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Sunday, July 25, 2021 2 comments

Pitter-patter, part 3 (home again, home again)

The dynamic completely changed, once Charlie was in the mix. Mason went full-on micromanager, completely losing his shorts over the most trivial things.

As for Charlie, his happy place is the pool. Put floaties on him, toss him in the pool, and he’s good. The outdoor pool at the clubhouse is usually pretty cold (with 2018-2020 being exceptions), but Charlie doesn’t care about a little cold. (A lot cold is enough to get him out, but this wasn’t a lot cold.) Mason insisted on the indoor pool, but the outdoor one was tolerable even for me. So Charlie and I played around, while Mason sat in a chair and sulked because he wasn't getting his way.

After maybe an hour (I’m not keeping track of time on vacation, what’s the point?), Charlie decided he would be okay going to the indoor pool. Mason, finally getting what he wanted, joined in.

At this point, I should point out that there’s a third pool, next to the waterslide and close to the diner and country store. It was closed for much of the week, since some moron had gone tubing, didn’t shower, and introduced algae. For some reason, this pool is often warmer than the outdoor pool at the clubhouse, but it had a definite green tinge. I’m not sure why that would be a problem, since the lake is also a good place to swim (and is often warmer than the outdoor pools, and I have no idea why). Maybe the algae had some irritant qualities.

But I digress. By Friday, they had dumped enough chlorine into the pool to kill the algae, and re-opened it. Charlie was so happy to be in the pool, he wanted to hug everyone in the area… literally. He spun around with a huge grin, arms wide open, making his happy noise. Several folks thought it charming, anyway. It was noticeably warmer than the clubhouse outdoor pool, and it also has a “real” deep end (8 feet). People invited Charlie, then Mason, into their games, and I just hung out and kept an eye on the rugrats. Mason complained about the amount of chlorine in the pool, but he was wearing a diving mask so I’m not sure what his actual issue was (besides just complaining).

Mason brought a couple of R/C vehicles along for the final leg of our outing. Charlie enjoyed watching them whizz up and down the lane. Someone came up in a golf cart, and suggested a “race.” The R/C truck won (those electric motors can go from zero to top speed pretty quick).

By Saturday morning, I’d had all I could take of Mason’s attitude, his constant ordering everyone around (especially Charlie) and refusing to help. He’s been throwing up all this anti-spanking “evidence” at us, trying to dodge the consequences of his actions, so I simply told him he could have no electronics (no iPad, no Xbox, no Switch, no nothing) until his attitude got better. That probably hurt more than any spanking, anyway.

I’d loaded all the non-essentials into M.O. the B.B. Friday evening, so (with Mason’s ultra-reluctant help) we broke camp Saturday morning and headed on back to the manor. The outdoor rug stank with mildew, and needs a good cleaning, and the Starflyer needs some attention as well. I’m trying to decide whether to get the A/C fixed, or just replace it with an exhaust fan and stuff a window A/C unit in a convenient spot. Whichever way I go, I’d like to have it completely functional before I sell it and go with something else. Then again, campers are going for a premium right now… anyone want a lightweight camper with a few minor issues?

We got home, to find the wife there. They had drove up to their retreat, then the sister-in-law hosed up her foot when they went to get groceries. And when I say “hosed,” it was several times worse than either of mine. They ended up coming back. BUMMER. The wife needed a break more than I did, and I had somewhat of a break even with Mason making things as miserable as possible.

Back to work, and everything else. The boys will be in school soon, although I don’t know how long Delta will let that happen.

Thursday, July 22, 2021 No comments

Pitter-patter, part 2

Rain on a popup is a special kind of noise. What hits the bunkends is a nice pitter-patter sound, actually quite soothing. What hits the roof in the middle is anything but soothing: it’s somewhere between a pop and a snap noise. And that’s what we contended with for much of the night.

The Starflyer’s A/C isn’t working, despite my replacing the starter capacitor, so we had to make do with fans. I claimed the fan/light combo, since Mason swiped it last time. He groaned, but didn’t press the issue. Fortunately, it never got out of the low 80s (F) for highs each day… I guess the rain helped with that.

Staying dry on a wet night
With the awning and the EZup, and no wind pushing the rain around, there were dry spots to take a chair and a beer outside while Mason was zorched out (or doing late-night iPad sessions while pretending to be asleep). The EZup framework also provided a convenient place to hang swim suits and towels, to get them a little dry, anyway.

So this was our routine, the first few nights. Charlie has his therapy sessions on Monday and Tuesday, and the wife was going to have some fun with her sister on a long weekend starting Thursday, so we went home Wednesday afternoon.

The foot improved with (not enough) rest. By Thursday morning, I could walk on it almost normally for an hour or two before it started giving me grief again. Extra-strength Tylenol helped to extend the time I could use it, and propping it on a pillow at night made it less cranky in the mornings. We took a brief bike ride on Wednesday, and it was okay. Our campsite is at the bottom of the hill, so we could coast back “home.”

Thursday, Charlie had a neurological evaluation scheduled at ENEC in Decatur, so I drove us down there. In the vein of combining trips, wife had her bags packed and in the back of the van, and all we had to do was figure out where to get lunch and meet the sister-in-law. We settled on a place called Grub (Burger Bar), that served up what the wife described as “the best burger I’ve had in a long time.”

So they tossed the wife’s bags into her sister’s vehicle, Charlie told them “bye-bye,” and away they went. We also went… back to the manor, to get Charlie’s stuff and get Mason while we were at it. M.O. the B.B. chugged on back to the campsite, and we did manage to get about 40 minutes at the pool before it closed for the evening.

Sunday, July 18, 2021 1 comment

Pitter-patter, part 1

Pretty similar to last time
The wife’s sister decided the two of them needed a long weekend out. Wife floated it by me, and I thought it would be a good idea for her to have a little fun time, far away from FAR Manor and the adjacent farm. Plus, maybe I could take the boys out camping or something, right?

So I called the resort to see if I could swap our week in September for something in July. Nope! All the condos were slammed. EVERYONE is (or was) trying to get out and enjoy some vacation time in that brief period before the Delta variant decided to try culling the idiots who have made such a mess of things over the last… oh, who am I kidding, my entire lifetime.

But I digress, as usual. The woman who runs the condos gave me the number for the campground (different part of the resort) and they had openings. “You can have slot 38.” As we have a new pastor at church, and I’m nominally head of SPRC (what passes for HR in a Methodist church), I decided to go in Sunday afternoon and leave Saturday morning.

On Saturday, I decided to buzz up to the resort to see what #38 looked like, because M.O. the B.B. isn’t exactly the easiest thing to maneuver around in tight quarters. I took the boys with me, so we could hit the pool as well (the pool is Charlie’s happy place). Turns out it’s the same space I had last time we came up!

Sunday afternoon involved lots of packing up. Wife bought a Thermacell gadget (it does a pretty good job at repelling skeeters and the like) at Tractor Supply a while back, but they didn’t have any extra fuel cartridges at the time. I ordered a pack from the Mighty Zon, who told me they would be in on Friday… then Saturday… then Sunday. (Can someone explain why I’m paying Prime fees when 2-day delivery is 4 days so often?) Fortunately, the shipment arrived before we were ready to go.

Lots of rain in the forecast, but we had a good dry slot as I rolled M.O. the B.B. into the road around 4:30pm. It stayed dry long enough to get the essentials set up, too. This time, I brought the EZup to put over the picnic table (instead of dragging it under the awning). With Mason’s reluctant help, we got it hoisted. I’m trying to get screens for the EZup, but their website isn’t cooperating and they weren’t really needed for this trip.

I’ve had a little more practice backing a trailer over the last two-ish years, but not enough. I did realize I needed to position the backend of the Starflyer at the edge of the driveway, this time. It only took two tries, rather than five or six, to get it into position this time.

Mason and I both brought our bikes, but I’d managed to hose my right foot… just as the left was feeling better. Mason was trying to wheelie his mountain bike back on Thursday, and I thought maybe a visual would help him. I stuck my sandal’ed feet into the toe straps, put the bike in granny gear, and gave the pedal a good push. The ol’ Raleigh lofted all the way up, and spit my right foot out of the strap. The pedal put some impressive gouges in my lower leg, and I’m still trying to figure out what I hit my heel on. The upshot is, I’m once again gimping around—two days after getting over whatever was wrong with my left foot.

Fortunately, for now, it’s just Mason and me. Charlie has therapy Monday and Tuesday. We’ll run home Wednesday night and bring both boys up on Thursday. Of course, I forgot several things, and we ended up making a Mal*Wart run (because I had no other choice) to get them.

Thursday, July 08, 2021 2 comments

Ah… the crunchy nuggets

Back in the 70s, when we hunted wild tacos with spears to get lunch, W.C. Fritos was the animated spokesperson for one of Frito-Lay’s primary products (and I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one). One of his taglines was “Greetings, my little chip-a-dees,” and another was “Ah… the crunchy nuggets.”

Fast-forwarding 45+ years…

Mason’s current obsession/YouTube rabbit hole is making replica weapons from cardboard. He has made several decent axes (and spears), and is working on more. We have plenty of unused cardboard around, and (due to disrespectful yapping) is now grounded off the iPad, so he's doing something semi-creative.

I told you that to tell you this:

While I was trying to get supper together, Mason had made a spear out of cardboard and some unused utility handle, and was hassling Rosie the Stupidog. Charlie was yelling “Stop, Mason!" over and over, and I joined the chorus when I saw what was going on. Of course, Mason kept on doing what he was doing.

Then… Charlie took matters into his own hands. He swung an arm around and smacked Mason square in the nuts.

Ah… the crunchy nuggets.

Mason staggered around, trying both not to laugh nor cry out in pain. Meanwhile, I was trying to not fall on the floor in laughter while telling Charlie that was NOT an appropriate thing to do. #parentingfail

The thing is, Charlie picks up on pretty much everything that Mason does. Mason likes to play rough with Charlie, and Charlie thinks it’s fine to do the same things to Mason (who often goes full-blown Drama Queen when it happens). So when Mason acts like he’s the substitute parent, Charlie doesn’t recognize the dynamics… and things like this can happen. Just not so spectacular (or hilarious). Most of the time.

So what will the boys come up with next?

Monday, June 21, 2021 2 comments

The next generation of information management

Some 15 years ago, I was enjoying Journler. The thing I really liked about it back then was, it could post an entry straight to Blogger. Of course, Google likes to screw around with Blogger. They broke the posting mechanism that Journler used, and now they’re concentrating on keeping it deliberately broken for Safari users. Over the years, Journler slowly sunk into the morass of apps that got left behind by advances in MacOS.  I continued to use it to capture flash fiction, scenes, and chunks of longer stories, until it became unusable. The source code for Journler has been available on Github for a long time, but I just now found out about it.

But I digress. As Journler wheezed and died, I tried a variety of paper and app systems to capture stuff I wanted to come back to later. Evernote was okay, until they crippled the free version to support only two devices (previously five). Google Keep held my interest for a long time; but I’m trying to extricate myself as much as possible from Google these days—and if I could find something better that isn’t WordPress, I’d go through the hassle of moving everything. Perhaps my longest-running attempt has been using Tines to keep notes and to-do lists organized. And yet, I’m always keeping my nose in the air, sniffing for a better way of doing things.

Recently, I started looking at journaling apps. Day One came highly recommended, and had the huge advantage of both Mac and iOS apps that talked to each other. I gave it as honest a chance as I could—downloading both the MacOS and iOS apps—and even with the daily prompt on my phone, I never really warmed up to it.

Someone suggested Logseq last week, and it sounded interesting enough to give it a try. The developers describe it as “a privacy-first, open source knowledge base,” and the videos they link to from the home page (an enthusiastic user who describes how to make the most of it) convinced me to give it a try. It can run either as a webapp, writing to your hard drive, or as a standalone desktop app. The developer says he was heavily influenced by Roam Research, Org Mode (Logseq supports Org Mode, although it defaults to Markdown), Tiddlywiki, and Workflowy.

The interface looks invitingly plain, at first. You’re presented with a journal page with today’s date on it, but otherwise blank. Start typing, and it supports Markdown (a big plus)… oh, wait. It’s also an outliner (and given my long-term relationship with Tines, that’s another big plus). Oh, type two square brackets and enter a title, like a Wiki link, and you get a new page that you can click to enter (yeah, I’ve always been fond of Wikis). Oh, type /TODO Download the desktop app on a line, and you get a to-do entry. Put hashtags on entries you think you’ll need to come back to later.

Clusters show groups of related entries
This seems like a chaotic way of doing things… until you display the graph. Then, Logseq gathers up all those scattered to-do entries, those hashtagged items, and other things, and pulls them all together. Some call this a digital garden or digital knowledge garden—me, I just call it software magic. Of course, you get out what you put in. You can create custom queries to pull things together based on how you want them. If you leave it running overnight, click the little “paw print” icon at the top left to open the new day’s journal page. Maybe this is what makes Logseq so much more approachable for me.

It took me a day or two to realize that this is the most natural approach for working with Logseq. There’s a lot of layers to it, and this brief post isn’t doing it justice. I’m using it at home with the desktop app, and at work using the webapp (because Doze complained about how not safe the desktop app was). Either approach works fine.

There’s a mobile app called Obsidian that can be set up to work with Logseq’s files, but it’s a private beta right now and I don’t need it just yet.

Now I have to figure out how to pour all the different entries in all the different paper and pixel systems I’ve accumulated over the years into Logseq. Someone wrote a script to convert Google Keep to Markdown, so that’s settled. I hope I can write a script to pull all my old Journler entries in.

Monday, June 14, 2021 2 comments

Resurrecting an old dirt bike (part 1)

Mason's latest obsession (the bi-weekly obsessions have mellowed into bi-monthly) is getting a dirt bike. We still have the one we got for The Boy; it has been (mostly) sitting under a tarp for a couple decades. Saturday, we dragged it into the driveway and got started.

1978 Yamaha DT100E… and Mason, who blinked at the wrong moment. (The seat is also flipped up.)

I'm not sure why it was put up in the first place, but we’ll give it a good shot to get running again. Despite it being 43 years old, and thrashed pretty thoroughly before The Boy got hold of it, I think we can do it. After all, I’m even older, and have been thrashed around a lot, but I’m still going. After the initial blush of enthusiasm, Mason realized it was going to require some work to get this thing going, and started grousing about getting a new one. After a few rounds of “this is what you’ve got to work with,” he came around. A co-worker graciously offered to gift him some safety gear! (I have mixed feelings about my current employer… I have many issues, but they have taken an intelligent approach to the pandemic and my co-workers totally rawk.)

So, we got started. The gas tank was filled with rust and sludge, and the carb was a mess—white powdery stuff dried up inside, and the choke and idle adjust frozen. (I would have thought I’d have known to drain the fuel out of the dang thing.) The cables were frozen. None of the above are show-stoppers—a week’s soak in Simple Green fixes most carb problems, gas tanks can be cleaned out by pouring a handful of screws in it and shaking, and I have a cable lubing tool.

We got an impressive amount of crud out of the tank. I’m not sure it’s done just yet, but we should be down to details now. De-crud’ing a gas tank is a matter of pouring in a handful of small hardware (screws, nuts, etc.) and shaking. We started with some gas in it on Saturday, got sludge out, let it dry yesterday, then put the screws back in for more shaking. Blowing compressed air in blasts out an impressive amount of stuff, the majority of it dust but some sand-sized particles as well. Once the particles are no longer an issue, I’ll probably get some liner to seal off further rust.

The throttle was frozen to the handlebar, it turned out—once I got it off, we applied a wire wheel and file to the handlebar until the rust was no longer binding the throttle sleeve. A little cable lube sprayed down the top of the clutch and brake cables got them cooperating.

The carb is at Travis's place (he works on most of the farm stuff); when we brought some parts to fix the Kubota SUV/golf cart, I told him about the project and he offered us the use of his whizbang carb cleaner—it uses sonic waves to do in a couple hours what soaking in Simple Green does in a week. We'll have the carb back tomorrow. In the meantime, we need to get new grips, an air filter, probably new tires (maybe later). Lube and adjust the chain. There’s an off-road place in the next town up, and we at least got grips today. Mason also wants brush guards, which isn’t a bad idea, but we’ll get it running first.

While I was working on the important stuff, Mason decided to hit it with some spray paint. The back fender is now silver. The bike was originally orange, and a previous owner painted it Yamaha Blue. I’ve had to repeatedly remind Mason that, if you want to do it right, you have to take the bike pretty much entirely apart to paint it. Well, I would probably have wanted to paint it first thing when I was 11. Aging sucks, but it does bring a little perspective along with it. Meanwhile, Charlie wanted to apply wrenches to it, and Mason went off the rails (as he often does when Charlie wants to get in on the action).

If we do get it running, it will be kind of interesting to see how things pan out. He has wondered out loud if it’s too big, and has talked about wanting to do wheelies and stoppies (the latter is when you grab enough front brake to loft the back tire). The answer to that is, “maybe.” He’ll have to learn to work a manual clutch, a skill that will serve him will if he inherits the Miata. Back in The Boy’s day, I put a larger rear sprocket on it to slow down the top end (I pitched it to The Boy as “it’s easier to do wheelies”)… although I think it will hit 50MPH with a little running room as is.

I can see him tailing the Kubota, while we work on the fence, and maybe he'll ride the fence line and let us know about issues (before the cows get loose again). We can always hope he’ll use his power(sports) for good.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 2 comments

Busy weekend

I had a busy weekend, but a good chunk of it was the busy stuff I wanted to handle (for a change).

One of the things at FAR Manor that had languished for a long time was the deck out back. The Boy had put up the framework for the railings, and was planning to finish it out, but… things happened. “They” say there are three ways to get things done:
  1. Do it yourself.
  2. Pay someone else to do it.
  3. Tell your kids to NOT do it.
Mason, if told to not do something that smacks of work, will have a rare moment of obedience. Daughter Dearest isn’t exactly the construction type, Charlie is willing but not able just yet, so Number Three didn’t apply. I really wasn’t keen on paying someone to do something I could do in an afternoon or two, so cross off Number Two.

I made a shopping list, punched it into the Home Despot app, and told them I’d come pick it up. When the “It’s ready!” text come in, I loaded Mason and Charlie into M.O. the B.B. and we clattered off to the retail district. As I was tying down the load, I realized something important: instead of 10 2x2s and one 1x4, they gave me eleven 1x4s! I went back inside and let them know what happened, and they sent someone out with the right lumber.

One of the things that inspired me to get this done, was the wife finding a palm nailer on the deck. I had no clue what it was, and looked up the brand and model number online. It’s an air-driven nail gun, but it drives regular nails and bangs them down like someone wielding a hammer at 4x speed. I had no clue such a thing existed, before it appeared at FAR Manor. Cut a picket to size, get it into the right place, line the nail up on the top rail, and let fly with the nailer. Then toenail the bottom into place.

I made quick work of the pickets, but there are large gaps—I have a slide and small climbing wall coming off the deck. My clever thought was to put doors, or gates, across those openings, so they can be used or closed off when AJ is out there.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any commercial gates that size, and the one I need at the top of the stairs would cost a lot more than what I would need to build one. So I started envisioning what a gate might look like—it would need crossbars, so I could attach hinges, but be light enough to not sag under its own weight. After a little finagling, this is what I came up with:

This particular gate closes off the slide. A few feet to its left, I need to set up double gates for the climbing wall. Oncoming rain and darkness worked against me, and this was the only gate I was able to finish and mount before I was through. Of course, I’d forgotten to put latches in my order, so that’s something I’ll have to tackle next weekend.

Sunday, after church, we decided to run out to get lunch. Culver’s is intelligent, and hasn’t opened their inside dining area yet, and we’re fine with that. We went through the drive-thru, got what we wanted, then decamped to a nearby bank parking lot where we parked in the shade and rolled down windows. That’s how we’ve rolled during the pandemic, so far, and it’s gonna be soooooo weird to eat inside with other people around.

But I digress. The wife wanted to get some fencing fixed, but I wanted to get some cheese started. Fortunately, after heating the milk and adding rennet, it has to sit for a while. So I put the lid on the pot, and said “Let’s get that fencing dealt with.”

Returning from the fencing work, I had a look at the pot. The recipe said the cheese would set in 90 minutes, but it hadn’t even started. I decided to leave it, to let the rennet work a little longer, and hoped for the best. My rennet has been around for a long time, and maybe it’s starting to wheeze. The original recipe used liquid rennet, and I’m going to get some for my next attempt.

Quejio Fresco
I’ve made soft cheese before, especially using homogenized and pasteurized milk, and it’s far easier to get good results using raw milk. But, you work with what you can get. Anyway, after four or five hours, the milk finally set up. I cut up the curds, spooned them into the mold, and let it start draining. I had to separate it into two batches at first, because (even starting with only two quarts of milk) it wouldn’t all fit into the mold. After about half an hour, enough whey had drained out that I could consolidate the two batches.

I used a recipe for quejio fresco this time. I’ve made Neufchatel before, and I think I like this one better. One idea I hit upon, was to put the cheese mold on a splatter screen (a screen you usually put over a frying pan, to keep bacon from exacting revenge upon its cook) over a large bowl, as a draining system. This worked very well, because you don’t have to constantly pour the whey out (and if you want to use the whey for ricotta or some other recipe, it’s an easy catch). You can see the splatter screen’s pattern on top of the cheese.

After unwrapping the cheesecloth, and shrugging at the lopsided appearance, I took it out to show the wife. AJ was in her lap, and immediately gave me the “eat” sign. AJ sort of grazes her way through the day when she’s at FAR Manor, usually eating something. Anyway, I cut a sliver off one side, and brought it out. AJ scarfed it right down.

Later in the evening, I spread some on a rosemary cracker (it’s soft and spreadable) and gave it to the wife. After requesting seconds, she said, “This is really good. Good thing I’m going to be out and about tomorrow.” So both the youngest and oldest girlies in the manor approved of my efforts! In the Azores, where this cheese originated, they often have it for breakfast on crusty bread. I’m going to put some on toast in the morning.

I’m slowly getting back into the mix. I should tackle taxes next. :P

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