze.

Thankfully, our we know our kids’ pressure points. Yes, plural. Depending on the level of foolishness, we’ll go for the appropriate spot. Smart mouthing Mom or Dad? Early bed time. Unnecessary defiance or disrespectful behavior? Early bedtime, no video games. And so forth.

But what about the kids’ friends? They don’t live here and, really, there is no authority for a parent to punish someone else’s child. Perhaps a stern talking to, maybe even raising the voice, but we can’t take someone elses child’s video game time away, or make them go to bed early.

As it happens, I’ve discovered the best lever is the friend’s parents.

For instance, the boy has a friend sleeping over tonight. We put them all to bed a little after 9 o’clock. An hour later, they are all still down there laughing and being foolish. We let them have their fun for a bit, but their obvious fatigue is causing them all to get a short with each other. So there will be a quick bout of laughter, followed by someone whining that they just want to sleep, or they to let them have something.

In this case, I could hear the friend was wound up. It’s understandable, but they need to get some sleep so they can function tomorrow. So, I threatened him with calling his parents and having them come and get him, at which point he’d have to explain to them why he couldn’t sleep over anymore. Shortly after getting acknowledgement that he understood me, I sat down and waited.

I haven’t heard a peep since. I didn’t have to say anything to our two.

Heck YEA!

1

I’ve made my own breakfast sausage before and the results were very good. Unfortunately, the cost to do so versus the amount made makes the effort not really worth it.

I stumbled across this a couple days ago and I’m going to have to try it. Chances are, there won’t be a significant cost saving either, but just the idea of making my own bacon is to appealing to not give it a try.

Old Meets New

1

On the left is a more recent Tamiya Plasma Edge R/C car that the boy got for his birthday. It’s comes as an unassembled kit. The boy worked on it for about a week with some help from me, of course. The car has been runnable for a couple months now, but we just got the paint job done yesterday.

On the right is a 25 year old RC10. Technically, my brother built it. I say technically because I also had an identical kit of my own that I built up. When we told my parents their grandson had a tenth scale R/C car of his own now, they pulled out all the old R/C equipment from when my brother and I had used them. My R/C car was in a massive state of disassembly. My brother had scavenged parts from my car over the years to keep his running. So to my way of thinking, this one is 50% mine. Plus, it’s my blog…

As far as rewarding projects go, it’s hard to top an R/C car like this one. It’s 4WD and out of the box, tops out at about 25 MPH. I’d say it’s better than building a model car because the whole point of assembling this one is getting to run it around when assembly is completed. The boy has been particularly proud of the fact that he assembled so much of it one his own. Really, the only thing I did was tighten screws and check his progress along the way. It really was his project, as I intended it.

Frankly, I’m kinda proud of myself for managing to stick to that last part.

Yesterday, we finished the paint job. The boy had picked out that blue color. I masked off the windows with tape, and he painted the black for the windows while I did the initial coat of the blue. I explained that the coat had to be light because otherwise, the paint would run under the tape edges and it wouldn’t look good. After the first coat setup, he took care of the rest.

The rest of the look are stickers that came with the kit. Again, the boy took care of putting those on. I helped a bit with a couple of the longer ones so there were no bubbles or puckers in the stickers. Nothing like a pucker to ruin a nice sticker job.

When he’d finished and reassembled it, he just sat there, staring at the car. He said “I can’t believe I made that. It looks like something I bought from a store.”

That brought a smile. He’d experienced the pleasure and pride in a job well done. That’s something I hope he becomes very familiar with.

A Year of Low Carb

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About a year ago now, I started on a low carb diet. There were a number of factors that lead me to that point. Ironically, none of them had anything to do with my weight or fitness level. First, I got curious about Gary Taubes’ book Why We Get Fat so I read it. The book is a well written essay about the benefits of a low carb diet. I did some subsequent research, scouring the internet for Taubes’ critics and I found that critics fell into 1 of 2 catagories: the ones who called him a flaming idiot and the ones who disagreed with his science in an uber-technical way (these were essentially scientists or food researchers.) I took this to mean he probably had stumbled across something good.

I also knew people who’d gone on the Atkin’s Diet and swore by its results for cutting weight and, in particular, fat. So I’ll admit I was somewhat predisposed to Taubes’ thesis.

As for further reasons, the Wife was looking for a way to drop some weight at the time as well and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt for me to drop a couple of pounds as well. Having read Taubes’ book, it also seemed like there were other potential health benefits, so we started the shift.

Since then, I’ve basically all but stopped eating bread of any sort. No more bagels in the mornings, no more breakfast sandwiches, no more sandwiches in general. Further, we stopped eating potato and any of it’s variants and we stopped eating pasta.

Ironically, it was stopping eating those 3 food types that made me realize how much of them I ate in the first place.

The other part of Taubes’ advice is to cut out carbs from sugars- so no more soda or candy. But this particular piece of criteria was a real killer because there are some things that everyone associates with “healthy” that doesn’t cut it. Yogurt would be one example. Many fruits like bananas and pineapple are also no-nos because of all the sugars. Even carrots don’t pass muster because of the sugars. Fruit juices? Nope. Not even OJ.

So, in the end, what I did eat was eggs, meats (of any sort), greens and leafy greens and other vegetables and nuts. Even though strictly speaking, milk doesn’t satisfy Taubesian criteria, I refused to part ways with it. I figured the rest should be more than enough to get an idea.

The tale of the tape is that I lost 10 pounds. That may not sound like a lot, but I’d basically been 245 for years. Exercise was not enough to get me below that weight for any extended time- it was my mean that I always came back to whenever I fluctuated away from it. After the first 2 months, I dropped down to 235 and that’s basically where I’ve been without any other changes to my lifestyle. I will say that of late, I’ve been more consistently around 235 whereas after those first couple of months, I bounced between 235 and 240. This tells me that the diet continues to work, but at a slower pace.

I’ve also eased up on some of the restrictions. I still don’t eat bread, but I allow myself potato in some form or another a few times a month. I’ve also introduced fruits that initially didn’t pass muster. Truth be told, the one other thing I refused to give up was my ice cream, especially the late-night-before-going-to-bed variety.

To whatever extent the diet change can be considered a success, I attribute it almost entirely to a rebalancing of my diet. I’d never realized how many carbs I consumed prior to this diet. Between pasta, pizza, bread and potatoes I was eating one of those things at every meal every day. I now look back and wonder how I wasn’t bigger.

Early on, the one trick to the diet I had to figure out was learning to eat more portions of meat to satisfy my hunger. For instance, with the bread gone, when we had hamburgers I started eating 3 burger patties, with whatever dressings deemed appropriate as well. For breakfast, I eat 4 eggs and 4 sausage patties, whereas before I might eat 2 or three eggs on occasion with a couple of sausage patties.

The one thing I want to mention before wrapping this up is one thing that Taubes mentions very briefly in his book that can happen as a result of going on this diet: muscle cramps. I suffered some of the worst leg cramps in my life over the course of the past year. Including one in my inner thigh that woke me up in the middle of the night that I couldn’t get to stop. I tried for a couple of seconds to make it stop and finally resolved to just lie there and take it- it was excruciating. It raised a bruise on my leg several days later. Generally, until the past month-and-a-half or so, I was subject to cramping at any time, most particularly after any kind of strenuous activity. I’m not sure why the cramping has finally let up, but it’s been a relief. Perhaps some aspect of my body chemistry had to adjust to the lack of steady carbs and the cramping was a side effect. So with all that said, consider that fair warning.

As I said, I’ve now adjusted my diet to slightly increase my carb intake. I’ll on occasion eat a normal sandwich with bread or even have a pizza or an occasional pasta dinner. Generally not more than once a week. My goal was never to cut weight for the sake of cutting weight, it was to try something that might be a healthier way to eat than what I’d previously thought. Having done it for a year, I can say I felt good, with the notable exception of the cramps. But I didn’t consider those enough to make me stop and the fact that they seem to have abated at this point makes me think I was basically right. I was never overly tired and never felt like crap because of what I was, or wasn’t, eating.

Based on all that, I’ll be continuing the diet as I’ve structured it now. If it continues to be smooth sailing like it has been so far, I expect it won’t be a diet for me anymore. It will just be the way I eat.

Unfairly Maligned

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So I had a minor, very minor, kerfluffle with the boy last night. He was playing video games prior to bed time. The Wife had given him a 10 minute warning, or whatever. In the meantime, the lass had headed to bed and the boy remained downstairs. His 10 minutes came and went. The Wife was still upstairs, so I stepped in.

I called down to him that it was time to go to bed and to turn off the games. A not unimportant tidbit, he’d already been playing for a good portion of the day.

The whole thing should have been done right there. All he had to do was acknowledge he’d heard me and start shutting things down. Instead, he snapped at me with an impertinence I found completely unacceptable. So I yelled at him, which he didn’t appreciate. Further, he tried to turn things on their head by claiming I yelled at him because he was still playing games. He even tried to “tell” on me, enlisting the support of his mother. I corrected his misleading statement, and reiterated there would have been no yelling if he’d hadn’t snapped at me in the first place. At that point, he was in bed and I figured the whole thing was done.

Until this evening, when he was again given a 10 minute warning by the Wife. At which point, he asked her to be sure to tell me so I wouldn’t start yelling at him again.

I’m now a victim of historical revisionism. Apparently, in his mind, I went storming down there last night yelling and screaming all because he was playing video games. He wasn’t impertinent, merely an undeserving victim of Dad’s temper.

The Pool

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The Wife has beaten me to the punch by posting pictures on Facebook. But, I was doing this before she was on Facebook so it’s not official until it appears here. So, without any further ado, our new pool:

The boy was the first to get in the pool. The lass and I joined him for a bit as well. We ended up waiting all day because with the pool going in, I have more work to do:

I spent a good part of the morning and early afternoon putting all those in. It’s a slow process since I can’t really spread the sand and skreet it all at once. I have to spread the sand as I go, so I can only get a couple of pavers down at a time before I have to work the next section of sand. Plus, I’m putting slight grade so water won’t run or puddle next to the pool so that makes it a little trickier.

I’d hinted in a prior posted about changes to the patio design, the stone wall being the subject of that post. These are a further part of those changes. My original idea for the contour of the patio really didn’t work well with the pool in, so I’m putting the extra pallet of pavers to good use. I’ll probably have to get more to complete it. The question is, how many?

So the timeline for completion gets shifted out a bit more. If I have to order more pavers, that’ll be longer yet. But I’ve got a plan in mind to make sure I have no extras, I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out.

First Bloom

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Early this year. Neither of my other two are anywhere near blooming. Sadly, my Yellow Desert Rose kicked the bucket in the early Spring so I’m down one from last year. Good to see this one is going strong.

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