Monday, December 27, 2010

How I know my wife loves me

Her: We could get a sitter and go see True Grit.
Me: If we're going to get a sitter, I'd rather do something we both want to do.
Her: I do want to see it.
Me: But you don't like westerns.
Her: True.
Me: Or Coen brothers movies.
Her: True.
Me: Or Jeff Bridges.
Her: Well, yeah.

Friday, December 03, 2010

6 years

Christie and I have been married for 6 years now. This was an odd year in that our actual anniversary fell on the same day we celebrate it, which is the day after Thanksgiving. If you have the opportunity to get married the day after Thanksgiving, I highly recommend it for the following reasons:
  • You don't need to serve much food, as everyone had a giant feast the day before.
  • Often, the family is already all in one place.
  • November is a very comfortable time to be wearing a suit, and fall leaves make a nice backdrop for pictures.
  • Procrastinators can pick you up a gift at a Black Friday sale on the way to the wedding.
  • Finally, it's easy to remember your anniversary. Basically, if I'm eating turkey and stuffing, and there's no trash bag full of gift wrap in the corner, then tomorrow is my anniversary.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A metaphor for fixing the economy

Last night, my daughter's room was very cold. We noticed this at roughly 1 in the morning. Christie wondered if the vent might be closed, but I had noticed that the heater was not running, and that remote sensor for the thermostat showed a low enough temp that it really should have been. It turned out that the thermostat wasn't picking up the signal from my daughter's room, so it didn't know to run the heater. So I turned the heater on manually and proceeded to troubleshoot the thermostat.

I had to download the manual, take a couple of things apart, swap out some batteries, switch the channel the signal was running on, and try to figure out why the batteries fresh off the charger still triggered the "low battery" warning on the thermostat. I resisted the urge to try and diagnose the battery charger.

Meanwhile, Christie came out and told me that the vent was indeed closed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why making the tax system less progressive is bad for the economy

Because somebody has to buy all the crap we produce, and if the wealth of the country is concentrating in the top 1%, less crap gets sold, and everyone is poorer for it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Foundation work

You can't sit on the side of a hill in Missouri for 25 years without having some issues. We've long had some cracks on the uphill wall of our garage and basement, and every once in a while get a little water through there. The big problem, though, is that the wall is leaning. At one end of the house, where there's a concrete wall, it's nice and plumb, but it leans more the closer you get to the end with garage doors, where it's almost 2 inches out of plumb.

We got a quote last summer, but the economy tanked, as did the housing market, so we decided to wait. Over the next year, we saw about 1/4 inch of movement in the wall, so we decided that waiting wasn't an option anymore.We got a few more estimates, one of which was from a guy who said that he did the drainage work that had been working so poorly.  According to him, the previous owner insisted on doing it that way even when he (the foundation guy) told him that it wouldn't work.  Fast forward many years, and we didn't hire that guy because I've only seen one example of his work, and it sucks horribly.  There's an argument for turning down work, huh?


They started work on Monday, and this is what they're doing:

1. Cut holes in the back wall every five feet for wall anchors:

2.  Dig out a few feet from the entire back wall of the house:
You can see a cross-section of the dirt here, and it really drives home the fact that our hill is just a giant wad of clay with a thin skin of dirt on it.  You can also see how shallow the french drain was set.

3. Attach these helical anchors to the end of 2-inch steel bar stock:
and drive them into the soil:

4.  Attach plates on the inside of the wall:

5.  Pull the wall back to plumb.

6.  Put a waterproof membrane on on the outside of the basement wall.

7.  Lay down new drain tile, gravel, and felt.


8.  Put the dirt back and resculpt the yard to improve the drainage.

I don't have any pics of the yard, yet, but it's been two weeks, and this weekend I need to mow the grass.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cheney's LVAD implant

I'm having real trouble with Cheney's left ventricular assist device. On the one hand, it sounds like a horrible thing to have to live with.

But the technology is very cool, which I find exciting, and then there is the fact that after years of joking about Cheney being a) a robot, b) a vampire or c) a robotic vampire, how am I supposed to not joke about the following:
  1. He now literally has no pulse,
  2. He has to be plugged into a wall charger at night, and
  3. The surgical appliance is one simple typo away from being called VLAD?
It's not fair.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Developmental Surprise

I came home with a headache tonight, and while I was fixing dinner, dear daughter was behind me banging the cabinet doors as loud as she could. I finally ended up putting my foot against the door so she couldn't bang them. She did what she's been taught to do at school when someone gets in her space, she yelled, "My body! Walk away!" (Which is terribly cute coming from a 2 year old.)

So now she's yelling at me to walk away, and my standing against the cabinet doors is not getting dinner made. We were at an impasse.

Desperate, I said, "Honey, I have a body, too, and when you bang the doors like that, it makes my head hurt. Will you walk away?"

"Okay, Daddy." She gave me a hug, and went into the living room.

I stood up to see that Christie was watching. "I did not expect that to work," I said.

"Me, either."

Monday, April 19, 2010

When my head is at these days

On Ta-Nahisi Coates' recommendation, I've been listening to David Blight's Yale course on the Civil War through iTunes University.

Where to start? First off, let me wonder for a moment that I'm within spitting distance of 40, and finally coming to understand in an adult manner the transformative moment in American history. Let me wonder that I have not taken an American history class since high school, and that history in general is the last discipline in which I am inclined to just pick up a book. And not the least, let me wonder that Yale took the time to record this course and publish it for free so that I can download, gratis, to my phone 27 hours of lectures on the civil war.

The way my brain works, I'm a lot more productive with some noise in my ear, so I listen to a lot of podcasts, and when I don't, my wandering monkey mind wants to look at blogs, read the news, find anything possible to distract it from the task at hand. So I'm normally steeped in current events, but for the past week or so, I've been spending my spare time in the 19th century.

I am seeing parallels between the years leading up to the late unpleasantness and the current political rhetoric, but I find myself not fixating as much as I once did upon the political fluctuations of the moment. Actually, I find it quite refreshing to be reading about political crises that are so far in the past that there is nothing I can do about them.

Christie tells me she enjoys it, too.

15 Years Ago Today

I was living in Kirksville, where there were limited TV news options, so when I heard that there had been a terrorist attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City, I did a lot of channel surfing. On of the news sources I was using, because there wasn't anything better, was The 700 Club.

The thing I remember most about that day was the rhetoric Pat Robertson used. Early on, he used the word "attack" again and again, and send that whoever was responsible had committed a grave crime against humanity, and that nothing less than a full retaliation would be tolerated. And then I channel surfed away to CBS, where they announced that the attack had come from a right-wing militia type, and by the time I surfed back to The 700 Club a minute or two later, he had stopped calling it an attack, and started calling it a "tragedy."

Friday, April 09, 2010

ATK Cooking Game for Nintendo DS

Did you know that America's Test Kitchen now has a Cooking Game for Nintendo DS? Except it's not exactly a game. It's more like an interactive cookbook that can be voice controlled while you're cooking. And it has a feature where you can add family members, tell it what kitchen equipment they can use, and it will give them jobs.

More like this, please.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Play safe

Playing outside is all well and good, but it's important to be safe.

Disney Cruises

Christie's been talking a lot about Disney Cruises, and has let it be known that her strategy is to push the cruise and settle for a park visit, banking on my Disney Scroogeness and all around cheapness. But by the time the kid is old enough, Disney Cruises will be so freaking awesome that my geekery may trump my aforementioned cheapness.

But I'm still a Disney Scrooge. They are to stories what McDonald's is to food.
My kid was playing with a flashlight, pretending to take pictures with it, then shining the light to see under the bed, then used it as a phone. At first I thought it was cute that she was pretending it was a bunch of different things, then I remembered that we have iPhones.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kid bookshelves


Kid bookshelves
Originally uploaded by Litcritter
Years ago, I was at the National Art Gallery in DC, and happened across an art student copying one of the old masters. I feel like that's where I'm at in my woodworking practice, except I'm copying new masters instead of old. In fact, I've got a huge folder in Evernote filled entirely with things that I would someday like to build.

Part of me knows that that is a key part of the design process, but I'm still ambivalent about it. So I'm giving credit. This is a pretty common form, but the particular inspiration for this was a piece by Inai Inai Ba! that he sells on his Etsy store (his is so much better than mine, naturally). But I recommend finding him on Facebook to see some of his other work, because he's doing some very cool stuff.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Go Bag


Dad's Go Bag
Originally uploaded by Litcritter
A couple of years ago, Lifehacker.com ran a series of pictures of people's Go Bags. They always looked so neat, and there was a slightly macho cast to them, so I thought I'd show what a toddler's dad has in his bag by the end of a busy weekend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Presentation Master Flight from Swiss Army

Victorinox Swiss Army - MultiTools - Presentation Master Flight 8GB

If you do a lot of traveling and presenting, I could see this coming in handy. There's a fingerprint-protected thumb drive, a laser pointer, and a Bluetooth remote.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Monday, February 01, 2010

On Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, for me, will never be about what Salinger wrote. It was about what a girl, a particular girl, wrote inside the front cover.

If you want to know the details, I'll have to disappoint you, because I was basically twelve. But she was friends with the kids across the street, and she was a tomboy, and she was cute. We met, and we flirted in that twelve year old way.

And then a couple of years passed, and I was at some church youth group thing, and she showed up as a friend of one of the kids in the group, and she was a little cuter, and she kicked my ass at softball, and we flirted some more, and I thought about trying to call her, but I had no more idea what do next than I would if you stuck me behind the wheel of a spaceship.

Flash forward another couple of years, and I'm on the front porch of the cottage in Ludington, reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye that I picked up at some used bookstore, and Theron asks to see it.

"Who's Robin Moerlein?" he asks, and I start, and tell him that she's some girl I met a couple of times, and where in the hell did he come up with that name?

"It's inside the front cover of your book. Along with her phone number. You going to call her?"

I never did.

And that's what I think of when anybody mentions The Catcher in the Rye.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On the spending freeze

I think it's bullshit. Defined as:

1. A stupid idea that's going to make things worse, or

2. A slogan presented with no regard for the complicated truth that it's going to be frozen at the 2010 levels, which will include a jobs bill and pushes to a variety of programs, blah, blah, blah.

So maybe it's a cap, not a freeze, and maybe it's a floorwax and a dessert topping both. Don't know, don't care. The way to fix the deficit is to grow the economy and no one has ever grown the economy by cutting spending. Maybe I'm still sore because our governor just gave a State of the State where he talked about jobs while putting 500 people (some of whom I knew) out of work and education while kicking kids out of the virtual school.

On the other hand, it will have everyone talking about the 'spending freeze' and for once it'll be the idiots on the radio having to say, "yeah, but it's actually more complicated than that!" Or maybe they'll just do what they always do and call our President a liar and make up whatever deranged shit they feel like, and the media will have John McCain on to talk about how unfortunate it is that the Democrats are trying to destroy the country.

Yeah, I guess I'm a little annoyed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thoughts on the Mass. Senate Race

I'm an optimist by temperament, so if you're not, take this with a grain of salt. And I'm also a big believer in democracy. Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, there's no doubt that Martha Coakley worked very hard to lose this race. Yeah, there are a ton of people who could have stepped in and helped earlier, and that might have turned it around, but she's running to be a US Senator, and my personal belief is that you don't get to be a US Senator if you don't have the necessary leadership skills to run a winning campaign. I know, old fashioned, right?

So that's thought one.

Thought two is that we might get better legislative results with 59 votes than with 60. Not because I think bipartisanship is magic, but because there are several craven, corrupt, and not very bright Senators as a part of the 60 vote Democratic majority, and being able to pass legislation, but only if we have all of them on board has meant some pretty crappy legislation. I'm hoping this means that we do something about the filibuster, but don't think the odds of that are good as long as Harry Reid is running the Senate. But getting nothing done might well be better than letting Lieberman set the agenda.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Winter Poem, on taking out the trash

When you step into a snowbank,
and you're wearing Crocs,

it is better, I would think,
to be wearing socks.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Funny vignette

There's a house near the entrance to my neighborhood that clearly has a number of adult children living at home judging by the number of cars that park there, and the ages of the people who use them. When I went home last night, I noticed two cars park on the street there. One was clean, and the driver had clearly just gotten home. The other was completely buried on all sides with snow, up to the roof, as if the snowplow just missed it, and whoever shoveled their drive went out of their way to aim the snowblower their way.

This morning, on my way to work, I noticed a young man grimly digging his car out from under that pile, and he was carefully packing the snow from his car all around and over his sibling's previously pristine car.

A thought about the Underpants Bomber

Has anyone pointed out that Detroit is one of our largest Muslim cities? Or that Dearborn, Michigan, which is nearly 100% Muslim, is right on the flight path to DTW? It can't help Al Qaeda that their Little Lord Fauntleroy neutered himself in an attempted attack that would have (like so many Al Qaeda attacks globally) killed a ton of Muslims.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

DIY Automatic Car-Cover

We don't have any fancy cars, but on those Mondays when I've been in the workshop, and both cars are covered in sawdust, I suspect Christie would like to have something like this.