Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mending Fences

On one side of our house, we have had a four-foot stockade fence that has needed to be replaced since we moved into the house. It just was never a high priority nor something I wanted to do. It did it's primary job - keeping the kids in the backyard. About a week ago, it failed it's primary job. The boys pushed the fence over. One of the fence posts broke off cleanly at ground level where it had rotted through. So for this past week, the boys could not go into the backyard without supervision, as they could just run out and play in the front yard or even the street.

So my task this weekend was to replace the fence. Now one advantage of having the old fence was that it was loose enough that I could force the stockade panel free of the posts. This allowed the small backhoe into the backyard when we connected up to the newly installed city sewer system, allowed me to drive the pickup into the backyard and allowed us to walk a mostly assembled swing set into the backyard. So I wanted to be able to allow the same kind of access to the backyard if needed with the new fence, but without it being loose.

I decided on a six-foot stockade panel (is 8 feet wide) as that's what makes up most of the fencing around our yard, except for the back fence, which is five-foot. Last year I had replaced the gate on the other side of the house. I had used eight-foot posts and cement to secure those posts. Despite all that, the post that the gate is attached to has shifted some. I did not want shifting this time but also did not want to use concrete as that's expensive. So I purchased ten-foot posts. My original thoughts several months back, to be able to make the backyard accessible, was to make the eight-foot wide panel into a gate, either as a single unit or by cutting it into two and hinging both sides. But that would take a whole lot of bracing, some really husky hardware and would definitely require cement. So I decided that I would buy four hardy sliding bolts (like the kind used to latch doors or gates) and use them to attach the panel to the posts. That way, it would take just a moment or two to free the panel from the posts should the need arise.

The boys and I took the pickup to Lowes on Saturday morning to purchase the required materials and hardware. Once home, my first task was to remove the remaining parts of the old fence. The section being fenced is about ten feet wide, so it takes one eight-foot wide panel plus a little. The boys had successfully demolished one post and so the panel was free. However that left two posts and a little section still standing, plus the remainder of the broken post that was below ground. The sledge hammer made short work of the small panel. The post that had been between the two panels was fairly easy to remove. I grabbed a piece of rebar I had in the garage, put it through one of the holes in the post and used it to apply leverage to twist the post and lift it out of the hole. The next post was the hardest. It was right up against the house and, since it was an end post, it did not have a hole all the way through it. So I had to drill a hole through it so I could get the rebar through it. Then, because the post was against the house, the range of motion was limited. It took a lot more twisting, lifting and exertion to get that one out of the ground.

At that point, Stephanie came over and told me that my neighbor's brother, who has been staying with him, had offered to let me borrow his power auger (hole digger) to help with the holes for the posts. This was great I thought since I only had one of those muscle powered post hole digger models. So I went over, received instructions and lugged the power auger over to where I was working. I measured to make sure I knew where the posts needed to be. As I thought, I was going to be able to use the existing holes. Now the power auger's drill was only a two-footer - the same as the depth of the existing holes. So it would not be much help there. Now remember that I still had a part of a post in one of the holes. I hoped that it would not be an issue for the power auger. But no such luck, it stopped the auger in it's tracks. Disappointed, I returned the auger without having been able to really use it.

To get the remainder of the post out of the ground, I pounded the rebar into the post with the sledge hammer and was able to lift it out that way. Since I had ten-foot posts (4" x 4" x 10') I needed to deepen the two holes. I decided that 3 and a half feet would be good. That would give me about six inches of length above the fence. Once the fence was installed, I could then cut off what I didn't need, leveling it at that point instead of trying to install them perfectly level.

I set off to work with my trusty post hole digger and about an hour later had two three-and-a-half foot holes. Next I cutoff the ends of the stockade's support beams, the ends intended to be inserted into the holes on the fence posts to hold it up. I did this so that the panel could be placed right up to the posts.

I put the first post in, leveled it, and, with the boys' help, filled in the hole. Stephanie was recruited to help with the last post. I moved the panel into place and she positioned the post against it. Then I leveled it and filled in the hole while she held the post. The next step was to attach the sliding bolts, put the panel in place, drill the holes to receive the bolts and attach the fence. That was all the work for Saturday.

This afternoon I only needed to install the small panel. I used a piece of paneling that I already had from when I installed the gate last year. I used L-brackets to attach it to the post to fill the gap between the big section and the house. To help stabilize the small section, since it was only attached to one post, I drove a piece of 2x4 into the ground next to the house, straightened an L-bracket and secured the lower corner of the small panel to the 2x4. Due to the way the exterior wall extends out over the foundation wall, there was a gap that I blocked with an old piece of quarter inch plywood. That was to help prevent critters, such as skunks, from coming and going as they pleased.

The work is now all done with the exception of trimming off the tops of the posts. I'm going to wait to let the posts set in for a bit before I start sawing on the tops of them. The kids can now move about the yard freely and not escape. I like projects that I can accomplish in a weekend.

The finished product

One of the bolts used to hold the big panel in place

The 2x4, straightened L-bracket and plywood critter-preventer

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Camp Out

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, Will has been asking to go camping. So last night, the boys and I camped out in the back yard. I set up the two-man tent (received as a five-year anniversary gift from my company) and our "campfire". We then made the customary smores before going into the house to brush teeth and put on warm pajamas.

Since we have never really camped as a family, we only have one sleeping bag. We have also never actually slept in the tent before (in my wife's blog she says we did, but she forgot that we borrowed a tent from friends for that trip). I unzipped the sleeping bag and spread it out on the floor of the tent. It covered the entire floor, with some bunched at the top, which tells you how small this tent is. I brought a twin-sized blanket for all three of us to sleep under, along with smaller blankets to augment that one. I put a boy on either side of me - we had a road-trip in May that provided the knowledge that the boys will aggravate each other if they sleep next to each other. Two flashlights, a Bible, some library books and the digital camera rounded out our supplies.

I was in the process of reading our bed-time Bible story prior to reading the library books when my wife came out with one of our phones (they have intercom capabilities). On her way over to us, she heard some critter rustling in the bushes in the backyard. On getting to the tent, she asked for a flashlight and, upon receiving one, declared that it was a skunk. At which point she high-tailed it back into the house. Go here to see her description of this event. We had been enjoying the view of the dying fire, but I promptly zipped up the door as I did not want an inquisitive skunk joining us. We prayed and asked that God would cause the skunk to go away and that we would not get sprayed. For a few minutes we listened to it rustling around in the yard and then it was gone and we were still breathing untainted air. Ben did keep asking about the skunk, if it was in the wild. He also declared that he would like to play with the skunk. This from the boy who yells at the squirrels to go away because he's afraid of them.

Two library books followed this. Part way through the third book, the boys decided that they were ready to hit the hay, so we never finished it. We all lay down and I pulled the blankets up. That's when I discovered a problem with the sleeping arrangements. I'm a fellow of average height but this is too tall for this particular tent. I could not stretch out all the way due to the constraints of the opposing tent walls. I don't know how this could be marketed as a two-person tent. Maybe a two short person tent. Anyway, I decided that since I had two short kids with me, we would just swing the whole sleeping arrangement around so that we were diagonal - my head in one corner and my feet in the opposite corner. This worked much better.

The next thing we dealt with was the noise. Since we were in the backyard in the middle of a suburb, near an airport, there was a LOT of noise, much more than you notice in the house. As a result of the skunk incident and because these nighttime noises were new to the boys, there were a lot of "What was that, daddy?" questions. Finally, the boys went to sleep and then I drifted off.

I slept good for a couple of hours but then woke up as I was trying to roll over. From then on, I slept in short spurts. I began to wish for a nice cushioned pad or air mattress. I could feel several bumps or acorns under me and finding a position that was comfortable became increasingly difficult. Will woke up a couple of times needing to go to the bathroom. Great thing about having a boy. I just unzipped the door, pointed to a spot in the yard away from everything and told him to go for it.

About 5:30 a.m. all three of us were awake. It was starting to get really cool. The blankets had gotten pulled and twisted in such a way that my feet kept sticking out and were cold. So I asked the boys if they wanted to go in and sleep the rest of the night in their beds (that way I could sleep in my bed). They said no, so we stayed. We all went back to sleep for a while. I did get some good snuggle time as it got cooler and the boys were seeking body warmth. I did not mind.

Around 7:30 a.m we were all awake again but this time there was no going back to sleep. The boys started getting up and we had some play time. At 8:00 a.m. we headed into the house where I prepared a chocolate chip pancake breakfast.

I had not really expected to last all night but we did. I had a great time with the boys and I believe they had a great time too. The discomfort and the cold were worth the bonding done and memories made. Below are some pictures from the camp out.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"My special time with Jesus"

Recently, in trying to explain to the boys what a quiet time is and why I have it, I referred to it as "My special time with Jesus".

I had been doing some work in the garage today and had gotten dirty and sweaty. Since I was taking the kids to a play date this evening, I took a quick shower after supper. As I was getting dressed, Stephanie knocked on the bathroom door and told me that I would want to see this. So I came out. Will was on the love seat in the living room, having his "special time with Jesus". The love seat is where I do my quiet time in the mornings. He had gotten out his Bible, my sheet of "Truth Principles for Daily Living" verses, my index cards of memory verses and my pen. He was about to write on my index cards because I have a journal I keep and I write in it every quiet time. I had Stephanie give him another notebook with empty pages so that I would not have scribbles on my index cards. He diligently "wrote" on the notebook page.

After we returned from our play date and had done all of our bedtime routine, he disappeared into the living room. I went in to investigate. He was once again, having his special time with Jesus. Since it was way past the usual bedtime hour, I said he could have a few minutes but then would need to come to bed. He immediately bowed his head and began praying.

How this thrills and warms my heart. I thank God for His faithfulness and His drawing of my son to Himself even at this early age. I know that Will does not fully comprehend what it means to have a relationship with God and a lot of what he is doing is just to copy his dad, but it's setting him off in the right direction early. It encourages me to persevere and reminds me that my kids are always watching, so I have to be very careful to model what I want to see develop in them.

Speaking of praying, Ben feels the need to pray every time we pray at a meal or at bed time. So I let him pray and then I pray. It's great, except he only has one prayer that is said no matter the occasion. "Jesus, thank you for bringing me this food. Amen." I'll have to work on getting him to change things up. At least he wants to pray and is comfortable praying out loud with his family.

Back to Will. Sometimes Will will ask a why question and Stephanie or I will respond, "I don't know. You will have to ask God." Lately, whenever this happens, he immediately bows his head and proceeds to ask God. I love it. Same thing happens if he's concerned about something and we suggest he pray, he immediately does so.

Praise be to God for His goodness and may He honor my sons' faith.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Various, Random Articles

Here's some articles I've read of the last few weeks that I found of some interest.

  • Department of Homeland Security contract linked to Russian mind-control.
  • Religious people who are sooo lost - traveling to see supernatural ice.
  • I'm a pack-rat, but I'm not this bad.
  • Tardigrades - what are they and can they survive being shot into space?
  • Musings on whether or not Apple is as big of a bully as Microsoft.
  • How misinformed and deceived people are about the real Jesus. In this article about the current Survivor: China show, in one of the comments, a women named Kate says this about Jesus: "Hey David, if you actually studied the life of Jesus you would know that he studied Buddhism and that behavior like Leslies would make him ill. Leslie is not a follower of Jesus, but someone who has distorted his teachings so she can be ignorant, judgmental, and disrespectful to others. She's a Jesus Freak not a real Christian." That makes me sad.
  • The new AMD processor chips are going to be part of some big, bad computers: "Ranger" and Cray XT4's.
  • School related shootings have become so bad that two dads created and are selling bulletproof backpacks.
  • How about a bullet stopping Bible?
  • Skydiver plans to attempt going super-sonic.
  • What was she thinking?
  • What was he thinking?
  • Ouch and boy is he lucky that the shark was not in the mood for a fight.
  • The 20 most bizarre experiments. Warning, this one has some graphic, and gross, descriptions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A New Book

Yesterday, my wife bought me a book she thought I would like to read. It is "The Dangerous Book for Boys" by Gonn and Hal Iggulden. I've only read a few pages, but I already like it. Thank you honey. I'm recommending this book to all you guys before I've even read much of it. Hopefully I will not regret this later when I have read more.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quote Of The Day, 09/25/07

Said by Will, as he was trying to tickle me while I was attempting to change clothes after supper, "Daddy has lots of meat to tickle."

Surrendered Dreams

I've been busy, so it's almost been a week since my last post. Sorry about that. To make up for it, I will attempt to write a long, rambling post about what God's been doing in my life and in my family.

We have been trying to find some reward to help Will wake up dry in the mornings. Since he loves TV so much, we thought that might be a good reward. We had limited TV to weekends only but decided that he could watch one kid's show on PBS each day if he woke up dry that morning. That seemed to help some with the waking up dry but we found that he was constantly asking to watch more and whining and complaining when he did not get it.

In the middle of last week, there were a couple of days where Stephanie was not feeling well and so let the boys watch TV pretty much all day while she lay down. At lunch and supper times, he did not willingly leave his love and only did so with much complaining. We also noticed that he was saying things, such as telling Ben he was "going to knock your head off", that were definitely not good.

We decided that this was not a good thing and we needed to nip it in the bud. So we decided he should go cold turkey and not be permitted to watch TV for a few days until he was able to change his attitude and be grateful for the time he was permitted to watch. We began the deprogramming on Thursday or Friday.

On Friday evening and Saturday Stephanie had planned for she and I to attend a homeschooling conference by a Christian family, the Maxwell's, as we are planning on homeschooling the kids. See their web site for more information. I have to confess, I was not really wanting to go to the conference. A homeschooling conference sounded pretty dull and boring to me.

Now I am glad that we went; it was definitely used by God. It turned out to be different than either of us expected. The conference did not really revolve around homeschooling. It was really more about being a Christ-centered family, who home school. God and His Word were the center of what they were sharing, which is what they do and what they've learn from their experiences. We had a babysitter for both days. Here's an outline of the conference with the major points and impact on my life.


  1. The first session was a blue grass praise and worship session, led by the Maxwell's. Steve and Teri have 8 children, seven of whom were with them. They all play instruments. My favorite were the hammer dulcimer and the mandolin. They sang such songs as "Mercy there was Great" and "Just a little talk with Jesus". It was toe-tapping praise'n.
  2. The second session was "The Homeschooling Family: Building a Vision".
    • I was challenged to take my role as the spiritual leader of the family seriously.
    • We were challenged to come up with a vision statement for our family and to come up with goals for our family and each of the children.
    • As a result, I will be leading Stephanie and I to pray together every day, to develop a vision statement for our family and to develop 1-year, 5-year and 10-year goals for our family and for each child. The plan is to do this once a year.
  1. The first session split the men and women into their own sessions. The men's had to do with family devotions.
    • Am I having a daily quiet time? Where the father goes, so goes the children.
    • As dads, and moms, we plant seeds in our children's lives with every decision we make.
    • Dads are responsible to God for the spiritual welfare of our families.
    • Anger and harshness may work to get obedience but they are sin and don't capture our children's hearts.
    • Now is the time. I must be intentional and serious about leading my family. My spiritual growth is not enough, I must be as concerned with my family's spiritual growth.
    • We spend a lot of time and money to feed the flesh, which will pass away. How much time do we spend feeding our spirit, which will last for an eternity?
    • Spiritual leadership is 99% commitment and 1% formulas.
    • Find the right place and time, and set the right expectations.
    • Be enthusiastic. Be inflexible about having family devotions. Be committed and persevere.
    • Get rid of the TV.
    • As a result, I have started reading the Bible to the boys every night. Previously, it was hit or miss. I'm also going to work fairly quickly toward having a family devotions after supper. I just need to figure out a format. At this point in the conference, I also felt God working on my heart about getting rid of the TV.
  2. The next session was combined. This one was titled "Keeping Our Children's Hearts".
    • It is not normal for children to rebel if we have their hearts.
    • The more our goals for our children differ from the direction of the world, the more we need our children's hearts and the more we need to shelter our children.
    • We want our children's hearts so that we can direct their hearts to Jesus.
    • Our children will spend time with what or who is most import to them.
    • On what do I spend my discretionary time, my children and family, or on something else, such as TV.
    • Get rid of the TV.
    • If we have our children's hearts, we own the responsibility of how we direct their hearts.
    • If I do not feed my children the good things of God, they will feed themselves off of the garbage of the world.
    • Sheltering is not isolationism - the shepherd goes out with the sheep. Sheltering is avoiding negative influences and directing towards positive influences.
    • Don't wait until someone or something steals our children's hearts. Be vigilant and proactive in protecting and keeping their hearts.
    • A little bit of sin is not acceptable.
    • Evaluate influences. What will this do to our child's heart? How will it affect our biblical goals (vision) for them? What appetites will it develop?
    • By the end of this session, I knew that I wanted to do whatever was necessary to capture my children's hearts. I want to point them to Christ. I was also fairly certain that the TV would have to go.
  3. Lunch. The church hosting the conference had graciously prepared lunch for everyone (the conference was free).
  4. The final two sessions were segregated between men and women. This one for the guys was "Manager of His Home".
    • My wife is there to help me accomplish what God has called me to do.
    • Am I grateful for my wife and the help she provides me?
    • I am the head of my wife and the home.
    • The head discerns God's calling and sets the vision accordingly.
    • The head seeks his wife's counsel.
    • The home is rudderless without the head.
    • If my wife has weak areas, then it is my responsibility to come alongside and build her up.
    • It is my responsibility to help her reach greater productivity. I must help her succeed.
    • I am the protector. I should expect to take arrows for her.
    • I am the loving husband. I need to be sensitive to her needs.
    • I am the Cleanser. I am to use the Word to cleanse the family, to bath them in the truth.
    • I am the Cherisher. I need to lavish on my wife the care she needs.
    • As a result of this session, I was convicted that I need to love my wife better, to help her with the household chores, and intentionally encourage my wife's spiritual growth.
  5. The last session was "Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-income Family".
    • By this time, I was really looking forward to this session. As I had been thinking of goals for my kids, on the practical side, I knew that I wanted to train my sons to be able to think and to use their hands. To give them computer skills and teach them how to swing a hammer. This session was in line with what I was thinking.
    • What do you want your sons to have? Broccoli or candy? Learn to work or to be entertained?
    • Sons need to be trained up in a Godly work ethic, there's no magic switch when they become men.
    • Men were created to work.
    • I need to train up my sons to be men of God first, while working diligently on skills.
    • Income should exceed spending. Teach them to be debt-free (sounds like Dave Ramsey).
    • The income issue should not be measured in the world's terms but in God's terms. The real issue is being in the will of God. If we are doing God's will, His calling for our lives, He will provide what we need.
    • Feed good appetites and starve bad ones before they become passions.
    • Get rid of the TV. OK, God, I'm getting the message.
    • There's no comparison with investing in people's lives.
    • Get the boys involved in ministry and serving.
    • Cultivate Godly appetites. The desire to raise Godly seed. The desire to share Christ. The desire to serve. The desire to give.
    • Steve had points for different age groups that I won't go into. If you are interested, this session is in a book. I bought it and am looking forward to reading it.
    • At the end of this session, I was excited about training up my sons. I also thought about my own skills development for future job opportunities. And I was certain God wanted the TV to go.
The conference was very good. It did not really teach me anything about the practical aspects of homeschooling our kids. God did use it to remind me of my responsibilities and to call Stephanie and I to a higher level of Christian living.

Yes, the TV is now gone, but it wasn't easy. It was wasting too much time and bringing in attitudes and content that did not line up with our vision for our family - to be a family that puts God first. On leaving the conference I knew that the TV had to go. God was asking me to give it up for the good of my family. Excuses had been popping up in my mind, such as the investment in videos and DVDs that would be mostly useless once the TV was gone (though there is still the laptop and the portable DVD player).

The last couple of weekends I have been working through the Lord of the Rings movies. I only had the "Return of the King" to go. So Saturday evening, after the children were in bed, I sat down to watch the "Return of the King", the last thing I would watch on the TV. Toward the end of the movie, the reality of what I was about to do began to dawn on me. And I really began to struggle with the decision.
  • The new season of shows was about to start. I was looking forward to seeing new episodes for favorite shows, such as Heroes and Lost, and watching some new shows that looked like they might be good, such as Chuck, Journeyman, and the Bionic Woman.
  • For years I have been dreaming of having a big screen TV and a surround sound system. They just had never been high enough on the family priority list to get purchased. But I still had my dream and every few months I would go and check on line for what TVs were currently out and what receivers and speaker packages were available.
  • Recently, because it was much more affordable and it looks like so much fun, I have been saving my birthday money and allowance (Yes, I get an allowance. We are on a budget, so fun money for mom and dad is budgeted too.) so that I could buy a Wii. I am within about a month of being able to buy one.
So I was really struggling with actually carrying out what I was feeling led to do. Maybe we could just unplug it? Or maybe just set stricter controls on when and how it is used? Maybe we disconnect the antenna so we can only display "approved" content? All manner of excuses came to mind.

At the very end of the "Return of the King", there is a scene where Sam returns home from escorting Bilbo and Frodo to the Grey Havens. As he walks up to his house, his daughter runs out and throws herself into his arms. That scene usually brings a tear or two to my eyes, but that night there were more than a few, as I realized how much I loved my children and wanted to protect them from negative influences and raise them up to be Godly.

I shut the movie off and got down on my knees. I spent some time before the Lord, wrestling with my flesh and surrendering the TV and the dreams and plans I had that went around that (big screen, surround sound, Wii). It was tough and many a tear were shed. Which only proved to me even more the necessity of giving up the TV. It was too much "My precious" (to blatantly steal a line from the Lord of the Rings) . After I surrendered, I felt God's peace settle on me.

Sunday afternoon, I disconnected the TV, the DVD player, and the antenna. They now sit on the floor in my basement, waiting for us to find a new owner for them or a trip to the Salvation Army.

People are going to think we are weird. The Scriptures warn us that the world will not understand the ways of God. In a conversation today at work, I mentioned that we had gotten rid of the TV. This led to a couple of other conversations during the day about this, as the news of my family's decision was told. There were many questions and shaking of the heads, as well as some who claimed to understand but wouldn't do it themselves.

As I end this, I am humbled by the experience. Isn't that the way it usually is, when God works in our lives? For me it is. I awed and humbled at the way He works and the fact that He chooses to work in me. And I am so grateful that He has. I don't miss the TV, at least not yet. I'm very excited to see where God leads us next, what plans He has for me and my family. It only gets better from here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cool Home Theaters

Check out these cool home theaters:

I Had A Good Idea

I'm stealing the title from my son Will. He says that all the time, except in the present tense - "I have a good idea."

Last week Will was talking about wanting to camp in the backyard - setting up the tent and having a camp fire. We've set up the tent before but never actually slept in it, so we'll have to give that a try. I'm not sure how the boys will do though, whether they would sleep or how long they would stay in the tent with me. I've decided I'll have to choose a Friday night to try that.

As for the camp fire, at first I thought that would be impossible. We live in the suburbs, with neighbors on either side, within easy throwing distance. The back yard is mostly lawn. Not the best conditions to have a campfire, and I don't want a burned spot in the lawn.

As I was thinking about it, I remembered that we have an old, round, portable charcoal grill in the garage. We could use that to hold the fire and not burn the lawn. As I thought about how this would be a good solution to us being able to have a campfire, I thought of one the traditional things that go with campfires - smores. And I thought to myself, "Why wait for the camping part to have the smores part?"

I suggested to Stephanie that the next time she went grocery shopping that she purchase the necessary items for the creation of smores. She did that yesterday. We decided tonight would be the night that we would make fire and eat smores.

After supper I went out and retrieved the charcoal grill from the garage. I also found a partial bag of charcoal. I placed the grill on the cement pad in front of our bulk head (the lawn surrounds it on three sides) and remove the lid and grill. I crumpled paper in the bottom, wandered around the yard picking up twigs and sticks that had fallen from our oak tree, piled some of these on top of the paper and then put some charcoal on top of that.

The ingredients for smores were brought out and placed on the patio table. I used a lighter to start the "campfire". Soon we had a small but healthy blaze going. The boys were quite excited. This was their first campfire. Smores were then very quickly hunted down, cooked and consumed. Stephanie and I spend the next hour or so just sitting around the fire, enjoying it's warmth and glow. The boys were on constant foraging expeditions to find things they can throw into the fire. Boys after my own heart; budding pyros. As it was getting darker, Will went inside and got his flashlight. He and Ben took turns using it on their expeditions.

The only drawback was the mosquitoes. Otherwise it was a wonderful, relaxing time that the whole family enjoyed. As bed time rolled around, I reluctantly put the lid over the glowing coals and went inside.

I had a good idea. And sometimes it does pay to be a pack rat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Indiana Jones Update

This is an update to my first post on the new Indiana Jones movie. A friend sent me a link to a news article on the announcement of the name of the movie - "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". Sounds full of potential.

I Knew It, He Is A Kid!

After dinner, before we got up from the table, Ben started goofing around by pulling on his ears. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was a goat. Go over the my wife's blog to see pictures. They're great.

Free Office Applications From IBM

If you're like me, you like free stuff. One of the many realms this applies to for me is software. If I can find a quality piece of software that is free that meets the need, I'll take that over paying for software at a retail price. For example, we don't have any of the Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, etc.) on our home PC. We use the suite of products.

If you're not satisfied with what you are currently using, you may consider the products or the IBM Lotus Symphony products. IBM announced yesterday that they would be offering their office suite for free. Can't beat that. I have not tried their software out but one would hope with IBM behind it, it should be good if not great.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What God Delights In

Our church meets in a hotel within sight of the state capital building. Stephanie and I were responsible for children's church today. The conference room we were in is on the corner of the building with large windows on the two sides. Today was also the day for a 5K road race through the down city area around the capital. Part of the route led right past the hotel, so after church, we were able to able to observe many of the runners going by. There were the top tier athletes leading the pack. For the most part they were lean and long-limbed, making the fast pace they were setting look like a walk in the park. Then there was the middle tier, those who's passion was running but did not have the genetics to be in the top tier. Finally, there was the rest of the people. These ranged from those who were in good shape and enjoyed running to parents with strollers, to those who were walking the distance.

While we were watching the top tier runners speed past and marveling at their athletic grace, another man and I were bemoaning the fact that our increasing age and sedentary lifestyles has robbed us our youthful fitness. Both of us stating our desire to lose weight and get fit but neither of us sure if our knees could take jogging once again. Two overweight and out of shape dads commiserating with each other, hoping good intentions count for something.

Fast forward to this afternoon at home, during nap time. I was having my quiet time. One of the passages I read was Psalm 147. I keyed in on two verses - 10 and 11.

"10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;
11 the LORD delights in those who fear him,

who put their hope in his unfailing love."

The second part of verse 10, "nor his delight in the legs of a man" immediately brought to mind the images of those top tier athletes racing past the hotel with all their athletic grace. According to this passage, God does not delight in our physical prowess (though I do believe we need to take care of ourselves because we are the temple of of the Holy Spirit), rather He takes delight when we are rightly related to Him. Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the first and most important part of having a right relationship with God.

Once the relationship as a son of God is established through Jesus, there are other facets of the relationship that need to be in place. Two of these, in this passage, are that we should fear Him and that our hope should be in God's unfailing love. To fear God is to give Him the honor and respect that is due Him. He is a holy and awesome God and should not be approached cavalierly or related to casually. On the flip side of the holiness, power and awesomeness of God is the compassion, mercy, grace and love of God. Our hope, as Christians, is in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who was sent because of the love of God. So, ultimately, our hope rests solely on the love God has for His creation. And that hope will not fail us because the love of God will never fail and the atonement of Jesus was more than sufficient to meet the requirements of a holy God.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Something's Missing

Next time your lights don't turn on, if the normal things you check (power to the house, light bulb, circuit breaker, etc.) don't solve the problem, consider checking to see if your copper wires are still intact. I've seen several news articles over the last year that seem to indicate this is an increasing problem. Who'd of thunk it?

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A Lazy Day

Today was a lazy day. We slept in. It rained for most of the day. I fixed breakfast - pancakes as usual. The boys had these for breakfast and lunch. I read to the boys for about an hour. Then we went down stairs and watch some TV. Lunch and nap time followed. I read some Asterix and Obelix while the kids were down. Stephanie watched Funny Face.

After nap time, I played and wrestled with the kids. More TV followed. We ordered pizza for supper and ate down stars while we finished watching Clifford's Really Big Movie. Ben really likes it. Then it was time to brush teeth and put the kids in bed. Now I'm blogging and watching TV. It's been nice.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

A Experiment in Translation

I'm a member of a Yahoo group. Recently I saw a post from a university professor in the Information Technology department who said one of the assignments they give in their AI (artificial intelligence) class is to have the students find an online translation system, pick a language, have five sentences translated from English to the other language and then translate it back to English. This is to show the students the state of machine translation systems.

I decided to give this a whirl here on my blog. I chose the Babel Fish translation service. It's sort of like an online game of telephone that I used to play as a kid.

Original English
I like to eat donuts. My favorite is a Boston creme donut. The chocolate on the top and the creme in the middle, can't beat it. I also like plain glazed donuts and ones with chocolate icing. I know that they are not good for me but they sure taste good!

Italian Translation
Gradisco mangiare le guarnizioni di gomma piuma. Il mio favorito è una guarnizione di gomma piuma della crema de Boston. Il cioccolato sulla parte superiore e sulla crema nella metà, non può batterlo. Inoltre gradisco le guarnizioni di gomma piuma semplicemente lustrate ed un con la glassa del cioccolato. So che non sono buone per me ma gusto sicuro buon!

New English Translation From the Italian
I appreciate to eat the rubber packings piuma. My favorite is one rubber packing piuma of the cream de Boston. The chocolate on the advanced part and the cream in the half, cannot strike it. Moreover I appreciate the simply lustrate rubber packings piuma and with the glassa of the chocolate. I know that they are not good for me but good sure taste!

And there you have it! Close to gibberish =). I guess piuma does not translate back to English, but I definitely don't want to eat any rubber packings!

Let's give French a try.

French Translation
J'aime manger des butées toriques. Mon favori est une butée torique de crème de Boston. Le chocolat sur le dessus et la crème au milieu, ne peut pas le battre. J'aime également les butées toriques tout simplement glacées et ceux avec le glaçage de chocolat. Je sais qu'elles ne sont pas bonnes pour moi mais elles goût sûr bon !

New English Translation from French
I like to eat toric thrusts. My favourite is a toric thrust of cream of Boston. The chocolate on the top and the cream in the medium, cannot beat it. I also like the quite simply frozen toric thrusts and those with the chocolate glazing. I know that they are not good for me but they sure taste good!

Well, that sounds a bit questionable. I think it came closer to having more of the original content than the translation of the Italian translation. Is this where the phrase "lost in translation" came from?

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Reverse Psychology - It Works!

Last night I was playing with the boys. We were wrestling on the futon. Then I had an idea. I told the boys, "I don't think you can kiss me." Of course, they both set out to prove me wrong. I resisted just enough to make a show of it =). And when they both had kissed me, I made comments like, "How did you do that?", and other such things to make them feel like they had one-upped me. But I know who really came out the winner.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

What's That Smell?

Playing with fire while wearing flammable liquids can be hazardous to your health, as this article illustrates.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On My Black Eye

Most of the tenderness related to my black eye has gone away, but the nice dark purple color has not. With the tenderness being gone, I tend to forget I have a pretty good black eye until I talk to someone who's not aware that I have a black eye. Many people don't say anything, I can just see it when they notice my eye and their eyes are drawn to it. Then I remember, "Oh yeah, I have a black eye." I don't offer an explanation if they don't comment on it.

One of the guys on my team, who had not seen me this week, came to my desk today to ask a question. He started in on his question and then noticed my eye, "What the h*** happened to you?" immediately followed. He got an explanation.

There's Life In These Old Bones Yet

2 Kings 13:20-21
"20 Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet."

This passage was part of my Bible reading today. It's a fun story. I don't believe that there was anything supernatural about Elisha's bones. There was no power in them. I think they were plain old bones. No, I believe that the God I serve is a God with a sense of humor, and He probably got a good laugh out of doing this.

Update 09/14/07: I had a thought yesterday that I would like to share. Do you think the people in that area tried to duplicate this miracle again? Do you think the next person who died, that they carried them over to Elisha's tomb and put them on top of the bones, hoping that they would live once again? I think I might have tried it if I had been there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rain and Burger King

Supposedly, we are well behind in our annual rainfall total. I really hadn't noticed any difference. However, it's been good to have rain the last two days. Today, it was really coming down while I was at work. I'm lucky enough to have my cubicle next to a window, so I get to watch what's going on outside. I also get visitors to my cube who want to gaze out of my window. I don't mind. They're always people I know. There are areas in the parking lot at work that are badly designed and easily flood. Last year some of the employees' cars got flooded - water higher than the bottom of the doors, motors not starting, etc. So now, whenever there is a good rain, a broadcast e-mail goes out requesting specific vehicles parked in these bad locations be moved immediately.

The down-side of the rain is that the boys do not get to go outside and play. So they get kind of stir crazy. So we went to a Burger King tonight that has a large indoor playground. All three of the kids enjoyed it and were sweating by the time we left. Ellie could not climb up the climbing structure like the boys, but she was able to do the very lowest level and also spent lots of time going up and down the steps leading down to the play area. Ben got a leg or two stuck in a gap on the second level of the climbing structure, so mommy had to go up to rescue him. I offered to do it, but she declined; I was watching Ellie on the steps.

The visit to Burger King was a success - all three kids burned off a lot of energy.

Monday, September 10, 2007


On Saturday afternoon, I was playing with Ben in the backyard. He asked me to throw him up in the air. I did so twice without incident. On the third time, one of his hands caught one of my hands, causing him to twist in the air a bit. This made catching him a bit tricky. End result, the back of his head hit my check bone. I now have the best black eye that I've ever had in my life.

This picture does not do it justice.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


On Friday I took off from work and the family went to Edaville USA. It is a small family amusement park that has a train. Friday (and Saturday and Sunday) they had a special guest - Thomas the Tank Engine. The boys like Thomas, so Stephanie and I decided it would be good family outing. And indeed it was. Stephanie has two blog entries for this already (Day out with Thomas, All Aboard!), so I'll try not to cover the same information.

We had reservations to ride Thomas (or more accurately the passenger carriages pull by Thomas) at 1:30 p.m., so we did not have to hurry to get there. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. after an hour's drive. After a bathroom break, we sought out lunch. I ate a high-priced, small cheeseburger, while the rest of the family had over-priced pizza.

I took each boy, in turn, on the flying elephants ride that was located opposite of where we were seated for lunch. We then wandered over to a old steam locomotive, where the boys and I climbed up into the cab. We looked at another old engine and then visited several kiddie rides.

Then it was a quick pit stop before boarding for our trip behind Thomas. One of the benefits of going on a Friday during the school year is that the crowds were small. So we had plenty of room in the passenger car. It was a nice gentle ride of about 15 to 20 minutes. After the trip was done we stood in line to have the boys' pictures taken with Thomas.

Playing in a caboose, visiting the playground and riding another ride followed. We then viewed a turtle and some frogs in a pond while waiting for the next photo opportunity with Sir Topham Hatt. When Will saw the person dressed as Sir Topham Hatt coming, he said "Sir Topham Hatt's real!". Ben was scared by the costume character and refused to go near him. Will posed for a picture and gave Sir Topham Hatt a five. This caused the realization in Will that Sir Topham Hatt was not real, based on the feel of the costume hand, which prompted questions to mommy later.

Will and I rode the ferris wheel and then we, the family, had an ice cream treat. Mom, dad and Will all got temporary tattoos with different characters from Thomas and Friends. Will chose for each of us. I got Henry, Stephanie got James and Will got Percy. Ben and Will took a final ride, as co-pilots in a bi-plane, and then we left for home.

It was a good day. We had a great time and made some good memories. Below are a couple of photo montages from the day.

Some of the rides we enjoyed.

Seeing Thomas and climbing on and riding trains were fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Splish Splash

This is a take-off of the song "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin. See my wife's blog for the story behind this. Try to sing it to the tune of the original song (it mostly works, I think).

Splish splash, she was play'n in the toilet
Long about a Thursday afternoon
A rub dub, just relaxing in the bowl
Thinking everything was alright

Well, she dipped out the bowl, put her hands in the water
She wrapped fingers around the Tupperware
And splashed the floor, and then
Splish, splash! She dumped some back in the bowl
Well how was mommy to know there was a party going on?

She was a-splishing and a-splashing, reelin' with the feelin'
Moving and a-grooving, rocking and a-rolling, yeah!

Bing bang, mommy saw the whole mess
Running on her bathroom room rug, yeah!
Flip flop, Ellie was pulled from the room
All the kids had the water bug
There was Ben with-a hose
Good golly, Mr. Will was-a even there, too
A-well-a, splish splash, they all got a kind of bath
Mommy went and put clean clothes on them, yeah!

She was a rolling and a-strolling, reeling with the feeling
Moving and a-groovin', splishing and a-splashing, yeah!


I admit it. I like musicals, or at least many of them. I grew up watching great ones such as The Sound of Music, Sing'n in the Rain, Oklahoma and the Music Man. I found the video clip below on YouTube. It's a different version of the Do-Re-Mi song from The Sound of Music. It's sung by Andy Williams, Bobby Darin and Eddie Fisher - and it made me smile and laugh. So I thought I would share it with you. I hope you enjoy it too.

Cool Lights

Projected 3D images have been, until recently, the sole domain of science fiction books and movies. Now it is a reality, in a rudimentary form. Check out the following links to read about this really cool advancement and to see some nifty pictures.

AIST February 2007 Press Release
Pink Tentacle article 1
Pink Tentacle article 2

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Beautiful Day

I took my usual walk today at lunch. It was a beautiful day - low 80's, blue skies, a few wispy white clouds, plenty of sunshine, and a gentle cool breeze. It made me want to get out of the city and into the mountains for a hike. And I definitely did not want to go back to work. I told God that I would not be opposed to everyday being like this.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Carbon (Carbon-14) Dating

I'm not a scientist but I am interested in scientific facts. Science classes, especially physics, were my favorite in high school. Because of the impact on one's belief in our origins, the science of origins is an area of interest to me. In the debate between Creation and evolution, one of the issues revolves around the age of the universe and specifically, the age of the earth and the things on\in it. One dating method that I've heard come up in these debates is 14C (carbon-14) dating.

Based on what I've read in the Bible, and what I've read about the scientific evidence supporting the Bible, I place myself in the young-earth Creationist camp.

Anyway, here's a not too technical article on carbon dating, provided by Answers in Genesis. Also, here is a good article from their latest issue of Answers magazine on defining science with the people you are communicating with so that everyone is on the same page.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

How did you spend your Labor Day?

Mine was spent in a manner that matches the holiday's name - laboring around the house. And by "around the house", I mean around the outside of the house. I spent the day power washing the siding on the front and sides of the house and garage. The back of the house will have to wait. Will and Ben "assisted" me a couple of times. The trigger on the power washer was too hard for the boys to depress themselves, so I had to help them. Once I had pulled the trigger for Will, he was able to keep it depressed and spray the house himself. I say spray instead of wash because he was more interested in wetting the house than focusing on an area to clean it. That's all right, it's a first step. I'll get him hooked in through the fun of it, then I'll work on the productivity when he's older. It's all part of the plan.

The house needed the wash and it definitely looks better. It was good to accomplish this item on my "Honey Do" list.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


In my quiet time today, I read the Old Testament story of Naaman the Aramean. He had leprosy and went to Israel to be healed by Elisha. Second Kings 5:10-14 are the core verses around the healing.

10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed." 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage. 13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Here's the points that came to my mind from these verses:

  • God's will, instructions and His answers to prayer often come in forms that I'm not expecting. Naaman was not expecting the instructions he received. Am I sensitive enough to the Spirit's leading to recognize them, or do I miss them? When I do recognize them, do I react like Naaman did at first, get angry and dismiss them, or do I obey, as he ended up doing?
  • Do I try to complicate what God has made simple? God's instructions through Elisha was simply that Naaman go to the river Jordan and wash seven times. Very simple and straight forward. But Naaman wanted something more dramatic and, as his servants pointed out, he probably would have been pleased if the instructions had been for him to perform some heroic task. I know I do that with my relationship with God sometimes; make it more complicated than God intended it to be by adding my own stuff to the relationship requirements.
  • It is good to have people around you who are wise. Naaman had some wise servants who were able to change his mind about complying with the instructions. Without them, he would have gone home and lived the rest of his life as a leper.
  • Following God's instructions always brings about the best results. Not only was Naaman healed, but the Bible says his skin was "like that of a young boy". Wow! God's work is always the best. Naaman's skin wasn't just free of leprosy, it was brand new - it did not have any signs of the aging that a veteran warrior should have had.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Full Day

Today, after sleeping in as long as I could, I got up and fixed breakfast. I didn't do our traditional pancake breakfast since we were out of syrup. I made scrambled eggs, bacon and toasted bagels. Then came mowing the backyard and lunch. I laid down for a few minutes after putting the boys down for their naps, then got up and went to help one of our church members move. Returned home, spent a few minutes with the family and then mowed the front yard. Supper of biscuits, gravy and sausage patties followed. Then it was shower time for the kids, followed by my shower. Brushed the kids' teeth and put the boys to bed.

It has not been a hectic, crazy day but it has been full. Now I'm kick'n back for a few minutes before heading to bed.