Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Isaiah 9: 

6 For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Go Big Or Stay Home

This year I've decided to engage the culture head-on for Halloween.

I love a good party just as much as the next guy and I love costumes too, but I kind of feel about Halloween the same way I feel about Mardis Gras -- they are celebrating the wrong day. And it's just bad liturgy.

With Mardis Gras you get Fat Tuesday, but skip out on Ash Wednesday and Lent. What's really the point then, except to party to excess?  Same thing with Halloween: a night to binge on candy and dress up with a focus on "spirits", and miss out on the Father of Spirits (cf. Heb 12:9) and the triumph of the Saints in Heaven.

We have a real holiday, and it is great. The Feast of All Hallows is the Solemnity of All Saints. The Church Triumphant -- the super-heroes who made it to Heaven who are the "cloud of witnesses" that support us with their prayers and intercessions and behold Christ in Majesty.

So by all means, ring my doorbell on Oct. 31 and let's have some fun. The girls, Blynken, Nod-girl, and Nib will be dressed in their best rendition of St. Philomena, St. Lucy, and St. Agnes with her little lamb in tow, Dab.

But you'll have to come under this 6-foot banner I got from Staples.  Just so we're clear. :D


Saturday, October 4, 2014

House On Strike

This is getting so ridiculous that it's kinda funny -- but my house is on strike.  Not the people in it, although I could fill up volumes in that regard, but the house itself.  Oh, and the appliances are conspiring against us too.

It just doesn't want to work anymore. Our house is starting to be that house-of-a-certain age. You know, the one where you decide that you're sick of your current state-of-the-house and could use a makeover -- and the house in protest just decides it's going to stop doing all those things that you have taken for granted up to now.

Like the roof and windows keeping out the rain. Like the water heater providing actual hot water for longer than 12 minutes at a time. The paint is peeling (or is that crayon?) and the carpet looks like the wrong end of a Chinese take-out.

The door frame is out of true and the garage door spring went sprung! Some outside critter got in and decided to chew a hole in the garage door insulation. Honestly, I didn't know my garage door was insulated to begin with, and certainly not with a million molecules of styrofoam.

The basement toilet refuses to flush completely despite the plunge-and-Draino routine and has developed a slow leak around the porcelain like an old man with an enlarged prostate. Not to be outdone, the oven heating element actually melted in place and sent up a shower of sparks to terrorize the kids.

The outside things looked in and decided to join the fray. The big Bradford pear tree in the back just up and dropped a 500 pound limb on our playset, so the swing-set got sunk.

The air conditioner flirted briefly with swallowing a toddler sized handful of gravel, but has since realized the error of its ways and crossed the picket line back to our side.

Finally today, after 5201 loads of laundry the washing machine is all washed up. The front loader drum came off its moorings and banged itself into oblivion, crying out "No more will I carry your load!" Gunga-ga-gunga-ga-gunga! Such a din!

The companion dryer wisely gave up its cubic yard of lint it had been hiding under its skirts and demanded amnesty. We have agreed to its terms and declared d├ętente.

We could laugh or cry, but laughing's much more fun. Here's mud in your eye. Ha! Ha!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Beer Conductor

There's a guy in Chicago, named Bill Diamond, who took a summer job at a rail yard after college and stayed there to become a Beer Conductor.
 - When the mercury plunges, this brew crew's job is to keep trainloads of beer from freezing. - Manuel Martinez
When the mercury plunges, this brew crew's job is to keep trainloads of beer from freezing.
Manuel Martinez


His job includes moving train cars around the yard to keep the beer from freezing below 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

They may get a little slushy, but the constant jostling helps prevent a hard freeze and exploding cans and bottles.

His warehouse, or "beer house" holds more than 1 million cases of beer at any given time. That's a powerful thirst, my friend.

What an awesome job! Far from being "a tedious and time-sucking endeavor" as reported by , this guy is performing a noble public service -- saving beer. >Sniff.< 

If you don't believe me, just ask Grupo Modelo S.A.B de C.V or Chicago-based Crown Imports LLC, Modelo's U.S. importer, I'm sure they'd agree; it's their beer.

This guy's a real mensch: performing a thankless task so others might beer. He can also do what no one else can do without committing a beer foul: he can shake the beer ... and it's a good thing.

Plus, being a train conductor is kinda awesome in and of itself. Every boy loves a railroad. Even my 3-year old Dab runs around the house singing Thomas the Tank Engine and making the couch  into a mountainous track or any horizontal surface into his personal train yard.

Bill Diamond is a real life grown up whose job is Beer Conductor. Combining two great things in life: beer and trains ... Atta-boy, Bill!

All aboard! Cheers!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

DIY Magnetic Stir Plate: In Progress

A work in progress: a magnetic stir plate for building up yeast starters.



First thing is to get a 12 volt adapter and hook it up to a rocker switch. This gives you on/off. Yay, power!



Next you wire up a rheostat to a used hard drive fan and your rocker switch. This allows you to adjust the speed of the fan. Wheeeee!


Now, take a hard drive rare earth magnet and affix it to the spinning side of the fan. Test mount the parts in an enclosure, put the magnetic stir bar in a flask and voila! It magnetically stirs your solution.
See the whirlpool funnel?


Needs a little refinement, but you get the idea.  I'll do a more complete post later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Church of England: Planned Obsolescence

This past Sunday we read the Parable of the Sower. Whenever the seed fell on the path, on stony ground, or in thorns, then the seed perished. When the seed fell on fertile ground, it not only grew but flourished and multiplied a hundred fold.

It was with this background in mind that I read on Monday of the Church of England voting to allow female Bishops. For those who believe that being a priest or bishop is just like any other job, subject to so-called "equity laws" (they should be called "sameness laws"), this is a long awaited victory.

For those who believe that priesthood is something other, something set apart by God for his own purposes, made in the image of the Son, and not alterable by his creatures, then this announcement can only be seen as a grave impediment to unity.

Sadly, the CoE is tripping further down the path of irrelevance. As the Parable of the Sower goes on to say: "But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away."

When you continue to change your doctrine to suit the whims of society, you have nothing to say to the culture for you have become the culture; you are therefore irrelevant.  "What? You are still here? Go away, we have conquered you."

But it is no good to simply wag a self-righteous finger. We who are hearers should take heed lest we fall into the same trap -- for there is a promise and a doom:
"12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fireworks and Celebration

Just concluded festivities with all of the Nodlings and our neighbors for the Fourth of July. There was barbeque, corn on the cob, peach pie, outdoor games, and of course -- fireworks.



Nothing beats watching fireworks with kids. They have the best time regardless. We had gotten a rather modest set of fireworks from Costco and set them off in the driveway. Our fountains and sparklers were punctuated by other neighbors' much bigger and louder fireworks over the treeline.

Big or small they were a huge hit. Three year old Dab covered his ears and snuggled deeper into my lap -- but he refused to leave. "You see that, Daddy?"  Meanwhile, eight little girls screamed at the top of their lungs at every bang -- not because they were scared, but because screaming is fun.

At one point, we had an intermission. So the kids jumped up with impromptu song and dance numbers and a fair amount of giggling. We were treated to a patriotic singalong and general silliness.

If that ain't a good old fashioned 4th of July celebration, then you don't know your head from a hole in the ground.

Good times!

Happy birthday, America.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Good and Cheap Eats

Although this isn't a food blog, we here at the House of Nod do love our eats.

That's why I'm excited about this link my brother shared with me called Good and Cheap: a SNAP Cookbook by Leanne Brown. She compiled this wonderful little booklet as a final project for a master's degree in food studies at New York University.


Although it is aimed at those who might be on public assistance, this humdinger of a collection will work just as well for those of us with large families who need to stretch a dollar. Or just anybody who loves great tasting food.

This is an example of someone taking a thing they love and sharing it with those who most need it. I don't know Leanne, her politics, her religion, or her motivation. But it is certainly a praiseworthy thing and one that deserves to be shared.

Leanne writes:
Cooking skill, not budget is the key to unlocking great
food. Everyone has the right to good cooking, regardless
of income. 
The recipes in this collection are lovingly
designed and paired with tantalizing photos that show
the plethora of exciting and inspiring food that can be
prepared for little.
For too long discussions surrounding people of lower
socioeconomic status have centered around nutrition
and making do. This isn’t a typical budget cookbook,
nor is it a nutritional guide, it’s a collection of recipes
that happen to be inexpensive.
If you want a better life, filled with daily pleasures;
learn to cook. If you want to get control over a small
food budget; learn to cook. If you want a healthy body
and mind for yourself and your family; learn to cook.

The recipes are made with simple and inexpensive ingredients (pennies per serving), but the variety is a thing of beauty and substitutions are encouraged. There are ideas in here that I've just dying to try -- and I think you should too!

It's 126 pages of cheap but nutritious eats for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dessert, soup, salad, handhelds, drinks, big batch, and sauces and flavors.

Sampling the breakfast: Banana pancakes, cheddar jalapeno scones, Oatmeal (coconut and lime, berry, pumpkin, apple cinnamon, savory, baklava!).

A bit of small bites includes: polenta fries, spicy green beans, poutine, and mexican street corn.

Perhaps for dinner you might try the Creamy Zucchini Fettuccine, Shrimp and Grits, perogies, or Chana Masala?

Wash it down with some Agua Fresca and a refreshing homemade melon sorbet for dessert.

Mmm, that's the stuff. Whatcha waiting for?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
(Traditional Greek Easter greeting) Picture of the Holy Sepulchre.

Happy Easter, all. Read more Paschal greetings worldwide.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7QT: Heartbleed, Beer, and Other Drivel




~1~ 

Heartbleed

If you use the Internet -- and I'm guessing a lot of you do -- then you will want to know that someone could have been stealing your password for the last two years.

Facebook? Pinterest? GMail? Yahoo Mail? Dropbox? USAA?  -- Yup. You've been had.

Computer security experts have "just" discovered a flaw in the popular OpenSSL encryption software that is safeguarding just about every online password and shopping site on the Internet. They call it the Heartbleed bug because it leaks your secrets. Cute, eh?

The best thing you can do if you use one of these services, is to change your password right away IF your service has applied the fix.  Here's a chart to find out.

~2~ 

Hops


My hobby is home brewing beer. Every year I learn a little more about it and try something new. This year my neighbor offered me some hops vines to plant between our two yards. Naturally, I accepted. Hops is the magic cone-flower that makes beer bitter (instead of sweet barley water) and gives beer it's distinctive taste, aroma, and even a touch of preservative.

Hops vines can grow up to 30 feet tall!

I know next to nothing about growing them, but not gonna let that stop me. Plus, what if I succeed? Fresh hops will be fresh, exciting, and tasty!

~3~ 

Kegerator

 Speaking of beer, it comes in pints. And what better way to serve a pint than freshly drawn out of my brand-y new kegerator?  Dual taps even.

All I can say is that my wife is the best! Crazy to allow it -- but the best!

Kegco K309B-2 Dual Faucet Digital Kegerator - Black Matte Cabinet, double gauge regulator, and Stainless Steel 2 Faucet Tower with Perlick 630SS forward sealing taps! Integrated drip tray, locking casters, fan-forced air, CO2 canister shelf and clip, and stainless steel guard rail.

If this means nothing to you, then just know that this means two kinds of awesome beer served from a handsome dispenser at-your-service.

~ 4 ~ 

Fr. Longenecker's Book

I picked up Fr. Longenecker's latest book The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

Fighting for goodness, truth, and beauty? What red-blooded man doesn't want to do that?


Being a life-long fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, I have to say that I enjoy this way of exploring the Catholic faith most of all: by myth.

C. S. Lewis said that Christianity works on us like every other myth, except it is a myth that really happened. Dwight Longenecker grabs this idea and runs with it, showing that the Christian story is the greatest story ever told because it gathers up what is true in all the fantasy stories of the world and makes them as solid, true, and real as a tribe of dusty nomads in the desert or the death of a carpenter-king.

Myth has the advantage of being able to present reality in another guise so that we can actually perceive it more clearly by removing the patina of familiarity.

Do yourself a favor and read it too!

~ 5 ~

Since I love myth and the chivalry of romance, it will come as no surprise that I'm excited about the release of Black Knight 2000 from The Pinball Arcade.
Black Knight 2000™ (1989): The Black Knight rides again in this brilliant sequel to the Steve Ritchie hit from 1980. Players take on the role of good versus evil as they battle the Black Knight in high velocity gameplay.
I am a pinball nut. Note this is different than actually being good at it. But I love the lights, sounds, and the feel of pinball. I sunk many never-to-be-retrieved quarters into pinball as a starving college student. Black Knight 2000 was my object d'amore.

I may never own the real thing, but I can play on my iPhone, iPad, Android Phones and tablets, the Amazon Kindle Fire, as well as the PlayStation3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, and Macintosh.

And now Black Knight 2000 is available in all its glory for a pittance. Or as close as you can get without full haptic (touch) feedback -- but it does have Tilt sensors on the iPad and you can "bump" the table.

I'm in heaven.

~ 6 ~ 

Catholic Study Bible App

 Speaking of cool things for your iPhone, iPad, or Android if you haven't downloaded your FREE version of the Lighthouse Media / Ignatius Press Bible App, you are really missing out.
I've used a lot of Bible software and most of it leaves something (a lot) to be desired.

Happily, this app is well put together, good UI, solid RSV-2CE Catholic translation, excellent footnotes and commentary, search, navigation, maps, bookmarking, social media integration, plus extras like recorded talks from Scott Hahn and others.

Once of my favorites is that you can also get the entire New Testament in audio dramatization! Even my kids, the Nodlings were fascinated by this and wanted to get out their bibles to "read along". Success!

~ 7 ~

If you love a short and entertaining story, read Three Hundred Words. Good, tight, and vivid writing that captures the action in medias res, yet gives you a flavor for the larger context. Excellent stuff.
This collection of short fictionalized histories, each exactly 300 words long, is an attempt to show that the uncertain times in which we now reside are no different than any other time - ever. Tragedies, triumphs, good times and bad are presented here as a calendar chronicling one year in the life of our world.
Some of the characters and events you may already be familiar with, others not at all. But don’t be too sure of yourself when reading these stories; they’ll sometimes take you where you least expect!

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Submit your 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Friday, April 11, 2014

It Comes In Pints

I have to say that Mrs. Nod is the Best. Wife. Ever.

She actually let me get it. So cool. She said after these several years of homebrewing she figured it wasn't a "fad" with me. If you are wondering what "it" is, then feast your eyes:


Kegco K309B-2 Dual Faucet Digital Kegerator - Black Matte Cabinet, double gauge regulator, and Stainless Steel 2 Faucet Tower with Perlick 630SS forward sealing taps! Integrated drip tray, locking casters, fan-forced air, CO2 canister shelf and clip, and stainless steel guard rail.

If this means nothing to you, then just know that this means two kinds of awesome beer served from a handsome dispenser at-your-service.

It's like I'm an excited teenager swooning over the latest sports car or something. Well, this is my hot-rod. 

And it's digital! You set the temperature you want and you get it. None of this temperature trial and error. Temperature makes a big difference when you are trying to dispense beer from a tap. Too cold and you get ice crystals, too hot and all you get is a glass of foam.

The CO2 also dissolves differently in the liquid at different temperatures. Don't need a mouth full of bubble prickles because the temperature and pressure are all out of whack.

This baby can hold up to 3 home brew corny kegs (5 gallon) or a full-sized commercial keg. Or a small child (heaven forbid!). Note to self -- Next on the buy list: door latch and tap locks.

All right-y then: who wants a pint?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mission: Accomplished

Had the pleasure of attending the Lenten mission at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax this week given by the fabulous Fr. Dwight Longenecker. (May I call you fabulous?)

A Parish Mission has the purpose of refreshing and invigorating your faith, especially during the Lenten season as we prepare ourselves for the "newness" of Easter. Often, guest preachers are brought in so that you can hear the familiar with a "new voice" and a new understanding.

If that's the case then Mission: Accomplished.

Father Longenecker is a fun and compelling speaker and yet very down to earth. While I was there I picked up his latest book The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

Fighting for goodness, truth, and beauty? What red-blooded man doesn't want to do that?

Being a life-long fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, I have to say that I enjoy this way of exploring the Catholic faith most of all: by myth.

C. S. Lewis said that Christianity works on us like every other myth, except it is a myth that really happened. Dwight Longenecker grabs this idea and runs with it, showing that the Christian story is the greatest story ever told because it gathers up what is true in all the fantasy stories of the world and makes them as solid, true, and real as a tribe of dusty nomads in the desert or the death of a carpenter-king.

Myth has the advantage of being able to present reality in another guise so that we can actually perceive it more clearly by removing the patina of familiarity.

Do yourself a favor and read it too!

Subscribe to Wynken, Blynken, and Nod via RSS here!  

Last Windows XP Patches

Yesterday (April 8, 2014) was the last day of Microsoft's public support for Windows XP.

Windows XP was launched on October 25 2001 and still accounts for more than 25% of the installed operating systems in 2014 according to NetMarketshare. (You can tell by the screenshot; these are my last Windows XP patches.)

13 years ... not bad.


So long, Windows XP, we knew ye well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pinball Wizard: Black Knight 2000

This is possibly the most exciting non-family event in a looooong time: The Pinball Arcade released their port of Black Knight 2000 on Valentine's Day this year. I know I'm in love!

I am a pinball nut. Note this is different than actually being good at it. But I love the lights, sounds, and the feel of pinball. I sunk many never-to-be-retrieved quarters into pinball as a starving college student. Black Knight 2000 was my object d'amore.

I have seriously considered buying a full-size no-kidding Black Knight 2000 pinball game for my house. Sadly, with 6 Nodlings to feed, I don't have $3000 extra dollars lying around.  But that's how much I love this game: I considered doing it.

Purists will argue that it's not the greatest table, that it's too reliant on the right flipper, and so on. To them I say: you have no soul. It is the essence of what a pinball table should be: fun, engaging, with just enough challenge so that you want to do it again and again. "Every flipper, bumper, sound effect, and display pixel has been painstakingly emulated in astonishing detail!"

It's got a great theme, very catchy sound track, clever phrases, two playing fields, etc. It's even got a freaking drawbridge for crying out loud!

And now Black Knight 2000 is available in all its glory for a pittance. Or as close as you can get without full haptic (touch) feedback -- but it does have Tilt sensors on the iPad and you can "bump" the table.

I'm in heaven.




http://www.pinballarcade.com/TablePacks/
Black Knight 2000™ (1989): The Black Knight rides again in this brilliant sequel to the Steve Ritchie hit from 1980. Players take on the role of good versus evil as they battle the Black Knight in high velocity gameplay. The game is all about speed and quick reactions, highlighted by features such as an upper and lower level, repeating U-Turn and Skyway Loop shots rewarding accurate shooters and a Drawbridge that lowers to reveal a ramp.
The patented Magna-Save™ feature from the original game is back. This allows players to activate a ball saving magnet preventing balls from draining. Great scores are achieved by collecting Lightning Wheel Awards, scoring Hurry-Up bonuses and playing the three awesome Multi-Ball rounds, including The Kings Ransom Wizard mode. 5,703 units of this table were produced.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Pilgrimage To The Shrine

Today I was lucky enough to be a chaperone for #2, Blynken, as she and her class took a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

I had forgotten just how beautiful and awe-inspiring this church is. We had a one hour guided tour which was way too short to see all the splendor in this Basilica. Afterward we heard Mass downstairs in the Crypt Church (also gorgeous).

Great art and great architecture doing what it is supposed to do -- lift your mind, heart, and spirit up to God. Blynken said she felt as if she was floating up to heaven. I don't blame you, girl.

Although the church is dedicated to Mary, the Immaculate Conception, it has my favorite picture of Christ in Majesty and Triumph of the Lamb. I can never remember the title, so we just call it the "Buff Jesus" icon. Hey, carpenters are strong, right?
And since it was St. Joseph's feast day, there's a picture of him at the Shrine also, taking care of the infant Jesus and generally looking out for families.
Blynken and I had a great time together and we were both awed by the Basilica's beauty. This more than justified taking the day off from work. Can I do it again? Huh, can I? Oh, please!

If you're ever in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and stop in. Plan to spend some time. Oh yeah.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snow Cubed

We recently got a humdinger of a snow storm that shut down the schools, the government, and just about everything else in DC. Now you of the northerly and mid-west states persuasion might say 12-15 inches is nothing, but in NoVA that is a paralyzing amount.
Not our actual driveway

Wet, heavy snow. Even if the plow makes it to our neighborhood, I have a 78-foot driveway to clear first. Wynken and I spent a tedious three hours shoveling off the white stuff. Being a slightly wiser-than-before guy, I used the proper shovel and good shoveling technique to avoid a back injury. We Nods have great thigh muscles!

To distract the #1 son from the boredom and sweat equity of our shoveling, we calculated the volume of snow we had to clear from the driveway as we dug our way to freedom. We have a large 24' square near the garage and then a long 8-foot wide rectangle that leads to the street.

We figured that after all was said and done, we moved nearly 1000 cubic feet of snow off the driveway! That's a lot of cold stuff!

Since the snow was so thick, we could only scrape an two inches of width x 24 feet at a time. How many two-inch passes does it take to clear a 78-foot driveway?

Too many.

I think I may actually break down and buy a snow blower for next year.  Oy!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Wherein I Declare 'Everything is Fine'

It seems that with few exceptions, the news is universally bad. You've heard the aphorism "If it bleeds, it leads."  Where is the good news you ask?

Studies have shown that people aren't that interested in ordinary pleasant things.  I'm guilty of it too on this blog. Often I feel I must have something "momentous" or "important" to say before I write -- usually a crisis of some kind.

But now -- for a brief spell -- I wish to declare that "Everything is pretty good right now".  Subject to change, natch.

My #1 son, Wynken, has adjusted well to life in the public high school. So far, none of the bogeymen we feared have appeared since his transition from Catholic grade school. He has a neighbor kid the same age whom he walks to school with, both of them with Aspergers. Our families are friends. Yay!

Mrs. Nod had a great Advent and Christmas season. She usually gets down during Winter so the season can be tough. We made some overdue adjustments and -- voila! Happiness ensues. I discovered that when she's happy, I'm happy.

My #4 son, Nub (the one with DS), got to spend the weekend at a respite care facility, Jill's House. We also were granted some money from the State to cover the costs. He loved the facility, the playsets, the people. We enjoyed putting our cares aside for a short time. All the Nodlings said how much they missed him until he returned. I didn't get a little misty -- there was something in my eye.

The girls, Blynken, Nod-girl, and Nib are all doing fine. Even #6 son, Dab, decided to take a short break from being a dangerous almost 3-year old.

Job's fine, people like the work I'm doing. Family is good. God is good.

You may not care. That's OK -- I care.  For one, quiet, shining moment I can breathe easy and say "Everything is fine".  Really.

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