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Friday, November 02, 2018 2 comments

Friday Charlie blogging

Charlie knows it’s important to accessorize when you’re hitting the town on Friday night…

I’m going to regret this when I’m older.
A big string of shiny beads—and, of course, Mason’s colorful undies as headgear!

Note: He did this without my help or encouragement. I just took the picture afterwards.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 3 comments

The World's Cutest Pirate 2.0

Six years ago, Mason was the world’s cutest pirate.

Well, Charlie has to try to do everything Mason does, so…


The kids at church did a “reverse trick or treat” (in which the kids dropped off treats for the seniors) at a local assisted living center over the weekend, which explains the background. Charlie, of course, charmed many of the residents with his sunny disposition and curiosity. I was surprised that he mostly kept the headscarf on.

His granddad is still ready to plunder some booty, if he gets the chance…

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 No comments

(Partially) Disconnected

A couple weeks ago, I noticed my phone was starting to discharge a lot faster than normal. Thinking I had issues with an app not being cooperative, I checked the app consumption levels in Settings and made a couple of adjustments. I usually could get a day and a half out of my phone with normal use, plugging it into the car charger on the way in or out of the office if needed. But it got to where normal use gave me about five hours of battery life.

I finally set up a call with Apple support, and the tech set me up with a repair ticket. In case you weren't aware, Apple is replacing batteries (if needed) on certain iPhone models (including iPhone 6, my particular phone) for $29… and $5 shipping if you do it by mail instead of bringing it in. Seeing that a DIY battery replacement was $25 about three years ago, I figured this was a no-brainer.

Fits in the palm of your hand… with room to spare.
I was now temporarily phone-less. Or was I? When I got the 6, I retired my iPhone 4, the one I'd replaced the battery in, repurposing it essentially as an expensive iPod touch. The SIM won't fit in it, which I expected, so it’s Wi-Fi only. I can still message the wife and DD, and even make and take calls using FaceTime. I was hoping to use it for Skype, but the app only gives you the option to upgrade and the current version won't work on the older phone. (thankyouverymuch, Microsoft)

Whatever. Where there's Wi-Fi, there's the ability to contact family, anyway. I spent the weekend weeding off old pictures and older messages (this phone was in service from 2012 to 2016), and got a GB or so freed up to download podcasts for the commute. I'll probably start deleting apps soon, starting with Twitter—it crashes too often, and of course I can't upgrade it. Next up will be stuff I never use or works equally poorly. That should get me through the week, then I should get my primary phone back.

Quite the size difference
One nice thing is getting re-acquainted with several games that are no longer supported on the newer systems—Bejeweled 2 and Sudoku Mania, to name two. Some newer games still work on it as well… Smash Hit is a surprising example that does occasionally hit a frame-rate stutter. But it feels so tiny, reminding me of my skepticism about a phone that was too long to nestle down into a shirt pocket. I guess I adjusted quickly.

The other thing I like is the speaker dock. It, like the 4, has the older dock connector. So I can't put the new phone on it. I guess when I get my primary phone back, I'll erase the old one and find someone who needs it more than me. They can also take the speaker dock, since it doubles as a charging station.

But it'll be nice to hang out with the '4 for the week ahead. Our last hurrah, so to speak. Charlie glommed it this evening, and was adamant about not giving it back, so I pulled up the Bubbles app for him (one of those that doesn't work on newer phones) while he clung to it and fussed. (I guess he figured a little bitty phone is meant for a little bitty user.) He played with it for half an hour, maybe more. I remember letting Mason play with the phone when he was like 3 or 4, and he discovered the Camera app. I locked my '6 when I got it, but he had access to an iPad mini (and an original iPad) by then. He still tries to wheedle my passcode out of me, though.

I had a bit of heartburn this evening, when I received a shipping box from Apple (2 days after I sent the phone off!). I got on the chatline with Apple Support, and they verified the box had been shipped by mistake and everything was in the queue. Oh well, now I have a SIM remover tool… no more paper clips!

'Course, this means I'll be hard to reach this week. Email me… or leave a comment here!

Wednesday, September 05, 2018 1 comment

The Greatest Rev

Mason’s latest obsession is cars. Muscle cars, sports cars, supercars, anything with eye-popping horsepower and price tags (and insurance quotes to match). Getting in any car with him means being subjected to an endless monologue about this car or that car he’d really like to see (or own), punctuated by excited shouts as he sights a Porsche or the like. I presume he has fallen into a sea of Youtube videos. eyeroll

So I was taking him to soccer practice, and he said, “Rev it!”

“This car?” My Miata has stock exhaust, and it is in very good shape. Even if the redline is around 7000rpm, it doesn’t make all that much noise. But if I was a Sheltie in a previous life, Mason was a bulldog. “What’s the greatest rev you ever did?”

Ours was grey-green, but otherwise the same.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
“I didn’t do…” then I burst out laughing, remembering what was truly my greatest rev. I told him the story:

When I was in high school, we had a 1971 Buick Electra 225 “Deuce and a Quarter,” the car Sinbad immortalized in a comedy bit (see below). Thing was, he wasn’t exaggerating much. It was one of the last pre-gas shortage Detroit big-iron beasts, with a huge engine to match (455cid, almost 7.5l in modern measurements… over four times the displacement of my Miata!). That thing could swallow enough cargo to choke some SUVs these days, and give a full-sized RV a run for its money when it came to guzzling gas. And it could get out of its own way fully loaded, let alone carrying only a 140-pound me behind the wheel. The SOB probably could have pulled a fifth-wheel without breathing hard, if we could have found a way to hook it up.

The best memories of my high school years revolve around that car. If I get some requests in the comments, I'll tell some other stories about it, but this one is about my greatest rev.

I lived in Michigan until graduating from college. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the way they do things Up North, you can’t just put everything on hold until the snow melts; it might stick around until April after all. So you plow the roads, and throw down rock salt to melt the ice (or salt and sand, the latter to give you traction if it’s too cold for the salt to work). In quiet subdivisions, I’d gas it hard around corners in the winter—ostensibly to get practice recovering from a skid, but in reality to dick around. But I digress. The thing about salty roads, it rusts iron. Rustproofing had become a thing in the mid-70s, and Dad had it undercoated.

But that was just the chassis, not the muffler pipe. Somewhere around the summer of 1978, the salt completed seven patient winters of work, and the long stretch of pipe between the exhaust manifold and the muffler rusted through.

You’ve probably heard a Civic (or a similar car) with a modified exhaust, or some ding-a-ling just put in a straight pipe. Now, imagine the racket coming from an engine four times that size. It didn't take much revving to make that thing HEARD. Mom literally could hear us coming home from a mile away.

It had to happen, sooner or later. I dropped a friend off around midnight, in a quiet-ish Grand Rapids neighborhood, and told the land yacht to set a course for home. I tried to go slow to minimize the BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP of the unmuzzled V8, but I got the blue lights after about two blocks. The cop wasn’t horrible about it; he wrote an R&R (Repair and Report) ticket, which meant I had a week (or two) to fix it, then take it up to the cop shop and demonstrate it was fixed.

Other Brother tried the easy route: cutting the ends off a beer can, then opening it sideways and wrapping it around the rusted-through zone (by now, the pipe had come apart). It worked! for about ten minutes, until the heat of the monster V8’s breath melted the aluminum.

I decided that since I’d gotten the R&R, it was up to me to fix it right. Somehow or another, we knew the diameter of the muffler pipe. I went to the auto parts store, bought two splices and a length of replacement pipe. I hacksaw’ed out the rusted part, plus enough to fit the replacement length, applied splices and clamps, and gave it a test. Just a hum, the way Buick intended. I took it to the cop shop, where they approved my fix. As well they should have—it outlasted the rest of the car.


And now, I will shut up and let Sinbad tell you all about the Deuce.


Monday, September 03, 2018 2 comments

Gazebo life

As spring began to slide into summer, I told the wife, “I want to get one of those screen gazebos to put up down at the patio.”

“That’s a good idea,” she replied, “but let’s put it in the front yard where the grass doesn’t grow anyway.”

I was okay with that—it was more likely to be used if it was near the door. We got a 10' by 12' model, and I spent a weekend putting up the framework. The wife got some of the farm help to put the canopy over the top (it's close to 15' high, almost 5m), then I put up the screens.

Done, yay! Until the first rain, and the shade finished killing off the rest of the grass, and the floor got kind of mucky around the edges and sticky in the middle. I thought about de-commissioning the patio, since it doesn't get much use these days, and using the rubber tiles to put in a floor. Then I remembered when Mason's soccer practice moved to an artificial turf field during a long rainy spell in the spring, and started looking up turf on Amazon. I found a reasonably-priced roll of turf ($45 for 6' by 12') and ordered two. I still put some of the rubber tiles to use, filling in the space between the front sidewalk and the turf.

Play area
With a dry, mostly clean floor surface, I started taking Charlie out there in the evenings. The screens keep the bugs out, and I moved in some patio chairs and a couple of outdoor tables. Back when Mason was about 3, we bought a little slide/pirate ship/castle thing, and its new home became the gazebo. Life was good… except that it started getting hot, and we didn't have any way to run a fan.

For whatever reason, FAR Manor has a major dearth of outdoor outlets. This is something I'd wanted to remedy for a long time, and I finally got to work. I bought a GFI outlet and cover, let them sit for longer than necessary, then gathered tools and pulled an outlet in Mason's room. I drilled through the wall to give me a point of reference, then used my Dremel to carve a GFI-sized hole in the siding. To my surprise, when I ran the power cable from Mason's room up and to the right, I hit the hole on the first try! Soon, I had everything wired up (and pushed some silicone caulk into the drill hole).

Light strings
With an outdoor outlet in place (at last!), I rummaged through the Christmas light stuff and found what I needed: an outdoor power extender. The cord was the perfect length to run from the outlet, under the fake turf, and into the corner of the gazebo. The box has a stake to keep it in place. I grabbed a small fan off the shelf and plugged it in, then went to Five Below and got some LED lantern light strings. Soon after, Amazon ran a sale on a 33' LED light string (with remote) for $10 and change. The lanterns spread out to the corners from the center of the ceiling; the LED string runs around three sides of the gazebo. The combination is just barely adequate for reading, but that has not been an issue until this weekend. The days are definitely growing shorter.

The outdoor office
More importantly, the fan keeps things tolerable during the muggy evenings. (Except last week, when we had a couple of absolutely gorgeous days while I was working at home… I plugged the work laptop into the outlet and enjoyed it while it lasted. Pleasant days in August are rare on Planet Georgia.)

Charlie loves to hear, "Do you want to go out to the gazebo?" I found a tote bag that's perfect for carrying my iPad, a couple of Charlie's books, sippy cups/water bottles, and other incidentals. We can do one trip for both out and back inside. While we're out there, he plays on the slide, pushes cars around on the artifical turf, climbs into my lap to read a book… and hones his misdirection skills. Last week, as we were getting ready to go back in, he put his face up to the fan. While I watched carefully to make sure he didn't try to push fingers through the tight screen, he palmed the remote for the LED string. I had no idea until he came down the hall with a big grin, holding the remote to his ear and pretending it was a phone.

He showed the wife his misdirection skill this evening. While he was in her lap, he pointed to the couch. She looked that way; he swiped the toast off the top of her BLT, and commenced to nomming. Little rat. He's gonna be a stage magician if he keeps this up.

But I digress. I think, once October starts getting close to November, we can hang shower curtains over the screens and use one of those outdoor heaters to extend the season. Mason's old play table (with sand) might be a good addition for the colder times… especially since cold doesn't bother Charlie much. Maybe I can get Mason to show Charlie the play table, and maybe he won't teach Charlie to scatter the sand in all directions?

An outdoor space, especially without bugs, is a welcome addition to FAR Manor. Let's hope it can last for a while. And if you're in the US, I hope your Labor Day weekend was long and pleasant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 1 comment

Give Peach a Chance

Soon after lunch last Sunday, Daughter Dearest caught me in the kitchen. “Can you take these and toss 'em in the woods?” she asked, handing me a bowl of peelings and similar.

“Sure, I’ll dump it in the composter.” I hadn’t been out there in a while, and judging by the overgrowth between the driveway and the composter box, neither had anyone else. Oh well. I stomped down some weeds, keeping a wary eye on the briars, and so I was almost at the composter before I saw what was next to it:

Quoth 3 year old Mason: “Too heavy!”
A peach tree, bent to the ground under the weight of its own produce. The peaches are a reasonable size, but still pretty hard, so I figure they were taking their time ripening in the deep shade around the composter.

As far as I can guess, a peach pit must have been tossed in (or near) it at some time—the trunk is not two inches from the base of the composter. I was delighted, as you might guess, nearly as much as when we started getting persimmons from the tree near the road.

Wife is all, “They probably won’t get ripe. There’s too much shade.”

“All I’m saying,” I replied, “is give peach a chance!”


Wall to wall and 10 feet tall
One life lesson I learned from playing D&D: always keep a 50-foot length of rope handy. What I have these days is clothesline, but I knew it was in the deck box with the inflatables. I grabbed it, and the hatchet, and got to work. Some trimmed branches piled nearby became stakes, and I enlisted a nearby oak. It has held up for over a week, now, during which we had a pretty substantial gust front ahead of some rain.

We’re already plotting a transplant operation come winter. There’s a gigantic white pine across the driveway from the front door, that seems to be dying from the top down after a lightning strike, and a couple of trash pines next to that. Those will meet the chainsaw (and become firewood for campsites and other outdoor fires), we’ll pull or dig the stumps out, and hope for the best with the transplanting.

So, on occasion, we do get a pleasant surprise at FAR Manor.

Thursday, July 26, 2018 4 comments

Stay on, your toes

The Boy continues to embrace the whole home ownership thing. He has a pretty decent garden spot (mostly hot peppers, with a few other things) and is talking about adding a room. A really good thing, he's been keeping up with his glucose and insulin for the last six months or so.

Of course, there are downsides. About a month ago, a bad storm came through and dropped a tree limb on their newest car, totaling it. At least it was parked, which means comprehensive kicks in (lower deductible) and no ding on his driving record.

Then there was the garden incident… at least, as best as we can figure. He was weeding when his foot started burning (wearing sandals), but the pain faded quickly and he kept at it. He saw a blister later was all.

A few days later, he had a pretty heavy-duty infection in his foot, and ended up in a hospital in Carrolton. We grabbed a hotel to spend the night down there. The surgeon told everyone, “we’ll do what we can, but he’s probably going to lose four toes.” Yeowch!

So they wheeled him in, and we flipped out our tablets to wait for the news, whether good or bad. Finally, a nurse called us into the consultation room. The surgeon said, “the infection hadn’t gone to the bone, or got into the tendons, so we cut out the infected tissues.” So far so good… everything was still attached. For now. Even better: “he still has pretty good circulation in his feet, that helps.”

They wheeled him back to his room, and the surgeon came by to tell him what was next: they would leave his foot wrapped up for a few days, then the wound care specialist would come by and check for any further infection. At that point, they would decide whether his toes could stay attached a little longer. The way he talked, it sounded like a 50/50 proposition.

This is the GOOD side!
We went home, but kept in touch via text, until we returned to the hospital for The Unveiling.

No infection! Yay!

The wound care specialist came in and said, “three things if you want to keep your toes: don’t smoke, don’t walk on that foot, and keep up with your insulin.” There were other particulars, including a special boot he wears to walk around safely, but those are details.

The wife took a pic of the bottom of his foot. I really don’t want to inflict that one on you… there was basically a trench about 1/2" wide and deep, running across the joints. Top view is bad enough (the bruised big toenail came from him dropping something on his foot while doing a moving job).

Last week, we got a report (and a pic): the wound care specialist says it’s healing up faster than expected. Indeed, the pic showed a small oval of raw flesh surrounded by new skin. Woohoo!

So what caused all this? The symptoms were all consistent with a brown recluse bite. We may never know what happened, but I’m willing to blame spiders.

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