Blog #150



Another Sunset Row


  Professional photographers often seek the natural sunlight an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset; the series of pictures below show why that light is so special.  One challenge in Ohio is finding a place open enough to allow the low sun to shine on the ground, beyond the tall trees' shadows.  Most hills are tree covered and don't offer much of a vantage point.  Last night I took the girls out for a row.  Photography was not on my mind and I didn't even bring a camera.  I keep an old $2 garage sale 2MP Vivitar camera in the trunk of the car for these "just in case" occasions, however.  It's basic and crude and doesn't even have zoom capabilities.  This is the same camera that I took the swimming pictures with on the first blog of this month (below).  On the way to the lake it crossed my mind that I didn't bring a camera and we would be out during this golden hour. Halfway through the row I took a little break, climbed to the bow of the skiff and spazzed out to make the girls laugh.  I have learned that asking the girls to smile just doesn't work.  "Smile" to our children translates in their minds to; "make an awkward-fake-looking dorkish smirk".  They also rarely are in sync.  If I have the energy, making them laugh proves to be much more effective.  I know that its only a matter of time before Svea finds my laughter inducing behavior to be more embarrassing than funny, but for now I'll take what I can get.  Here are the seven best out of 19 pictures taken (the last one is our favorite):

(Click any picture to view in 1024x768 resolution)








Bubble Pool Revival



   We really haven't used the bubble pool very much this summer.  Yesterday, however, the fan/air-pump died for good.  Today Papa pulled out a spare shop vac and attached it to the bubbler since we still had a pool full of clean solution.  Above: Papa dodges bubble blobs.  Below: Britta pops out of the bubble pool.



Johnson's Island

   Last weekend we visited our the Bedell's at their cabin on Johnson Island (on lake Erie).  Johnson's Island is island accessible via a causeway from Marblehead.  We had a nice visit and walk followed by a great dinner.  At dusk we visited a graveyard for Civil War Confederate soldiers.  Much of Johnson's Island formally was a prisoner of war camp for confederate officers (mostly).  Although Johnson's Island Federal Prison did not have a poor reputation like other Civil War POW camps, at least 267 soldiers did not survive and are buried there. 



The roller coasters of Cedar Point Amusement Park are visible across the water from this graveyard.



Pachelbel Bedtime


I highly recommend listening to this man's YouTube song about bedtime in his home, sung to the tune of Pachelbel's Canon in D: Pachelbel Bedtime


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Blog #149





PC Meltdown


  Papa's emachines PC died a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately it had all of his current accounting and tax work on it.  New PCs only come with the new Windows Vista operating system but at least one of his programs requires XP or earlier.  Bill and Harriette needed a new PC so they bought another emachines.  I sorted though several old junkers and managed to find an old Windows 2000 PC to run the tax program.  I'm really too tired to go into detail but it was a lot of work to recover the data and programs and get everything working again.   Although the old 2000 machine is offline, Bill and Harriette now have two PCs in the porch.


  A day after Papa's PC went down, our old Windows 98 PC bit the dust.  Eight years of daily use is pretty amazing for a PC; especially for one that was a mid-high end hot-rod gaming machine.  A capacitor exploded in the power supply and must have damaged the motherboard in the process.  Bill's PC also appears to have taken a hit to it's motherboard; a bit of online research confirmed that his exact model was susceptible to motherboard damage.  I still wonder if we had some bad electricity surges running through our power lines, however. 


  About 5 years ago Joan's brother, John, kindly gave us the PC that we are now using.  Since then I've replaced everything but the motherboard, processor and case.  I used it and our two previous machines for playing an online WWII combat flight simulator game.  Online games have a way of evolving and requiring more and more resources to play.  After nearly eight years I stopped playing when the game became too advanced; that was about two years ago. 


  I've been contemplating buying or building a new machine capable of running current games for quite some time.  I am, however, poor and cheap and repeatedly gave up the idea when I realized how expensive an average gaming computer can be.  Having the old PC die, however, has forced me to revisit getting a new PC.  Our school lab has been refitted with Vista machines; I do much of my planning and make most of my lessons at home and need a PC that runs Vista.  I contemplated getting an ordinary machine just to do my school work and regular PC activities.  After I researched and familiarized myself with current hardware components I decided to build a new gaming machine.  I've read review after review and have visited dozens of component websites and compared every major and minor part with competitors and shopped online stores for the best prices.  I'm pretty confident that I'll be getting a lot of bang for my bucks and should have a machine that will be playable for years.  I also am more in tune with hardware components than I have ever been and have learned quite a bit in the past week or two.  As of yesterday, my parts are on their way.


  Unfortunately, school starts very soon and I am not prepared.  Windows Vista and Office 2007 have many major changes that should surely throw my students and I a few curves.  Most of my old lessons will require several changes before they can be used.  In the first few weeks I anticipate focusing on the new changes and teaching my older students how to save/convert 2007 documents so that they can be read on XP machines that they may have at home and in their regular classrooms.  Normally, my work load at the beginning of the year is quite heavy.  New PCs, operating systems, a reconfigured network and accounts should provide a challenging new year.  On the plus side our new principal is fantastic, all teachers are returning this year (which is a first) and enrollment looks relatively good. 


20/15 & 20/15


  Joan's eyes are looking good!


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Blog #148


& Joan


20/20 - 20/15


  Joan had her Lasik surgery yesterday; it went very well.  This morning she went in for her 24 hour check up and her eyes checked out at 20/20 and 20/15; usually there is a bit of improvement after the first 24 hours.  Perhaps she'll be stuck with just slightly better than normal vision or perhaps she'll be able to spot and catch distant rodents before the local hawks do.  Joan seems to be suffering slightly from sensory overload; we have reasoned that her brain is now dealing with much more accurate information than it is used to.  I think my eyesight is about 20/25 in both eyes.  We did a test today and Joan was able to read a sign at 100' that I could barely read at 60'.  Complications are still possible, but unlikely.  Thank you Dr. Lohman. 


Happy Birthday Svea

   Svea's birthday was supposed to be celebrated at our campsite on Kelly's Island.  The cake I bought and packed was supposed to be "good enough" for a camping birthday.  When we ended up coming home and celebrating her birthday here, the tiny carrot cake seemed... well.... less than spectacular.  Svea was a good sport though.


The cake drooped a bit from the car travel it received.


Svea received many wonderful birthday gifts, but probably the most anticipated was the second Harry Potter book.  We told her she had to be eight in order to read it. 


13 Things That Can Ruin a Camping Trip:

1. Thunderstorms and buckets of rain.

2. A tent that is not waterproof.

3. A tent that won't even stand up straight when sopping wet.

4. Cooking breakfast in the pouring rain.

5. Predictions of rain and thunderstorms throughout the day and night.

6. Wet sleeping mats.

7. Puddles in the tent.

8. Damp sleeping bags.

9. An inch of water on the paved camp ground streets.

10. Three bored kids who are confined to the inside of a van.

11. Packing wet things.

12. Having the muffler fall off your van on the drive home. (twice)

13. Drying out and repacking wet things.


   On Monday we drove to Marblehead (on Lake Erie), had a picnic, viewed the lighthouse and caught the ferry to Kelly's Island.  We had a reserved camping spot on the island, and had a very enjoyable evening.  The girls played on a sandy beach and I went for a nice paddle.  We got a decent nights sleep before the thunderstorm got us up around 6:00 AM.  We were planning on spending two nights but figured that we really wouldn't have that much fun in the pouring rain.  It was Svea's birthday and was bound to be memorable, but not great.  We voted, packed up and drove home.  The van dropped it's muffler in such a way that it was pushing it down the highway instead of dragging it.  I managed to tie it to the frame and we made it home.  We celebrated the remainder of Svea's birthday by going out to Bob Evans; she loved that place.

 The shore at Marblehead is filled with wonderful boulders and small clam shells.  After our lunch they spent time climbing, jumping and throwing rocks into the lake.


Some of the rocks had algae on them and were quite slippery.  Annika's bottom shows where she slipped and fell in the muddy green slime.


 The weather was perfect.  It was hot, but a nice breeze blew in from the lake.


 The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse still in operation on the Great Lakes.  It was built in 1822.


 A view from the top of the lighthouse.  We all had to climb 77 open iron steps to the top.  Not for the faint of heart (or apparently for the Hall girls who were quite squeamish)


A small museum is housed on the grounds of the lighthouse.  We went inside and learned about the  nautical history of the area.


 The ferry ride was one of the highlights of Monday.  Many people stayed in their cars for the four mile trip, but the girls wanted out.  We all enjoyed the calm waters, cool breezes and the views of the lake.


 Our van and kayak.  Several other cars on this trip ended up being our neighbors at the  campground.


 An aerial view of Kelly's Island.  Our campground and beach were close to the small curving rock wall that can be seen near the top of the hooked shaped bay on the right of the picture.  David kayaked  around the shore from the campground all the way to the tip of the peninsula and straight back to the rock wall.


 A still shot of the chaos and commotion that accompanied our sleep announcement.  Annika kicked, rolled and walked on every other member of the camping party before being coerced into relaxation.


 More of the "sleeping" children.



Annika Bits

   At the dinner table Annika usually complains about all of the kinds of food that she does not yet have on her plate; she does this as soon as she sits down, before anyone is served.  The other day she impatiently went on and on about what she didn't have.  I gave her a lecture about waiting patiently and pointed out that no one had been served yet.  The family began grace, "Bless us o Lord..." followed by, "God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for this food."  Annika immediately mumbled, "I don't have any food."


   Thursday night there was a big storm with much thunder, lightning, wind and three tornadoes touched down in the next county.  We watched the weather closely and explained to the children that we would head to the basement if a tornado looked eminent.  We were also concerned about Papa and Nana, who were at a doctor's office and then planned to stop by a funeral home.  The TV said that there was an active tornado about where we expected them to be.  They ended up skipping the funeral home and came home early.  When they walked in Annika exclaimed, "Papa! Nana! we thought you were in a TOMATO!"


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Blog #147






And Then:



   A month before we were married we had a engagement luau in Alaska for my friends and my parents friends who would not be able to attend our wedding in Ohio.  My aunt, Jeanie, took this picture above.  It has always been one of our favorites.

   Tonight we went to the German Family Society Hawaiian Night Dinner.  Joan wore the same dress and I wore the same shirt that we wore 11 years ago.  Joan also dressed our daughters as loudly as possible.  Below is the silly version of our Hawaiian family portrait.


Click picture to view in 1024 x 768 resolution.


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Blog #146




Pittsburg Pennsylvania Fake Diorama


My latest fake tilt-shift diorama:

Click here to view in 1024 x 768 resolution.


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Blog #145



Tour De Stupid


   I've been biking quite often lately.  I had a local bike shop install higher and faster gears, a new chain and an odometer.  The bike has a better gear range now and I'm not stuck in top gear all the time.  I love the speedometer and odometer; it's really useful to help determine the best gear for a particular moment.  I've managed to hit 41 MPH on a downhill; I like numbers over basic adjectives.  My regular bike route is a 17 mile circuit that takes me through parts of six local cities; they've torn up most the bike trail for repaving, however.  This has forced me to explore other options.  It's not easy to find good maps or accurate information as to where the local bike routs are.  Many parts of the bike routes are really just regular roads, some have wider shoulders.  Using a rough approximate bike route map in conjunction with Google Earth, however, Joan and I found the main Metro Parks bike trail.  The access is about seven miles away.  On Monday I drove to a park that accesses the trail and biked 13 miles toward Cleveland and back.  This morning I figured a route by roads I could bike that takes me to the same trail system. 


   Today I learned that I am still capable of biking 50 miles in one nonstop ride.  By "capable" I mean that I am still alive.  I kept pushing my turn around goal from 15 to 20 then to 25 miles.  Near Bridal Veil Falls - Bedford I turned around; my trip odometer hit 25 miles.  I'd kind of dug myself into a deep hole by going so far.  I've conditioned myself for 60 to 70 minute rides and felt fine after two hours on the bike.  At 35 miles I ran out of water and the 91 degree temperature started to get to me, however.  Only three hours of sleep last night probably didn't help things either.  The last 10 miles were a real struggle.  Five miles from home I stopped at a day care center and asked for water; it helped much.  By the time I got home I felt pretty awful; I probably had some heat or dehydration issues.  Orange juice, water and a nap brought me back up to a regular tired level.  My route today took me 2/3 of the way to Cleveland.


Swimming Lessons





   Svea, Brigitta and Annika took swim lessons this summer at Maca, Tallmadge’s outdoor pool. Since we weren’t going to Alaska, it seemed the perfect opportunity to have them learn. This year Britta joined her older sister in the Level One Class (for those who won’t put their head under the water). This is Svea’s third time in Level One, Brigitta’s first. On the first day of class, they like the others refused to put their heads under and we all imagined swim classes being a total bust. Much to our surprise and glee, both girls passed the Level One this time and also passed Level Two by the end of the summer. We may be getting some bona fied swimmers in this house! We have gone to the pool quite often for some free swim time and the girls practice what they have learned in class – obviously this has helped. Just yesterday both girls learned to take a breath and continue swimming without putting their feet down for confidence. We are considering giving them swim lessons over the course of the school year at the natatorium so they don’t lose their newly acquired skills. Annika was in a parent/child class and she enjoyed every minute in the water even to the point of letting us dunk her under once in a while.


The Civil War in Four Minutes

   If you like history, watch this four minute film that shows land occupied by the North and the South during the American Civil War.  Note the casualty counters in the lower right corner.  I've found it amazing and enlightening.  The Civil War in Four Minutes


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