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So last summer, when I went to practice softball with Katie and Julie, I was a bit hampered by the fact that my baseball glove of recent vintage (recent meaning only about 20 years old) was missing. We managed to find my old glove from my freshman year of high school, but my hand has grown a fair amount since then and the glove was small enough that it hurt to wear it for any length of time. It was what we call a sub-optimal situation.

For Christmas, Katie and Julie gave me a gift card to use to buy a new softball glove. I could have gone to the sporting goods store to look for a new glove, but instead I headed off with the family to the used equipment store out in Schaumburg. I checked out the new gloves there first. There was one glove that would have been serviceable, but which wasn't quite right.

And then I found the section with the used gloves. This one, no. That one, no. This one -- perfect! It was an old Spalding actual softball -- not baseball! -- glove that fit my hand, well, like a glove.

And it was only $30.

Obviously, this was meant to be my glove. And it has come home for me.

Now, I just need to wait for it to get warm... :)
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We had a wonderful Christmas here, getting up early to open presents, having a leisurely lunch, and then having Smac and Katy drop in for dinner on their way to visit his kids for the holiday.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too!
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Well, not quite. But there are only a couple of things left to wrap.

I think it is time for hot cocoa.
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My cold is gradually getting better. Not nearly as quickly as I'd like, but better. I will decide at some point whether I'm feeling well enough to go to tomorrow's Windycon meeting. In any case, I'm taking the day off work, because it's that or stop accruing vacation.

In other news, the tree is finally decorated and the ornament boxes are back in the basement. The bottom tier of branches is naked, because we don't yet trust Ruby not to surf all of the ornaments off the tree as playthings. We'll see how it goes.
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Julie had a dentist's appointment today. By the time that was done and things sorted out, we didn't make any progress on decorating the Christmas tree.

But tomorrow! Tomorrow will be another story. :)
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You might think that. You would be wrong.

I got up on the ladder and put the ornaments around the top of the tree, moving the ladder so I could reach each side. Then I came down, moved the ladder out of the way, and put on the bubbler lights. It was now time to put on the rest of the ornaments.

No, it wasn't! It was time for little girls to go out and play in the thick, sticky snow that was falling onto the warm ground in 32 degree temperatures. It was the perfect packing snow.

So I headed off to Home Depot to look for outdoor-safe multi-taps (none to be found) and Command hooks (where I was more successful). Then I continued on to Mariano's to pick up deli meat so that Katie could have some of it for school lunches later in the week and we could have sandwiches for dinner at some point.

The net result of this -- and later excursions into the great frozen outdoors! -- was that no further ornaments were hung.

Maybe tomorrow.

(At least I got the glop shoveled off the driveway. It's supposed to be warm enough tomorrow that everything should melt, but if it melts and refreezes, I could be dealing with a sheet of ice on the driveway. I tried that ten years ago and got two new ligaments in my left knee as a result. Shoveling is an improvement.)

Meanwhile, the multi-taps have been ordered from Amazon and will be here on Tuesday.
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Decorations would be good, but we didn't manage to quite finish the tree tonight. We did get the lights on it, which was a major accomplishment, given that I needed the ladder to get lights to the top of the tree.

The outdoor decorations are mostly done. We have blue net lights on the dwarf Alberta spruce on each side of the garage and the inflatables are up: Olaf, little Tigger in his train, and Dave the minion.

As I was coming back from Jewel with chili makings for dinner, I looked at the triad with tiny Tigger in the middle and said to myself, "It's the Unholy Family!"
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Our Christmas tree has been standing naked in the living room since Sunday. But Monday we were getting ready for the cleaning lady to come on Tuesday, and for the last three nights we've been way too busy with many things to even think about starting to decorate the tree.

Tomorrow, however, there will be no homework to do that can't wait one more day. And the tree will -- finally! -- be decorated.

I hope.

Home Again

Nov. 27th, 2016 03:17 pm
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I'm back from Chambanacon, where I had a lovely time.

The Christmas tree has been purchased and needs to be removed from the top of the van and inserted in its stand. I suppose I should get to that. :)
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Our friends, Steve and Dorotha, are in town and dropped by for lunch today and some pleasant conversation.

Later this afternoon, Jerry and Bonnie came by for belated Christmas dinner. Normally, Jerry hosts this event, but he's a bit busy moving to California at the moment, so we were happy to fill in.

And before dinner, the Midkiffs arrived and joined the party.

We are now trying to figure out how to bed down the four girls. It is being entertaining in the best Chinese sense of the word. :)
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It's the last day of work before the holiday and I am staring down a temporarily intractable problem. I know that a solution exists, but I would like to actually find a good approach rather than just hacking something together, as this code will be executed a lot.

We took Katie and Julie out for brunch at The Bacon Place earlier today. This means that they had a chance to meet Santa and that Gretchen and I are very full. :)

Gretchen is downstairs wrapping presents, because Christmas has crept up on us rather quickly this year -- in more or less the mode of a oncoming freight train. Julie is playing Minecraft, I having resuscitated the network connection for the computer she's using; while Katie is downstairs playing with the neighbor girls.

But the Christmas shopping is finally done, which is a good thing.

I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas -- or the alternative holiday of your choice. :)
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The problem with the current schedule for Katie and Julie is that they are home from school. This is making wrapping Christmas presents substantially more difficult.

We will persevere. :)
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It was a beautiful, clear, and relatively warm December day today. While Katie was at a cookie party at a friend's house and Julie was playing Minecraft, I took advantage of the opportunity to head out and play some Ingress, heading to a local park and blowing up the little froggie fields there that were getting in my way. Then I picked up Katie from her friend's house, delaying to have a nice discussion of football and comic books with her friend's father, the latter prompted by my seeing a copy of BackIssue sitting on a chair, this being a magazine that only serious comic geeks read. :)

After dinner, we went out to look at Christmas lights. We went first to the display in central Arlington Heights where I did a bit more Ingressing, throwing the last field necessary for silver Mind Controller, then glyph hacking just enough to grab the gold badge for the latter. And the lights were very pretty.

Then we went prospecting for more pretty lights in the nearby neighborhoods. Much to our surprise, we tripped over an animated display with FM radio accompaniment on Haddow just a little south of Euclid. This was the first time we'd run into this sort of coordinated display and we enjoyed it a lot.

But eventually, it was time to head home. :)
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So I posted about the new baritone electric guitar that Gretchen is buying me for Christmas a few days ago. Well, when the guitar arrived in the mail, the first natural thing to do was to plug it in and make sure it was working properly, so Gretchen pulled my amplifier out of the library (which is currently full of debris from unpacking the house) into the family room so I could plug in there. And it turned out that the guitar was working fine.

Of course, I immediately put the amplifier back away in the library.

Ok, stop laughing. The amplifier was languishing in the family room this afternoon when Gretchen and Julie were off at a movie and Katie was over at the neighbors' house playing with their little girls. And it struck me that I had blown out my knee shortly after Katie was born, which was about a month before I acquired by Godin Multiac Jazz and that this might be a fine time to renew my acquaintance with it after all these years.

The Godin happily still sounded just fine, except there was an intonation problem on the bass strings so that A and C were not going to both be in tune at the same time on the fifth string. Grumble. Well, after this many years of neglect, the guitar needing a truss rod tweak wasn't a great surprise. This meant that I should probably take it over to The Guitar Works for a tune up. And maybe Terry could find a case or a gig bag for the new baritone electric guitar in the bargain if I were clever enough to take it along.

(I had been trying to locate an appropriate case on line. I could have bought the hard shell case from the manufacturer, but the shipping would have been an additional 40% on top of the price of the case. And the guitar is an odd enough size that it was hard to tell exactly what might fit it. Taking it somewhere that had cases seemed like a good idea.)

Katie was due home around 3 PM and was only about 20 minutes late when she finally showed up. So we piled into the car and headed east.

I called Gretchen to let her know what was happening. She said fine and that she was heading home, the movie now being over. Katie, who had not been entirely happy about having been drafted onto this mission, started to sulk, because she would really have preferred to have been home. I was not about to turn around and take her back.

So the sulk continued. "I'm hungry."

"Would you like some chicken nuggets from McDonald's?"

"No. I don't like their chicken nuggets."

This was a revelation to me, because she normally eats Chicken McNuggets like popcorn. "How about a McDouble, no cheese, ketchup only?"

"Ok." Except it was only "ok" until I got into the drive-thru line, at which point she wanted "Nothing." So I bought her a large unsweetened iced tea, which is functionally close to nothing except wet, and added a large diet for me.

And I continued east. Katie observed that it was a long way there. I agreed, but pointed out that we were nearly there. And eventually, this was true, I parked the car, and we carried the two guitars over to the store.

Terry was there and I asked if he could take a look at the Godin, which turned out only to need a minor tweak. While we were waiting at the repair shop window, this put Katie within easy access of the electric guitars. There was a cute little red Squier Mini Strat nearby, which she wanted to pick up and play with. I suggested that was a bad idea.

Terry gave me the guitar back to check on while he went to look for a case for the baritone. I carried it off to the acoustic room and determined that the intonation was now a happy thing, while Katie proceeded to try to look at more guitars. And as it happened, a little Fender MA-1 was sitting on a stand just inside the door. This is an inexpensive 3/4 size acoustic guitar, which is just about the perfect size for Katie and cheap enough that, well...

I checked it out and it seemed playable enough. I handed it to Katie sitting on a stool and it fit her correctly.

"So do you want this guitar as your big Christmas present?"

"Yes!"

"You will have to take care of it. And you will have to take lessons and you will have to practice."

"I'll practice!"

Yeah, we'll see about that. :)

When Terry arrived with the only thing in the store that would hold the baritone guitar (a Fender bass gig-bag that was only a bit too long), I asked him to snag one of the Fender acoustics for Katie from stock. And I also bought Katie a tuner in self-defense.

When we got home, Katie played a scale on the guitar from C to C as I told her where to put her fingers.

We will call this progress. :) We are now hunting down group guitar lessons.

To recap: because I got the baritone electric for Christmas, we pulled out the amplifier, which meant that I could pull out the Godin, which needed an intonation fix, which required going to the guitar store, which mission I dragged Katie along on because she had no one else to watch her at the moment, which gave her a chance to remember that she wanted a guitar and lessons, which eventually resulted in my buying her a guitar.

There is a moral to this story somewhere...
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So Gretchen is buying me a new guitar for Christmas. What this means is that I am charged to arrange the guitar which will then be appropriately wrapped for Christmas and placed under the tree, because guitars are a very individual thing. So the last time I was at The Guitar Works, I asked Terry if he carried the line of guitars that I was interested in and he said that he did. Well, that was convenient. :)

Last week, I called him up and asked him to place the order. He contacted his sales rep and it turns out that he hadn't bought enough guitars from this particular manufacturer recently to be able to order a single guitar, but if he ordered $5000 worth of guitars, they'd be happy to send him the one that I wanted as part of the package. This was a few more guitars that Terry wanted to get from that manufacturer right now, so he called me back and apologized for not being able to get the guitar, which I certainly understood. He also gave me some pointers to other dealers in town that I could get the guitar from, which was nice of him.

I ended up ordering the guitar from one of the local dealers via Amazon, because that meant that I didn't have to pay City of Chicago sales tax. And a couple of days ago, the new guitar arrived. It's an electric baritone tuned B to B, which gives me a new guitar voice in the collection. Of course, it had to be checked out, so I plugged it into the amp and made sure everything was working correctly, which it was. And I played around with some chords...

The last couple of days, I pulled out my desk guitar and worked through the chords and produced the following song:

Lyrics inside... )

Gretchen approves. :)

And the new baritone guitar is back in its box, waiting for Christmas.

And Julie is enjoying playing with the outer shipping box...
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We're getting less accomplished around the house than we might hope, but progress is being made. Christmas decorations are going up all over, the major ones for today being the installation of inflatable Olaf and Minion Dave in the front yard along with a string of large decorative lawn stake bulbs to mark them off.

Katie's last dance class for the year was today. Had we known, we would have gone to watch, but we didn't. *sigh* She is probably going to drop the dance class in favor of being able to play spring softball, because the scheduling is completely incompatible.

While Katie was at dance class, I spent an hour out playing Ingress. I have closed to within 30K AP of level 10 and have 6000 MU of active fields which may make it to checkpoint. The latter is pretty much unheard of in this neighborhood -- I think that the high-level player on the other side is either out of town or taking time off. (I can't say that I'd blame him on the latter -- I think his phone was constantly on to ping him with attack alerts. That would make me insane in short order.)

The weather today was sunny and near 50 degrees, which is bonus material for December. We took advantage of it by grilling tonight which got some more stuff out of the freezer. :) Tomorrow, it's leftover pizza as we clear some more stuff out of the fridge; last night was turkey pot pie, which pretty much finished off the Thanksgiving turkey.

I have a goal of eating the contents of the freezer. We'll never quite achieve it, but maybe we can thin it out a bit...
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The Christmas tree is almost decorated. The lights are up, the "special" ornaments are on, but only some of the necessary number of unbreakable ornaments are on the tree so far.

We'll fix that tomorrow. :)

Home Again

Nov. 29th, 2015 10:09 pm
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I got up early this morning and headed home from Chambanacon. I had a good time, but Sunday is when we buy our annual Christmas tree and I wanted to get home and see Gretchen, Katie, and Julie.

The tree is now safely installed in its stand in the living room. :)
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Today was the day that [livejournal.com profile] daisy_knotwise decided that we should take down the Christmas tree so that we could get it out for recycling. Sadly, neither girl seemed to be available to help with this project: Katie was visiting a neighbor, while Julie was making new paper ornaments for next year's tree. (Wait. That is now this year's tree. Or something like that.)

In any case, taking ornaments off the tree is much easier than putting them on.

Once the tree was stripped of ornaments, I started removing lights. I always leave the lights on while I'm doing this, because it makes them easier to keep track of and to differentiate the different strings. First, I pulled off the short strand of bubbler lights so that Gretchen could put them away. Then I wound off the first string of sequencers. I started on another string, but they turned out to be the wrong strand to pull at the moment, so I switched to the next strand, wound it up, then went back and finished the first strand.

I unplugged the angel at the top of the tree, then went to remove the extension cord that runs up the trunk. I detached it at the top, reached into the middle to grab it and pull it down and through --

And then I felt a buzzing in my fingertips and grabbed my hand back. Ack!

I grabbed the end of the extension cord that had been plugged into the power strip and yanked it loose. Then I reached back into the tree and pulled out the socket that I'd been reaching for earlier.

It had split in half, leaving the exposed terminals, probably when I'd unplugged the middle strand of lights. As I pulled the rest of the cord out, I found another cracked and broken socket with partially exposed terminals.

Oh, boy.

The broken cord has now been consigned to the recycling bin.

That could have been much worse.
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We had Uncle Jeff and Aunt Carol, Jerry, Bonnie, and the somewhat-better Sam over for our more-or-less annual post-Christmas dinner tonight. A good time was had by all, punctuated by the smoke alarm that fired repeatedly when I put the bread in the oven to heat after removing the pulled pork that had boiled over a bit on the floor of the oven, spreading apple juice and pork fat. This would have been ok, except Gretchen read the instruction that said to increase the heat to 400 degrees, which was pretty much the last straw for the spill, which smoked a lot. I might have paid more notice to the smoke, except I was concentrating on shredding the pork. Oops. The smoke alarm (which we kept canceling) produced eight different messages on my cellphone and three calls from the monitoring service.

At least the fire engines didn't show up.

But the pulled pork was good!

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