May 2016

There was a time when I worked in the high tech industry that I had to write status reports every month.

I hated that.

I tried to get creative, but more often than not, I was asked to keep with the ‘standard’ format.

So, now that I’m retired, I often wonder: ‘Just what did I do last month?”

So maybe I should write a status report.

May, 2016

Accomplishments

Windblown Studio work:

  • Did two gas firings.  One was a regular glaze firing which came out fairly good considering the cones were made pointing the wrong direction.  Instead of them falling away from each other, cone 9 fell into cone 10, and 10 fell into 11.  The firsts time I noticed that was when cone 9 fell at the bottom and pushed the other two cones down with it.   This make it somewhat difficult to tell when to shut down the kiln. But experience paid off and the results looked good.  The second firing was to fire four saggers.  This was to go to 1650 degrees Fahrenheit.  It, also came out good.
  • Private Raku firing:  On May 30th, we did a private Raku firing.  The rain hold off until our third and last firing.  We finished it in light rain. The results were very good. The kiln held up for another firing, only needing some minor door Kaowool repair. Rita got the best piece out with a platter that was turned upside down in the can – giving the red bronze luster glaze good reduction and a copper that is just spectacular.

Medical:

  • An call to my skin doctor got me an appointment to have him check a lump on my temple.  He removed it (with a scapula)  and the lab tests showed it benign.
  • A call to eye doctor got me an appointment to check my left eye. It was having rings of light flashing when I moved my eye a certain eye. Being concern about a detached retina, he checked it and said it as note the retina but rather the vitreous pulling on the retina.  Had it been accompanied with lots of new floaters or other material floating in my vision, that would indicate a torn retina.  But is wasn’t, so now, I just get a light show when I’m out at night.
  • My normal annual visit with my GP was more of a discussion with her about my heart and blood test results. My cholesterol was up (over 200) as was my triglycerides. This was disappointing since I have lost about 13 pounds since April and have been eating much more healthy than ever.  The doc said a weight loss can actually increase triglycerides. However, keeping with the cardiologist’s desires to get my cholesterol down,  she put me on a statin called Atorvastatin ( a Lipitrol generic product).  Her quote was: “If cardiologist had their own way, they would have lipitrol in the drinking water.”   She also ordered a pulmonary respiratory test to make sure my shortness of breath is not due to some lung problem.
  • My stenosis  still haunts me. Cutting grass, walking up the hill, playing ball with the dog, cutting up wood, walling to the mailbox, and anything strenuous causes shortness of breath. frequently minor chess pain.  At night before I go to sleep, my heart and I have this conversation:  It says: “I’m not healthy” and I say: “keep on pumping.”

Other:

  • Zoe got sick. Some kind of allergic reaction. I suspect it is the flea collar.
  • On May 13th,  I went to MA  to visit Chris  and see his boys play little league games. The game was canceled but I did get to see them practice.   I stayed at Eric’s and we had a few drinks and conversation together. I caught Neil and Dianna going to the movie: Jungle Book, so I tagged along.  I also got to see Georgia’s piano recital, which was a great experience. (see blog post)
  • Technology consulting this month was just under 10 hours.
  • Replaced the kitchen faucet.  The difficult part was getting the old one out of the sink. I actually had to take the sink out in order to get the nuts removed from under the faucet.  The new one went in easy compared to that.
  • Finally finished the wiring from the drawing room project. I installed the two way light switch in the kiln room and wired up the outlet to finish all the circuits in the drawing room.
  • When I cut the upper field of grass, I had to rake and pick up the ‘hay’.  Hope to not have to do that again.

The Recital

Recital

May 15, 2016
Northampton, MA

After spending over 70 years on planet Earth, I find little that moves me to tears.  But I recently attended a piano recital to see my granddaughter play and was surprised that I was touched by the other kids playing.  This recital was a special moment.

Click to play the music recorded below while you read on.  (I was going to make it auto play, but find that aggravating in other sites, so I put the playing control in your hands.)

If you pressed the play icon, the Beatles piece you are hearing was performed by a boy named Levi who was somewhere between 10  and 12 years old. All I could see is his blond curly hair as he sat on the piano.  He not only played the  piano, but he sang into a microphone. With his lips almost touching the mic,  he looked like a 12 year old  Randy Newman.  The audio is not very good for I recorded it with my cell phone  from the back of the room and Levi  had trouble keeping his mouth close to the mic while he played the base notes.

What touched me was not necessarily the quality of this performance, or any of the other kids that performed, but rather the expression of their passion for music.  I saw  Madeleine perform a piece she wrote herself,  Noah move his body in beat while playing the Star Wars theme, the tapping foot of Nicholas when he did his own jazzed up version of Lightly Row.

Kids age 10 – 12 do not  exude their passion for music, especially at a piano recital. They are normally terrified of missing a note, or forgetting what comes next.  They just want to get their playing done quickly and off stage.  But, what I saw that Sunday afternoon were a bunch of great kids that love  music and they were not ashamed to show it.

My granddaughter’s performance was good. She showed her feel for music when she put in the appropriate pause between notes for effect. She was not in a rush to get the performance done. She wanted you to feel the music, using the silence between notes to instill that touch.  If you were not noticing, you may think it was a mistake, but it was deliberate and effective.  Who teaches kids to do that?  This is special.

A few days later, after I got home,  I would catch myself humming  Ob-La-di, Ob-La-Da.  When I listen to these pieces, it still  brings tears to my eyes.

I emailed the teacher thanking her for doing such a great job and wishing her to never stop. Teaching young’ens to play the piano, a number of people can do that.  But to teach them to improvise,  compose and put a happy Beatles  tunes in your head for days,  now, that is great!

 

North Topsail, NC

A friend of mine, Bob, purchased a house in North Topsail Beach, NC. It was organically built and owned by his parents.  Between the time Bob purchased it and his parents owned it, it was owned by a guy who was just interested in the rental income. He did little to upgrade it or maintain it properly.

It was in sad shape when Bob  bought it.  We were having dinner with him and other friends when he said he was going down to work on it .  I asked if he needed any help.  He said he would pay for my trip, housing and food if I went with him to help him.

Sounded like a free trip to the beach to me, So, I offered to go and help.

Prior to our arrival, Bob had contracted a house mover to have the house raised up 4 feet to meet the latest flood height codes.  After the house was raised, another contractor replace all 49 pillars.

We arrived March 2, and found the house  now stood over 11 feet  off the ground, just one foot above flood level.  The increase of the flood plain by four feet is the  impact of beach erosion and  global warming house-raised

 

 

 

 

 

 

This photo below shows the I-beams lowered after the house was sat back down on the new pillars.beams-under-house

roof-viewOne of the first tasks was to fix holes in the roof. We climbed out the window and I will admit, putting aside my fear of heights, the view of the ocean was wonderful.

window-injuryIn the process of climbing in and out the window, we found out that the window springs failed when one came crashing down on my arm like a guillotine. The good news that it was my arm it that was in the window, not my head.  This was the first of my body damages.

 

roof-hole1To fix holes in the roof, we first had to remove the shingles where we would find rotten sheathing which we removed.

 

roof-hole2

 

We even found rotten rafters, which we had to repair.

 

nail-injuryIt was removing the rotten sheathing when I got my second injury.  My hand was poked  by a nail when I was throwing a piece of rotten sheathing away.

From then on, I wore gloves.

roof-repair-0

 

After cutting out all the rotten parts, we would patch in new sheathing.

 

roof-repair1Then we would put on new tar paper. I would often let Bob tack in the nails near the edge for  when I dangled my feet over the edge, I got a instant case of vertigo.on-edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

roof-repair-2We then would put on new shingles and seal places with the ugliest, stickiest, hard-to-clean, black tar calk Bob could fine.  No matter how careful we were, we would always put on hands down  in a fresh blob of it.

Other than fixing holes in the roof, we found damages showers from the house raising and tubs that we had to remove. To get them out of the bathrooms, we had to take down walls.  To get the one piece shower/tub out of the house, we had to  cut it in half.

shower-damage shower-out

 

tub-out tub-out2

floor1

The floors also had issues. We took up the floor2 vinyl flooring to find press board used as sub flooring. When press board gets wet, it either  swells or decays, leaving spongy spots in the sub floor.

We removed these and replaced it with 3/4″ plywood.

 

It was with great pleasure to heave a old broken refrigerator, a honker, heavy tube TV, broken interior doors and the rest of the derbies in a dumpster.

dumpster1. We gave the vinyl flooring, washer, dryer and stove to Habitat for Humanity.

We worked  two weeks straight. but  there were times we took breaks to see the sunset or the beach.

sunset-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ate (and drank) well. I had seafood ten days straight, but saladbeing in the south, it was often deep fried. To balance this with more healthy food, I had a salads like the one pictured. The mudslide was giving into my  weakness for chocolate, ice cream and vodka. mudslide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were times I got to visit the beach. There were four times that I walked on the beach and each time I saw no people.  My only company was my shadow.beach1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the last day, the ocean mist was so strong, it looked like fog. beach2

 

 

We left for home on March 15, 2016.  I had hopped to loose weight during this work trip.  When I got home, I found I had actually gained 6 pounds!  So much for southern fried seafood.

 

Bedroom Door Project

Bedroom Door

In January of 2014,  we started building an additional bedroom since it looked like Rita’s mom was going to stay a while. With the exception of the interior door, it was completed in April of 2014.  

We lived with no door for over a year.  It was not too uncomfortable since the bed sleeping area could not be seen from the studio.

But, we could not shut out the animals nor did it feel very private.  

We looked for a used door at Construction Junction, but never found one that would work for us.  

Then, in the fall of 2014, Rita was at her mom’a and called to ask if we could use some of the lumber her dad had cut and stacked in an outbuilding over 20 years ago.  It was black walnut and appeared to be enough of it in good shape that we could use it to make a door. 

It was one of those questions, where there is only one answer. I said ‘yes’ and she loaded up the Transit.  She drove 500 miles with a load of back walnut sticking a foot out the back door.  

We took the rough cut boards to a Amish wood worker on got it planed and joined  

To make the project more challenging, the board planed to a thickness of 5/8″. Normally interior doors are 1 3/8″ to 1 3/4″ thick.

After a lot of thinking and looking at door designs, we decided to build a sliding barn door. 

Something similar to that pictured on the right (from Cottage Barn Door)

After more planning and research, we finally found the hardware at a reasonable price (at Home Depot – which surprised us saving us well over $300 in the hardware cost). I also had to get more bar clamps for I had only two and needed eight.

We started the project in August of 2015.  We had about 12 boards to choose from that varied in widths from 3 1/4″ to 8″. The length was easily over 7 foot.

After selecting boards to make up a 39″ wide door to cover a 37″ rough opening, we then selected boards for the molding and a header board for the bar.  

Then we started gluing boards together, fist two, then three, then four then all of them.
Then,  I sanded. I sanded with a belt sander. I sanded with a palm sander. I sanded by hand. I sanded until the cows came home.

After a few pounds of sawdust, watering eyes, and a large number of  great big sneezes, I  was done sanding.

I then  put two coats of Teak oil on it.
Then, we installed the barndoor hardware, after getting new holes drilled in the track to match up with our stud locations. We screwed the track through the header board into the studs.

Then we hung the door … ah, well, we tried to hang it.  There was a mistake someplace of 1/2″ and the door didn’t hang on the bar. The bar was too low. 

The door just sat there on the floor while Rita and I looked at each other.

I think I was the fist to speak:  “Bummer Shit!” I exclaimed.

“What happened?”, Rita asked.

We had a choice of cutting a 1/2″ off the door bottom or moving the bar up higher.

So, we took the bar down and re-installed it up higher by a 1/2″.

Then we hung the door.

There will be a few minor things to do yet, like install a door handle, guide on the floor.  

But now we have a bedroom door!

I’m still trying to figure out where we were off that 1/2″. It is one of those things I may never figure out.



Replacing Kitchen Sink


In 2005, when we built our house, we had talked about replacing the kitchen  sink someday.

The sink we put in was a double bowl stainless sink Rita had found it at her mother’s home. It was in one of the outbuildings that was full of accumulated treasures that her mother either could not face getting rid of, or had picked up at some garage sale at a great price. 

It was free, so we put it in. and it worked fine, except washing dishes were difficult. Using the small bowl was like trying to wash pots and pans in a teacup.


Fast forward nine years. 

We were in Construction Junction, a favorite place for Rita to browse and get artistic inspiration.   People who remodel their home or business would take their discarded items to Construction Junction to be sold at a very reasonable price to be re-used or recycled. When we built the house, we found many useful items at a great price: doors for $10 – $25, a electrical cook top for $50, windows under $25, sink cabinets for $10.  Whereas we could get useful used items for a reasonable price at Construction Junction, Rita’s Moms stuff was free.

Another difference is that Construction Junction is organized. Her Mom’s organization is based off chaos theory .  You can walk through a narrow walkway in her Mom’s basement and you will find shotgun shells, old Jello packages, a broken freezer full of plastic bags, 20 year old sheets and a saxophone all piled on one another next to a dresser containing half full bottles of wine and whisky that had been open 25 years ago.  We don’t like to call her mom a hoarder, but the TV show could would love to do a segment on her.

So it did not surprise me that on this trip to Construction Junction, Rita’s DNA kicked in. She call me over to look at this single bowl stainless steel sink.  Since, I could not find anything wrong with it, we took it home.  A new sink would cost us between $250 – $400. This one costs $15.00. 

It had been years since I installed a kitchen sink, but I took my time on a Monday and removed the old double bowl sink and put in the new one. The skills needed to do this kind of job are somewhere between  a contortionist warming up for a show and a blind guy using  a screwdriver to set his watch.  

Working under the sink can be painful and dangerous.  One is either putting strain on their back, banging their knuckles with slipping wrenches, or hitting their head on the top of the cabinet door.  

And the language!  It could make a sailor blush. It is one of those tasks that require to try putting two four letters together to make up new words.  

Also,  wearing bifocals and screwing in sink brackets while lying on your back under the sink is like trying to push a rope up a water slide, with your bare toes.

Emergency room doctors and chiropractors love people who work under the kitchen sinks.

With all the complaining, cussing and skinned knuckles and head, the job got done.

We now have a single bowl stainless steel kitchen sink. 

And, of course a new drain as well.  The old double bowl drain system looked like a sank pit.  This one is much neater.

Of course we won’t tell you of the follow up work that is needed. 

Anybody who said plumbers get paid too much has not worked under a kitchen sink.






April Fools Day – I quite!

April Fools Day
 


Image result for music symbol


Yes, today was my last day working as an employee. Some will call this retirement. I call it quitting.  I have been collecting Social Security for  a number of years already, so I can’t say that is retiring. I’m not sure how one defines retirement, but Wikipedia defines it as when one stops employment completely.  According to that, I’m retired.

But, I rather think I quite!
 
But wait! I will still work as a contractor through my own company. I’ll be my own boss now. All the decisions will be mine and the energy and hours that go toward working will benefit my company, not somebody else’s.  
 
It is freeing.  It feels good. It feels empowering.
 
First rule I’ll make is that I’ll declare April 1 a day of celebration.  Next April Fools day, I’ll take off work. I will celebrate the day I retired or quite.  The day I became free!  It is somewhat ironic that it is April Fool’s day for nobody is really truly free. 

One may ask, what about the regular paycheck?  

Ah, they are overrated.  It’s more fun to learn without them.

Catch me in a few months to see if I’m still thrilled to be not employed by somebody else. 

Until then, I”m happy to be free.


… You can take this job and shove it!
I ain’t workin’ here no more. …
 

Vertigo

I’m not sure when I discovered I developed vertigo.  It may have been the annual task of cleaning the chimney the wood stove used.  The Chimney was at the end of an addition of an old farm house, my ex-wife now owns. That addition was two stories on one side and three stories on the other.  The chimney was on the three story wall.  The roof slope was too steep to walk up.


The addition  was connected to the main house. The roof lines were offset.  I would climb the extension ladder to the roof of the main part of the house that had a slope could walk up (5/12).  I would climb to the peak then slide down the edge  to the roof peak of the joining room. I would scoot across that peak straddling the peak to the chimney on the far end. I would then stand up to reach the top of the chimney and proceed to clean the chimney as I straddled the steep peak. Not a fun task.   When I was done and back on the ground, I would often find my legs week and shaking. I thought it was due to the tension I of standing is such a fixed spot while I clean the chimney, but realized later that the shaking legs were the onset of vertigo.


The first time I identified it as vertigo was later when my youngest son and I took a day hike up Mt. Osceloa  in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was probably  14 or 15, the young reckless teen years; I was in my 40’s.  The trail started out in woods and was not too steep.  About a mile later, it started going over rocks and near cliffs.  My son would run to the edge of the cliffs and call: “Hey, Dad, look at this!” and I could fee my legs shake and my mind would visualize him going over the edge, crashing in the scrubs and rocks below. 

As my heart rate would return to normal when he retreated from the edge, I realized the true experience of vertigo.


Fast forward 30 some years later, and I still get the same feeling watching my wife on scaffolding 24 feet above the cement floor in our new home finishing the trim on the tongue and grove wood ceiling. Or watching the same son fall on a snow field and slide down a mountain in the Chicago Basin.

My vertigo is somewhat manageable as I get the same feelings on the top of a five foot stepladder today. 

But I prefer both feet planted on earth and not near a cliff.