Ridiculous Parenting Products

I can't decide which I like better... the infant pillow that features a pair of disembodied hands, or the Daddle: the saddle for riding Dad.

Mar 18th, 2011

Nuclear Power

My heart really goes out to everyone who's affected by the recent earthquake(s) in Japan. Watching @cnnbrk update the death/injured/missing counts every hour is depressing and shocking, but at the same time, incredibly humbling. For years, Japan has been engineering buildings to handle just this sort of an event, and it's a testament to their efforts that the death toll is in the thousands and not the hundreds of thousands as died from the 2004 Indian Ocean quake.

Still, though, the difficulties they've been having with their Nuclear power plants, are alarming many anti-nuclear folks. I have to be really honest here: Nuclear Power is safe, and far safer than coal or gas both to the people around the plants and to the planet. I've read some real gems on this topic in the last few days, but by far this is my most favorite quote:

"A 41 year old nuclear reactor gets hit by a 9 magnitude earthquake, then slammed with 20 ft. tall swell, followed by an explosion due to the buildup of hydrogen gas that blows off the roof of the building, and the core is intact and contained. And you are telling me nuclear power isn't safe?"

I don't know the source; this quote has been paraphrased all over the internet, but I love it.

Mar 15th, 2011

Extracting a video clip with ffmpeg

I always seem to forget this and never get the same source when I google for it, so this is really just for me:

1
ffmpeg -ss [hh:mm:ss start time] -t [hh:mm:ss duration of clip] -i source-file.avi -acodec copy -vcodec copy clip-output-file.avi
Jan 29th, 2011

Matt's Year of Reading

I began this year with a goal to increase my annual reading load to fifteen books from last year's twelve. I also had planned to blog about each one.

Oops.

Since finishing What Americans Really Want... Really by Frank Lutz, I've also read:

The copious number of children's books don't make the list as that would be the most heinous form of cheating.

I had planned to get started on the last tome of The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, but keep getting interrupted by other, smaller books. I started The Four Seasons of Marriage by Gary Chapman, but found it incredibly boring, and have since moved on to Forgotten God by Francis Chan.

Each of the books I read this summer and early fall were for a specific purpose. The first launched me into a whole new world of software development practice, which has been a fantastic experience. The second has helped with disciplining my 2-year-old, even if it is not a perfect solution. Oryx and Crake was a gift from a fellow employee who wanted to expose me to Canadian apocalyptic literature. It worked, and I'm certain to acquire its sequel shortly. The next two have enriched me and my life. The Year of Biblical Living was very interesting, and only served to motivate me to read his previous book about reading the entire encyclopedia.

By December, I am certain that I can get past last year's count of twelve, but hitting fifteen is going to be a stretch (I'm on 13 now). One of the men in our church mentioned that he reads about 80 books per year, and my wife figures she gets to around 50. Personally, I've discovered that the summer months are not conducive to reading in the least, unless there's a camping trip (which there was not). Instead, all my free time was spent on one project or another.

Speaking of which, I really should post about the train table I built (and my wife decorated) for our son a couple of months ago. I don't know why I can't break out of the teens, though. I'll need to work on that next year. Here's my reading list for the remainder of 2010:

Nov 29th, 2010

Penn and Teller's take on Vaccination

Caught this over at BadAstronomy.

Warning: F-bomb dropped a couple of times, so if you have kids/bosses within earshot, wear headphones.

Sep 3rd, 2010

From The Coffers: Bastille Day

Who can trust a people who celebrate, as their national event, a jailbreak?

Today is bastille day.

Originally posted to the old blog: July 14th, 2005.

Jul 14th, 2010

What Americans Really Want... Really

My wife has a thing for non-fiction. She barely reads anything that isn't loaded with facts and data these days. On the other hand, if you look back at what I've read in the past couple of years, most of what I read is anything but. I'm all about dystopian futures, space thrillers, cyberpunk, etc. Once in a while, though, she'll find a gem that hooks me as well, as was the case with Dr. Luntz' What Americans Really Want... Really.

Dr. Luntz' survey data is compounded by his years of polling experience and time spent observing and recording human preference. Some of his data points are startling while others are really not that shocking. Short of posting entire excerpts here (which I can't... I've since returned the book to the library), I will note that my greatest takeaway from the book was that really, deep down, most of us are all about ourselves. We want what we want because it benefits us personally.

Not really a positive, but at least it felt honest.

Apr 19th, 2010

First Project of the Spring - Kid's Picnic Table

Now that spring is upon us, it's a good a time as any to get outside and start building stuff. Spring is the time when things get done, and this year is no exception. I find myself with a fairly hefty to-build list. Everything from a 3rd box garden (gotta separate out the tomatoes this year) to a large set of bookshelves to bring focus to one end of the dining room. First on the list, though, was a picnic table for my son:

I set out to build a little picnic table for my son.

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Supply prep and table-top cutting.

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Each tabletop piece should be the same, right? Right?

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Putting together the table-top

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Completed table-top

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Table has legs! Leg supports cut and ready to go on.

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Leg supports on. Hard to do with only 2 hands, but the squeeze clamps came in handy.

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Mounting the first seat board.

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Completed table!

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Filled all of the holes, including a knot hole in one seat, with wood filler.

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First test subject approves!

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Completely sanded and ready to be primed!

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Completed, painted table. Plans for this table (and many, many other projects) can be found at: knockoffwood.blogspot.com/

I don't have a huge workshop or anything, and actually, the space in the house I've been using for such things is directly under my son's room. So much for working on projects while he's napping... For this, and likely the rest of my projects, I found that our garage works fairly well. I could use a table up there so that I'm not bending over for everything, so there's some room for improvement.

This was my first time trying plans from Ana White's Knock Off Wood. I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that I followed plans from a site meant mostly for women who haven't built anything before. Why? Because the plans are excellent and the results are great. My only beef is that her prices for wood are low by at least 50%, so whenever I'm considering building something, it's much more expensive than she lists. Sure, wood is always going to be pricier in Boston than in Alaska, but I digress.

I'm really happy with the table. It came together in about 3.5 hours not including painting time, and my son loves it. That's the real test, of course.

Apr 19th, 2010

It's Still Electric

The fun homeownership never ends. And why should it? I know not.

After doing a bunch of work in the kitchen this past November, we ran into one snag: the new stove would not sit flush against the wall. This wall happens to be an exterior wall; with almost any brick house, there's not a lot of room behind the drywall and this is no exception. As a result, the power receptacle, which fit snugly underneath the previous stove, causes the new one (with two ovens, hence the clearance difference) to sit out about 3 inches.

This doesn't bother me one bit, it does, however, annoy my wife. And as everyone knows, low WAF1 is bad. She'll deal with it fine in the short term, but I know that at some point I'm either going to have to figure out how to make that stove sit against the wall, or order a really thick piece of matching backsplash to fill the gap.

I had a couple of hours to kill on this cool and windy President's Day, so I started disassembling the non-functional kitchen in our finished basement. The functional main level kitchen is right above it, and the stove wiring runs down into the basement, so to get a good look at it, I had to take out a couple of wall mounted cabinets. Who doesn't like demolition? Nobody. Everyone likes taking things apart.

I had previously noted that the 6 gauge wiring from my panel to the stove dipped down below the top of the exposed drywall in the basement, and then reappeared going straight up a few inches back. This made no sense to me unless there was a junction of some kind in the wall, and I was certain that couldn't be up to code. I filed this mentally, and didn't think about it again until today... Two cabinets into my demolition, I notice this perfectly lovely portal in the wall:

A sudden memory flash... what could possibly be in there?

Yep.

Apparently, when you "upgrade the wiring" in a house, and some of the circuits are too short, or too hard to get to, you can put a big ol' junction box in the wall to marry old wiring to new wiring. I'm certain that you're supposed to make sure that said junction box is accessible, but perhaps whomever did the wiring didn't communicate that to the same people who put a not-to-code kitchen in the basement of this house?

Maybe?

Of note, this did answer my question as to where my doorbell transformer was located. Two mysteries solved!


  1. Wife Acceptance Factor

Feb 15th, 2010

Book 3 of 15 - Blue Like Jazz

I'm on a serious book-reading roll this month. I promise I'm calming down now, because, well, the next book on my plate is The System of the World...

After my mom saw that I was reading Jesus For President last fall, she thought I might like this one by Donald Miller, the sub-title of which is Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. The authors of Jesus for President footnote Blue Like Jazz a couple of times, so I was already familiar with the book by reference.

I have a hard time deciding which one I like better, to be completely honest. On the one hand, Jesus For President was a hard-hitting look at Christian discipleship in a time when we find ourselves pulled more and more toward secular positions. It made me feel a bit bad about times in which I should have been a better follower of Christ, and guilt can be a powerful motivator!

On the other hand, Blue Like Jazz makes me feel a little more normal about feeling bad. Miller is a fantastic personal story teller, and his insights into his own spiritual growth are engaging, enlightening and motivating. One of the underlying themes is learning to love (God, others, yourself), which Miller introduces as being like learning to appreciate Jazz music – he didn't like Jazz until he saw someone playing soulfully with their eyes closed, and then he loved Jazz. Being able to accept the forgiveness and grace that comes with salvation and a personal relationship with Christ is parallel to loving yourself (and everyone else).

He also spends a good amount of time recalling events from when he was auditing some classes at Reed College. I have an extended member of the family who went to Reed, and I'm now suddenly very interested in asking him about some of the more sordid events which supposedly take place there. I don't want details, mind you, but an additional perspective would be fascinating.

There's one story that sticks with me after turning the 181st page: Miller was part of a small group of Christians at Reed (a certain minority on one of the most secular campuses in the country). During the annual Renn Fayre celebration, the group put up a "confession booth" in the middle of the campus. Rather than accepting confessions, which was likely to cement them as the negative stereotype many viewed them to be, they did the confessing. They confessed their sins, the sins of the church and of Christians at large. They moved people and were changed by the simple experience of saying things like "Christ tells us to feed the poor, and I know I haven't done the best job of that." and "Christ said to love your neighbor, and I've certainly had a bad attitude when I'm woken up by loud noises from next door.", etc. This sounds like such a profound experience.

Now that I've thought about it a little more (ok, the span of a few paragraphs), I did like Blue Like Jazz more. A little, anyway.

Jan 29th, 2010