Monday, December 26, 2005

Some Old Rachel Stories

I'm working on sending out the holiday letter, which means hunting down a couple of addresses. I wish Google Desktop Search were better about finding things in my multiple email archives, but... oh well. Anyway, while hunting for the address of Dawn's cousin Jill, I found an email dated 8/29/03 to Jill & her husband Schuyler (who coincidentally works for one of my customers) in which I related these three as being recent stories about Rachel.

1- One day, my brother took her to the park; as they were leaving, she looked at him and said, unprompted, "thank you for taking me to the park, Aaron." Two days later, we were having my parents, brother, neice, and nephew over for a BBQ; they arrived during Rachel's nap and when she saw Aaron after she got up, she said 'hi'. A moment later, she said "I'm ready to go to the park, Aaron."

2- My mother was playing the "what's so-and-so's name" game with Rachel. "What's my name?" "Carol" "What's your father's name?" "Daddy" "Well, that's what you call him, but what's his name?" "Dylan" "What's you're mother's name?" "Mommy" "Well, that's what you call her, but she's a person with a name. What's her name?" pause pause "I'm a person too." Today, she actually said to me "Are you a person with a name?" "Yes, Rachel, I'm a person and my name is Dylan." "I'm a person with a name too!"

3- And one not so recent; when she was just crawling, Dawn and Rachel took a nap on our bed; I think she was about 8 months old. Dawn woke up and went to do some things downstairs. After a while, oddly she started hearing VOICES from our bedroom, so she went up stairs wondering how someone could have gotten into the house without her noticing. Well... Rachel was sitting on the bed fiddling with the TV remote; you know, turning it around, looking at it, chewing on it... and, every so often, POINTING IT AT THE TV!

Shrieking? How about Glitter?

A while back, I mentioned about how girls shriek a lot. They also leave glitter all over. It's incredible - there can be no warning at all, just suddenly glitter everywhere! One of the things Rachel got for Christmas was a 'fairytale wonderland' dress-up chest, from Elisabeth. It has three costumes in it, pink, purple and blue. Rachel tried all three of them on over the course of the evening at Elisabeth's aunt's. Soon, there was starting to be glitter everywhere... on my pants, on the table cloth, on the chairs (mine, Dawn's, and Rachel's, at least), on the dogs... you get the idea. We figured it was from one of the costumes, but didn't investiage too carefully.

Last night, Rachel decided to wear the blue costume to bed. Silly, but fine, whatever. Then, this morning, she came and flopped on the bed with us for a little while. When I went back up there to do something for a couple of minutes, I discovered a TON of glitter all over that part of the bed! It's like fleas now, getting transferred from our bed onto me and then from me to the sofa, where I'm sitting now.

And it's not just the costume. At least 50% of cards and letters we get for her have glitter in them. They make glitter glue. And glitter make-up.

At least she didn't do any shrieking last night while opening it! She's very cute in the costumes, though.

2005 Holiday Letter

Hello everyone!

At this time last year, we had plans for sending out a year-end/holiday letter, but never actually got around to it. If anyone felt left out or forgotten, please know it was only how busy we often find ourselves and how often things we might like to do get put aside. Since it's been two years, I'll have to make sure to keep it brief, lest we go on too long...

I'm sure everyone wants to know about Rachel more than the rest of us, so I'll start with her (don't worry, we're used to it). Rachel is wonderful and changing and growing fast. As of 12/21, she's 42.5" tall, which makes her still about 90th percentile for height, as compared to 50th percentile for weight (still under 35 lbs) - tall and thin. She's been in a Montessori pre-school for a bit more than two years and loves it. She has learned and grown so much, it's just amazing. She's one of the bigger kids now and loves to take the new young children under her wing. She is working on reading, writing and even some simple math, loves the monkey bars, and is looking forward to the opening of the two new play structures at school in January.

Believe it or not, all this means that we're trying to decide where she should go for Kindergarten. It's a bit of a dilemma –she can either complete her Kindergarten year where she is now or begin Kindergarten at our local elementary school. We actually like both options, but beginning at the local public school for Kindergarten means she will be assured of a spot in a 1st grade class, whereas if we wait to start her in public school in 1st grade, there may or may not be a spot at our first choice for an elementary school. It’s made still more interesting because many of our neighbors’ children will also begin Kindergarten there! We’ve still got time to finalize this decision and we are taking it!

Over the last two years, Rachel has taken gymnastic and music classes and next month she'll be starting 'Little Leapers', a dance class at the Y. Always very verbal, Rachel is extremely talkative, although she's going through a phase of using a lot of baby talk. She's very good at making friends, both with the other 12 kids under the age of 10 on our block and with the kids at school, including her friend Tessa who is the daughter of my friend Dana, whom I've known since before high school!

Dawn has been working for the local Head Start for quite some time now. She's been responsible for disabilities and mental health and has helped significantly in getting the agency back on track. Soon after she started, they had their regular Federal oversight review and the results were very poor - only Dawn's area had no deficiencies! Early this month, though, the Feds did a mini-review and announced that they were "clearing" all the deficiencies. It's been a long road, and Dawn had a huge hand in it. Negotiations will start next month on whether she'll stay - they're pretty desperate to keep her, for good reason.

I've now been working for the same company for over 5 years, the longest I've been in a single position, and now we've been acquired again by a capital management firm. The rumors abound, but it sounds fairly positive. In particular, it seems clear that they view us as a software company and understand that we've been run by a finance group. In the software business, you sometimes have to spend money (by hiring sales people and software developers, for instance) in order to make money (by improving and selling the software, for instance).

Both our jobs are extremely convenient, being part of a 3-mile triangle from our house to our offices and Rachel's school. Although we each have had various reasons to want to leave these jobs, we've a log of reasons to keep them. We're hoping for some nice changes at work as we get into the new year!

Earlier this year, Dawn took Rachel and me to Disneyland for a week. It was my first time there as well as Rachel's, and we all had a great time. Four days in the two parks was plenty of time. Rachel particularly liked seeing all the various princesses (the only one we didn't 'meet' was Ariel, the Little Mermaid, presumably because she can't walk if she has fins; given that the movie ends with her deciding to remain human, I'm not sure why she can't be found walking around) and the “Ferrist” Wheel, as she calls it. It's huge and has cars that run on an internal rail so that they really swing and shake as the wheel turns. We took that for our first ride the first day, and lucked out a little - the way she was sitting, Rachel almost ended up going face first on the metal floor except that I was watching her to see her reaction to the whole thing and managed to catch her. Her other favorite part was sleeping on the top bunk in the "Kid's Suite" at the hotel.

In May, I went on my tenth annual long weekend camping trip to Yosemite (only the third time we went, but that’s a long story); we had a wonderful time and are starting to plan for next year’s trip. In October, Dawn and Elisabeth went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a week and also had a great time. They swam with dolphins, took a zip line adventure through a forest, went tequila tasting, and drove into beautiful mountains.

Dawn and I celebrated our 5th anniversary (already!) at the beginning of November. Rachel went to Monterey Bay with her grandparents and uncle, while Dawn and I went back to one of our favorite places - a bed & breakfast near Point Reyes. We had a wonderful time relaxing and hiking and taking pictures with my new camera, while Rachel got to touch a star fish and go on a whale watching boat ride (no whales). For Thanksgiving, we went to Mendocino with my family where we did more hiking, a lot of eating, and I took yet more pictures (900+).

Over the last few weeks, Dawn has been taking some time off from work, while I've been working more because we're so busy, but for the first time in 5 years, I am not working over the company's holiday break. My two current obsessions (both of which Dawn has gone on record as saying are “good” obsessions) are energy efficiency and photography. In the last several weeks, we have added insulation under the floors, into the exterior walls, and between the crawlspace and the house, sealed the various holes between the crawlspace and the house, and replaced the (very?) old washer and electric dryer with new very high efficiency models. I estimate that the insulation additions have cut our gas usage by 50% over last year (although Elisabeth was living with us then). At the end of October, we bought a new Toyota Prius, and like it quite well. We’ve saved over $200 in gas so far, and are emitting far less pollution to boot. Finally, around the end of January, we’ll be installing solar panels on the roof; the estimated production should cover around 85% of our annual electric usage. I have visions of yet more, but seem to remember promising to keep this brief…

As for photography, well… there are two parts to it. First is the new Canon 20D SLR with image stabilized (amazing!!) lenses, which has been just wonderful. It has been really nice having a ‘real’ camera in hand again, and I’ve taken some fantastic pictures already. Beyond that, I’ve been delving into an archiving project to sort, cull, catalog and scan all of the slides and negatives we have that seem worth keeping. So far, I’ve been through 91 rolls of slides dating from 1987 to 1999; they originally totaled around 3500 and I’ve cut them down to 1346. Next up is sorting our negatives, of which there are around 150 rolls! The slides took me about 50 hours over two weeks, and the negatives, being, well negative, will be much harder.

Also in the last two years, I've started keeping a weblog occasionally. I use it partially to help us write down tidbits of Rachel's life and development, partially as a way to let friends keep up with us when events or geography conspire to prevent spending much time together, and even occasionally as a way to vent, rant, rail, or celebrate. The blog address is and you can always reach us by leaving a comment on it, or sending us email: dylan (at) darwincg (dot) com or dawn (at) darwincg (dot) com. Soon I'll have to make Rachel's into an actual mailbox: rachel (at) darwincg (dot) com; she's already started getting phone calls from friends, it can't be long before she starts getting email!

We wish happy holidays of all sorts and a wonderful 2006 for each of you.

Dylan, Dawn & Rachel

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I Hate Bad Drivers

This is going to be a bit of a rant, but I really am getting fed up with bad drivers.

1- Your turn signals are there for a reason. Use them, but only when you're getting ready to make a turn! Now, I admit that I have forgotten to turn off a turn signal after changing lanes, but it doesn't happen often, and at least I was using the damned thing!

2- Also, it is a good idea to pay attention to the people who are driving around you. You're not the only person on the road, and the other drivers' predictive capabilities may be hampered by the momentary glance in the rear-view mirror or something, so don't suddenly decide to pull of to the right side of the road and then, even more suddenly and with even less warning, make a u-turn across the path of the people behind you. It's great that you were aware of the absence of on-coming traffic in the other lane, but some awareness of the people behind you would be good too.

This morning on the way to Rachel's school, some moron in a mini-van pulled out of traffic to the right as if to park, without signalling. OK, fine - would have been nice if you'd signalled, but you're not in the way, so it's not that big a ... WHOA!!! Make up your mind!! All of a sudden she was turning left across my path either into a drive-way or into a u-turn. Regardless, she didn't signal and I had no warning she was going to do it. Given that she didn't signal, I don't know whether it would even have been "my fault" if I'd hit her, as it is by default if you rear-end someone (at least here in California). Probably not, since she was actually out of the traffic lane (as if to park).

I managed to yell only "make up your mind" in front of Rachel, rather than the various more colorful things that went through my mind, such as "what the fuck are you doing, you stupid fucking idiot bitch!??!"

And then there was the guy Dawn was telling me about who, in a large pickup, came racing up behind her on the freeway, honked, and then raced around her. She called him an asshole. And the guy who came up behind me on the frontage road on the way to work, where the limit is 35 and I was doing 40, and then crossed the double yellow line to pass me.

I tell ya. It's far too easy to get a license, not to mention a car, in this state (and probably country). The number of people who either haven't had any real driver training or are completely incapable of following any semblance of the rules is ridiculous.

I'm just sayin' :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"Breathtaking Inanity"

Well put, Your Honor!

Judge bans teaching intelligent design

Judge Jones' Memorandum Opinion, dated 12/20/05. The conclusions starting on page 136 are good to read.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Vote Solar!

Duane sent me the URL for Vote Solar today. I haven't looked at most of the rest of the site, but they have a place for sending email to the California Public Utilities Commission to encourage them to enact the Million Solar Roofs campaign in California. The idea is that if we build a million solar roof installations over the next 10 years, we'll add something like 3,000 megawatts' production and we'll increase demand sufficiently to make a significant increase in supply which will result in a significant decrease in cost, which will, in turn, increase demand.

Dawn and I love watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It would be nice if they could be a little less obvious about the product plugs, though at least occasionally it's fun that they make fun of it. What I really wish is that they would put solar panels on the houses they build. Some of these houses are huge and must have significant energy loads, even with energy efficient appliances and such, so it would be really great for both the family and the environment if the house were producing at least a portion of the power it needs. In some cases, I'm sure they could even put up enough solar to allow them, as I want to do eventually, to do both water & house heating with electricity generated by the solar panels.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Short Prius Update

I filled the tank today, though it wasn't all that close to empty, because I needed to inflate the tires. The tires were down to 30-35 psi, so I inflated them to 42-44. At least according to my hand-held gauge; the one on the gas station pump was reading higher, but I decided to assume it wasn't very accurate. I guess we'll see when I get a new one...

266.1 miles on 6.823 gallons is 39.0 mpg. The car was claiming 39.3, and I think it's a little warmer today than it was the last time I filled it, so it makes sense it would hold more today than last time. The truck, which we still haven't sold and are still driving more than we planned, would have taken 22.175 gallons, or 15.352 more. At $2.179/gal, that's a difference of $33.45.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My God, It's Full of Slides!

I've been working a lot on sorting out all my slides. I started Tuesday night and went through roughly 25 rolls, as I mentioned in my post on Wednesday night to Thursday. I was up until 1am Wednesday morning doing it, using the little slide table and paying half attention to several old episodes of CSI that happened to be on the Tivo. Wednesday night I spent doing some "research" (I was, in fact, looking up some information about various thing, such as solar hot water) and posting; didn't get to bed until after 12.

Thursday night, I went back through all the slides I had decided to throw out, using the loupe and the large light table I borrowed from Rick. I did wind up deciding to keep a few of them, but not many. Getting them back into the right boxes was a pain in the neck. Not that leaning over the slide table for 4 hours was any less. I also got through most of the rest of the rolls of slides, but wound up finishing a couple on Friday night and the last several this morning. The only reason I didn't do the last 12-ish on Thursday night was that it was already a bit after midnight and my neck was bugging me.

Friday night I didn't do any, because our friend Chris came to visit. Chris signed back up with the reserves and hooked up with a unit out of Dublin. He'll be doing IT/IS management and prep, helping other units get ready to deploy. I'm glad that this helps minimize the likelihood that he will be deployed. Chris had a bit of an adventure getting here. We decided it would be best for him to take BART and us to pick him up. He calls me when he's on the train, I figure when that means he'll hit the closest station and we head over there at that time. We're two blocks from the station when my phone rings... it's Chris. Umm... I'm in Fremont. Oops. Someone steered him to the wrong train and he wasn't paying enough attention and by the time he realized what was up, he was stuck.

OK. So, we went home again, ordered some food from a nice Mediterranean place near by and then Rachel and I went to get the food and then Chris while Dawn stayed home to set the table and get things ready. This time it all worked pretty well. Had a devil of a time finding parking near the restaurant, and wound up about two blocks away. Carried Rachel to the restaurant, got the food, carried the food back and Rachel walked. She did great. I conned her a little by getting into the old see-who-gets-there-first game. She had fun and only complained about being tired when we were almost back at the car.

Dinner was good, Rachel went to bed easily, and Dawn, Chris and I talked and talked. Dawn went to bed around 10:30. Around 11:45, Chris asks if it's 11:45. Yeah. When's the last BART train? Oh, shit. Luckily, it turned out to be a bit after midnight, so we high-tailed it to the station. Then today he called to tell me that he had more adventure on the way back to base! At some point along the way, the train developed the infamous "door problem". When they can't get a door to close properly, they have to make everyone get off and take the train out of service. It's usually not that big a problem, because there should be another train coming along in 10-20 minutes. 'Course, that's not true with the last train of the night! Takes them 45 minutes to bring a train down from the end of the line to take them where they're going...

Tonight I went back to the slides... I've sorted, numbered and cataloged 195 slides from 1987 to 1990, including putting them into 3-ring binder sheets, 20 to a sheet. I decided to have a set of sheets (only 1 for '90, but 3 or 4 for the other 3 years) for each year and number the sheet ####-# using the year and the number of the sheet. For the slides, I decided to number them starting with 1 for each year. I have one unused slide sheet right now, and there are definitely more than 20 slides for 1991, so I am going to wait.

Actually, the REAL reason I'm waiting is that I am wondering if I am missing two rolls of slides! The first one I started with, which was the lowest numbered, was actually labeled roll #2. I just figured that there wasn't a roll 1, or that must have lost it a long time ago. When I started to work on 1991, though, I thought I had rolls 21 and 22, having just finished 20 for 1990, but then I realized that I actually had 22 and 23, having just finished 20... so, where's 21? In the morning I'll go through the chest upstairs and see if maybe there are a couple of rolls left. At least I won't have to redo too much. There are 50 slides for 1987 that I would have to renumber if I find roll #1, since that's almost certainly from '87. I suppose it could be '86, but I doubt that I'd be lucky enough both to find it and not need to renumber 50 slides.

I think I'll go through the rest of the boxes and make sure I know what they are and see whether I think any are missing...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Masculine & Irreverant My Ass

I saw something the other day about how Hummer won't be coming out with a hybrid because it doesn't fit with their "masculine & irreverant" style. Whatever. I just heard another of their obnoxious H3 ads and feel the need to point out that no Hummer is even listed in's emissions calculator!

Insulation, Solar, and More, Oh My!

On the 15th, after we got back from our anniversary weekend, I had McHale Insulation blow R-13 cellulose insulation into the exterior walls, completing the major insulation projects we're in a position to do. The two smaller things we can do, as far as insulation is concerned, are to put insulation on our hot water pipes and improve the insulation of our furnace ducts (more on the latter later).

"They" say that the first 6 or so feet of hot water pipe should be insulated... Home Depot has 4-packs of 3-foot 3/4" pipe insulation foam for $4.97. I'll have to try to see how much I think I actually need - at that price, I would guess it is not entirely unreasonable to do all of the exposed hot water pipe... I mean, I probably have less than 100', so that's a little more than $100. Not that I have any information about what it does to the heat retention, really.

Yesterday, after much deliberation, I finally made a decision on solar, and today I signed the contract and paid the deposit. I narrowed the choices down to Sun Light and Power and Marin Solar, based a little on whether they came out to the house to see the site for themselves and stayed within the primary constraints I gave them (wanted to use only the flat roof), a little on how significant their operations are, and lastly on power production & cost considerations. The first knocked Real Goods out of the running, the second took out Berkeley Solar Electric and Sesco Electrical, although all three of them were pretty competitive on price.

Ultimately, the decision between SLP and Marin was fairly tough. They've each been around a long time, though SLP's been doing solar for 29 years while Marin's been at it only 5. They each have relatively significant operations - SLP's big enough that they actually stock the panels, which are the hard equipment to get, so they're able to start much faster than most, and while Marin is obviously somewhat smaller, they're clearly not just a couple guys in a van with good intentions and some knowledge but limited experience. As long as the rebate reservation is in time to qualify for the current rate, ability to do the installation isn't all that important... what's a month or two's delay for a Solar installation in winter against the 25-30 year expected life of the system?

I'd been leaning pretty heavily toward SLP, in part because they're bigger, they operate a pretty green business, and they have been around longer and may have a slightly better chance of being around longer in the future. Of course, there's not really much reason to think that Marin's going to have any problems any time soon - solar's a growing business, and as demand increases world-wide, supply will eventually go up, prices will eventually come down, and it'll grow still more. So, we finally decided on Marin because their bid costs just 10% more but will produce nearly 25% more power and result in greater savings.

So far, we're seeing about a 20% decrease in electrical usage because of the new washer and dryer, which are not only substantially more efficient per load, they are much larger, enabling us to do fewer loads. That decrease puts us at around 5600 kWh of usage per year, of which about 5000 will be produced by our new solar system. Now I can just buy Renewable Energy Certificates from PV USA Solar to offset the rest for $25 a year. They only sell the credits per month, so I'll just buy one each January & that'll be that.

They have a sister site called Certified Clean Car, where I can actually offset the Prius' emissions by buying, essentially, enough renewable non-CO2-producing energy production to offset the need for some power plant somewhere to produce the equivalent CO2. For the Prius at 8,000 miles a year, that costs only $34.99! For the '97 Pathfinder, it would be 59.99 and for the '93 Accord, well... their calculator doesn't cover the V6 for some reason... just sent them an email. Wow... this is pretty cool... I might just have to do both of these!

Anyway, the solar installation ought to be able to start around the end of January, assuming that the rebate reservation comes back by then... it's all done FIFO, so it may take several weeks, but the per watt amount is based on when it is filed, so we'll be at $2.80... it drops to $2.60 on the first, I think.

The solar system will cost us about 18,400 or 20,100, depending on whether we are able to take advantage of both the state and federal tax credits. At the moment, I have to assume we'll only get one, because the state credit (this is different from the state rebate), which is 7.5% of the unrebated cost, expires at the end of the year, and may be based on getting the system permitted, paying for the system, or installing the system, depending on whom you ask. The fed credit is 30% of the unrebated cost, up to $2000, and is based specifically on putting the system into service (i.e. tying it to the grid) on or after 1/1/06, so we will definitely get that.

The 2004 Form 3508 for the solar credit asks the following questions, to which each answer must be yes to qualify (I'm abbreviating to relevance to me, and emphasizing as well):
  1. Did you purchase and install the system in 2004?
  2. Is it a PV?
  3. Is it rated for 200kW or less?
  4. Is it solely for electricity generation?
  5. Is it primarily for my (family's) energy needs?
  6. Are all components certified by the California Energy Commission?
  7. Does it have a 5-year warranty?
Assuming the same questions apply on the 2005 form (when it comes out), modified to refer to this year, the answer to each of these is yes, except the first, because while I could pay for (purchase) it this year, it is too late to have it installed (which doesn't necessarily mean placed into service). If I'm lucky, sometime during the course of the year, the legislature will decide to renew the credit for 2006, and if they do, it will most likely be retroactive to the first of the year...

In other areas of the quest for energy efficiency, I had Sustainable Spaces out to do a performance appraisal on the house. It cost $395, which they will credit back to me if I have them do any work. What they basically found is that the house may as well have a 12 x 26 inch hole in the wall, because of how fast air is exchanged between the house and the outside. I find the results reasonably interesting, and they are willing to bid for things even though they don't think they may make the most economic sense... I hope that they will do that, and I will definitely be asking how much gain there is in each item, which will give them plenty of time to tell me they don't think the item is cost-effective.

So far, they seem to want to
  • replace the 80% furnace that is nearly 3 times the capacity we need with a combined hydronic forced air furnace (uses hot water from the hot water heater to heat a fan coil to transfer the heat to the air and then blow the air through the ducts into the house)
  • replace, resize, and insulate the duct work; between the large gaps in the plenum, any additional leaks in the duct work, and the relatively minimal insulation on the ducts, we're losing a significant portion of our heat energy through the ducts before it even gets into the house, not to mention that the furnace is pulling more air from the crawlspace (cold & dirty) than the house (warmer & cleaner)
  • add a heat register in Rachel's room (not to mention that I've long thought of putting one in the laundry room under her room and am now thinking we might want to have one in the front entry and one in the downstairs hallway, either in the wall next to the stairs opposite the laundry room or in the riser for one of the steps)
  • install a PV system (I'm already doing that, and with the company they recommended when it didn't look as if they could size it fast enough)
  • seal the crawlspace; this one I'm not really sure about... I more or less understand the notion that having it be sealed makes it part of the building envelope and could help reduce energy usage, but since they also call it out because they claim it's wet down there, I'm a little confused - haven't seen much evidence of it being wet...
The thing I'm disappointed about, and that they are saying won't be cost effective is air leakage through the attic. According to their stats, we're losing 27% of heat through air leakage into the attic and then outside. Ideally, they'd go up there and seal the top plates so that hot air getting into light switches and fixtures and electrical outlets can't get up into the attic. The problem is that there's a ton of insulation blown in up there that will make it tough to do that sealing work... it cost us almost $1200 to put most of that insulation up there (there was some already), so I don't know if I want to have them take a whole bunch out and then put it back, but I'm very disappointed that we won't be able to do that sealing...

I'm also asking them for information on solar hot water... from what I understand, you basically have a secondary holding tank (60 gallons to go with the 50 in my hot water heater) filled with water that is heated by a solar panel or two on the roof. This water is fed to the water heater in place of cold water (i.e. the cold from the main goes to the solar hot water system instead of to the gas water heater) which means that the water heater doesn't have to do as much work to get the water hot... it still has to use gas to keep the water in it's internal tank hot and to heat the water coming from the solar tank to the set point, if it's not already there, but that should be a lot less than dealing with cold water coming straight from the main.

What I'm a little confused about at the moment, as I write this, is why someone told me that you can't use a demand water heater instead of a storage water heater... as long as you have a storage tank being managed by the solar hot water heater, I don't really see any reason that the gas heater would have to have a tank... Will have to look into this more, but I don't think it was Sustainable Spaces who told me that? Not sure now... After a bit of searching, it seems as if you still have to have a storage tank, but the tank doesn't itself have to be a water heater, and that, as I thought, you could have a demand heater in place of the regular storage water heater to fill the difference between what the sun gives and what you actually want. This probably is particularly important if it is cold and particularly for several days and the water in the storage tank has time to cool down significantly...

So, before I go to bed late for the second night running, I'll mention the other big project underway right now... a few days ago, I rearranged our bedroom enough to uncover the chest that has a lot of our pictures in it. It has about 100 rolls of slides, about 60 rolls of negatives, and 4 APS rolls, and that's without the 5 photo storage boxes full of yet more rolls of film... OK, I just had to look - they have around 80 rolls, all negatives. Of that total (around 240 rolls of film), at least 50 or 60 are from our wedding and honeymoon. And somewhere, we have the medium format negatives from our wedding photographer.

Last night, I pulled out a bunch of the boxes of slides and started going through them with my little light table (holds 6 slides at a time) and no loupe. Put about 30 slides that were not in boxes back in their boxes. Weeded out a LOT of the slides. Had a great trip down memory lane with stops in 88, 89, and 96 through 99, but I was up until 1. Today, I borrowed a loupe and a real light table from my co-worker, Dr. Rick. I'll start by going through all the ones I weeded out, just to make sure that there aren't any I really ought to keep. I think I want to get the slides out of the way first - since they are positives, it is much easier to tell whether they are any good. With the negatives, I have a feeling I may have to be comparing them to the photos, which will take even longer! Of course, the only negative strips I can toss are the ones that are completely hopeless, so I don't know exactly how I'm going to keep track of which are worth scanning and which are not.

And then, of course, there's work, where I'm busily trying to get J's work done while hoping that M takes long enough to sign that I'll be able to free up a reasonable portion of my time for them... I really ought to have gone to bed at least an hour ago...

I haven't even mentioned that we went to KFOG's Concert for Kids last Saturday... I was there mostly to see KT Tunstall, who was fantastic. She's going to be at Cafe du Nord on 1/31, and I was able to get tickets on Sunday! Aqualung was also good, though I don't know their music well and they were too loud at times and too hard to understand. Madeleine Peyroux, I'm just not a big fan of... her band was great, and I'm sure she's really good, but jazz simply stretches the definition of World Class Rock (KFOG's slogan) a bit too far beyond the breaking point. We were hungry, not having had dinner, and left during her third or fourth song.

The best part was either KT's commenting on her being a "demented one-woman band" or her breaking a string (the G-string) and playing Black Horse and a Cherry Tree "without pants, as it were."

The weirdest part was this woman who got up and started dancing in the aisle... hopelessly uncoordinated... clapping approximately in time to, but OFF beat. Definitely drunk, probably from being at the 'Gormet Soiree' before the show. At some point, someone from her row came to tell her, we thought, to sit down because she was blocking the view. Shortly after that, we started smelling vomit. The alcohol-laden kind, which is particularly nasty smelling. It turned out that the woman the 'dancer' came with had thrown up on herself... now why neither of them tried to get her out of there or go get help, I do not understand, but boy was it disgusting! They did wind up leaving after KT's set was over, and the house staff brought down one of those big rolling mop buckets and did some mopping, which helped immensely. But it was really, really weird!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Major Child Development Milestones

Rachel can officially read and write! OK, no, she can't do either especially well. She is still almost as likely to write a letter upside down or backwards as correctly, and she frequently confuses N, M, and W, when writing them, but she can look at the letters and sound them out and figure out the word and, if it's perfectly phonetic, she can even sound out and write down some words.

She is also very close to being able to tie her own shoes... she's been "making the cross" for months, usually "helping" me with that part of tying my shoes, but now that she has shoes with laces, she's working on making the bow and finishing it off. She's very close and seems, more or less, to understand what's going on, she just isn't quite getting the second loop to form properly. It's so amazing to watch her work on things like that.

When we picked her up from my parents' place tonight, she was working with their chinning bar. She uses it most times that she's there, but this time my father really put it up high - she could just get her hands around it - and she can actually get her feet up and over it entirely by herself! She evidently doesn't fee quite ready to let go with her hands and just hang from her knees, but I know she's close to that too. She told my parents she'd do that when she's 5. That's next September, if you're not keeping close track. Something tells me she may do it sooner than that.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rachel's First Advent Calendar, or, Any Idea What Rachel's Doing?

Yesterday, Dawn gave Rachel her first advent calendar. You know, the ones with a Christmas scene on the front and 25 little carboard doors that can be opened, the numbers 1 through 25 distributed approximately randomly among the doors, each with a little piece of chocolate behind it. Yeah, exactly - a four-year-old's dream. They opened the first two since it was already the second, and they pin it onto the cork board on Rachel's door with the plan that they will open one each night.

Earlier today, I was wondering what Rachel was doing. It was nice and quiet, Dawn and I were cleaning up in the kitchen, and Rachel was off playing by herself, which is great, but I wanted to know what she was doing. It's good to check in on her once in a while. I asked Dawn if she knew what Rachel was doing, and she said no, but just leave her, she's occupying herself. Sounds OK, but I figure I'll just check in on her a teeny bit.

I walk from the kitchen toward the study, taking a quick look into Rachel's room, but not stopping too long, because I don't want Rachel to decide to come see what I'm doing. She's standing in her room, looking at her bulletin board, and when she sees me, she turns and walks further into her room. I continue on to the study. Wait. That was a bit furtive. She was doing something and knew she wasn't supposed to be and thought she could avoid the attention by walking away from it. I can just tell.

I walk into her room, and there are at least a half dozen extra slots on the advent calendar open! I don't know why I'm surprised. She's FOUR. It contains CHOCOLATE. It's in EASY REACH.

FOUR + CHOCOLATE + EASY REACH = Oooh! I think I'll have some! Yummy!!

She's got two in her hands. OK, no, one in her hands, one in her mouth. It takes a bit of back and forth & struggle to get her to give me the one. Including threatening to throw the advent calendar away. I take the calendar downstairs because it can't stay in her room. Dawn flips out. I manage to get her not to go up to Rachel's room and, instead, go back myself. Rachel and I talk about it. She wants the calendar back and wants it on the board at her level. She says she won't open anymore without us.

Right. I offer that she can have it on the board at the top, where she'll need one of us to pick her up to get to it. No, she wants it down low. It can be at the top, or we can keep it somewhere else. No, it needs to be down low. It can be at the top, it can be somewhere else, or it can go in the garbage. OK, fine, Daddy, put it up high.

Of course, now I have to get it back from Dawn who, still angry, has put it in a closet. Not that I couldn't figure out which one, but I still have to get her to buy into the deal I've negotiated. OK, that wasn't too hard. I put it back. Now, though, we have to have the conversation about what is going to happen the rest of the month - since you at a lot of them, there won't always be a chocolate in it, so if you open the door and there's nothing there, it's because you already had it, and you just won't get one that time.

I go through this several times to make sure it sinks in. As I said... I don't know why we were surprised, but it seems to have taken. I promised her that next year she can try having it down low again.

I need to tell my parents about it. I'm sure it'll elicit reminiscence about my & my brother's childhoods. At least the story, which I'm old enough to remember on my own, in fact, about how my brother vanished. We noticed after a while because it was very quiet and, with him, quiet was bad. It was the other way around with me, apparently: quiet - good, noise - bad. So we started looking for him. We looked everywhere we could think of.

Bedrooms. Closets. Bathroom. Tub. Under beds. Back yard. Living Room. Kitchen. Breakfast room. Dining Room. Garage (no door). Behind the garage. On the garage (he wasn't big enough to get up there, but we checked anyway). In the basement (locked & he wasn't big enough to get to the lock, even if he had a key, but we checked anyway). In the street. In the front yard. In the neighbor's yards. Then we checked them all again.

I think we were just starting to become truly worried. He was not more than 7, probably a bit younger, though I don't remember for sure. I've just been checking around the front of the house & the neighbor's yards, the sidewalk, under the cars in the street... no luck. I'm walking back into the house and I happen to glance in the breakfast room from outside. Keep in mind that we've "definitely" checked the breakfast room already at least twice.

There he is, sitting on the floor, ripping apart the freshly baked loaves of rye bread our mother made that morning. Well, at least he hasn't been run over! I find my parents and tell them. My mother doesn't flip out, she bursts into tears. Between all the possible disasters I'm sure were going through her head (I am sure I didn't have much of a clue then, though I do now) and how much effort she put into the bread every time... yeah...

She also couldn't bear to throw out the bread, so she put it in plastic bags in the freezer, took it out again a few days before Thanksgiving that year to let it dry out, and then used it in the stuffing. Best stuffing we'd ever had, so we've been using good bread in the stuffing ever since.

Might have to ask if there are any such stories about me, as I can't remember any off hand.