Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rainbow Falls - Flooded Edition

The morning after getting massive amounts of rain, Rick and I decided to take a hike into the mountains.  We drove up to Jones Gap State Park and found that the Middle Saluda River was gushing.  Most of the trail along the river gave us views of an impressive white water river.

When we reached Rainbow Falls I was truly impressed.
After navigating across the river we stood near the base of the falls.  The amount of water coming off of the cliff was incredible.  If you have never stood near a large waterfall, then you may not realize the sound.  Standing near the base, you can hear the water crashing onto the rocks and nothing else.  The power and energy from that much moving water is incredible.  A large waterfall like Rainbow falls also generates a lot of wind.  On this day, the wind was cold and came off of the water with a good amount of force.  We retreated to a spot farther back for lunch. Here's a video of the river, crossing the river, the falls, and lunch.

On the way out, we spotted a fallen tree that looked like a good candidate for climbing.  I jumped up and started my way up.  I admit I didn't make it that far up, and looking back I wish I would have inched up a bit more.  But how did Rick do?  Here's the video:

The falls and the river were the fullest I have ever seen them.  Here is a shot I took of the same falls in 2006.
I love hiking after a good strong rain storm like we did that day.  Even going back to a place I have seen before, feels like a whole new adventure.  

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dude, Where'd My Yard Go?

We had a massive amount of rain over the past week.  It seems like we have been getting rain on a weekly basis lately.  Before the ground can dry out, we get more.  My back yard is in a constant state of mush.  From the porch, it looks ok, but when you try and walk on it, you sink in at least six inches.

The neighbor called us over the day after this last rain and said that her yard had washed away.  I was certain that she was exaggerating and I went for a walk to their yard expecting to see a small rut.  What I found when I got there was that, indeed, her yard had washed away.  A very large chunk of earth had caved in and much of that fallen soil had been washed out, leaving a big gap.

I hope that it stops raining long enough for them to secure what is left, or they may have to move downstream with their house.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Neighborhood Christmas Gift

This is a left over video from Christmas.

So for some reason the neighbor girl got a BB gun for Christmas.  Not just any gun, a pink one.  The first thing she did with that gun was tote it over to my yard where we were jumping on our trampoline.  She motioned for Meredith to move out of the way as she took aim for the trees in the back yard.

Oh, I can't wait for summer when all the kids are playing outside together. . .

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Pants isn't a word that needs to be plural.  If I wear a pants to work. . . maybe "if" wasn't the right word there. . . when I put on pants in the morning, it is just one unit.  When I asked this question to a friend, he suggested it is because I have two legs.  One pant for each leg.

 I feel like if they are going to sell them to me in the plural, then I should have the option of buying only one.  Sell me one pant leg for the times that I tear a hole in only one knee.

The reply to my friend was simple,  "I have two arms and I wear a shirt, not a shirts.  My wife has two breasts and wears a bra, not a bras."

That was the end of the conversation.  I think talking about my wife's breasts made him uncomfortable.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Poisoned Cup

You know the story of the poisoned cup.  Person 'A' pours two identical cups and poisons one of them.  He is sure to keep them straight as he serves one to person 'B'.  Person 'B', being suspicious, switches the cups.  The ending changes depending on who is telling the story, but you get the idea.

I remind you of that, not because Cari tried to poison me, but because she bought new pillows for the bed.  I told you about the pillow situation previously.

We were getting ready for bed last night when she pointed toward the bed and told me that she got us some new pillows.  I assumed that what had happened was that she purchased herself a new pillow and my new pillow was her old one. It's like the hand-me-down clothes you used to get for Christmas.  I made that assumption based on past pillow purchases. I looked over at the neatly made bed but didn't say anything.

I continued my routine of getting ready for bed, waiting for the right moment.  I was going to make the switch.  When she went into the bathroom and clicked the door shut, I jumped over and switched the pillows. I took care to place them back exactly as they were.  A few minutes later we laid down and I waited for her to complain about her pillow.

I was disappointed when she didn't say anything so I asked her how she liked the new pillow.  She said it was great.  Why wasn't she screaming about her pillow?  I thought that maybe she knew I'd switch them and initially placed the new one on my side of the bed.  The pillow under my head felt fine, but was it the old or the new?  I asked her to switch with me as we lay there.

"The pillows are the same.  I bought two.", she said with some annoyance in her voice.  I continued to insist a trade until she agreed.  When she finally agreed I couldn't tell if that was part of the game.  Maybe she wanted me to trade and give her the new pillow back.  As she held her pillow my direction, I refused it.  Isn't it possible that she gave herself the new pillow when she made the bed, knew that I switched them, and now was about to get the new pillow back under head?

"What is your problem?", she asked.  She was tired and not happy to be playing these games.  She put the pillow back under her head and looked so comfortable.

The various versions of the poisoned cup story ran through my head and left me feeling outsmarted.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I was going to write a blog about some of the various apps I have been using on the Motorola Droid.  Everyday I enjoy this phone more and more.  There are widgets for the home screens and apps to download making the phone more and more MY phone.

That post about widgets and apps may get written in the near future, but for now I have to tell you about this amazing keyboard called SWYPE.

I had read about it in some forums but ignored it because it sounded complicated or hokey.  I thought it would be a gimmick.  As time went on, more and more people were raving about the awesomeness of Swype and then I found this video.

I had to try it!  I found and downloaded the version for the Droid that was floating around on the internets.  After only a day or two of trying it out I fell it in love with it.  It is fast to write words in Swype.  It calculates what you are trying to write and you don't have to 100% accurate.  I can write fast and sloppy and when I stop to proof read it, I find it VERY accurate.   On top of being quick and accurate, using Swype is FUN.

For longer emails and messages I still tend to use the physical keyboard on the Droid, but when I am texting, I am using Swype.

Unfortunately, this isn't an app you can download from the market.  The developer, who is an inventor of T9 text, wants to sell it to phone makers and have it included in the phone.  They don't want to sell it to the end user at this time.  If you have an Android based phone, and want to try Swype, let me know.

An alternative program that I have not tried, but looks to work about the same is called Shapewriter.  Shapewriter is available on multiple platforms including the iPhone.

If you have a touchscreen keyboard device, and you really like tapping your greasy finger all over the screen, and you like fixing errors more than typing words, then just ignore this post.  The other option is to join what is to be the future.  The future is FUN.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Used a Tampon

Cari comes up with different solutions to problems that I encounter.  Different from the solutions that I would have thought of for sure, and that's how I ended up using a Tampon.

It all started with a leaky valve behind the washing machine.  Initially, I thought the leak was coming from the hose, so I replaced the washer inside the connection.  After the quick fix, the water continued to drip and I tracked it down to the top part of the valve.  Surgery would be required for this job.

I had to replace the entire valve and I wasn't too excited because I knew that this house had been plumbed with horrible polybutylene.  I ran over to Lowe's to get some supplies before attempting the repair.  An employee over at Lowe's saw me shopping for parts in their polybutylene section and he came over to make sure I was getting what I needed.  While helping me, he acted out a suicide by sword, telling me that's what he would do if his house had this crap pipe throughout.  After gathering the parts, I left the employee laying there with a self inflicted sword wound to the chest.

Back at home, I turned off the water at the meter and cut (another) hole in the drywall.  Using my garden pruners, I snapped the gray pipe.  Water started shooting out of the split pipe, soaking the insides of the wall.   The first thing that came to mind was to stick my thumb over the opening and stop the leak.  This tied up one of my hands, while the other was trying to unscrew the old valve.

Here's an image for you to think about.  I was still dressed from church, crouched and squeezed into the corner behind the washing machine.  A small hole in the drywall exposed a gray pipe.  I had wet drywall dust on my arms and pants.  My left thumb was on top of the pipe to stop the water flow while my right hand was struggling with a rusty valve.

I started crying for Cari.  She came to my rescue and tossed me a few towels.  Then she suggested plugging the pipe with a ball of play doh.  That may have solved the water from coming out of the pipe for a while, but it would be a whole new repair job to get the blue blob out of that pipe.  At this point you may be asking yourself why water was coming out of the pipe if I shut it off at the meter. That's exactly what I was wondering as I sat with my thumb holding back a column of water.  It would turn out later, that I hadn't turned the valve at the meter far enough.

After getting rejected on the play doh idea, Cari came back into the closet and handed me a Tampon.  I took her up on the offer and started jamming that thing into the pipe.  I knew that little string would come in handy later on in this project.

The next hour was a nightmare.  I put the new parts in place, pulled out my tampon, and shoved the parts together with water spraying out in all directions.  My movements were quick and the water stopped flowing. It was down to a fast drip.  Unacceptable.  The fix required a few more trips out to the meter turning the valve ALL the way off and back on for testing.  The new parts would be installed three separate times as I tried to get them to stop leaking.

I was not in a good mood at the end of this.  The hole in the dry wall was expanded twice during the surgery and there is no intention to repair it anytime soon.  Fixing that hole is low priority right now.  Just like the hole that still exists in the laundry room ceiling.

Lessons learned:
1. check to be sure the water is fully off when doing plumbing repairs
2. garden pruners make great pipe cutters
3. Keep a box of tampons in the tool box.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I've Been Flashed

When I went outside to take some portraits for my Bearded blog the other day, I took a few tripods, a remote for the camera, and a wireless transmitter for my flash with me.  I knew I was going to use the sun to light a good portion of my photo, but the side of my face away from the sun was going to be shadowed.  The off camera flash would balance the light in the shot without creating crazy shadows.

In several of the shots I wore my hat.  An on camera flash pointed straight at my face would not work for these shots.  My eyes wouldn't get the light and would look dark.

Here's the setup I used....

I stood pretty close in front of the camera and used the building as a back drop.  You can see the flash low and on the right side pointed up.  It was on a pretty low power, maybe 1/8th.  I'm sure that number means the world to 99% of you.  Anyway, if you didn't notice, the sun was on the left side of this shot.

Here's another result from the shoot:

I was trying to get a good photograph without it being obvious that I used a flash.
This next shot is one without a flash.  Probably not a bad snapshot overall...

Here's the one with flash on.  It's not my favorite, but it is a decent example of how a little flash off camera can totally change a shot.

If you have a chance to light your photo without the flash pointed directly at the persons face, try it.  MOST times, I think you'll have better results.  Use the sunlight or bright room lighting.  If you have an add on flash like on a DSLR, and you are indoors, point that flash at the ceiling or at a nearby wall.  Light is what really makes your photograph.  It determines how your subject will be displayed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Earlier this month I decided to stop shaving.  It was an easy decision based mostly on lack of motivation and a bit of laziness.  It is a lot easier to stop doing a chore than it is to start one.

Another reason I stopped shaving was because I received an electric trimmer through a game of "dirty santa" a few weeks back.  At the time it seemed a funny thing for me to take because I've never had a beard.  But I knew this was my opportunity to try it.  

A week into my shaving strike, I realized that I was going to have tidy it up if I intended on maintaining respect at work.  I pulled Cari into the bathroom with me and my new trimmer.  I had no idea where to start.  How much do I shave?  Where do I draw the line?  I asked Cari these questions but she didn't have many answers.  She reminded me that she has never had a beard either.  If I screwed up too much, I'd have to shave completely and start over.  I had worked so hard at not shaving, I'd hate to start over now.   I started by shaving the hair off of my neck.  Roughly tracing a line below my jaw bone I instantly knew I was on the right path.
Cari, who initially hated my shaving strike, agreed that it looked much better after some trimming.

I'm now on a schedule that requires me to shape it up or trim it about twice a week.  It's not as much of a chore as shaving every day, but it takes more thought than just shaving my whole face.  I'm starting to realize that having a beard is about as much work as not having one.  This isn't going to be the vacation from shaving that I thought it could be.

Beard 1.0 has come in enough now to get noticed at work.  There were a few days when I would get multiple  coworkers stopping me and making comments.  "Are you growing a beard?", they'd ask.  I thought it was kinda a dumb question and I normally responded with an equally dumb response.  Something along the lines of, "It's starting to look that way."

I'm going to keep this going for a while.  Initially, I thought I'd stop at the end of the month, but the longer I have it, the more it kinda grows on me!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Basket Ball Season

It's time for basketball season again.  We have been practicing about three nights a week and some Saturdays since Thanksgiving, so we hope to have some good results this year.

We had our third game last night and our third loss of the season.  We knew we'd probably lose a few games, we just didn't know it was going to be the first three.

Now that we got those out of the way, it's time to pick up and start winning again!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Little Less Cold

As cold as it has been lately around here, it can be difficult to stay warm when you leave the house.   This has been especially true if riding around town in my car with the heater that hates me.  If you remember, Cari claimed that I wasn't getting heat because I possibly wasn't nice enough to the car.  I still believed there was another way to force hot air out of those vents.

A few days ago, after a particularly cold drive to work while wearing a jacket, scarf, gloves, and hat, I told a coworker that I had just about froze to death on my drive.  It's a thirty minute drive to work and it was twenty something degrees.  His first response was, "Is your coolant low?"

By the expression on my face, he must have heard my answer, "Huh?"  I just got done telling him that I had frost bite in my hands and on my nose and he asks if my COOLANT is low.  Obviously, I don't know much about auto mechanics.  Anyway, I remembered that the low coolant light had been on for the past three months but I had ignored it because I thought it was too cold to over heat the car anyway.  I wasn't about to admit to my coworker that I had ignored the warning like an idiot, so I just told him that it "possibly" could be a bit low.  The reality is that I thought there was probably almost no fluid in the radiator.

That night I picked up a few bottles of cheap 50/50 mix at the auto store, filled the radiator, and ran the car for fifteen minutes.  For the first time this winter the inside of my car was HOT!

Oh sweet hot air!

The next morning I drove to work in my underwear with the heat blowing against my naked chest.  So what if it was 22 degrees outside, I was INSIDE the car!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Don't Throw Your Food!

Brenna has decided that when she is done eating, the rest of the food should be thrown to the floor.  Cari hates this habit, but the dog loves it.

At first it was kinda funny.  After a few days of mopping the floor and scrubbing the wall it stopped being funny. At that point she started getting in trouble for it.  Then she changed it up a bit to be funny again.  She felt like if she closed her eyes that you wouldn't be able to see her.  Now she closes her eyes really tight and, with her arm extended, drops her food to the floor.  Cari tells her, "I can still see you!", but she doesn't care.  She knows she is cute.

Here's a video of the food throwing...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mongols on the Mountain!

We had a great time at Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing last week. It was cold and the place was packed with people.  But that hill was FAST.

Before you could tackle the hill, you had to sign a few waivers telling the owners of the place that you wouldn't sue them, even if you lost an arm. . . or a kid.  They also placed a list of warnings on your ride ticket to remind you about the extreme danger you had agreed to put yourself into.

We sat down to read the list of warnings while we waited for our turn.  "I know what ice dangers are and some of the other things, but I'm not sure what MONGOLS are.  Whatever they are, they have them here."

"Do you mean MOGULS?" I asked.  It seemed more likely that they would have bumps in the snow rather than a group of warriors from Northern China.  In their own way, each is kinda scary.  I wasn't sure which one I would rather encounter on my way down.  Thankfully, by the end of the day I hadn't seen either of those hazards during my time at Moonshine Mountain.

Oh, and by the way, my arm and my kid both made it home safely.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Black on Black

Reminder to myself.  Black text on a black background can be difficult to read.

Let's try not to repeat yesterday's mistake.

Monday, January 04, 2010


We got the kids a trampoline for Christmas this year.  Cari was on me for the two weeks leading up to Christmas to go work on starting the assembly, but I ignored her request.

It wouldn't be that hard to build a trampoline, and it will be harder to hide a half built one for several weeks.  My plan would be to build the thing in the two days prior to Christmas.

Like all good plans, some other things started happening in the week leading up to Christmas and time was running short.  Cari was getting more and more frustrated by the day.  She feared that I would be out there the night of Christmas Eve, in the cold, in the rain, until two in the morning, and that I would make her help!  Instead of freaking out, I went in and got a glass of sweet tea.  

During the afternoon on Christmas Eve Amanda, Cari, and I all went into the backyard while the kids were playing across the street.  I figured this project would take between an hour and a half and two hours.  The three of us built the trampoline and the enclosure within my time limit to Cari's surprise.  After a few minutes of us jumping on it, we stashed behind my building against the back of the house. 

It was raining Christmas morning, and it was around six in the morning when we started ripping into our presents.  Because of the rain, we didn't mention the trampoline to the kids.  Anyway, they were distracted enough with all the Christmas goodies that had flooded our living room.    

Somewhere around ten or eleven Randy asked if it was clear enough to play outside.  I suggested they look outside and see what they thought.  Of course, we followed them to the door to see their reaction.  

Randy turned around after opening the door, "When did we get a trampoline?"   Getting them the trampoline and keeping it a surprise went perfectly.  We've all had fun jumping on it, even Cari, who still believe's it wouldn't be built had she left it up to me.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

It's not a HOLIDAY

Several people wished me a happy holiday or asked how my holiday was going on Thursday.  New Year's EVE.

My response was, "Today is not a holiday.  Tomorrow is the holiday."  I felt their well wishing was no different than asking, "Are you having a good Thursday?".

Later in the afternoon on Thursday I had the opportunity to talk with Becky on Skype and she asked about my holiday.  I gave her my little speech about Friday being the holiday.  She didn't believe me so I asked her a simple question to clarify my position.

"Did you get mail today?"

The answer was, of course, yes.  If it was a holiday then the mail wouldn't have run.  Cari was in the room with me and she was now tired of my holiday definition.  She took up an argument against me but I remained confident.

I expanded on my New Year's Eve argument and declared that Christmas Eve is not a holiday.  Christmas is the holiday.  The title "EVE" automatically defines itself as leading up to the holiday.

Around seven that evening, Cari asked me to go pick up something at the store.  I didn't even get out of my chair because I knew they were closed and I reminded her of that fact.

"Why did they close early?", she asked.  "Could it be that they closed early for the holiday?"