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Archived Entries from August 2010


What a Weekend!

So Thursday I dropped the redhead off at her office and drove the mile or so from EDUC to F29 where I park our neat little new car (more about the car later!). Betsy had lunch plans with a friend from work so I was going to have a semi-unexpected "no lunch plans" day. While walking down the steps from the third level of the parking garage I retrieved my phone from my pocket to send a text message to my pal Tod with the intent of finding out if he had lunch plans. Before I could get to the texting part my phone actually rang, which is always weird because I don't get "calls" per se much. It was my bestest bud Jeff, who needed an eighth person for a golf "outing" that he and his boss were having at Iron Horse golf course in Tuscola.

It was sort of out of the blue, so I checked with Betsy first, and then let my secretary know that I wasn't going to be at work that day. Well, or the next.

Golf was fun. Jeff and his boss and buddies play all sorts of gambling-type stuff and keep track of "points" and lots of stuff that I think is pretty ridiculous but maybe made it more interesting? (For example, I had to guess my final score--I said 105--and then I was given "strokes" against everyone else that said they would shoot better than that. Then if you one-putted you got a point, but if you three-putted you lost a point, but if you got on the green in regulation you got a point, and I could take so many strokes, etc. It was really confusing and I'm glad that I didn't have to keep track of any of it...).

At the end of the day, somehow I "won" four bucks. For the small amount of money that changed hands, it really seemed like a lot of work back in the clubhouse. But they had beer there, as luck would have it, so I watched television and didn't complain too much. Oh, and I won four dollars. Did I mention that?

Friday I took off work as well, to spend the day with my wonderful wife. We sent the kids off to school, picked up the house a bit, I messed with the pool to begin the "closing process" for the year, and then we went to lunch at Philo Tavern and had fish sandwiches, which were awesome. We swung over to BW3 and had a beer and went to Friar Tuck for a couple of bottles of (relatively inexpensive) wine. It was a great day. I think we need days like that to sort of help reset things and step back from the churn by churn regimen of fixing up the house and paying the bills and work, work, working. It was quite relaxing and definitely enjoyed by both of us.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early and roused the offspring so that we could take a four-hour drive to Columbia, Missouri, where my cousin Stephen lives. Upon arrival we had a beer or two and then headed (he was driving, thank goodness) another couple of hours west to Kansas City, MO, to watch my White Sox play his Royals. Before the game we went to a barbecue place in KC that was, well, simply awesome. I can't even explain it any other way. I can't describe it. But it was the best barbecue food I have eaten ever, and nothing I have ever eaten has ever come close.

The game was fun. Their stadium is very, very nice. The view was great, the parking was easy, the fans were fun---I love my Chicago but this was a really, really good time. The outcome of the game wasn't what we hoped, but that's fine. It's just a game, and we had a lot of fun. I channeled my mother-in-law and was thanking the ushers and such on our way out of the place for having such a nice stadium and being so welcoming, etc.

We drove home this morning, and for the first time, the matrix phenomena that causes drives home to take much, much less relative time than drives away from home didn't hold up. The four-hour drive to Columbia seemed like it was right around four hours. The four-hour drive home was eternal. Columbia to St. Louis was pretty quick, relatively, as expected, but St. Louis to Effingham took, I think, about nine and a half revolutions of the moon to complete. Effingham was 49 miles away; I'd drive for like 20 minutes, and the next sign would say it was 45 miles away. Another 20 minutes and we were now 42 miles away. Really? I told the kids when we finally go there that I had never been so happy to see that great big cross in my life.

Of course, once we made it to Effingham the matrix relativity took back over and we made great time from then. I actually exited the interstate at Arcola and drove home the rest of the way through the country because I couldn't have stood another five miles on the dang interstate.

Heh. I'm such a stickler for people not capitalizing the "Internet," which is a proper noun and should always be capitalized, that I have a hard time typing "interstate" and not capitalizing it. OCD much?

Anyway. We fueled up this morning on the way back and Alex did the math on his phone and we got 35.9 miles per gallon on our trip to Columbia, and that was with the air conditioning on most of the way and driving up and down some pretty substantial hills (and by "pretty substantial" I mean anything bigger than the flat pancake we have here in east central Illinois....).

After we got home I topped off the tank (for under twenty bucks!) and calculated our mileage for the ride home: 36.55 miles per gallon. Awesome!

In the Torrent it would have cost me $100 in gas alone to get back and forth to Columbia. We did pass several Torrents along the way and each time, to the delight of the kids, I would say out loud "hey, how's that 17 miles per gallon working out for you?" Oh, and we can plug an iPod in and listen to it through the radio. You Torrent drivers? Not so much. Yes, I'm becoming self-righteous about my Honda Civic. I should have made this change a year or two ago. Happy we did! And I think the redhead is genuinely happy with it as well.

So back to work tomorrow. I have a lot of things to do in the offing. It's time to show off some of my talents, and have fun along the way. I'm excited!

Oh, and my last school "class" starts tomorrow! (I put it in quotes because I technically have one more semester after this but it is a thesis sort of thing and not a "class," or something...).

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010, 3:34 am
Mood: Awesome | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Arguing on the Internet

This post was going to be about one thing, but because of a Facebook post by our favorite local state representative, and then a reply to something else I read that I thought of while typing the title, there will actually be three things.

First, the "Internet" is a proper name. It is capitalized. Always.

The second part of this post, which was actually the reason I was going to pontificate in the first place, is a cynicism of the left.. And we'll get to the cynicism of the right in the final part...

Okay, here goes... I don't know that I fall hook, line, and sinker for Al Gore's interpretation of what is happening on our planet. That's about as politely as I can put it. Do I think it is irresponsible to be dumping oodles of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere? Of course. Can we all do our own small part to make the planet a better place? Absolutely.

Are we, as humans, causing the planet to heat up? Um... Show me the data. Okay, no, wait. Show me data that is relevant.

The earth is millions of years old. The solar system is millions of years old. The earth travels on a not-really-absolutely circular path around the sun. The size of the sun changes from time to time, gradually growing and gradually shrinking after many numbers of years.

Anyway, my point wasn't necessarily to go on about whether or not I believe in man-made global warming. (Which I don't disbelieve--I just don't think we have ALL of the facts right now).

My point, I guess, involves reading a story the other day in the newspaper where a couple of scientists were noting that the temperatures have been well above average during July and saying that the cause of those high temperatures is global warming.

Now wait a minute.

Let's go back to the winter. Any time during the winter that some knucklehead says "hey, golly, it's fricking cold out--how 'bout all that global warming stuff, heh, heh..." the Al Gore fans immediately get their panties in a bunch in an "oh, here we go" sort of eye-rolling "how stupid can people be" way.

"Oh, all the anti-global warming idiots are going to come out of the woodwork now because it's been cold for a few days."

Right. I get it.

But... You don't get it both ways. The cold temperatures in the winter don't disprove "global warming" (sorry, "climate change"). However, nor does a hot summer PROVE it either.

People saying that the hot summer proves global warming are just as ridiculous, in my eyes, as people saying that the cold winter disproves it.

And I still think that the huge fricking fireball that is eight light-minutes away from us plays a much bigger role in our global anything than any coal plant in China. But that's just me...

Okay, enough of that.

So I almost fell into the trap of arguing with people on the Internet and realized that it would be a fruitless exchange (as it usually is) and new I was wide awake at 5:00 a.m. and going to blog anyway, so I may as well spill my guts here.

People are all up in arms about a group of muslims who wish to build a mosque--sorry, a "community center"--somewhere in Manhattan hear "ground zero." They should be able to do it, they should not be able to do it, they're being disrespectful even if they are allowed to do it, blah, blah, blah.

Our local state representative posted a link to an article that talks about Nancy Pelosi wanting to look into who is behind the opposition to the muslim center, or something like that.

Bring out the uneducated commenters....

Let me just say this, and then I'll shut up and go back to bed.

I heard that a group of men wanted to open a club down near ground zero. Since all of the 9/11 terrorists were men, it obviously follows that all men are terrorists who want nothing but to destroy New York, and will spend their entire time at their new club mocking the memory of those who died that awful day.

Besides, it was men who created global warming...

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 10:00 am
Mood: Tired | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Closing the Pool

So this weekend I went back to backwash the filter for the pool and found water all over the concrete slab that the pump and filter sit upon. Hoping it was a loose plug or cap or something I looked around for the source of the water.

Not good. Leaking out of the bottom up where the motor in the pump connects to the impeller housing.

I took it all apart. Lots of old gaskets, cracked plastic, etc. I called my neighbor Josh over for a second opinion (he used to take care of a couple big pools at a gated condominium place). He suggested I replace even more pieces than I initially thought.

So I went to several web sites to look up parts. It was hard at first because the model number was all but rubbed off the pump and the sticker with the specifications was bleached by the sun, cracked from years of being in the heat, and very, very difficult to decipher.

When I finally was pretty sure what I was looking for I started pricing parts. New gasket rebuilt set--$89. New impeller--$50. New impeller housing--$30. And there were a half-dozen or so other cheaper parts as well.

So for $200+ I could essentially rebuild the pump. A pump that is probably almost as old as I am. So we would have to hope that if I spent the $200 bucks that a) I would be able to put the whole thing back together correctly, b) that it wouldn't leak afterward and c) that the motor itself (that is the *really* expensive part) wouldn't then quit on me in a year or two making the entire rebuilding exercise pointless.

A new pool pump will be in the neighborhood of $500 or $600, so I think what I'll just do is buy a new damn pump in the Spring and be done with it for (hopefully) several more years. I'd rather do that and have peace of mind that constantly be worrying about what part will break next.

At any rate, the pump hasn't been on in a couple of days and I'll probably start the proceedings to close the pool on Friday. The kids haven't been swimming much anyway. This coupled with the cooler weather will give my electric meter a bit of a break as well. Heh.

Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 5:43 pm
Mood: Fair | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Hash Browns!

What a semi-stupid thing to blog about, but hey, it's not like I can go on and on about how great the stupid fricking White Sox are playing right now...

So it's not often that culinary epiphanies occur in our household, but we collectively "figured one out" over the recent weeks.

We love hash browns. I'm just going to say it. Hash browns rock. They're the bomb.

I bought a small non-stick pan from the dollar store a couple years back, which is great for making over-easy fried eggs. We've also used it for hash browns, but with mixed results.

Using fresh potatoes yields stringy hash browns that don't stick together well. The pre-browned potato shreds turn a funny color as soon as they are put through the cheese grater, and have seemingly way too much moisture in them.

But I finally figured it out. The secret? BAKE the potatoes first, THEN shred them and turn them into hash browns.

You heard it here first, folks.

Now when we have baked potatoes on the grill I even make way more than we'll eat with dinner and keep the leftover potatoes in a bowl in the fridge. One potato makes the perfect amount of hash browns in my little frying pan and when they are cooked but cold when you run them over the cheese grater you end up with almost the entire skin in your hand which can easily be pitched before the browning part starts. Awesome!

And the microwave makes it even easier, of course. Just baked up a couple of spuds so that I can make quick-and-easy hash browns for my darling wife and myself this morning before work.

Important couple of weeks coming up. Stay tuned...

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 11:59 am
Mood: Hungry | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Bad Steward of the Land

In short, I have been a very lazy gardener this year. My yard looks awful--it is 90% crabgrass. There's crabgrass in the landscaping as well. It's everywhere. All the planters are dying because it has been so damn hot every day. That's half the reason there are so many weeds--it's too damn hot to sit outside and weed for hours at a time.

My mother-in-law told me that the way she attacks it is to just do it for 10 or 15 minutes a day. I don't think I can put a dent in it that way. This is just an overgrown mess.

I did, however, get a start of a new clematis from her.

Not much crabgrass there--too much shade.

I also did a really dumb thing a few weeks back. Earlier in the Spring I started a couple of hydrangea and each had been doing well and growing and putting on new leaves, etc. Then I left them out in the burning sun for a couple of days. Whoops. One of them was completely fried. One of them still had a little life in it after I watered it, but I decided that the best thing to do would be to get it into the ground sooner rather than later.

I put it on the south side of the house right in front of the power meter and where the cable comes into the house as well. If it doesn't get stepped on or munched off by a bunny or other critter it might do well there. I need to get all of that grass and stuff from that whole side of the house and cover it up with mulch. One more place for crabgrass to take over...

I am going to try Bayer's crabgrass killer stuff, though my understanding is that no crabgrass killer really works like it is supposed to. It either kills everything, or kills nothing. But at this point we'll give it a try and see what happens. Next year I promise that I'm doing the Scott's thing and putting down stuff every season just like they direct. I'm fed up with the crabgrass.

I guess I should go back outside and pull more crabgrass...

Posted: Saturday, August 07, 2010, 7:34 pm
Mood: Embarrassed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Look, Ma, No Wires!

So my totally awesome father-in-law bought us (well, me, but still) a 50" plasma television this year. I was so in shock that I didn't have time to properly plan on where to put it, so it was downstairs for a while on the south wall, then on the north wall, and finally upstairs in the living room where it should have been all along. I purchased a wall-mounting bracket for it and my wife got a small stand/table thing from a consignment store for the cable box and DVD player, etc.

Even though I bought an in-the-wall outlet box, we still had cables all over the place going to and from the cable box, DVD player, etc. I did a lot of thinking of how to rectify the situation, and I think my final solution was, shall we say, unique? It had the virtue of never--okay, enough with the Star Trek...

What I came up with was putting a piece of PVC pipe in the wall with an elbow at the top and bottom with one end behind the television and the other end down behind the cabinet thing.

I traced the top and bottom holes, and then drew out a box for the piece of drywall I wanted to remove. The RotoZip made quick work of it (and I cleaned up while I went along so I didn't get drywall mess everywhere).

There were a couple small snafus, but not enough to make me at all upset. For one, the power cords for the surround sound receiver and DVD player are not long enough to fish up through the pipe, which is fine for a couple of reasons: they are too short to go up and over and in, and they don't disconnect from the back of the components, unlike the cable box power, so it would make moving the cabinet thing difficult. So they'll just plug into the wall outlet to the right of the cabinet--it was the up-and-down wires that I was concerned about anyway.

I'll need to do a few more coats/sandings of drywall, but we're going to paint everything on the mezzanine level at some point (hopefully soon!) so I'll deal with finishing up the drywall at that time.

At last, no wires going "up-and-down."

I suppose I ought to purchase/stain/install the last three pieces of trim along the floor. Whoops.

I think I'm going to get too used to only working three-day weeks. Last one will be coming up and then I suppose I ought to go back to being at work every day like the rest of the world.

Posted: Saturday, August 07, 2010, 10:33 am
Mood: Tired | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


End of the Line

Well it appears that the main funding source for my job is probably for sure going away in two years. I say "main" because it only really pays about half of my salary right now, but if we were ever in a pinch could cover my entire salary if need be. At worst, that money runs out in September 2012 (which as my kids would point out, won't matter because the world will end by then, of course).

I'm not panicking, though. Two years is an awful long time. I've had my current job (in all of its iterations) for only four-times that long, to put it in perspective.

And who knows what will happen between now and then. Well, a few things that we do know is that I should finish up graduate school. I just finished up my class from the summer, so I have one more class to go and then my Master's research project/thesis semester, and should be all finished by May of 2011.

I have applied for another job on campus, but as soon as I sent my application (on the due date--the search was only open for a week) the person who sent out the original job listing to our campus computer geek listserv sent out another message reminding people that the deadline was that day. Coincidence? Early the next week he sent another message saying the search had been extended to this Friday. Not sure how badly that bodes. We'll see what happens.

I was supposed to do another "blog every day for a month" thing for August but sort of missed the first two days. Oops. I'll see if I can't catch back up.

Posted: Tuesday, August 03, 2010, 9:30 pm
Mood: Ambivalent | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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