Sunday, February 28, 2010


You may have heard about it on the news: New Hampshire got hit with some serious wind on Thursday night. We managed to get through more or less unscathed, but apparently that was not the case for nearly half the state. You can get all the gory details from your news source of choice, I'll just add our own experience. Being an engineer, I've made a graph:
Although the wind was heavy and the rain was spitting against the windows, things weren't all that bad until late in the evening. The only real downside was that the noise kept Brynna awake late. However, have a look at the above graph, right around 22:30. That's me taking Jasper out for an evening walk. In the rain and 40 mph gusts. Our road, like many, has power cables strung alongside, and quite a number of tall conifers on what tonight was the windward side. So while trying to avoid getting rain in my eyes, I was keeping an eye on the heavily swaying trees above, bracing with every howling gush of wind, hoping that I'd have enough warning before a falling branch dashed my brains in. I've been in gales on mountains before, but that didn't concern me as much as this. This was more reminiscent of getting caught in a thunderstorm above treeline than a walk down around the neighborhood. Pretty wild.

There was a moment of panic when, three minutes from home, the whole sky turned a glowing, under-the-sea green color. Great, I thought, I'll miss getting hit with a downed powerline only to get hit with an exploding transformer! That was followed by an exceptional dark when all the street and houselights went out. They came back after a few lengthy seconds, but it was definitely time to get indoors.

The electricity held out long enough to watch the end of the womens' figure skating competition, then started getting intermittent. Each flicker, brown out, or momentary loss signaled yet another power line getting snapped somewhere in the nearby grid, till it went out quite definitely around midnight and stayed out for some four hours.

Still, by morning, we had power back and there was no damage to the house. The tree in our backyard didn't seem to shed too much. But, when I took Jasper for a run Saturday afternoon, there was a whole lot of debris and trees around. Some had been visited by chainsaws already; many had not. I passed two downed power lines, and more than a few humming generators within a few blocks. So yes, it was pretty exciting, and the party is far from over for a whole lot of people across the state.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


One of Brynna's other passions these days is dinosaurs.

I think this can all be traced back to the day, a couple of months ago, that we took her to the Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont. They were having a big visiting exhibit of dinosaurs, and Brynna just lapped it up. She ran from skeleton to skeleton, pointing and saying "dino!" "dino!" "dino!"

Brynna and Alex also had a go at the dinosaur habitat game.

Dinosaurs and electronics—could there be a better combination for either of them?

Brynna was also very interested in another large creature on display, as we would expect from the littlest member of the Moose Family.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mount Major Trip Report

I have had this weekend off, and the weather has been spectacular—low to mid 30s and bright sun. So we decided to take advantage and go for a hike! At first, we were planning to go up north to Franconia Notch, but when I checked the weather, I realized that the White Mountains were covered in cloud, so instead we headed northeast to Mount Major on the shore of Lake Winnepesaukee.

Mount Major is one of the most popular summertime hikes in New Hampshire, and it turns out quite popular yesterday as well, though we got a later start than most! We arrived at the trailhead around 2 but then waited out the rest of Brynna's nap with the newspaper and a pile of magazines, before hitting the trail after 3:00. Brynna was initially not sure that this whole walking-in-the-cold thing was a very good idea, but Jasper's enthusiasm was contagious, so we set off up the trail.

A few minutes later we were able to remove the Nuk for awhile and sing some songs. I need to work on my Beatles lyrics. On the other hand, does "Love Me Do" really have lyrics?

The trail headed gently upwards for awhile, and then we came to some much steeper sections leading up onto the ledges. It was a good thing we'd brought poles along, as four-legged Jasper had a much easier time than his two-legged counterparts on the icy slopes.

Then, after a quick detour through the woods to avoid an ice-fall, we came out onto a big open ledge with a stunning view north and northeast across the lake. Alex turned to look, and Brynna caught a glimpse as well, bringing a whispered "woooowwww" to her lips. It warmed the cockles of our hiking-loving hearts.

The wind picked up a little at that point because we were more exposed, but every time we asked Brynna if she wanted to go up or down, she commanded "up!" with an imperious wave of the arm.

So up we went, picking our way carefully along the slippery trail, until we were treated to an even better view from the summit.

There's a foundation at the top that served as a very useful windbreak for a snack. Brynna proved very adept at eating gorp out of our palms like a little bird—we didn't want to un-mitten her and expose her hands to the wind.

Here's our mountain dog at the summit:

The first ten minutes of the descent were the roughest part of the trip—the wind picked up full-force and was whipping against Brynna's face, and she did not like it. We pulled her neck-wrap up over her face and jogged our way (our downward trail was not initially as steep) off the ledges and back into the cover of the woods. It was a brisk trip down, as we were racing dusk all the way, and we came back to the parking lot to find my Subaru looking quite forlorn in the midst of the deserted parking lot.

We were very happy to discover that Brynna's hands and body stayed very warm—she was wearing her big snowsuit over her Patagonia capilene baselayer, with active heaters in her mittens. However, we felt very bad when we found that her feet had become quite chilly. She cuddled up in the car with her toes on Alex's stomach, drinking juice and eating gorp, while I packed up the car.

So—next time, toe-warmers in addition to hand warmers. At least until she's hiking on her own two feet—which I'm sure will happen sooner than we expect!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can You Tell Me How To Get... to get to Sesame Street?

Brynna is deeply, deeply into Sesame Street at the moment, especially Big Bird. Whenever she sees one of us with our computer, she comes over, makes her sign for Big Bird (a beak with her hand), accompanied by the noise that I have come to think of as the demando-grunt, and occasionally convinces us to click on over to (Yes, it is a little strange that to Brynna, Sesame Street is something that exists on the computer...but hey, she's a techno-girl.)

Once there, she usually wants to see "Viva!" (Big Bird conducting a mariachi band) or "Suffy!" (Big Bird teaching Snuffleupagus how to ice skate).

We watch one or both of them over and over ("more! more! more!"), until Alex or I get a little concerned by the look of intensity on her face as she stares at the screen and cut her off.

I fell asleep last night, and woke up this morning, with the Snuffy ice skating music in my head. Better than Barney, I suppose—which we are hoping to keep a deep, dark secret that Brynna only finds out about when she is old enough to mock it.

Here is a bit under-the-weather Alex watching Sesame Street with little B this evening:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Wuv Ooo

About a month ago, Brynna started making her version of the "I love you" sign, which was very sweet.

And over the last couple of weeks, she has started to say it out loud. She will look at me, and wave her hand in the little sign, and smile, and say, "I wuv ooo."

What better Valentine's Day present is there than that?

Monday, February 15, 2010


This post comes to you live from the laundromat around the corner. It could be worse, but definitely there are other places I'd rather be. It's not that the laundromat is a dump - it's actually quite nice. It's also a wonderfully efficient way to get the laundry done - all those loads working in parallel. No, it comes down to the fact that I need to be here at all, and you can probably guess why. For a married man and homeowner there is a short list of reasons why I'd be at a laundromat: either 1) Hilary and I are on the outs, and I'm bach'ing it while the divorce papers process, oooooooor 2) the washing machine is on the fritz.

Actually, the washing machine has been on the fritz for a little while now. Sad tale, really: it's a rather nice, efficient, front-loading machine that provided us with five months of excellent service after we moved into the house. A few weeks ago it conked out, sending Hilary to the laundromat for an afternoon. But the washer was intelligent enough about its affliction to flash a cryptic error code that translated to a bad water temperature sensor. A $140 visit from the Sears repairman and about five minutes revealed that the sensor itself was just fine - it's cable had come loose. Well, the upshot of that unpleasant outlay of cash was that, when the same thing happened two weeks later, I was able to find and plug the cable back in myself.

Our current problem, however, goes much deeper than that. Yes, the same cable has come loose again, but I'm pretty sure that's secondary to the horrific screeching sounds it was making during its final spin cycle. One of the plastic fins that agitates the clothes has snapped off, too. Oh, and it started leaking profusely, which for a washer is never a good sign. I did a little poking around, tracing the small stream of water back to its source. The front loader has a horizontal perforated metal drum that holds the clothes and spins. But with all those holes and spinning, it is hardly water-tight - the actual containment is done by an outer plastic tub that the metal drum rotates in. This plastic tub is roughly cylindrical and spit into two halves. Some investigation with a flashlight (and improvising a dental mirror out of an old CD) revealed that the forward half of the tub has a nickel-sized chunk missing from it. It appears to have cracked from the inside out, like some small object got slammed into it during that fatal spin cycle.

So, now we face a choice: repair or replace. (The third option - sticking to the laundromat - just isn't up for consideration.) Searching through Sears' online part catalog showed me a replacement tub part is only about $160; backordered 1-2 weeks. The temperature sensor and cable assembly is just $20. I count myself a fairly handy guy. Being the front half of the tub, I might be able to access it by removing the front panel of the washer and, with some fluent cursing, replace it myself. It would help if I could locate a service manual for this model, which must be a really rare request, because no one at Sears has a clue where I could buy one. Even with a manual, I could expect to sink anywhere from an afternoon to a weekend in such an endeavor; perhaps a string of late nights. I'd much rather watch the olympics.

Another service call by Sears is an option. It'd be $75 for someone to diagnose and estimate the repairs. The parts cost, I am told, would be the same. The labor is a flat $140 per repair , which is probably a deal for a repair of this level and the value of my scant freetime. But, fixing the tub still doesn't explain the god-awful screeching that preceded the failure, nor how the tub got busted in the first place. Plus, the washer is approximately 5 years old from what I can tell, and it has mixed reviews online. In other words, we could sink $300 into this washer - one third to one half the replacement cost - but we'd be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Without doing deep research, replacing the washer appears to be $700-1000. We could do some research (I'm thinking' Consumer Reports on this one) to find one that gets good reviews and is a touch more efficient. The key thing would be having something with a warranty. Maybe I can find a service manual from the get-go. It's no small amount of money, but in this case might be the right choice. Presumably we could have it delivered and the old one taken away.

Based on what I can tell of this surprisingly sophisticated machine, this failure seems analogous to a cracked cylinder head gasket in a 85,000-mile car. Sure, you could repair and get another few years out of it. Certainly it would be cheaper to fix it than it is to replace it. A part of me is leery of just junking a machine that is 85% fine (at least, I think it's not a breath away from total failure). A part of me wants it both ways: out in some money to repair it, sell it off as-is and maybe break even, then go ahead and get a new one.

Any thoughts or experience from the audience?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fear Not

We still exist. We have not fallen off the face of the Earth! We just, uhhh, ummm....

Ok, so we haven't posted in a while. The sad rover is perhaps sad enough for now. Let's move on, even if the rover can't.

H had all of last week off, amazingly enough. It was spent largely resting and recuperating; partly here, and partly at her parents' in CT. We managed to:

  • get in an afternoon of skiing (seven years since our last downhill run: it's nice to know we can still hit the slopes and not kill ourselves)
  • have a pleasant meal with some college friends before we...
  • see Avatar (cool use of 3D, the glasses are still dorky, and it doesn't in a million years deserve best picture)
  • fail to go out to dinner (not seating at 8:45 on a Tuesday night? In Concord?)
  • succeed in going out to dinner (just the two of us)
  • caulk the heck out of our first-floor windows to combat cold air drafts (I recommend this stuff - it has absolutely no odor)

and generally try to ignore the fact that, come this past Monday it was right back to the first-year resident grind: six weeks of in-patient hospital service, 70-80 hour weeks, shortened or non-existent weekends, and general drudgery for the whole family. This, in part, explains the lack of posts for the last week. The week before, vacation week, we have no excuse.

But please don't write us off yet, dear readers. We'll manage to come up with something interesting and entertaining for you soon. For now, just have fun looking back where we were this time last year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sad Rover

I am generally not one to anthropomorphize technology. The MacBook Pro upon which I scribe this posting is not my friend. While I was emotionally invested in a rover I worked on years back - it was not because it was my friend, either. If it was on the fritz, it was because I'd overlooked something or made some similar error. If it was successful, it was because we'd finally gotten it right and things fell into place.

Still, this comic just makes me really sad.