Flood Mania!

It's weird how this new thing has swept our area. Due to our amazing media everyone in the Pacific Northwest knows that the Green River is going to flood--Never mind that it's actually only a possibility of flooding. Every newscast you tune into will have some mention of it, whether you're tuned into a radio news broadcast or a television news show. "Green River Flooding" has become the topic. All around us are signs of impending doom. There are sandbags galore everywhere you look. Signs offering sandbags delivered, large or small. Flood insurance--You name it.

For those that aren't hip to the goings-on in our area, let me do a quick synopsis: The Green River is a river that meanders lazily through the valley that contains portions of Auburn, Kent, and Renton. Quite a ways upriver (foothills of the Cascade Mountains pretty much) is a dam that regulates the waters of the Green River. During last year's rainy season they found some sinkhole activity in the earthen portion of the dam (an area off to the side of the dam itself). Because of this, they announced that they would not be "holding" as much water as they have in past years so as to not stress the dam before repairs can be made. This means water levels in the Green River will likely be higher than usual.

Okay, things like that can be worrisome--No doubt about it. I know a lot of people that live in the valley lowlands--Friends and family both--And I don't want anything to happen to them. Anyway, take the usual amount of worry and add the media blitz to it and you've got yourself a situation that I will can Flood Mania. Politicians, insurance companies, entrepreneurs--All are jumping on board. Because there are so many companies in the valley that are vital to the well-being of the aerospace industry, Boeing has required their suppliers to outline and perform the necessary steps that will insure that, should a flood occur, their company will not suffer any catastrophic losses that would impact the flow of products. Consequently, we are building door framing to plug big roll-up doors, and filling sandbags.

Everywhere you look you see sandbags around houses and buildings. There are constant lines of giant sandbags lining sides of the Green River in several areas, with more being added all the time. Funny thing is, they're not doing it evenly--There are places where one side of the river is several feet higher than the other side, and it's easily visible to the naked eye. Apparently they're not concerned about people on both sides of the river...

Here's one scenario I never expected though: Yesterday I stopped into my bank to deposit my paycheck like I do each Friday. In addition I opted to withdraw several thousand dollars cash to make a potential car deal this weekend (more on that later). Here's roughly what took place:

"Does it have to all be in cash?" the gal asked.
"Well, I'd like it in cash, yes. Nobody trusts cashier checks any more." I countered, "I'm trying to make a car deal."
"We'll have to check to see if we have that much on hand."
I stared at her.
She continued, "We've been told to not keep as much cash on hand in case of flooding."
Dumbfounded, I said, "You've got to be kidding."
She shrugged her shoulders.
Well, they did have the money, but I couldn't even get it all in 100-dollar bills. Apparently I practically cleaned em out.

See what I mean?

Flood Mania.

Pain & Surprise

That's what I felt today at lunchtime. I was just sitting there as I always do--Wolfing my sandwich in my reclining easy chair upstairs while playing solitaire on my iPod. I was on the last bite of my sandwich when...


It wasn't an ordinary crunch. It was a crunch laced with pain. It was also a very deafening crunch. I spit my last partially-chewed bite (ewww!) back into the ziplock bag and carefully examined it. I was hoping to find one of those "bits" that inadvertently make it through the manufacturing process and end up in lunch meats occasionally. While I was doing that, my tongue was gingerly running over my teeth. Nothing seemed amiss, but in my mind I somehow knew the answer to what it was, and I was right. While all my teeth seemed intact, they were most definitely not so. I had literally split one of them down the middle.

While I was lucky I wasn't in pain afterward, it was most definitely a place in my mouth to avoid touching. If my tongue hit it the wrong way it would move considerably. I was upset. It's bad enough to have to deal with bad teeth all your life, and perhaps a bad checkup (the kind where they hand you a list of things wrong). Those are things you schedule in to get them done. This was not something I could put off obviously. What made it worse (in my little bitty mind anyway) was that I was hoping to find a new dentist because I was having doubts about my old one. Well, to find a new dentist you have to look right? I never did that part... Anyway, after a few phone calls (I had a list of insurance-approved dentists) netted me nil, I sighed and went to my "old" one after work.

The bottom line? The base seems intact enough, so they measured me for a crown. Now I'm wearing a temporary. Dinner tonight was less than pain-free, but it's still kinda soon to tell. It's over two weeks before the real (read that EXPENSIVE) crown is finished. I had a very uncomfortable visit to the dentist this time. Usually I'm fine with them but not this time. I was angry, uneasy, and nervously awaiting inevitable bad news I guess. That's the emotional difference between being proactive and reactive.

So what else is new? Nothing earth-shattering. It's getting cold and we want our woodstove to be finished and operational. It's close--VERY close. We're hoping this weekend will finish it up. We're down to the dreaded "cut-a-hole-in-the-perfectly-good-roof" stage.

I would bite my fingernails in mock nervousness, but it's still too tender.

The Poor, Unused Blog

It's been so long since I've put down anything on this blog 'o mine that I started to feel sorry for it. Okay, it's only been a week, but it was starting to look unhealthy. Sometimes when I look back it seems like a lot has happened in the last week, and then other times I think about it and it's like, "eh" so I do nothing.

Suzie was sick for quite a while, and her persistent cough is finally toning itself down. There was a week there when she was pretty much outta commission. I'm glad she's back.

Ditto our kittycat, Cookie. She had some sort of food allergy that left her with skin problems and not eating. In retrospect Sue wondered if maybe she hadn't gotten sick too. You never know about cats. The vet only found the food allergy problem.

The big news in the house is our wood stove saga. The corner of the living room was attacked last week by my capable wife. She carefully ripped up carpet and put down cement backer board, then glued and grouted in the tiles we picked out at Home Depot a few weeks ago. All the tile cutting and everything was done by her, and the finished hearth pad was very nicely done! We brought the stove in the other day for the first time, and it looks pretty good sitting there!

After spending a little time in the attic, we found what Murphy's Law would have us find: The stove pipe was dead center on a roof truss in the ceiling if it went straight up. That means it has to move about a foot to one side to pass through all the attic and roof framing. Naturally it would have been too easy if it went straight up and out, right? That just adds additional required parts to what we should call the stovepipe/chimney puzzle.

I say "puzzle" because that's exactly what it is. There are several components out there in the wood stove world. John Q. Public really has no idea of what is needed to put such things together, and that's been frustrating us. I guess it's all for a good reason--It helps weed out the idiots that might burn their house down by installing something totally wrong. At any rate, there are lots of parts and pieces of the pipe/chimney system. They are all designed for specific reasons I suppose, but nothing is well explained. Several visits to stores over the weekend brought us a little closer to understanding the task. One thing that is frustrating is how the brands differ. One manufacturer's product may be completely different than another in it's design. Some manufacturer's say we need this, some say we need that, and none of them say why. The bottom line is that parts have been purchased and the process is underway.

Next: cutting a big hole into the attic!

Viruses Come in Many Flavors

This is the flu season, and whether flu or not--Sickness is definitely all around us. I was sick the week before with chills, aches, and a lot of the usual. People at work have been sick. Sarah has been sick. People in Sue's family have been sick. This week it was Suzie's turn, and she got royally hammered by it. Maybe it was flu, maybe it was a cold, or maybe it was a combination of both--Who knows. When I say she was hammered by it, that's what I mean. It affected her a lot and I felt bad for her. This is one of those times when she's lucky to be unemployed.

For me it was different than what I'm used to. A lot of aspects of it were the same, but there were differences. I didn't get any nasal, throat, or congestion problems but I did get lots of pain, discomfort, and temperature issues. Sue got all those things and more. I heard on the radio one morning on my way to work that of all the people that were sick at this time, the majority (I don't remember the percentage but it was way high) were in the throes of swine flu. They said there was no way to tell without testing of course. I believe it though.

At any rate, Suzie is much better now, and that makes me happy.

Viruses in humans certainly come in many flavors, but I also got hit with one of the computer variety this week. Anyone that knows me knows that it was my fault. I take chances and this was no exception. Luckily it was only my laptop, and it's being reformatted as I type this.

When fall rolls around I usually start up my uh, "alternate method of obtaining software" account. In geek-speak: I re-enable my online access to newsgroups. Why do I do this? I have always had a certain amount of enjoyment out of testing software. Imagine the possibilities--Being able to download and install applications that are priced beyond the realm of anything that the common user would be able to justify. There is also a virtually unlimited supply of music mp3 also, many of which are uploaded by serious audiophiles. In the past I have gotten a lot of movies that way too. Sometimes I just look to upgrade software I already have to the latest versions.

All software nowadays has serial numbers or "keys" that insure that only the person that paid for the software is able to install and use it. The stuff that's out there in "newsgroup land" has sometimes got included serial numbers (most of which have already been blacklisted and don't work), and sometimes program files that generate custom numbers. Those are called keygens. Because they are applications that run, they can harbor viruses. Actually, now almost everything on the newsgroups that is an .exe file is probably a virus. You just have to assume that and take your chances. Because I still like to walk the line on occasion, I do so using my laptop. That way I'll be able to test the workings of a file before subjecting my main computer to an ugly death by injecting it with a virus.

Why do they do it? Who knows. There is sometimes a monetary gain by the virus writers because it forces people to click on links (which pay $$) and buy "antivirus software" that isn't really antivirus software. In short, they trap you like a helpless animal. Others may just like the thrill of posting infected stuff. Whatever the reason, it's out there and it's everywhere. The newsgroups are full of camouflaged virus files and legitimate files that have been modified to include virus code. You take your chances.

Viruses: They're not just for living beings.

"But it's only a cover for firewood..."

Those are just a few words me and Suzie tossed back and forth when we discussed building something to cover our recently-purchased firewood. My way of making or doing something is to do it "too much" and this was no exception. I'll be first to admit that I'm anal and I strive to make things last. Anyway, we brainstormed on how and what to do because it was plain that we needed to keep our 2+ cords of firewood dry and protected.

I don't know wood structure and design because I haven't been really schooled in building things. My dad couldn't build anything, and I'm not fortunate enough to have a relative that I was able to learn construction from. I do understand structure and stuff in general though. I know enough about strength, leverage, weight, capabilities, and things like that though. I know just enough to know that if I'm going to build something like we were talking about building I needed to keep it within my "comfort zone" of knowledge. That meant steel.

The back of our garage was in a sorry state. Largely neglected, it had peeling paint and disintegrating wood. Very few of the panels even matched, and those that did were not in the best condition. Here's what we started with (click for bigger pictures):

After making some basic measurements, we figured out how much steel to buy and picked that up. The following Saturday, I spent a few hours cutting, welding, and painting the 12 frames I needed. Here's what they looked like when they were finished:

And here's a couple of shots of them after I got them all bolted to the back wall:

After I had these things all built and put up we turned our attention to the cleaning & painting of the wall. I felt pretty confident about my ability to handle the rest of the project with wood--After all, it was just flat on top. I purposely made the roof sized to fit even 4 x 8 sheets of plywood on top so that made it easy. What wasn't easy was all the contortionist work that went with all the climbing, leaning, and bending. Here are a couple that Suz took while I was working:

Here are a couple more shots of me playing contortionist. There was a lot of clambering over the woodpile to do the drilling and screwing, and if you've ever walked on a pile of firewood you'll know it's not easy. After all that was done and the roof was on I ran over all the little points where the screws stuck through and "dusted" them flat with my grinder:

So, in addition to the obvious, we scraped, cleaned, and painted the upper half of the building before the roof I built actually went on. I also relocated the bat house to a spot much higher up. It would be nice if a bat or two would move in because we could probably keep them filled up on 'skeeters during part of the year.

I had several snafu's that reared their ugly head during my project. Some days it rained, some days I felt lousy (flu maybe?) and some days things didn't feel right. Now it's finally finished. I added a nice, sturdy wood fascia board all the way across the front, and also added support to the back side so there would be no plywood sagging issues. During the course of the project I got to play with steel, plywood, shingles, flashing, tar, and all kinds of stuff. I'm tired of it and I'm glad it's done. Here's the finished product:

I'm sure the garage feels good about its neglected back side as well. The next project? It's already underway: The installation of the wood stove. Stay tuned!

The Email Void

You know what I've noticed lately? I don't get emails any more.

Okay, I shouldn't say I don't get any emails, but I get very few of them. As per my usual analytical nature, I've tried to figure out what is different, and here is what I've come up with:

The big one is that I'm married now. 'So what' you say? Well, if you send lots of emails out it increases your chances of getting emails back by a huge amount, and I don't send very many emails any more.

The internet has become commonplace. It's a given and a necessity to most of us nowadays. Gone are the days when people were regularly amazed by something they found on the internet. We are more jaded because the internet is now more of a tool than the novelty it once was. What does this have to do with email? Most emails I used to give and get (and I'm sure many other people will agree) were funny or striking in some way. Not so much any more. In a word: Yawn.

Of course, there's always the possibility that I'm old and I'm the only one not getting lots of emails...