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The Internet Ramblings of Matt & Lori Knowles

December 2007

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Sat, Dec. 1, 2007 - Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender

The FVFD received its new water tender a couple of days ago, and today I took it our to learn how it works. Since high school, I've always wanted to get a ride in a big rig, preferably a Peterbilt. Now I can say I've driven one. This particular Peterbilt used to be a gas tanker for Chevron, and we had it rebuilt with a new tank and pump more suited for water. It has over 600,000 miles on it, but apparently that's not bad for a truck. It has a 12-speed transmission, and now I know why trucks take off so slow from intersections. Just getting up to 25mph you go through 7 gears. It still needs lettering and lights but we're all pretty excited, because it's a huge improvement over the converted milk tanker that it's replacing.

By the way, it's called a water tender, not a tanker in fire department lingo, because a tanker is a plane.

Sun, Dec. 2, 2007 - Putting up the lights

Putting up the lights

We were expecting it to be cold, wet and windy this morning when we put the lights up, but fortunately we only got one of the three, the wind. It was actually so windy that I woke up about 4:30 in the morning and I figured it was going to be too windy to put up the lights. The wind was howling, and the trees in our yard were whipping around so I decided to sleep in, but then I heard the radio traffic indicating that they were starting so I got up and rushed down there.

Sat, Dec. 8, 2007 - Victorian Christmas

Victorian Christmas

Lori has long wanted Ferndale to have a Victorian event, so she helped organize Victorian Christmas. People were encouraged to dress up in Victorian clothes, and there were several different groups caroling throughout the day. Lori made a new dress for the occasion, styled for the year 1872. There was also a promenade down Main Street for everyone in costume, but I had too many chores at home to spend the whole day living in the past so I missed that.

Sun, Dec. 9, 2007 - DIY and don't RTFM

DIY and don't RTFM

The biggest chore I had for today was redoing some of the electrical in my office at home. Like the garage, I'm finding that the electrical in the house must have been done by an amateur, with no knowledge of codes or even basic principles of electricity. For example, in the office one wall plug was a GFI circuit. Yet when I pulled it out of the wall to replace the rusting box, I found that it wasn't even grounded. Not sure why there was a GFI in that room anyways, but it certainly wasn't doing any good.

I spent most of the day slithering on my belly in the muddy crawlspace running new wire for the two outlets that my computers will be plugged into. I'm going to put them on a separate dedicated circuit just to be safe. I also relocated the light fixture to the correct spot on the ceiling. I was hoping to also do some other electrical work that needs to be done such as fixing the fan circuit in the bathroom, but I ran out of energy. My energy that is.

Mon, Dec. 10, 2007 - Why UL Approved is a good thing

Why UL Approved is a good thing

Last night I was changing one of the light bulbs in the antique fixture in the dining room and since it was dark I had the fixture on so I could see what I was doing. I've done this countless times and never had a problem with it before. As I was screwing it in the socket must have shorted and exploded in a shower of sparks and smoke. I screamed an obscenity so loud that Lori thought I must have gotten shocked. I didn't even have the bulb screwed in yet so when I pulled my hand away I was still holding the smoking bulb. When it finished sparking, I took a look at the base and the arcing had completely burned a hole through the base. It also destroyed the socket in the fixture so I'm going to have to repair that. The guy that we bought the light from liked the authenticity of antique sockets. I think I'll be replacing them with UL approved modern units. That paper insulation apparently doesn't last forever.

Tue, Dec. 11, 2007 - SPOT


For my birthday Lori got me a SPOT, which is as much for her as for me. So what is a SPOT? It stands for Satellite Personal Tracker. The device allows you to do the following, as long as you have a clear view of the sky:

  1. Send an \I'm OK" message to up to 5 email addresses or text message devices (cell phones)
  2. Send an "I need help" message
  3. Send a 911 message
  4. Track your progress using Google maps (optional service)

Since a lot of my motorcycle riding is solo, out on very remote roads this adds a bit of security that I could be found should the bike breakdown, I crash, or I'm abducted by big foot. The fact that it works off of satellite means that even if I'm out of cell phone range, I can at least let Lori know I'm OK or that I need help. A separate button is reserved for placing a 911 call. It won't say what the problem is, but the local rescue agency will be provided with your exact coordinates. Think of all the people you've heard in the news lately that would still be alive had they had one of these devices. It's not foolproof, but for the $149 initial cost and the $99/year service fee, it is well worth it. There are still some bugs to be worked out in their service but it's a brand new device so I expect that it will only get better with time.

Fri, Dec. 14, 2007 - Red Shouldered Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk

Lately it seems like we've been seeing a larger number of predator birds in the trees behind us. (Speaking of backyard trees, we lost about half of one of the big cottonwoods. Ironically it wasn't the one that's been leaning at a 30 degree angle for the last 7 years. Check out the April 18th, 2001 entry which shows the two trees. The one in the background lost the entire left side.) I believe this bird was a red shouldered hawk which isn't listed in our bird book, but a little online research seemed to indicate that to be the correct species. We're not bird watchers by any means so take my identification with a grain of salt. It also doesn't help that we spotted it near dusk on a dark cloudy afternoon so it wasn't too easy getting a photo of it, especially since it was about 40-50 feet up in the tree.

Sat, Dec. 15, 2007 - Another day, another hawk

Another day, another hawk

This one we're guessing is a Marsh Hawk. Again not a great photograph of it, but the same lousy conditions as the one I photographed yesterday. Now I know why a large, fast lens is a requirement for photographing birds. Later while we were driving around Ferndale looking at Christmas lights, we saw a pretty owl sitting on a fence. We didn't find any good candidates in our bird book though, so I can't tell you what it was. That's the end of this week's Ferndale Ornithology Report.

Sun, Dec. 16, 2007 - House on Fire

House on Fire

There was a fire on Main Street tonight, but the good news is that it was only one of tractor floats in the annual Ferndale Lighted Tractor Parade. This year I decided not to set up my big studio lights to take pictures but instead just sat back and watched the parade. Lori watched the parade sitting in the cab of Engine 1 which I had parked on Main Street for traffic control. The weather cooperated beautifully as the rain from earlier in the day stopped just before the start of the parade, but left a nice sheen on the road for the lights to reflect off of. Then as we were driving home after the parade, it started raining again. Also it was a lot warmer than last year and gloves weren't even needed. I guess Mother Nature felt sorry for making the weather so bad the night of the tree lighting.

Mon, Dec. 17, 2007 - Rain Garden and Flood Control

Rain Garden and Flood Control

Lori and I spent the weekend putting in our latest flood control project. Since the last flood came in from the side we added some protection by using 1x12 boards at the bottom of what will eventually be a deer fence and a series of arbors. I also started digging out a trench that we will fill with gravel for a "creek bed" that will serve not only as a path through that side of the garden, but also as a rain garden for the gutters on that side of the house.

Sun, Dec. 23, 2007 - Christmas Bride

Christmas Bride

On the way down to San Jose for the holidays, we stopped at Scott and Betsy's Victorian home in Alameda. They graciously allowed us to use their home for a photoshoot with Natalie. Natalie had the perfect figure for this 1930s vintage wedding dress. She also looked right at home in a Victorian nightgown that we also photographed for Lori's vintage clothing website.

Mon, Dec. 24, 2007 - Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve we had dinner at Mom's and opened presents because Derek and Jasna were leaving on vacation. Earlier in the day, I had spent the morning trying to get Lori's Christmas present. I had wanted to get her a Taboo rose which was one of her favorite roses at our house in San Jose. I couldn't find one in catalogs, online, or at the local nurseries, so I headed to where I hoped one still existed, 74 Cleaves Ave. Not only did I score some cuttings to propagate, but the current owner (not the person we sold to in 2000) wasn't using the gazing ball pedestal we had in the back yard there and so she gave it to me. It was pretty fun seeing Lori's reaction when she opened that present.

Sat, Dec. 29, 2007 - Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

After spending several days helping out Mom and visiting with Grandma, Lori and I traveled down to Hollister to stay with Carol and John. We all took an over-night trip to San Simeon to visit Hearst Castle. We took tour number 2 which like all of the tours, starts at the Neptune Pool. Beautiful weather that day and it sure felt good to get out of the rain for awhile.

Sun, Dec. 30, 2007 - The Return of Hearst Castle

The Return of Hearst Castle

After a totally forgetable breakfast, we made our way back to Hearst Castle, to take tour number 3. One thing I noticed since our last trip down there in the 80s, was that digital photography has made it much easier to take pictures indoors there. It was really nice to be able to switch ISOs for taking shots in the bright sunlight outdoors and the dim indoor lighting present in such rooms as the indoor swimming pool. Nice not having to worry about running out of film too.

Mon, Dec. 31, 2007 - Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals

After our tour yesterday, we drove up Highway 1. We stopped just north of San Simeon to watch the elephant seals for awhile. I was surprised what a great viewing area this was. You are able to get fairly close to them. There's probably a lot of people feeling this fat right now, after all that holiday eating.

To counteract all of that eating, today we went hiking at the Pinnacles. A beautiful winter day, sunny, and temps perfect for hiking. Yep, that's what California is all about, hiking on New Year's Eve wearing a short sleeve shirt.