The Landscapers Challenge

April 12, 2011

Spring has sprung, and that means it’s time to hit the outdoors.  I’ll be spending a lot of time over the next few weekends enjoying the fresh (pollen-filled) air, warm days, and the sound of the birds, but it’s not because of camping or hiking or sight-seeing.  No, it’s time to get out there and work on the yard again.

The work I did last year survived the Winter … except for my one trouble area.  After on season of sod and two seasons of seed, this is my last try before giving up and fill the area with mulch and flowers.  Below is what the area looked like last year after the grass seed took off and I landscaped around the sidewalk.

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?  Nice and lush and green?  There isn’t even any signs of pet grass stains.  Well, eight months later, this is what the same area looked like following a few snow storms (and some digging by the power company to replace a failed power line).

It is hard to believe that these pictures are from the same lawn.  Hopefully the improvements I am doing this year will pay off.  To combat the erosion problem, I have carved out a drain a few feet away from the edge of the driveway and graded the soil towards the drain.

I need about 3 or 4 more bags of gravel and then cover it up with a layer of soil as well.  In addition, where you see the erosion in the foreground, I will place a gravel drain in the planting bed as well.  This “should” resolve the problem.

This section of the lawn use to be the area with the thickest grass for years, so why it has become such a barren area now is beyond me.  One way or another, this is the last time I try to grow grass here.  HOPEFULLY it works.  I’ll keep you posted.


Puppet Stage

March 8, 2011

The youth of my church attend a regional competition each year where they are tested on a variety of areas, to include Bible knowledge, website design, singing/song leading, and puppet performances.  For those of you that follow my other site, the kids have been doing puppet performances for a few years now.  I’ve made the puppets over  the years, allowing the students to decorate  them so they can perform their plays.  This year, however, there was a new requirement – the puppet stage.

In the past, there was a puppet stage available for the kids to use.  However, this year there is a requirement for the churches to bring their own.  We received the following diagram and text telling us how the puppet stage should be created:

All measurements are from the top railing.
Puppet stage parts list:
12 pieces of 10ft. 1.5 PVC
18 of 1.5 T-Joints
8 of 1.5 90-degree elbows
6 of 1.5 x 1.5 adapter couplings
6 of 1.5 x 3 adapter couplings
1 box of 0.25 phillips head screws.  Drill a hole at each connection and put in a screw to make connection secure.  Do not glue or tape together.  This will make storage easier.
Heavy poly cotton black fabric (black only) – velcro

That is all I received.  So, putting my engineering and math background to use, I had to calculate the actual lengths of the pipe sections in order to achieve the desired dimensions.  This was easy to achieve once I made some preliminary measurements of the exterior and interior of the various fittings.  It took approximately one week to do the math and make the cuts (working about an hour or two each night after work).  The frame went together as seen below:

Then came the hard part – the fabric walls.  I have to admit, I can channel my inner Betsy Ross when needed, but I am far from proficient when it comes to measuring and cutting fabric (especially when it is constantly shifting).  After a lot of fitting, pinning, and refitting, I was able to get a sense of the size and shape of the pieces of fabric necessary in order to cover the frame.  With one piece being 18-feet wide by 5-feet tall, the measuring and pinning took a long while to complete, and that was before I had to trim, hem, and attach the velcro.  In all, the fabric took about one to two weeks to complete.

Lastly, I had to take the whole project apart and bring it to the church building for the kids to assemble on their own.  One of the requirements is that the group assembles, performs, and disassembles the stage in only 12 minutes.  While I have an issue with that requirement, I came up with a way that can be done.  By having the stage partially assembled (in three sections) off to the side, the can walk in and simply attach four poles to complete the assembly.  That shouldn’t take any more than 2 minutes, especially since the coordinator has decided to use the stage without the one-foot extensions at the base of the poles (lowering it to 6.5 feet tall).

Since the fabric around the front and side of the front-half of the stage is a single piece, the first section would already be draped in fabric and simply need the side arms raised into position to connect to the vertical middle section (the second section).  Lastly, the horizontal pieces that connect the middle to the rear of the stage (the third section) would already have the fabric attached, so all that is needed is a tall person to connect the poles together and the stage is completed.  (We will have to practice this some to coordinate the assembly.)

With the stage completed, it’s time to turn the attention towards the puppets themselves.  More on that to come later.


Getting ready for a new 6-Week Challenge

February 14, 2011

As this “heat wave” melts all the snow in my yard, and with Spring just around the corner, it is time for another 6-week challenge.  The quest to lose those pesky five pounds continues, and maybe the fourth time is the charm.  To recap, the first six-weeks was standard exercising (sit-ups, push-ups, etc), the second six-weeks was using the Wii Fit, and the third six-weeks was using my Concept II rowing machine.  This time we’re going to try something different.

I recently purchased the Microsoft Kinect for the X-Box 360.  For those of you who are not familiar with the device, it is a camera that attaches to the gaming console that follows your movements and computes them into actions in the video game.  There is no need for a controller, and you cannot play the games from a seated position.  So here is my plan for the next six weeks:  30 minutes of “playing” with the Kinect and 30 minutes of rowing (Monday through Friday).  This should allow for muscle confusion and burn off those five pounds one and for all!

To add to this, with Spring on the way, my weekends will likely be spent outdoors trying to get the rest of the yard to grow once again.  I had good results at the end of the fall, so hopefully I can continue the success with the rest of the yard.  PLUS, the yard work will help with tackling the five pounds.  Also, you might find this interesting. In doing some research on metabolism, I discovered that Vitamin D (specifically, Vitamin D3) is generated by being exposed to UV radiation, such as sunlight.  Vitamin D boosts your metabolism, so while not only working in the yard and exercising will help me lose weight, the Vitamin D generated by the sunlight will help as well.

I think I will start the exercise challenge next week, as I am currently having to build a puppet stage for church.  Once that’s done, I will have some free time after work.


Autumn

November 25, 2010

Each season brings its own unique beauty.  While my favorite season is Winter (because I love snow), there’s nothing quite like the glow of Autumn.  If only the leaves wouldn’t fall from the trees making hours of work for me each weekend.

Below is a collection of my favorite Autumn photo’s I’ve taken so far.  Enjoy!


Riding on the Little Yellow Train

October 25, 2010

On October 16th, I had the rare pleasure to take a trip on the “Little Yellow Train” on a foliage ride. Operated by the Rappahannock Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society (NRHS), the Little Yellow Train is a combination of three maintenance cars linked with two small engines. The original role of these cars were to transport rail workers when tracks were being laid but now transport visitors on short trips to enjoy the beauty of the season by rail. The pieces of rolling stock are:

Engine: Chesapeake & Ohio Motor Car built by Fairmont Railway Motors, Inc.
Engine: Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac Motor Car built by Northwestern Railroad Company
Car: Baltimore & Ohio PCT-501
Car: Tool Car formerly operated by the Spotsylvania County Industrial Park

The leaves hadn’t quite started to turn to enjoy the colors of the season, but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the ride on the rails. The trip started with the RF&P Motor Car pulling the train down the tracks. Listening to the rhythm of the track as we chugged along through the trees was a real treat. As we reached the midpoint of the trip, the hosts stopped the train to describe the role these little trains served over the decades as well as some history of the region during the Civil War.

Once the host concluded his remarks, the C&O Motor Car took over, taking us back down the track we just traveled. On both legs of the trek, we had to cross the road. With this being a small private train, the crossing gates had to be activated manually. This required the train to come to a complete stop, make the transit across the street, and stop again so the engineer could get back on board.

If you ever happen to find yourself in Fredericksburg, VA, take a moment to visit the Rappahannock Chapter of the NHRS. In addition to their Little Yellow Train, they also have a small collection of other pieces of rolling stock (including four pieces linked together as a museum).


Make Money Online: Searching for the right host

October 14, 2010

In order to take advantage of the financial potential of the internet, the first thing you need to do is stake out your claim. Blog-Now is just one of a handful of sites I operate, and I don’t have to pay for it. Well, technically, I don’t pay for it out of pocket. The hosting service I use offers their service to me at such a low price that the revenue I generate from my websites cover all of my monthly hosting fees. So how do you find out which host is the best one for the buck?

I put in a lot of research a few years back, identifying which hosts provided the needed services that I required for my site. These days, however, you just need to look in just one spot. There are a handful of sites, such as VPS web hosting that provides you all of the data you need on multiple hosting sites in one convenient location. With just one click, you can see the monthly cost for the service, customer reviews, and links that take you to the hosting site so you can find detailed information on their service.

Unless you know that your site is going to have a lot of activity (such as a download site), I recommend starting small look for the best bargain. You can always grow your hosting service as your website grows. And moving from one host to another has become easier over the years, so you when you are ready to make a move, you can revisit sites such as VPS web hosting to see what options you have.


Monorail at Dusk

August 25, 2010

Being a big train lover, there is no better “attraction” at Walt Disney World than the monorail.  Whenever practical, my camera was pointed upwards to capture the trains in action while I was enjoying a week in Orlando this Summer.  Below is one of my favorite shots.  Just as the Sun started to set, one of the trains passed overhead. With the headlamps on and the Sub-lit clouds reflecting off the side of the train, the photo has a little bit of a futuristic, almost spaceship-like look about the monorail.  Enjoy!

(Click image to enlarge.)