Category Archives: Castle Willett

Home Alone

We’ve lived in this house for over twenty-six years. There have always been kids, wives (not multiple ones at the same time, smartass!), dogs, cats, etc.

Tonight I’m home alone for what I think is only the third or fourth day in that entire span. It’s a little odd.

For one thing it’s quiet. Like, really quiet. While I’ve been watching the World Baseball Classic on television (let’s hear it for the USA!!) I’ve found it easier to watch with the sound off. Fewer annoying ads that way, and no need to keep turning the sound off and on as the ads come and go.

Then the noises started.

Okay, so I’m not entirely alone. It sounds like Rocky and/or Raquel and the brood are up on the roof. I’m used to that, although it’s surprisingly loud when I’m not hearing it over music or the television.

Once they left, I started hearing a chirping every minute or so. Today, of all days, a smoke alarm started getting low on its battery.

Once I killed that, I was startled by some fairly loud gurgling and watery sounds. I honestly didn’t know what it was and was starting to fear the worst when I got up to investigate. It turns out my short-term memory also sucks – the sounds came from the dish washer I had started a while ago.

(Which is also weird. I’m proud of my “dish washer Tetris” skills but had to start it when it was less than half full. With just me and my visiting son here for a few days, we used paper plates but ran out of silverware. I thought it better to run a half-empty dishwasher rather than going out and buying more silverware.)

Then the music started. I was in the living room but I could hear music from my office. I came in here to find some great tunes playing from my usual Sirius-XM station. The only thing is that there’s apparently no browser open, and it’s not playing a recording from an earlier broadcast, so I have no clue why it started suddenly or how it’s playing.

At least my poltergeists share my taste in music! (Or they can’t change the channel.)

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Filed under Castle Willett, Computers, Critters, Family, Music

Another Year Forward

Another year in the rearview mirror.

Mourn the passing of the one gone, or celebrate the arrival of the one to come?

How about we do both? We’ll gather what family we can, build a funeral pyre (well, light off the gas grill – same thing), and sacrifice some meat to the gods of BBQ?

As one does for the first BBQ of the season.

Here’s to another 365.25!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

Fred The Wonder Lizard!

Last Sunday was finally warm after days and days of wet, grey, gloomy weather. Coming back in from breakfast and grocery shopping, we found Fred out sunning himself. (Or herself – we’ve never checked that closely and wouldn’t know what to check for if we did and would just get bitten for our effort, so screw it.)

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Normally at the first sight of us Fred will skitter off at Warp Eight. But not on Sunday. He just sat there. We actually had to be careful stepping over him, expecting him to make a break for the bushes at any second.

Nada. Ten minutes later, when I came back out with the camera, he was still there in the same spot.

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I was quite surprised at how close I was able to get with the camera, down to about six inches. At first I thought he might be dead, but then I could see his eyes were open and darting back and forth.

He might have been waiting to soak up those last few photons that he needed to reboot his cold-blooded little carcass, because all of a sudden he spun about 10° to face me, opened his mouth in astonishment (okay, he might have been hissing at me), and took off at Warp Sixty-Four.

I had thought that he might be in danger out there of the local hawks and other birds, but then I realized what his game was. He’s Fred the Wonder Lizard! He was luring the hawks down by playing dead, at which point he was going to kick their ass and take them as prey back to his lair!

A tough guy, indeed!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Power Interruption

I woke up this morning to some clicking noises. Some were coming from my phone. Some were coming from the cable box, DVD player, and television in the room. In my hazy state I knew that they had all started up for a reason – we had had a power outage. The phone was buzzing with notices coming in from our security cameras that they were back online and had been out for ten minutes. The electronics were all powering up, resetting, resyncing, and restoring service.

The power outage led to problems. Some of the equipment, such as the DVR, hadn’t handled the outage very well and needed to be reprogrammed. One of the cable boxes appears to have gone insane and will probably need to be replaced.

The computers throughout the house had to be rebooted and some of them had problems to be resolved.

Shortly after noon I tried to send an email on my work account, only to get error messages that it couldn’t be sent. It took a few minutes, but it occurred to me that the problem could be that our server at the office was offline and if the power outage wasn’t just our neighborhood, that could have been the cause. That would be a problem, and I would either have to face it and fix it on Tuesday morning (when it was a much bigger problem and when I’m already double and triple booked) or I could fix it now (when it was a relatively small problem).

A “no brainer” if I’ve ever seen one. Ten minutes later I was at the office and yes, they had gone through the same power outage. The server had powered back up, but was not connecting. I called our networking guru and a couple hours later we were back online.

So what?

It occurs to me that this is a microcosm for some of the bigger things in life. We’re so used to our routine, but our routine (and the expectations we have on a daily basis) is so tied to the assumptions that there will be uninterrupted power. That power might not be strictly electrical as in this morning’s mess, but could also be social, cultural, political, or any number of other “al’s.” Interruptions always have the potential to cause chaos.

Think of a transit strike, or one of the legendary Southern California grocery store strikes. Those interruptions to our social systems can have big consequences.

Think of a political interruption. We saw in the US what happens when Congress forces the government to shut down because of their budget battles. We always see sudden and often unexpected changes during the switch from one Presidential administration to another. (Some more than others…)

The first step in dealing with any of these interruptions is to cope. I’ll get a new cable box for the one that fried. I rebooted the computers and reprogrammed the DVR. We find other grocery stores and put up with the long lines and lousy selections. We find other ways to get to work and around town.

The second step, once the situation is a little bit more under control, is to figure out what went wrong and what kind of systems and safeguards can be put into place to prevent it from happening again. Maybe I can get an Uninterruptible Power Supply for the computers. Maybe we can try to diversify the monopolistic grocery store market so that we can be sure to have options if one goes on strike.

Politically, let’s keep those two steps in mind. First, cope. Second, figure out what’s broken and work to change it or fix it.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Politics

Last Light

Well, it’s almost the last light for this year’s Christmas light display. They may be on tomorrow & I might not be able to actually get them down on Sunday if the weather sucks, but if nothing else I’ll pull the plug on Sunday.

This was the first (almost) clear night in a couple of weeks, so I took the opportunity to grab a few last photos with the moon and a few lights together.

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Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

A Walk In The Lights

Complete with an audio track of a 737 going into Burbank and a business jet going into Van Nuys!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Video

Christmas Day 2016

A few observations:

  • In addition to many other nice things, the Long-Suffering Wife was foolish wonderful enough to get me a Go Pro camera for Christmas, so now I’ll have to go out and find stupid adventurous things to do. Look forward to video here.
  • Growing up in the Midwest in the 1950’s and 1960’s as one of a large family, I remember getting more clothes than toys. There were some toys (or in my case, books – big surprise!) but for every puzzle or Hardy Boys novel, there were several sweaters, jackets, hats, corduroy pants, and boots. I remember not being real impressed with the sweaters in particular. It occurred to me today how much that’s changed – a couple of very nice LL Bean sweaters are practical but also quite nice to received.
  • I don’t know if the sweater thing makes me more mature, more boring, or if the two terms are synonymous.
  • I’m a huge fan of shopping locally (which doesn’t mean WalMart, even if you live next door to one) and patronizing small businesses. But I plainly see where the biggest danger is to their continued livelihood, and it’s not just being undercut on price. If you’re short on time to begin with, an hour online with Amazon Prime is the same as ten hours or more going from store to store.
  • My self control regarding what I eat and how much and how often has completely collapsed under the assault of this year’s holidays. This will need to be addressed once there is a bit less candy, cookies, fudge, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, ice cream, wine, and champagne sitting around calling my name.
  • Yesterday I was talking with TLSW and our kids yesterday about memories of my parents accidentally mislabeling gifts, leading to everyone being surprised when Santa brought “Present A” to “Sister B” when “Sister A” had been begging for it. This morning TLSW said, “Give her that bag,” which led to my daughter asking, “Baseball cards??!!” So I guess it’s a family tradition now?
  • Skype is a truly wonderful thing. It is still amazing to me that I can have a video chat with someone nine time zones away. That I can chat for an hour or more and have it cost essentially zero is flabbergasting.

How did your Christmas go? What was the favorite gift you gave? Received?

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