Welp I have still not done much in the way of updates, at least that you can really see, but i have been busy nevertheless. I reorganized the gallery, added thumbnailing and inline playing to uploaded videos (had to reup them though and it doesn't want to work on all of them for some reason.) I despammed things (again) and hopefully stopped that sort of nonsense for a while. I added new pics while i was at it, many of Damien with his new glasses. I removed the useless profiles and forum since it has become clear I barely have enough time to to mess with the really obviously useful stuff. I also got some new neat software for my Nexus that allows me to directly upload pictures to the gallery from the phone and a sweet app that I am using right now to post this blog, which adds GPS location data right to the post, wow. Neato new stuff, but less impressive maybe when I'm just sitting at home posting from the living room. I hope this finds you all well. :)
Hello again from the farmhouse where it is officially Autumn and I'm already cursing the cold. After such a long hot summer it was quite a shock to see frost on the ground on friday, and it's been under 50 mostly the whole week. Everyone has heard that there has been a pretty bad drought but Matt thinks the corn and beans look better than many people have expected. I hope so! My weather probe says we've had just over 20" of rain here at the farmhouse - perhaps that will be enough. I think Matt has all the corn in and almost all the beans too. I saw Yvonne driving the wagons in and I spotted Tyler and Brandon in the cab of the tractors learning to drive too. Damien is a bit jealous, I think he would like to drive a tractor too. :)
We had a great summer and I am sorry it's over. Damien and I went to the Black Hills in South Dakota to see all the amazing sights. We saw Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore both of which have changed a lot since I was there last. There is a sweet visitor center for Rushmore where you can see tools used to carve it, and the original plans they worked from, and there are nature trails that you can take to get close views of the base of the mountain. We thought it was pretty cool, but we didn't take every single trail or see every sight. Perhaps we'll go back someday.
There are so many things to see in the Black Hills there is no way to check out everything. We tried and failed over a week and saw a whole lot of really neat stuff. We went to the Reptile Gardens to see the Komodo Dragon, snakes and crocs. Bear Country had a whole lot more than just bears, and Custer park was beautiful. We climbed some rocks along scenic Needles Highway and were befuddled by the Cosmos where nothing is quite what it seems. We toured both Rushmore Cave and Wind Cave, and Wind Cave is awesome! It is the third longest cave in the world and you should totally go see it. I think we took more pictures in the caves than anywhere else, we were highly impressed.
In June Google took us to Chicago to see Roger Waters do The Wall live at Wrigley field. We all had an amazing time, it was the chance of a lifetime and I think the last time Roger will do that show. What a way to go out, though! I took a bunch of pictures of the Wall but they all suck compared to how cool it was to be there. Roger is an amazing showman and I wish him well in his retirement, as do the rest of the bleeding hearts and artists, I'm certain.
Dad got a contract job at the datacenter and will be helping the repairs team fix servers starting next week. I'm excited for him, Google is a great place to work even as a contractor and I think he will enjoy it. It sucks that it's just a 6 month gig but at least he'll get some free food out of the deal and probably some free tshirts, and we can carpool so he saves on gas. I hope it works out well for him but I know he's still looking for a permanent gig, and I am pretty sure this Google thing isn't - but my fingers are crossed and I'll do what I can. I'm sure he wants to stick around close to here since his mom is not doing well at all. She finally went to Omaha to the Med Center a couple months ago and they diagnosed her with calciphylaxis which is a syndrome of vascular calcification, thrombosis and skin necrosis. It is very far advanced and she does not look well at all. She was released from UNMC and now she is in a nursing home where she is helped to be as comfortable as she can be, but frankly her condition is quite painful. My thoughts are with her, as often as not when I write a note here I am writing to her. :(
In other news D finally got to go up with grandpa for his very first airplane ride, and he was thrilled about it. :) He said we need to get our own plane, something I will think about very carefully. Grandpa gave me a simple lesson and let me take off and fly the plane around the airport before he took it back over and landed smoothly like he has done a million times before. I really want to take lessons from him soon but he has been very busy and distracted and it's not a good time for him to take on another student perhaps. I'll definitely be waiting though - I want to learn from him specifically if I can. I've waited too long to start already. :(
Well thanks for reading as always and if you got this far thanks especially. I've updated the Activities periodically and there are several hundred new nodes in the webtree. Lots more Yeagers and Petersons, particularly. Check it out! Until next time: Excelsior!
Greetings and Happy New Year once again. I have once again been remiss in updating this thing, I'm sure noone is surprised at that. I fixed a few bugs, and in case anyone noticed I apologize for breaking the webtree for as long as I did. New Year's resolution: better backups for the site Just In Case. :)
It has been a busy time for us. D got all A's and B's on his latest report card and had a couple interesting projects to complete. For TAG he participated in a culture fair and had to prepare a report about Mexico. He wore a sombrero during the fair and we made enchiladas for passers by to sample, and it was reported to be a hit. He also joined 4H so he could participate in First Lego League, a yearly contest in which kids build robots out of Lego Mindstorms to perform a task related to the contest theme, which this year was Food Safety. They prepared a speech and visual aids and handed out cookies to the judges (a masterstroke!) and seemed to have a good time overall. Alas for their poor robot, he malfunctioned somehow and was only able to finish one mission successfully. I'm sure next year they will do even better though. It was worth it just for the T-Shirts, if you ask me, they are black and say 'Lego Wolverines' on them. :)
Work has also been busy - I closed over 1000 tickets this quarter which is a personal record. The boss says I am on track to get a promotion and a raise someday, but I don't believe him as I don't feel like I've been doing anything differently than I did my first couple years there. On the other hand it feels like I have been studying for one thing or another for months. I'm trying to pass this internal class called 'Greybeard' which is all about the details of the linux kernel, and it's really hard. I completed the Linux Professional Institute certifications at level one and will take level 2 in March. I got some weird Novell linux certification that I totally forget what it is, but they mailed me something to frame so I must have done it. I also am scheduled to take a class on fiber optics in Omaha at the end of the month. I have never bothered to be certified in anything before, but it's hard to find a reason to say no when it's free and on work time.
Christmas came and went and Damien says thanks for all the Mario plushies! He got mostly everything on his list this year and is happy as a clam. I got him the same sort of Lego Mindstorms that they use in First Lego League so that we can practice (and because it looks sweet, of course.) He also got a model SR71 jet which he put together right away, and an awesome Mario/Bowser chess set. He says he has never won a game of chess yet, but we will keep practicing. :) Finally he got a Nintendo 3DS last week after his original DS decided to have HGH some buttons stop working. It takes pictures and videos as well as playing games and seems to be a pretty nice piece of hardware. He sure likes it, at least. :) Google gave me a Galaxy Nexus phone as a holiday gift, and I must say it's pretty nice. I still haven't hooked it up to service but it is like a mini tablet and works pretty well on the wifi at the house. Santa brought me a new winter coat (for next winter, I guess, since it has hardly been below freezing this year), socks and jeans, and a Honeywell weather station (yay!) which I have been in the process of hooking up since the holidays. I need to hook it up to a computer running windows, alas, so I will have to do some homework to get charts and graphs onto the site. However it has a base station that displays info on its own, and it is pretty darn cool. I hung the temp/humidity probe on the porch swing and hung the wind/temp probe on top of the highest grain bin. It's 15 degrees colder at the top of the bins than at the swing right now, and the wind is 26.6 mph. I still am not quite sure where to put the rain gauge but I guess it hasn't rained yet so oh well. ;)
I feel like I should mention Caucuses, since I'm sure some of you went out to cancel my vote for Ron Paul. :) A third place finish in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, if that keeps up pretty soon you might start to think he can be elected. In our precinct I got to be secretary and count all the votes, and managed to get a seat on the county central committee. We'll see how that goes. :/ I also got to be a delegate - along with one other person who was vocally pro-Paul. Perhaps the others were quiet Paulites too, he got 22% of the votes in the room that night. :) We will go to the county and hopefully state conventions with the goal of making it to the RNC where we will be among those who actually vote for the nominees. Of course, scruffy ol' me has little chance of getting establishment republicans' votes, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I am sure there are Paul delegates in every precinct as it was drilled into our heads at the Caucus Strategy meeting I went to: STAY TIL THE END AND GET ELECTED. So, I did. Did you? By the way that night of the Caucus training, Dr Paul was in Council Bluffs and I was fortunate to have time to hear him speak. I took a couple pictures. :)
So that's mostly what's been up. I guess I have been busy at work and not thinking about projects, but I have a goal of entering 1000 more people into webtree before springtime - and I will be thinking about weather graphs for sure - so hopefully I will remember to post an update or two in the meantime. I hope you are all well and that you all have an excellent New Year.
It's been a while since I checked in, and we've had a busy time. D's last day of 5th grade is tomorrow and he's been looking forward to summer vacation for weeks, at least. A couple weeks ago he had his final music concert and did a stellar job on the clarinet and had a solo singing part in one of the chorus numbers. Many people told me afterwards that they thought he was the best soloist and though I'm biased I agree. :) They also had an awesome dance number, and he did a great job in that, too. He was very proud and talked about it for days afterwards. Over the summer he and his cousins are planning to make a zombie movie and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with. They've made a few clips using a cellphone camera but D said he would love to have a nicer video camera to work with. Perhaps we can scrounge up something to give him for his birthday in June - we'll see. He made a list of presents he'd like for his birthday, but that was literally months ago and I seem to have misplaced it. :( Hopefully I can find it in time to go shopping. He has decided that he wants to invite his friends to a roller skating party at Skatedaze in Omaha. They have all sorts of games and bouncy castles and even a rock climbing wall in addition to the roller rink. It should be fun and I know D is really looking forward to it.
I got my weather station up and running and the data can be seen by clicking the 'Weather' link in the top menu. I also contribute my data to weatherunderground.com. :) Alas, the station I got for Christmas was not up to the challenge of the conditions here on the farm and the anemometer died less than a week after I got it mounted to the top of the grain bin. I bought myself a Davis Vantage Vue ISS to replace it and it has been working flawlessly. It is rated to withstand winds up to 150mph and it's a good thing since earlier this month it recorded sustained winds of 80mph with gusts up to 85! I've often wondered just how fast the wind is blowing when it rattles the house, and now I know. I still keep the weather station Mom bought me in my bedroom, I just haven't got any of the external sensors hooked up to it. It has a weather radio and an obnoxiously loud alarm which goes off whenever there is severe weather here or in the surrounding counties - something the Davis does not do. The combo of the two makes for a pretty sweet setup and I've greatly enjoyed watching the rain gauge count up the inches during big storms, as well as the charts and graphs for the massive winds we get out here. :) I got a homebrew interface card from some dude on wxforum.net (for about a quarter of the cost of the Official Davis equipment!) and I hooked it up to a tiny Sheevaplug linux computer to tie everything together with the website and the weatherunderground. I was pretty pleased to be able to do the system without using Windows. :)
We've seen some interesting science in the last few months as D's school played host to the Big Bald Guy's traveling show. They learned about how matter changes states and performed some very interesting experiments, culminating in an after school show for the whole school and all the parents. The Big Bald Guy (whose actual name I have forgotten, but that's how he introduced himself and what he asked the kids to call him) had some really great stuff to show off! Most of his presentation was about states of matter - solids and liquids and gasses - and he had some great stuff to illustrate his point. He used dry ice and liquid nitrogen to freeze things and to fill up balloons as they changed states into gasses, and the liquid nitrogen balloon popped from the pressure of the expanding gas. He made a hovercraft out of some wood and a leaf blower to illustrate the power of pressurized air (the kids *loved* to ride it across the gym) and did the classic spinning barstool plus spinning bike wheel demonstration of centripetal forces. The show culminated with a couple of teachers lighting his patented "chicken stick" like a torch and using it to explode balloons filled with hydrogen gas. It was most impressive. :) And finally, just yesterday we went outside to watch the annular eclipse. We didn't get the ring of fire treatment at farmhouse - we're too far north and east - but we watched a live feed from California (courtesy of the Slooh space camera) on the laptop while we were outside using D's telescope as a projector to watch the partial eclipse live and in technicolor. I found it quite fascinating, and we are both looking forward to 2017 when there will be a *total* solar eclipse in the US, and the path of totality is within easy driving distance.
In other news, Dad moved in with us here a month or something ago. He got laid off and decided to move back here since my twin brother and sister graduated high school and are going to go to college in Missouri. Also, Grandma has been in and out of the hospital and he wanted to be close enough to visit her at will. It's a bit of a full house here again, but I'm glad to help in my small way. He's been a very helpful roommate and has already fixed the starter on my truck, cleaned out the garage, mowed the yard, and lots of other little stuff. Thanks Dad!
We also have had an explosion of kittens around here. 5 different mama cats had litters of between 3 and 6(!!) and they are all wandering around like they own the place. I'd guess there must be well over 20 cats living out there, and they all eat like miniature horses! But they are all suuuper cute and we love each of them. :) Of course if any of you would like a kitten just come on over and ask, many of them are already weaned and starting to get ornery. They'd love to be adopted into a good home before it gets cold outside, I'm sure.
Last but not least, I've managed to secure a spot to the Iowa Republican State Convention in July where I and my like minded Ronulans will attempt to send a slate of Ron Paul delegates the the RNC in Tampa. Delegates in Iowa are not bound by the results of the caucus and can vote their conscience. Our goal is to send a strong message to the establishment that the current culture of war, fear, tyranny, and abuse of civil liberties is unacceptable to us. Of course, they seem to be acceptable to a majority of my countrymen so we have a long, uphill battle to fight, and I don't honestly expect anything to change - at least in the near term. However all the signs I've seen point to a renewed interest in Liberty as the grass roots takes over the Republican Party apparatus in state after state - just as Reagan did a generation ago. We will make the RNC a very interesting spectacle, we hope, and we will raise our voices in protest. Dr. Paul once said “Let it not be said that no one cared, that no one objected once it’s realized that our liberties and wealth are in jeopardy.” We care. I care. Perhaps one man can't make a difference, but there is certainly strength in numbers. We'll see what happens.
Once again I'll say it: I need to update this thing more, and I have no good excuse not to be doing so. I have been posting little bits and bobs in the Activity section about Politics and Charity, I've added a couple hundred new nodes to the webtree (Dad bought me the Yager Book from germanna.org and I am working slowly to transcribe its data into the tree) and of course there are many dozens of new pictures in the Gallery to check out - but nothing new about life in the farmhouse. I'll try harder to keep you posted. :)
Fall is here and winter is coming again already. Time continues to march forward even as I wish I could turn back the clock. We had an interesting summer: Damien took swimming lessons, we visited with old friends (hi Schiff, hi E, hi Clara), went to the Iowa state fair and the Ames straw poll so I could vote for Dr. Paul, went to the zoo twice - once with family and a couple of D's friends for a birthday party - watched a lot of Star Trek, and who knows what else I've forgotten since I have lousy recall and didn't bother to let you guys know what we've been up to. Life goes on. I hope you and yours are well.
I've made some changes to the software here, upgrading everything to the latest stable version and in the process breaking things. It's still not working as well as I would like but I have devoted very little time to it. I've barely posted anything in months, and I sort of feel bad about it. I've let my distaste with the Eternal September of the Internet stop me from doing pretty much anything with this site, or really any site. I'm sorry about that, a bit. No new webtree nodes, hardly any new pictures, and no updates. I suck. I could rant at length about the reasons why, but suffice to say that it is a mix of sadness in my personal life and annoyance at the state of the net. I'm sure noone really cares. :)
I continue my quest to learn python, even though I've not solved any more Euler problems. I came to the limit of the math I could easily do without even getting to 'level one' on the site. :( I not only need to learn more python I also need to study more math to progress farther - and I will, eventually. I've been studying with some coworkers and working my way through a python class offered at work so I can at least honestly say I've not been completely slack about it. It remains an important goal.
We took some time this summer to clean up around the farm, picking up and removing scrap metal, tearing down part of one of the old sheds that was in the way of the grain bins, and generally making things more organized. Matt doesn't seem to have the packrattish tendencies my grandfather had - it is starting to look positively sparse around here. It was some bit of work but was nice to see Greg and Jeanne for a few days, even if it meant having to be up on roofs tearing off sheets of tin. :P
Jeanne asked me a question I seldom consider lately: 'if I had my "druthers" (her word, she's so quaint) what would I be doing?' I guess I'm doing well enough at Google, and I honestly can't think of a place close to home I'd rather work. I still feel privileged to work there, and lucky I have a good job when so many don't have one at all. I am increasingly aware that Google is an advertising company, though, and I would perhaps jump to a place like Canonical whose mission is Free Software - if I had a chance. Alas they are based in Africa and very unlikely to open a datacenter in Iowa so I am as satisfied with my work as I am likely to get, and moving away from the farm is not on my agenda for the forseeable future. I'd have to get a new domain name, and who wants the hassle. ;)
My mom told me once, after I moved back here when I got divorced, that she was sad to see me turn inward so much. She said I used to be an explorer, and curious to find new things and people. I remember that person, that drive to share ideas with people and learn from them. I poked my nose back into the world for a while, but I have allowed my recent heartbreak to move me even farther away from the person I once was, and I am still not sure how to address that. I can't seem to force myself to go out in the world and interact, and even if I did I doubt it would help. I'm grateful for the fact that I work with people who are understanding and smart, and who don't press me too hard to be social. I think I went a little crazy this year, not that I'm normally totally sane. Thanks, guys, for helping by not prying. I hope I can once again become the person my mother remembers someday.
So, yeah. I got nothing. But I know this site is as much (or more) about posting pictures of D so grandma can see them (hi grandma!) as it is about me writing pithy updates on the front page, and I've been derelict in that. I'll try harder. Thanks for being patient with me. I guess to answer Jeanne, if I had my druthers I'd be happier. Lord knows I don't have anything to bitch about compared to many of my countrymen, so I should suck it up and deal.