Thursday, January 31, 2008

Roses are Red...

A little something I'm doing for work...

ANE Valentine Contest

Love is in the air! We're looking for a few good scholars to display both eros and erudition in our first (and possibly last!) Ancient Near Eastern Valentines contest.

We want no more than three of your original* compositions, in any ancient Near Eastern language (yes, we'll take Greek, too), accompanied by an English translation. Artwork is similarly welcome. All entries should be sent via e-mail to akerr at eisenbrauns dot com before noon on Wednesday, February 13.

The decisions of the judges will be final and, most likely, extremely arbitrary. Prizes will be given. Winners will be announced on February 14, 2008, and winning entries will be showcased on the Eisenbrauns website. Submitting an entry constitutes permission to reproduce your work.

* We have memorized the entire corpus of Near Eastern poetry, and will be watching for cheating. OK, we haven't — but someone out there will catch you at it if your words are not your own, and that wouldn't be good. So don't.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Build, build, ooh, ah, chomp, chomp, chomp

I'm still catching up on my backlog of Christmas pictures.

Since we moved to California back in 1980, my family has been making graham cracker houses at Christmastime. This year, however, my mother-in-law got us a gingerbread house kit, complete with house-shaped cookie cutters and frosting tips. We thought is was overkill for everyone to build their own, so we just made two, and several people helped with each.

We had a professional cake decorator (my mother-in-law) on one team, and a professional graphic designer (moi) on the other, so I figured we were pretty even as far as artistic direction.

This is serious business, folks.

Deborah and Carolyn's finished house.

Isn't that a nice roof?

Paul and I acquit ourselves nicely, too, I think.


Isn't motorcycling dangerous enough already?

The motorcycle was starting to get very tricky to start — either I got it on the first or second try, or the battery would go dead, and I'd have to hook up a trickle charger. Finally, the day came when the thing went dead, even with the charger hooked up. Time for a new battery.

It was hardly surprising; this was a 2001 motorcycle, with the original battery (and, I occasionally joke, the original oil) and batteries rarely last longer than five years or so.

So, I started calling around to see who had the size I needed. I was in for several surprises. For one thing, motorcycle batteries — despite being about an eighth the size of a car battery — cost the same as a car battery. I can fit this thing on my hand, and it was still $62. And yes, that's the cheapest price I was quoted.

The scale there is in inches.

The next surprise I got was that the battery I got was a kit. You had the box with the lead over here, six bottles of acid, a top, and some instructions which mostly consisted of warnings. Gulp.

Fortunately, it seemed to be a fairly well-thought-out system: The bottles had foil tops, and the holes in the battery were sharp, which let you invert the bottles and push them down onto the battery, which would drain them into the individual cells. I still dressed for the worst.

I've gotten acid burns before; I wasn't eager to repeat the experience. I sealed the top VERY tightly.

Part of what I found vaguely amusing (and a little unsettling) were the warnings on the battery. For starters: DO NOT TIP. Uh, hello? This is for a motorcycle. We steer by tipping. We park using a kickstand. The battery installs in the bike at a 45° angle. How am I supposed to avoid tipping...?

The warnings about explosions were no less comforting. This is, possibly, because the battery is installed under the seat...

Despite all that, the thing works fine, and the bike fires right up. Next time, though, I might look into installing a kickstarter, instead!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Beautiful Start to the New Year

OK, this is a few weeks out of date. It started snowing on New Year's Eve, and kept it up heavily for several days. It has all since melted, flooded, dried up, and now it's snowing again, but the pictures are still worth posting, right?

I love the contrast of the ribbons here.

Why so glum, chum?

I was still on vacation, so Deborah, Paul and I would take turns watching the kids (it was too deep, and too cold, for them to enjoy sledding much) while the other two could go sledding. The new cell phone I got for Christmas was especially handy for coordinating the shift changes, and having hot chocolate waiting by the time we trudged home. :-)

Plenty of time to just sit. And think. Or maybe just take in the quiet around you.

Me, a person of influence?

Almost exactly a year ago, I was grousing about the incomplete snow removal on the Lake City Greenway. Today, as I was riding to work, I noted that the whole thing had been cleared. It was much more pleasant than taking the snowy streets. So, since I originally griped publically, I shall un-gripe publicly: Good job, guys!

Of course, they might not read this at all, but you never know. Stranger things have happened due to this blog....

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Early Inheritance

I love Legos. I got my first set sometime when I was four or five, and I have been adding to my collection by one means or another ever since, whether receiving them as gifts, buying them conventionally, through BrickLink, eBay, and yard sales, from purchasing a single piece to complete a project to buying smeone else's entire collection.

Needless to say, I have a bunch.

That's about 65 pounds of Legos. The under-bed storage container barely fits them.

But I have another problem — two small children, whom I also want to learn the joys of Lego. Do I turn them loose in my collection? I can't see that being a good idea right now. Do I just buy them their own? It's a good idea, but Legos are, quite frankly, expensive. (Whoever bought me that first set when I was young, I think, made a pretty serious investment.) Finally the answer came to me in the form of a 200-piece beginner's set that had been given to me on a recent birthday — maybe I could just separate out part of my collection, and share that.

It took a few nights of sitting there sorting through pieces as Deborah quilted and we listened to an audio book, but I finally had sorted out about 500 pieces that I thought would be appropriate for a Fiona. As I sorted, I noticed that a lot of the pieces I was choosing were ones from that very first set I had. I also made sure to include some of those pieces that I'd wished I had back when I was that age.

Her first words were, "Hey, there's a LOT of pieces!

The acid test then, was to see if Fiona thought I had chosen well. Judging from her reaction, I think I did. The effort to separate out all the slanting roof pieces was immediately redeemed when she said, "Let's build a house!"

The house that Fiona and Andy built. A surprisingly modern structure with a double-hip roof, skylights, slanting walls...

...and a big-screen TV on the roof. Who am I to argue? The blue pieces around the house are ponds, according to Fiona. I was about to suggest to Fiona that ponds aren't normally get that close to the house, but then I remembered that we'd only just gotten rid of the ponds that were closer than that to our own, real house.

A Special Message from Fiona

VBVIHNTRF UIYNB HH 5TG Y 4YGY 55Y67 6 g777 tt b 6 7yy bbby5nhu h u nm nuhjyyyhjnyyyyH7U H M77UM 6YYM y8HU76MM6Nj6 9mj7ujn89m6 6m77888888.iuui8 mm8niiii7t gg6 by nvby6y b foa iof ffffiiiooona

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cancel that Trip to Venice...

...we've already got enough water.

It's actually higher than it was back in August — this time, I see water leaking in between the floorboards in the shed. This time, too, the street isn't draining, for some reason.

I always wanted waterfront property. The depth here varies between 4 to 8 inches.

We called the town to come out and investigate, and I saw the worker stick the handle of his rake almost all the way into the drains, but the water still isn't going down, and no-one has any good explanations why. The thing that worries me is that the temperature is dropping again. Care to think of what this place will look like if all that freezes?

In the meantime, the carport got me again — the water soaked the packed dirt floor enough that the sidestand sunk right through it. Grrr. My war with the carport was delayed so Deborah could take some classes, but in 2008 I shall show no mercy.

To my surprise, it wasn't difficult to pick up — 500 pounds felt like 50. Deborah asked if I had been bitten by a radioactive spider. I don't have a better explanation yet.