Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Duct Tape to the Rescue

Last week my car started making this horrible grindy type noise.  That, and when the car changed gears it shook the entire car violently.  I was scared to take anyone with me because they might get whiplash while the car shifted to 2nd.

I drove home and when I pulled in the driveway I revved the engine a bit to see if I could hear any other scary noises.  Other than the metallic grind it sounded fine.
The next day I drove my car to the grocery store and had no problems.
The day after that we drove to a basketball game for one of the kids.  On the way home the car started complaining in its grindy shaky way.  It was time to figure out the problem.

Once we got the car home we opened the hood.  Probably something I should have done on the first day but didn't.  Standing in front of the running engine I heard something different.  Air.  There was a leak somewhere.   Cari got out of the car and started touching stuff.  I pointed to the area that sounded like it was leaking and Cari grabbed hold of a small black tube.  It sucked her finger into a small hole on the tube and she smiled.  She found the leak.  I went into my mechanics tool box and brought out the one item it contains. My duct tape.  I taped up the hose and the air sounds were gone.  Problem fixed.

Cari wasn't completely satisfied with my mechanical repairs and after a visit to O'Riley's automotive and sixty five cents a proper fix was purchased.  A small piece of tubing with holes only at the ends.  I installed the vacuum hose and the car has stopped being all grindy and shaky at me.  

I added the remaining piece of hose to my mechanics tool box.  Right next to the duct tape.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Now that I have a teenage son I am starting to learn all the characters that start to come around.

There is this one friend that comes around sometimes and he is a great guy.  He's always polite,   he is a Christian, and in my presence he's never done anything that would lead me to believe he's a trouble maker.

It's like he's almost too nice and in the back of my mind I wonder if I'm being played.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Picky. Picky.

     Last time Cari and I were in NC we stopped at this little restaurant for dinner.  I ordered a tea with my dinner and the guy at the counter mentioned that it was un-sweetened.  I gave him a look that said, "dude.  you are a restaurant in the South and you don't have SWEET tea?  wth!".  He picked up a container of sugar packets and told me I could sweeten it.  I immediately brushed off his answer and ordered something else to drink.  I understand that there is not much difference between the restaurant putting sugar in a pitcher of tea or me putting sugar in my glass.  The tea will basically end up being the same.  But for me it was a big difference.  The difference is that I don't want to make my own tea.

     A few nights ago my daughter was setting the table for dinner.  I was already sitting at the table and I watched her place a plate in front of each chair.  When she set one of the blue plastic plates in front of me I asked her to take it back.  She looked at me like I was a little crazy and I told her the plate was unacceptable.  Cari spoke up before I could finish and asked her to get me a glass plate.

"Picky, picky", my daughter said as she walked back to the cabinet.  It looks like she is starting to figure me out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Two thirteen year old boys, my son and his friend, are talking about girls the other day.  As I enter the room I ask about a specific girl in their class.

My son's friend says, "Yeah, she's great.  A pretty girl.  Really sweet."   Then he looks over at my son and says to me, "She'd be good for Randy but she's not my type."

I laughed a little at his "not my type" comment.  He was the one that was just building up how great she was. I asked this teen boy, "Well then, what is your type?"

"I like a girl who would stab me.", he replied with a serious look.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Story Cubes

I purchased a new game recently and I think this one may be one of the best.

Rory's Story Cubes is a set of nine dice with a different icon printed on each side of each one for a total of 54 images.
The reason this is one of my new favorite games is because there is really no rules except to use your imagination.  The night I brought these home I kept them in my pocket until after dinner and then, before anyone got up, I revealed my surprise.  I wasn't sure how the kids would react to this kind of game.

I rolled the dice on the table and created a story using the icons that I had rolled.  As I was finishing my story the kids were climbing over each other to be next.  The game was an instant success.

It's great to hear the story that everyone creates from their roll.  Some are funny, some are strange, others are scary, and all five of us were able to create interesting stories with the story cubes.
Since that first night I've brought the cubes with me to dinner a few times during the week and we spend an extra fifteen minutes at the table telling stories.  One of my favorite nights of this was the night that our 11 year old daughter told us a story with a moral.  She created a character loosely based on herself for her story.  When Cari went next she used her roll to continue that story with a moral of her own.  It's interesting to see how people use some of the same icons with completely different uses in their stories.  Next it was my turn and I was challenged to create a story with a moral.  In an instant we had created a variety of this story telling game.  Tell a stories with a theme.

What a great chance this provides for us to create our own content instead of sitting in front of a screen absorbing someone else's content.  Story telling is a great skill to have and I hope by listening and telling these short stories we are all getting better at it.

After having some time with Rory Story Cubes I believe this may be one of my best gaming purchases.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Snow Today

Last Thursday was an exciting day.  It was raining all day.  It had been raining everyday for the previous five days.  But Thursday was different because the meteorologists were screaming snow.  They said that in the evening the temps would drop and we were going to have snow.

Now I know better than to listen to the weather man.  We all do.  Apparently the Weather Channel also knew I wasn't going to fall for a snow warning from just anyone.  That's why the bald guy on TV, standing in front of a map declaring snow, was given a fancy title.  "Winter Weather Expert".    Seeing this had me thinking if the guy gets a new title during the summer or if he just vacations in the Southern hemisphere.

With the winter weather expert spewing his claims and the animated maps showing a snow flake near the house I started to believe.  Just a little.  It was still raining like crazy outside but I could believe that it may snow in the evening, even if just a little bit.

The kids were excited Thursday night because they may have a chance to miss school on Friday.  It would take just the slightest amount of snow or ice on the roads to call off the school buses and keep the kids at home.

By the time I went to bed Thursday night I still had not seen any snow.  The next time I looked out the window was Friday morning when my alarm went off.  Still no snow.

The "winter weather expert" has one job to do.  Heck, he has only one season to focus on.  He still can't get it right.  It may be time to strip him of his "expert" status.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Duck! Duck! Goose!

We took a beautiful January Juneuary day to head to the park this past weekend.  It started out with some Frisbee competition and some races.  Once the adults got tired of running (after one race) we decided to try something else.  The youngest suggested duck duck goose.

Once the adults got tired of running we tried a game of freeze tag.   Do you know how much running that requires?  I'd rather just get frozen.

I don't know if it's global warming or not, but it sure was nice to get out and enjoy some sun on a January day.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On The Court!

Basketball is a different kind of game when you throw fourteen five year olds on a team.   There's a range of understanding that starts at running back and forth on the court and chasing the other kids.  That's pretty well where my girl is.  
She knows to dribble when she has the ball and usually she knows which way to run.  It's a fun game to watch.

During one of the first games Cari told our daughter to go get the ball.  Our daughter ran to the side of the court and stood out of bounds while the teams continued to battle it out on the court.   After the game we asked her what she was doing and she blamed Cari.  "You told me to go get the ball."   And there she stood waiting for the ball so she could pass it back in.  That's usually what she did when she went to get the ball.
We explained to her that next time she needed to stay on the court. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Basketball Stats

With basketball starting up in my house again I became interested in keeping some stats on the game.  I pulled up the Google Play store on my tablet and did a search.  There are a ton of apps to choose from if you want to keep track of a game of basketball.

Some of these are free and some cost a few dollars.  I downloaded a few free ones and a few samples to see what type of stats they keep and how they operate.  I was a little nervous how much of my attention it would take to manage an app like this.  I want my attention during the game on the court and not at my tablet.

Last week Randy had a scrimmage game and up to the last minute I was trying to decide on an app.  I finally decided to go with Basketball Stat Tracker.

It is a little on the high end of pricing compared to a lot of others, but it seemed to have everything I wanted and more.  In addition to simple statistics such as how many rebounds a player makes and what percent of shots he made this app also maps the shots so you can see where your team (and the opponents) took and made their shots from.

The result of our scrimmage game looked like this for our team:
The number is the jersey number of the player.   Orange circles are made shots and the plain number is a missed shot.

The app was easy to use and didn't require me to stare at the screen the whole game.  Once I got the hang of it I was able to quickly record action from the game.

I did find a few things that I thought could be improved in the app and tracked them down on Google+.  I gave them some feedback about the app and they responded the next day.

A few days later I used the app during a game and thought of some more things I thought could be better.  This time I emailed the creator of the app from their website.  The next morning I received a reply.  In most cases they requests I made were already being worked on or they added them.  This developer listens to feedback!

A few days after the emails an update came out for the app and the developer sent me a message asking for my thoughts on the new update.  I have no doubt that I wisely spent my money picking up this app.  Now I just wish basketball season lasted a little longer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Monday, January 07, 2013

Tracking the Tracks

I was invited to tag along with Mark recently on a mission to trace the route of a long abandoned rail line.

Since my discovery of it, I've been a fan of Mark's blog because he does such careful research on the history of the places he talks about.  When he invited me to join him I was excited to learn some history and meet Mark in person.

Our mission on this trip was to trace the Swamp Rabbit rail line north from Cleveland, SC.
We met at the post office.  Well, Mark met at the post office while I headed up a mountain.  This is what I get for blindly following Google without thinking.  Once I was up on the mountain I had no cell signal to get a message out that I made a ignorant wrong turn.

While I was in the wrong place I decided to stop and take this photo.

Eventually I found my way to the Post Office and Mark forgave my tardiness.

He had already done reading and research on this topic and knew pretty well where the tracks used to run.  Our job was to try and verify what he knew.

We pulled the cars over and walked along the river until we found this remains of a trestle.
Based on the angle that they were facing we turned around and looked at the hill behind us.
 There was a large square cut in the top of the hill.  Now, this photo alone may not be very exciting to look at.  But this was very exciting to be finding evidence of a rail.  I imagined the tracks running over where I was standing and up to the hill.
We made our way to the top to stand in the cut area and we found the clear path continued.
As we followed this path we found another small set of trestles crossing over a small creek.  More proof!
Eventually we found our path running off the side of the hill and facing this bridge.  A closer look at the bridge showed what appeared to be old stone work around the banks supporting the bridge.  Most of the support structure underneath was wood.   Did a train cross at this point before the road was built?  Other bridges along this road are built with concrete block and metal supports.

Some of the additional areas we wanted to explore are now private property and inaccessible.

On our way out we climbed down to the river to get a closer look at these supports from some structure.  There was a wall and two columns.  The impressive part to me was the beauty in which this column was constructed.  Looking closely you will see small rocks crammed in to fill the gaps between the larger stones.  I didn't notice any evidence of mortar in this column.
My excitement about the trip was not a let down.  I learned and saw some history about South Carolina and I got to meet Mark in person.  We had a great day of exploring and hopefully we'll get the chance to do some adventures in 2013.

Mark has a lot more detailed information and photos of our trip on his blog.  

Saturday, January 05, 2013

It's how Cold?

The radio voice had just told us it's 42 degrees when Cari looked over at me and asked if that was the temperature in the shade or in the sun.

It's a real difference and a valid question.  If that radio voice is measuring in the shade it could be 10 degrees cooler than in the sun.

What resulted from Cari's question to me was a whole discussion of how weather should be reported.

In this age of information and technology we should expect the weather reported to us in a meaningful way.

Just a few of the options about the temperature that I expect to be reported to me:

If you are in the sun.
If you are in the sun with a little wind to your back.
If you are in the shade, under a tree, and the trunk blocks 65% of the wind.
If you are in the shade with no wind.
If you are in the sun but the shade is 2' to your left and the wind is coming off the river.

That's how weather should be reported.  That's the kind of information that I need from my weather reporting.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

What Time Does Christmas Start?

It's not Christmas unless you wake up before the sun rises.

Our kids were up at 5:30 this year.  Since they were told not to wake us up before 6:30 (mom's rule) they hung our near the Christmas tree chatting and examining the wrapped boxes.  At 6:29 they were at our bedside waiting for the clock to roll over. The moment my clock read 6:30 there was a kid on each side of the bed begging a parent to get up.

I wondered if everyone gets up before the sun on Christmas and asked some people on the internets what they did.

I had a range of answers, but one of the answers that got repeated was no opening presents until after breakfast. That had me thinking about what time those people eat breakfast?  What's the fun of Christmas morning if you have to wait until lunch time before you open anything?

 Anyway, that would never work in my house.  I think to run with that rule you have to train the kids from the beginning.  Mine already know Christmas morning starts before the sun comes up and there is no changing that now.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Starting Again

Another January has begun!

Be sure that you enjoy every day.

Happy New Years.