Fourth Grade: Practical Electrical Class

Xavier started learning about electricity and magnetism recently in science. Yesterday we learned how electrons flow along wires, what a circuit was, and how series and parallel circuits are wired. Then we made our own! A couple light sockets, a couple bulbs, some wire, a couple nails, a few C batteries, a paperclip, and a chunk of wood. You can turn the lights on by connecting the paperclip across both nails.

Except for taping the batteries together, he made it all himself.

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X's Series Circuit Light

Christmas Lights

Oklahoma is a weird place. About an hour from where I live, in the middle of nowhere, is this amazing Christmas lights display. You drive down this little tiny two lane highway until you think you’re lost, then you turn down a dark dirt road, then you park in a dirt field in from of this brilliant display. It’s all timed to songs played on a radio station they broadcast. I tried to video most of a song, but it was freezing outside so I did it from in my car. It didn’t turn out great, but I think you can get the idea.

Having a 10 Year Old

As adults we realize that the age milestones don’t matter as much. You aren’t that different the day after your birthday than the day before it. At ten though, that wasn’t the case, and today my son turns ten.

Looking back on his life, I see phases instead of years. The first phase was the worst. I know lots of people disagree with me, but let me put this in prospective. You have to feed him, change his dirty diapers, and care for him in every way; and in return he doesn’t let you sleep. You can’t even play with him, because he just lays there!

The next phase brought with it a little fun, but it was also the hardest so far as a parent. He was old enough play. Not as much as I would have liked, but we got to play around and watch cartoons together (although his taste in cartoons didn’t quite match mine). However, it also involved potty training. Xavier isn’t especially patient, and taking the time out of your busy play schedule to use the grown up potty seemed like a concept he would never grasp. I felt like we were banging our heads against the wall, but eventually Xavier decided it was time and started using the bathroom just in time to start the next phase, school.

The start of school brought another phase and a drastic change. Since I work from home, I was used to being around Xavier all day, but now it was different. Even with the changes, this phase was better than the last. Xavier was older and able to play even more things. We had a lot of fun playing frisbee with his friends after school. His taste in cartoons got better too, so we could enjoy superhero cartoons together! As he got older, he also got smarter, which made him much easier to talk to and relate to. It’s been a great phase, but I see it coming to an end.

The phases have only been getting better, so I look forward to the next phase, but I also look to it with some apprehension. As a parent, entering a new phase means that you really don’t know what to expect. Xavier turning ten signals the start of his transition into manhood, and I see it happening. He’s more independant than ever. He does far more grown up things, such as hunt and use a hatchet to chop down trees and fashion weapons. He’s also starting to show preferences in the things he learns, he’s starting to specialize his knowledge.

He’s growing up, and I love it.

Cutting Wood

If you’ve never seen the PBS show Frontier House, you should. The basic premise is that they took three modern families (in 2002) and put them in the shoes of similar families that lived in 1883. They had to travel out to their 160 acre claim, build their houses, tend their animals, grow their food, cut their own wood for heat, etc. They had to survive for three months leading up to winter, and then experts would judge them on whether they were prepared enough to have survived the winter. It’s a fascinating series, and it makes me wonder how well I would do. Could I actually survive without technology? I mean, I think I could build a log cabin with Google and YouTube to assist, but without?

Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice

Henry Ford

We’ve been going for the full experience here. We haven’t run the central heat at all yet, even though we’ve hit single-digit lows (6°F), relying completely on the wood stove and cutting all the wood ourselves. We’ve even fell most of the trees with axes instead of chainsaws, though we’ve been using a chainsaw to cut it into rounds (I want to find a crosscut saw for cheap somewhere, I just haven’t yet). We’ve also been splitting all the wood by hand with a maul. I’ve found that Henry Ford was almost right. What he missed was that you are warmed when you fall the tree, again when you slice it into rounds, yet again when you split it, still another time when you stack it, and finally you’re warmed again when you burn it. A more accurate saying would have been “Wood you cut, split, stack and burn from a tree you felled yourself, warms you five times.” It’s not as catchy though.

My Dichotomous Life

My WorkspaceI’m a web developer. I work with technolgies built on technologies in a worldwide arena. I sit on a yoga ball in my office upstairs and can deal with people in several different countries in one day. I make my living staring at screens and typing on a keyboard. I have four screens at my main workstation, a laptop, two tablets, a smartphone, and even an iPod touch that I use on a very regular basis. At some stages during site development, it is completely normal for me to have all these devices, as well as some additional ones (like Xavier’s Chromebook), on my desk and working at the same time. This is my life. This is normal to me.

Then I go downstairs in our log house. Now my life is different.

Our heat for our house is this beautiful wood stove!
Our heat for our house is this beautiful wood stove!
Down here I tend the fire to keep the house warm. I look out our picture window at the woods that surround our home, I look at the two places where they dip lower as they meet with the creeks that are near enough to our house to see from inside, and I gaze off to the north at the closer of the two lakes. Sometimes I hike through these woods or swim in the lake. Sometimes I hunt or fish in them instead. When I do, I clean the catch and we eat it. This is my life. This is normal to me.

There aren’t a lot of people that live in both of the worlds I do. I’m okay with that. One life is always giving me a reprieve from the other. It’s healthy that way.

After the Snow

We had snow last night, went sledding today, and then took a quick trip around the property. We used my dad’s 4×4, and I crouched in the bed taking photos. We didn’t stop a lot, so the photos aren’t that great, but the view was spectacular! This is all on the property we’re living on!