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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 3/9/08 - 3/16/08

Friday, March 14, 2008

HEY! I'm trying to sleep here!

In part because I'm sick of all the references to Terminix and Ant Farms for sale at the top of my page, and in part because I'm tired today, allow me to vent!

For the unaware, Apex, NC is this "special" location on the former Seaboard Air Line RR: the highest point on the line between Washington, D.C. and Miami, the two ends of that particular railroad. So...over the years, as railroads have been constantly taking each other over, it has fallen into the control of CSX. CSX continues to operate a depot and switching station in old historic downtown Apex. Helper engines are permanantly assigned to Apex to help freight trains up and down the's uphill to Apex from both the north and the south.

Hence the town's name.
Our house is about 2 miles from downtown Apex. When the winds are from the west, you can hear the train whistles pretty loudly from the switching operations. Since the engines have to cross several streets in downtown Apex, they have to sound off their whistle several times. For some reason, 3-4 times per month, CSX finds some reason to do all this switching in the middle of the night! And when the winds are right, you can hear a lot of whistling! Incidentally, my bedroom has windows that face towards the west -- towards downtown Apex -- so it can get pretty loud...and annoying.

Because it isn't a constant blaring of the horn...the blasts are sometimes a minute apart, 2 minutes apart, 10 seconds just don't know when the next one will be.

This morning, it started at about 5:45am, and continued until after Timmy wandered in at about 7:30am. I would JUST DRIFT BACK TO SLEEP, when another whistle blast would awaken me.
So I'm tired today.

PS: I *know* that switching is better off done at night, when there's less auto traffic being inconvenienced waiting at the crossing gates. A couple of the crossings sometimes have the gates down for upwards of 1/2 hour, as a train scoots back and forth as they add/subtract freight cars.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ant Farm Update

So, we've had the ants in the farm going on 5 days, and we have some good-looking tunnels appearing now.

Unfortunately, all the tunneling is going on in "Timmy's" ant farm, while Jake's has something else going on...mass burials of all their dead.

I'll tell you what! I think these ant farms are WAY more interesting than fish or sea monkeys (Jake got sea monkeys for Christmas when he was 4 and they didn't capture his attention the way these ants are).

So here are the tunnels, up close and from a distance.

From 2008 03 10 An...

From 2008 03 10 An...

Jake's side's mass gravesites.
From 2008 03 10 An...

From 2008 03 10 An...

And a closeup of a pretty buff ant trucking some sand from one farm to the other:
From 2008 03 10 An...

From 2008 03 10 An...

From 2008 03 10 An...

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Updated Experiment

Well, while the enthusiasm is there to have our family live with just the one car, in practice we discovered some "issues".

First, Dave usually leaves his office around 5:30pm. If I'm doing a labor-intensive dinner, such as a stir fry where I'm chopping veggies and standing over the stove for a few minutes, taking the 40 minutes to go out and pick up Dave every day would be a challenge. With the time change, though, we've been having dinner closer to 7pm lately, so we might be able to swing least for our experiment.

If I do simple dinners, such as casseroles and quick homemade pizza, and if I prepare everything ahead of time so I throw it all together as soon as we get home, it can be done. Tonight it was homemade cheesesteaks with raw baby carrots and Ranch dip. 15 minutes.

Also, Thursday is soccer night for Jake, at 5:30pm. So I'd have to pick up Dave at 5pm on the nose to get back to Apex in time for soccer. Dave is willing to work from home on Thursdays, which would be great! I can make a fancy dinner on Thursdays, at that!

So today I drove about 60 miles in just the Prius. That would be ~1 1/2 gallons of gas, compared to 3 gallons it would have been in the van. This morning I dropped off Jake at preschool at 9am and then went straight to campus and was able to drop off Dave around 9:20am. Dave usually is at his office from 9:30am-5:30pm.

I drove Daniel home from the park today, and we had to cram his booster seat into the back of the car along with Jake's booster and Timmy's 5-point convertible seat. The seats all fit, but it was barely so and the seat belting was certainly an effort. But we were legal!

Picking up Dave was an adventure. I can't remember ever being on campus at 5:30pm...what a nightmare, between the auto traffic leaving campus, the students walking everywhere, and the buses stopping every 50 feet. I pulled a "stupid" and tried this roundabout way to get to Dave's building that wasted about 10 minutes. I ended up behind a bus that was stopping at each bus stop. Argh!

Jake, however, enjoyed his views of the young pretty girls. He asked me to put down his window (it was 65 degrees!) while I was crawling through campus traffic and he was hanging out the window yelling "HI!" to the girls. Of course the girls were swooning over cute-little-Jake. What a ham!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An Experiment

So...we own two vehicles. Dave drives the Toyota Prius to/from work (20 miles per day), while I take the boys around in a Honda Odyssey (more than 20 miles per day, usually closer to 50).

Don's blog now has an RSS feeder streaming his favorite news articles related to Electric (EV) and Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) vehicles. I also noticed our local Citgo station's unleaded gas (corner of Penny and Ten Ten Rds.) is going for $3.29/gallon (look here and scroll down to the list of most expensive gas...and YES PAUL, that's Costco with the cheapest gas in the area!).

It got me thinking: how much gas (read: how much money) could we save if we tried to live with one car for a while...just the Prius?

Right now we average 1 tank of gas per week for the Prius (about $28), and 1.5 tanks of gas per week for the van (about $75). I wonder if we could do everything in a week on 2 gallons in the Prius?

Could we save ($28+75) - ($28+$28) = $47 per week? $200 per month? $2400 per year?

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In the Dark Ages...

So here's the plan to keep the ants in the allegedly will inspire them to tunnel more. I simply folded a piece of black construction paper in half and rubber-banded it to each of the farms. Stay tuned...I put the construction paper on at about 7pm, will remove it in about 12 hours when we get up tomorrow morning.

From 2008 03 10 An...

I promise I'll think of something else to write about real soon!

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We Have Tunnelage!

...though I have to admit that I thought there'd be more tunnels by now...I'm considering putting black construction paper over the sides during the day to encourage more in-the-dark work.

From 2008 03 10 An...

Now, for those with mining backgrounds, you'll know that what's pictured below isn't a tunnel, but an "adit". A horizontal entrance with no opening at the other end.

From 2008 03 10 An...

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Monday, March 10, 2008

All The Little Ants Are Marching....*

*I couldn't help it...I did it again -- name that tune!

I got the boys ant farms for Christmas this year. I had found them at Walgreen's of all places on Black Friday and let me tell you, those Uncle Milton Ant Farms are SO cute, I also got one as a 5th birthday gift for my college roommate's son. The kit includes a coupon with which you can send away for female worker harvester ants...or you can order them online. The weather has to be opportune before the company will ship the ants...especially when it's cross-country, as it was in our case.

I mailed the ant coupons on the first business day after Christmas, and had nearly forgotten about it! They arrived this past Wednesday or Thursday in the mail while I was working in SC. When I got back Saturday night, we set up the ant farms, opened up the vials and let the games begin!

First of all, we assembled the ant farms and the boys asked us to mark whose farm was whose. (Or is it "who's farm was who's"???). So we did that:

From 2008 03 10 An...

Jacob's Farm -- his name is written on the base w/ a Sharpie

From 2008 03 10 An...
Timmy's Farm

Then we randomly chose a vial of ants for each boy. Dave dumped one vial into Timmy's...I dumped the other vial into Jake's. I had an easy time...the ants went right in, but Dave had to run upstairs for some tweezers from his model railroading supplies to pick up the ants that wiggled out from the container and ended up on our kitchen counter. With just a slight bit of effort, we got all the ants contained.

It turned out that my vial was so easy to put in Jake's ant farm because most of them were dead. Probably no more than 10 of the 25-or-so ants were alive. Boo. That might have been because we let them sit in the vial for too long...

But Timmy's were alive and well, and his vial somehow ended up with two larvae, which are pictured here:

From 2008 03 10 An...
I had to hop online and do a little research to figure out why the ants kept on picking up and carrying those larvae all over the place...apparently ants take turns "babysitting", and they have to keep it fed and at the correct temperature. They keep moving the larvae from the lower level (sand for tunneling) and the upper level (fake plastic farm scenes).

Jake was quite discouraged at first at the "mass graves" -- piles of ant death all over his farm.

Each of the farms comes with tubing with which you can connect more than one ant farm together, so that's what we did:

From 2008 03 10 An...
It took 2 days before the ants from one side were allowed over to the other side. Each side had posted a sentry-type ant at each end of the upper tube and kept the others from passing through. We set up the ant farms on Saturday, and this afternoon (Monday) the boys and I came home from errands and saw the following:

From 2008 03 10 An...
The upper tube connects the upper halves (fake farms) and those pink specks are bits of pink sugar cookie crumbs I had dropped in on Saturday night. The lower tube connects the sanded lower halves and you see bits of sand that the ants had to clear to open up that route.

So as of Monday afternoon, the ants are freely traveling between the two farms and are working together to clear the dead ant carcasses and dig some tunnels.

Stay tuned -- these farms are quite addictive to watch!

PS: Enjoy the ant tune here.

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