Uncle Roger's Notebooks of Daily Life
My life is, to me, ripe with frequent challenges, occasional successes, spontaneous laughter, adequate tears, and enough *life* to last me a lifetime. To you, however, it surely seems most pedestrian. And therefore, I recycle the name I used previously and call this my Notebooks of Daily Life. Daily, because it's everyday in nature, ordinary. These conglomeration of events that are my life are of interest to me because I live it, perhaps mildly so to those who are touched by it, and could only be of perverse, morbid curiosity to anyone else. Yet, I offer them here nonetheless. Make of them what you will, and perhaps you can learn from my mistakes.
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Thursday, June 30, 2005
Whenever I need to heat something in the microwave, I always set it for eleven, twenty-two, thirty-three, forty-four, etcetera seconds. If the directions say to cook something for two and a half minutes, I put it in for 2:22. I'm sure you see the pattern here.
It's much quicker and more efficient to locate the 2 button and press it three times than it is to find the 2, press it, find the 3, press it, find the 0, and press it. The difference of a few seconds really doesn't matter; if I had a lower power microwave oven, I might go 2:33 or even 2:44.
Those seven-day pillboxes are pretty handy for remembering to take your meds -- when you take your pill for the day, leave that day's box open to show you have indeed taken it that day. Filling them, however, can be somewhat challenging; trying to the pill under the lid of the boxes is difficult for those of us with larger fingers.
The trick is to flip it over on its back. That way, instead of the covers pointing up at a forty-five degfree angle and you having to get the pill in underneath, horizontally, without dropping it, the opening is suddenly facing upward and all you have to do is drop the pill in. It hits the lid, slides down, and sits, waiting to be tipped into the bottom of the pillbox. After dropping all the pills in, just tip it forward and close all the covers.
By the way, you do know you only have to fill a seven-day pillbox every eight days, right?
Wait! Don't throw out that old toothbrush! Keep it around for cleaning car parts, electronics, antiques and collectibles, and so on. It can be handy for cleaning dog-poop from the bottom of your tennis shoes (throw it out afterwards!). Just about any small cleaning job can be handled by an old toothbrush.
If you have an SUV, minivan, or practically any vehicle with tiedown points in the rear loadspace, keep a foot-long bungee cord handy. In our Land Rover Disco, I keep it hooked between the tiedown point on the floor and the hook above it intended for the loadspace cover.
When you are parked facing up hill at the grocery store, pull your cart up to the car and hook one end of the bungee cord to the tiedown point and the other to the side of the cart. This keeps the cart from rolling away as you load and arrange your purchases.
You know the plastic cases that packs of 50 or 100 CD-R's come in? With the pole up the middle? Hang on to 'em. Every now and then (more now than then, preferably) copy your most important files onto a CD. Label the CD with the contents and date (nothing fancy, a Sharpie will do) and drop it onto the spindle.
Keep doing this and pretty soon you'll have a handy archive of your files. The most recent version will be on top for easy access (in case you need to recover a document) and older versions can be had simply by digging further down the stack.
If you like backpacking, but also like good food and want to make a dish with fresh chicken, prepare the chicken before you go. Dice the chicken, saute it with the appropriate spices or sauce, let it cool, and put it in a large ziplock bag. Make sure you squeeze out the excess air and roll it into a sort of log shape. Then put it in the freezer for a day or two.
When you take it out to hit the trail, you'll have a frozen log o' chicken. Simply slip it into your pack and use it within the next day or two. By the time you hit camp it will be defrosted enough to use and, depending on the weather, should stay cold enough to last until your second night. You can also slip it into a snowbank or drop it in an ice-cold stream to have it last longer (assuming no bears or other critters will get to it.)
Cucumbers should be sliced thick, onions paper thin.
If you want to empty a small-mouthed bottle of water (or other non-carbonated liquid) quickly, turn it upside down and move it in a circular motion to set up a whirlpool in the liquid going out. This allows the air to flow inward, up the middle at the same time as the water spirals down the outside.
For those interested, this is what happens with tornadoes. A layer of heavier, cold air sits atop a layer of lighter, warmer air and manages to punch a hole towards the ground. The cold air pours down as the warm air moves up. Check out the Wikipedia for a more detailed (and more accurate) explanation.
Even if a pot or serving dish is clean, it's not a bad idea to give it a quick rinse if it's been sitting a while, just in case.
If you are interested in starting a conversation with someone in a bar or other, public place, try asking where they got their shirt, sweater, or what-have-you. For extra points, comment that you think your sister/brother would really like it.
If your shower controls are of the sort where one knob controls the temperature and the other controls the pressure, I strongly recommend that you turn the pressure off before turning down the temperature. Unless, of course, you want to wake up suddenly and shockingly.
To avoid excess foam when pouring soda into a glass, pour slowly enough so that air can flow into the bottle even as the soda pours out. If you pour too fast, the bottle "gulps", alternating between soda going out and air coming in. This turbulence stirs up the carbonation, causing foam.
When pouring beer, tip the glass and pour the beer on the side so it flows gently to the bottom without falling too far. Again, this is to avoid foam-generating turbulence.
Last Saturday, right before we left for Calistoga, we had a first birthday party for Sara. We invited thirty-two adults and twelve children. Of those, twenty-three adults and ten children came. Add the four of us to the mix and you get a grand total of thirty-seven people in a two-bedroom house.
While we were in Calistoga, my glasses broke. A trip to the local optometrist and some crazy glue didn't help, so I wandered around blind all week.
Last night, we had a special celebration for Diane's birthday. Given that it was her seventieth, we wanted to make it special. After dinner, everyone planned some sort of entertainment.
Oh, and by the way, we'll be in Calistoga for a week, so I may not get this updated for the duration. More tips when I get back!
I remember hearing the story of a small town barber who suddenly found himself with some big city competition. He was the only barber in town when one of the low-cost chains opened up shop just up the street. The new shop, expecting to win customers because of their low prices, put up a sign advertising "6 dollar haircuts".
Keep a package of baby wipes on hand, even if you dou't have a baby. They're incredibly handy for a quick clean-up when you don't have access to a sink, they'll clean-up toys and other items easily, and they can even be used to wipe a baby's bottom. They generally come in inexpensive, convenient packages, perfect for keeping in the car.
Jared had his first swim lesson today. It was a challenge.
If you're storing leftovers (or anything else, for that matter, so long as its not fragile) in ziploc-type bags, zip them closed almost all the way and then squeeze the excess air out of the bag. You might have to fold the bag over and sort of roll the air out, but that's okay. Getting the excess air out will save you a lot of space.
Something I've wanted for quite a while is some sort of networked storage. Something hanging off the network that any computer could see and access. Something to hold MP3 files and pictures, and information and files of general interest to family and friends. Well, I finally got one.
If you have kids, and you find an inexpensive toy that will keep them happy and occupied for an extended period, go out and buy at least two more.
If it really works that well you're bound to lose it. Even if you don't, you'll want to keep one in the car (one for each if you have multiple vehicles), one in the diaper bag, and one at the grandparents' house. Don't forget, too, that toys often wear out or break, and you don't want to suddenly find yourself without something that you've come to rely on in order to get some sleep.
Actually, this applies to other areas as well. If you have a favorite kitchen utensil, for example, you don't want to have it end up in the garbage disposal only to discover that a replacement is no longer available.
Normally, volunteering at the Jewish Home is a true mitzvah -- a blessing, a joyous event. "Productive work that is enjoyed." Sometimes, though, something will hit home especially hard. A laugh, a familiar phrase, song on the radio, a child stroking her mother's hair as she sings to her.
I miss my dad, always, but sometimes, it's harder than usual.
Binder clips are great for containing, controlling, and routing cables. Clip them, with the cable(s) in question inside, to the edge of your desk, keyboard drawer, or just about any protruding surface. They're not beautiful, but they work, they're easily movable, and they're cheap. Can't beat that.
On Saturday last, local television station KRON hosted a get-together of local bloggers (man I hate that term!). The stated agenda was that there was no agenda other than to meet people. So of course, I went.
Wanna strike up a conversation with someone holding a baby? Hoping for a single mom/dad, or maybe an uncle or aunt? Two words: "How old?" That's all it takes to get the ball rolling.
Innocuous, simple, honest, and people seem to love to talk about their kids. Or other people's kids. Kids in general, really. For best effect, follow it up with a "Ooh, so cute!" After that, you're on your own.
Rachel called to tell me that Jared went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, climbed in, and closed the door.
Don't put your name and address on the outside of your luggage where it can be read easily. If you do, you're simply telling everyone where there is a home that will be unoccupied for a while -- ripe for the robbing.
If you're the sort that takes your CD's with you to listen at work or in the car, make a backup first and take the backup instead.
When I was in college, one of my hobbies was robbing banks.
Keep an extra set of clothes in a watertight container in your car. Keep it simple -- sweatpants, t-shirt, etc. You can use a Tupperware-style container, ziploc bags, or an old ammo can. They all work fine.
You never know when you'll be out an about and need an emergency change of clothing -- whether you fall in the pool at a party, get thrown up on, or what... it's handy to have that spare set available to you when you need it.
Yesterday, Daniel came over to watch Jared and Sara while Gemma & Nana went to Cassie's graduation. Sara spent most of the time asleep on Kaiva's chest in the rocking chair, but Jared and Daniel made themselves useful.
If your eye doctor says to look out of your other eye, do it.
If you are working with a flashlight and need to put it down, do not put it down light-side down. You stand the chance of forgetting that it's on, leaving it that way, and killing your batteries. Lie it on its side or stand it on the other end to be safe.
I had an interesting discussion with a coworker today. He brought up the tale of a shoplifter who tried to get away and ended up stabbing a police officer. His original comment was that the suspect had to be pretty stupid, especially to turn a simple shoplifting conviction into assault with a deadly weapon or worse.
As my father often said, I'd lose my own head if it weren't screwed on tight. Dugh offered a general tip for not losing things like keys and wallets and such (one that I think I will implement, by the way). I have a much more specific version.
I keep my wallet and pens in my front right pocket and my keys and money in my front left. On my belt (clockwise from my belt buckle) is a memory card case, a leatherman, my PDA, and my cellphone. All of these are easily lost items. And yet, I've rarely lost any of them.
The trick is that when I take my pants off every night, I leave everything in my pockets and on my belt (and the belt on my pants). That way, in the morning, I know exactly where everything is and I can simply move everything from pocket to pocket. So the tip is to just leave everything in your pants so you can find it again.
If you're a single woman who wants to go out for the evening without being hounded by single men, just slip a ring on your left hand. It won't keep every wolf away, but it will certainly help.
The Mouse Came Back, The Very Next Day
Some people believe in simply replacing their computer when it becomes too outdated, they want additional functionality, or they encounter problems. Others prefer to put their money into upgrading their existing computer rather than replacing it. It appears that Jared falls into the latter group.
On Sunday, I fished eleven cents out of my floppy drive that Jared put in to it. Tools used: one drill bit, one pocket screwdriver, two pairs of tweezers (one ruined in the process.)
Do you like iced coffee, but don't like watering down your coffee with ice? Next time you make coffee, make a little too much. Pour the extra into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Once the cubes are frozen, empty the tray into a freezer ziplock bag to keep out stray odors and flavors. Next time you want iced coffee, just pop in a few coffee cubes instead of ordinary ice.
Gonna have a kid? Save yourself some money. (Don't worry -- you'll be spending plenty over the next 20 years or so.) Don't get one of those fancy-schmancy diaper bags for $60 or more... Just get yourself a decent quality $20 backpack -- the kind kids tote to school all over the country.
If you are in the position of having to deal with diapers, and you've made the choice to use non-disposable, cloth diapers, you may find yourself in a somewhat smelly situation if you're out and about and your pride and joy needs a change.
The trick is to carry some gallon-size freezer ziplock bags. Slip the dirty diaper (cover and all) into the ziplock, zip it up, and be on your merry way odor free (mostly). This also keeps the hazardous waste contained and away from, well, everything.
You can't catch a cold from being out in the cold.
So feel free to frolic naked in the snow.
My home office gets pretty warm on even a mildly nice day. On a very nice day, like today, it gets quite hot. And that's only part of why Microsoft must die.
Next time you get coffee in a paper take-out cup, pause a moment before putting on that plastic lid.
You'll find, as you go through life, that people will give you more advice than you'll know what to do with. Don't tune them out, however. Take their advice, and all the other advice you get, roll it around in your brain, see what makes sense to you, and make your own decisions.
This is especially true when it comes to kids -- people are eager to tell you how to care for your kid. "Keep them wrapped up in lots of warm clothes"; "let them run around naked -- the fresh, cool air is good for them." Listen to them, weight their advice (i.e., your pediatrician probably gives better advice than your mother-in-law), and do what you think best.