Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Happy Birthday Emma 

My darling daughter Emma turned 10 last Saturday. Double-digits - hard to believe it has been 10 years since that moment I first held her in my arms. We celebrated by going to Shrek 2 - very funny and depending on your tolerance for potty humor (which I didn't find offensive), good for the whole family. Did I mention that we went with 7 of her friends? Nice kids, all of 'em. After movie, back to our house for cake, presents, games and outdoor mayhem with water balloons. Put her to bed late, sat back, and recalled another long but happy day, 10 years ago.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Potty Talk 

Ever wonder why your pee smells funny after eating asparagus? Here's why.

And yes, it is asparagus season here in the Valley.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Plimoth Plantation 

Took Friday as a vacation day and went to Plimoth Plantation with Emma's 4th grade. I have to confess I wasn't really thrilled about the trip - 3 hours one-way in a bus full of 4th graders - yeesh! However, it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable day.

The bus ride was long, but not unbearable. It was a coach bus, with a bathroom, so certain negative aspects of the 3 hour ride didn't materialize. Each parent/teacher was assigned 3 or 4 kids. I had Emma and her friends Katherine and Kath. We passed the time playing cards, talking, asking each other questions from a book of facts Katherine brought. Every other kid had either a Gameboy or a CD player so there was lots of swapping throughout the trip. I had taken a Bonine before the trip so nausea was minimal. Brought digital camera along.

Plimoth arrived 3 hours later. We all got off, watched a 20-minute intro, had lunch, then we all set off in groups. Weather was a bit chilly, with a coastal fog. Was sure that it would burn off and things would warm up (it did, and it did).

The girls and I tackled the Pilgrim settlement first. Here all the re-enactors are in character as English Pilgrims from 1627. Its a bit wierd at first, but you gradually get the hang of it. The girls enjoyed listening to the characters, asking questions like "Do you have any kids?" and "What's that you're making?". Trooped from house to house, checked out the livestock, then off to the Wampanoag homestead.

This is a bit of a different experience. The Wampanoags onsite are not role-playing. They are real Wampanoags, but doing things that their ancestors would've done in 1627. Kids had a bit of trouble with the non-role-playing aspect, and frankly some of the Wampanoags were a bit short with them when they asked role-playing-type questions like "Do you have any kids?". Whatevuh. Kids still enjoyed it.

Back to the visitor's center, 15 minutes in the gift shop, then back on the bus to downtown to see the Mayflower II. For me was most enjoyable part of trip. For one, sun was out, temp was maybe 70 degrees with a beautiful sea breeze blowing. Also Mayflower Pilgrims were a decidedly cheerier lot. Boat was cool, and you could go almost anywhere on it (except the bow, stern and cargo hold). Kids were all over the place and again had a great time.

Back on the bus, 3 hours later and we're all back at the school tired and a bit sunburned. That night I cull throught the digital pics and put together a powerpoint of the trip, complete with music. A friend burns it on CD and Emma brings it into class on Monday, where I hear it was a big hit. It is 14 megs so is too big for me to load into my Yahoo groups. Instead, I uploaded some of the pics here. You can recreate the powerpoint look and feel by doing this:

- go here and click on the file "Yakkidy Sax". That's the background music I used in the powerpoint.
- Once song starts, go back to pics and click "Slideshow".
- Select "Slow" for speed.
- Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

How to Get a Pickup Truck Unstuck 

First, you have to get the truck stuck. Here's how I did it; feel free to use your own methods:

- Agree to help wife move rabbit hutches from backyard of one neighbor's house to backyard of other neighbor's house
- Hand-carry first hutch from one house to other, 'cuz it's light
- Load second, much-heavier one into truck, drive to neighbor's house, look at lawn, determine it is dry enough, and drive around back.
- Unload hutch, back around to exit yard, back into wet spot, sink rear wheels almost up to axle.
- Curse.

OK, now that your truck is stuck, here's how to get it out:

- Gather a variety of boards - plywood, short lengths of 4x4, etc.
- Lie down in the mud. Get used to it - you'd be doing it a lot. Place board on ground, place jack on board. Jack up car from frame up to limit of jack. Jam 4x4 under axle. Lower car onto 4x4
- With car on 4x4, you can now get jack under leaf spring. Jack wheel up until it comes out of wet gloppy mudhole. Jam some 4x4 sections into hole. Lower wheel onto 4x4.
- Repeat this process for other wheel.
- Go into your backyard where you (with great foresight) kept the 2 main beams from your old deck when it was demolished to make room for the addition. These would of course be 4x6x14', and are very heavy. With neighbor's assistance, carry from your backyard to the scene of the tragedy.
- With both wheels on 4x4, you can now get jack under axle. Jack up wheel from axle until wheel is high enough to slip 4x6 under it. Lower wheel onto 4x6.
- Repeat for other side. Now truck is out of the mud and rear wheels are sitting on 4x6s like a train on tracks.
- Start truck, say a silent prayer, drive out of mud thanks to 4x6s, continue out of back yard, across side yard, and onto street.

There! Simple and elegant.


Friday, May 07, 2004

Cricket, understood 

Finally got a clear explanation of cricket. Now when I listen to the BBC World News Today and hear "...and Pakistan is 400 for 4, with 6 remaining in the 3rd day of a 5 day test with India", I'll know what's what.

For whatever that's worth.


Effective use of old rock-n-roll 

OK, who watched the last episode of "Friends" last night?

And who can tell me the name of the last song played?

Gina and I watched. Me more for nostalgia's sake than anything else - I used to watch but stopped years ago.

Anyhoo, its the last scene and they're panning around the empty apartment. Song starts up - "Embryonic Journey" by Jefferson Airplane. A lovely little acoustic number by Jorma Kaukonen (sp?). Fit the mood and the scene nicely. Left me with that times-are-changing, I'm-back-in-college-and-its-may-time-to-move-out-of-the-dorms feeling. Haven't had that feeling in awhile; used to get it every fall and spring. Sort of a migratory feeling - time to change, let's go, let's go.

An effective use of music.

Now I'm gonna have to go home, dig out my old copy of "Jefferson Airplane Takes off" and listen to it again.


Monday, May 03, 2004

A Grampy kind of morning 

Saturday AM. Beautiful and sunny; still a bit of a chill in the air. Coffee, Cheerios, juice, then its out to recussitate the lawmower from its winter hibernation. Down to the shop to collect tools: sockets, screwdrivers, ballpeen (just in case), wire brush, scraper, coupla paper towels. Out to the back yard, set up shop by the picnic table. Out to the shed (need to fix the latch - keeps blowing open) and wheel out the mower. No mice go scampering - that's a good sign.

First job - clean out the mouse nest that will inevitably have been built under the engine shroud. Remove the gas tank. Remove the oil feed tube. 5 bolts and the shroud is off. Sure enough, cylinder head is covered with grass, hair and nut shells. Most comes off easy. Back inside to get shop vac + extension cord. Vac up most of the stuff, switch to blower and blow out the rest.

While the gas tank is off I dump out the old oil and pour in about a half a quart of straight 30-weight. Take out the spark plug, bring it inside and clean it up using wire wheel mounted in drill press. Re-install plug, replace shroud + gas tank and done with that task.

Next - clean underside + sharpen blade. Blade comes off easy using 9/16" socket + 1/2" breaker bar. Scrape off as much crud as I can, then take it inside for sharpening. Make lotso sparks at grinding wheel, first using coarse wheel then fine. Little touch-up with a flat bastard file, then a quick check with the balance jig - it balances; no additional grinding needed.

Back outside - hmm, starting to warm up a bit. Alex joins me but demurs on assisting; heads for the swings instead. Prop mower on its side and scrape off last year's grass, sticks and yech. Re-install blade.

Pour in new gas, and we're ready to go. I give a gentle pull just to swirl the oil around a bit, and that's all she needed - fired right up and was putting away happily. Let 'er warm up for a minute or so, then try a pass thru the grass. Leaves a path as neat and tidy as you could ask.

I like to think Grampy would've approved.


p.s. - count of Grampy tools used = 2 (ball peen, 9/16" socket)

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