Friday, October 31, 2008

Pictures with Pumpkins

Happy Halloween!!
This is about as festive as we get...


Monday, October 27, 2008

Power in the Garage

There's a good chance you never saw our garage before its recent renovation. Suffice it to say that its previous electrical infrastructure was crumbling, non-grounded cable from the 50's, whose feeder cable to the main power source was an extension cord run along the side of the driveway. I don't really know what the electrical code was 50 years ago, but I'm pretty sure that would have violated it somehow.
Ever since we moved into our house, we have been wanting electrical power in the garage (without resorting to an extension cord). It wasn't until we received a small chest freezer earlier this year that we actually had a goal to work towards, not to mention the goal of having light so we could play ping-pong in the middle of the night. And, just like my project of building a brick barbecue, I had no previous experience in my proposed project.
Besides a little direction my neighbor Chad gave me at the beginning, I did everything myself, learning the principles of household electricity from books & the internet. And whatever I could remember from high school physics. I started the work on the garage in mid August and finished earlier this month. It wasn't too much work (maybe 50 hours), but it takes significantly longer when you can't work on it full time. I was lucky if I got 8 hours of work in an entire week.
So, we have 60 amps running from the main panel in the house to the subpanel in the garage, which currently houses breakers for 5 circuits:
  • Indoor lights (15A; 120V)
    • 6 - 100W lights
  • Outdoor lights (15A; 120V)
    • 2 - 300W security lights
  • Receptacles - workshop (20A; 120V)
    • 7 receptacles
    • switched receptacle
    • outlet bar
  • Receptacles - storage (20A; 120V)
    • 7 receptacles
    • 2 outdoor receptacles
  • Heater (20A; 240V)
    • 4000 W electric heater
In case you're interested, here is a complete wiring plan:
A neat feature about the security lights is that one of them turns on at half brightness at dusk, for a specified amount of time (3 or 6 hours, or until dawn). It is also a motion light, which turns on full brightness when motion is detected. The other is simply another motion light.
Here's a (long) video tour, complete with color commentary:
I'll end by stating that working with electricity is not as scary as it may seem, as long as you adhere to safety precautions. "With great power comes great responsibility"... Remember to turn off the right circuit breaker, and you can never be too careful!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I was talking to my liberal/hippie sister the other day about how we disagree on a whole lot politically, and that's a credit to our parents for teaching us how to think. Now, of course, she thinks wrong, so that's not much of a credit, but . . . ;) Just kidding, Brecken.

One thing that really gets my dander up is politically indoctrinating children. Especially when it's done in public schools. Children are really good at pointing out supposed breaches of the separation of church and state, but I'm pretty sure they don't catch on to when someone is trying to get them to believe in communism. For instance, once a student in my classroom in a casual conversation to another mentioned the role of Diety in the world. Another shushed him, looked around hoping no one had heard, and said in a whisper, "You can't talk about God in school or you'll get arrested." These were not 5 year olds, in fact they were 12.

I don't really have any personal experience with political indoctrination, but I can imagine how it would go. As a very loose example, when I was in 4th grade my teacher, on a tangent, talked about her beliefs about taxes (a typical middle left ideology) and for years I just assumed that everything she had said was right. She was my teacher and I loved her, and it all sounded right. I don't think she was trying to push her ideas onto us, but that was the effect.

So, my blood really started to boil when I read this article. It's a long one, so let me summarize the part that got to me. Whether or not Barak Obama is friends with Bill Ayers, while serving with him on that school comittee (Chicago Annenberg Challenge education-reform project) the comittee gave $1,056,162 to the Small Schools Workshop, a program Ayers and Klonsky (a man more communist that the current Chinese government) founded together. Their program supports schools that urge "teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social order. They should portray 'homelessness as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.' In other words, they should turn the little ones into young socialists and critical theorists." (As observed by Sol Stern.) Obama went on to serve on the board of the Joyce and Woods fund which gave more money to this indoctrination system. All together Obama participated on boards that gave $1,968,718 to turn children into socialists.

Let me be clear. People have a right to a socialist or even a communist ideology if they so choose. However, it is NOT acceptable to buy children's minds to indoctrinate with your ideology. The article did not make it clear of these schools were charter schools (basically public schools with a twist) or private schools. At least I couldn't find it. If they were charter schools I consider the activity dispicable. If they were private, my view depends on where the money came from originally. However, in either case I can no longer support any part of Obama's education plan.

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Given the Choice...

Would you rather have $1000 from the government or a part time job? I'm curious.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Communicating with Alena

Our sweet little girl is getting smarter and smarter, and we're able to communicate with her on a few things these days. For instance:

She does the ASL sign for "milk." (Well, really an approximation. She makes a fist and shakes it.) It actually means "I'm hungry, give me something that's not necessarily milk, but could be." Unless she is standing with one hand on the fridge in which case she really means milk.

She can also do the ASL sign for "more." It is also used in reference to food.

She can say "yum." She says, 'Mum, mum!"

She says bye and waves. Ok she says, "daDA!" and waves.

She also says "Dada" to mean dad, but with a different vocal inflection. It's possible to differentiate. Yesterday I saw Kevin walking up the driveway and told Alena, "Daddy's home." She got up and walked to the kitchen door to wait for him to come in.

She says "Ba ba ba ba" for ball.

She pats her head which means, "One fell off and bumped his head."

She shakes her index finger in a scolding fashion which means, "No more monsters jumping on the bed." (Our book has monsters rather than monkeys.)

The other day she had taken one of my shoes and put it somewhere I couldn't find it. So I was talking to her as I looked. I said, "Alena, where did you put my shoe? Can you go get it for me?" She came back with a shoe. The wrong one, but still.

Yesterday at Family Home Evening I wanted to include Alena so I asked her to go get the calendar. She looked at me and shrugged. I guess she doesn't understand "calendar." That or she didn't know how she was going to get it off of the wall to bring it back to us. But she followed Kevin to the office, got the calendar from him, then walked back and handed it to me.

She occasionally will meow like a cat when shown a picture. That one's really hit and miss though. Possibly because it's so adorable she won't show it to just anybody.


My Two Cents

I spent at least 4 minutes writing this thing for an internet forum I participate in, so I thought I ought to give it a second audience. I had previously mentioned that I take issue with Obama's lack of respect for the family. Someone asked what I meant, since Obama and Biden officially don't support gay marriage.

My beef with Obama's family policies are primarily in his education plan. For instance:

"Zero to Five Plan: The Obama-Biden comprehensive "Zero to Five" plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, the Obama-Biden plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama and Biden will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state "zero to five" efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school."

Parents already believe that preschool is better than not. That may be true if the alternate is daycare. It is NOT true if the alternate is a mother. So, all of these mothers send their kids to preschool (many of them sacrificing other things in order to afford it) when actually they would be a better option. (One on one is better than 3 of 20.) I realize that there are parents who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, and thus can't dedicate the time to parenting they might like, and that is why I support headstart programs, however I oppose programs that will make parents believe (falsely) that the government can do a better job educating their children. Especially if they are trying to tell them that they should have your children from infancy. That makes me want to slug somebody. (Disclaimer: there are many reasons to send a child to preschool, and in some cases it is a good option. I only take issue with the belief that preschool can educate better than mothers. It is not true.)

Also, this statement:

"From the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is their teacher" (found multiple times on Barack's site) goes a long way discounting the role of the family. Not to mention that it's a big fat lie. As a teacher and a mother and a daughter, the single most important factor to a child's achievement is their parents. Ask any teacher, they will agree. Teachers have a lot of power, but not nearly as much as even the father who left the family and doesn't pay child support, let alone the parents who help their children with homework.

I am glad that Obama has decided that he can give up what I suspect are his true belief's regarding gay marriage in order to get the independent vote. However, I'm thinking that gay marriage is most likely to come from the supreme court, not congress. Therefore, I'm not liking voting for someone who will appoint judges that will most likely have an easier time acting on their belief in gay marriage than someone who has to get elected.

Lastly, I feel that his policies on women will nudge women out of the home needlessly. As an optimist recently coming from the bubble, I like to think that the great majority of the unequal numbers of women vs. men in the workplace come because women have a natural understanding that it's really important for them to be mothers. I'm sure some of the discrepency comes from discrimination, etc., but I think there are few women CEO's because women decide it's not worth giving up their family to work 90 hours a week to get to the top. And good for them. (And good for the men who make the same decision.) Having the government throw money at that "problem" would, I think, convince women to give up that natural righteous feeling and give up their greatest blessing for money. It's not the government's place to make sure women raise their children, but I also think it's wrong for them to pay women to let the government raise them in their behalf.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Am I alone?

Am I the only one that thinks that taking $10,000 out of your retirement account right now (as Barack Obama said this morning he wants to allow you to do without a tax penalty) is a really, really bad idea? To take out that huge chunk of money now, when your retirement account is worth less than it has been worth and (hopefully) than it will be worth relatively soon. Taking out that huge chunk of money from what you're saving for your retirement. Who's going to help you when you retire? Social Security? HA!

Am I the only one who thinks if you need $10,000 to "cover your bills" you have bigger problems than the stock market crash? Perhaps a more helpful suggestion would be to cut out expenses, rather than destroy your future? In my calculations, $10,000 taken out today to "cover your normal expenses," if left in an average 401k for the next 15 years, would become $36,425. Most people will leave that money in there if the tax penalties for withdrawing early are left in place. Even people who don't take the 30 seconds to find an online 401k calculator. I would go so far as to predict that, left alone, some people would decide to stop charging their plasma TV's to credit cards, and maybe not buy another one rather than pull money from their retirement in order to support their consumer addictions. Wouldn't that be a better idea than bleeding your retirement savings?

Don't tell me that we need people to buy plasma's on credit card in order to save the economy. Baloney. Debt is what got us into this mess. Bleeding our savings will only deepen the crisis individually and nationally.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Like mother like daughter

I made Courtlin a chocolate mousse pie for her birthday. It was in the refrigerator cooling as I prepared the ribs I made for her birthday. They needed a spot in the fridge too, since I put them together the night before. (*Gasp* I did cooking the night before.) So, I had the fridge door open to rearrange things to make space, and then I went over to get the ribs and something distracted me. When I turned around Alena gave me a sideways glance. She had her hand in her mouth. The pie had several handprints in it. Smart girl, that one.

P.S. New album of Alena spaghetti pictures here.