Post-Christmas Post

This was a weird Christmas--No doubt about it, but I'm basing that purely on past experiences. I have only experienced Christmas with a few families in my life. What made this one weird was that I left my home to celebrate my Christmas at other locations.

This year was a first at my parents' house because they hosted their festivities on the eve instead of the morning. That apparently worked out well with everyone scheduling-wise, because it was a full turnout. Even boyfriends of the younger ladies were present. It was a good event. I had a good time, and it appeared that everyone else did too. My youngest sister, Denise, brought some Jello Shots along which were a hit with a couple of us. As I unwrapped the gifts from my mom and dad, I was thinking I had escaped yet again with something I could use (i.e. edible) when I was shot down with my final gift. A Sears Craftsman gimmick gift. I have voiced my frustrations about this over and over and I'm sure anyone reading this is tired of it too. I thought I got through to them last year when I received no tools of any kind, but it's back as it was before. I don't want any tools. If I need a tool of any kind, I already own it. If not, I buy it when I need it. Oh well. Now I'm stuck with some sort of laser-measuring gadget. I can't possibly tell my folks I don't want it--My dad will have a meltdown.

The coolest present that came home from me from that event was a custom-painted mailbox from my brother-in-law, Gary. He's a custom painter of many things: Dragsters, hydroplanes, motorcycles, etc, and he does a beautiful job on mailboxes. He has made a couple for family members in the past. This one was a late wedding gift for me and Suzie. I wasted no time installing it. Now we have the fastest mailbox on the street! You can click the pic below for a bigger view of it, but the picture doesn't do it much justice. You can't really see all the blue, green, and purple shading as well in the picture. The lettering was all done by hand too.

Christmas morning found me down at the ex's house at 9 or 10 o'clock, celebrating Sarah's Christmas. Suz and I bought her a fisheye lens for her camera, along with a couple of photography books. She totally loves that lens and was having a great time with it right away! (Side note: Suzie and I loved it too--After playing with hers for a few days before wrapping it, it was determined that we needed one for ourselves too! It should be here today we hope.) Sarah gave me a couple of her original artworks which is very cool.

Sue didn't fare too well during the week of Christmas. She was frustrated over my lack of attendance mostly, because it was a week I was working overtime, and was also stopping on the way home to shop here and there after finishing work. Add to that the fact that I left to celebrate Christmas at my parents house on Christmas eve, then left again Christmas morning to go to celebrate with Sarah. I can understand her frustration at not being a part of any of this, but we both knew going into our marriage that we would have a split household at Christmas--We just didn't know how it would affect each other. Some choices we make are easy and some are a pain, but they are choices that are made for a reason.

I did a little limerick about the Christmas blues. I posted it on my Facebook page yesterday, but I don't think I'll do that any more. I get the impression that nobody on there wants to ever post anything other than smartass remarks and stuff. I guess I was fishing for someone to comment. Maybe I wanted as much to see who as I did what, but I was surprised when I got not one comment. I'll close this post with a re-post of that limerick (I'm not fishing this time--Only sharing):
The Shopper's Lament

This holiday time of the year
when, of malls we try hard to stay clear.
The shoppers; all hurrying
like mice; chased and scurrying,
and the parking lots: Places to fear.

We shoppers hardly ever think twice
when it comes to the item or price
because it's the norm
we don't dare reform,
and the stores do their best to entice.

For our loved ones we set out to buy,
but no matter how hard that we try;
we can never resist
when the prices insist,
and we buy for ourselves with a sigh.

Our money is already tight
partly due to less day and more night.
Our heaters all run
because of no sun,
and our power bills tend to cause fright.

In these times when so many need work
and behind them their creditors lurk
they just can't NOT buy
for their gal or their guy.
It's like a duty they can't seem to shirk.

Now the hubbub has finally died down
and Christmas has finally left town.
Our houses are all messed,
and we really need rest,
but we work, or in debt we will drown.

Rick Williams

Running Out Of December

Yeah, not much to this post, but I thought it was about time I sorta caught up.

It's almost Christmas, and it's my first "non-Christmas" in a Witness house. Is it different? Nah. Yeah, it's way different from back in the day I was still living under the same roof with Sarah and the ex. Those two decorated absolutely everything. It was fun to watch them having fun, but it wasn't my cuppa tea. When I was living downtown in my rental for the last couple years, I only really "did" Christmas one time. I bought a fake tree but I think I only put it up one of the two years I owned it. I could be mistaken. At any rate, it's gone--Sold on Craigslist a couple weeks ago.

Today is the last day of work this week. Tomorrow is an unpaid day off. While it's nice to have the additional day off, it kinda sucks to not get a full week of pay. To help offset that, I've been working some overtime this week. Two hours over both Monday and yesterday, but unlikely today. This is the day they will send us home with our Christmas (or should I say "holiday"?) ham.

I miss the days when people would actually be able to drink (within reason) during their last day of work before Christmas. You know... Passing some hot-buttered rum or eggnog mixtures around. These are different times. A lot of companies gave up on company Christmas parties long ago for fear of reprisal. When bar owners started getting sued for allowing someone to make bad judgment within their businesses, that was the beginning of the "era of responsibility". Now we all have to meet at a local drinking establishment or restaurant to have our own impromptu party if we want one.

Yep, Christmas is only two days away. It's a time when my dysfunctional family meets up under the same roof for celebration. We don't celebrate Christmas itself--We celebrate having a day to celebrate I think. For non-religious people like me, Christmas is an excuse to have a good time in a family environment. If it takes "token" presents--So be it.

For my dad who grew up in a strangely empty environment, Christmas is something he never really had much of. It showed when we were growing up because he was right there in the thick of the toys--Playing with them and being the kid he must not have gotten to be. He was living vicariously through his brood. He still does that now, looking excitedly at someone that just opened a gift, repeating over and over, "What'd you get? What'd you get?" all the while knowing full what it is because it came from he and my mom to begin with.

Ranting, but no Raving: The Sequel

I have so many of these that pop-up from time to time. If only I had thought about Craigslist last night when I made my first post! I had forgotten how flagrant some of the "bad ads" that appear on there are.

Here's an example of something that's pretty common (before I start picking at it, you can go ahead and click it to view it full size):

First of all, so many people can't even get the title of the ad right. What's the point of placing an ad? What is a Honda aout? I don't recall seeing that model on any new car ads anywhere. If it doesn't exist, why would I think I needed parts for it?

Secondly, I don't understand why the truck pictures are even there. There is no mention of a truck or parts thereof anywhere in the ad. I guess he considered himself lucky to have successfully negotiated all the traps and pitfalls involved with uploading pictures (let's see--Point & click?) and thought he might as well use one set of pictures for two ads--I dunno. At least he knows someone with a camera...

Now here's another point I want to make about this ad, and this kind of thing really gets me. His whole ad contains ONE item of punctuation. Actually, this is better than some I've seen. There have been multiple ads I've seen over the years where there is a huge paragraph of description text and no punctuation. You know what that looks like? It's like the guy is terminal on speed/caffeine and is literally spewing words so fast he's not even stopping for a breath. Whew. That must be what it is about those ads--They wear me out reading them. I feel like I have to lie down and take a nap.

Here's another ad I spotted this morning. I found it funny. Maybe you will, maybe you won't:

I guess this person is repeating what someone else told them. They don't know what a gasket is or they would know there are hundreds of different ones in any given car.

Another thing that is irritating is when someone uses all capitals. In the computer world, that means SOMEONE IS SHOUTING AT YOU. I read those ads and I instinctively reach for my speaker volume.

The misspellings will never end. Some of them are pretty funny, like this one: ARMAROL (Armor-All), and AWSOME (awesome). They were even in the same ad.

Yep, Craigslist is an endless supply of stuff to laugh or wince about. Free entertainment!

Ranting, but no Raving

I feel that it's time for a rant. People that have read my blog know how much I love to rant about things on occasion. Actually, I would really like it if I could rave just as wildly, but for some reason I'm better suited for ranting than raving. The subject of my rant? Ignorance in Language Arts.

Actually, it's almost more of a case of disbelief.

I don't think I ever really fit the mold of someone that got straight A's in English and spelling back in school--I was mostly into motorcycles and cars--But the truth is: I did. Maybe I didn't feel that I could make any money at it--I dunno. The fact is, I pretty much abandoned it after high school. Maybe I was cocky and felt that I was finished with it. Maybe it just didn't seem cool. Without thinking about it, it has become fairly clear that parts of my studies in those areas never went away. In fact, they may have just been hiding and festering.

I have determined that there is one thing that has bothered me as long as I can remember, and probably will until I can't read or hear any longer. The offense? Failure to understand (or care) about the difference between YOUR and YOU'RE. I'm sure some folks reading this will look at it and say, "Hmm... You know, I never did get how those worked..." and others that will say, "Yeah man, you tell em! I hate that!" I'm not going to explain the difference... I just want to rant about the misuse of it.

Another thing is spelling. Sometimes it's not what was misspelled, but who misspelled it. In this case, it was more of a context thing. I found this on Google News last weekend. I loved it so much I took a screenshot of it. Click the picture below to view the section I saved. I looked at this with disbelief when I saw it. In a roundabout way, it reminded me of the time I was in a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and was informed that they were out of chicken (seriously). You be the judge:

You get the idea.

Then there is this instance of misspelling at work that has been eating away at me. This is more of a case of people that just flat didn't learn anything in school. The person that labeled these scrap cans probably felt pretty proud of their work, but when I saw the "twin" misspellings I winced:

Maybe not everyone knows what Inconel or Titanium are or how to spell them but I do. Because of my anal nature, spelling abuse that I see on a daily basis eats at me. I have to chuckle every time I see these two bins though, so maybe I should find out who did it and congratulate them on giving me yet another prime example of blog fodder.

These Are Cold Days

Winter has arrived with a vengeance this year as far as the temperature goes. Funny thing though--When I get up and look outside in the morning (as I do every morning) there isn't one speck of moisture. Everything is totally dry. I just looked outside at 4am this morning and the little digital temperature gauge spoke volumes to me: 16.8 degrees. Brrr! I guess it's fair to say that we feel that our wood stove is the best thing since... Well, it's just flat the best thing. We love it and it's getting lots of use. It was cold enough last night that we opted to put some bread products we used for dinner outside the back door instead of running them all the way out to the garage freezer.

Last week I took my insulated coveralls to work, and boy was I glad yesterday morning (as I'm sure I will be this morning). They are the type of coveralls with the zippered legs and the "puffy" inner lining. They are very easy to pull on over clothes, and very comfortable to wear. Another plus for me: They are actually plenty long. Most things like that are hard to find in my size. Because they're black they are the perfect thing for a work environment. I would say I blend right in, but I'm sure everyone looks at me with envy when they're shivering. They always have the heat off during weekends, and yesterday it was 60 degrees in there when I got to work, and still only up to 64 by the end of the day. That's a little too cold to sit still all day without something to keep me warm, and an electric heater isn't an option.

I replaced my camera a week or so ago. Back in the middle of November (Suz blogged it) we were out taking pictures in Seattle and it became apparent to me that time that my camera was "dropping the ball" in a couple areas. The functionality was fine--Everything was working. It just became obvious that the different "brain" in our cameras were doing things differently in some scenarios. I hunted eBay for a while and found a great deal on one exactly like hers. Now we have matching cameras. What does that mean? It means I have no excuse if my pictures aren't as good as hers. ;-) Keith is using my old camera and having a good time with it. I wonder what kind of cool stuff his eye will show us?

A bunch of us went up to Snoqualmie Pass on Saturday to play in the snow, but unfortunately it was more like ice. There was a good snow pack on the ground all right, but nothing really new. It was old, crusty stuff. It was still fun though, and the weather wasn't bad for the outing either.

The best news of the week: Sue is finally driving her new car! It's all hers--Lock, stock, and barrel. I would say, "It's about time," but we all know how long we've been waiting for it to really be hers. Now it's time to move the old, trusty Camry wagon along to a new home.

Apparently It's Book To Be Icy

Here's something for all you folks that use "predictive text" on your cell phones when you send text messages. That is, those of you that don't have full keyboards...

I was sending a text to Suz this morning about how cold it was, and imagine my surprise when my Nokia decided that the word GAY was more likely to be the word I wanted to use in my text than ICY, which was what I was after to begin with. I first learned of such preference things when she told me of the fact that her older Nokia always came up with BOOK before COOL. My phone has at least switched that around so COOL comes up first. I dunno though--I kinda like book. It's like I'm on the inside of a joke that nobody else knows about.

Anyway, back to gay weather conditions this morning. I had to scrape a lot of gay residue off my windshield before I could leave for work. I also had to make sure I didn't spin out on any gay spots. Yes, this time of year being gay can be treacherous.

I mean icy.

Glad it's Over

The weekend that is--I'm glad it's behind me. For one reason or another it was just a crappy weekend.

Health was the biggest part of it. I detected the impending ill health as early as Wednesday, and by Thanksgiving a sporadic cough had developed. By the time Friday arrived I had the "full meal deal" of flu. Yes, again. I spend much of the day wrapped tightly and zombielike, dozing in and out of reality in my recliner in front of a hot-burning wood fire. I had pain, fever, cough, and kind of drifted in and out of reality. Anyway, I was much better the next day and even yesterday, but still the persistent cough nags me and those around me.

Thanksgiving Day went okay. Nothing really went wrong that is. It was a little fragmented though, having attended my parents' dinner without Suzie. I took Sarah, but she left after an hour or so--Picked up by her mom to attend a celebration at someone else's house. When I left my parents' house, I drove to Kevin and Shirley's house where Sue had spent hours with other members of her family. She was ready to go when I got there so basically I got there pretty much in time to leave.

As far as Thanksgiving went, we both felt pretty much the same: The events went well enough.

During one instance of drug-enhanced near-clarity on Friday I drove us into Covington so Sue could check the leftovers at a Black Friday sale. A few stops here and there netted nothing, but at least the traffic was nil. It appeared that everyone had gotten in and out early because it was almost pleasurable to drive around during mid-afternoon.

It seems fitting that I finished off the bad weekend by making a verbal misstep that put me in the doghouse with Suzie yesterday. Sometimes a slight thing said or taken the wrong way can have a huge effect, and this was a good example of that. When the damage is done, it's not easily undone. You can't just take things back and have things be all better. I can still taste my foot.

So, back to the weekend report: Although there were a few little bright spots, the overall rating is thumbs down. I might as well go to work today so I can collect my measly, 32-hour paycheck. Yes, as if being sick all day on Friday wasn't bad enough, it was also an unpaid day off.

Appreciating Marvels Of Our Time

Great inventions or advances are always going to be subject to an individual's perception. To a mathematician the electronic calculator might be one of the greatest inventions in the world. To a computer geek, great advances might include wireless, or flat-screen monitors. To a doctor, it might be the ability to perform surgery through a tiny incision while using a computer-driven laser scalpel with a camera attached.

Obviously, the computer alone is responsible for huge advances in every possible area--Medicine, science, transportation, communications... You name it. That itself is probably the single greatest thing that has ever happened to us. One might say that it is the most important modern discovery man has ever made as far as its ripple effect is concerned.

But what about the things we take for granted? There are many things that we use and enjoy every day--And have all our lives--That we don't pay any attention to at all. These are things that I still give the nod to every now and then. They are things that I still appreciate no matter how commonplace they are to us. I decided to mention a few here.
  1. Toilet paper - This one is huge--Way out front on my list. Can you imagine not having toilet paper? I don't know of a single variety of leaf that has the slightest amount of absorbency, nor are any of them wise to place against your most tender of private parts. Back in the days of outhouses, I understand that they used corn cobs. I don't know about you, but I don't have any inclination to scrape myself clean with an old, dried-out corn cob. They are also not flush-able. In my mind, toilet paper is a justifiable reason to kill trees. Sure, toilets are a nice invention too, but I can still use a hole in the ground as long as I still have my beloved toilet paper.
  2. Lighters/matches - I'm no Boy Scout--I don't know how to start a fire with anything but a portable flame device. I've seen movies and read books, so I know you can start fires in a variety of ways, but I don't know how (nor to I have the patience or desire) to attempt such a feat. I don't do the stick rubbing thing, and wouldn't spot a flint rock on the ground if I tripped over it. Yes, I respect and admire the little devices that start our campfires, stoves, candles, lanterns, and barbecues.
  3. Light bulbs - Okay, okay--Electricity is the real thing here, we all know that, but have you ever stopped to think about how easy it was to see that thing on the floor before you broke your little toe on it--Just by flipping a switch? Light bulbs deserve credit. They used to get lots of credit, but not any more. Now we're complacent. We expect it's instant glare to shrink our retinas with the mere flip of a switch each and every morning when we slap the alarm clock button. Light bulbs are cheap, they're everywhere, and we don't pay them any mind at all until they don't shine. Me, I love light bulbs. They can offer a pseudo-summer to your winter despair... Just with the flip of a switch.
  4. Fingernail clippers - They're tiny little things, and everybody owns multiples of them (they hardly cost anything after all). Before someone named Chapel Carter invented them in 1896, what did people use? Their hatchet? A grinding wheel at the blacksmith? I hold them in high regard--Ordinary or not. Tweezers too, but that's another story...
  5. Dental floss - I was going to ask what people used to get pieces of barbecued ribs out of their teeth before the invention of dental floss, but then it hit me: Teeth were so bad back then that they could have probably flossed with a piece of rope if they got dinner stuck in a crevice. You have to admit though--Floss is quite the handy thing and we would be lost without it nowadays. Whether you're a proactive flosser or a reactive flosser (that's me) you have to appreciate it. I heard of one guy that actually escaped from prison by weaving dental floss into a small rope. I'll wager that he probably liked floss more than most of us after that.
  6. Specialty foods - Everybody loves bananas. What's not to like? We all love them, and we all take them for granted. We can buy them in any food store, any time. You know where they come from? You don't? Well, you would have to walk to Equador to get a banana--That's about the only place you can get em. There are lots of foods like fruits and veggies that we take for granted because they're always in our stores, and we have no clue where they come from. We even have the nerve to get annoyed when they are imperfect or grossed out when have dirt on them. It doesn't matter that they might actually be grown in dirt.
    What about peanut butter? There's a product we all take for granted too, but nobody knows anything about it. It comes from "somewhere else" but nobody knows how to grow it themselves.
    Salt and pepper are a couple of things that I really appreciate. Although I could learn to live without them, I consider them in high regard. They are very important to me, and are as basic and necessary as water. They can help make crappy food taste tolerable, and can make good food taste really good. I don't want to part with em.
  7. Coffee - I used to not like the stuff, but don't mess with my coffee. I don't drink it other than mornings, but nevertheless--I want my coffee. For the sake of my coworkers, I should have my coffee. Again, it's very ordinary and you can get it anywhere, any time. Just because it's common and plentiful doesn't mean I can skip over it. I appreciate it. It wakes me gently and helps me start the day. Thank you very much, coffee.
  8. Drugs - The slightest little thing wrong and we go to the medicine cabinet. Aspirin, Viagra, cough syrup, or whatever--If it's slightly amiss, we take something for it. Drugs? I love them. They fix me when I'm broken, and sometimes it seems like I'm broken a lot.
I could go on and on with a list like this (and have already), but the point I was making is still there: Don't stop appreciating the little day-to-day things that make our world tolerable to us, and make us tolerable to our world. Just because something has been available for a hundred years or more, it's no less important. Go ahead--Use the comments and add to the list!

Just Recapping Stuff

I'm sitting here with new $500 porcelain in my mouth. I hate crowns, but if you like to eat you need to replace teeth when they break. Unfortunately, my teeth break a lot. Whenever I mention some dental-related thing I have going on to my mom, she apologizes for not doing a better job of eating when she was pregnant with me. I, of course, tell her to quit doing that--It's not her fault. At any rate, I have a new one again, and hope my aches with subside a bit now that it's in.

Our wood stove is being abused. Ha, the other night we were sitting here like it was August--Wearing shorts and barefoot--Watching a movie. Our indoor thermometer said 76 degrees! I say abused, but I love it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I totally love coming home to a blazing fire in a nice, warm house. We both still occasionally catch ourselves patting ourselves on the back for the job we did on it, and rightly so (there went another pat).

We (did I say we? I meant SHE) still can't drive the new Scion yet. There it sits in the driveway--Yearning to go out and drive around and tout its trendy ugliness coolness. We know it's just a matter of time, but you can't rush governmental agencies. When the title comes, the title comes. Until that time, it's still legally not ours and we have to fight the urge to drive it. Suzie really, really wants to move on to this car, and it doesn't help that it keeps winking at us every time we look out the windows (It's sitting right in front of our computers after all). It's a real exercise in self control.

We had a great day of bopping around Seattle on Saturday, as Suzie already covered in her blog (lots of new pictures from it on our Smugmug site). Although we didn't have the best day for photography, it was nevertheless very fun. It's always a blast to explore. Even when you've lived here all your life, there are always things you didn't know existed. It was also weird that Sarah was in Seattle at the same time as us. We were in constant contact and weren't very far from each other, but never connected. She was out with a couple of her friends from PLU on the same kind of event as us: Photography. Apparently, one of her new best friends is getting into photography as well. How cool is that?

I wish things would pick up on the work front a little. Like everywhere else, things have slowed down. I have a very busy job, but even so I would like the opportunity to get overtime if I want to. Currently, the only overtime seems to revolve around filling sandbags on Saturdays. I don't want to fill sandbags, and I don't want to ruin weekends. Still, it's fun to spend money, and I would like to have a little bit of a buffer every now and then. If the opportunity does pop up, I'll toss an extra hour or two onto the end of my work day. I know, I know--Talk is cheap...

Speaking of sandbags, they are going to be running out of room soon at work. They are only halfway into the second of (supposedly) 7 piles they projected that they would need. There is no way they are going to be able to stick with that without some sort of storage solution. Flood Mania seems to have lessened a bit around here, and I find that odd. Why? Because now it's raining... Raining a LOT.

I stopped by Teresa's house yesterday to drop of a couple of checks (it will be so nice when child support is finally over!) and she answered the door with a brand new puppy she picked up last weekend. It's similar in coloring to Pokey. I guess she'd rather have a dog for a companionship than a feller. Trouble is, dogs don't do home maintenance...

Wood Heat!

Finally, our wood stove project is finished! But wait--It's still not?

Our project began way back in mid/late August when we found a nice deal on a wood stove on Craigslist. It also came with a huge pile of split & seasoned firewood. For one reason or another we decided to work first on a shelter for the firewood. I guess that makes sense beings the stove is indoors. Looking back on it, I think I consider the wood shelter to be a completely separate project (although related). I guess in the scheme of things, 2+ months isn't all that bad for a 2-part project like this.

Sue did a killer job on the hearth construction. She designed and built it all herself. She carefully ripped up a corner of the living room carpet and peeled it back, then cut and installed the concrete backer board that the tile was going to be set on. She selected the tile (I got to nod yes at the selection), cut the tile (with help from the tile cutter that she rented), glued the tile, and grouted the tile. When she trimmed the carpet and put it back down up against the new hearth, the result was a hearth pad that was better than anything I could have ever built. During its construction, every day I came home another stage of it was complete.

I came home from work one day heard her making noise as soon as I got out of my car. I went inside and found her up in the attic above a freshly-cut hole in the ceiling! She was putting the finishing touches on new wood framing that surrounded it. I tell you--I never stop being impressed by her... She doesn't ponder things too much like I do. She ACTS. Anyway, at that point we were able to put on the black metal thing that provides the transition from stove piping to ceiling. At that point we were seeing results. We were happy with the way things were looking.

We had some problem during the stove pipe installation though. Through a communication lapse or misunderstanding or whatever, I ended up doing too much of the interior stove pipe install. I stepped on her toes (not literally) and crossed over into her part of the project without knowing I was doing so. Boy was I sorry. I still am. It caused quite a rift between us.

My part of the project was the least desirable. It was the part of the project that is the reason not many people do their own wood stove installations I think. The roof. That's the part that involves sawing a hole in a perfectly good roof (hopefully in the right place), bracing the stovepipe, carefully peeling shingles off, tar (it's called roof cement now, but it's still the same nasty, black crap), flashing, and all sorts of nasty stuff. It also involves one thing that is very hard to work with around here:

The weather.

I got the hole cut through okay on Monday and was intending to keep going on it Tuesday, but was thwarted by rain as I arrived home from work. Wednesday was nice, and I couldn't afford to dilly-dally. The weather was predicted to take a nasty turn for the worse, and here we were with a hole in our roof and a blue poor-white-trash tarp and cinder blocks over the hole. I started in on it as soon as I got home from work, and finished it 3 or 4 hours later in the dark (with the help of auxiliary lighting). Although I was fairly confident that I had it done okay, it still needed to pass a rain test.

It passed. It wasn't a real heavy rain, but it was a rain nevertheless, and Sue reported no leaks of any kind in the area. That left only one last test: The actual testing of the stove itself!

When I got home from work yesterday we held our breath and built a fire in it. There was no smoke leakage in any of the piping, and just a little hot paint smell from it. When the stove really got going, we admired the workings of it. It has a real nice burn! It's much, much better than the wood stove that was in the rental I just moved out of, and I thought that one was pretty decent.

So back to the first sentence. The project is done but it's not? We determined last night that there is a little more heat than we're comfortable with along either side of the stove and the wall is kinda hot. To fix that we're going to add some tile to the walls as well and make it into a surround hearth. That's easy stuff though--My wife is a tile expert!

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...


The Monday Morning Report

I think I figured out why my latest home project is kicking my ass up and down the block:

It's a ladder job.

The project I'm talking about is the one I've been working on for a few weeks now, and is nothing more than an angled roof over the stack of firewood across the back of our garage. It's almost finished actually, and really only needs its shingles put up and that's about it. I'm very happy with the way it's going and all, but there are some days when it just takes a lot out of me. The bending, reaching, twisting, pushing, pulling, lifting--You name it--Almost all of which done from a ladder or ducking under it while standing on the firewood itself. It will be good when it's finished.

Suzie is already ahead of me blog-wise, and has mentioned the incident on Thursday when I came home early. Like she said, I was freezing. I was wearing everything I had, but sitting in a breezy doorway is not a good place to sit when everyone but me wants the door open. My hands were like ice while I was trying to type on the computer. I could feel a cold breeze on my face and my hands while I was sitting there and decided at 10am that enough was enough. I left so fast I didn't even think to change my shoes--I wore my work boots home and left my tennies there.

It's definitely taken a turn around here. I have been playing a little portable heater on my legs while I sit here in the mornings in my robe during coffee and computer time. Suzie just set up the automatic thermostat to start kicking the heat on the other day too. She even has me programmed into it and has it kicking on a little while before I get up and stopping before I leave for work. Bless her heart for that! When we were on our shopping excursion on Thursday I also bought myself a new "annual" ice scraper for the car. Although it hasn't yet, I don't think it will be long before the windshield starts frosting up on me. This will be my first winter experienced out here in the rural wilderness. I'm not looking forward to the inevitable icy roads in this part of town... We have been getting more hot tub time too. The nights are colder, and it gets dark sooner--Both of which make for a better hot tub experience. When it's clear and cold you can see the stars so easily.

We had a visit from my old friend Greg on Saturday. I haven't seen him in a long time--Probably easily 6 months or so, so obviously it was the first time he had ever been out here. He visited with us back and forth outside while we were doing our projects--Me on the garage roof extension and Suzie on the kid's playground set she's been overhauling. He stuck around quite a while, staying for dinner too. We had an excellent visit and I'm glad he came. Sue thought I should stop working and visit with him, but I assured her that this is what we do--If I visit him while he's puttering he continues to putter too. It's a guy thing. Now that he knows where we live I hope he'll pop in more often.

Well, I wonder how long it will take someone to open the door where I sit at work this morning. Friday worked out well when I went back--It didn't open until lunch, and it was nice by then. I have been shopping for some fingerless gloves to take to work, but I still haven't found what I've been looking for. I guess I'll try the online sources.

Oktoberfest: Fremont Style

Yep, that was our Saturday afternoon/evening: Suzie and I decided to attend the Fremont Oktoberfest 2009 event in Seattle.

Let's back up just a tad.

Friday night we were poking around on the web and I read about it. It was rated one of the best in the country. The more we read about it, the more interesting it sounded. A little expensive at $25 to get in, we still thought it sounded like fun. We had gotten past the point of deciding we would go and settled down to the business of what to do for dinner. Keith was here so the three of us headed up to Jimmy Mac's Roadhouse in Federal Way, assuring him he would like the place (peanut shells on the floor & good food). While we sat waiting for our happy hour food selections to show up, we whipped out our iPods and made use of their excellent free wireless. Searching more info about the Oktoberfest, we again turned our attention to the advance tickets. The website initially said it was too late to buy advance tickets that would save us $5 each. As we dug around a little, we found the listing of vendors that were selling the advance tickets, and as luck would have it, the last one on the list was 99 Bottles (I blogged the place a while back), and they were right there in the same parking lot as Jimmy Mac's! Needless to say, we bought our advance tickets, opting for the "gold" version instead of the regular (10 tasting tokens each instead of 6) version.

When it came time to go Saturday afternoon, Suzie got herself into costume by selecting various items from her costume stash. When I tried a couple things of mine (a much smaller stash to pick from), we decided that I just looked "costumey" instead of Bavarian so I opted for t-shirt and jeans.

While I wouldn't call it a great Oktoberfest, it was a great event. I would call it more of a "beer-tasting" myself though. There was little or no Bavarian flavor to the place at all. The crowds of people were all mellow and friendly, but very few were dressed in anything festive. Suzie got lots of admiring looks, as did all of the folks that had decided on wearing costumes. At one point a couple of gals came running up and asked me if I'd take a picture with them and Suzie with their camera. Another time she got a compliment on her cape. We were having a pretty good time all in all. The crowd was very tolerable in size, but did get noticeably thicker by the time we were ready to leave.

The whole event was outdoors in an area of Seattle's Fremont district (Center of the Universe as locals like to say). Right next to a waterway, it was two parallel streets about a block long each, and they had the whole thing cordoned off with entrance/exit gates at each end. When you arrive, you buy (or trade your advance ticket for) your official commemorative miniature plastic beer stein and your tasting tokens. Each time you got your glass refilled it cost one token. We both looked at the little glass and laughed about the size, but in retrospect we both agreed that the size was about perfect. It afforded you just enough of each beer to really get a grasp of it--I'd say about 4 drinks (or two if you're a gulper). By the time our ten were finished, we were winding down ourselves. I took my camera and spent the whole time taking pictures of anything and everything, so be sure to visit our pictures site to check em out! They're under the "Events" category.

Speaking of pictures, did I mention that we went out last weekend to the Puyallup Fair with Sarah on a photo junket? Well we did, and there are a lot of pictures on our site from that as well. We went with the sole intention of taking pictures (mostly nighttime). We picked Sarah up at her dorm at PLU on that Friday afternoon and took her to the fairgrounds from there. We bought her a tripod (essential for night shots!) and presented it to her upon our arrival at the fair. We had a lot of fun there, and took several hundred pictures between the three of us. We noticed that when we had our cameras on tripods and would stop in the middle of an area for pictures that most people would give us a lot of room. I guess we looked like important people! At any rate, check out the pictures from that event too, posted under the "Photography" heading. What's posted are just from me and Suzie, but trust me, Sarah had just as many great ones as we did!

Wanted: Personal Force Field

I haven't blogged in a while and I think it's time I did. This time I feel like going with a rant post (the crowd gasps). I know, I know--Sometimes it seems like half my posts are ranting and raving about something or someone.

This time the subject is smell.

Anyone that knows me knows that I have a good sense of smell. Okay, I'm getting older and it doesn't work nearly as good as it once did, but it's still annoyingly sensitive sometimes. When you couple that sensitivity with something that I don't like, a rant is inevitable.

There is a guy at work that works (ha!) in the area that I inhabited when I was first employed at LaCroix Industries: The packaging area. He is probably my age, but I'm not sure. He may be 40 going on 70 for all I know. Like most of our employees, he smokes. By the nature of his cough he has smoked for the duration of 2 or 3 lifetimes all rolled into one. He coughs so bad that I feel like I might have to help him stuff his lung back into his body any moment. Even Phil (one of the owners) who only has one lung doesn't cough that badly.

But I've digressed.

The point of this post is the smell. His smell. Most mornings he bathes in some noxious substance that I can smell at least 20 feet away. Really. To me it's a hideous smell, but he apparently calls it cologne or deodorant. I don't want to ask him what it is, but I'm suspecting it's Axe. I could find out by sniffing a container of said product next time I'm out in a store, but I'm somewhat afraid at the rush of bad karma that might flood over me if it's a match. Because I don't work near him, it's generally not a problem, but every time I walk by I have to literally hold my breath for a distance until it's save to once again breathe the usual dirty air in our plant.

Now let's add Heather to the mix.

She is a young gal--About 22 or 23--And she wears her own brand of scent. You guessed it--Also strong. Normally I like women's scents. I find them interesting. Sometimes they don't work and sometimes they do. Although her scent doesn't really do anything for me, I don't find it offensive. But I do find it strong in the morning.

Here's the problem: Both of them work in the same area most of the day. When you combine the scents (I use that term loosely) of the two of them together, it results in a combination that I find unbearable.

I call it noxious soup. It borders on toxic.

I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would use so much of something like that. Are they olfactory-challenged? They can't smell anything? If that's the case, perhaps what they do is their way of making sure nobody around them can smell anything either. I have read that there are schools in the US where teachers have literally banned the use of Axe by students in their classroom. Like those teachers, I just want to be able to enjoy tolerate my job. Keep your environment to yourself. Please.

Oh wait--While I'm on that subject... Let me rant momentarily about his (yes, that same guy) radio. In addition to his obvious burned out lungs and burned out nose, his hearing is apparently gone as well. He has a little bitty radio that sounds badly "tinny". When you couple the fact that he apparently has trouble hearing the terrible tinny sound of his tiny little radio wannabe, the effect is yet another assault on the senses. Believe it or not, I can hear it over 50 feet away where I sit.

Okay, I'm done now. (deep breaths) Thank goodness it's the weekend.

The Uneasiness of Facebook

I've already blogged the fact that I am a member of Facebook--That's no secret. But I haven't blogged the Facebook secrets themselves. Do we really want ourselves to be naked to the world?

You know how often it happens in the political world... Someone does all the right campaigning and does/says all the right things to get he or she elected. Then something "comes up" in the media that happened to them ages ago. "Oh, I forgot about that..." Too late... Time for damage control.

This last week I happened to be looking at my Friends list on my Facebook page. "Hmm," I thought, "That's odd--I wonder what happened to Mark and Dana?" (For those that don't know, Mark is my son in Los Angeles and Dana is his lovely wife.) I thought about it for a little bit. I was sure I had sent them an invite and I was sure they had replied with acceptance. I checked my emailed notifications, and sure enough--There it was. So what was going on? I was just about to send one of them an email when it hit me: They took me off, and for good reason. Why?

The unforeseen Facebook Danger Zone.

On Mark's Friends list was, of course, his mother. While I have nothing bad to say about her or to her, she has apparently avoided contacting me during the last 3 decades for reasons of her own. Either she mentioned me and my Facebook to him, or he and/or Dana had a moment of realization and said, "Whoa" and removed me for everyone's best interests. Then there is the possibility of his dad. While he isn't known as a Friend on either of their Facebook pages, I suppose he could be lurking in the background and he may have serious animosity towards me. At any rate, those are just examples.

There have already been situations where I have removed people from my Friends list. Maybe it was the frequency of mundane updates (those automatic things that pop up when they play a farming game or whatever), or maybe it was just a little feeling of unease about them being there. It's hard to put your finger on it sometimes, but the way I figure it, if someone's presence in your cyber-world makes you the teeniest bit uneasy, they shouldn't be there.

It's nice to be able keep up with Sarah on Facebook and to be able to follow her into her college life, but I wonder how many times these same feelings of uneasiness have cropped up in her mind. Now that I'm on there, she may have second thoughts about her privacy. I don't need Facebook to chat with her--We both have Gmail chat for that any time we want or need it.

I keep thinking about it. How much to I want the world to know about me? Anyone that knows me knows that I have all kinds of times when I have bared my inner self to the world. There are other times when I wonder about the skeletons in the closet that I may have forgotten about.

Facebook: Love it or leave it? The jury is still out, but they're still discussing it. The verdict will probably come soon.

Sleep vs. Brain Activity

I had trouble going to sleep last night thanks to the neighbor's dog. I kept wishing it would have been the their dog that stroked out and died instantly last week instead of Pokey. Apparently once I started thinking about guns, poison, and dog strangulation I must have lulled myself to sleep. Oh, and the ear plugs didn't hurt either...

That only lasted until about 2am I guess, because I woke up then and couldn't get back to sleep. I hate it when my mind works at the wrong time. I should have been sleeping, but no... Instead my mind was alive with stuff... And all the while it was singing the chorus to "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley (seriously) over and over. I have no idea why.

What kinda stuff was whirling through my brain? Home projects like the wood stove installation (or lack thereof), the garage storage addition, the fact that I need a haircut, my car needs an oil change, and many other mundane things.

One thing I had on my mind for at least an hour before I got up was friction. Yes, really.

How much of our lives would be changed forever if there was no friction? Air friction keeps planes and birds aloft. For that matter, it probably controls weather patterns (highs, lows, and winds) for all I know. And what about automotive? Engines probably wouldn't work any longer because without friction they wouldn't be able to maintain compression (and combustion). The obvious automotive friction things like brakes, traction, clutches, and windshield wipers would no longer exist. Would we even be able to walk? Of course not. We need friction for that.

Then my mind wandered again. This time it was gravity.

This one was is probably a little more realistic. I'm sure man will someday conquer gravity if they can keep a society together long enough (humans are pretty self-destructive after all). I kept thinking about things that would no longer be needed if we had that control.

Would there even be a need for beds? I would love to be able to tether myself to something and sleep in midair. No more sore spots or muscle strains! Beds and bedding are a huge industry. What else would we not need? Elevators (stairs for that matter), cranes, forklifts, and anything else that we need to move heavy things--No longer needed. Maybe it would be possible to wear little protective devices on our person that would react instantly if we slipped or tripped, triggering our personal anti-gravity safety "net" that would keep us from smacking the floor and breaking a hip. Kind of a new variation of the, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!" thing.

See? I told you... The crap that cascades through my cobwebbed brain sometimes is out there.

Now I feel like I could sleep, but no--It's time to go to work.

The Long Weekend

I don't know if it was a typical Labor Day weekend. I can never really remember if it was hot or rainy or what during years past. This weekend was basically a rainy one. Although I have nothing major to report, it was still nice to have 4 days off.

Friday was the nicest day of the whole thing. Taking our time getting dressed, we made a stop at Round Table Pizza for their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet our basis for getting dressed and going out. A couple of shopping stops on the way home and the rest of the day was spent doing not much of anything significant. As I recall the day got progressively more dreary weather-wise.

Saturday was our good day. We spent the afternoon an evening at one of my coworkers' lake place about an hour south of here. It was a small gathering, but a fun one. Some game playing, great food, a great boat tour around the lake, and campfire time while people across the lake blew off some good fireworks. We had a great time. We were first to arrive and last to leave. There are some good pictures of the event on our picture site.

Sunday was dreary and subject to some killer rain squalls. Before Suz went to her Sunday Meeting we had a major one that brought a sheet of water down, and that reminded me that the gutters were not doing their job. After she left I went up on the roof. I spent the entire time she was gone scooping gutters and trimming branches that were covering them.

I determined that it was a soup day while I was up there. Nothing like the cold and wet for bringing that out, right? Sue concurred, and she went on the offensive to find the recipe for a soup we had at The Olive Garden last month. She found it. After a quick trip to the store for a couple of ingredients, we made it. Talk about good! We couldn't stop saying mmm while we were eating it. We had Sarah up that evening for a little time in the hot tub. We hoped it would rain a little so we could hear the pitter-patter of it on the big umbrella, but it never happened.

Yesterday was project day. The steel I brought home last week was all measured, cut, drilled, and welded into the triangular-shaped frames that will be bolted onto the back of our garage. All that's needed now is a little corrosion-control beforehand so they don't rust. While I'm not looking forward to putting them up, it will be good to have it up.

We finished up the weekend by having Rachyl, Denny, Heather, and Hunter up for some of our leftover soup. The general consensus? Thumbs up!

While it's a bummer to have to go back to work, I'll say the same thing I usually say in this instance: At least it's only a 4-day work week!

The Dweeby, Nerdy Compu-Addicts

You know how we are: Nerds. Both of us--Suzie and Ricky. Something new is in our household stirring things around:


I have had a Facebook account for a while now but I've never touched it in any way. I only got it to be able to use it--To search out people. Sometimes you have those, "I wonder where ---- is these days" moments, and Facebook is a good vehicle to help you in your quest. Like I said--It was there but dormant. I never had any desire to do anything with it. I still have bad memories of the spam I was subjected to with Myspace before I finally pulled the plug and deleted my account. So what changed? Suzie's daughter Rachyl came over one night because her internet was down, and during her visit logged onto her Facebook account. She showed Sue how all the "friends" are intertwined, and you can see friends of friends, etc. Sue was amazed. She has quite an extended "family" of Witnesses that she has been unable to keep tabs on since I came into the picture, and she was enthralled with its possibilities. Well, after she got on there she went nuts. After all, we're compu-geeks, and she ran with it. She had a profile in no time, complete with pictures and all kinds of stuff. I sighed and went ahead and jumped in and fluffed my Facebook up as well.

Sarah is officially in college now at PLU in Tacoma. She went down with her mom Thursday morning. I joined her that evening with the new fridge for her dorm that I have been carrying in my car since last weekend. After I brought up her fridge the three of us wandered over and had dinner at their "welcome" thing. It was a catered thing outdoors. It was not all that good. The possibilities were there if the meal was hot, but cold potatoes just don't cut it--No matter how fancy the recipe. They just get too "mealy" and dense. The rest was cheese tortellini (good, but also cold) and fried chicken (duh, cold). I had forgotten to bring Suzie's hiking boots for Sarah to borrow for her Saturday morning hike. She also needed a power strip to use in her dorm room. I offered to drive her back to my house to get the boots and stop and buy her a power strip. Her mom left at the same time. After getting the boots we stopped at Sarah's house and picked up her printer and a couple other things before hitting the store and buying a couple power strips (one for her roommate).

This morning brought a melancholy Sarah. She was sad and homesick, which is pretty common in that circumstance. She was not enjoying herself, and didn't even feel good enough to go get breakfast. I chatted with her for a while (Facebook!) and tried to console her.

One of the things that she was interested in that she didn't have yet was a backpack. Suzie and I were out today (I was off work) at Costco and they had good-looking ones for a good price. I took a pic with the cell phone (geek!) and sent her. When I called to ask her she was outdoors at some sort of a group photo shoot, and it sounded like she was having a better time.

So here we are--September and rain. The day started out nice and hot & sunny, but now it's raining. That's okay though, because we have...


Neighborhood Watch

We are apparently part of a neighborhood watch program here. Okay, it's most family watching family maybe...

We've jokingly compared our antics to those of my folks (and probably many others out there). Both of our computers sit side-by-side in front of windows that face the street. That affords us the opportunity to notice comings and goings of people and notice cars we're not familiar with--Things like that. We also mumble things that old people do. You know, things like, "Those boys are going to get into trouble riding them durn mini bikes back and forth like that." Those kind of comments are usually followed by a click of the tongue or shake of the head.

The same sort of thing happens when we go by Denny's house on the way here. They live 5 doors down on the other side of the street as I've said before. If they go by our house (they sometimes loop around from the other direction on purpose) they toot their horn. If we go by their house we toot our horn. It's just a little something we do.

Saturday we were out shopping for things, and one of the things we bought was a new dorm fridge for Sarah. It was in the back seat of my car and easily visible sitting there behind me. As we do so regularly, we tooted the horn as we drove by the kids' house, saying 'hi' and letting them know we're back home. We're home for just a couple minutes and had just opened a beer and sat down when Suzie gets a text message from Denny:

"What's in the box?"

We cracked up. You just don't expect that level of observant, you know? After exchanging a few text messages back and forth but still offering nothing of an answer, curiousity ate away at them and they sent Denny up to see what it was. Just for fun Suzie went out and threw a big blanket over it while it sat in the car. I think he felt a little disappointed when he found out it was nothing exciting.

It was a good weekend to get stuff done. The weather was decent (albeit a little on the muggy side) and we got things done that we needed to do. The pile of wood that we bought with our wood stove last Monday is finally all stacked behind the garage (a lot of wood!), the radiator I bought for Suzie's car a few weeks ago is finally installed, and we replaced some house cabling and a splitter that was causing our internet to come and go.

We also are on track to getting our wood stove installation underway. We've decided on "slate look" ceramic tiles for a base to put our wood stove on, and Suz is going to pick them out today. We need to get that installed so we can sit around all winter in our underwear fanning ourselves!

R.I.P. Pokey

Suzie and I were having an evening of hashing out differences last night. We still struggle occasionally with offending each other by use and non-use of possessions--Favoritism and things like that. Anyway, we had just reached a good point of understanding after a couple hours of talking about things when this text message came in from Sarah:

"Pokey just had a heart attack and died"

I stared at my cell phone in disbelief. Not even an hour earlier Sarah and I were talking on the phone about her upcoming transition into college life and things we were going to to this weekend.

"What!?" I shouted at the phone. Suzie was sitting next to me and asked what it was about. After telling her, we both were numb with disbelief.

Pokey was a special dog. Pokey was a weird dog. But most of all, Pokey was someone's dog.

Teresa came home with Pokey as a little puppy only a year and a helf ago from one of her annual trips over to visit her friend, Karen, on the other side of Washington. Yes, Pokey was very, very young. Karen can be very persuasive, and when you couple that with the fact that Teresa can be easily swayed, she might come back with anything. Several years ago she came home with Cream, a kittycat they still have. I might add that neither of these animals were "first choice" picks. Cream was always a little more "stand-offish" than most cats, and also tended to pee on things. I figure that one of her parents was probably a feral farm cat. Anyway, Pokey was odd from the start. There was just something about her that seemed "not quite right" to me. Sarah was less than impressed with her mother's choice of a dog too, and tended to make less than favorable comments about how stupid she was or whatever. That was in the early days. Sarah and Teresa both grew to love that dog, and I also went straight for the dog whenever I stopped in for a visit.

Pokey took over their house as many dogs do. Hair, toys, and all type of things dog related were strewn about. Pokey loved tossing floppy toys into the air and catching them. She wasn't a "ball" dog--She liked things that had swing and sway to them. She was perfectly happy entertaining herself if she had to. They told me once about going to a dog class with her, and she spent the whole time playing with a toy that was given to the dog owners--Oblivious of everything else around her. The other dogs sat and watched her tossing the toy into the air and catching it all by herself.

One day when Pokey was only half grown she broke one of her front legs. Apparently she was tied up in the back yard and was near the fence where the next door neighbors also dogs-Two big, burly ones. Near as they can tell, even though the fence is solid, they did something against the fence that scared her, and in her haste or movements, she self-inflicted a spiral fracture or something on herself. Teresa apparently paid a lot of money to have her leg fixed, but her walk was never the same. From that day on she had a sort of "hopping" limp whenever she ran or played. We thought it odd at that time that a dog could break a leg so easily, but dismissed it.

One day last summer I visited Sarah and she was out back with Pokey. She was having the time of her life chasing bubbles that Sarah was blowing. She could have easily done it all day long (click to see them full size)

Last night Teresa and her friend, Noelle, took their dogs for a 4-mile walk as they had done so many times before. It wasn't a run for the dogs--It was a walk for the ladies. It was what they liked to do, and gave them exercise, a time to socialize, and also afforded their dogs a time to get out and get the same. When they got back to Noelle's house, Teresa said Pokey got a "second wind" and started jumping and running around, then all of a sudden had a seizure and folded up and died on the spot. When we think back, it's apparent that she had some sort of developmental issues with her body. It's like she grew too fast or something.

Sue and I went down there right after getting the message to give them support and talk with them about it all. Noelle's husband Kurt was just finishing up the burial when we arrived. It was a sad, sad evening.

Although it's very hard on both Sarah and Teresa, it came at a bad time for Teresa especially because Sarah will be away at college starting next week.

We're all animal lovers, and were (and are still) devastated. Rest in peace, Pokey.