the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Category: Daily Details

Halloween Hijinks

I am pleased to report that Halloween 2015 went much better than that of the previous year for the Peanut.  Last year, if you will recall, he was having none of this costume business for Halloween.   He would barely wear a costume when we tried to have professional photos taken.   He refused to wear a costume for his school Halloween party.  On Halloween night, he had to be tricked into wearing the costume as rain gear until he started to enjoy going up and ringing doorbells.

The Peanut dressed as an astronaut, reusing one of the costumes that we had leftover from last year.   We started getting him used to the idea early this year, as far back as mid-September at least.   The Missus periodically asked him if he wanted to be an astronaut for Halloween.  He wasn’t too enthusiastic, but he wasn’t hostile either.  As time went on, we also developed a backup plan: an In-N-Out carhop costume consisting of khaki pants, a white shirt, a red cloth apron with a bit safety pin, and a paper In-N-Out hat.

By the time the Saturday morning for costume pictures came around, the Peanut seemed OK with wearing the costume for a few minutes.   He was such a good boy at pictures this year!  He sat on the little set the photographer was using, first holding his costume astronaut helmet (stuffed with a bike helmet and a semi-clear plastic bag to give it shape and create the appearance of a clear visor) and then wearing the helmet in various positions by himself and with the Missus and me.   The photographer got some great shots.  The Missus and I were immediately heartened by his response.

Another two tests came on the Thursday and Friday before Halloween.   The Peanut had two Halloween parties this year, since he goes to two schools.  The first was for the Special Ed. preschool class that he attends Monday through Thursday.   That went well.  He walked into the classroom in costume and stayed involved in the festivities.   The second was at the school he attended last year, where he still goes on Fridays.   There was more resistance, maybe in part because it was a warm day and not terribly comfortable to be an astronaut.   He didn’t keep his costume on much during class, but the Missus tells me that he seemed otherwise pretty well behaved.  There was a third costume event to attend during the day on Halloween, but we were all busy and tired.  The Missus and I decided not to push our luck by putting the Peanut in costume again before he had to go out that night.

As for trick-or-treating on Halloween night went, there was a little complaining early on but the Peanut warmed to the prospect pretty quickly.  Again, I think feeling warm in the costume was an issue.   Once he got into the cool evening air around 6:30pm, the complaining stopped pretty fast.   I went with him, the Missus, and Auntie M. to the end of the block and back.   The Peanut was great — and did a much better job of saying “trick or treat” and “thank you” this year.

After that, the Peanut, the Missus, and Auntie M. headed for the next block over and I headed back to our porch to have my Corpse Reviver No. 2.  A few large groups of kids that we saw heading toward our house during our initial round of trick-or-treating took a large majority of the candy we left in a basket.  Thankfully, few other kids came along by the time I returned.

The Peanut cleaned up in the candy department.   Before heading out, the Missus emptied his candy bag into the back of the folding wagon used to carry him to the next block because it was getting heavy.   Seeing that, the Peanut emptied his bag into the back of the wagon every time he came back from a house.   This evidently increased his take, because more than one adult saw his empty bag and tried to make up for his imagined late start.



No love from the Interwebz

I am getting no love from the Interwebz this week, at least when it comes to buying things.

I purchased a CD off dDay last Saturday. I got an e-mail from the seller on Tuesday saying that they got my money and would be sending it shorty. It’s Friday. Since I received no further work about shipment, I wrote the seller this morning.  He sent me two replies: “let me check with the wife; I post, she ships” and “oops, I’m very sorry because she somehow forgot to drop it in the mail.”

Shortly after that piece of joy, I heard from the dealership in Florida who is selling me jack tools after last weekend’s tire buying and lug nut odyssey.   They e-mailed me earlier in the week to let me know that they expected those parts to arrive from the warehouse today, and would ship them out to me the day they came in.  Alas, one of the parts is on a 2-4 day back order from the distributor.

So, nothing in the mail for me.

Tires and other $1000 events both real and prevented

There was this blinking light on the dashboard of one of our cars.   It was the tire pressure light.  It was blinking almost, it seemed, since we bought the car in April of 2012.   Actually, given the tape glue residue on the dash over the spot where the light is blinking, we suspect it was blinking before that.

We had our mechanic check why the light was blinking sometime in 2013, I think.   It turns out that the batteries in one or more of the tire pressure sensors were dead.   When I inquired about the replacement cost, it was clear that it would be best to wait on that until we were going to have the tires taken off anyway.   The best time to do that would be when the tires would be replaced, which from the tread wear looked to be in the not too dramatically distant future.

Ok, it took nearly two years.

Our mechanic alerted us to extensive tread wear when we dealt the water accumulating in the driver foot well this summer.

Oh wait, did I not mention that?   Yes, California is in the midst of the worst drought on record since records started being kept, but water was accumulating under the carpet in the driver’s foot well of this car.   We first saw indications of this problem last January when it was raining a lot.   We had the driver’s door seal replaced and that seemed to clear up the problem (and perhaps it did.)   It reappeared in mid-July, without a drop of rain for weeks.

That required two visits to the mechanic who eventually determined that it was due to a known air conditioner drain tube issue with this make of car.    The drain tube installed at the factory was too short.  So when condensation from the coil in the center console of the dash collected to drain out the bottom of the car, it didn’t quite make it all the way to the ground.   Instead, it collected in a cavity in the structure of the unibody and leaked out into the passenger cabin.

Well, that was one theory anyway.   The other one was that the tube or drain pan was blocked, costing between $500-1000 to fix.

Fortunately the $100 labor to install the $30 drain tube replacement did the trick.

Getting back to the tires, July wasn’t the time to pay for new tires, given the vagaries of how the Missus is paid.  This week, it turns out, was the time to pay for new tires.

So, I got up bright and early yesterday morning and drove over to the local tire emporium just before 8am, when they were scheduled to open.    I was expecting to get over there and wait outside the door until someone unlocked it or something.   Instead, I arrived and they were going full blast with cars already up on the rack and orders being taken in the showroom.  Maybe their clocks run fast?

Anyway, I was quickly helped by a salesman who took me out to the car to get vital information.  It was at that point when a couple things were pointed out to me… like the fact that all four wheels had wheel locks on them.   Did I have a key?   Um…. good question!   We certainly didn’t get one when we bought the car.

In case it was stuck in the car someplace, I checked the spare tire well where the key wasn’t… and the jack and jack tools also weren’t.   (I found the jack today, in a location where the manufacturer clearly intended to be, but where a diagram the manufacturer-provided owner’s manual said it shouldn’t be… go figure!)

Long story short, the tire emporium cracked all four locks off the car for $10 a wheel, and we got the same tires with road wear warranty and brand new pressure sensors installed for just a bit over $1000.

I was expecting an expensive bill, but that was $100-200 higher than I anticipated.   Oh well.  At least, we didn’t find out about the jack or the jack tools or the wheel locks when on the side of the road with bad weather and poor cell reception or something.   That was a disaster averted.

I spent a good portion of the following afternoon visiting multiple auto parts stores to finally track down replacement lug nuts that matched the existing.  Factory jack tools are on their way for about $30.

It’s All About The Love

This happens all the time:

The Missus: I love you, Peanut.

The Peanut: I love you, Momma.


This happens about 50% of the time:

Me: I love you, Peanut.

The Peanut: *crickets*


Gender roles emerge early, I guess.

Everyday heroes

It’s been a month since I posted last?   That’s both surprising and unsurprising.   I feel like I’ve been working like crazy the last few weeks; it may  just be that progress seemed almost glacially slow.   The Peanut also started the new school year, and that required a shift in routine which wasn’t as bad as initially thought (more on that in another entry.)

This is a much-delayed 9/11 entry of sorts.

September 11 will always have multiple meanings for me.  It’s the tragic day of the September 11 attacks, of course.  It’s also the day we brought the Peanut home from the hospital.  The Missus likes to tell the Peanut that it is a day to thank our community heroes.   The last few years, she and the Peanut have taken cookies or other sweet treats to a local firehouse.

We got an extra helping of community heroism this year on September 11.   It was a long day for me, and I was dead tired.   I was about to nod off and contemplating an early night while sitting on the sofa at about 8:30pm when the Missus walked into the living roomed and heard the sound of a large truck in front of our house.   She decided to investigate and walked out the front door.   She quickly returned and informed me that our neighbor’s house was flooding and the fire department was here after our neighbor M. called 911.

The firefighters were great.  The helped M. get the water turned off at the meter, moved much of her stuff out of her place, and even helped get some of her carpets laid out to dry.    All the while, they told her they were sorry that it happened to her.   She said later that she found it very comforting.  Both an engine and a ladder company eventually came by, but both companies eventually had to be elsewhere and left by 10:30pm.

With those kinds of role models, the Missus and I did our best to help out where we could.  The landlord eventually showed up (M. rents) and called someone that lives a few doors down who, fortunately enough, operates a disaster cleanup business.    That led to moving even more furniture, boxing stuff up to store on our patio until whenever, taking down shelves, and eventually pulling up more carpet (laminate wood floors were also eventually pulled, but not that night.)

The day that I was hoping would end before 9pm actually ended sometime just after midnight… and sleep didn’t follow until around 1am as I recall.  I was a wreck for the rest of the weekend.

M.’s place sits on a slab foundation.  It was eventually determined that a pipe burst in the slab.  She finally got the all clear to move back in a few days ago.

The $250 Rubber Band

Summer is a season of unexpected repair bills this year.   Our gas clothes dryer suddenly burned out a coil and a relay in June.  One of our cars started accumulating water in the driver’s foot well in July.  Our dishwasher stopped working at some point on Sunday night or Monday morning.   The incident with the dryer took about a week to resolve (parts were ordered and a follow up appointment required for installation) and the car was about three weeks (two separate visits to the garage, plus most of a week for parts to arrive.)   We resolved the dishwasher incident in less than 36 hours.  I’m happy for that, but I wish that it didn’t cost so much.

The story of the dishwasher began yesterday at around 4am, when the Peanut came down the hall and woke me up.   After two HOT days (almost as Neil Simon would say “Africa hot”), the two air conditioners in two bedrooms of our house were running all night.   In the case of the one in the Peanut’s bedroom, it was doing too good a job because he was actually cold.   I led him back to his bed, turned off the A/C, and covered him up a little.   Since I generally wake up around 5am these days to go to the gym, I had trouble going back to sleep and decided to watch a little TV.   When I got to the living room, I immediately detected an off odor in the house.   It wasn’t exactly a burning smell, but it seemed related.   My first thought was that the air conditioners were over taxing the wiring of the house… but that could not be.   The wiring of our house runs through the attic, which is full of wood, fiber glass batting, and paper-backed wall board dried by decades of hot summers.   Nothing up there would smolder.   It’s too dry and crispy for that.  If something was failing and could burn, it would be burning… and quickly.    So, I put it down to smoke from forest fires elsewhere in the state (which made the air hazy and smokey over the weekend,) tried to air the house out while it was still cool outside, and thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to around 7am, and I returned from the gym and started to get breakfast ready.   I figured I would use clean dishes from the dishwasher instead of using something else.   I opened the dishwasher door to discover 1-2″ of murky water in the bottom.   After two hours of siphoning dirty water (with occasional and unwelcome help from the Peanut — he loves transferring water from one container to another) and another of cleaning still dirty dishes, plus half an hour of inspecting the dishwasher, I decided that this was one nut I didn’t want to crack myself.   Thankfully, our experience with the dryer back in June brought us to a trustworthy appliance repair company.

That brings me to today, where I had to spend $250 because of a rubber band.


A rubber band fell into the dishwasher and got tangled in the blue impeller of the drain pump.   It eventually wrapped itself around the spindle behind the impeller and was pulled behind the white plastic plate you see above.   There, it acted like a rubber friction brake and burned the motor out.    That was the smell in the air yesterday morning.

So, it was a flat $80 fee for the repairman to show up, an additional $70 flat fee for any repair requiring parts, $90 for a new OEM motor, and $10 tax on the part.   The repairman had the necessary part on the truck, so total repair time was less than one hour.

Readin’ Writin’ ‘Rithmetic


Overheard at the breakfast table this morning while playing Candy Crush Saga together:

Peanut, pointing at the level indicator on the screen: “Level 2”

Me: “Yes, it is level 2.  *pause* Peanut, are you learning to read?”

Peanut: “Yes, Daddy.”

Well, that clears that up… at least until I ask if he knows how to balance the Federal budget and the answer will be the same.

Some days

“There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.” – Casey Stengel

Some mornings when you wake up, you just want to stay in bed but decide to go to the gym and work out anyway.  It’s got to be that on those mornings, your workout burns a few more calories, right?

My Favorite Barbecue 

I’m on a barbecue quest of sorts.   It’s not an obsessive thing, though I have my moments.   I first caught the bug in the 1990’s when I began to wonder “what is barbecue and how is it different than cooking on a grill?”  I had grad school on my mind in those days, and didn’t actively pursue the answer.   That changed a bit in 2000 with graduation and a full time job.   I lived in a top floor apartment, however, and there was only so much I could really do.   Finally, after living in my own home with a patio for better part of year, I got my first column-type smoker in August 2008.   It was a cheap unit that I modified heavily using ideas from the Internet.   By practicing and making the modifications, I learned a lot from that smoker.   When I changed jobs nearly three years ago, I decided it was time to graduate to a real Weber Smokey Mountain cooker.  It’s the WSM smoking a 3.5-4 pound bone-in pork shoulder overnight for pulled pork for a Fourth of July pre-party (on 3-Jul) tomorrow.

About a year ago, I discovered something slightly odd about my quest.  Of the barbecue I make, the barbecue that I like the best is the stuff I make on the spur of the moment.    The first time this happened was early on a Saturday afternoon.   I believe I decided on the spur of the moment that morning that I would make some ribs, simply because I hadn’t used the smoker in a couple months.    So, they were on the smoker by 9am and done some time around 1:30 or 2pm… somewhat earlier than I expected.   The Missus took a picture of me just as I was finishing a rack, with a big silly grin on my face.

Why is it the best?   It’s probably because I don’t worry about it.   I don’t set expectations.   It’s just there.  It feels easy.  Making good barbecue still feels a bit more like an art than a science at the moment, and still fret about it.  Take this pork shoulder I’m cooking right now, for example.   I’m allowing myself plenty of time for it to finish, and I know enough tricks to get it done for the party.   Yet part of me still worries a little… will the smoker hold temperature until tomorrow morning?     Will it be done too soon?   Barbecue is something that does not happen as much as unfold.


Then there is this rack of ribs I made a few weeks ago.   Yeah, the smoker ran a little hot and so the meat fell off the bone a little too much.  Yeah, the recipe followed my basic formula but I improvised a couple substitutions using what I had on hand.   But look at that color and the way the bones stick out at the end!   They were in the grocery store meat counter at 1:30pm and spare rib dinner by 6:30pm.  How can you not love it when that happens?

Perhaps I will one day have enough confidence to always feel carefree about my barbecue.   Right now, I can tell myself that I logically have little to worry about… but I don’t feel it in my marrow yet, not yet.

An Accident of Mixology

Flaming cocktails do not have the same appeal for me in my mid-40’s as they did in my early 20’s.   A case in point occurred over the weekend when I got 2nd degree burns on the thumb and forefinger of my left hand and the middle knuckle of my right forefinger.

We got some new neighbors back in January, but we didn’t have much chance to meet them.  They seemed nice enough; both in their late 20’s to early 30’s somewhere, him an engineer of some kind, and her a lawyer.   They seemed relatively quiet, nice, and polite.   We spoke a bit over fences and chance encounters coming and going.   We met their dog.

So, it seemed natural that when they planned to host a barbecue at their place and invited the Peanut, the Missus, and me over that we should go and say hello.

It turned out to be generally pleasant evening with good food and drink, and our hosts were positively genial.  We learned that he is originally from the Ukraine and is working on some stealth tech idea that he wants to turn into a startup.   We also learned that she is in her second trimester and expecting a boy sometime around Halloween.   They are also vegetarians, but nicely asked friends to bring meat to grill — which other friends did, including some lamb chops that were cooked over a very hot fire to crispy meaty perfection.

After the Missus decided to take the Peanut back to our house for bath and bed, I decided to linger a bit to get a little more to eat.  It was at this point that our host asked if I wanted to try this flaming shot that his brother (or brother-in-law) showed him how to make.    He called it a “Gorilla Boob” but the closest thing I can find in the online cocktail guides is the Gorilla Tit. I hadn’t touched any kind of flaming drink in years, but I figured it would be an “adventure”.

The Gorilla Tit is composed of Kahlua, Yuckon Jack, and Bacardi 151, and recommended to be served in an Old Fashioned glass.  The Gorilla Boob as I experienced it on Saturday is made from something I didn’t quite catch, Jägermeister, and Bacardi 151 served in a tall shot glass.  Both drinks are to be drunk with straws.  My sense of adventure raised a notch when I saw him pouring the Jägermeister; cocktail culture has become a very adult, serious, almost gourmet kind of thing in the last few years and this was starting to feel more like the kind of thing you do on a dare at a keg party in college.

So drinks were poured and lit.  Someone wanted to take a picture.  A phone was produced and a flash went off.

I picked up my drink.  The glass was HOT.  I could feel my fingers burning.   I put it down on the table.  It spilled and the liquid on the table caught fire.   I put that out with a strawberry margarita someone left nearby.   I picked up the glass and sucked the remaining liquid through the straw.

It was agreed later that taking the time to take picture was a mistake — the glasses got too hot.  I would also suggest that the shot glass was a mistake.   An Old Fashioned glass would give more to hold onto.

In any case, I immediately shoved my fingers in ice water and kept them there for much of the remainder of the evening.   When I was asked if I wanted to try again, I politely declined.

It was an unusual end to an otherwise pleasant evening.  I hope we see our neighbors again.