Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bump bump bump

Clara and Janny have a chant for bumpy roads while riding in the trailer.  The chant can be repeated a number of times before the conversation turns.  It goes like so:
    Bump bump bump
    we we we
    mushroom me!***

*** an alternate translation:  mushroomy.  Scholars continue to debate both the phrasing and the possible meaning(s).  In fact, the first line may also be interpreted as bum bum bum.  However, external evidence (previously mentioned bumpy roads) strongly points to the first interpretation.

Recently, Clara suggested another chant, but it was far too complex for Janny to memorize it.  I enjoy it because it is reminiscent of the classic Oski yell first cheered at UC Berkeley (Cal, California, etc.) in the 1940s.
      Oski Wow-Wow!

Whiskey Wee-Wee!
Olee! Muckie-eye!
Olee! Berkeley-eye!
      California! Wow!
The University of Illinois (UIUC, U of I, etc) also claims a version of the chant, but I'm too lazy to look up the lyrics.  Also, there is no possible better final line than Cal's.  Wow!

Recently, Janny has resisted going to bed at night.  She says, "I need to go potty," and then sits on the potty for longer than I can stand.  So I carry her back to bed.  Before I leave their room, she has to go potty again.  On Sunday, I had enough.  So I moved the tiny toilet to their bathroom and told her she was on her own.  After watching our favorite show (White Collar), we decided to check on her.  Janny was silently sitting on the potty.  I think she is stubborn.

I'm trying very hard to get Clara riding her bike without training wheels this spring.  And by hard, I mean trying to be very patient and a little persistent.  She's doing great with her balance bike, but her pink bike is pretty intimidating still.  I took off the training wheels last weekend for a couple of laps around our patio.  Most of the time I was holding on to her seat, but she rode a short stretch on her own.
Jill continues to wake up unenviably early most weekdays.  Wake up is around 5am, but I couldn't say for sure for obvious reasons.

Spring is happening this year!  Jill planted some seeds.  Some green leaves are poking up.  We harvested our first set of chives to put in tonights peanut pasta dish.  I changed my big chainring from 44 to 48 teeth.  I bought new chains for our commuter bikes (interesting to me note:  the total cost for the 2 chains was around $40, which is quite reasonable I say.  I was quite surprised to find that my chain was $12 and Jill's was $26 (7/8 speed vs 9 speed).  Long live 7 speeds!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Janny is 3

Janny turned 3 a couple weeks ago!  To celebrate her birthday, we invited a few friends (plus Grandpa and Grandma S) over to eat snacks and have cake.  Janny blew out all 3 candles on her first try!  I can't remember who initially came up with the idea, but we are starting birthday parties at 10am and go to about noon.  That way, no one (read mom and dad) is tired yet.

Scene:  a toy is in mommy and daddy's room.  Dusk.  
Clara:  Mommy, could you turn on the light?
Mommy:  It's not dark.  Plus you can turn on the light yourself.
Janny:  Clara, I will help you.
Clara and Janny walk into the room together and get the toy.

 Today was glorious.  60 degrees and sunny.  We ate popsicles outside.  I think we earned it.
Janny can ride Clara's pink bike (today with an umbrella).  Clara is zooming around on the pedal-free bike.  I might have to start perusing craigslist for another kid bike.  Hopefully, Clara can get up to speed on a real kid bike without training wheels while Janny cruises around on a different bike with them.  Clara tried to crush my spirits recently by stating that she doesn't like riding bikes (I don't believe her, but words hurt).

TCBC basketball ended unceremoniously last week.  In the first round of the playoffs we rematched the team that beat us in the finals last year (CCC).  The teams had a couple of key changes from last year:  our superstar moved away, and they picked up a 6'6" skilled guy to go along with their 2 other huge guys.  We played well, giving them a bit of a scare with about 10 minutes left.  Then we stopped making shots, and they pulled away.  Overall, the season was a success.  We won every game that we should have and were mostly competitive is other games.  Upcoming.... softball.

In other church news, our small group now has 18 adults and 17 children (and sometimes a grandchild), 11 of them under 6.  Though we rarely we have everyone at a meeting, we are planning to split into 2 groups.  

It's interesting to see the number of young families continuing to increase at church.  Ideally, we want to maintain age diversity in our group but family's with older/grown children are scarce.  In fact, more young families want to join a group like ours because they want to know people who aren't drowning in child rearing (I can't say if the reverse is true.  I hope it is!).  This can lead to a Yogi Berra-ism; nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded.  We need to step up our recruiting!

Finally, we'll conclude with Janny's prayer.  Repeating this may not grant you untold wealth and fame, or even nice sweaters.  But it might.
    Pray for everything
    Pray for goats
    Pray for everything
    Pray for God
    In Jesus name, amen!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Personal CO2 emissions .... but why

Our church recently hosted a climate change talk by ol' friend and fellow U of Ill alum Katharine Hayhoe Farley.  Her talk was referenced in the sermon on Sunday, which surely was the first time ever in our pulpit.  You could say that our church is a little late taking an interest in the topic, but our church never mentions political issues (save abortion about once per year).

Moving on, these mentions have led to some discussions in our small group and, I'm sure, other groups of people in the church.

First, I was interested to check on my family's CO2 emissions (the standard method of determining our impact on the climate).  So here are the major contributors (from http://www.terrapass.com/, but other calculators seemed to give the same results):

Chad, Jill and kids rough estimation of CO2 annual emissions (lb CO2/year)
Driving (one car, ~29 mpg, 6000 miles per year)                                 4000
Flying (one trip per year, 4 people to the West)                                   5500
home electricity ( around 500 kWh/month, assuming coal-generated)  12000
home natural gas (around 880 therms/year)                                         12000

So where could we cut back?  We might be able to drive less per year, but that would require visiting family in Tennessee and Michigan less often.  We don't drive much in town, but I suppose I could always ride my bike to basketball and softball games.  We could avoid driving to local state parks.  That's a bummer list.

As for flying, we could tell my family that we refuse to visit them because the impact on the climate is too great.  I suspect that they would be upset, but they would be willing to visit us more often. However, if they did, the net effect of our choice would be nullified.  [We could take the train or drive out there (would it take 4 days each way?)]  

At home, we could switch to LED lights and solar water heating.  I have hopes to do these, but not soon.  We could get PV, but I'm not rich.

Let's see, what did I leave out?  Water (must be pumped, treated, and treated after use).  Food growing, transporting, and cooking (minus our contribution already counted).

What about work?  I work in the same cubicle every day.  For this to happen, my company needs to send salespeople to customers, lead developers to technical conferences, the CEO to CEO-things (most recently SXSW).  Someone needs to make and power our servers, heat/cool/power our office, etc, etc.

What is my share of our military CO2 emissions?  Police emissions?  Hospitals?  Infrastructure construction?

Probably someone has calculated all of these things, but by this point I'm losing interest.  I really don't care how we're doing compared to other families of 4 in our income bracket, age group, location, etc. etc.  I've gotten reasonably close to my minimum for the near term.  

My creativity for becoming part of a solution is admittedly tiny.  I'll list a few ideas, but if you have more please share.  

1.  Join a movement.  Any suggestions?
2.  Raise awareness among friends and family (does this blog count?).  Help when possible
3.  Become very poor.

4.  Buy carbon offsets a la Al Gore (note:  never.  This is a joke.  Really.)
5.  Develop the CO2-to-oil-anator (note:  thermodynamics matter)
6.  Develop fusion reactor (note:  cost matters)

Friday, February 7, 2014


    Heard this winter:
coworker:  "My car won't start.  Working from home today."
church friend:  "My car's coolant froze.  The engine overheats, and my heater doesn't work."
same coworker: "My car won't start.  Working from home today."
other church friend (house in bad shape after broken water pipe):  "XX hotel is sketchy with sketchy people.  YY hotel is much nicer.  Thankfully, insurances pays the $2700 / month."
same coworker:  "My car won't start.  Working from home today."
other coworker:  "I rode my bike about 3 blocks from my house before my freehub ratchet wouldn't engage.  Walked back home to get my car."
friend:  "I-57 is a sheet of ice."

Are you interested to know our home energy usage?  Above is our brief report from Ameren (gas plus electricity).  We're using about 40% less energy than the average household in our neighborhood.  The main approaches for the year include the following:
1.  put sleeping bags or blankets along the bottom of all exterior doors.
2.  set thermostat at 64 during day, 61 at night.  Except when friends are over, then 67.  
   Note:  this requires wearing multiple layers.  
   Note 2:  During the day, I'm sitting at an office with thermostat set to 70ish.
   Note 3:  this is just above the temperature at which the family revolts.  
3.  Running ceiling fans.
4.  No plastic over the windows this year.  I was too lazy, and I'm not sure it makes a huge difference.
 As ever, Clara and Janny are the princesses of the house.  Jill took them to see Frozen.  They loved it.  They really enjoyed the big sister/ little sister angle.
We have snow.  It rained on Saturday, then froze, then snowed on Tues.  So there's a layer of ice under the snow.  The driveway is slick.
 My bike keeps chugging along this winter despite the snow, salt, and ice.
Finally, church league basketball is tough.  But I'm pleased to report that we won a game, aided by the other team taking the Lord's name in vain.  The game was tied with 30 seconds left, and we missed a free throw.  After guy on other team grabs the uncontested rebound, guy behind me violates the 3rd commandment (no idea why).  Technical foul!  We make a free throw and get the ball.  We won by 1.  Our record is now 1-3.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Narnian winter

Okay, so this is an older photo (taken from the first big storm of the year in December), but I would like to convey a sense of what this winter is like.  It's like cold and snowy.  Except not the nice fluffy white snowflakes floating to the ground while we're drinking hot chocolate and watching White Collar.  No, it's a gale force wind whipping those flakes around.  But it doesn't all fall at once, more like a 1/2" every day.  In the weather's defense, at least it warms up sometimes and melts all the snow before dropping back to single digits.  
 We spent the holidays in Nashville with Jill's family.  On the Sunny, 50 degree day, Jill and I left the kids with grandpa and grandma to take a nice hike at the reservoir.  I think we walked 8 miles.  It felt like spring.  On Christmas eve, all the kids put on a nativity scene for us.  This tradition will continue.
 This Christmas was the first that Clara was super excited about one particular toy.  Thankfully she reminded us what it was every day so that we could eventually figure out what it was.  She called it "control dusty", at which I nodded knowingly without knowing.  Jill ordered Remote Control Dusty, a remote controlled airplane that rolls around on the floor.  It's not a bad toy.  Clara has played with it several times.  But even better, she made her own airplane out of toilet paper rolls, tape, a spice container, and flashlights to match Dusty and played with it about as much.
 I got Jill a new short chef's knife (it's Japanese!), and she got me a soldering gun (still looking for my first soldering project).  Janny got a lego organizer that looks like a big lego head.

Janny's funny new saying goes like this.  "Mommy, can we have dessert?And says yes!"
 New projects are created daily around here.  Our desert scheming tonight led to the idea shown below:  toasted marshmallow chocolate m&m cookie (broiled in the oven).
Church league basketball started again this month.  Our superduperstar from last year moved away and several solid players are busy (hmmm...) this year.  So we've struggled in our first two games.  I suspect we'll struggle all year because we can't defend or score well.

Have I mentioned that I'm really trying to practice guitar this winter?  I'm doing pretty well, almost playing through Over in the Meadow mistake-free.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thanksgiving up north

If you know me 'n Jill well, you know that we don't always have grown up things under control.  For instance, our drivers' licenses.  Since we have tended to move every so often, we never paid much attention to what the address said on our licences.  Our car is correctly registered under our residence, so I assumed we were law abiding citizens.

However, a store recently rejected Jill's attempt to purchase a bottle of wine on account of her license being expired (Jill is still getting carded!  What a beauty!).  Wouldn't you know it, mine was too.  So a few Mondays ago we headed out to the dmv to renew.  The dmv is closed on Mondays.  So we went again on the day before Thanksgiving, and found about 50 people in the waiting room (I guess international students spent their week off learning to drive).  We walked right back out the door and drove up to Michigan.

Before Christmas, we will get them.  I'm sure.
Who are on the ball?  Clara and Janny!  They help mommy in the kitchen, create projects out of tape, paper, and whatever else is handy, and ask us to read books**.  I spent about 1/4 of my life sweeping tiny pieces of paper, looking for Clara's bunny, and tracking down caps for markers.

** Hansel and Gretel is a current favorite.  I hope this doesn't mean that mommy is really mean, and that I'm incompetent (how hard is it to find wood in the forest?).  Personally, it's quite a shock to go from reading about Frog and Toad to this story of starvation, abandonment, witchcraft, cannibalism, theft, and murder.
 Clara is super duper excited about Christmas.  She gets to nap by the lighted up Christmas tree.
 Aunt Jo did her usual fine job of assembling the White family for photos.  First, the Knutsons.
 Then the Smiths.
Then the whole Whites (except for some working folks, like Paul out fracking rocks in Pennsylvania).  In addition to celebrating Christmas, we gathered to celebrate Grandma White's 90th birthday!

We also celebrated Grandpa Smith's 90th birthday, but Aunt Jo wasn't there to take photos and put them on facebook.

Finally, we are down to a family of 4.  Fereshteh moved up to the big City last month in pursuit of her fortune (and maybe true love?).  She had been very busy recently, so the change felt gradual.  Still, we miss her huge personality and dramatic life (I mean that as a compliment).  Watch out Chicago!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

more mediocre ideas

Some random ideas from sitting around a lot during Thanksgiving week are clogging my thoughts.  Maybe by publishing them here, I'll think of something that's actually interesting.  As always, feel free to use any idea.  Just don't get too upset at me if it doesn't work out.

Happy Thanksgiving!

New colleges

In a rust belt town, start a new college.  A hired professor will earn about $30,000 per year.  She/he will be the teacher/advisor for a group of 30 students.  (If you're quick at math, you will note that this means each student will pay $1000 per year in advising fees to the college).  This professor will guide the 30 students through their field of expertise (history, english, whatever).

Any additional classes that a student wants to take can be done through the new massively online classes.

The facilities will be a previously empty building in the downtown area.  Housing should be quite cheap in this town (it's a rust-belt, soon-to-be ghost town.  There is no university support staff (looking at you deans, provosts, etc), no sports, no IT.  Just learning.

If the professor wants to earn more money, the options are to advise more students (of course this may diminish the experience for those students) or write proposals to funding agencies.

Reduced cost of higher education (perhaps improved, compared to some schools)
Found employment for a bunch of underemployed academics

Cheaper doctors

1.  Medical school is now free (taxpayers on the hook for what, $150,000 per future doctor?)
2.  Doctors then pay a $10 - 20k tax per year during their career (in additional to normal taxes).

Overall savings for taxpayers.  Even doctors that work in truly underserved areas should be able to afford to pay an additional $10 per year in taxes.

Very wide ranging magazines

You know how after about the 3rd issue of just about any magazine in the world, articles start to feel a little redundant?  We will pool a large selection of magazines.  Each month, you get a completely different magazine.

You didn't like Time last month?  Bam, here comes Vanity Fair.  VF hasn't been the same since Christopher Hitchens' untimely death?  How about Midwestern Living this month.  And so on.

Better distribution of education spending

In the U.S., local property taxes provide a big chunk of the funding for public schools.  This is madness.  Pool this money at the state level and distribute the funds evenly (okay, sure, use some cost of living adjustments when needed).