Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hangin' with Nolan

That has been my motto for months now. Friday, December 19, 2008 will be my last day home alone with my little man (unless something happens). I am saddened that this chapter will be coming to a close.

But I hope that my transition back to work and his transition to day care can be a blessing. Kacey and I both feel led to contribute through our jobs and feel this is the right decision for us. I pray that day care continues to develop his need for love and attention during the day and that Kacey and I can make up for it each and every night.

I am not sure what else to say right now about it except that Nolan, I love you, and these three months spent with you have been the best I can ever imagine. I will miss spending each hour of each day with you, son.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nolan is Five Months Old!

I haven't really had the time lately to blog because I have been working on a DVD of Nolan's first four months that we will be giving to some people. I have also been working on getting my pictures from November online. Lastly I have been working on taking pictures of Nolan for a Christmas card. Oh, and I have been working on buying Christmas presents, filling out some insurance paperwork, finding a day care (boo, another story), buying and getting a treadmill, getting a Christmas tree, trying to decorate, was sick for a few days, visiting friends, working on some home software issues, and probably a few other things. OH, and enjoying my days playing with my boy!!!

Nolan's stats
15lbs 8oz
25 in long
Rolling both ways!
We believe at least 3 teeth coming in
Grabbing more toys

Friday, November 28, 2008

New (to me) Website -

If you are in to music like me, you may deal with the same situation I find myself in a few times a week. I am listening to a classic rock station on the radio and they play a long lost classic that I do not have or have not heard in a while. I think to myself, I must get this when I get home. (I do not have an iPhone, so I can't use Shazam)

Then, by time I get home and remember that I heard a song I wanted, I have forgotten the tune and even the band if the DJ mentioned it at the time!

Well, you can worry no more. keeps track (or brings together from other sources) of all songs played for the past 7 days of each radio station, or at least the ones I checked. It also gives the time of day the song was played, so if you know you were in the car around 7:30pm and were listening to both WKLU and WJJK on the way to the store, you just put it in and get your song list!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nolan is Four Months Old!

It's hard to believe that Nolan is 4 months old today. I have not really blogged that much about fatherhood largely because I am busy living it, not typing it. Here are the 4 month stats.

14 lbs 1 oz
25 in long
turning from back to tummy (although he doesn't like being on his tummy)
standing on his own, with daddy balancing (since 2.5 months)
blowing spit bubbles
starting to grab things
one tooth popping through, and we believe a second one is coming
follows mom and dad around
lots of smiles!

Nolan at 4 months

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water Heater Woes

Thursday, Kacey came home to a garage full of water. I knew a couple months ago that something was wrong with the water heater, possibly a tank leak, and was starting to release water. I had placed a tub underneath the water heater to see how much water I was loosing. The leak had pretty much stopped, until Thursday. So that means, time to install a new water heater! A little frustrating as the current one is only 7 years old, but it came with the house and is an off-name brand. So I was not too surprised.

Actually, for me, the toughest part is not removing or installing a water heater, it is figuring out what to buy to replace the old one. I have removed and installed plenty of water heaters (not covered in the 100 Man Skills), but I am very hesitant on large purchases to ensure I am getting the best reliability and best deal. We had a gas water heater, but I had been considering a tankless unit. So, the research started.

I have read that gas tankless units require at least 4" venting, which is larger than the standard 3" venting for general residential. I have also heard of other gas line considerations that caused me to lean toward the electric tankless option. Also, the gas tankless options are about $1200 versus the electric tankless which start at $700. Also, reliability and payback are questionable to date. As I looked in to electric tankless options, I could not find many readily available. So while I would like to have saved some room in my garage, and would have no problem running 8 gauge wire for the 240V line, I stuck with another gas heater. Plus this gas heater is larger yet uses less energy than our old water heater.

After looking at brands at the major stores, I picked Kenmore from Sears. Getting spare parts from Sears is easy, and I have grown to generally trust their brands. Also, I would receive 10% off on their 3 day sale they were having. So on Friday after securing a truck, a baby sitter, a little help, and verifying that Sears had what I wanted in stock, I went to Sears on Saturday morning to purchase a 50 gal Kenmore Power Miser 9 gas water heater.

For removal, turn off the hot water supply and open a handful of the hot water faucets in the house, including the one nearest the heater. Then, hook a garden hose up to the drain to redirect it outside. Set the thermostat to Pilot Light and turn the gas system to Off. Next the gas line should be closed in as many points as there is a valve. My setup had two shutoff valves, and both should be shut off. Then, I released the T&P valve to begin the drain process. Enough water will come out to make the water heater movable. When you disconnect the gas line, you will smell some gas; this is the gas left in the line escaping, so ensure the area is ventilated.

After getting the new heater home, my brother and I began to unpack for installation. Unfortunately, there was a large dent in the side from a fork truck. I called Sears and they said just bring it back for another one, and we will give you a discount. I do like the fact that I didn't even really have to ask for one.

So after returning home for the second time, my brother and I got the heater up on some blocks and got the vent hooked back up first so my brother could leave. I began with hooking up the gas line. Our house uses insulated flexible hose for the gas lines. I purchased new black pipe to create a new dirt trap and line to install in to the heater. I did not turn the gas on at this point as it is not needed yet. I would turn it on and test the lines later once the water lines were connected.

Next I began work on the water lines. As the old heater was hard piped, I cut the copper back to around 18" away to install my 18" flexible lines. After sweating on the new dielectric unions I connected the flexible lines. Pretty easy.

Next I turned the water supply on and I noticed that the teflon tape I had used on the threads was not preventing the water from leaking out. I went ahead and let the heater fill with water because I had already started and I would be able to remove pressure from the water lines went resealing the lines. To remove pressure I opened up the faucet in the garage and hit the T&P valve for a minute; this removes enough pressure to allow the water lines to be removed without making a mess. I attempted to re-tape the joints, but this did not fix the problem. So, I removed all the teflon tape and just used pipe dope. Upon reinstallation, no leaks!

Verify the water heater is full by going inside to verify water coming from the faucets you opened previously. If they are, you can shut them off. Once the heater is full and the gas line is connected, it is time to open the gas line and verify the connections. I used a liquid spray that foams and bubbles in the presence of natural gas. After letting the gas lines sit open for 5-10 minutes, I verified no leaks and felt confident in my black pipe installation. If you are not confident in your abilities here, consider hiring someone with a sniffer to install your black pipe.

So my lessons learned are from now on, for 3/4" high-pressure water lines, just use pipe dope. It acts as anti-seizing compound and forms a great seal. Save the teflon tape for small faucet jobs. Also, always put together connections before sweating or tightening anything. Because I did this, I saved ruining the dielectric unions which require putting a couple of the fittings on the pipe before sweating. I guess that makes it a lesson confirmed, not a lesson learned. Lastly, you can over-tighten water lines with gaskets, so be careful. I did over-tighten one line and when removing to install with pipe dope, I had already ruined the gasket and had to go buy another one.

This blog entry is not an exact step-by-step process I followed. I have shortened a couple steps and details. The purpose of this entry is to show the amount of detail and planning that must take place on the order of operations and part planning to minimize trips to the store. Even with my planning, I still made 3. One was the initial visit, one was a forgotten part, and one was the ruined gasket.

If you have any questions on a particular step for your own installation, feel free to email me or comment on here and I can provide more details. Good luck on your own home repair projects!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (81-100)

Final installment of the man-skills. Fun times, let me know what you think.

#81 - Sweat copper tubing
Well, yes. I can do this. I just got done doing some today and will do some more tomorrow. Tip? Clean copper, flux, and heat up the copper before applying the solder (without the heat source applied).

#82 - Parallel park
Yeah, I can do this. I know the tricks. I grew up parking trucks.

#83 - Escape a rip current
I am not a strong swimmer, so I try to avoid certain situations. The mag points out to swim parallel to the shoreline, and I had forgotten that.

#84 - Use a sewing machine
I suppose I will claim a no here. While Kacey bought a very nice one that does get used, I don't think I could use it. Last time I sewed? Probably home ec in 7th grade.

#85 through #89 are Medical Myths

#85 - Snakebite
Myth: Cut open the wound and suck out the venom.
From the Discovery channel shows I watch, I have learned this is wrong. Wrap a light tourniquet and minimize movement.

#86 - Frostbite
Myth: Rub snow on the affected area.
I also recall from my Discovery shows that you need to make some warm water, or rub the area against a warm part of the body. The mag mentions not to rub the area.

#87 - Burns
Myth: Put butter on it.
Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer uses butter as suntan lotion. I have never heard of rubbing butter on burns, just cold water. If it blisters, then watch for infections.

#88 - Seizures
Myth: Shove a spoon in the victim's mouth so he won't swallow his tongue.
I don't think I have heard this myth. I have only heard to not restrain the victim. The mag mentions two things- it is impossible to swallow your tongue and roll the victim on their side. This is called the recovery position.

#89 - Ticks
Myth: Burn it off with a cigarette.
Growing up we had to worry about ticks. I think I recall on occasion lighting a match, then blowing it out and putting the hot embers on the little guy. But generally we just pulled them off, hoping to get the head and all. The mag says to use dull tweezers and slowly pick it off.

#90 - Change a tire
Yeah, I can do this, and everyone should know how. You may need a breaker bar to remove the lugs (or jump on it if stranded, last resort). Only use a six point socket (most kits only have 6 point sockets). Break the lugs free before raising the car up. And never use an air gun to put the nuts back on! Tighten the lugs in a pattern to ensure a flush fit.

#91 - Shovel the right way
The mag mentions having a sharp shovel. I think using the right shovel for the job is key, which the mag also mentions. Try to minimize the distance the material must be moved.

#92 - Fix a toilet-tank flapper
Yeah, I have done this many times. Having a good seal prevents slow leaks. I think I still prefer the float on an extended arm type of flush system as they are easy to adjust and not many parts that can break or wear out as opposed to the circular float around the column.

#93 - Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike
While I enjoy being on my bike, I don't get out that much like I did growing up. It is simple physics, though. Keep the weight distributed properly by shifting it behind the seat and keep it slow, unless you are a seasoned veteran.

#94 through #96 are Handling Emergencies

#94 - Reverse hypothermia
Once again, watching Discovery helps out here. Everyone knows body heat can help, but if by yourself and in wet clothes, start a fire, take them off (sounds wrong in the cold, but correct), dry them out, warm up, and get the clothes back on!

#95 - Perform the Heimlich
While I have thankfully never needed to do this, it is good to read up on this skill every once in a while. After my son was born, I re-read Heimlich and CPR for infants and adults. My bro-in-law suggested a refresher course, which is a great idea.

#96 - Perform hands-only CPR
As stated previously, I have not needed to do this, but I have brushed up on it. We all take our EMT services for granted and owe them a lot of thanks as these are things in which we heavily rely on their speed and abilities to save our lives.

#97 - Prune bushes and small trees
One thing we helped dad do growing up was prune fruit trees. In fact, that is how I almost lost my pinkie finger in high school. Make clean, close cuts, keep the tree growing up, and try to keep a central leader defined.

#98 - Jumpstart a car
Yeah, I have to do this more than I should. I have an amp in my car that is on a manual switch, not an ignition circuit, and I have on occasion left this on. If you are jumping the car to let it sit some more, let it run and charge for 5-10 minutes. Keep the negative cable off of the dead battery; put it on the frame to avoid sparking on the dead battery. Also, be very particular that the cables don't touch each other, or anything else besides the battery.

#99 - Calibrate HDTV settings
I learned some methods a couple years ago when I got my HDTV. So while I am probably not perfect, there were a couple things I learned that I now use. Keep black areas black was an important one. Also, not too bright now!

And last but not least...

#100 - Fold the flag
I am shamed to say that I have not had to do this since elementary school when everyone had to do this (at my school). It was actually a big day when it was your turn. Me personally, this is a skill that even if I read, not doing it will cause me to forget again. Of course I know to not let it touch the ground and that the stars should show, but in 5 years, I am sure I will have forgotten the method again. Here is a link to folding the flag.

Comment with your stats or thoughts. I have enjoyed bringing these to you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (61-80)

This has been fun so far. Here we go!

#61 - Replace a fan belt
I have done this. There are various methods on various cars, so consult a car manual for your car if it is not obvious. Before removing the old one, make sure there is a diagram for installing the new belt.

#62 - Lend a hand
This is a great concept. I used to help my dad by getting tools and holding the flashlight. This is how I started to learn my tools. I encourage everyone else to teach their kids some skills and techniques and how to work with their hands.

#63 - Mix concrete
I haven't done this since college, and did it some when I was little. Don't make too much at once, and really work to get the mixture right before laying it down.

#64 - Run rapids in a canoe
Well, I have only been in a canoe on a few rivers in Indiana. So never needed to navigate some serious rapids, but I also don't really want to. I am not much of a water person, but canoeing down an Indiana river sounds good to me. The mag talks about how to identify rocks ahead of time by looking for "V"s in the water.

#65 - Drive a stick shift
I really think everyone should be able to do this. I could do it when I was young and could barely get the clutch down. I have also tried to teach a few people how to do it. There are two reasons everyone should be able to do this. 1-In case of emergency. This means you don't need to be good at it, but understand how it works. 2-Cars with manual transmissions get better mileage. I hope that my next vehicle has a stick option.

#66 - Escape a sinking car
I would say most people reading this have never needed this skill. I have seen this on TV numerous times. I understand the water pressure prevents the door from being opened once the car is a couple feet in the water. So, put down the windows first thing, or hold your breath and wait for the car to fill with water. Since I would freak with the later scenario, I personally would put down the windows first thing.

#67 - Shoot a home video
I am no expert, but you learn a few things from trying. I also have picked up a few tips from my bro-in-law, who is an expert. Moving slowly is important. Shooting some extra time at the beginning and at the end also help in editing. Also, start big and zoom in slowly if needed.

#68 - Replace a faucet washer
Similar to #60. Not sure why something this similar is split in to two items.

#69 - Shoot straight
While I am probably not as good as I used to be, and was probably only average, we shot rifles a lot growing up. I remember shooting the 22, the 12 gauge, and a high powered rifle. Shooting the later was almost the most fun. The technique I would use sticks the butt tight in to my shoulder, start above the target, and breathe out while slowly lowering on to the target. And squeeze, don't jerk the trigger. The mag says to hold your breath.

#70 - Tie a necktie
While I never learned the full Windsor, I was only taught the half and it serves me well. I have been thinking I should finish it off and learn the second half, which looks easy. The mag talks about how this is a great father-son bonding activity and I look forward to doing this one day.

#71 - Grow food
We had a very large garden growing up and growing food was just part of growing up. I have resurrected this activity the past couple years and do enjoy it. As I do not have great soil, I did have to invest in getting some compost to start the garden. Other than that, it provides cheap and great tasting food. We primarily grow various tomatoes and a few different types of peppers. It is also easier than you may think and if you have contemplated growing your own veggies, look in to it!

#72 - Handle a blowout
I have experienced this first hand, but luckily was not up to highway speeds yet. In high school we didn't keep the best tires on our trucks and while getting on a highway one of them blew out. The most important and hardest thing? Keeping calm.

#73 - Skipper a boat
I have never owned a boat, but in high school I had a friend who had a boat. On occasion, I did take the wheel and knew some basics, but that is about as far as I have been.

#74 - Fly a stunt kite
I don't think I have ever flown a stunt kite, just regular kites. Not quite sure why this is a necessary man-skill. Lame.

#75 through #77 are Military Know-How Skills

#75 - Make a drum-tight bed
Well, I am not a military man, so I don't know their skill. Apologies to my military friends, but I am not sure knowing how to tuck in your bed sheets is a required man-skill either.

#76 - Shine shoes
Yes, I do shine my own shoes. Now that I think about it, mine are due for a cleaning!

#77 - Drop and give the perfect pushup
While I can't do as many as I used to be able to do, I try to always perfect a proper pushup when doing them. The mag mentions "Repeat until ordered to stop".

#78 - Carve a turkey
I am not great, but I have done this before. Grandpa always used an electric knife, which made it look so easy!

#79 - Replace a broken windowpane
It has been a while, but we did replace windowpanes growing up. We have several old buildings on our farm that we had to keep glass in. I can't imagine how a farm with 2 young boys would keep needing to replace windows :)

#80 - Change a single-pole switch
I have done this many times. A couple tips- wrap the copper clockwise so tightening of the terminal does not push the copper out. Ensure no insulation is in the terminal, and ensure no copper is exposed outside of the terminal. Lastly, always pull hard against your work to ensure all connections are tight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (41-60)

To keep this moving, here we go.

#41 - Put out a fire
I have never needed to do this in an emergency, but I have put out fires before. The mag is mainly covering how to properly put out a small fire in your home. We get trained on this yearly at work and we are taught the PASS method. Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep the base of the fire. Of course, the only way you can be safe by knowing this in your home is to actually have a fire extinguisher!

#42 - Move heavy stuff
Yeah, yeah, lift with your legs, not with your back. But, the mag is actually covering a method for moving things which requires a strong blanket. Basically, put the thing in the blanket and lift the corners of the blanket. I prefer some good gloves and some grit!

#43 - Change a diaper
Um, I think I can say I am good at this now :)

#44 - Drive in snow
While growing in Indiana and driving trucks at an early age, driving in snow is something we were taught at a young age. Keep the revs down, down-shift to assist in smooth braking, and if possible, get some additional weight over the drive tires (which you can only really do with trucks and a few cars).

#45 - Remove bloodstains from fabric
While during my childhood I didn't really have to mess with this, I since have. Immediate cold water and try to avoid rubbing. Not really sure if this is a must-have skill, but it is good to know.

#46 - Fell a tree
This skill amazes most people. It really is a lot easier than it appears, but being wrong can be costly. It also requires, for a larger tree, a sharp chain and works better if your chainsaw skills are good. I have dropped quite a few trees in my day.

#47 - Ride a bike
Do I really need to address this? Yes, I can ride a bike.

#48 - Conquer an off-road obstacle
While I have never been in a true off-road course, I have navigated plenty of terrain with trucks and tractors. I think this gets to the true idea of this being a skill, not one's ability to get through an actual course. Taking certain terrains at an angle is key, as well as using the lowest gear possible.

#49 - Whittle
I have never really made anything of substance, I have whittled some objects before. Mostly, sticks for cooking and sharpening pencils in the workshop.

#50 - Install a graphics card
Yes, I can do this. Not sure if it is an essential skill, but most people should know how to do this.

#51 - Hitch up a trailer
I have been doing this since I was little too. Don't forget to cross the break away chains and test your hitch! Tougher for most people- backing up a trailer. Although I find it easy, most people really struggle here. Tougher yet- backing up a hay trailer. If you even know what I am talking about, you understand.

#52 - Sew a button
I learned this before going to college when I learned how to do laundry. I would say this is an essential skill as it is pretty easy and saves a lot of hassle. Don't know how? Ask your mom!

#53 - Throw a spiral
I actually didn't know how to do this until a couple years ago. We never played football growing up, we played basketball and baseball. I am still not great, but I do know some technique for a spiral. I really don't think this belongs on the list, but it is a way for a guy to get embarrassed easily.

#54 through #58 are Surviving Extremes

#54 - Lightning storm
If you can hear thunder, you are at risk of being hit. The mag talks about not touching anything in your home that my be attached to ground, but that seems pretty extreme. I do try to avoid taking a shower even though the Myth Busters busted that one. I also turn off the desktop computer during storms to prevent possible HDD damage.

#55 - Flood
With the cars and vans that most people have, driving out of danger is not a good idea. They are too light and risk being swept away. Look for flotation devices and know which way to get to higher ground.

#56 - Tornado
I have had to navigate a few of these in my day and the two times I was close, I did not have a basement. When I was younger, we had one get very close to the house; close enough to throw a large tree on the house. At that time, we huddled under some blankets in the bathroom, the only room without a window. The mag mentions that a car is not a safe place to be either.

#57 - Cold
I have never had to worry about freezing to death anywhere, but I have learned not to exert enough energy to build up a sweat. You can generate some heat by stretching and pushing muscles against one another (called Isometrics, the mag taught me that term).

#58 - Heat
I have never been in a life and death situation regarding heat, but I have been in circumstances where I knew to be careful (e.g. the Australian Outback). Water and cover are key.

#59 - Home-brew beer
I have to admit I never got in to this. I have friends who do it, but I never did. I am not quite sure this is an essential skill, but it is a cool one. As popular as this has become, there are several guides to doing this that may not yield great results but would let you say you have brewed beer.

#60 - Fix a faucet cartridge
I have found that plumbing is a skill that very few people have. Key to fixing a faucet is keeping your parts in order when taking things apart.

Let me know your stats!

Shipment #1

Is here. Now, I just need something to attach it to!

Monday, October 13, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (21-40)

Let's get right back in to it. #21 through #40 are "Mastering Your Workshop" items.

#21 - Circular Saw
Have used this many, many times. Although an interesting piece of information is that the circular saw in my garage was actually purchased by my wife. And, why buy another one?!

#22 - Spade Bit
This are very handy to have around. I have a small set of these. You must have a drill with some power for some wood, and it helps to have a small sharpening stone to keep them at the top of their game.

#23 - Infrared Thermometer
I am not sure why using an infrared thermometer is on this list. You aim, click the button, and it tells you the temperature. If you are pulling a trailer, it can be helpful to monitor the temperature of the wheel hubs.

#24 - Wood Chisel
These are actually quite simple to use and in a pinch, you can use a flat head screwdriver (depending on how nice you need it to look). Outline your cutting area and then score off several rows inside. Then, chip them out.

#25 - Sandblaster
We did some of this when I was younger, but it is not a skill I have really needed. You have to be careful to not destroy what it is you are trying to restore.

#26 - Torque Wrench
I really should have one, but I don't. I always guess, which you can't really do. I just haven't had the job yet that required me to purchase one, but I have used them. Funny story- in college, we found a Craftsman torque wrench when doing a highway cleanup; it was in really bad shape. We took it to Sears and *poof*, we had a brand new torque wrench! I believe Study still has it.

#27 - Hacksaw
I love my hacksaw. You really should have one in your garage or workshop. Know your blades and know which size to have on. Usually around 20 tpi could be considered general use. A hacksaw is not a tool you wait until you need to purchase; by then it is too late.

#28 - Feeler Gauges
I have to admin that growing up, we used the poor man's method of checking rocker arms. With the engine running, slightly over-tighten them all and then one by one, adjust. So while I have not used these before, I know where to use them and we just didn't.

#29 - Test Light
I prefer to use a multimeter for all my tasks, so I don't have a test light. As mentioned in the mag, be careful where these are used.

#30 - Framing Hammer
While I can't hammer as fast as I could in college, I think I am still faster than most people. Part of the trick is practice, part is confidence, and part is a good hammer. I love my Stanley hammer for this job so much that I won't use this hammer for other jobs; I have a second general use hammer.

#31 - Grease Gun
Oh yeah, plenty of experience with these growing up on the farm. Knowing when a fitting is dirty just by the feel of the gun doesn't take much time to master either.

#32 - Hand Plane
I have done a little of this, but not a lot. It gets tiring on bigger jobs, so find a planer.

#33 - Socket Wrench
My collection is not as big as a mechanic's, but it is big enough for all my jobs. And, I add sockets as needed. Not sure what to have lying around for a small set? Buy 6 point deep wells to start off with. Unless you are doing more advanced work, you don't need 12 point. And the deep wells are always handy to have around.

#34 - Multimeter
Please, Fluke and I are tight. I still have my old analog meter too! Don't forget your EMF detector!

#35 - Brick Trowel
It has been a while since I laid brick, but it comes back to you.

#36 - Air-Impact Wrench
Oh yeah, who doesn't love the sound of one of these going to task. While I have one, I would like a bigger one. Important tip- don't use these to put your lug nuts back on!

#37 - Drill Driver
Oh boy do I love my Craftsman Professional Lithium Ion drill set. And while I am mentioning Craftsman, don't forget to join the Craftsman Club!

#38 - Coolant Hydrometer
While I haven't used one in a while, growing up we did because we were keeping our old vehicles running. Now, I just do a standard flush every 30k-45k miles.

#39 - Sledgehammer
Back to cutting firewood growing up, for the really big logs, we would start with a sledge and a wedge. Also, when we would set fence posts, we didn't have a fence post driver, we used a sledge hammer. One of us would stand on the bed of the truck and drive it in, the other would hold the post.

#40 - Crosscut Saw
These have their place but are seldom used on my projects.

There you go! I did pretty well there, how did you do against the list?

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (1-20)

I subscribe to Popular Mechanics magazine. It is an ok mag, although the advertising gets a little old. I get tips on outdoor projects, car repair, and new technologies.

The past issue covered "100 Skills Every Man Should Know". As I read through, I realized that I am pretty well covered here. Very few had I never really thought about or had a chance to experience. I decided to cover these 100 skills in my blog and briefly talk about my experiences, as well as a few I think don't belong, and a few I believe were left out. I figure 20 is not too many to read at a time. Here we go!

#1 - Tape drywall
Oh goodness, I have done this too many times in my life. Although they do cover the very important fact to apply at least two coats (5 in. first, then 8-10 in. blade second), they mention the use of water in a form I don't quite use. The mag mentions dipping the blade in water. I prefer to add a little water to my trough in which I have placed some mud to work with and mix it in. When you are applying the 10 in. blade mud, it needs to be much wetter to allow for a nice smooth, thin coat. The angle of attack on the final count greatly affects the result as well. Keep your hand close to the wall and keep plenty of tension on the blade.

#2 - Grill with charcoal
Growing up, we only had a Weber until I was in high school, so charcoal was the only way. Although my dad didn't teach me the proper methods, I learned them in college. Our fraternity grilled often and I picked up the proper charcoal stacking techniques from buddies of mine. Direct vs. indirect heating I didn't really get until watching Alton Brown, but this is hard to do when the grill is full!

#3 - Split firewood
Again, I have been doing this since I was barely able to swing an axe (or maul, much better). The method discussed in the mag is the weak man's version where you only start above your head. I prefer the all-the-way-around method. While much harder, it produces great results. It also requires practice and a decent aim.

#4 - Set up a ladder, safely
While the mag did have a decent tip on proper angle detection (stand with you toes against the ladder base and grab the run at shoulder level), I still prefer the "test it out method" (unless doing a very high-up job). That is, get up a rung or two, and lean back on it. You can feel how much the ladder wants to tip back. Also not mentioned in the mag is checking the footing of the ladder. Ensure it is sunk in slightly by jumping on the bottom rung just a little. This keeps the ladder from sliding back on you.

#5 - Take the perfect portrait
In 4-H, I did a photography project for about 5 or 6 years. During this, setting up a photo is one of the things we learned. I didn't do much portraits, but the basics are simple. Don't take a picture with the camera looking right in to a bright light; rather ensure that your subject is properly lit. I have much more to learn here, though, and I will when my new D90 gets here in the next week or so.

#6 - Find potable water
While I have never *needed* to do this, I have gotten many tips from watching Survivor Man and Bear Grylls. The mag mentions a couple methods I have learned for both desserts and jungles. I also really like the dew ideas you can do with your clothes tied to your boots and collecting evaporated water from plants using some plastic and a container. I did learn as a kid, though, that the best idea is to take a lot of water with you, even if you don't think you need it! While hiking in Hawaii on the Na Pali coast, I was not comfortable with the amount of water we had brought in, so I turned us around about half way in. My only regret? Not having enough water on hand to begin with!

#7 - Build a fire in the wilderness
Growing up my extended family did a lot of camping. And, since my grandfather was a fireman, he made sure all the kids knew how to properly play with fire. While this didn't cover all the proper techniques to build when you don't have the proper supplies, it was still great fun and wonderful memories. 4-H didn't really cover these skills either, but being friends with Eagle Scouts in college helped out here. All the tips to find kindling, small sticks, and larger timber for a structure, make building a fire easy. The tip I have picked up from Survivor Man? Always have a flint striker in your pack!

#8 - Build a shelter
This is a skill I have also never needed, but have learned about in recent years from Discovery. Keep it small and simple, and get some water shedding on if time allows or you expect to get wet. If the weather is cold, maybe try some heat rocks!

#9 - Ditch your hard drive
Please, I think I can handle this. Low level formatting for general home use HDDs. A power drill for more important data. A much more difficult skill? Reviving a bad HDD. I have tried, and failed, although I came close.

#10 - Use a French knife
Most people watch Food Network and think they could never do the knife work seen on TV. This is untrue! It is just the speed that takes years to perfect! First off, you must have a high quality knife. Kacey prefers Global Knives. Second, know a couple techniques. Again, speed does not matter here.

#11 - Cast a line
Growing up, dad would occasionally take us fishing at Anderson Orchard. While my dad and brother seemed to somewhat enjoy it, I just couldn't stand it. I, for the most part, need to be doing something. Fishing was doing nothing. Usually after 15-20 minutes, I would be off picking berries instead of fishing. So, while I don't enjoy fishing, I can and have done it; and am probably not very good at it.

#12 - Wax a car
I have done this many times. Buy some good wax, park in the shade. Wash the car well. Wax in sections, buff off by hand.

#13 - Check trouble codes
I had to do this recently on my Acura CL. While it took a couple minutes to find that the plug was behind the ash tray, beyond that it is fairly simple. My latest code? Bad catalytic converter, but I knew that was the problem before I started.

#14 - Iron a shirt
Any single guy trying to impress a woman should know this. Pants are important too. I like the fact that the mag tells you to imagine that the ironing board is a work bench.

#15 - Paint a straight line
I don't really agree that this should be on the list. I have painted my fair share of rooms, and although using painter's tape isn't perfect, it gets the job done if used properly.

#16 - Tie a bowline
Ok Popular Mechanics, you finally got me. Many of my friends may be surprised to know that I do NOT know my knots! 4-H didn't really cover it, and on the farm we only used one knot, and I don't even know what it is called. I have always wanted to learn my knots, but have never found the motivation to learn them. Maybe teaching them to my son can be my motivation.

#17 - Use a stick welder
Wow, this makes me feel like less of a man. Popular Mechanics got me on two in a row! Again, many of my friends may be surprised to know that I have never run a welder. I know, its sad. But growing up, dad never let us do it! Ug. And now, I don't have one to play with. When I graduated from Rose, I almost took a course for welding because I wanted to build up that skill. I still do. Yes, I know some basics to welding and could probably do a hack job if needed, but I don't think that's good enough to put a check next to it.

#18 - Read an electric meter
I worked for South Central Indiana REMC the summer after my freshman year at Rose. While my job was not reading meters, I learned more about them. It really isn't that difficult, and in my opinion, doesn't belong on this list either.

#19 - Hang food in the wild
I have had to do this, as well as trash. Find a couple trees close to one another, use some rope, and honestly, you can probably figure out something without ever reading a magazine. More important than knowing HOW to hang food is knowing TO hang food.

#20 - Solder wire
Again, please. Been doing this since I was little, and got paid to do it at my work-study job in college. Having the proper tools can aid in this too. A solder sucker, and good hot gun, and a knife to clean the leads are very important.

There you go, the first 20. I hope to do 21-40 tomorrow. Reply with your thoughts, or your stats!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Two Tips You Can (Maybe) Use

Tip #1 - Use Some Wasted Water

We have saved some old orange juice jugs and have placed two in each bath room and two in the kitchen. When we need hot water, we fill the jugs first. I empty them out every few days on the plants and trees in the yard which almost everyone has. I also put water on the garden and herbs occasionally. Additionally, we have a one liter bottle in the kitchen that I fill for water for the cats. If you have cats or dogs, this will easily work as well.

Tip #2 - Know Your Baby Monitor is Working

So this tip is not quite for everyone, but it is worth mentioning regardless. We realized we always wonder if the baby monitor is actually working. Yeah, it tells you by turning the light from green to red, but you always have to stare at it. What we started doing is placing a ticking clock next to the monitor. That way, we simply listen for the ticking. It has no effect on being able to listen for baby, but it easily lets you know it is still working.

More to come... I know I had three ideas, but I forgot one of them at publication :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Beware of Yaari

Yarri is a social networking site targeted for Indian children, according to what I have read. I have already received invites to this site, but I think you should delete them as I have. It requires access to your free email account and sends everyone an invite. There is no opt out.

A few google searches reveals a lot of information. Just goes to show you before trying anything new on the net, review it first!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

First Big Trip is Under Our Belt

We just returned last night from a week and a half trip. I was presenting at a conference in DC, so we drove out early to visit friends and family who have not yet met Nolan. We did 1675 miles, got around 30 mpg (maybe a little better), got lucky that gas went way down, and saw many people. We stopped in Pittsburgh, Bethlehem PA, Baltimore, Laurel MD, Bethesda MD, and of course we stayed for a week at the Gaylord National Resort.

Nolan was great! We have really lucked out and gotten ourselves a good traveler. More details to come later on the trip. And, I still intend to start my small series blogs soon on a topic I read about recently. For now, I have about 550 feeds to read since Thursday afternoon...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Actually Have A Topic to Blog On, Just No Time, Yet

The next two weeks are going to be a whirlwind. But, once I am back, I will have much more time. This is a good thing, because I have a topic I will post on for a few entries. I am looking forward to writing on it, and hopefully people will enjoy it.

So, until then. . . stay cool, and don't automatically email inappropriate pictures from the web to your wife's extended family on accident, like me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Which Is Which?

As previously mentioned, I loved watching the 2008 Olympics. I especially enjoy watching volleyball of all sorts. I was really wondering if Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser had the gold medal in them, but they always played through for exciting games.

As I watched, I realized Dalhausser reminded me of someone, and then it hit me

Dalhausser now:

Dalhausser in 20 years:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

8 Weeks, and 9 lbs!

Weighed Nolan in this morning at the 8 week mark... 9 lbs! It is such a busy time for our little guy between the growth spurts and smiling at us all the time :)

I hope to be getting second month photos up soon.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Oh Yes, It Will Be Mine

Pushed the 'Order' button today. Rumor is that they start shipping tomorrow from a couple stores. We will see how long mine takes to ship (no estimated ship date yet).

Picture too small for your viewing? Its the Nikon D90!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Visitor Returns

We have a Blue Heron that hangs out at our pond every couple weeks. It is here today and seeing a second one too, I wonder if it is mating time. The middle of summer doesn't really seem like the best time for an animal to mate, but who knows.

Blue Heron

Blue Heron

Sunday, August 17, 2008

If Cameras Could Capture Smell

Made by Kacey. Tomatoes from our garden, zucchini and eggplant from my brother's garden, onion, and rosemary and thyme from our herb garden. Salt and oil as well. Broil.

2008 Olympics!

As most of you out there may be doing as well, we are fitting a lot of Olympics watching in to our schedule. It has been a little busy, but we have watched most of the sports with which we find interest. For Chris: all volleyball (mens, womens, indoor, sand), basketball, some swimming, softball, some track and field, and a few other things when we feel like it. Kacey watches swimming, diving, gymnastics, and probably a few other things I can not recall right now.

We have been enjoying everything in HD thanks to local HD broadcasting and Universal HD (broadcasting MSNBC feeds). We record nearly everything during the day and night, and each afternoon watch the sports we like, fast-forwarding through all which we are not too interested in.

I have also stopped checking the news on They have started putting spoilers on the front page banner and main headline story! I liked it better when they supplied a link to an "Olympic Update". CNN ruined mens 100m dash for me yesterday...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Smiles? Close Enough!

We have been getting some gas grins from Nolan the past couple weeks. I would say this afternoon was the first time he was looking at us and gave us some grins. In the next month, they should grow and increase, but it is just an indescribable feeling!

I am not much of a writer. I struggle with describing how our first month has been. Today, Nolan is four weeks old, and having something so precious has been the best thing imaginable. I want to spend time with him and watching him constantly. It's hard to stay at work, I feel like I am missing his life.

I love holding him, feeding him, changing him, walking him, rocking him to sleep, looking at him, talking to him, you name it.

More pics to come to the web site soon.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Click & Clack - As the Wrench Turns

So, surfing around HD channels I found Click & Clack's As the Wrench Turns cartoon on PBS! Awesome! I grew up listening to Tom and Ray Magliozzi on Car Talk every Saturday morning. If you are a car guy, then you have heard of the Tappet Brothers.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Random Thoughts: Sweet Corn & Nikon D80

I grew up in south central Indiana, and grew up eating mostly Indiana-grown fruits and vegetables (most vegetables from our own garden, actually). One of the best vegetable options I love in the Indiana summer is Indiana sweet corn. Both this and last weekend I threw some corn on the grill (in husk, soaked in water) and enjoyed with both a little butter and fresh-ground pepper. Its healthy and delicious.

As a side note, we cooked all the ears last night, but didn't eat them all at the time. A quick way to reheat ears of corn is wrap the ear in a paper towel, and then wet the paper towel. Microwave 2-3 minutes on half power.

I am borrowing my co-worker's Nikon D80 with 50mm f/1.8 prime lens this weekend. I am having fun taking pictures of Nolan, Kacey, the cats, birds, and plan to play with different depth of field options in my learning. Any methods people have used to really learn their camera are appreciated (other than just plain shooting). I am taking two or three pictures of different objects with different lighting and aperture for comparison later.

I think this would be better with a slightly larger depth of field (i.e. Kacey was a little closer to focus).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nikon DSLR - D90?

I have been looking at picking up a Nikon D80 for almost a year now, and just haven't moved on it. Not really sure why actually...

Now that I am about ready to move, finally, I am reading that the D90 is expected to be announced within a month or two. A friend of mine who is a true photography geek mentioned that more than likely this model would use similar hardware to the D300, possibly giving it a much improved ISO performance. This sounds like a feature I may like to have!

Plus, he may be nice enough to let me borrow his spare D200 for a month or so for me to start playing and get some photos of Nolan along the way. Considering I have waited this long to purchase a camera, it might just make sense to wait a couple more months.

If I do borrow his D200, I will probably go ahead and buy a prime 50mm f/1.8 Nikon lens that I was considering picking up first (I think I will hold off on the Nikon 18-200 VR for a little while). For about $100, it sounds like a good place to start.

Bodies the Exhibition - Controversy?

While we were in San Antonio in May, we visited "Bodies... the Exhibition" at the Witte Museum. It was actually very interesting and not "gross" at all. At $20 to visit, anyone iffy about viewing probably would not shell out the cash anyway.

This exhibit is now visiting Indianapolis. The IndyStar is reporting controversy and concerns over the exhibit. First of all, anything the Star doesn't like is suspect for actually being interesting. This is regarding the fact that the origin of every body is not exactly known. If you are interested more, read into their own disclaimers. This is in comparision to Body Worlds, in which are bodies are donated to this program.

I highly recommend a visit to this exhibit if you are close to the area. I believe it was well worth the $20 I had to pay and it is definitely a one-of-a-kind view into how our own body works.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Just wanted to post that being a dad is wonderful! Yes, its tiring. Yes, its worrying. But when he looks at you, you just melt every single time. And since I think mom has most of the hard work, I just try to make her day a little easier.

Nolan is two weeks old today, and the time is already flying by. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of that two weeks at home, but this week I began working again.

I hope to get to post some pictures this weekend. They will be on

Sunday, July 20, 2008


If the ShamWow "sells itself" (according to their own TV commercial), then why do we need to see so many ShamWow commercials on TV with that guy that wears the gay headset?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Craftsman Club

All real men out there should have a brand of tools they prefer; the name of the brand doesn't matter as your reason for picking that brand probably is based on what your dad had.

Me, I'm a Craftsman man. And yup, I have been all my life since I started using my dad's tools and then eventually purchasing my own. Are they the absolute best? Who knows, but they are my tools. They are easy to find parts for (I can order the armature for my grandpa's old drill that died) and I do love their return policy :)

As an avid Craftsman tool and appliance man, I absolutely love the Craftsman Club (it's free). I only really learned of it a couple years ago but am glad I did, and now I pass the information on to you. Each month or two, I receive a small catalog of the current sales and specials for Craftsman Club members. The first pages usually covers what each member can purchase that month for usually about 1/2 off. I generally almost always find something there I need.

This month, I think its time for a new multimeter. Mine is about 10 years old and off brand. I would kind of like two (well three, I still have my old analog meter) and can't seem to talk myself in to the price of a personal Fluke. This month Craftsman has a multimeter and EMF detector 40% off.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Our Son, Nolan Isaiah Phillips

Born Friday, July 11, 2008 at 12:29am. He is 5lb 15.8oz and 20 in long.

The happy family,
Chris, Kacey & Nolan

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

RSS Feeds and Sharing

I have been using Google Reader for about 6 months now, but not to it's fullest extent. Until recently (about two weeks ago), I still visited many web sites each night to read the day's news. Now, I have set up numerous feeds and am simply reading in Google Reader. I know, this is not new technology. But, as I am catching up in this space, I really love it. I save a lot of time each night, can share items I feel others may also enjoy, and have opened myself up to more sites as it is much quicker to "skim" the web.

Any of my acquaintances out there care to share their personal feed with me? I am still on the hunt for interesting news sites.

Any tips and tricks?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Looking for Indy Bloggers

I have been searching for some Indy blogs out there. Content regarding what's going on around the city with development, sports, activities, general news, cuisine, you name it. Any readers out there have any suggestions???

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Home Depot kicks off nationwide CFL recycling program

This is great. A lot of people unfortunately will only recycle if it is easy or free; they won't take the time or effort to do their part. I think this was a needed step with the increase in CFLs entering our homes, so "tip of my hat" to Home Depot here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Random Thoughts, Because It's Been Awhile


The new 10 Years album, Division, came out a few weeks back. I had been looking forward to their second major album. So far, I don't think I have been as moved as the first, but I haven't listened to it that many times. It is good, don't get me wrong. I look forward to listening to this album much more (hopefully by myself in the car, one of my favorite places to listen to CDs, due to the volume and Fosgate).

Sevendust also recently came out with a new album. You have to give these guys credit; they have been producing interesting music and touring since 1997. Their new album, Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow, includes a couple excellent guest vocals - Chris Daughtry and one of my favorites Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge. If you are a Sevendust fan, this album will not disappoint. I am still listening to this album (only been a few times so far) and so far I can say that they have continued to pour themselves out in to their music.


I have not blogged on this before. This is the second year I have put out tomatoes and peppers. Last year I only had an 8x8 raised bed plot with 8 inches of garden compost from Greendell Farms. They did ok, but the location I picked just didn't get quite enough sun. This year, I doubled the size to 16x8 and moved it out an additional 4 feet from the trees. This year I have 7 small habanero plants, and I am not quite sure if they will make it. I had to perform root surgery to separate them when planting. They are living just fine, but not really growing. I also have 3 sweet banana peppers and 3 jalapeno plants. We have 6 bell pepper plants this year; I think a mix of green and red. I also have 4 serrano plants, one of our favorite peppers for cooking. We started with 10 commercial tomato plants (5 mountain spring and 5 mountain pride), 3 Romas, and 2 cherry plants. After the June 2008 Indiana floods, I think I have lost 2 of the commercial tomatoes, and a few more may not produce much in the way of fruit this year. The peppers seemed to make it through, but time will tell. I also lost some of my compost, but almost worse is the fact that some of it was replaced with lake sediment. Within a week, we should start getting some peppers and within a few weeks, the romas should start coming in.


I have not really blogged on this much either, but I am getting very excited! Kacey worked her last day of work Friday the 20th and now will have 4 months off. The nursery has been painted and is mostly ready. Kacey will probably go empty out the baby registries next week while she is off. The crib is here, but the other furniture will be here in a few weeks. Once we have all of it together, I will post a nursery picture. We do not plan on telling people the baby's name until it is born, but I can tell you that we have not yet picked one out. This is probably the last big thing we need to figure out soon. So far the baby is doing great and mom is too, but very tired making our child!

That's enough for now. Hopefully I can get back in to this, we have been relatively busy getting ready for our new addition.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This Life

Sevendust - This Life

Listen to a clip

I heard your heartbeat
and my body grew so still
I looked into your mothers eyes
and I knew you were alive
I long to meet you
and show you all I know
Hand in hand with this new love
this life means so much more

I know now what I hear
it's a new love that I feel
It's you that blessed us with this life
that we've waited for so long

Your life has changed me
I'm not the man I was before
You’re in my head my heart my soul
you’re always on my mind
My time to know you
is quickly drawing near
But not as fast as my love grows
you've made me feel alive

I know now what I hear
it's a new love that I feel
It's you that blessed us with this life
that we've waited for so long

Nice to see you
welcome to this place that we call home
Life looks brighter
now you’re here

I know now what I hear
it's a new love that I feel
It's you that blessed us with this life
that we've waited for so long

We're so happy now
We're so happy now
You’re here

Monday, May 19, 2008

Australia and New Zealand Trip Summary

I am just writing a few more thoughts about our trip. Maybe they will be helpful to other travelers and maybe it will help me remember some day how great of a trip we had.

4600 Pictures - This is how many we took with two cameras in three weeks. Many were redundant, some didn't come out (but you have to try), and some were continuous mode shots (so they add up quick). I categorized almost every night on the laptop, broken down by day in separate folders, and I created a notepad for each day with a rough outline of what the pictures were from (this helps significantly). Also, it is important to keep the two cameras time synced with local time; this makes sorting after the fact much easier.

Flights - Traveling from the US to Australia and New Zealand actually is not that difficult. Going there we basically had two dinners, and then a nighttime for sleep. We arrived in Sydney in the morning and the day was actually useful and productive. Coming home, we flew from Auckland (around lunch) eight hours to Hawaii (around dinner time). We ate dinner, and flew 7 .5 hours to Denver (sleeping). We arrived in Denver in the morning of the day we had just lived. So by time we reached Indy, it was the afternoon and we were close to a regular schedule. Planning flights for this trip is not too hard, and it is worth your time spent.

Transportation - We rented a car for one day in Melbourne so that we could travel the Great Ocean Road, and one day in Cairns to see the rainforest. Other than that, the public transportation is great (of course Ayers Rock doesn't count, you have to rent a car there) and if you stay in the right part of town, you can walk almost everywhere. In New Zealand, buses and trains are much harder to come by. You will need a vehicle of your own (or camper!) and most car rental places have a transfer option to get between the islands (it is frequently done).

Cities Visited and Durations - We arrived in Melbourne on a Monday morning and left Thursday morning. I recommend less time in Melbourne. If planned appropriately, two full days and a half day would be more than adequate. I would skip this zoo especially if you are traveling to Sydney which has a much nicer zoo.

From here we flew to Ayers Rock on Thursday. We arrived around lunch which gave us a half day. We stayed until Saturday afternoon. This is too much time for Ayers Rock. Had we planned on arriving in the afternoon, a full day to visit the area is more than enough. Keep in mind this will be a very full day if you want to catch the sunrise and the sunset. If you can only pick one, pick the sunset.

From here we flew to Cairns. We arrived late at night, so we had two full days and then left after lunch the third day. I recommend a partial day and a full day, then leave in the morning. This would be time to use the full day to go snorkeling, and the partial day (upon arrival) to take the car to the rainforest.

Next we flew to Sydney. We arrived late at night and then had two full days, leaving early in the morning on the third day. Getting in earlier would have allowed for at least one more fun activity in the city, which we had a couple we would have liked to attempt. One other comment on Cairns, renting a taxi to get to town from the airport is cheaper for two than using their bus option, and its much faster.

We started in the south island of New Zealand from there. With the additional days we would have saved from the above changes, we would have an extra day on the south island and an extra day on the north island, and possibly even one more day to split between the two, depending on your preference. We could really have used another day on the north island to visit Rotorua and the geological sights of the area. On the south island, another day would have allowed us to visit Fiordland National Park.

Sights - List of things we saw that I really liked
Melbourne-Great Ocean Road, Royal Botanical Gardens, Queen Victoria Market
Ayers Rock-Uluru, interesting planned town concept
Sydney-Taronga Zoo, walking around the Opera House
South Island, New Zealand-Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, Christchurch square
North Island, New Zealand-Glowworms, Tongariro National Park, and of course learning we were pregnant is Taupo was pretty cool and unforgettable

A list of things I really would have liked to see
Melbourne-Penguins. This is a very touristy stop off of Philip Island so we avoided it, but we probably should have tried to fight the crowds with a tour to see this sight.
Ayers Rock-Star gazing. We had arranged this, but it was too cloudy so we didn't get to go to the observatory.
Cairns-We were good here
Sydney-Going up the Sydney Tower and viewing the OzTrek Ride.
South Island, New Zealand-Fiordland National Park
North Island, New Zealand-Rotorua and north of Auckland
Tazmania!-I really wanted to work in a day trip here, but just could not make the days and flights work out. Maybe another time... :)

Food - Food in general in Australia is nothing fancy. Although we tried to eat at non-touristy, local restaurants, we had only a few good meals. Never bad that I can recall, but don't expect great things. It was an opportunity to try some new foods (kangaroo, crocodile, emu).

Laptop - Taking the laptop was a good move. It helped out with extra movies on the trans-Pacific flights, and allowed for picture backups and sorting each night. My mind was at rest knowing I had backups each day of what we had experienced. Also, most laptop's power supplies operate on dual voltage and frequency, which means you only need a simple adapter, not a converter (BTW, I try to only buy devices that are 110-220VAC 50-60Hz, it makes traveling a breeze). The weight was not really noticeable. Additionally, we could search for available free wifi every once in a while.

Google Maps! - I pre-printed Google Maps of the hotel area in each city at different zoom levels (to see big and small views). This was somewhat helpful and didn't take much effort. I have been doing this for a few trips now (Italy was helpful). Along the way Google Maps were helpful in finding business info along the way.

Prepping for New Zealand - Not too hard, and you will probably come across this in your own preparation, but have your e-reservations printed out and with you. You will need proof of exit when trying to enter. Also, if you visit Australia first, be careful what you purchase and try to take to New Zealand. They really limit what you can take in, but all the information you should need is available online.

New Zealand, Playing It By Ear - We decided to plan our last night only in New Zealand (in Auckland, before flying out). Every night, we would figure out where to go and what to do the next day, and search online where we would be able to stay. Sometimes, we would just get to a town and hope to find something between a few favorites based on guide book reviews. This possibly worked because we were not there during peak tourist times (winter or summer). Also, we had a rough idea of travel from Christchurch to Auckland so we knew we would make it in time to catch our flights home, but we didn't even figure that out until we spent a few nights in Australia looking it over.

So Basically...
It was a great trip! It was great visiting a place on the other side of the world, experiencing new cultures, seeing historic sites, not working for three weeks (which really allows you to get lost in visiting another country), eating new food, it was all wonderful. If any reader ever has questions about our trip, feel free to hit me up in the comments.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

North Island, New Zealand

Wednesday November 28th, 2007 (Picton to Wellington to Ohakune)

We started off the day on an Interisland Boat Ride from Picton to Wellington. We didn’t do much on the boat; I watched a movie and took a few pictures, and Kacey slept (she had been really tired lately). Once we got in, we got the rental and got going on the road. We hadn’t made much of a decision of where we were going, just roughly toward the central part of the island, probably around Tongariro National Park. Once we reached Bulls, this is where the highway split and we needed to make a decision. As Kacey was just sleeping the whole way, I woke her up once in town. We were hoping to get information packets on the parks, but could not find anything. So with the information we had, we decided to head toward Ohakune and the National Park. We got to Ohakune after much driving and started looking for a place with internet as we wanted to plan the next couple days. We found the Hobbit Motorlodge after driving for a few minutes and they had a vacancy sign with a wireless internet sign. We stopped in, got a room, and asked about dinner. We ended up going to town, filling with fuel, buying a couple groceries, eating at the Mountain Rock Café, and going to bed (after some internet time of course). Dinner was pretty good and since it was not ski season, it was mostly locals just hanging out.

Pictures from Wednesday can be found here.

Thursday November 29th, 2007 (Ohakune to Hamilton)

We got up and headed toward Tongariro National Park and stopped in the Whakapapa Village for some information. We got information for a couple hikes, but as Kacey was not feeling to well, we went to Tawhai Falls and got going. We had a lot of nice views of the volcanoes as we drove, so we stopped for pictures along the way. As we approached Turangi, we stopped for some views of Lake Taupo (map). We stopped in Turangi for some lunch at the Mustard Seed Café. The sandwiches would have been better toasted, but we moved around Lake Taupo toward Taupo. In Taupo we stopped at the doctor to make sure Kacey was ok. Turns out she wasn't tired from hiking and traveling for three weeks, she was pregnant! So as you can imagine, this is a most unique way and place to find out you are expecting, so we will probably never forget this day as long as we live. We then headed to Huka Falls. These were a little cheesy as it is a man-made falls and river that empties from Lake Taupo and it is used to generate electricity. We then headed across the road to Crater of the Moon Park. This was interesting as Kacey had not seen geothermal activity before. There was not much activity or water pools, but there was one bubbling mud pool. We got on the road for the two hour drive to Hamilton. When we arrived, we drove to the place we were hoping might be available, the Barclay. It was, and it was a pretty big and nice room. After some dinner at Pasta Mia, which was pretty good, we got to bed.

Pictures from Thursday can be found here.

Friday November 30th, 2007 (Hamilton to Waitmo to Auckland)

Today we got going pretty early and headed down SH3 toward Waitomo for our 10am tour of the Glowworm Caves. I had been looking forward to seeing the Glowworms. This was a pretty cool boat ride through the cave with a nice tour. At 11am, we then had a tour of Aranui Cave which is a dry cave, so no glowing worms. We stopped in Otorohanga for some lunch at the Copper Tree Café. We each got a small pizza that was not too bad. We then started the three hour journey to Auckland. Once we got near the city, traffic got very bad. Driving downtown was a nightmare as the streets are not straight, and many one ways and no turns made it take a while to figure out how to get to the hotel. At the City Life Auckland, we got put up on the 15th floor with some nice views. We walked through a few stores, ate dinner at the Middle East Café, and got some gelato down at the Harbour. We headed to the room to get ready for the long plane ride back home tomorrow.

Pictures from Friday can be found here.

Saturday December 1st, 2007 (Auckland to Honolulu to Denver to Indianapolis)

Tired, because we lived Saturday December 1st twice.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

South Island, New Zealand

Saturday November 24th, 2007 (Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass)

We arrived in Christchurch (CHC) around 2pm. We decided to change our reservations and not stay here; we instead looked around downtown for about an hour, and then headed to Arthur’s Pass to stay for the night (originally, we had pre-booked our first and last night in New Zealand only). The drive was nice; there were many nice scenic views and they were covered with interesting rock formations. This was also Kacey’s first time driving on the left, which went pretty well as I had been telling her points here and there throughout the trip thus far. We arrived at the Arthur’s Pass Alpine Motel around 7pm and got checked in to our little cottage. We drove in to "town" for dinner at the Wobbly Kea. It was pretty good, actually, and priced pretty well too, considering there is nothing in any directions for miles (or kilometers). The town consists of a DOC (Department of Conservation), a train station, a small general store, a couple places to eat, and a couple small motels. We got back to our cottage and surfed the web a bit to figure out where to stay the next night.

Pictures from Saturday can be found here.

Sunday November 25th, 2007 (Arthur’s Pass to Fox Glacier to Hari Hari)

Today we got up and hiked a trail in Arthur’s Pass National Park. We hiked to the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It was fairly steep, but a well maintained and mostly graveled trail. We headed back to the car and got on the road toward the west coast. Again, the drive was pretty fun as these mountain pass roads are twisty and steep with great views. Even though the weather was light rain and overcast we still stopped for pictures along the way. We also got to experience the Kea bird for the first time. We stopped by the side of the road and we noticed a few of these birds that look like a distant cousin of a parakeet. After we got out to take in the view, the birds started jumping on top of the car like they wanted in. Then we a bird on a nearby rock eating a gasket, which seemed very strange. Then, we read the sign at the overlook which informed us that these birds have taken to eating rubber! This means that the birds were not trying to get into our car, they were eating the rubber from it! Once we reached the coast, we started the drive south along Highway 6. We stopped in Hokitika (map) for some quick lunch, petrol, cash (as there were possibly no ATMs south of town), and a view of the sea. It was a gray sand beach and the crashing of the waves put a mist in the air. We made it to Hari Hari and stopped to see if we could check in early at the Hari Hari Motor Inn and leave our suitcases. Sure enough we could and we did. Kacey also ran in the wool store in town and bought some beautifully dyed combed wool for her grandma to spin. We then headed toward Franz Josef Glacier for our first glacier experience.

We arrived in town and stopped for a few maps. These told us which hike to hit to really see the glacier. We took the Franz Josef Valley Walk which takes you as close as they will currently let you get unguided. With the overcast skies, you could not see all the way up the mountain, which made the glacier look like it was infinite. The walk was through the river beds that fill up during the summer when lots of ice starts melting. There was plenty of little water falls throughout the valley and the walls were very high up. After this walk, we headed south to Fox Glacier. We first went to the lookout for the glacier which was a walk through the rainforest for a not-so-big view of the glacier. We then drove over to the carpark for the hike up to Fox. It was trying to rain just a little so we were attempting to keep the cameras covered up. This walk also had plenty of signage to keep people away from the glacier but as we were very close to the glacier and the melting water river was far away, many people were going up to it anyway. We followed suit as we really wanted to touch it. We took some nice pictures and got going as the rain started to come down a little heavier. We looked funny with our little purple umbrella, but our heads and cameras were dry. We ate dinner in Fox Glacier at Café Neve which for the area was probably ok. We then drove back north to Franz Josef to try to find some dessert. There were more options, but the dessert was disappointing for the cost. We started the trek back to our hotel to get some rest.

Pictures from Sunday can be found here.

Monday November 26th, 2007 (Hari Hari to Nelson via 6)

We woke up and got on the road toward Greymouth. This is where we would stop for lunch and gas. We ate at Café 124, which was not too bad, just small portions. We searched for free wireless internet, but no luck. We then headed to Paparoa National Park. Along the way, we thought we spotted a whale off of the coast, but upon review of the pictures on the computer, it looks like it was probably a rock formation. We stopped at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. This was pretty neat and we took lots of pictures of water splashing and a few videos to hear the blowholes. We then drove straight through to Nelson and found a place to stay downtown. We ate at Stefano’s, an Italian place, which was not too bad, spent a couple minutes on the internet looking at places in Picton, then went back for some rest.

Pictures from Monday can be found here.

Tuesday November 27th, 2007 (Nelson to Motueka to Picton)

We woke up and got going to the northwest toward Motueka and Abel Tasman National Park. We drove over the mountain to arrive inside Abel Tasman NP and stopped to hike for a bit. We then realized that the main entrance and Visitor’s Center was north near Takaka and would have taken another hour and a half to reach it. We decided to just walk out to one lookout and then head out. It was a little disappointing to not get to hike more, but the views of the water were pretty nice. Abel Tasman is mostly known for ocean kayaking and boating, so there probably was not much more hiking had we headed north. We stopped in Mapua for some lunch at Café One (or something like that). Their salads were pretty good. We got on the road for the long haul towards Picton. Highway 6 between Picton and Havelock had some pretty nice views, along with several logging trucks. It is very noticeable as you view the mountain sides that logging is very heavy here. Many of the hills were bare and areas not bare were lined with “rows” of trees from replanting. We had noticed on the maps a side road from Havelock to Picton, but had not found much information on it. We saw what we thought to be that road, but without much information and wanting to stop in Blenheim for wine/olive oil/chocolate, we stayed on 6.

We arrived outside of Blenheim and started looking for signs. We searched for the information center in town, but could not find it. As it was getting late, we knew shops would start closing soon, so we hurried on in hopes to see some north of town. We found Annie’s Wine Room and Café and stopped in. We got there about 10 minutes before closing. We tasted a few local wines and one olive oil. I did not really care for their particular Rieslings, but Kacey found one red she liked. So, we picked up a bottle of red and a bottle of Omaka Springs Olive Oil and headed out. The woman there told us how to reach one other winery so we headed that way. We arrived there about 10 minutes before closing but unfortunately they had very little wine to try. There was only one that Kacey wanted to try, but she didn’t care for it and we moved on. On our way to the car, we saw down the road a chocolate shop, so we rushed over. To our luck, it was the one store we had read about to stop in; Makana Confections. We got there about 30 minutes before closing and had a look around. We bought some chocolate for us, parents, family, and a few friends and got moving once north once again on Highway 1 toward Picton. We arrived in town and it was somewhat smaller than we had imagined. We first stopped at our first choice of hotels, the Jasmine Court. They had a vacancy sign out front, so we knew we had a place to stay for the night. This place was pretty nice and we quickly did a load of laundry and headed to the Yacht Club for dinner. Do not eat at this place, it was quite disappointing. There was really no one else there and we waited 30 minutes for a poorly prepared dinner, part of which involved a microwave that we could see from where we were sitting. We headed back to the hotel, did a little web browsing and trip planning and went to bed.

Pictures from Tuesday can be found here.