Monday, December 31, 2007

P&R Ball

Last night several adults gathered at a table while the kids were playing dodgeball and stuff for their New Years Eve party at church. We played a dice game called "chicken" or "farkle." There was probably more whooping and laughing at our table than the kids in the other room. Lucie and I had intended to drop the kids off and leave but we stayed the whole time (till 11 PM). We ate a lot and had a lot of laughs. Elliott went over to a friend's house for the night afterwards and that friend's sister spent the night at our house with Ashleigh.

While there at church yesterday, someone challenged me to a game(s) of ping pong. Coincidental that I had just played Elliott earlier in the day. Anyway, he was all wound up and ready to roll. I beat him pretty good. Three times. The final game I was up 10-0 before he scored his first point. When will they learn...?

This morning I met some friends at the Y for racquetball. That was pretty good. I won twice, the other guy won twice, and his son one once. Very competitive and a lot of fun. Most importantly, no one got hurt (although the son did take my legs out once and I fell on top of him). I can sure leave a big sweaty wet spot on the floor!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


The top story is of course, the top story. The Patriots set many records this season and last night. Thrilling game. Three more to go...

Earlier in the day on Saturday, we went to brunch at the parents of one of Elliott's basketball/school friends. He is a minister at a local church and a really nice guy. He has ties to New England and a friend in Eliot, ME so we had a good time talking. About 40 people were there (including many kids) and good food.

After that, we stopped by the church and updated the floor markings that indicate where the chairs are supposed to line up. The chairs will all be moved out of the way for the youth group's New Years Eve party tonight and it makes it easier to put the chairs back with fresh 'markers.' (The markers are numbered pieces of duct tape placed at the beginning and ends of each row for alignment. Our engineer friend came up with that idea and I maintain it.)

Elliott has been playing a lot of ping pong lately. So today he stepped up and threw down the challenge to the old man. He came all dressed in a sports outfit so I put on my Celtics shorts and tank top. And proceeded to keep him humble... He didn't want any charity so none was given. Best of 5; I won 21-12, 21-12, 21-17. But he is good. I am betting he is the best at his age category and then some. I have wanted to set up a tournament at church and I even have a bracket template ready to go. Some day I guess.

For lunch today we used our Applebee's gift card that we received for Christmas. Every time we go there, it is an ordeal to pay. There were 2 families of four at one table and we wanted separate checks (we told her first thing when we sat down). That caused our waitress to lock up and roll her eyes. We got through that and the meal; then the trouble began. When the waitress gave us our bill, all of the drinks were on my tab. OK - not to worry; we will settle it up with our friends later. And she had added 15% tip to the bill. Fine. But then I handed her our new gift card, an older gift card (that still had a little balance left) and my credit card for the remainder of the difference (about $3). Our friends paid in a similar way but they only had one gift card and a credit card. When the waitress handed our bills and cards to the manager, he went to work like Pythagorus on an abacus (hey, that rhymed!). Twenty minutes and many waitress apologies later, we got our final slips back. The waitress said there was nothing charged to our credit card as the other gift cards covered the bill (that didn't add up but I took her word for it). So we left and when we got home, I called and checked the balance on the gift cards. The new one was zeroed out, and the older one now has like $4.67 on it! Well, it was not our fault if they short-changed themselves. Every time we go we have a payment issue. But that was our last gift card so we won't have to go through that again for a long time.

Tonight is the church New Years Eve service with food. The youth will stay till 11.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Today's title has nothing to do with the text, I just thought it was a good title for the picture of Britni on Elliott's face.

Another quiet day on tap for today. It is about 1 PM and we are just getting in gear. Kids slept in. Lucie played with her new camera. I did some online job searching and tried to teach a friend how to IM. Of course it took a child to step in and save the day.

Yesterday the kids went to a friend's birthday party at the University ice skating rink. Why, when I was a kid.... I could skate really well. It doesn't get cold enough here long enough for outdoor skating and there are no really good places to go anyway. They had a good time and came back without anything broken or bruised. We hung around here afterwards until Elliott and I went to basketball. I did OK but my knees started to get sore so I stopped early.

Our post-Christmas shopping day went pretty good. No traffic. No lines. We went to a bunch of places and found some good sales on Christmas stuff for next year. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Ashleigh is starting lacrosse when she goes back to school so today we are going lacrosse stick shopping. Movie night at home tonight.

We got invited to the house of a friend of Elliott's for brunch tomorrow. He plays basketball with Elliott and we see the parents at the games so that should be nice. Then at 8:15 PM, we willbe settling down to see history being made (beginning of the Patriots game).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas Bore-y

The title does not refer to the Hale family Christmas this year (I will come back to that), but to that waste-of-time movie, A Christmas Story. For some reason, that movie gets a lot of praise for being a Christmas classic and the TBS network runs it repeatedly 24 hours in a row. For the life of me I don't know why. It is tedious, boring, slow paced, and really has no point. It is hard for me to give it credit as a great family movie when one of the central themes involves foul language. Maybe I don't get it. I didn't get Napolean Dynamite either but at least there were a few funny lines in that movie.

So after struggling through that movie, and even hoping maybe something in the credits would give it redemptive value (but finding nothing amusing there either), I decided to clear my mental palate with a viewing of Rudolph and the Land of Misfit Toys. I had recorded it about two weeks ago thinking it was the original classic with the stop-motion characters and the Abominable Snowman. Turns out what I recorded was a 2001 cartoon of the original. That lasted about 30 seconds before ending up in the deleted list. We ended the night watching the finale of the Mt. Everest documentary which was captivating.

The day went fine. Thanks to all who sent/gave us gifts. We had a nice, slow paced time. For a while we had that channel on the TV with the burning log in the fireplace. We had a really nice time. Which reminds me - on Christmas Eve we watched Christmas Vacation. Now that is a classic movie. The weather was cool but nice and sunny - hardly felt Christmas-y but that was OK. We ate lots of ham and made several friends and family phone calls. Gave the dogs ham bones to chew on so they were occupied. We got ourselves a new telephone system for the house with verbal Caller ID - an electronic voice says the name of the caller. I am looking forward to hearing some of your names announced throughout the house. I may even load up some funny names ("Don't Answer" is calling....)

Today Lucie wants to go out and hit some post-Christmas specials. For lack of something better to do, I will go with her. And I am sure I will find that trimming the lawn with nail clippers would have been more productive and enjoyable...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

Saturday afternoon Elliott and I loaded up the dogs and took them to Petco to get their nails trimmed. We had to get their rabies vaccination information faxed to us and with that in hand, we headed out. Both dogs love to ride in the car and I spread an old blanket over my back seat to collect the hair. The beagle cried and whined the whole way - I guess she wanted to get out and run around. We got there and the Petco people trimmed their nails quickly. While we were there, another worker was brushing out a big dog. I asked her what she was using and it was a "rake." So after the nail trimming, Elliott and I went and bought ourselves a rake.

Petco is right next to a Dicks' Sporting Goods so we put the dogs in the car and went in and bought me some new knee supports. These ones were one step up from my other ones and had the knee holes in them. When we got back to the car, the blanket was no longer over the back seat and the golden retriever was in the driver's seat. We went home and I vacuumed out the car and Windex-ed the windows (to get the slobber off). While wearing my new knee supports.

Then I went to the backyard and raked out the golden retriever. That thing worked great. I should have made a commercial for it. I had clouds of hair swirling about me. The dog is a shadow of her former self. Next, it was doggie bath time. I line up a bunch of towels and throw on an old T-shirt and shorts. Ashleigh helped by aiming the hand-held shower head. Britni the beagle is an easy wash. She is in and out pretty quickly. When she gets out, she puts her head against the corner of the wall where it meets the carpet and rockets around the perimeter of the rooms. Pretty funny. Jasmine the golden retriever happily hops right into the tub. But she is so big and hairy, it is quite a job. Having raked out the hair made things much easier. So now the dogs are clean and smell good. For about another 2 days...

I then plopped on the couch for a while and affixed ice bags to my knees with Ace bandages. That really helped.

That night we went over to some friends and played games and ate dinner while the kids were at church youth group.

Saturday Lucie and I went out and did a little shopping in the mall area. Parking was tricky but there were no lines in the stores. I had to buy some more blank DVDs because my DVD burner apparently doesn't like the Sony brand. Which I have a whole spindle of. And which is now for sale. I bought a spindle of TDKs and all is good now. That night we had some friends over to have some ham from the Honey Baked ham my father sends us every year. More eating and games.

Today it is pretty foggy out and we have no real plans after church. The Patriots play at 4 at Miami. Miami is on a 1 game winning streak.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Not the Only One

I just got word that my former counterpart in a large metropolitan city "pulled a Hale" and resigned from my former company. He was an executive in the FBI and he couldn't take it any more either.

I finally found the bad bulb in the Christmas net lights. I spread the net over a chair in the living room and started the one-by-one replacement process. After a few minutes, I found it. Replaced it. All good. Saved myself $4 from buying a new one. So I took myself out to McDonalds for lunch.

Tonight we are having some friends over while our kids are at the church youth group. The local grocery store that sells the weekend $5 large pizza is taking a beating from us.

As is usually the case at this time of year, we had a ton of people come out for basketball last night. Some church people back from college, friends of friends of friends, etc. We had 21 people come out. I sent 3 home when they came an hour and a half late. We were able to play full court which was good with that many people but it is a bit much. We go thru this cycle every once in a while - somehow the word gets out that I am running a YMCA and all sorts of people show up. So I have to cull the herd on occasion and get things back in order. Makes for some unpleasantness but I figure they can start their own basketball night at their church...

While I was playing, my knees were killing me on every jump. I wear knee supports but they aren't doing the job any more. I may have to look for a wheelchair league to play in...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shawn Griswold

Clark's got nothing on me... Last night a big section of one of our net Christmas lights went out. That usually means a bulb is completely out of the socket. So I went out there in the freezing cold and checked it out. All seemed to be in place. I brought my bag of extra bulbs out and started replacing the burned out ones. I must have replaced over 30 of them stupid things. And they are the kind with the little locking flap piece that folds over to hold it in place. After a while, my fingers were so cold I couldn't open the flaps. So I got a butter knife and went to it. A couple of times the entire bulb and socket would go flying into the void when I popped the flap so I had to replace the whole thing. Which was probably better than trying to thread those tiny bulb wire 'legs' into the socket holes. After a while of that, the big section was still out. I grabbed a stool and another string of lights and went to pulling out every non-lit bulb and plugging it into the other string to see if it worked. They all did. Still a big section out. At that point I gave up. I brought the whole net inside this morning and will give it another shot before I go to Wal-Mart and invest $4 in a new set...

Meanwhile, the bulb in our lawn decoration present burned out. As I was unscrewing that, it exploded and was smoking. Cut my finger but I didn't feel it because by then, my fingers were nothing but frozen popsicles sticking out. Put another bulb in and that is working now.

Continuing the theme of frustrations, I went to the church to work on the wifi network there. After much ladder climbing and poking around, I found the main cable line to the access point had no signal. So that needs to be rectified.

But I did have a good experience buying something at Best Buy using their online process. Bought it on a wicked sale online, went to the counter, showed them my confirmation email, ID, and credit card and walked out with it about a minute later. Nice. I like having them pull it for me and having it ready when I get there.

Royal Caribbean got back to me yesterday that there will indeed be televisions on the cruise to show the Patriots win the Superbowl.

I have a couple of interesting job leads right now that I just sent my resume to.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I recorded Elliott's basketball game last night and we watched it when we got home. His team is taking about half the game to get their confidence up and their shots down. They have a lot of good shooters on the team and generally take good shots, but they are not hitting them early in the games and they are disorganized on offense. Elliott did well defensively but went 0-3 from the field. Good shots though. So we analyzed the video and he was able to point out some things he could have done better. One thing he needs to work on is his physical game and aggressiveness. All of it will come with experience. He is the youngest player out there and starts every game. The other team tried to pull a fast one and keep their 'stars' in the whole game. There is a rule about the time every player can play - minimum and maximum. So the other team had these two kids in for a long time, and they were ahead by 14 at one point. Our coach saw what was up and pointed it out to the refs. The stars got benched the rest of the game and suddenly, with 30 seconds to go, we are only down by 3 points. But we had a couple of traveling calls and turned over the ball so we lost. It was exciting and goes by so much faster than, yawn, baseball... His next game isn't until January.

I have some Christmas shopping to do today after meeting Lucie for lunch. Which will consist of Ramen noodles and sandwiches in her office.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oxi Moron

Elliott forgot some school stuff this morning so I took it over to him around noon time. On the way back, I stopped at BJs to get some dog food and other things including that laundry cleaner stuff Oxi-Clean. When I got home, I took it upstairs to the laundry room. I was opening the bag to pour it into the bucket thing and the bag split and it dumped out all over the floor. So that took a while to scoop into a ziplock and then vacuum it up. It was like a bucket of sand poured on the carpet.

Speaking of sand, today we got some Royal Caribbean documents. The cruise is coming. I reserved a 12 passenger van today for us to drive from the Orlando airport to the hotel. Taxis and limos are much more expensive so we will split this with another family going down with us. It is a one-way rental so we can drop it at Cape Canaveral but we can use it the night before the trip to do some local sight seeing. We are taking the RC bus back to the airport after the trip.

The church banquet went really nice Saturday night. I made an elf show of the church pastoral staff (like the one someone made of us - see the link below) and showed that up on the big screen after the meal. That went over pretty good. That night Ashleigh had some friends over for the night after going to the movies. And I can tell you, the biggest drama of the night didn't take place on screen... But I guess that is to be expected with a teenaged daughter.

Elliott has another game tonight. I am going to record this one and then he and I are going to analyze the video after the game. It really puts things in perspective to see yourself play. That is why I don't let anyone record me...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Elliott's First Game

This morning Elliott had his first organized basketball game. He did pretty well - shot 33% from the field with 4 points including a nice runner. As I always tell him, if he outscores the man he is guarding, he has done his job. The team, however, lost 40-29. A lot of it was first game jitters. They missed a lot of shots that they normally hit. And the other team had a kid over 6 feet tall. That was crazy. The picture shows some perspective (Elliott is #3 with his back to us.) I put a link on our home web page where I will track his stats scroll down on the page till you see the link:

I finally got together with my friend to move the treadmill over to his house. I still cannot figure out how I ever got it down to our basement on my own. We had to take off some door hinges and move it a couple of steps at a time. By laying down all the seats in my Pathfinder, we could roll it in (folded flat). But it has found a new home now where it will get a lot of use.

Last night we went over to some friend's house to watch the University of Delaware national championship game. Turned out to be not much of a game but we had a good time and most importantly, we had good food. I had to bail out early and fetch Elliott from a birthday party. But we got back in time to see the second half. And get some more to eat.

Speaking of eating, tonight is the annual church Christmas banquet. There is some predictions of snow tonight but it should turn to rain quickly and not be a problem.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shopping Wars

Last night at church, the person who normally does the sound for the service could not make it in. So I did the video and the sound. I even told the Pastor I would provide security service for the back door. He asked me about my weapons qualification so I sent him this photo from my old nuclear security days (as supervisors, we rotated being the tactical response force team leaders).

This morning I got a flier from BJs with a big sale on a home telephone that Lucie and I wanted to get each other for Christmas. The volume in our current phone is gone and it is pretty old with limited range. It has been eating up batteries too. So the flier had the phone we had been looking at for $30 off. I took it to the local BJs and they said they would not sell me the phone at that price. The manager said that was on online only price. The flier did not say it was an online purchase only. In fact, it said that the items in the flier complemented what is in the stores. It would cost over $11 in shipping costs to buy it online . Which made no sense since they had it right there in the store! So I wrote to BJs and complained (they didn't have a corporate phone number I could easily find) and headed to Costco (our preferred warehouse club). They had the same phone in stock but would not price match. I then marched myself across the parking lot to Circuit City. Not only did they match the BJs flier price, but they took an additional 5% off! Their normal price was pretty high so we wound up getting the phone for about 40% off their regular price. Not a bad day's work.

After this experience, I feel qualified to offer myself as a professional shopper if someone would like me to take care of their Christmas list this year...

Meanwhile, it continues to rain and mist here. Which sure beats snow but it looks like we might get some of that this weekend.

Basketball tonight. I make a point to have Elliott watch me to learn what not to do...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No Elf Control

Today a friend of mine, with obviously way too much time on her hands, rendered this bit of Hale Holiday Happiness. That is a screen shot from the entire video at Go there for a laugh and create your own. (It takes a few seconds to load.)

Quiet day here today. I found another online job site that had quite a few job listings - some I hadn't seen before. There was a posting for the vacant Security Director of the NBA. I could do that. But it is in NYC. I perused that site and signed up for alerts. I spoke to a recruiter yesterday but he was more of a finance and accounting guy. He did say he would keep his ears open for me if he stumbles on something suited for me.

I finally managed to get out in the mist yesterday and suck up the remaining fallen leaves. I hope that is the last time I do that this year.

I also did some work on the church wifi - installed some better range antennas, encrypted it, etc. That should help with the signal and keep the neighbors off our network.

The treadmill still remains in the basement. Every night that my friend plans on coming over to get it, it rains.

Had to lay down an ultimatum on the kids to get their rooms cleaned up. I specified a time it had to be done by and laid out the ramifications if it was not completed to my satisfaction by that time. They beat the deadline and their rooms are presentable. Now it is just a matter of daily maintenance and inspections. I was wondering where in the world they got so 'cluttery' - until I took Lucie's car out to get gas. Then it all came clear to me...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hale Christmas Family Photo

Here is an impromptu picture of the Hales at Christmas. I put a dot of black on Jasmine's eyes (the golden retriever) due to severe flash reflection.

Quiet day yesterday. We cashed in some more restaurant gift cards and went to lunch with some friends after church. That is the end of the cards so it looks like it will be meatloaf on Sunday afternoons for a while. Or Spam. Last night was the church choir concert, right in the middle of the Patriots game, so we raced to church, saw the concert, and raced home. I had recorded the game so we were able to watch it without the ending being ruined.

Speaking of the Patriots, I saw that this season's Super Bowl will be on the first day of our cruise. So I wrote to Royal Caribbean and asked if they were going to have onboard accomodations to see the game. I bet they do. That will be a Super Bowl to remember - the Patriots winning again and being able to see it at sea.

And now speaking of Royal Caribbean, yesterday they updated their web page and I was all excited to see that our $70 fuel surcharge had been refunded. So I spread the word among our cruise-mates. And of course a few hours later I check the page again and the refund is gone! Dang it. I had already picked out my RC bathrobe to spend the refund on.

Going to do some more leaf sucking today. I can't believe they are still coming down. The wet snow must have weighed them down a bit and made more fall. I am going to re-do our upstairs pantry too and move some of the stuff we seldom use (Jello mixes, etc.) down to the recently organized basement shelving. Tonight my friend who is buying our old treadmill may come by to pick that up. After rolling it into position, I cannot believe that I actually got that thing downstairs by myself.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's a Mall World After All

Last night Lucie and I dropped off the kids at youth group at church, donned our bullet-proof vests, and went to the mall. I should have worn some eye protection - what a collection of freaks out there. At first glance, some of these side-show characters look like they just crawled into the place. But if you look carefully, they have crafted themselves to look grungy. One 'person' stopped Lucie and I in our tracks and people around us laughed at our expressions. Hard to describe how 'it' looked but it was nightmarish. Anyway, we were able to get the stuff Lucie needed for her church workers and the lines and traffic were not bad.

When we picked up the kids later, we talked to a couple of friends. One recently unemployed girl used a headhunter and wound up getting a job very quickly. She is going to forward me his name. So that was encouraging.

Saturday morning I took Elliott to basketball practice. That went well. He got into a pick-up game before his practice and did well. When that was over, his coach still hadn't arrived so I jumped in and started to set his team up for a scrimmage. Then the assistant coach arrived and took over. They practiced for about 30 minutes, then played another unofficial game against the next team coming in. They lost 18-22 but Elliott had 6 points, a few rebounds and steals, and played well. One kid formed an alliance with another apparently and tried to force-feed him the ball every time down court. Which resulted in a lot of turnovers. The coaches yelled at him to "Get Elliott the ball." He can hit the outside shots and is doing great on defense. His first game is next Saturday.

Today Elliott has a friend coming over to finish a science fair project. Just when I thought all the leaves were down, more drifted in during the recent snow and rain. I guess I will go suck them up. And brush out Jasmine - she is looking pretty woolly and in need of some de-thatching. Tonight we are going over to some friends' for dinner.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Not the Grand Prize Winner

I checked the mail yesterday and there was an official letter from a court regarding some sort of settlement. I figured this was how it was going to happen - suddenly out of nowhere I will come into a financial windfall and never have to work again. I guess I was half right - due to some credit card kookiness, we are due a $25 settlement. Yahoo. But I guess every bit counts. Now if I can just get a settlement like that every half hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, we will be OK...

As I continue my house cleaning/reorganization efforts, I came across a box of old comic books. I had catalogued them a while back so today I sent the spreadsheet to a local comic book store. I was already preparing my statement for the newspaper interview for finding a rare and much sought after comic. Then the comic book store wrote back and said there was nothing of interest and I should try and sell them on eBay. Foiled again.

Yesterday Lucie was off so after taking the kids to school, we did a little Christmas shopping (and I mean a little). We got home and walked by Elliott's room and decided we needed to do something about it. He has (had) junk piled everywhere, clothes everywhere, etc. etc. He didn't like sleeping on his bed frame so he has been sleeping for years on his mattress on the floor. We changed that. Went to the basement and brought up the wooden frame that matches his furniture and cleaned up a lot of stuff. And threw out a lot of stuff. Now he just has to maintain it. Ashleigh is next on the hit list.

We are due a little wintry weather today. The kids have church youth group tonight.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

First Real Snow

We got the first real snow of the winter last night. Well, if you call 2 inches real snow. But it did cover everything and looked pretty good. Ashleigh's school was delayed two hours but Elliott's was on time - even though they are about three miles apart.

I finished my basement rack work yesterday - separating the dry and canned goods from the other stuff. Stuff including china and big pots and pans and things like that. It came out well so now we know what we have on hand. Plenty of rice and beans.

Ashleigh came home from school with the announcement that she will be playing the Prince in the school play of Romeo & Juliet. Something odd about that but it is a fairly good sized role with some long dialogue. She is alone on stage for a monologue at one point. We are going to try and rent a recording of the play so she can hear the inflections and rhythm of the speech.

Lucie is off today so after we take Ashleigh to school, I think we will go snow brush shopping for me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Give Me an E

Elliott had a good scrimmage, then practice Monday night. When we got to the gym, another team was there finishing their practice and invited his team to scrimmage. The age range is 12-14 and Elliott is one of the youngest at 12. So he played some and scored a nice outside shot. He went 1 for 2 and had a rebound. He needs to be more aggressive on offense and call for the ball to make himself visible. His coaches were yelling at his teammates to "get Elliott the ball." He has a great outside shot. His team won 34-16 or so (I was the only one keeping score). Afterwards they practiced and played against themselves. Elliott had a lot of points during that.

Earlier that day he competed in the Math League. His school has three teams in the math league district. One team came in first and the other two teams tied for second! They are something else. Out of the top 10 scorers, kids from Elliott's school hold 8 spots. He finished this meet ranked #17 out of 54 competitors.

I went downstairs and started some work on the basement yesterday. A few years ago we put some heavy duty metal and wood rack shelves down there. In one section, we put them two deep which turned out to be too deep. We couldn't get to the back of the rear rack. So I moved the front rack yesterday and will spend the afternoon transferring stuff between the racks. I found some interesting stuff I forgot we had.

It is snowing out pretty good right now. Church tonight is looking questionable. We are only supposed to get about 2 inches but being the first snow of the winter, that will result in all sorts of accidents. I have my shovels at the ready. Typically, I am the only one who goes out and shovels during the storm. I would rather shovel 2 inches 5 times than 10 inches one time. My neighbors don't seem to get that concept so while my driveway is nice and clear, they are out there breaking their backs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Some Tea With Your Vinegar?

Sunday night the church kids play went well. That afternoon it was windy and rainy so I told my friend to hold off on the treadmill purchase and move. I didn't want to do that in the rain.

I saw a 6 outlet outdoor power strip on sale at Target but since that is so far away, I bought a similar one at Home Depot. On Sunday night I was standing out in the yard in the driving rain trying to pull apart extension cord connections to turn off the outside Christmas lights and had visions of someone finding me electrocuted the next morning laying in the bushes. So this outdoor strip is pretty good - it has a weather cover for the outlets and a timer. No more late night ventures out to the yard to turn off the lights.

Yesterday was coffee pot/machine cleaning day. The water reservoir was stained and needed a good scrubbing. I found a funny little brush thing and used an old toothbrush (that I kept for such an occasion) and went to work. It came out pretty good but I must have got the innards too wet because when I plugged it in, it wouldn't turn on. So I set it outside in the tornado winds to dry out. That took care of it as a few hours later, it was working fine. I mixed up a concoction of vinegar and water to run thru it a few times. After the first run through, the water was still in the pot and I was upstairs. Along came Ashleigh and saw the pot of hot water. She poured some into her cup and made some tea, and then mixed up some oatmeal using it. The tea tasted fine she said but the oatmeal tasted old...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On the First Day of December

The day began with Elliott's basketball practice which went pretty well. His team is scrimmaging pretty good and working on the fundamentals. Their first game is December 13.

After that, we started in on the Christmas decorations set up. Much like egg nog, it doesn't take but a little bit to remind me why I don't like it. I pulled out the lights for the tree and the outside bushes and icicles and started the bulb replacement process. A string of bulbs costs like $5 at WalMart and every year I say it would be a better use of my time to just throw out the strings every year and buy new ones. But I cannibalized a couple of old strings for the bulbs and got everything working fine. Dragged everything outside and started the install. The icicles went up fine and the net bushes went on pretty quickly too. Elliott came out and we put some lights on our new little tree and set up some lawn decorations that look like giant, lighted presents. The wind was whipping cold but it went pretty smoothly. Turned on the switch and found a bunch of lights out! So now I replace more bulbs but this time out in the cold. We have been watching a documentary on people climbing on Mt. Everest and one of the lines on the show is, 'lose a glove, lose a hand.' I tried to keep my gloves on due to the cold but that didn't last long. By now, it was dark outside and we were able to adjust the net bushes for maximum effect. Looked good. For about 10 minutes. Then one of the tiny fuses in the plugs blew out. Took me about 10 minutes and a Chilton's manual to figure out how to open the little door in the string plug to replace that. Finally I got it and popped a new fuse in. Looked pretty good.

Lucie had made us hot chocolate and was working inside the house on the tree. Meanwhile, the new crock pot I got her for her birthday was simmering away making a big stew. So Elliott and I went in and started fluffing the tree limbs for Lucie. She would stick them on the tree and rig the lights at the same time. And rig she did. Typically we have about 5 or 6 strings of lights for the whole tree. I get the dual colored ones - each bulb has two colors so that really lights things up. She was about halfway done and had used 8 strings! Off to WalMart she went to get some more. By the time we were done, 14 strings were run through the tree. I found I could turn the furnace off and we were all warm enough from the light of the tree. It looked really good though. Except for the top - there was an unspoken rule that no one was eating until the tree was done so I ran one string of lights around the top of the tree and headed for the kitchen. Then all of the tree lights went out. I learned from my net lights experience what the problem was and replaced a fuse in one string of lights and all was good again. Ashleigh started vacuuming up the needles that had fallen off onto the carpet and managed to suck the main power cord to the tree up into the vacuum. I fished that out but it was looking a bit rough so we had to replace that. Which meant disconnecting all the tree lights and attaching them to the replacement power cord. That was proabably a good thing because this time we broke up the strings and attached them to the power cord outlets evenly (instead of stringing them all together with just one plug).

Lucie and I went out to the yard to survey our handiwork. The tree is in a front window and we keep those shades open so people going by can see the tree. Looked good. Then the net lights fuse blew again... So this morning I ran another power cord out there and split up the strings like we did the tree. Finally we settled down and watched the movie, "Kicking and Screaming." That was pretty funny. What was not so funny was that we had rented it from Netflix and it was on regular (free) TV at the same time...

Tonight is the church kid's play so Lucie and the kids will be there getting ready for that all day. A friend of mine bought our old treadmill so he is coming over to get that this afternoon. They predicted icy rain all day and so far nothing. Which is good.