Saturday, February 28, 2009

Grandkids, single-parentness, and tools

Yesterday was a busy day leading to lots of pictures this morning.

The day started with the grandkids getting dropped off at 8 AM. Mrs Notthat then took Darci to preschool while Riley and I visited the backyard garden. He loves whacking things with the long bamboo sticks. As you can see, the garden is currently home to lots of weeds.

See that structure in the background? With the "door" leaning at a bad angle? We have used that to store bicycles and snow sleds for the last 12 years. I am determined to remove that thing this weekend so that I can expand the garden a bit. Tomorrow's storm may mean that the job takes several weekends, and no, I don't know where the stuff that is in it will go. But a bigger garden (even with the threatened water rationing) is calling to me.

These three snow pea plants are the only useful things in the garden right now. They are blooming and hopefully will soon give us some great snow peas. They are like candy - the only fresh vegetable that rivals homegrown tomatoes in their glory.

Mrs Notthat headed out on Friday with some friends to visit stunning (?) Solvang this weekend. This makes me a single parent (pizza and Pringles for breakfast!) and meant I had to watch the grandkids myself in the afternoon.

While packing the car, I laid down half the back seat to create a tunnel between the trunk and the back seat. Riley had a great time going back and forth. Here's the cool thing - if you look to the left side of Riley's head you can see a glow-in-the-dark trunk release handle. With no prompting, Riley figured out to yank on that thing to open the trunk. So it became exactly like a real-life game of whack-a-mole (without the whacking or moles) with Riley popping out of the back seat, giggling, then crawling back through to open the trunk and pop out there.

Once he tired of that, Riley started making fun of how dirty the Race Car has gotten.

Mrs. Notthat left, I picked up Darci from preschool, and all of us, including Idiot Dog Teddy and The Boy headed off to Bayfront Park to throw rocks in the water. The Boy's keen eyes noticed a lady bug that he is showing to Darci (look closely at his knuckle).

It was actually a reasonably nice day out there. There are still scattered mud puddles (much to the grandkids delight), but it was mostly fine walking.

Here we are on the shores of a salt ranch, competing for the best throwing rocks. The Boy headed off with IDT (who quickly bored of the splasing rocks). Riley spent the next 15 minutes calling out "Unca Jesse, where are you?"

We finally wandered into the inner area of the park where Darci tried to make friends with the geese. The closest she came was nearly making friends with geese poop, which was everywhere.

After many calls by Riley, The Boy turned up with IDT. I love how green this place is this time of year. Soon the grass that Darci is walking on will be up to her waist.

The place has lots of random rock piles to climb on.

The Boy and IDT waiting in the shade of the bathroom. WHM made the flaming hat that The Boy is wearing.

Once we got back from the park, we pushed the three plumeria trees out onto the deck (we had them in the house to save them from our killer frosts). The biggest of the trees, on the left side of the picture, managed to keep its leaves while the other two lost theirs. We added some dirt and planted carrot seeds around the bases of the trees. Riley wants the bigger shovel. Darci just wants to get dirty.

After this was done and we did some swinging it was time to come in and get ready for WHM to pick them up. One of the two grandkids was not impressed.

Finally, the grandkids were picked up and The Boy and I were off to go tool shopping. He has a long list of tools that are required for his automotive class. They helpfully supply part numbers from Snap-On Tools, but even with a student discount, these are the cost of a good economy car. So we headed to Sears and bought Craftsman tools - not the quality of Snap-On, but very useful and still with the lifetime warranty (assuming Sears doesn't crater in this economy).

There are still some more tools to get, but he now has most of what he needs. He's going to spend parts of today and tomorrow sorting these out, working out if a larger toolbox is needed, and trying to mark them in a way that they are less likely to walk away. (I suggested painting them pink, but he is leaning towards tasteful black stripes.)

And that was it. We ate dinner at the Valco food court (no, not the Popeyes Fried Chicken or Burger King, but the Hoffbrau with large brats and saurkraut). Tonight I'm hoping to grill up some steaks if the weather holds off.

This morning I start trying to find places to put the bikes and sleds.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Updates to bad bathroom behavior and dead batteries

After I wrote this about the annoying habit of some to use their paper towels to open the bathroom door to protect themselves from deadly viruses, I happened to find a copy room that for some reason had three trash cans. So I placed one of them just outside the bathroom door so that both men and women who are terrified of touching door handles have someplace to put their brave towels.

And it has worked pretty well. Until I saw this today. How can someone miss the trash can from such a point blank distance? (Probably the same way an eight-foot-tall basketball player can miss a dunk.)

I know I know - baby steps. 

Remember the two times I left the lights on and ended up with a dead battery in the Race Car? And how I was determined to install an after-market buzzer thing to reduce the chances of this happening again? Well, I still haven't gotten around to doing that.

But I did do something else. The interior light would not come on when the driver's door was opened. Mrs Notthat pointed out that this was inconvenient. So I played with this a bit and "fixed" it by just pushing the button that the Race Car uses to figure out if the door is open about a thousand times. This cleans the contacts in the switch (sort of) and ended up making it so that the interior light reliably came on when the door was opened.

That was a couple of weeks ago. A couple of nights ago Mrs Notthat and The Boy came in from driving the Race Car and said that it turns out that the car already has a "lights on" warning buzzer sort of thing. Obviously I called them both liars, but then it dawned on me that the same switch that tells the car that the door is open for the interior light would also be used to tell it that I'm about to do something stupid if the lights are still on.

I think this makes me a genius by fixing two problems at once, but I'm not sure it counts if I didn't know I had fixed one of the problems due to it never occurring to me that they were related.

That's it - move along...

Monday, February 23, 2009

A sign for a good commute day

This was my view as I walked up to the Menlo Park train station this morning. This has to be a sign that today would be a good commute day, and this morning, it was. I will finish the odd book I'm reading on the way home tonight and tomorrow get to start one of the many books I got for Pansy Day. 

Tonight I aggonize over the choices: Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, or Terry Pratchett. 

That's it - move along...

Shake my hand (or at least pull my finger)

I haven't done a real whinny post in a while, so here goes.

There is at least one jerk (probably more) that uses the same bathroom I use at work. He/they are sort of Howard Hughes-like with their fear of germs, but very slob-like in their willingness to, um, be a slob.

Look at that top picture. Here's how it goes:

• You do your business.

• You wash your hands. (I know, you women probably all rolled your eyes at this, but really, guys do wash their hands after doing their business. A lot of the time. At least if someone else is there to see them.)

• You take the towel you dried your hands with and use it to grab the handle and open the door.

• You no longer want the towel, so you drop it on the floor.

• Alternatively, you carry the towel to the balcony just outside the door and try to make a basket in the trash can on the first floor (shown in the second picture).

In either case, a used paper towel ends up on the floor and you immediately have to open another door to go back to your office.

First whiny point: Why would you think this was OK? Would you do this at home?

Second whiny point: You are so paranoid that you can't bring yourself to touch the door handle to leave the bathroom, but yet you have no trouble touching the next door handle that is only about five steps from that one. Do you think that while someone's hand could foul up one door handle, it is suddenly going to become sterile in those five steps? Why not carry the towel and use it to open that door too? And then throw it away in a proper trash can?

Look - it is a bit annoying that you have to use a handle to get out of the bathroom. It might be a good idea to have a trash can just outside the door to deposit your towel-of-sterility (but I'll bet you would still miss). But a grownup-like person should be able to easily see that throwing the towels on the ground is not a valid way to handle this situation, even as a weird form of protest. 

You are a moron and miss your mommy.

That's it - move along...

PS: It would be interesting to know if the women's bathroom has this same issue. Not interesting enough for me to investigate though.

PPS: Here's a joke, sort of. A Texan and a normal person are in the men's room. They both finish up at the urinal at the same time. The normal person walks to the sink while the Texan walks to the door. "Where I come from, we wash our hands after that" said the normal person. "Where I come from, we don't pee on our hands" said the Texan. I'm pretty sure lots of guys are secretly Texans, when nobody is watching.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pansy Day Celebration 2009

Note: "Pansy Day" is the unofficial name given to our anniversary by Blogmaid. It came about when she would watch (and help) me scour the Internet for pansy-based gift ideas for Mrs Notthat. Wednesday was our 26th anniversary!

Pansy Day is a big deal at our house. All of us are involved - the kids, grandkids, and IDT*.

The grandkids moved all the presents from our bedroom to a pile in the middle of the living room. It was pretty awesome. The big pink one was Darci's, and she had the hardest time waiting for the "go" signal. She had been begging for days to get to open it.

Finally she was able to go for it. Even Riley was keen to see what it was. (It was an Ariel comforter. Apparently she likes the Little Mermaid. Ryan hopes she doesn't decide she needs a waterbed.)

We all patiently take turns, opening one gift at a time. It's not always easy to stand by and wait. There is a tradition of trying to fool the recipient by adding something heavy, like a rock, to a box with a shirt, or a package of screws to give it an odd rattle. We've gotten pretty good at detecting some of these, but there were a few new tricks this year.

(I don't have pictures of these, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some - WHM* and NCN* took lots of pictures and hopefully they captured some of these moments.)

For example, I opened my box from The Boy only to see a pair of Darci's shoes. After removing the shoes there was a note, pointing out that he had just got me. (There was a Kansas Jayhawks t-shirt in the bottom.)

I opened a box from WHM to find some book about how guys should learn to knit along with a half-done knitted cap. My look was priceless (I've been told) and WHM took the box from me and said she was going to finish it herself.

Mrs Notthat opened a box that had a pair of my shoes on top. There were a number of the "multiple gifts in a main gift" gags.

There was an amazing mess when it was all done. We had to carefully sort through this stuff to make sure nothing accidentally got thrown out.

I got many cool things - a new flip-down LCD TV for the kitchen, an angle grinder, an odd two-sided puzzle that has the cover of the Beatles White album on one side and pictures of each side of the two albums on the other (this could be challenging), many books that I can't wait to dig into, and these things.

A hand knitted Jayhawks hat, the Jayhawks t-shirt, and a talking Tim the Enchanter plush toy that's such an odd and thrilling thing.

We finished the evening with take-out Chinese food and some very tired grandkids (and grandparents). Everyone left happy.

And yes, there were some pansies involved - WHM made bars of soap with pansy flowers in them. Whew!

That's it - move along...

*IDT is Idiot Dog Teddy who got a rawhide bone stuffed with peanut butter.
*WHM is Dani, the Weird Haired Mom.
*NCN is Ryan, who Needs a Cool Name.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My day could have been a LOT worse

How's this for a fun little novelty item? A prostate stress ball! With a section removed for even greater realism and fun!

I was looking on the interwebs for a picture of an actual prostate and came across this. (Sadly, I might have ordered one - you can get it personalized - except there is a minimum order of 1000. This is interesting, but not that interesting.)

Today my dad (not his real name) had his prostate removed. It appears everything went extremely well and he is doing fine. Since he lives in a small town in southwestern Colorado, he had to go about 60 miles to have this operation. And he had to be there by 6 AM. He and his posse (which turned out to be HUGE) had to leave Pagosa Springs extremely early for this, dodging deer, elk, coyotes, and delivery trucks along the way. (Fortunately, they did not have to dodge snow plows. All of this rain we have been getting is heading their way - hopefully it won't get there until after he gets home tomorrow.)

So now the next time I see my doctor I get to tell him about this, and he will get really excited/concerned and I will be having more tests than ever. (An uncle on my mother's side died of prostate cancer a number of years ago. This means I've got potential issues on both sides of the family! Oh joy!)

Hopefully I'll be able to avoid any serious issues. My dad was caught pretty early and it appears there is nothing to sweat now. I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery. 

Cause that snow blower won't run itself. (Kidding!)

That's it - move along...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And you thought I was grouchy

I was halfway through filling up my cart at the local Safeway when the power went out. It got quiet as everyone paused for a second, then I could hear the checkout registers start beeping, the annoying background music playing, and an announcement saying that it appeared the power had just gone out.

The store has a lot of skylights, so I shrugged my shoulders (and muttered to myself not to do that again since it hurt a bit), and kept on filling up the basket. The only really dark areas were by the wine and the bakery.

Finally I went up to pay. As my stuff was being scanned, an older guy came up behind me. "What, are we livin' in a third world country? Hasn't anyone ever heard of a backup generator around here?" 

Wow. I was in awe. Here was a real pro!

We were in a large grocery store with no power and yet there was plenty of light to see with, the cash registers were all working, and you could still hear a Barry Manilow song in the background. But this guy was ticked that the belt you put your groceries on was not working and you had to manually push your stuff up to the cashier.

This made me smile as I made my way through the parking lot, past the people heading in to the store, and listening to cars struggling to get through the intersection with the no-longer functioning stop lights. 

As grouchy as I am, there are others worse than me. And I still have something to shoot for.

That's it - move along...

PS: It is really cold here today. The hills around us are covered in snow. There is a new front coming in tonight that is going to add to that snow. I welcome the rain - we need it desperately - but does it have to be so cold? Why I remember back in my day when the weath...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Automotive fashion, installation failure, and lots of cards

The Boy now has his official class jacket.

Nice graphic, although I'm pretty sure the spark plug is a bit out of place, and each piston should probably have its own. My guess is that this is from a Chrysler product.

The Boy and I took a shot at installing this headlight warning kit in the Race Car in an effort to reduce the chances of leaving the headlights on.

I'm pretty sure I bought this in '83 or so for the old Landcruiser I had at the time. It says it is for US built cars only, but I hoped to work out some way to make it work with the Miata.

The thing to keep in mind is that The Boy has not actually graduated from his automotive class yet - he's still a few years from that - so they may not have gotten around to the bits about wearing proper footwear. Still, this was a bit alarming.

And ultimately it was a failure. The Race Car uses tiny fuses that were not used by US built or any other cars back in '83, so we will need to do some thinking to come up with a way to make this kit work. (And it will - no way I'm wasting that nearly $4 I spent 26 years ago.)

Later, we got together with Lihp and Yram (not their real names) for dinner at Cooks Seafood Restaurant (motto: "If it has fins*, we can deep fry it!" *Does not include cars from the 60's) and some aggressive cards.

We were paused for a dessert break when this picture was taken. We play this game called Hand and Foot which is based on Canasta (I've been told). For five of us, it takes seven decks of cards. As you can clearly see, I am not doing so hot and Lihp (rear-right) is cleaning up. There's a good chance he's benefitting from performance-enhancing whipped cream.

That's it - move along...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bay Area traffic alert

The Boy's knee has been approved to go back to driving with a clutch. So I am back to the Corolla and he is back to the Race Car (at least for today).

You have been warned.

He has no school or work today, so he will have to put some effort into coming up with excuses to go out. Like wanting chowder for lunch. 

In Half Moon Bay.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Energy and yet more tales from the commute

First, this picture is of the top of The Boy's dresser. Energy drinks and potato chips. Fuel for school. Sigh... Bonus points if you noted the piston and computer power supply. Extra bonus points if you worked out that the power supply is broken. 

The Boy is liking his automotive class a lot. They have been taking apart a Lexus V8. Tomorrow is tool day - three tool companies show off their wrenches and try to make some sales (while keeping an eye on their trucks, making sure the over-excited students don't try removing their engines).

Now for a bit of a commute update. (I know, most of you are tired of these - I'll try to keep it brief.)

The good news is that I managed to successfully ride the train and legally park and have no issues at all.

Except for the shuttle bus this morning. 

When I take the early train, the shuttle bus driver is Ernie - a nice guy that I have seen at the train station for years, but never actually had as a driver before we switched to the mini-rock star busses. 

The building I work in is at the end of the shuttle bus run. There can be as many as eight stops before we get to my building. It can get a bit tiresome. Today was the worst, and it took forever to get to the stop. I started wondering whether it was worth it - it was 70 minutes between the time I left the house and entered the building. I was bummed.

By the time we got to my building, I was the only one left on the bus. We pulled up to the building and then Ernie told me how happy he was to see me this morning, since it meant he got to go to my building, which is one of the few that has an easily accessible bathroom. And if I'm not on the shuttle, he has to wait until after his next run to the train station.

And weirdly, just like that, I was fine. I can totally relate to the importance of convenient bathroom stops.

That's it - move along...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thirty dollars

I'll get the hang of this commute thing eventually.

I parked at the train station this morning, made sure my lights were off, and placed the parking pass on the dash. 

I confidently went about my day, assured that I was going to have a trouble-free commute. Finally.

On the train home we had our tickets checked for the first time in a couple of weeks. That's when it hit me - it was no longer January. I had my February ticket in my backpack, so that was no big deal, but I also had my February parking pass in my backpack. That was a big deal.

This meant I was once again trusting to either a forgiving parking enforcer or a lack on interest to escape without a ticket. 

As the picture shows, I got a ticket. For $30. I'll call tomorrow to see if there is any chance of getting it dismissed due to my admitting I'm stupid (and I'm not afraid to play the old age card either), but I suspect they will shrug and say "Make the check out to the San Mateo County Slush Fund."

If that's how it turns out, I can't really complain. I have been riding free or nearly free now for several years with my company picking up the tab, so thirty dollars, especially when it is all my fault, is pretty cheap.

But still.

That's it - move along...  

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Sunday!

Like almost every guy in America, I have been looking forward to this Sunday for quite a while. The final round of the first golf tournament on TV! And this is the FBR Open in Scottsdale Arizona, which is famous for its rowdy crowds at the 16th hole and gorgeous weather. And a guy named Nitties is in the running.

Speaking of Arizona, there is also a football game today. It's a little tough for me to really care about who wins, but I'm going to pull for the Arizona Cardinals for these three reasons:

• They are the underdog.

• They are in the west.

• They have a relatively old guy at quarterback.

I usually refuse to root for teams that have relocated (the Cards used to be in St Louis), but I will make an exception this time. I will never root for the Colts, for example, since I was living in Maryland when the team was moved  in the middle of the night, with no warning. I will never root for the Titans or Rams either. The Ravens are a tougher call since they moved to Baltimore and I still have in-laws back there that root for them. But I rooted against them this year. Sorry Lein (not his real name).

The Raiders are a special case altogether - they moved from Oakland to LA, and then moved back, and will no doubt move out again at the next opportunity. But they are a local team, so I can go either way. The good news is that they are so bad that there is no point to root against them.

I also know that this policy could cause lots of problems in baseball, since an awful lot of the teams have relocated if you go back far enough, including the SF Giants.

In any case, Go Cards! (And great Super Bowl ads!)

And if my boss (who is from Pittsburgh and will be wearing Steeler face paint today) is reading this - sorry. I'll bring you cookies tomorrow if your team gets beat. They'll probably have pumpkin in them though.

That's it - move along...