Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Note: the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys!

Sent from my iPad

Monday, June 28, 2010

Recollection In Life's Station

Things are starting to get exciting around here, what with the hustle and bustle of getting ready for our summer trip and my sister's wedding.

There are a million things to remember, a million more to find, and another that I'm sure to forget. It is all so ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. People still need to be fed, clothed, bathed, prayed with, tucked in bed, and tended same as always. In another several days we'll be doing the self-same things but in another house, another state.

I keep thinking that there is something "else" I need to be doing, something more momentous. But my station in life is right where I am: I work to make a living, I lead my family spiritually, pray, study, I support my wife, help raise the kids, provide both love and discipline, and keep up the property. This and a thousand mundane things are what makes up the day to day; this is where I'm supposed to find my sanctity.

Scripture says that people will be buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage right up until the Judgment Day, so this is nothing very alarming.

There is a story about a Saint whose name I can't remember. It was the hour for recreation, and one monk asked the Saint what he would do if Jesus appeared to them at that moment. "I would continue playing my game.", was the answer. The Saint knew that he was doing precisely what was required of him at that time, having already prayed, studied, and worked. He was recollected.

So if we have done what was asked of us according to our station in life, we also have nothing to fear.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dona Nobis Pacem: Give Us A Break

I must really love my sister.

Not only are we going out of town for her "destination" wedding (she lives locally), incurring the expense of transporting 7 people, blah, blah, blah, but also now I'm singing at the wedding?! I haven't sung in front of people for more than ten years now, except in church.

Fortunately, I'm not alone. My father and one of my brothers are also roped into this shin-dig. All I have to do is sing this simple little round of Dona Nobis Pacem. It's - what - two minutes of my life? How can something so simple take up such a large part of my time and energy? It's nervous energy to be sure.

We're practicing, going to a vocal coach for a few crash course lessons, and working on "blending". Right now, I'll settle for hitting all the notes right. We're doing it a capella, so it's just us and a sheet of music. We're making progress - we went from awful to halfway decent. There's still a week or so to improve a bit more.

I warned her that it might not sound all that good. She says she just wants us to sing as a gift of thoughtfulness rather than ability. OK, Sis, hope you really, really appreciate this, 'cause that's what you're getting. I must be awesome in the thoughtfulness department.

Sigh. Family.

Family Tech Time

You know the old adage: the family that iPads together stays together - or something like that.
The Nodlings are just as excited about my new purchase as I am. Of course, part of that is simple novelty. However, it has borne some interesting fruit. Because it is so portable, yet large enough for more than one person to look at, the kids are clustering about like fruit flies.

We have done morning prayer via Universalis a couple of times with the Nodlings each taking turns reading one of the psalms aloud.

We tested out our chosen GPS application, MotionX GPS Drive HD, v4.1, by navigating to Grandma's house for brunch today and then "detouring" for gas in order to simulate our upcoming trip to my sister's out of state wedding. It gives directions just fine, but the voice directions only seems to know about major road names. Figuring out how to detour in the middle of a navigation was also tricky. Should work out fine.

Of course the Nodlings want to play the games on the iPad, so I downloaded some free apps: checkers, touch hockey, BrainPOP, tic-tac-toe, Let's Do Math, and Animal Fun. My littlest, Nib, loves the animal one. It just shows real pictures of animals and plays the sound that animal makes, says its name, and spells it. Nib squeals with delight for each and every animal and pushes the button to go to the next one. The interface is so simple a two year old can use it (most of the time). She ran around the house yelling "Ice pack! Ice Pack!". I had to laugh, "No baby, it's called iPad."

Tonight the Nodlings and I curled up on the couch and watched an educational clip on BrainPOP about Hellen Keller, took the quiz at the end, and finished up with a couple of levels of the Isaac Newton's Gravity game, where we had to figure out various puzzles based on gravity.
Even Grandma, who is not into tech toys, saw it and got excited. She can read books, look up recipes, flip through pictures of the kids, and get her email on one little simple device.

Anything that draws us together has to be a good thing, right?

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #63

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Simple and Sophisticated. This is a study in contrasts, but both ended up being prayerful in their own ways.


Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community. To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Me And Bob Villa

Ok, I already said I was no Bob Villa, but I can't keep from trying to improve a thing or two around the house.

When we built the deck, we didn't bother with a deck gate, although our deck sits 1.5 stories off the ground. My main concern was that small children could fall down a long flight of stairs. So I designed the deck with a series of gradual step downs to prevent a disastrous fall. The top deck features three steps and a walkway that wraps around the front of the deck; another three steps down to a platform deck, and then three wide open wraparound steps to the grass. See? No steep stairs, no falls.

What I didn't plan for was having a child who wanders away at will. Nub has Down Syndrome, but he's only 5 years old, so he's functionally more like a 2 year old. Explaining that we want him to stay on the deck doesn't do much good, unless it was his idea. Of course now that the back yard gates are fixed, a large portion of the danger is taken care of. Still, there are days when you just want the toddlers to stay on the top deck within sight while you take care of things inside.

I've been puzzling over how to build a deck gate for a couple of weeks. The stair opening is wide enough, but the depth of the wraparound stairs is fairly narrow, so there isn't room for a gate that swings outward. We could put an inward swinging gate, except for that big black pole of the gazebo bolted to the deck is in the way.
Then I hit upon the idea of a sliding gate. I tried a couple of prototypes with some scrap lumber, some caster wheels, and a dozen types of brackets. Each approach had some unforeseen "gotcha" that kept me from completing it. Having a sliding gate that needs to be held up at the top and the bottom without hitting the supports is a real challenge.

My epiphany hit when I was gazing at the deck rails. I discovered I could turn them upside down and the railings hung just low enough to hold the top of my deck gate rail in -- making it a guide rail. I then screwed a long 1"x1" guide rail to the deck floor to hold the bottom of the gate from sliding out. I was pretty pleased with my little discovery.

The deck gate itself is a pre-fab deck railing. It sits on the deck surface and slides fairly smoothly without the need for any casters or wheels. Since it is largely the same style as our current deck, it isn't too jarring to look at. Once it is stained along with the rest of the deck, the aesthetics will be complete. Now I just need a handle and a latch and I'm all done.

The hard part, honestly, was the thinking the problem through and not the labor. So while I don't think Bob Villa's job is in any jeopardy, I'm pretty happy with my little gate.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Drinking The Kool-Aid

I've never had a new electronic device when they were new.

That is to say, I always wait a couple of years for the price to come down and all the bugs to get worked out before I sally in. That's a bit strange for a guy who been into computers for his whole career. I don't even have a smart phone (Blackberry, iPhone, Droid), just a plain cell phone - hey, it makes calls!

But I've got lots of other things to spend my money on, and 5 Nodlings to help me realize my proper priorities. But this time, it was different. I got a bonus for getting someone hired on at my work place which put a little unexpected cash in my hands. We have an upcoming trip to my sister's wedding in Cape Cod and I needed a GPS among other things. A 12 hour car trip means we need lots of diversions for the Nodlings: books, DVD player, games, video games, music, etc.

Adding up the cost, I found it was much easier to buy an Apple 64GB iPad Wifi +3G. It does all that and more. With the 3G cellular enabled, I can take this on the road and get directions, connect to the internet, etc.

I have to say I'm still in the first flush, but I am loving it. The iPhone was always super cool, but there wasn't enough real estate on it to suit me. Now, with the iPad there is. Sure, it doesn't fit in my pocket like a cell phone, but it's small enough to carry around easily (a little smaller than a sheet of paper).

It hold all of my music, a bunch of photos I want to look at later (and for the wedding), eBooks, games, maps, GPS, driving directions, email, Web, calendar, Yellow Pages, and a lot more. Currently, I'm ripping some movies from DVD that I'll want to watch on vacation.

This is the one that put me over the final edge: Universalis. Now I can pray the Liturgy of the Hours easily on the iPad. No more flipping pages and looking up the readings for me. Plus it cost $25 versus $200 for the full dead tree version.
Call me an Apple Fanboy if you want, just keep passing the Kool-Aid!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hot And Busted

No, it's not the name of a new supermodel reality show-- it's the air conditioning: hot and busted.

Of course these things only break when you use them - which, of course, is precisely when you need them. It's been hot, humid, and generally miserable all week. It is 90-100F during the day and it "cools off" to 80 at night.

To a mechanical ignoramus like me, I know one thing: it's busted. Other more enlightened souls may care about how this magic box called the Air Conditioner (AC) works.

From How Stuff Works:

Air-conditioning Basics


Most people think that air conditioners lower the temperature in their homes simply by pumping cool air in. What's really happening is the warm air from your house is being removed and cycled back in as cooler air. This cycle continues until your thermostat reaches the desired temperature.

An air conditioner is basically a refrigerator without the insulated box. It uses the evaporation of a refrigerant, like Freon, to provide cooling. The mechanics of the Freon evaporation cycle are the same in a refrigerator as in an air conditioner. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, the term Freon is generically "used for any of various nonflammable fluorocarbons used as refrigerants and as propellants for aerosols."

Diagram of a typical air conditioner
Diagram of a typical air conditioner.

This is how the evaporation cycle in an air conditioner works (See How Refrigerators Work for complete details on this cycle):

  1. The compressor compresses cool Freon gas, causing it to become hot, high-pressure Freon gas (red in the diagram above).
  2. This hot gas runs through a set of coils so it can dissipate its heat, and it condenses into a liquid.
  3. The Freon liquid runs through an expansion valve, and in the process it evaporates to become cold, low-pressure Freon gas (light blue in the diagram above).
  4. This cold gas runs through a set of coils that allow the gas to absorb heat and cool down the air inside the building.

Mixed in with the Freon is a small amount of lightweight oil. This oil lubricates the compressor.

Air conditioners help clean your home's air as well. Most indoor units have filters that catch dust, pollen, mold spores and other allergens as well as smoke and everyday dirt found in the air. Most air conditioners also function as dehumidifiers. They take excess water from the air and use it to help cool the unit before getting rid of the water through a hose to the outside. Other units use the condensed moisture to improve efficiency by routing the cooled water back into the system to be reused.

So this is the general concept involved in air conditioning. In the next section, we'll take a look at window and split-system units.

Window and Split-system AC Units

air conditioner

A window air conditioner unit implements a complete air conditioner in a small space. The units are made small enough to fit into a standard window frame. You close the window down on the unit, plug it in and turn it on to get cool air. If you take the cover off of an unplugged window unit, you'll find that it contains:

  • A compressor
  • An expansion valve
  • A hot coil (on the outside)
  • A chilled coil (on the inside)
  • Two fans
  • A control unit

The fans blow air over the coils to improve their ability to dissipate heat (to the outside air) and cold (to the room being cooled).

When you get into larger air-conditioning applications, its time to start looking at split-system units. A split-system air conditioner splits the hot side from the cold side of the system, as in the diagram below.

air conditioner

The cold side, consisting of the expansion valve and the cold coil, is generally placed into a furnace or some other air handler. The air handler blows air through the coil and routes the air throughout the building using a series of ducts. The hot side, known as the condensing unit, lives outside the building.

The unit consists of a long, spiral coil shaped like a cylinder. Inside the coil is a fan, to blow air through the coil, along with a weather-resistant compressor and some control logic. This approach has evolved over the years because it's low-cost, and also because it normally results in reduced noise inside the house (at the expense of increased noise outside the house). Other than the fact that the hot and cold sides are split apart and the capacity is higher (making the coils and compressor larger), there's no difference between a split-system and a window air conditioner.

In warehouses, large business offices, malls, big department stores and other sizeable buildings, the condensing unit normally lives on the roof and can be quite massive. Alternatively, there may be many smaller units on the roof, each attached inside to a small air handler that cools a specific zone in the building.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Did I mention I have the best wife ever?

Mrs. Nod gave me the best Father's Day this year. Mostly this involved letting me do whatever I wanted all weekend -- and giving me the space to do it in. The Nodlings were around when I wanted but kept out of the way when I just wanted to get work done.

Was it relaxing? No. I worked hard in the yard repairing my ramp, shed doors, and lawn tractor. But I felt good about it when it was all done. I made a plan, executed the plan, and got it done. I showed the Nodlings how to measure and cut wood, use a drill and jigsaw.

Oh, yes, there was a really nice dinner outing that my wife surprised me with and she got a babysitter and everything. We talked, we ate, I sampled the beer at Dogfish Head Ale House, we browsed a bookstore (there's no such thing as browsing with 5 kids in tow), and watched a Poirot movie.

Simple pleasures, happy memories.

Session Beers: Irish Red Draught Ale

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles the Session Beers: Irish Red Draught Ale.

Irish Draught Ale: Like Irish stouts, Irish ales are sociable session beers with a low alcohol content but substantial body. This beer pours with a deep red color and tan head over a caramel-like malt character with roasty and fruity notes. As a bow to Ireland's meadmaking past, clover honey lightens the body and boosts the gravity of this recipe, while a small dose of oats adds creaminess to the mouthfeel and a hint of grain to the flavor.

Well, I kegged the beer with my brother yesterday and had a little taste. Ooh! Ah! Nothing like warm, flat beer, I know! The color initially looked too brown, but once it poured in the glass it looked much like the picture above, more red like it's supposed to.

Something new I tried with this beer was cooling the wort with ice - as in a frozen gallon of water put directly in the boiling wort. That worked like a champ. I also added maltodextrin to the boil to increase body - that worked well too as it has a nice heft to it.

Now we come to the all important taste. I can tell the malt is present and it had a nice nose as well. But there is a bitterness on the tip of the tongue that isn't due to hops - and this is bugging me, since I was trying so hard to get it right this time. My current suspicion is that when I steeped the grains I squeezed the bag when it was all done which may have released unwanted tannins (or something) into the brew. I also made it with mostly spring water but also a little tap water which may have some unwanted impurities. I may let it sit in the keg a bit longer to see if it will smooth out with additional aging.

Fortunately I have an Irish Red right behind it if this doesn't work out.

Irish Draught Ale. O.G. 1.038, F.G. 1.10, ABV 5%

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #62

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents Summer of Love.


Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community. To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Productivity Or Not

I snuck into my brother's cube when he was away and took this photo. I mean, how many computers does a guy need? Since he's away, we might as well comment:
  • This isn't very green, now is it?
  • This is about the same size as the network I've got to document this week.
  • That rolling brownout we had last week? I think we've got our answer ...
  • Polar bears everywhere hate you.
  • Al Gore would like to talk to you about some carbon offsets.
  • Despite what you've read, these aren't portable cup holders.
  • Having more computers doesn't make you more productive.
  • 50 pounds of portability. Not.
  • Solitaire isn't any better on six screens.
  • It only takes one computer to multitask.
  • I'm going to need you to come in on Saturday.
Just having a little fun ... feel free to pile on.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beating Watson

I was curious, so I tried it. I was victorious.

[SD] "IBM has created and made the question answering algorithm, Watson, available online. Watson has competed in and won a majority of (mock) matches against humans in Jeopardy. Watson does not connect to the Internet to answer his questions, but rather seeks answers using many different algorithms then employs a ranking algorithm to choose the best answer."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Timeless: The Robe

Today I played "20 Questions" with the Nodlings.

I brought them a treat but they had to guess what it was. Between Wynken, Blynken, and Nod-girl they narrowed it down to: fun, a movie, old, Not Rated, in color, religious, and a Bible story.

I'd say they did pretty good for never having heard of The Robe.

Sure, it's dated, the acting is overblown, and the effects are bad by today's standards. But it's still one of the great Catholic Movies we had when growing up. Made in 1953, it was always shown on network television around Easter during the 70s and 80s. Now they don't do that anymore -- they always choose something sacrilegious instead it seems.

I love this kind of movie because it is not ashamed to be what it is: unabashedly Christian.
"The Robe, on the other hand, is a great story, with a sincere effort to communicate a commitment to integrity, whatever the cost." [IMDB]
Some days it's hard to tell aspects of The Robe apart from Ben Hur and The Spear, but it's a great movie nonetheless. What all these stories have in common is that they have a message worth repeating: repentance, forgiveness, conversion, hope, redemption -- it's all available, and now.

It's not dated, it's timeless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Turn In Your Man Card

Funniest thing said all day was by my brother.

He just upgraded the SUV to a full blown family wagon. Yes, that's right, he got a mini-van. Welcome to my world, bro.

A co-worker asked if he had to turn in his "man card" as part of the trade-in at the dealership.

"Yeah, it's all part of the transaction. They burn it right there in front of you. It stings at first, but then they give you some waterproof mascara ..."

Now he's rolling in his own Swagger Wagon.

Five Minutes In The Box

All it takes is five minutes in the box and I'm like a new man. Bam! Why do we wait so long some times?

Historically, after confession my prayer life is re-invigorated, my temper subsides, my thirst for the things of God is sweetened, I'm more reliable, cheerful, and much more charitable towards others.

In hockey you go to the Penalty Box after committing a foul. Two minutes for minor penalties, five minutes for really serious offenses.

I was complaining that I needed to go to Confession, and the guys said, "Is it that bad?".

I said, "Well, after so many two-minute minors, it adds up to a five-minute major."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

7 Flaws To Avoid In Building A Gate

Bob Villa I'm not. I can swing a hammer and work a drill and not a whole lot else. But I do observe well when I need to. I've been around long enough to know a sub-standard job when I see one.

We recently had a contractor fix our yard gate to keep in the Nodlings (Nub in particular). I was not pleased with the results. We did get them to come back and fix it properly, for which they apologized, but it was aggravating in the interim.

So here's a picture of said gate and a list of 7 Flaws to Avoid When Building a Gate. See how many you can spot (click for larger image).

1. Mix of old and new wood makes structural integrity suspect. Also, this is ugly.

2. The stopper/backer board for the gate is affixed to the mobile gate side, not the locking/stationary side. Therefore, it stops nothing.

3. Old and rusted hardware reused on new gate. No padlock means gate can't be locked.

4. Hardware/cross boards extend beyond edge of stationary gate. Mobile gate cannot close from inside yard.

5. Mix of new and old nails and screws; only screws should be used to hold pickets on rails. The nails will slip out over time because the pickets are so thin.

6. Tight fit between stationary and mobile gate means that any natural expansion or sagging of the gate will prevent it from closing properly.

7. The gate hinges indicate gate opens inward (correct). However, given the position of #2 and #4 this gate was built backwards and in fact, never actually worked.
Your suggestions in the combox, please.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Give Me A Lift

A couple of weeks ago, I had a mishap with the lawn tractor which rendered it unserviceable.

I still don't know exactly what's wrong with it, but I do know the mowing deck lift mechanism is damaged. It now has two positions: all the way up, or all the way down. Such is the way when you hit a tree root.

In a let's-pass-the-bill-to-find-out-what's-in-it fashion, I bought a tractor lift so I can find out just what is ailing my mower. It's just simple physics, really - a giant lever to lift the front end up so you can look underneath. It just helps that this lever is a tempered steel construction.

[WP] The magnitude of torque depends on three quantities: First, the force applied; second, the length of the lever arm[4] connecting the axis to the point of force application; and third, the angle between the two. In symbols:

\boldsymbol \tau = \mathbf{r}\times  \mathbf{F}\,\!
\tau = rF\sin \theta\,\!


τ is the torque vector and τ is the magnitude of the torque,
r is the displacement vector (a vector from the point from which torque is measured to the point where force is applied), and r is the length (or magnitude) of the lever arm vector,
F is the force vector, and F is the magnitude of the force,
× denotes the cross product,
θ is the angle between the force vector and the lever arm vector.

The length of the lever arm is particularly important; choosing this length appropriately lies behind the operation of levers, pulleys, gears, and most other simple machines involving a mechanical advantage.

I put it together tonight and can't wait to use it. It is a very manly activity (grunt, grunt). Everybody should have a tractor and a lift to go with it.

Not to be outdone, however, Blynken came out from her bed tonight and wanted to know what "that smell" was.

"It smells like the lawn mower."

"It is the lawn mower - or at least a lawn tractor lift.", I said. "It smells like industrial grade metal, plastic, and rubber."

"I love that smell, Daddy."


Summer Of Love

There must be something in the water, and my family is drinking it by the bucket load.

This summer is chock full of weddings and the planning and coordination is getting quite complex, including a series of local and out of town events. My sister is getting married this summer, followed a month later by my cousin.

Now, somehow, my brother has managed to squeeze an engagement in between various wedding events. Congratulations, Shoe! Your Girl Friday, is a great catch!

Everybody is getting hitched, and it's just as well. The Nodlings and their younger cousins have started to become confused as to who is married and who is not yet. In my family, when you become serious about someone you bring them over for Sunday brunch at Mom's house. We hold it every Sunday as one, big, giant family.

If we like you and you survive the circus for a month or two, you're pretty much adopted. After a year of brunches, the Nodlings begin to wonder why you're not married to my relative and they start asking you probing and embarrassing questions about it.

So come one, come all to the feast; but watch out! the Nodlings have got their eyes on you and they're not afraid to grill you about it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wynken's World Cup

The World Cup is in full swing, but here in our little corner of U12 we had our own Soccer Tournament. Wynken's team took first place during a very hot weekend; the boys played beautifully together - finally gelling as a team: dribbling, solid defense, and touch passes resulting in goals.

We only play house league, so we don't play with the elite teams, but the boys worked really hard to learn the game, and managed to beat some better teams. Our goal is to learn to work as a team and develop good sportsmanship in victory and defeat. Their final record was: 8-1-1 and undefeated in the tournament.

Wynken was so excited he said, "I'm going to treasure this for the rest of my life." I found his trophy by his bedside as he fell asleep tonight.

You know what? Go ahead and enjoy it, son.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #61

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Our Story as History


Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community. To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Friday, June 11, 2010

One Of Life's Mysteries

Why two toddlers refuse to eat pizza and fish sticks but loudly demand more asparagus and black olives, I'll never know ...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Catholicism Project

For those of us who are visual, here's how you want to get your theology. Denis McNamara, Ph.D. explains the transcendent imagery of the City of God in Revelation as displayed in Church architecture of San Chapelle in Paris, France.

This is a snippet from the upcoming series The Catholicism Project featuring Fr. Robert Barron due out this Fall 2010. It looks incredible.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Epic: A Journey Through Church History

Epic: A Journey Through Church History published by Ascension Press makes Church history look very exciting.

I love this promo video, especially starting at ~40 sec.

The actual series is a 20 CD set that is largely lecture format. Now, if we could just pair them up with a great documentary maker like Ken Burns or if the presentation followed in the same vein as the promo, this would be phenomenal.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Groundhog Grits

I don't know if there is such a thing as groundhog grits, but I might be willing to find out just for spite.

I saw the big, fat, no-good whistlepig varmint today sneaking about my garden. Since I'm on injured reserve I couldn't chase the rodent. I've never been a redneck, never lived in a trailer, I'm not from the South but I don't quite qualify as a Yankee -- but I will spear the critter with my pitchfork given the chance. It's up to God and St. Francis to spare him if they want him.

In the meantime, the Frugal Yankee has a boatload of woodchuck/groundhog/whistlepig recipes.

One Lord

Two different Popes. One Great Lord of all.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Firing The Neighbor: Part 2

So to recap, I put up a fence and then my neighbor painted it without asking me first. Shocking and a little bit strange, I know.

I am a firm believer in property rights - mine, to be specific. I get a little bent out of shape when I see people encroaching on my land (or my view). The former I have a right to, the latter merely an expectation.

So I made it clear that I expected her to pay to have it fixed; she claimed she couldn't afford it. (So why was she wasting paint on my fence? She apparently thought she was being "neighborly".)

"Look", I said, "you have clearly made a mistake. We all make mistakes. The important part is what you do about it. I have no wish to call the police, make a complaint, and sue you for the money, but I can. I'm sure you don't want that either, so let's make a deal."

"You buy me new pickets and rails. I'll try to sand the paint off the posts with my belt sander (yay, power tools!) and rebuild the fence. Your job is to get the paint off of my house, both siding and concrete. If this doesn't work, then I'm hiring someone to do it and you're paying for it."

"Deal?" Deal.

She had written us a note and put it on our doorstep asking us not to be "mad". I'm not happy, I told her, but I'm not mad. You make it right and then we'll be squared up; if not, then I'll be mad. Our religion tells us to be forgiving, but also to make up for our offenses.

So instead of fixing my shed door, ramp, and tractor I instead rebuilt the fence. And other than pulling some muscles in my back, every thing is mostly OK. Not great, but OK; I definitely wouldn't hire me to do this professionally.

I used this as an opportunity to show a little mercy while still insisting upon righting the wrongs. I also used it as a lesson for the Nodlings on how to resolve disputes and apply some Christian values at the same time. I was firm but I never raised my voice or called my neighbor nasty names. We solved the problem in the most economical manner and I donated all the sweat equity.

How many times must I forgive my neighbor? Seventy times seven, which means a whole lot. Some day I may be in need of the same.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #60

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Life With People -- You, Him, and Her.


Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community. To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Firing The Neighbor

Working with handymen and contractors can be a crazy experience.

Some are really, really good and those are the ones you try desperately to keep. Some are obviously bad, and you fire them at your first opportunity. But most of them are kind of "middling" and you end up putting up with some things in order to keep your price. I've got a crew like that now. Functionally the things they fix are fine, but aesthetics seem to come second.

We had the hardwood floor in the kitchen repaired under the dishwasher. That went swimmingly, so we went on to the next thing.

I've got a banister at the top of the stairs with a baby gate; originally we put it there to keep babies from falling down the stairs. Now it's in such poor shape that it's the baby gate that keeps the banister from falling down the stairs. We had them replace it, but initially they put the railing up crooked. Didja think I wouldn't notice?

Similarly, our yard gate isn't worth a hoot, so it's perpetually propped open. Well, after Nub escaped out the back door and then out of the back yard and down the street, that had to change. The contractor repaired the gate, but with a mix of the old and new lumber, so it looks funny and the quality is impaired; also the latch doesn't meet up right and one of the posts is lower than the rest.

If this guy's crew doesn't shape up, he's going on the Bad List. I think he's trying to become a General contractor who coordinates work crews instead of doing it himself - and that's a problem if you don't supervise your guys.

If that wasn't bad enough, things are starting to get weird. My neighbor has been painting her fence white. That's fine for her, but I don't want a white picket fence, I like mine au natural. When I went to work, my workmen were installing my fence/gate; when I came home half of my fence had been painted white. (And not the part nearest the neighbor.) And to top it all off she got paint on my house siding.

Of course I confronted her about it, let it be known I wasn't too happy, and expected her to fix it. "You mean like wash it off?" No, like replace it. Still no clear reason on why she thought this was a good idea.

So the workmen will either shape up or get fired; what I don't know how to do is fire the neighbor.
Read Firing the Neighbor: Part 2.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Me And The Homebrews: Hops, Ice, and Wort

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles bits and pieces of wisdom we acquired about home brewing.

One of the strangest pieces of advice we got was about adding hops to the boil. Hops are used to add bitterness and as a preservative in beer (malt adds sweetness). The instructions on our extract kit says to add all the hops if boiling 2.5 gallons of water, but to only add 3/4 hops if boiling a full 5 gallons.

Sounds backwards. If hops add bitterness, then with more water I should add more hops or otherwise it will be diluted, right? Wrong.

It's not the hops ingredient itself that is important, it's the amount of alpha acid isomerization we can get out of it. It's all about chemistry: temperature, specific gravity, and timing. Perfect hops "utilization" comes at a 5 gallon boil with a SG of 1.050; if you add half the water at the end, you cut your hops utilization in half.

The other homebrewing tip is regarding ice. Once you're done boiling this concoction called wort, you have to cool it as rapidly as possible to avoid contamination by bacteria, oxidation damage, and evolving sulfur compounds that make your beer taste bad.

[HTB] People often wonder about adding ice directly to the cooling wort. This idea works well if you remember a couple key points.
  • Never use commercial ice. It can harbor dormant bacteria that could spoil your beer.
  • Always boil the water before freezing it in an airtight container. It must be airtight because most freezers also harbor dormant bacteria.
  • If the ice will not directly contact the wort, (i.e. you are using a frozen plastic soda bottle or other container in the wort) make sure you sanitize the outside of the bottle first before you put it in the wort.
And lastly, don't let your dog eat the hops. It could develop hyperthermia (too hot) and die. I don't have a dog, so that's not my concern, but it might be for you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Father Brown on Librivox

Over the last year and a half, I have enjoyed G.K. Chesterton's detective stories featuring Father Brown.

I have enjoyed them on CD, DVD, and dead tree form. I just received The Complete Father Brown Volume 2 in the mail and I plan on enjoying them thoroughly. If you have the time, and enjoy mysteries and detective novels, or have a weakness for old movies, then I recommend them highly.
However, there may be a form that you may not be aware of that you can take advantage of for free: Librivox. These are audio recordings in the public domain, and they don't cost you a penny.
LibriVox volunteers read and record chapters of books in the public domain (books no longer under copyright), and make them available for free on the Internet. Practically, this means we record books published before 1923. All our recordings (including yours, if you volunteer for us) are also donated into the public domain.
All you need is a computer and the ability to play MP3 or Ogg Vorbis files. There are titles of every conceivable genre. And, if you so choose, you could be a recording star as well.

At the moment, I'm listening to one of the stories from The Wisdom of Father Brown, The Absence of Mr. Glass.

Front Fell Off

These fellows make about as much sense as any of the other talking heads out there, which is to say not much - only they're funnier.

New Zealand satirists John Clarke and Bryan Dawe talk oil spills.

h/t man with black hat

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Days Like These

This weekend I managed to break the lawn tractor, demolish the ramp, and rip off the shed door all in 90-plus degree heat without actually fixing anything.

With days like these, it's good that holidays don't come too close together.

(For those who are keeping score, this isn't my real shed; I was too demoralized to take a real picture.)


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