Thursday, December 30, 2010


It has been time to refresh the office for a while but finding the time to do the work is the hard part.  Over the past month I have spent a lot of time casually thinking about how I would change the desk to make it better and how I wanted to change the space of the room.

 I had a lists of things I liked and a list of things I didn't like about the current desk.

So for two days I hacked a piece of oak plywood into pieces, sanded, stained, and finished those pieces.  Then I assembled them into what I call. . . Desk 2.0



There are still some finishing touches to come in the next week or two, but it's mostly complete as is.  The room feels better used.  The desk is organized (for today) and the two added shelves look great. Will it help me write a more interesting and well worded blog? We will soon find out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

DVD Rules

Rules for using the DVD Player.

#1.  Only ONE disk at a time will fit in the DVD player.  Stacking multiple disks and shoving them into the tray doesn't create some super great movie of the Little Mermaid swimming with the Pirates of the Caribbean.

#2.  The DVD player is not hungry.  Please do not shove pop-tarts or other food items into the DVD player.

#3.  When you beg and beg for a specific movie to be put on and I endure the five minutes of loading and skipping previews to get it started, I expect you to watch it for more than ten minutes before requesting a different movie.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


The kids got up at 4:30am.  They know the rule : no waking adults until 6am.  That's why they waited until 5am to wake me up.  When asked about the rule they said, "we got bored."  I stayed in bed.

Then they came back and said someone was knocking at the door.   Considering Santa doesn't knock, I decided to investigate.  They won.  I was out of bed before six.  The knocking?  It was a cat pawing at the window.

I was up at 5:30.  Cari decided she was not getting out of bed until 6.  The kids and I sat downstairs and talked about what the wrapped boxes may hold.  Amazingly, Meredith guessed the first three correctly on her first try.  Maybe we're getting predictable.

At 5:59 the kids were standing bedside waiting for the clock to flash over to 6:00.  Cari was up.

On top of it being Christmas we had one other adding to all the excitement.  Snow.  All week long I dreamed of a white Christmas.  Mostly because that's what ALL the local news people told me to dream about.  That's all they wanted to talk about for a week.

By 4pm on Christmas Day we had seen a few minutes of snow here and there, but it was mostly rain.  This is not a white Christmas!

By 5pm rain turned to snow and some was starting to stick.  Maybe they were right about having a white Christmas after all.  I apologize for the horrible things I said about the local news people.

At 6pm it was still snowing and the ground was white, but the sun had gone down.  Does it still count as a white Christmas?  I think so, but I'm checking the rule book.

It was a great day of staying home with the family, playing games and relaxing.  I hope you had a Merry Christmas too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Citizen Arrest

I have a thirty minute commute to work everyday.  Along that route, I very rarely encounter traffic.  Some days I may only see one or two other cars for the entire journey.  This story takes place on a Sunday morning around seven in the morning.  It was too early for the church crowd to be hitting the roads and it was late enough the drunks from Saturday night had already wrecked or made it home.

My drive is broken into three parts.  Part one is near town and is often patrolled by the law.  Part two is in the country and between two county lines.  If you see the law in section 2 they are often driving toward part one.  The last part of the drive is back in town where the speed limit drops again.

As I drove to work on this Sunday morning, the first car I encountered was halfway through section one of my drive.  A small pick up truck behind me. The truck couldn't have been more than one or two inches off of my bumper through this entire part of my drive. I could see clearly that he was irritated with my obedience to the speed limit.

As I rounded the corner and enter into section two of the commute I encountered the second car of the morning.  This car was moving very slowly in a 55 mph area.   With speedy Gonzalez still behind and pushing my bumper I was ready to get moving.  I waited for a safe area and then I passed the slow car on this two lane country road.  Two hills later I couldn't see either of the cars in my rear view.  Alone on the road, I turned up the radio a bit and  cruised toward work.

Just as I was getting closer to town (section 3) I started to see a few more cars.  Nothing noteworthy happened here until I passed a highway patrol going the opposite direction.  Just as we passed, I noticed in my mirror his brake lights pop on and I watched him make a quick U-turn.  There were two cars between the patrol and myself.  I checked my speedometer to be sure I wasn't leading this line of cars too fast - I wasn't.  Maybe it wasn't me.  I sat straighter in my seat, both hands on the wheel.  I watched my speed closer than normal.  It was like the principal just walked into class.

Ten seconds felt like ten minutes, but that's the time that had passed before the blue lights started flashing a few cars back.  The cars behind me pulled over, but it was obvious that they weren't the target as the law hit the gas to catch me.

I pulled over in a parking lot, rolled my window down, and shut the engine off.  I tried to imagine what offense I had committed as I watched him put his wide brim hat on and get out of the car.  Can they not speak to anyone without wearing "the hat"?  Does all of his power and authority reside in that wide brim?

When he approached my window he said good morning and then he asked, "Have you been drinking this morning?"  Was he serious? I was on my way to work.  Sometimes I wish I had been drinking before work, but on this day my drink of choice was coffee.  I pointed to my coffee cup and he smiled at me.  He said that someone called in a description of my car and my license plate saying that I was swerving in and out of my lane.  The caller said I was driving like I was drunk.  I thought back to the only two cars I had seen.  Mr. Bumper Cars or the elderly couple doing twenty MPH.

I talked with the officer for a minute about my drive to work.  He asked if I could think why someone would call that in about me.  He suggested I was doing some aggressive driving to irritate someone.  I told him about the car that rode my bumper all the way through town an the beginning of my drive.

The Highway Patrol officer said he didn't believe I was drunk.  He explained that he had to pull me over to investigate because someone called in.  I fully understood.  Then he wrote up a warning for me saying something about changing lanes.  After he had just seemed to take my side he was handing me a slip of paper.  It didn't feel quite right but I didn't argue.  I thought about the situation for a moment.  I was late for work, I was being issued a warning from the Law, and I was missing my favorite song on the radio.  All because of some jerk that wanted to drive like a friggin' maniac behind me.

I never realized that if someone was irritating you on the way to work you could randomly call the highway patrol and have them pulled over.  What a way to get even with someone!  If I think you are driving too slow, too fast, or I just am in the mood to ruin your commute, watch out.  I now know the secret!  That secret being that anyone, at my discretion, is DRUNK!

This is a small town and that jerk driving the small pick up is surely going to encounter me again.  For his sake, I sure hope he doesn't appear drunk (i.e. driving his car) the next time his gray truck is in my sight.  I'll have my cell phone ready.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Family Christmas Photo 2010 Pt 2

We tried taking the family photo again. Today was a different day. . .
with different outfits. . . 
 and a different attitude. . .
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Randy Builds a Table

Randy built this table from a single sheet of plywood.  There is almost no waste to get this table out of that sheet.    Here's a short video of the result of his work...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Too Many Fingers

I'm old enough now that it takes a lot of hands to hold up the proper number of fingers to display my age.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa Throws Rocks at Jews!

I don't remember how it came up exactly, but it did, and it lead to this story.

Santa throws rocks at Jews.

When I was a small Jewish boy I remember that as the rest of the world celebrated Christmas, my house looked plain.  It didn't bother me.  Well, it didn't bother me until that night.  The night that Santa came into my room just as I was going to bed.  He stood there holding his velvet bag and let out a jolly,  "Ho! Ho! Ho!".  Then he reached into his bag.  I was excited!  How is it that this small Jewish boy would be granted a present by Santa Claus? As his hand was revealed from the bag I noticed a rock clutched in his fist.  He raised his hand above his head and launched the small stone at me.  He reached into his bag for another.  Santa stood in my bedroom doorway and slung rocks at me.  It was like he was trying to prove to this Jewish kid that Santa is real.  That Christmas is real.  I was terrified.  I decided to become a Christian.  Santa doesn't throw rocks at Christian kids.

That's the story I told my kids during our discussion about Santa Claus and and Jewish people.

I'm surprised you didn't know that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Beautiful Waterfall

Cari asked me to check on the stream of water flowing out of our crawlspace.  Without much thought, I suggested that it was the water flowing under the house because of the rain we have had.

"The rain we had a week ago is still flooding?", she asked.   With that I got off my butt to see what was going on.   I walked out to the sidewalk and saw very little water coming out from the house.  It was such a small amount that I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't been prompted by Cari.

Flashlight in hand, I walked over to the side of the house and pried open the square door leading into the crawl space.  As the door swung open I stood back and checked for spiders hiding on the inside of the door.

Once the coast was clear I stooped down and swung my flashlight around.  When the light hit the side of the water heater I saw water flowing down the side of the tank.  Liquid was gushing out of the top of the tank and running down the side.  It was a beautiful, and expensive, waterfall.

I delivered the good news to Cari and we discussed our options.  I was about to leave for work and really couldn't do this work for several days.  I offered two options.  Turn off the water at the street and live with no hot water for two days or call a plumber and fix it now.  It was time to hire a plumber.

After a few calls the water-heater-fixer-upper-dude was on his way over.

Everything went great and hot water was magically being delivered to the faucets within a few hours.  The most horrifying part of the day was witnessing the old tank being drained.  More sludge and dirt came out of the bottom of that thing than water.   That'll teach you to drink unfiltered water from the faucet!

We no longer have a beautiful waterfall flowing from under our house.  Not only did Cari find the stream of water, she also discovered what she is getting for Christmas this year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Family Christmas Photo 2010 Pt 1

We decided it was time to take our family Christmas photo the other night.  Here's some of what happened that evening:

It started out with this:  
 Hm. .  That won't be the Christmas card photo.

Let's try again.  With me in the shot. . .
 Take two wasn't really what we had in mind either.  We decided to try one of just the kids.

 As you can see above, Brenna was taking control of the situation.  Like a puppeteer.  Things were getting a little crazy.  Randy decided to keep his mind at ease.
 After all these photos, the baby was getting tired.
We decided to have one more attempt this weekend.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Broken TV

When she came home from school and walked in the front door we were sitting on the couch.  The baby, Cari, and I.  The TV was off.  She walked in the room, looked to the TV, and back to me.  "What's wrong?  Why is the TV off?"

Her question was a clue.  It was the hint that gave everything away.  "Why was the TV off" meant that it's ALWAYS on!

I answered her, "It's broken.",  and she looked horrified.  Then Cari develops the story by saying that I was trying to pick up the TV and I dropped it, causing a crack in the screen.

Meredith runs up and checks it out with her nose touching the screen.  As she inspects she asks, "What happens if we turn it on?"  She says she can handle it with a few cracks in the picture.  She is desperate to watch something.

I tell her the color will leak out and we'd be left with a black & white television.  She decides that's pretty severe and agrees to leave it off.

Now she wants to know when it can get fixed. Cari tells her it will have to be after Christmas before we get a new one.  That was all it took.  Meredith had a melt down.  It was as if she had just lost her best friend.  We decided to end the joke and tell her the truth.  "It's not broken, we just weren't watching it."  Having seen her reaction to the broken TV we declared it a no TV day.  She was obviously too attached.

She stays upset and begs for thirty minutes of television.  After my refusal she claims that there is nothing to do.  This poor girl has been brain washed by the television for too long!  Cari starts listing all the things that can be done without the  use of a television.  Meredith quickly rejects them all in an attempt to get the TV back.  Finally, I request that I get a list of possible activities written down and read to me by Meredith.  It's a busy work task to move the conversation along.

An hour later when her brother got off the bus, she begged us to play the same joke on him.  He came and sat next to me and started talking to me.  He payed no attention to the blackened TV screen.  Finally, Meredith asked him to look at it.  She told him it was broken but he didn't seem to care much.   He asked what happened and I told him the color leaked out.  Without looking at me he asked, "It uses light bulbs, right?"    The boy was too smart for such a prank.  I told him the truth, that we're having a day without TV.  His reply, "Ok."

That's my boy!

Do you have any family members addicted to TV?  Have you ever played intervention and taken it away from them?  Let me know how that went in the comments.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Most Incredible Journey EVER!

I recently found a link to this story and have spent any quiet moments since reading it.  I'm on page 45 and not to the end, but it's like reading the most exciting book ever. . . you can't stop.

This is the story of a Belgian couple traveling across the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa.  They are traveling on back "roads" and entering villages where some children had never seen a white person.  This story is an amazing journal of the struggles they had and how they overcame them.  The friendly people they met and the angry people they met.

I'm going back to reading, and I strongly suggest you get started as well.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Get it NOW!

I made this video one morning around seven.  Brenna came into our room demanding a drink (baba) and I offered to get it for her so Cari could stay in bed a few minutes longer.  This video is Brenna's answer to my offer:

I made this video in a dark room with my cell phone, so you get the audio with a slide show of the pretty girl.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Merry Christmas Duct Tape!

Time to decorate the Christmas Tree again.  After choosing our first "live" tree in a long time, we took it home and loaded it down with ornaments.  I helped with a few ornaments but I mostly left that for the kids.  I was warming up (sitting on the couch) for my job. . . the STAR!

Step one: cut the unusually long stem at the top.

Step two: Find a way to get the long stem of the star to hold.  The old velcro isn't holding up any more.  Hand me some duct tape!
 Step three:  Stand back and admire the beautiful star atop the tree!  Notice I still used the cheap piece of velcro at my wife's instance.
 Step four:  Watch the wife climb on the arm of the couch and rip the duct tape off of my star.   She said it looked... well... "redneck".   How did she fix it?  How you ask?  She jammed the rest of that stem into the star.  Resulting in a star fixed in place, I admit, but it was several inches shorter!  Really!

I only argued for ten seconds before I realized that I, and the tape, was on the losing side.  Here is the result of our beautiful tree.
It doesn't look like I'll be getting any duct tape in my stocking this year.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

My Brain - Mapped

I recently found an app for my Droid phone that does mind mapping.  I downloaded it because it sounded really cool, it looked really cool, and it was FREE.

So with Thinking Space installed on my phone and loaded up I was prepared to collect my thoughts. Several quiet moments later I still had a blank screen.  It turned out that I had nothing in my mind that needing mapping.  What do you do with this software anyway?  Most of the examples I had seen were geared towards opening a business or taking notes in a class.  Neither of those apply to me.  I didn't want to give up on mapping my brain because I wanted to use this really cool app.

Then it hit me.  The blog!  I'm constantly jotting down notes for blog ideas and planning future posts.  I made my first mind map. After organizing my thoughts I exported my mind map as a photo and sent it as an email.

I present to you, a picture of my brain:

You can see how I broke up my thoughts.  Some of the headings have already been written, some are in the process, and some may never get written.

Putting this together was FUN.  This was not the same experience as typing ideas into a text file.  This was creative.  This was a new way to organize my thoughts.  Sometimes two branches needed to relate to each other.  When that happened it was easy to draw arrows from one to other.  In Thinking Space, the lines connecting two places can easily be customized adding to the artistic feel of these maps.  The small circles at the end of each text shows that there is more beyond that branch.  Each branch can be collapsed or expanded by clicking on it, limiting clutter.  You can continue each line as far as you want or start new ones.  I couldn't believe how pretty my brain looks.

So what other reasons are there to have such a program?  How are you going to use it?  After doing some more reading on mind maps I have discovered many other uses for them.  Some people put together thoughts on Christmas presents for family and friends.  Others make a map of projects to get done around the house with branches for deadlines or needed materials.  How about making a mind map with ideas of how you can use a mind map?  Once I started learning and reading I realized there are so many ways this can be used.  No longer is the screen blank when I load up a map.

Now I just need an app to motivate me to do the things I mapped out.  Thanks Thinking Space!