Monthly Archives: December 2009

Adams…Grizzly Adams

With the holidays, I have been pretty absent from all things Internet.  We’ve had family in town and really enjoyed our Christmas celebrations.  Last week, I mentioned one of my Brother’s traditions in which I participated this year.  We grew beards from Thanksgiving to Christmas, then shaved them off in pieces.  I had never grown a beard before so this was a new adventure for me.

So, without further adieu, here is a pictorial record of the transition:

Where I started...December 20, 2009
Gee whiz, my chin was cold!
Check out the handsome guy on my brother's left!
Perhaps a future in pro wrestling?
Yeah, I can't explain it either...

So, when Abigail finally saw me clean shaven, she told me she liked me better the other way.  Lots of people did in fact and that sort of gave me a complex…don’t you like the “real” me?  Do I need to hide my face under a beard?  Oh, the blow to my psyche!

White as snow…and not just outside!

Like lots of folks in the East, we got a bunch of snow last weekend.  Actually, compared to what many folks got, our foot of snow hardly compares.  Still, there are folks around here who are without power and may be until after Christmas.  I guess when I think of it, we are pretty lucky in regard to this storm.  Since we had nothing important to do and because we still have heat, I guess we all sort of enjoyed the snow.  It surely put me in the Christmas mood (even though it is supposed to be rainy and in the 50s for Christmas) and gave us all a chance to go outside and try to break bones…I mean sled-ride.  We built a gender-neutral snow-person, complete with a carrot nose (until the squirrels heard the news), and made many snow angels.

(check out the mistle toe!)

I mentioned awhile back (many months I guess…holy cow!) that we’ve been doing some pretty extreme work inside of our house.  Stay with me here…I promise it is related.  We’ve hemmed and hawed, we’ve cussed and dodged and pondered and tried to do just about everything we could to make this project take as long as possible.  Of course, by “we”, I mean “I”, not that there was any doubt.  But now, as weather has turned from wonderful and sunny and nice to Winter, I’ve run out of excuses and had to buckle down and make some sort of progress on the house.'s white!'s white!

We water-proofed the walls on the outside as part of the foundation work we had done this summer.  I added additional water-proofing inside as an insurance policy and so I can satisfy my desire for over-kill.  We added foam-board insulation and studded out new walls from the uninsulated masonry walls.  From there, it was easy to add proper insulation and make the rooms usable.

Well, it's not white but it's new!

So, we’ve been mudding and sanding and mudding and sanding until our house is much like a dessert town after a sand-storm. There is grit and dust everywhere and for some reason, the cat’s fur and kids sock feet haven’t been able to keep up with the dust that has been generated.  That’s all until last night.  Last night, you see, Emily painted the drywall…there will be no more sanding in that room.  The walls are snow white with primer and absolutely look as pretty as I do in my beard…well, actually, a lot better than that…but you get my point!

Hair? On Warren?

I haven’t needed a haircut since 1996. I hadn’t paid for one for several years prior to that but, in 1996, I shaved my head and started to build the empire that is “Warren” today.  Hair and the idea of hair have both always sort of eluded me and been a bit of a question in my atrophied brain…what is the point of hair anyhow? I get by without it quite nicely. In fact, I am more aerodynamic that most hair-endowed folks (I like to call that a hair disability). Hair is just such a nuisance…you have to style it and dry it and cut it and if you wear a crash helmet, you have to worry about helmet head. I just don’t get hair.

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December 6, 2009
November 30, 2009

Although I don’t get hair, I do get people – and that, friends, is why I program computers. Anyhow, my dear brother, who always had a full mop of hair, has a tradition where he doesn’t shave between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, he shaves his face-mane in parts, each day leaving an interesting facial-hair style (see some of the possibilities).  Since I get people, I know that he must feel conspicuous being the only one in our family to participate.  This year, being the kind and gentle brother that I am, I have decided to take part in the tradition as well.  I stopped shaving on Thanksgiving and have been growing this luxurious  set of whiskers since.  You can see the reverse progression up through yesterday.  The white stuff you see on my chin is not gray hair…no, no, friends, that is snow that got stuck in my beard while I was sled riding with the kids.  I am nowhere near old enough to have gray hair…losing my hair is one thing, but gray hair?  I think not!

So, what about it folks?  Do you have funny traditions?  Do you grow a beard?


We have all been either sick or operated on in our house in the last week so things have gotten a bit out of order.  Wednesday was Isaac’s 10th birthday and it all sort of flew by.  We have tried 3 times to celebrate it and illness has prevented it.  It looks like the coming storm may ruin things again this weekend.

Anyhow, I don’t want to let his birthday pass any further on here so I thought I would share a video we made around the time of his birth.  Last year I wrote a little about what he went through at birth and this year I thought it would be interesting to show how he progressed from being at the brink of death to being awake and aware.  This video is 3 or so minutes long and may be hard for some folks to watch but I’ll spoil the ending and tell you it all works out ok if you’d think you can’t watch (it’s not gross…just sad and scary at points).

Anyhow, Isaac is 10 now and just shy of being a giant.  His life is so different now and his beginning seems to foreign and far away. It’s hard to believe how well he’s done and I am so proud of him in every way!  Premature babies born with the odds against them many times don’t find happy endings but Isaac beat the odds and, I am certain, is destined for wonderful things ahead!

It’s Traditional

As Christmas approaches, we prepare, as most parents do, to pass along Christmas to our kids.  I suppose it sounds a bit odd to pass on Christmas, but the season is typically so complex for most families that I do not think that any other words describe what we do.  When I was a kid, it seemed as if we prepared for Christmas for months.  In elementary school, we glued together enormous paper chains that wound all through our classroom and into the halls.


I grew up in Pennsylvania near Lake Erie so we usually got snow early and heavy.  In my memory, almost every Christmas was a white Christmas.  Sometimes, it seemed as if we had a white Halloween.  Anyhow, the buildup to Christmas to my child-eyes was immense and exciting and just as it was supposed to be according to all of the Christmas carols, which of course, we listened too all of the time.

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At home, we strung together strings of popcorn and cranberries to wind around our Christmas tree.  We threw way too much tinsel all over the tree and made every type of cookie imaginable.  I remember picking different varieties of cookies from a large black water-bath canner which was packed full of cookies (talk about a dream cookie jar!).

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On Christmas Eve, my family went to my aunt and uncle’s house where our family gathered for what seemed like a fairly formal meal (though, as I now think back on it, the meal was not formal, just different from what we normally did at home).  My brother and I ate every last bit of candy we could find laying around in the numerous candy dishes around the house.  The meal seemed to never end as we anticipated opening the large pile of gifts that were always under the tree.

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Once we finally got home, we hurried off to bed so Santa could come.  The rule in our house was that no one could leave their bedroom until 6am.  I truly do not know how we survived the time between waking and 6am.  Surely a cosmic quantum time shift happened which caused time to slow to 1/20th normal speed.  Anyhow, we raced to the living room to see what was under the tree.  It’s funny but Santa never wrapped our presents.  I don’t think my brother and I ever noticed that Mom and Dad never gave us presents…all the presents were from Santa.

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So, flash forward to now.  My wife, of course, had her own set of traditions in her growing up.  When we married, it was not terribly hard to merge our traditions, but when our children were born, the traditions we established as a family seemed to take on incredible importance.  I know the kids will not turn into serial killers or hermits or <gasp> politicians if we don’t get our tradition just right, but I do believe it is important to keep the kids out of politics…I mean, help the kids look back on their childhoods with fondness.

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At first, we tried to mix the traditions with which my wife and I were raised.  It just didn’t work.  And, though it took some time to figure out, we realized that the traditions we impart to our kids have to be wholly ours….MY family’s traditions, not the traditions of my parents or my wife’s parents.  So, while I have such wonderful memories of the traditions surrounding the celebration of the Christmases of my childhood, I think that the responsibility to impart such memories to my children is even more special to me.  So, while the traditional things we each do to celebrate Christmas is special and important, I think the more important tradition is having traditions and seeing those traditions come alive in the eyes and hearts of our children.

So, what are your traditions?  How do you ‘do’ the holidays?  Of course, my take here was Christmas related, bt I am curious about how folks do Hanukkah or whatever holiday you may celebrate in your home too!

I wrote this post for Not Dabbling in Normal where I occasionally post, but I felt like it was appropriate for here as well…

Hot and bothered…or frigid?

Shortly after we received our first gas bill after moving into our house in WV, we started on the path towards reducing our energy usage.  The house was built in 1939 which is apparently before anyone invented insulation as our house had absolutely none.  I have been tearing things apart and installing new insulation in every nook and cranny.  We have replaced and sealed most of the windows and all of the little entries into the house, we replaced the ancient furnace with a new, high-efficiency one and we have installed CFLs everywhere.  It has made a significant difference in our energy bills so has been well worth the effort.

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The family room, office and lower bathroom are the worst as far as cold goes.  The walls are solid masonry…outside->brick->block->plaster->inside…basically a huge cold conductor into the house.  We demolished the office and bathroom first and have studded out new walls from the masonry and added water-proofing and insulation.

Uninsulated wall
Uninsulated wall

For my birthday, my brother-in-law and his wife bought me a thermal leak detector…one of those devices that can take instantaneous  temperature readings from a distance.  So, now that I have the office studded out and insulated, I thought it might be fun to compare the wall temperature of the new area with the uninsulated space of the rest of the area.  The entire area is basically unheated now as we are working so I suppose the difference would be more significant if we separated the areas a bit more and actually heated the area properly.  Anyhow, in the new area, my temperature reading was 64.7 deg F.  Not more than 5 feet away, I took a reading on the uninsulated part which was 54.5 deg F!  So, without separating the areas much at all, I can still see a 10 degree difference!

Insulated wall
Insulated wall

I took some additional readings which I thought were interesting.  In our bedroom, we suffer the same problem as the other rooms…the walls are uninsulated.  Although the are made of different materials, none of those materials is warm!  So, I took a reading on the bedroom wall which was 64.9 deg F.  I then moved to the new insulated window that replaced the old fashioned original windows.  The temperature of the window (windows are generally considered not to be great at keeping cold out) was 70.8 deg F!  I couldn’t believe the window was a better insulator than the wall!

The wall
The wall
The window
The window

So, I am certain now that the insulation projects I am doing are beneficial and the new windows I installed are well worth the money!

So what about you?  Ever quantify changes you’ve made to your place?  Have any good insulation stories to tell?

This place is not a figment of my imagination

So, I have been wearing out the Las Vegas theme lately.  I enjoyed the company and the business aspects of Las Vegas, but the city itself reminded me of a trailer park.  It has to be the tackiest, most overinflated place on Earth.  Seeing the extravagance  in Las Vegas was, in my opinion, an attempt to surround folks who wouldn’t know classy if it came in framed with a certificate of authenticity, with symbols of gluttony and greed and every other class-less thing one could imagine.  I don’t claim to be classy, but I am well aware of that fact and don’t try to pretend that I am.

Ok, sorry to anyone who lives there…so I took some more pics (and I promise that these will be the last) of some of the spectacle of Las Vegas…

This was on the main strip and seemed to go just perfectly together...
This was on the main strip and seemed to go just perfectly together...
The Internet has a tap?
The Internet has a tap?
Hmmmm.....Gold balls in the fountain?
Hmmmm.....Gold balls in the fountain?
Fine dining...McDonalds!
Fine dining...McDonalds!
There are "Angels" all over Las Vegas...
There are "Angels" all over Las Vegas...
He lives!
He lives!
A "green" solution to global climate change?
A "green" solution to global climate change?

Ok, I am not being entirely fair…there is a lot of neat architecture in Las Vegas and I saw many cool cool things too…

The water show at Bellagio is excellent.  Click the picture for a video

Click for video
Click for video
The colors were beautiful
The colors were beautiful
A large sculpture in a new shopping center
A large sculpture in a new shopping center
Tacky or awesome?  You decide...
Tacky or awesome? You decide...
New York New York was impressive
New York New York was impressive

Have you ever been to Las Vegas?  What did you think?

It didn’t stay in Vegas

I am in Las Vegas on a business trip…no…really…a business trip. We left Charleston, WV at 6:01 this morning and got here 10 am local time. That left us with…well, all day to explore and see some sights in Las Vegas. It’s already 1:22 am on my “brain time” so I am about done for the day…but I will leave you with a few pictures with more to come when I get back home…






Our first indoor allergy-maker!

Tomorrow is my birthday…it’s not a big one…not a decade mark, but I am pretty happy to celebrate another year.  Both Emily and I have been around the sun a few times though and had never experienced a live Christmas tree.  We never had live trees growing up because I am allergic to everything.  Of course, I grew up in the woods so I was surrounded by evergreen trees, but they were never in the house.  Anyhow, since I have been so sick the last month or so, I decided that a new tree can’t possibly make me feel any worse than I already do.

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We loaded up the kids in the van and headed to the Capitol Market in Charleston, one of WV’s best farmer’s markets.  This time of year, the sell only one thing…Christmas trees!  We wandered through hundreds of trees looking for the cheapest price….erm..I mean the best shaped tree.  About 2/3 of the way down the market, we happened upon the cheapest…erm…best shaped…trees.  We talked to the folks working there and they told us where their trees were grown (locally) and their price was good so we picked out a tree.

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The guy working there ran our tree through the wrapping machine and offered to run Isaac through as well.  I told him I would pay him $10 extra to run both kids through but we measured and his machine would not quite handle their size.  I bet for $20 he would have made it work.

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Anyhow, we tied the tree atop the van and proceeded to cruise over all of the hills and curves back to the house.  Neither of us wanted to look back fearing we’d see our tree rolling down the hill towards the next car in line.

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We made it home and I manhandled the tree into the house and set it into the new tree stand we bought.  The kids cut the tree-wrap into hundreds of tiny pieces that were left strewn about the house.  Emily cut the last bit of the wrap as the kids and I cowered in fear of the tree’s opening.

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We put lights on the tree and, of course, the kids started to fight.  The good news is, they seemed to fight in rhythm with the Christmas carols we had playing so it felt like Christmas indeed!

So far, allergies have not been a factor and I have not yet keeled over dead.  I am not any better, but I am not much worse either!

So, do you set up a tree?  Live or artificial?