October 25, 2018

Costume Drama

I'm a member of a book club, and one of the club traditions is that for the October meeting, everyone dresses up as a character from any of the books we'd read in the past year. Well, time kind of crept up on me, tonight was the meeting, and I didn't have a costume ready.

Then I remembered one of the books had a character that was a mustered-out Vietnam aviation enlisted man. So I pulled out my old Marine working coveralls and steel-toes, tossed on my float coat and cranial, and I was good to go.

It had slipped my mind that the hostess's husband was a captain (or maybe first lieutenant) in the New York Guard. He was genuinely offended that I was wearing a uniform as a costume. And then more offended that I found his taking offense amusing. He may be an officer, but there's three strikes against him-- As a Marine I look down on the Army, as an active-duty veteran I look down on reservists who were never active duty, and finally the state guards are the absolute lowest on the hierarchy of military services.*

That said, he keeps asking if I want to join. I might, state guard duty is super easy from all I can tell...

*: The hierarchy is as follows: Active Duty Marines, Active Duty Army, Active Duty Navy, Reserve Marines, Active Duty Air Force, Reserve Army, Active Duty Coast Guard, Reserve Navy, Reserve Air Force. Then Air National Guard, Army National Guard. Finally Young Marines, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, then State Guard.

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October 17, 2018

Sleep Over

Last  night I had to work late, came home and got five hours of sleep, and then went back in early for more work. So we decided to have our year-and-a-half old daughter sleep over at her grandparents' house. By all accounts it went well: she went right to sleep at her usual bedtime, and woke up and was cheerful.

The problem was at our house. The cat was very upset. She couldn't help but notice that the human kitten was missing and yet we were failing to do anything about it. Shouldn't we be searching for her? How could we be so neglectful, going to bed like nothing was wrong! She normally avoids the baby's bedroom but she refused to leave it, meowing urgently.

Poor kitty. The baby is coming home in a few minutes, and I expect in her grumpy way she'll be happy to see her again.

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September 27, 2018

Run Run Run

This weekend I've got another half-marathon coming up. The good news is, I didn't suffer a stress fracture three weeks ago; the bad news is, I suffered a sprained ankle. I'm going to wrap the dickens out of that ankle and run it out for Chesty. I give it a 30% chance I'm hobbling at the end, but so be it.

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May 08, 2018


As every educated person knows, the two classic blunders are fighting a land war in Asia, and going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. But it turns out I stumbled into a third. I made a complicated spreadsheet to help me out with a one-time task. But my boss discovered that I had created the spreadsheet and decided it was useful, so now instead of ignoring it, I have to update and maintain it.

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January 11, 2018

Plugs and Beeps

I successfully tested my snowblower when I filled its gas tank the week after Thanksgiving. Then, when it started snowing in December, the darn thing wouldn't turn over for love or money.

I didn't spend much time working on it, because the first substantial snowfall happened right when my sister and her family came to visit, and who wants to be doing small engine repair when you've got company? And then when they left we were hit with weeks of Artic chill, and even with a garage to keep me out of the wind, I was in no mood to work in 3°F conditions. Plus it was so cold that the snow was only falling in an inch or two at a time, and little snowfalls like that are not troubling to just shovel.

Today, though, the weather was a glorious 55°F, and tomorrow there's a foot of snow forecast in the afternoon. Schools have already announced early closures. My wife's office is basically shutting down at 1 PM. So if I was going to get the snowblower fixed, today was the day.

Long story short, it needed a new spark plug. The old one looked fine and still had a good gap, but it just wasn't firing. I got a new plug from Wal-Mart, put it in, and the snowblower fired up on the first pull. Victory!

I figured I should let it run for a few minutes just to make sure, and also to let it get up to operating temperature, so I opened the garage door and let it run. As I came back upstairs from putting my tools away in the basement, I realized I could hear a loud beeping over the noise of the blower. The garage door wasn't sufficient ventilation to keep the garage's smoke detector from going off! I went back outside to turn the snowblower off and reset the alarm, and discovered that the neighbor from across the street was already walking up my driveway to make sure our house wasn't actually on fire. It's a good neighborhood, people here look out for each other.

Anyway, long story short, removing the snow tomorrow shouldn't be too challenging.

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January 08, 2018

Wiring Fun

So, we own a new house. Today I added a new outlet in the basement, to bring power close to our treadmill. There was an overhead outlet in the middle of the basement, which had a hanging florescent fixture plugged into it. The other three overhead florescent fixtures were plugged into switched outlets, but this one was always on. Unsurprisingly, the bulbs in that fixture were almost burned out, but I digress.

Before I began wiring I checked that the outlet I was going to pull power from, was properly wire. My tester showed all clear, including the ground. Excellent. I added the new box and outlet, ran the wires back to the existing overhead outlet box, unplugged the florescent fixture's power cord from it, opened it up… and discovered that there was no ground wire to be seen. Instead, a short shunt connected the outlet's ground screw to its neutral side. (Not even a neutral screw, the bare copper wire was plugged into the outlet's friction wire inlet.) This was mysterious. My outlet checker has three LEDs, had I failed to read them? Surely it wouldn't be fooled by a ground connected to neutral?

I made a new plan- I'd remove the ground-neutral shunt wire, ground the wire from the new outlet to the (metal) junction box, wire the old outlet's ground to the box too, then tomorrow head to the hardware store and get a couple of feet of insulated single conductor and a plumbing ground clamp. The ground in this house is the water inlet, and there was a pipe just a foot away. In fact, that pipe was what the florescent fixture was hanging from. I'd wire the outlet as is, and tomorrow connect the box to the pipe to ground everything nice and proper.

So I wired as planned, except as noted I didn't have the wire to ground the box. I closed it back up and turned the circuit breaker back on, then tested both outlets, new and old. As expected, both were good except for being ungrounded. Leaving my outlet tester in one plug of the old outlet, I plugged the florescent fixture back in so I could see better to put away my tools. As soon as I plugged the light fixture, the outlet tester switched to showing a proper ground.

I rubbed my eyeballs and scratched my bald spot. I unplugged the fixture and the ground indicator LED turned back off. After a little cogitation and I realized what the dickens was happening. That florescent fixture is hanging from the plumbing, you may recall. It was hanging by two lightweight steel chains. The florescent fixture's metal shell must be grounded, so when I plugged it's three-prong plug into the outlet, the whole system was properly grounded through the power cord to the fixture shell to the steel cables to the plumbing.

As you might imagine, this is shady as all get out and I'm still going to run a proper ground wire to firmly connect to the plumbing. But I'm now amused by the craziness that happens with older houses.

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December 04, 2017

Dumb Kitty

So I saw this clickbait article headline about how "Some study shows that dogs are smarter than cats!". Now I love my cat, but I confess, it sure seems true for me. Yes, there are stupid dogs. (Chihuahuas, pugs, basically tiny dogs.) But... I present my cat. She loves to play with a particular toy. When all the humans are asleep, she drags it around the house, usually ending up the bedroom so she can jump on us and steal our warmth while we sleep. Then in the day, she pesters me to play. But I don't know where the toy is, and she won't bring it to me. I feel like a dog knows that if it wants to play with a particular toy, it will bring you said toy.

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September 29, 2017

Kitten Anxiety

Today our baby is over with her grandparents for the day. It's lovely for my wife and I, we can get stuff done without the constant attention an infant needs.

But whenever  the baby is out of the house, our cat gets super anxious. She's normally an independent sort of cat, but when the baby is away the cat is constantly underfoot, literally.

I don't think it's that she likes the baby; rather, while cats aren't as domesticated as dogs, they still experience neoteny, a retention of immature traits in adults. Cat mothers occasionally switch dens, taking their kittens from the old to the new one at a time. (I've got a story about that from Afghanistan- I'll tell it sometime.) So our cat suspects that we are moving the den. We took the human kitten over already, so she's staying underfoot so we remember to bring her over as well. It wouldn't do to get left behind!

And of course this is related to us moving in a few weeks, but the cat doesn't actually know that.

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September 22, 2017


Ah, what a lovely warm spell in mid-September. The trees are turning colors, but the last few days have been gorgeously warm.

We met friends at an ice cream place downtown and sat outside. We arrived at seven, so we had great seats as dozens of hipsters showed up. It's a fashionable joint attached to a super-fashionable taco place, you see. And there we were with babies and unfashionable clothing, talking about a book published in 1951. What is best in life? That.

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September 12, 2017

Big Money

So, we're buying a new house! It's just across town, but it's larger, to suit our expanding family. The mortgage application process is a nightmare of document production. It took less paperwork for me to sign my life to Uncle Sam at the recruiter's office.

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