Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. Perhaps my favorite night of the year. The Christmas music at our house has turned from the jazzy and whimsical to much more traditional flavor. King's College Singers, Rita Ford's Music Box, a pipe organ and church bell album, and a Medieval carols album - along with some baroque brass just to water it down a bit but still keep the feel.
The tree is glowing, bursting with presents. Mom and Vicki are playing cards at the dining room table. I have a great Boulevard Nutcracker ale in one of our fancy pilsner glasses. I think I'd break out the Gloria Blend incense if Vicki could stand it. Oh well.

I just finished decorating about 7 dozen sugar cookies. Made the date nut bars and mexican wedding cakes yesterday. And we have the fudge and Vicki's butterscotch cornflake thingies. Brian and Kristin will be over in an hour or so for the traditional Adams Christmas Eve dinner of oyster stew & cinnamon pears.

Man, you know it's Christmas in this house.

New favorite Christmas albums for this year are Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band's "A Tapestry of Carols" (I can't get enough of her voice -- kind of like Vicki and Il Divo) and I discovered the King's College, Cambridge Choir -- those Brits sure know how to do Christmas music.

I pulled up another pretty good one today on Rhaspody -- that being the Vancouver Cantata Singers. That's Vancouver BC, not WA. Nice stuff.

Anyway, sorry for the lapses in posts. A Merry Christmas to all five of my readers (ok, so I guess a few more people than that actually read it) and especially to Katie, Sam, Matt, and my dear Aunt Pat out in Colorado -- one of my favorite states. I know Katie & Sam won't see this until after Christmas ... but I'm wishing it now.

And a Happy Birthday to my Aunt Pat as well.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

IE7 - Sucks

When I recently flashed my Creative Zen Nomad MP3 player to the latest firmware, my computer at home couldn't seem to install a driver for it. (the one at work worked just fine). So I uninstalled the previous Nomad software and rebooted. No luck.

So I decided to go out and get ALL the windows updates.

I got them, including IE7, and I could get to the device after that (it's only halfway, but that's another issue. It works well enough).

Now I leave my computer on all the time at home. I have a cable modem. It's ready to look anything up on the net I want to. Check email. Whatever. Anyway, after the updates I noticed that if the computer goes to sleep, when I wake it up network connectivity is all screwed up. Well at least network connectivity for IE and Outlook Express.

At first I blamed it on the new router. But the new router worked fine for a couple of weeks before this happened. The triggering event seems to have been around the time I did the Windows update.

And get this -- I could connect to websites with Firefox while IE was locked up and couldn't connect to anything. Outlook Express would lock up, too. Logging out of the user interface and logging back in, I think, seemed to get rid of it -- but what a pain.

I decided to go back to 6. But first, to uninstall 7. Which I did. Well, as well as you can uninstall IE from windows. No icons for it anywhere, but it was still the default browser. So when I clicked on links from Firefox, up came the "uninstalled" IE7.

I went hunting around with Firefox to find IE6 at Microsoft. It kept directing me to Service Pak 2. Install Service Pak 2 to get IE6???? But what about all those post SP2 patches? Then I have to run them again? And make sure IE7 doesn't get re-installed?

I also read somewhere that IE7 disables IE6 anyway, so it may be all for naught.

But I read somewhere else that there are instructions for going back... so it may naught be ;-)


Incidentally, I installed Mozilla Thunderbird as an email client, and Firefox is my default browser now. Guess what? The machine doesn't lock up anymore when you leave it sitting and it goes to sleep (monitor/hard drives turn off) and you wake it back up.

My review on IE7 so far??? Boooooo!!!!!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

O Christmas Tree

Got the tree up over the weekend. Well, at the end, anyway. Friday was the Unrath's annual Christmas party, which is always a houseful of chatter. That's the gauge of the success of anything bigger than a very small party. If you have to speak up a little to be heard over all the voices. The volume of the voices. That's the measure. Once again, what I would call a huge success.

Saturday we went to Kevin & Brian's open house for the Grand Opening of their security and sound buisiness (Command Security -- go check 'em out, today! ;-) ) Kevin had built and installed the demo security, TV, & sound systems. Kevin ... and maybe Jay, another co-owner, built all of the display "walls" and installed demo systems throughout the office/store. It looks good. They have a surround sound demo room with a plasma TV, and all kinds of nifty home security and automation devices complete with monitors, video and otherwise. Makes you feel in Command of your security. And Sound. ;-)

From there we went to Bill's open house at Lawn and Leisure (fellow Elk and local farm equipment dealer) where he had a gigantic steak luncheon for like 300 people. Vicki and I watched Sam & Bill & Don & Greg play pitch in the "Lawn and Leisure Social Club" for a couple of hours, then we all ended up over at the Elks for a couple more hours. So I got nothing done that I'd planned to Saturday afternoon.

Sunday the tree had to go up. We're running out of time. We got it last weekend and it's been in the garage, still tied up from shipping from Michigan to Columbia. I'd had it in a bucket of water, and it had started taking water up pretty well by friday. Cut another inch off and brought it in.

Of course, since it was never unbound we didn't get a chance to have it "shaken out" at the tree farm. So there were LOTS of needles. But it turned out to be about a perfectly shaped tree. So I put some Christmas music on and strung the lights up. We'll probably get around to decorating it tonight.

Last night Brian and Kristin came over to watch the first half of the Bears-Rams game. Of course, Vicki and Brian are huge Bears fans. And I used to be a St. Louis football Cardinals fan, but I disowned them when they moved. And I just can't get past the idea that the Rams are supposed to be in LA. So I never adopted them. I think the team name should stay with the city, frankly. I have nothing against the Rams. Just can't seem to identify with them as a St. Louis team.

The Rams played close for the first half, but it was pretty much all Bears in the second half.

Mean time I'm in the middle of a Z-pak getting rid of a persistent low-grade sinus infection that had gone to my ears. It's muuuuuch better already. This is the beginning of day 5.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Winter Walkabout

As I mentioned, we decided to go on winter walkabout down at Cedar Creek Sunday morning. My only stipulatoin was that I had to be back by 2:30 to go to the tree farm with Brian & Kristin (and, of course, Vicki -- but that should go without saying).

We got to the Cedar Creek wildlife area before 10 am, after going and grabbing the traditional dogs and buns at the grocery store. Nobody had been on the trail since the snow. It was a virgin snow trail -- and good thing we knew about where it was, as it was, of course -- burried.

Early on in the trail is a grove of large cedar trees, and it was like entering "Christmas Land" going past the first ones, as 20-30 foot cedars loaded down with snow towered around us. The only tracks in the snow were numerous rabbit tracks and several deer tracks. Every now and then you'd see a little rabbit sized hole in the snow, and rabbit tracks leading out of it. I guess their fur keeps them warm even when surrounded by snow.

The snow was about knee deep and powdery - it moved easily. It also stuck to my dungarees, and by the time we reached the island, the bottoms were frozen tubes, practically clanking against my ankles.

We set about finding material to make a fire. Most of what we found that looked dry had been soaked in the days of rain before the snow storm and frozen -- so it didn't catch easily. We finally wandered a couple of hundred yards to a known cedar grove where we found plenty of drier dead ceader twigs to get things started. Cedar has an oil in it that helps it catch even if it isn't completely dry.

Still having trouble with the magnifying glass method, we actually ended up after several healthy tries -- using matches, because time was a factor. We didn't scrounge up much wood, but enough for a small, hot fire that melted the ice from my pants and had steam pouring off of them into the 18 degree air.

I was feeling a little queasy, though, and the smoke wasn't helping. I ended up just eating buns, because the hotdog didn't sound good. I wasn't really even in the mood for taking many pictures -- which was a shame considering the scenery. I did get some, as you can see. We never even got around to firing the guns -- usually a staple of walkabout. There are typically cans that less wilderness conscious people leave lying around and/or they've floated down the stream and gotten caught on the island. But they were all under 15" or so of snow. And it was cold. And I did need to get back by 2:30. So after a successful fire, albiet using matches -- gathering and cutting/breaking up burnable wood was challenge enough, and it was time to put the fire out and go.

I got home in time to stablize my stomach with some tums & sparkling water -- and by sitting very still for a bit. Then Brian & Kristin showed up to take us to the tree farm in Brian's gigantic pickup -- which was quite handy considering even Nifong had a thick blanket of very bumpy ice on it.

Apparently a re-enforcing front passed between the time we left Cedar Creek and the time we got out to the tree farm. The wind picked up, and it was waaaaaaaay too cold to spend a lot of time outside picking out a tree. The wind chill must have been in the single digits.

A lot of the firs hadn't been unbound, and we always get a fir. They can't grow them right here, this tree farm grows pines, but imports firs from tree farms in Michigan. And being so cold even if you unwrapped one it wouldn't fall out so you could see how it looked. Eh. In the end, they all look fine once you get the lights and ornaments on them So we (and Brian and Kristin) each got one and put them in the pickup before going into the little gnome Christmas store to look at their ornamengs, get some glogg, and pay for the trees. And ornaments. You always have to get an ornament.

Got back and thawed the trees in the garage with Mr. Heater, the catalytic propane heater. Kevin and Angela came over and joined all of us for some turkey noodle soup -- yeah, that's HOME MADE, Jack, with Reems noodles and turkey frome the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey we froze a week ago. Real live chopped up carrots, celery, and onion. Poultry seasoning, salt & pepper. That's pretty much all it takes. And a big stock pot. I have a huge one.

After dinner we sat around and yacked a while while Angela made Vicki a necklace to match some earrings Vicki had bought in Eureka Springs -- she matched it very well. Found the beads herself and made it right before our eyes, and added a magnetic clasp. Vicki's very happy with it. Kristin was feeling pretty sick (turns out she has strep -- we found out today) and Brian and Kristin took their tree home. A bit later Kev & Angela left and we pretty much crashed.

So, that pretty much sums up the snowy weekend.


A good snow around here is 6". 8" is not uncommon. 2-4" is much more common.

We got one of those one-in-8 to 10 year snowstorms Thursday night. At first, it looked like it was going to do what most early-season snowstorms do around here -- that is, a warm layer aloft would persist long enough to ensure all we got was a bit of sleet.

The same amount of water that makes about 1" of rain makes just a few inches of sleet and about 10-12" of snow. So if it stays sleet, it doesn't pile up as much. Still, the forecast called for 10-15" in our area. But we've seen that before and been disappointed.

We went to bed about 10:30, and we had about 2" of sleet outside. The forecast called for heavy snow overnight -- a lot of it between 11pm and 2am. I got up, thirsty, at about 1:00 am. Looked outside. Still about the same amount of sleet, and it looked kind of "foggy" -- but it was probably snow.

I went back to bed convinced we'd have about an inch or two of snow on top of 2 or 3 inches of sleet.

We got up -- Vicki wanted to leave early because she wanted to avoid the traffic problems caused by people who freak out if there's even a trace of snow on the ground. I looked outside expecting to see what I had expected to see -- not a lot.
Apparently sometime between 1:00 am and 6:00 am, we got about a foot of snow. Vicki's car was smothered, and snow had drifted against the wall outside. I looked out on the deck. A good 2 feet piled up there. But it hadn't occurred to us yet that that was too much to drive a passenger car in. So we started getting ready as we watched the local weather channel and slowly it dawned on us that we weren't going anywhere today.

Paul Jackson (down the street) had stayed up all night watching it. He said we had thundersnow, and whiteout. The weather guy (we call him "Doogie" because he looks like Doogie Hauser) said it had been falling at 2-3" an hour. I know, not much for you northerners, lake-effecter's, and mountain folk. But that's pretty exciting for us here in mid Missouri. Anyway, I missed seeing it fall. I slept like a log.

I spent about two hours shovelling out our driveway that afternoon, figuring the folks the neighborhood association hire to do it had their hands full and we might not see them for a day or two. I got out to the street right when they showed up to do it. They do our street as well. The city STILL (three days later) hasn't gotten to the surrounding streets... so we're the only clear street in the neighborhood. Even Huntridge still has about 4" of packed ice on it right now, and you have to drive over that to get to our street.

We put some split pea soup on (we had the dried peas, a can of carrots, and a frozen hambone --whoohoo!). Sam came by after running snowblades on campus all day and pulling stuck cars out. He was tired and cold. So we had a fire and fed him soup before he headed home to his animals.

Anyway, we got out Saturday and did a little grocery and Wally World shopping. There are walls of snow everywhere, pushed up by the plows. Columbia doesn't have the resources to deal efficiently with a snowfall like this. And we don't get them very often, so that's ok. Traffic was very slow, there was about 4" of ice on any road that wasn't a major road, and even some of the major roads were still like that by late Saturday afternoon.

On our way home we were driving by Peking ... and it just sounded good. So we stopped in and had a nice meal there. And then had a ... "happy evening" over at Daryl's with the Williams. And it was there that it was decided Ryan and I would go on Walkabout on Sunday.

(to be continued)