2008-12-28

It's Melted! O Frabjous day, calou calay!

The thickest sections of snow still have remnants, but the sidewalks are clear, and except for where snow got piled on snow the yards are clear.

Yay! Hooray! Yippie ti yi yay!

After ten+ days of being snowbound for all practical purposes, this is nice. And as is usual in the Willamette Valley, it already feels warm enough to work outside without a jacket, given a certain amount of physical activity; or that could just be the former Chicagoan defining warm enough, but observing others says its not just me. its not, it is to pleasant out, it has warmed up.

And sans flooding, thanks to lower than average December rainfall resulting in non-saturated ground and thus the ability to absorb the snow melt without any problem, which is nifty, it is, it is, nifty indeed!

Giddy I be, no? *grin*

2008-12-26

Snow's still with us, record length of time for PDX

Not sure what the weather is going to do today, didn't pay attention to the forecast yesterday.

But we still have snow piled up all over, with side streets totally treacherous. Some snowfall yesterday, no accumulation at my elevation.

It's more than ten days now since the snow started accumulating, and it's still here. There has been some melt from time to time, even some rain, but the result of that has been ice and crusting.

I know, this is nothing, in Chicago the snow will come and not melt for months during the winter, I lived there for six years and can testify to that, but here in the Willamette valley, well, snow just doesn't stick around like this, not in the lower elevations it doesn't.

Hasn't done anything like this since Mom was a kid, and I mean a kid, 1930's we're talking about here, just glad we haven't really had any freezing rain with this, that'd mess things up for sure.

Going just a tad stir crazy, stuff I've felt like working on but not with everything covered in snow or just really cold, like the basement.

Did get all caught up on financial data entry with Quicken, which is a good thing.

Got a bunch of stuff ready to go out for recycling, but that just means it piles up inside in a different configuration given not being convenient to drag it outside to the bins, with the snow on the steps; yes, I should clean off the back stairs, and if we had tenants right now I'd have done so, but not doing it when it's only for me. Stupid on my part, of course.

Bleh. Stir crazy and depressed, lovely combination.

me go find something to do, bye now

2008-12-23

Appropriate use of technology; eyeglass selection

I know, I got my new glasses last month, don't know why this didn't pop into my head until now.

My focal length, uncorrected, is under six inches. When selecting new glasses, well, let's just say that I'm used to taking other's word for it if it will look good or not, 'cause there's no way I can see how they look on me with the lenses they have in the display frames.

Enter modern technology, to be specific, photographic technology.

Using a digital camera and digital picture frame, you know the type, flat panel display dedicated to displaying still pictures, it was possible to see what I would look like in the frames I was considering. Put the frames on, staff femme snaps a picture, transfers it to the picture display frame, put my current glasses on and voile! There I am with the prospective frames for my viewing pleasure, able to see for myself just what I'd look like for the first time in my life when selecting new frames, none of this sticking my face right up against a mirror and having perspective bent to heck and gone which is what I was used to doing.

I was quite impressed with this use of technology.

I don't know if this is standard practice at eyeglass shops or not, but Lenscrafters, Clackamas Town Center Mall, is on top of things and proved worthy of patronage.

And they've also got quite the selection of metalworking tools for adjusting the temples of the glasses for a proper fit, the former jewelry student in me has a major case of tool lust, I haven't seen anything like it before at an eyeglass shop. Only thing they were lacking that I'd add to the selection would be a short length of ¾" PVC pipe for use in getting nice smooth curves on the earhookthingy, the section that loops over the ear; smoothed up the curve myself after I got home with the new glasses using a short section of said pipe, and have considered dropping off a short length next time I'm out there just because it would be the thing to complete their tool selection, and I really like the service they gave.

OK, so I'm weird that way, call it the gut-level socialist in me, if I can help folks in some fashion I like to do so.

I still think it was a clever use of technology.

post this puppy

2008-12-21

Snow; or, feeling my age

Yes, I should grab my camera and take pictures to prove that we've got, like, maybe six inches of snow here in the lowlands of Portland.

My back says "no."

See, I went out and shoveled the walk, not all of it, I stopped when it started sleeting on me, but the front and the beginnings of the side are donish, and my back tells me that I'm every day of 48.

"Happy birthday," sez the back.

Bundled up I was, two sweatshirts, silly name that, not made of sweat, more like fleece to me, but anyway, two sweatshirts, sweatpants with wool military pants over them, wool oversocks, nifty pair of Lands' End boots purchased back when I lived in Chicago, must be 17 years I've had them now, welding gloves, and the head protection from my SCA fencing outfit [four layers of sports cloth and a layer of pretty fabric over that, pattern based on scuba diving headgear, nice and warm my ears and head were]. Ready for the weather I was, I was, ready for the weather I was. Don't look now, almost turned into the chorus to a song, don't know the words but had that rhythm, didn't it now?

Snow shovel we had from back in Salem, scoop shovel, heavy sucker, handle could be a bit longer in my mind, I'm taller than I used to be, nothing like being half stooped over when shoveling heavy crusty snow, back's been nattering at me non-stop most of the last hour, telling me I'm not up to this anymore, and the left knee, the one that hasn't had surgery, its not too happy with me either.

Hair's looking grey these days, blend of snow white hair and the stuff that hasn't changed yet, hands starting to get that slightly thinner look that comes with age, feet also seeming to lose fat, getting right skinny they are, taking to wearing socks to be to keep them properly warm.

Haven't wished my sister a happy birthday this year, been a couple of months, don't think she's really into her punk brother ragging on her about turning the big Five-Oh, 50 she is now. Mom's 83 now, twenty more years to match how old her mother lived to, we'll see how she does. Dad only made it to 75, lesson to ya about smoking that was, no real question about the cause of his emphysema, although he always blamed some of it on growing up downwind/stream from the Oregon City paper mills, can't say he was wrong about that contributing at some level, pollution wasn't a concern back in the 1920s and 30s, not like they gave a damn about the impact of their effluents on the lowlifes living below the falls.

Hows this for a stream of consciousness post?

Take a prime number starting with 2 and progressing from there, square it, fuzz it +/- 1, and the fourth prime fuzzed in that manner gives my sister and I in age at this point in time. Absolutely meaningless, but the type of thing my mind will occasionally spew forth, which shows how weird I am. Won't happen again, we'd have to live to 122 and 120, respectively, for the next prime, and I just don't see that happening.

Think I'll settle down and read a bit, let my back grumble a while like the curmudgeon that it is.

Oh, and the weather we've been having, put the big kabosh on my getting all the yard clippings cleared out by the end of the year, not gonna happen.

post this puppy

2008-12-20

PVC fittings for furniture

Almost from the day PVC pipe became available, people have used it for stuff other than plumbing.

Lightweight, strong, inexpensive, amenable to home machining with just a small expenditure in tools, generations have made shelving, play structures, chairs, desks, etc. using this material.

For a long time there was one major drawback, the fittings available were only those of use to the plumbing industry, many of use to the non-plumbing trade just didn't exist, so folks would either have to bore out the innards of plumbing fittings, in the case of slip-tees, or use PVC glue to manufacture the fittings they needed for the project at hand.

Then some in the plastics industry realized that there was a large enough market to justify manufacturing fittings for non-plumbing use, fittings which while structurally strong and useful actually violate plumbing codes, such as the 5-way cross with all five openings the same size.

Two different approaches were tried, the first was to create entirely proprietary fittings and pipe, not matching any industry standard sizing, this done by firms begun as new ventures who tooled up from scratch, the second being to retool slightly and produce new fitting styles for industry standard sizing, allowing existing firms to expand into a new market. Those expanding into a new market have focused mainly on 1-1/4", with some fittings also designed for 1" & 1-1/2" pipe.

Recently a third approach has surfaced, of creating PVC fittings of various styles sized for 3/4" copper pipe. This intrigues me.

Searching for 'PVC furniture' with or without 'fittings' will pull up a number of sources for fittings and pipe; the nicest selection of fittings I've come across is provided by my perennial favourite, United States Plastic; indeed, this is how I first became aware of the firm, looking for fittings useful for making pet agility equipment.

Normally I'd try to include pictures of fittings and examples of use, but posting this was a result of enthusiasm and low blood sugar, and the blood sugar has hit rock bottom, so I'm off to get food.

So this is a wimpy post. Oh well.

john, stop editing and revising and go feed yourself, right now! silly human, food is necessary for proper thought and functioning, and stop typing right now

2008-12-15

21 degrees out, high of 25 forecast

So, for Portland, Oregon, this is cold. Really, really, cold. And we're not even talking wind chill factor here, so effectively its even colder. Mind, folks are being directed to websites for explanations of what wind chill factor is all about, which would make my friends in the Midwest fall over laughing, to think that anyone would need an explanation of wind chill, probably as much as I lost it laughing when I read an article in a Chicago paper explaining about slugs, which they were having a problem with given a warm winter, slugs being something any Willamette Valley native knew about before they entered school, Nursery school that is.

But yes, we're a wimpy bunch here in Portland, didn't actually have that much snow, and it's not really that cold if'n you've lived anywhere East of the Rockies and north of Mason & Dixon, yesterday [Sunday] they already had the school closures out for today, and trust me, every school was listed as being closed. Guess they had deeper snow in the higher altitudes, have to remember that I'm not that much above sea level here in the Brooklyn neighborhood, SW hills are much higher, and East County has the Columbia River Gorge, aka The Great Wind Tunnel of the Pacific Northwest

Whoa! Red Cross is opening Emergency Warming Centers. Actually a good idea, given that if you don't have heat this weather will kill you.

Well, once the sun comes out I'll bundle up again and clear the walks again, it's now 6:30AM so it'll be a bit until I do that. In Portland you are responsible for clearing your walks, are held legally liable for injuries if you don't attempt to keep them clear, be it snow or leaves or whatever, back in Chicago the deal is the opposite, only responsible if you try to clear you walks but don't do it properly; given that snow on top of ice is safer than ice without snow, both could use better definitions of what is acceptable and what is not.

It's been kinda fun listening to the wind whistling around, hearing the gusts rattle the porch roof; real glad I used pop rivets, zip tie anchors, screws, and zip ties to fasten them down a while back, used to really rattle in the wind, but now it just indicates that it would like to rattle.

Which reminds me that one of the projects for the summer is to reroof the porch, or at least reflash it, which also requires making it easier to get to the building roof, so one can approach from above. Making it easier to get to the roof would also aid in checking the condition of the roof.

See, this building has a totally flat roof, OK, it may have a slight slope but it is effectively flat with just enough slope to direct rainfall to the rain gutters. The roof access is via a hatch above the internal stairway, currently requires using a ladder in an unstable manner to get to the internal cover, then climb up like a yard to the external cover, then you're at the roof. What I want is to install a pull down ladder, one of those attic ladder jobbies, to the internal hatch, making it much safer and easier to get to the roof, so we can see how the roof is doing, and can then use a removable boat ladder, the kind that hooks over the side of a boat when it's on a trailer so you can get into the boat from the back, like we had back when we had the 16 foot tri-hull, anyway with such a ladder it would be possible to get to the porch roof from above and inspect the flashing, which I know needs replacing because water has been creeping down the side of the building between the porch roof and the building, resulting in water damage above the 2nd floor kitchen doors, which open on the porch, and this damage is a bad thing, and needs to be stopped.

Huh, radio just said lows around 15 overnight. Like I said, for Portland this is cold. Me, I just drag our my medium weight Chicago winter clothing from storage, the heavy weight stuff is for -50 wind chill...

7:00 AM, still dark out, but I should fix some breakfast, yes?

So...

Post this Puppy!

2008-12-13

Comparison price shopping & Library Products

Having just received the Five Season collection of Andromeda, via BoxedTVSeries.com, I find myself in the market for DVD cases, specifically 10-packs, cases which will hold 10 DVDs plus cover graphics.

Nexpak VERSApak seems to be the way to go. Let's see what the library supply firms have to say:

Brodart has them for $2.65, Demco for $4.79, Gaylord for $3.25, The Library Store for $4.40

Hmm, last time I ordered them from U.S. Plastic... $1.33

I need five. Take a wild guess where I'm ordering from. Same place as last time.

The real point in this exercise is that in many cases a bit more digging will find a better price, in this case a majorly better price, at a non-library source, for products we tend to associate almost exclusively with libraries.

There are reasons your purchasing department may prefer utilizing the standard library sources, such as the convenience of one-stop-shopping, working with a "known" source, minimizing time required to process orders, etc.

In The Olden Dayes these had some validity, but with the ease of online shopping this is far less valid. Certain institutions I used to work for would bring to mind the concept of delaying payment as long as possible, which can be stretched a bit via purchase orders, invoicing, etc., but unless there are cashflow problems involved with your funding this shouldn't be a factor, and if there are cashflow problems with your funding you have a much greater problem to deal with, and should have incentive to argue for staggered purchasing at the best price possible per item; I can testify that if a librarian saw a chance to stretch their supplies budget to 3 times its face value via careful scheduling of purchases to match cashflow they'd be most happy to work with purchasing to expedite things, just tell them the truth and don't lie to them, work with them to find the best price for your money, after all, anything not spent can be grabbed for administrative expenses, which always expand without penalty...

I feel a rant coming concerning budgeting and accountability and who gets the axe based on my personal experience, so I'm ending this now.

Post this puppy!

2008-12-05

OHSU Intelligence Test

While the Oregon Health Sciences University, OHSU, doesn't officially have an intelligence test which their patients are required to pass prior to receiving services, if you drive there they do; it's called "finding the parking garage".

Lots of parking garages. Lots of Permit Required parking garages. Smart park garages abound, as well, for the Eye Clinic, various others. I just couldn't spot the one for the Dental School. And no place to pull over and leave the car whilst asking for directions, not that I spotted a map or anything while frantically glancing in all directions, traveling at 25 mph, the speed limit, through windy curvy blind corner abounding stop for all pedestrians oh my god im so stressed out heres an exit im going home where its safe

I didn't make my dental intake interview yesterday. You see, I failed their intelligence test.

After I reschedule I'm determining how to get there by bus, I'm not going up there by car, ever again.

When I called to let them know I wasn't making it, they got quite the chuckle from my saying I failed the Intelligence Test. Most people wouldn't phrase it that way. Most people if they couldn't figure it out would probably be far more antagonistic than I was, I was just glad to make it out of there alive, and no I wasn't going to try again later in the day, thank you very much, just let me sit and quiver for a while, recovering from the stress, which I got out of there before it set off the advanced stages of my stress reactions, but still I decided I wasn't going to do the other stuff I'd been feeling up to; gorgeous day, crisp clear blue sky, near freezing temperatures, nip in the air, the type of day that actually gets me up and going [once I've dressed for it].

Kind of like today looks to be.

Who knows, maybe I'll head out and get stuff done.

But not at OHSU.

2008-11-30

Computerized sketch pad interfaces

Not that I know much about the topic, I'd like to, know about the topic, that is.

Because bad as my hand-eye coordination is, I'd still do better using some form of pen drawing interface than I do using a trackball for sketching.

In theory, there are a number of products available which allow you to merrily draw on a surface and have it appear on the computer screen, and software packages which then allow you to grab what you've sketched and make it more rigorous, more as if you'd used rulers, compasses, calipers, etc., orienting the sketch and snapping the lines into a grid-assisted format.

I want this. If I felt confident about a product, I'd even be able to convince myself I need this and make the purchase, but finding information is a stone-cold bitch, pardon my Anglo-Saxon, but there ain't no sugar-coating it, information is just scarce as hen's teeth, except that as certain Discovery Channel programs have demonstrated they've engineered chickens with teeth, don't know if they've brought any to maturity, but hen's teeth aren't so scarce any longer, compared to reliable information on computerized sketch pad systems. At least in regard to what I've been able to track down, and I'm not actually the best Internet searcher out there, never had any formal coursework on it, I know searches can be put together than I do and that there have to be better search terms than I've used.

Anyway.

There are systems where you effectively have dopplering radar set up, where you bring your pen into the field and it records all the movements as coordinates and plots that on the screen, you can use a normal pen and paper with this, they have big one's you can set up using chalk/dry erase boards, standard classroom size boards, great for instruction/brainstorm sessions. Probably arcane signals for things like erasing or asking for a clean slate.

Some similar systems, still able to work with regular paper, the impression I have is that the writing implement has a small short-range transmitter embedded into it, so that you set up an tiny localized GPS system, effectively. I think this type allows for erasing via a different signal sent from the eraser end of the stylus.

Then there are the touch pad systems, where you work with a touchscreen-type system, using a stylus to sketch on the screen, kinda like the old pressure sensitive sketch pads from my youth, these are variants on the Tablet PC concept, more focused on the sketch pad end of things so they don't have a full OS but rather are recognized as an input device, generally USB interface, although I suspect that wireless version s are now available. If you could also use them as an ebook reader life would be good, but I don't think they've realized the marketability of such a hybrid, something to sketch with that can also be used for reading standard format documents, hmm, if one could use it for mark-up purposes combining both purposes it could be truly powerful; I'd like it, loads.

While I can find info on these various systems, the one thing I can't find is where I could actually try one out before buying, so I could see if I could use it successfully. Probably some CAD/graphics expo is where I'd have to go, and that just isn't gonna happen, unless something shows up locally and I hear about it, the combination being unlikely.

Why do I want something like this? I get ideas for things, and the ability to draw as I think, and to then manipulate the drawings at a latter date would be wonderful, and scanning drawings in and then struggling with mice or trackballs doesn't cut it. And some of the ideas might actually turn out to be marketable, if I could clean up my sketches without having to hire a graphical artist to do it for me, which also would have the whole problem of getting what I visualize expressed well enough that someone else could do the drawings, at a certain level I need to do the drawings myself.

Now if only I could plug my brain into a hook-up such that what I visualize appears on the screen, I'd be set. Nothing like being able to visualize in three dimensions, rotate and transform mentally, and have hands which won't do what I want them to. I can see the stuff in my mind, but transferring it to media of some sort is the problem, my hands just won't do what I want them to do.

Ties into the whole disability thing, synapses and such just don't work right, and that then triggers frustration which causes things to deteriorate and there you go, damn near comatose at time with systems shutting down on me.

Mental brilliance combined with physical sub-par ability just frustrates the hell out of me. And with the physical sub-parness resulting in mental function ranging between extreme genius and barely able to care for myself because the brain fuzzes up that much, ick.

Boy, I've wandered afield, haven't I?

If you haven't read it, look for the story, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, for a long time it showed up in the various best Science Fiction stories of all time collections, he then expanded it into a novel, they made it into a movie, charly (1968)with a backwards r, Flowers for Algernon (2000) I haven't seen the movies so I don't know how badly they butchered it. I feel the short story version is the best, at least it hits harder in some ways. I fear it becomes increasingly difficult for me to reflect upon the story, for it seems too reminiscent of my life, and what I fear in regard to my decline.

OK, I'm going to see if I can cheer myself up somehow, thankfully I do have an innately cheery personality.

2008-11-27

Teach your children well

It's interesting the paths my mind wends down whilst working in the yard.

Some writers of fantasy postulate that deities come to exist because they are believed in, that faith generates divinity. Others that non-corporeal beings exist, and through their interactions with us take on aspects of divinity, that they are shaped to reflect our beliefs; if one imagines electro-magnetic beings, then they could well be changed by their interaction with our own electrical fields, and given our having physical form to anchor our consciousness we would be less influenced then they, unless they be of great size.

In either case, strength of belief would have the most impact in either forming or changing such beings.

Who has the strongest belief in things? Who are they who are most capable of believing, of imagining, of creating with their minds?

Children. Children believe far more strongly than any, even than radical liberals or conservatives. Children, when hearing a tale, can become part of the tale to a greater extent than any adult, for we doubt, at some level we doubt everything, but children can accept and simply be.

And whether there is deity, whether belief creates it or it exists, or it doesn't exist, what we believe as children shapes us as adults, either by being confirmed, or via disillusionment, we are created via our belief.

If presented with a structure of warmth, compassion, a child is more likely to exhibit these characteristics as an adult. If cold, darkness is their lot, then greater the likelihood of being cold and dark as adults.

Teach your children well, for as they are nurtured, so shall they believe, and believing, be.

******
Frustrating it is, that I can never hold to myself the thoughts that come in solitude and present them unchanged, the act of trying to recollect and present changes them, what is written is never what was first thought. The more I strive the more the thoughts end up twisting and turning, like fish in water, elusive, slippery, and escaping, leaving only slime and scales behind and an elusive glimmering of the beauty that was.

And the hope that somehow, despite everything twisting awry, some glimmer of the original thought comes through and sparks a light in the minds and hearts of those who read the febrile words left behind.

2008-11-25

Why clothes never fit, or, I'm a mutant

I get tired of this.

My middle finger is 5/8 of an inch longer than the next longest finger, which makes gloves a problem. My big toe reaches to Alpha Centaurus, OK, so it's only 3/4 of an inch longer than the next toe, which makes shoes a bloody pain; they called me "Ape Toes" at camp [seriously, they did]. My arms are long for my shirt size, so either my wrists hang out for the whole world to see, or my shirt puffs out around my waist like a circus tent. My body is short in the torso, instead of worrying about Plumber's Butt my shirts end up blousing over my belt because they aren't divided for slipping down the legs; I need shirts divided like a Knight's surcoat, able to hang properly when mounted on a horse, that way they'd slip down my pants' legs properly. We won't discuss underwear.

Good thing I can sew. Bad thing the place isn't in shape for sewing. And making shoes is somewhat complicated.

I've complained this way before, haven't I? Pretty sure there's a previous post along this line. And pretty sure they'll be more of them to come.

Grumph grumph grumph

And a curmudgeonly good day to you, too!

Post this Puppy

2008-11-24

Getting cold for outdoors work

Mid-thirties this morning, kinda chill out there.

But it hadn't rained for a couple, so there I was, bundled up a bit and proceeding with turning branches into short stublets of twigs in yard debris containers, good hour and a half, but oh were my hands cold when I finally called it a day at 9ish, none of my gloves for yard work are well lined, need to look into that for the next pair, so I can work through the fall & winter.

Down to just three piles of stuff from this year to process, and then a pile of limbs from the previous pruning needs busting up. So there's the pile of apple pruning, with the remnants of the rosemary pruning now tossed on top to keep off the ground until I continue, and the bin of maple, blackberry and wild peas by the side of the house, and then the pile of maple & blackberry by the fence. No Clematis clippings left to deal with, and only one little sniblet of Clematis spotted these last two weeks; it really does look like I've done a number on that danged vine, given the climate here in the valley [Willamette Valley, that is] it's a year-round growing season for these pestiferous plants, so not seeing them means something when it's mere days til Thanksgiving; guess I'll have something to be grateful for, aside from disability coming through.

Although, it'll seem dull without the challenge of Clematis.

But it's getting to where I can look at the yard and think to myself, "Just what do I want to do with this yard, anyway?" Ya know, not just don't want x to grow, but maybe want y to grow, and perchance a little reading nook or two, for reading books, a few. It even rhymes, too. Boo hoo.

Silly I'm being, yes?

Puppy Posting Time it is!

2008-11-19

Cars, doors, and electricity

So, there I was, all set to go pick up my new glasses, get in the car, glance around, see that one door hadn't been locked, hadn't closed quite properly when I'd taken in groceries last week, shut it properly and locked it, then tried to start the car. Totally dead battery. And my jumpstart power station thingy, hadn't given it a total charge in a while, not quite up to starting the car this time. Bet I'll have to reset the clock, too.

So I'm back inside, charging up my jumpstart power station, and musing on just how loose/ajar doors cause batteries to die.

Oh, sure, I know the official reason, if the door doesn't close all the way the dome light stays on and draws down the battery, but get real! I mean, how wimpy an explanation is that?

Nope, not going to use that explanation.

Ya see, it's like this, electricity stored in batteries is a closed system, have to open the system to utilize the juice. That wimpy little dome light couldn't possibly draw enough power to drain down the battery. Nope, it was the door being ajar, see, that made it an open system and the juice was able to spill out the car and down the gutter and into the storm drains, all the way out into the Willamette River, and trust me on this, the Willamette River would be able to drain the car battery. River's got a mighty thirst for power, that it does. Not to mention how close we are to where the Willamette drains into the Columbia, mighty powerful river, that one, bunch of electrical dams on it, so full of power they have to drain it off so it doesn't get rambuncious and leap out of the banks and flood places, like it did Vanport back before the dams were built. Well, that's not quite right, bunch of anthropomorphism there, actually the water builds up this static charge when it flows fast and if they don't drain it off with the dams it just gets pulled up out of the river bed until it finds a good ground and then kind of pools up for a bit, swirling and draining, until the excess charge is all gone, then it drops back into the river bed where it's supposed to be and continues on its way to the sea, adding to the electrical charge the ocean has, which is so great it keeps sliding back and forth looking for good grounds to drain it away, that's what they call tidal action, they say they're caused by the Moon, don't see how that could be unless it's that the Moon is rubbing up against the Earth building up a static charge like a balloon on cat fur [cats aren't too pleased with that experiment, let me tell you, sharp claws and don't like the popping sound either], bet if it wasn't for the charge the rivers supplied that wouldn't be enough to cause the ocean to try and cozy up to the Moon as a good ground, don't you be telling NASA about this, can just see them trying to build the charge up enough to sail to the moon on a big wave.

Much better explanation than some dinky dome light running down the battery, unless the dome light has a real good vocabulary, then I suspect it could run down any battery it chose to. *rimshot*

Yes, it's silly season, right here in River City.

Don't know about anyone else, but my brain feels drained now, sigh.

Post this Puppy!

2008-11-16

Job Descriptions, Evaluation Criteria, and... God?

I had the misfortune, while working at the Chicago Public Library Bibliographic & Interlibrary Loan Center [CPL BILC], to work there while they changed job descriptions and evaluation criteria such that there was no way to score higher than 'satisfactory' on an evaluation.

Where formerly job descriptions had phrases such as 'process x number of requests per day,' which allowed for being more efficient than the norm, and also reflected that the workload in that department varied from day to day in a manner outside the control of the staff or administration, the new descriptions included phrases such as 'complete all requests within 48 hours of receipt,' which would be fine if the same number of requests were received each day, but was clearly insane when requests received varied between 200 and 400+, gave no allowance for staff shortages due to illness or vacation, and because of changes in processing implemented at the same time made it such that while one person was held accountable for seeing that all requests were completed in 48 hours, 2/3 of the support staff now assigned to handle those requests in an assembly-line manner were supervised by someone else, making them responsible for the results of people over whom they had no authority.

And if they succeeded in making it all work out properly, they would receive a 'satisfactory' evaluation.

Not only did merit-based pay increases become an impossibility, doing what had previously been acknowledged as 'satisfactory' could result in no step-increase in pay at all.

About that time is when I started having IBS, amongst other stress-derived ailments. My friends in after years commented that it distressed them to see me slowly falling apart, edging toward a full breakdown only avoided by transferring to a branch library, literally in the nick of time given the partial collapse I had at the end of a vacation just prior to the offer being made, where the very thought of going back into the hell-hole that department had become was more than I could deal with and I broke down crying. Considering that two years previously my perspective was that I could see myself retiring from that department in 40 years, things had changed drastically.

Any wonder that at that time I commenced one of my several ventures into Christianity, where the idea of a loving, compassionate god who cared about each of us was most welcome? Someone, who knowing it was inevitable that we would fall short of the mark, would forgive us this and hold us close and comfort us?

Hold that thought. Inevitable that we would fall short of the mark?

Um, yes. God's criteria is perfection, you cannot do any better than that, so nothing can offset any areas where it just didn't work out right.

So the best you can ever get from God, in an evaluation, is 'satisfactory' if you actually lived a perfect life according to the rules that He, as Creator of All, established. And anything less that an overall ranking of 'satisfactory' damns one eternally, unless we beg His Mercy for failing to meet his impossible standards.

Well, at least He allows groveling to set aside an 'unsatisfactory' evaluation, more than was possible at CPL.

Remember, God made all the rules. He set it up so no one could ever be under par in any area, and par for the course is the only winning score, anything over par puts you in the sand box or water trap or the trees for all eternity, unless we 'humble' ourselves and cast ourselves on His infinite Mercy. As I don't play golf, my apologies if I've reversed the definitions of 'under' and 'over' par.

Um, so I should be worshiping a tyrant who is even more petty than the ones I dealt with at Chicago Public, who at least had the justification that the standards were being handed down from the State and significant State funding of library operations were on the line? They weren't ultimately responsible for the impossible situation I had been in, the Library Administration that didn't have the guts to try to explain why the criteria was impossible and that better guidelines for evaluation needed to be developed were at fault; when you're a special case you have to document this and argue for dispensations, I'd produced, as a new hire straight out of library school, most of what they needed to make the argument, but the fact that the ILL management tried to stand up for their staff got the department labeled a 'problem' department, and replacement by hatchet-persons was the result. Um, yes, 18 years later I'm still bitter when I think about it.

Anyway, God doesn't work with standards set by someone else, at least according to the Christian Scriptures; He created everything, determined how it would all work, and set the criteria for evaluation, and knew, up front, that everyone would fail.

Yes, I've again departed Christianity, and this time I doubt I'll ever be back.

I'm not shut on religion as a whole, mind, I'm not comfortable with thinking everything in this world is a result of chance, that there is no underlying basis for judging right/wrong, good/evil, but I have a new criteria for anyone I'll be willing to follow.

At some level it has to be possible to get better than 'satisfactory' on your evaluation, anyone who sets it up otherwise isn't worth working for.

Post this Puppy

2008-11-15

One man's perspective on modern library funding, ideology and mission

No footnotes, no citations, no documentation, purely my at-this-time flow of consciousness thoughts on this topic; how late 1960s' can you get!

Which is appropriate. Library funding received a massive boost via various entitlement programs starting with the Johnson administration, not ending until the Reagan government-is-the-enemy administration. So starting in the mid-1960s libraries started expanding their services, going from the traditional library-as-repository-of-distilled-knowledge-and-culture to the library-as-liberal-stronghold-for-social-change which we all know and love/loath; this was deliberately encouraged as part of the Civil Rights Movement and the related social movements of the 1960s-70s, a deliberate policy of shaping young minds to further social change.

An entire generation of librarians entered the field believing that part of their mission as librarians was to shape society in a liberal image; those who were not comfortable with this tended to find other work, or at least steered clear of library leadership roles, focusing on the traditional nuts and bolts of library work, traditional reference services and tech services, those areas where ideology was mostly irrelevant. But the high profile positions, collection development and administration, attracted those who had Vision.

All well and good when society as a whole agrees with the vision, and funding is practically being forced upon you for these purposes. But what happens when the initial social change being promoted is complete, and a new ideology of limited Federal involvement results in significant reductions in funding?

Reason, in my mind, would indicate that you reassess your activities based on the central mission of libraries. The problem was, and remains, that an entire generation of librarians rose to power who felt/feel that one of the central purposes of libraries is to nurture social change, something which no one espoused prior to the Civil Rights Movement, and which they have taken further than anyone had intended, and they have no understanding of how funding and services interact in a market economy. When funding is cut service must needs change to reflect decreased means. When anti-taxation sentiment is being fanned by demagogues, you must needs market your services carefully to enlist the widest base of support possible, and above all things be practical in any innovative programs, providing reasons why it is a good thing, economically, to provide typewriters or computers or Internet access, and to set up policies of use which adhere to the arguments made when seeking approval for these services.

Internet access for research, job search related activities, writing papers, these are reasonable to propose and will find support. Internet access for social networking, game playing, pornography, not so; these are not reasonable services for a library to provide, and any arguments for them are inevitably going to be found specious because they are not related to the traditional roles of libraries in our societies. Libraries do not have a mandate to provide services without exercising due judgment about the worth of those services.

Libraries do have a responsibility to their funding constituencies that they provide services of the widest possible benefit, and in the most cost effective manner possible. Core services do not include ideological agendas, and libraries must operate within the law.

Libraries are not supposed to undermine a parent's authority. When I was growing up, it was accepted that certain materials were not provided in the Children's Library, and the Children's Library was isolated from the Adult Library. If parent's desired a child to have access to materials held in the Adult Collections, the parent either checked the materials out themselves, or issued instructions that their child be granted access to these materials, and certain materials would not be covered by such a waiver, the parent would have to check them out if they desired their child to access them. In the regular course of affairs, if proper research for assigned coursework required access to materials held in the Adult Collections, the Children's Librarians would retrieve those materials and make them available in the Children's Library. This was felt to be reasonable, and I knew of no one who had any complaints, and trust me, in that time period if anyone would have had complaints it was my family.

The very idea of restricting access to materials in this manner is currently anathema, and can prevent one from being hired, and can adversely effect your tenure if hired; I know this from personal experience. Never mind that until one reaches the age of majority, being 18 years of age, the child only has those rights and privileges granted to them by their parents, who are held accountable for the actions of their minor children. Nowhere has the parent granted the library the status of in loco parentis, the library has no legal standing for allowing minors access to materials restricted to adults, yet libraries all over the country argue for the children's 1st amendment rights, of which there are none; as the parents are held accountable for their children's actions, there can be no rights of the child which undermine the authority required for the parents to be accountable, otherwise the parents are placed in an impossible situation [which given the modern liberal take on things is the case, but that's for another posting...]

Back in the day, when access was circumscribed, exceptions were easy to record and permit; now, where access is open to all, it is impossible for a parent to exercise judgment in restricting access other than being physically at their child's side every second they are in a library, and how to insure the child is never there without them? Prevalent library policy forces responsible parents into the role of being an ogre. Of course, prevalent library policy is to abdicate responsibility in the name of freedom of information, as if the fact that some opinion is held means the library has to make it available, and the irony is that libraries do censor materials, but that their criteria is skewed from mainstream society, demonstrating a decided leftward bent, promoting the personal agendas of staff members instead of truly being factual and impartial.

Um, I've been at this for several hours now, and it's time for lunch, which may be starting to impact my writing.

So before it gets any worse,

Post this Puppy!

2008-11-13

Maple; Rocky Mountain? Similar, at least...

OK, the unknown trees are a bit less unknown now.

While working with web resources and tree identification for the west coast is a chancy venture at best, the USDA NRCS Plants Database leads me to believe they are closely related to the Rocky Mountain Maple; the descriptions are very close, the photos, hmm, variant is a possibility.

First thing you have to realize is that, like people, no two trees are exactly alike; we tend to forget this given that most cultivated trees are actually grafted, where clippings from one tree are spliced onto another, not quite cloning but having something of that effect. This allows one tree, selected for desired characteristics, to seemingly multiply into many trees, kept alive and spread via grafting for decades beyond the normal lifespan of said tree, and leading many to presume that all examples of that species are identical, with no variation.

Not what we have here, this are from wild seed, and many trees, while having both male and female flowers, are not self-fertilizing; they require pollen from a slightly different tree to produce fertile seeds, so by definition they do not breed true. Thus, illustrations and photos of a given species of plant merely provide a basis for comparison, not a strict criteria which must be matched to the last crinkle of their leaves.

Given all of that, our volunteer trees look to be varietals of the Rocky Mountain Maple.

Not a variety noted for it's lumber usage, given that it doesn't have one main trunk but instead has several trunks splitting off near the ground, none reaching terribly large diameters. As a source for twig furniture materials it's not a bad one, especially as it regrows from stumps quite well, and is pleasant to work with, as I already know from making the new handle for the Japanese Root Cutting Knife mentioned several entries past, and the now-mentioned-for-the-first-time walking stick for Mom [hey, she forgot her cane inside, so I handed her a section I'd just trimmed, a little tall for her but it worked, I've since cleaned it up a bit and added it to the collection of canes in our possession]. Turns out this type of Maple has cross-hatched bark, not as deeply striated as Oak, but something of that look not on steroids, as it were. *grin*

And that's the news from SE Portland, Where Men Are Men, Women Are Women, and Trees Are Trees.

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2008-11-09

Parking strips, edgers, weeds, and gloves

Tso, havink done tsome verk ont de parkink streep

erm, OK, ditch that dialect!

So, having done some work on the parking strip, I realized that I desperately needed an edger, and not the type used in woodworking [which I have]; this resulted in a trip to Harbor Freight. Or rather, was taken care of during a trip to Harbor Freight.

Nifty tool, One Stop Gardens' Lawn Edger, Harbor Freight Item 94299, a mere $4.99 [not on sale, normal price!], much better than the edger my parents' had lo these many years agone and which may not have even moved to Portland with us it's been so long since I've seen it and how's this for a run-on sentence? [inhale] Solid steel cutting blade, good haft, OK plastic handle, lousy aluminium rivets holding the blade to the haft. "How lousy?" you ask, so lousy that after maybe fifteen-twenty minutes use they'd worn through and the blade separated from the haft. Fume, not happy camper.

Have no fear, Fix-it-Man is here! First, try using a nail to create a through rivet. Yeah, I said first, implying it didn't work. It didn't, not really, something to do with not having a nail of appropriate diameter to hand. Sleep on it. [Man, no wonder my back is sore!] Come the dawn, use a pin punch to remove the nail rivet, grab Klein Tools Six-in-one tapping tool, item 627-20, a handy tool which has a reversible insert with three taps each end, smallest to largest, so you can easily thread items for use with the most common machine screws. [hey, nice threads, man] Ahem. Turns out that the 1/4-20 tap is just right for the openings in the blade & haft. Wander down to the basement, saying "Hi!" to Mom en route, grab an appropriate length 1/4-20 hex head bolt, crank a ratcheting socket wrench a bit, get it all the way through, and not need an end nut as the tension from the blade trying to get away from the haft is enough to prevent it from vibrating loose; I don't know why the blade is trying to get away from the haft, I mean it knew what it was getting into when it applied for the job, didn't it?

Anyway, tool fixed, better than new; well, since new had lousy aluminium rivets, yes, better than new is correct.

They's weeds in the parking strip. Lots of them, make you think it hasn't been weeded in decades weeds; funny thing, it hasn't been weeded in decades. Gotta do something about that...

The weeds that really need taking out, the dandelions, Queen Anne's Lace, and them Wild Peas, they all have two things in common; they sprawl, and they have deep, thick, taproots which they will re-grow from if just broken off at the surface. Nasty buggers.


Enter Grandpa's Weeder, Garrett Wade product 65P01.01, $27.50; a nifty tool, very good for this purpose, pulling taproots, and which I have no need of purchasing; you see, I actually have Granddad's weeder, pre-WWII production line, been in the family and well used for 60+ years, a quality tool which I recently replaced the handle on. Lot of that happening around here recently, yes? Anyway, when the soil is damp, as is common in the Pacific Northwest in the Fall, this tool makes them narsty taproots come out of the ground smooth as silk; there's a reason Garrett Wade brought it back into production, it is ideally suited to it's purpose, no tool developed since supplants it for ease of use and simplicity of design. Center it over the root, stab it into the ground, plant you foot on the footpad lever thingy to sink the tool as far into the soil as it will go, remove you foot and lean the handle toward the footpad, easy smooth pressure, and watch the root come out of the ground. In an ideal world, that is, some roots are nastier than others, soil conditions vary, as does dampness of soil. In my case, the soil and dampness are just right. But if it didn't cooperate entirely, there is a secondary use for the footpad thingy, it has a slot at the end which can be used to pull roots out akin to the claw on a hammer pulling nails out of a board, given sufficiently thick taproots, such as young Oaks and Walnuts, a use I put it to growing up in Salem.

And finally, gloves. The Rose Gloves I got in August, I've worn out the fingers using them to protect my fingers while grubbing in the dirt, and they're a bit expensive for that purpose. Not quite so well fitting, but still some sturdy and supple, Harbor Freight sells what they call Leather Roping Gloves, although I suspect they aren't the strongest roping gloves around, but $4.99 on sale sure beats what I paid for the Rose Gloves! Regular price of $6.99 isn't bad either. Only real problem is that they only sell them in large, and I take an extra-large due to my long fingers. But it gives me an idea of what type of glove to look for in the future, might need to visit a farming & ranching supply shop to check out their gloves to find a proper fit combined with supple strength...

Lunch time, so I'm out of here!

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2008-11-06

Raking sidewalks, gutters, storm drains... and Clematis?

No bleep, there I was...

It's Fall, no question about it.

Leaves are falling, and as Property Owners, we're responsible for the leaves on "our" sidewalks, regardless of origin...

So I'd just spent probably 30-45 minutes raking leaves; hey, they're small leaves, don't cooperate that much, and its been raining, OK?

Then I'd turned to the street gutters, cleaning out leaves before they turned into dams.

Then to check the storm drain at the bus stop.

Clematis. Growing in the storm drain. A foot to eighteen inches down. Roots into a crack in the wall. Real healthy looking, large shiny leaves, dangling down several feet to the storm sewer.

This one will be interesting, currently... no, I take that back, the pruning saw that screws onto standard thread handles, I can stick that down and cut through the vine, can't do anything about the root but I can get the vine.

But not today.

My hands are cold.

I should change afore I catch a chill, damp cloths and cold body do no one any good.

Post this cold, dry-nosed Puppy

BookletCreator: Son of Nifty Online Resources

BookletCreator is a truly nifty resource.

So you've written the next great novel, photo album, whatever, and you want to print it out and bind it in signatures.

"What's a signature?" I hear you ask? Maybe not you, but that person on the next computer to the right, yes, that one. He wants to know.

Hardcover books, thick ones tend to be made of many bundles of folded pages bound together. Each bundle is comprised of a number of pages printed such that when folded in half down the middle all the pages are in proper order within that bundle, and those bundles, when placed in proper order, are bound together to form the body of the book. Some books have an even edge, some have a wavy edge. Even edged books have been trimmed after binding, as the inner pages of each bundle project out from the outer pages. Each bundle is referred to as a signature; beats me where that term came from, and I'm not looking it up.

Printing a signature requires ordering pages in a very weird manner, so that when printed and folded everything is as it should be. Printing a set of signatures for binding into a book is trickier still if you want to keep the page numbering constant between signatures; signature one ending on page 16, for instance, signature two starting on page 17, signature three starting on page 33, and so on. And then, if you want all the signatures the same size no matter what, you often find that you need to pad the last signature with some blank pages at the end.

BookletCreator will do this for you, the ordering of pages for printing in signatures, when you provide it with a PDF document and answer certain questions, such as how many pages per signature, Left-to-Right or Right-to-Left, etc.

It will take your PDF, your criteria, and automagically reorder the pages so that when printed on a duplex printer all you need to do is count off x number of pages, fold in half, and voila, a signature! x is the number of pages to a signature divided by 4, given four pages per individual sheet of paper.

Then you get to go into more advanced bookbinding matters, but the pages are ready to go.

And the really nifty snazzy thing about BookletCreator? It's free, absolutely free.

Now if anyone knows of a program which would reorder pages for printing three to a side on 8.5 x 14, so that slicing in three produced 8.5 by 4.66 pages, and which would do this for n number of pages, reordering everything for duplex printing, I'd love to hear about it. It would be great for producing slightly off-size paperbacks.

But until then, and in all cases where I want to make hand-bound hardcovers, BookletCreator is The Bomb.

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2008-11-04

A pivotal moment in US history

I know, every blog in the US is talking about the election just completed. So be it.

While parts of John McCain's campaign upset me, his concession speech was one of the most gracious and positive speeches I've heard in some time; if his campaign had reflected this speech the result would have been much closer.

It was a clean election, in regard to the vote. No hanging chads, no voting machine problems in strongly Democratic precincts, clean, clear, unequivocal. This election did not hang on a series of unfortunate events throwing it one way rather than another.

African-American. Generally, when we think of African-American, we think of descendants of slaves, not someone who's father was Kenyan by birth; Barack Obama, far from being the traditional African-American, appears to have a cosmopolitan background that should be envied by all, which should give him the least parochial, provincial outlook of anyone who has served as President within my lifetime, if not since the founding of this country.

The first time I heard of Sen. Obama was when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, and my reaction at that time was that I'd be much happier voting for him than any of the candidates involved in that election. That was the same election I really wished McCain was the Republican nominee, as I preferred him to Bush and the Democratic candidates. That in four years he went from being a Chicago Senator in the Illinois Legislature to first being a US Senator from Illinois to now being the President-Elect from "The Land of Lincoln" is an incredible accomplishment.

Having paused to listen to Sen. Obama's acceptance speech, I remain impressed by this man, and hope that his, and Sen. McCain's, sentiments bear healthful fruit.

One thing I should note: Sen. Obama is a punk kid, nine months younger than I am, and we overlap our Chicago residency by a couple of years, his commencing in 1991, and my leaving to return home to Oregon in 1994. Mind, I never heard of him prior to the 2004 speech, but what the hey. And the entire time they were panning the camera around in Grant Park I was watching to see if anyone I knew showed up. Given 14 years since I moved back from Chicago, I'm not surprised that I didn't recognize anyone, but it was nice seeing pictures from my old stomping grounds.

Anyway, this is enough for now.

Post this Puppy!

Cost of items

It would be easier if I had a copy of the Stat. Ab. handy, or just did some research, but when I hear Mom mentioning how expensive things are my fingers twitch and I want to drag out real-number comparisons.

When Mom was first driving, back when she was 17, that would be 1625+17= 1642, no, wait, 1925+17=1942, she recollects paying 17¢ per gallon for gasoline. I recollect, back in the day of three gas stations at the corner of wherever-it-was, three blocks from Bush Elementary in Salem, OR, 4th grade, would be around 1969, gasoline at 25¢ per gallon. And I think it was still well under $1.00/gallon back when I started driving in 1987; yes, I got my driver's license when I was 26, ya got a problem with that?

Anyway, comparative buying power, what things cost in relation to each other at different times.

1969, 25¢/gallon for gas, Frank Herbert's Dune, one of the largest SF novels published to that time, was selling for either 75¢ or 95¢ in paperback, my memory isn't precise on that and my copy is in storage.

Currently, as in yesterday, I saw a gallon of regular for $2.53, a price I never expected to see again. Last I purchased one new, comparably sized paperback SF was selling for $7.99.

3 x 25¢ = 75¢
3 x $2.53 = $7.59
95/25=3.8
2.53 x 3.8 = 9.61

So, if the price in 1969 for Dune was 75¢, then the price of gasoline today is lower than it was in 1969 in real dollars, as the gasoline costs less, in relation to the cost of paperback SF, now than then.

1942 15¢/gallon, Mom thinks her Piano teacher was making maybe 50¢ per lesson, I suspect that's a bit high for 1942. 15/50= 0.3
2008 $2.53/gallon, my sister makes something like $35.00/lesson, I think. 2.53/35= .07

If the initial numbers are correct, by this calculation gasoline costs a fraction of what it did in 1942; it would be more reliable if I was comparing the cost of milk or apples in season or things like that, non-luxury items... except that in 1942 an automobile was a luxury item, Mom doesn't realize just how privileged she was to be driving a car at that time. There was a reason that the various stores in downtown Portland would deliver purchases for no charge, that the various grocers did the same; people didn't have the means of carrying very much when shopping, the merchants had deliverymen running regular routes as a matter of course. And then after the war, when the Interstate freeway system was built, as a military expense, and the GI Bill created a greatly enlarged educated workforce, changing the economic picture, the Suburbs came into existence, strip malls and shopping centers with monster parking lots began to compete with lower prices as they weren't providing free delivery as a matter of course, the whole economic structure of our society changed.

It's impossible to make comparisons between pre-WWII and post-WWII pricing which have any validity unless you somehow factor in the change in economic structure produced by the military subsidy of the interstate automotive infrastructure; pre-war the railroads ruled, post-war there was a paradigm shift to the interstates due to Federal subsidies, and the impact that had on everything. And it is still with us. There is no rational economic system which would make it more economical to utilize trucks over railroads for long-haul transportation of goods. It requires an artificial subsidy, and every time the market tries to correct this we interfere. The very people who rant and rave about government interference in the marketplace prosper only because of government interference in the marketplace.

OK, I'm not going down this path any further, we're talking Ph.D. Thesis work to document just how various changes in the legal code have influenced corporate business practice as well as the impact of government subsidy of the Automotive transportation network upon the marketplace, etc., etc., etc.

All I know is that if I ever sat down and got the research done, no one would like what I had to say about our current economic and social structure in relation to a true market environment.

I have a far darker vision than Marx & Engels; I do not see Communism, I see Fascism as the result of unregulated Capitalism, either that or a collapse via anarchy to a new feudalism, with a die-off of at least 50% of the population.

Right, said I wasn't going down that path any further, then went even further down the path to post economic collapse prophetics.

Gah.

Post this Puppy

Vision, function, and, of course, more yard stuff

Yesterday I came to realise just why I can't seem to focus on things; I really do need to order new glasses now that I have a current prescription, I can't focus because my eye correction is that far off. How plebeianly mundane.

The inability to properly focus does have a decided impact upon my ability to function, the mind strives to make sense of that which is senseless due to it being fuzzy, draining much needed CPU cycles to use a computer metaphor. Having, as a result of a shopping trip yesterday, replenished my potassium levels [bananas, gotta love them!][ditto blackstrap molasses, chock full of lovely nutrients to a remarkable degree], my next mission should be eyeglasses.

After that, time to take over the world! ["Pinky, are you thinking what I'm thinking?" "why yes Brain, but how do we get the Boston Philharmonic into leiderhosen for the Macy's Day Parade?"]

Riiight.

And to Yard Debris: Pile 1, as described in the October 31, 2008 posting, is considerably diminished, to the tune of two yard debris containers; Thursday is Yard Debris pickup, lots of lovely stuff to go away again. Speaking of which, they've finally gotten around to charging us for all the extra containers I've been placing out, to the tune of $47.50 for the last three months, a mere pittance considering just how much stuff I've been putting out every two weeks! I mean, $2.50 per each additional container, um, that's less than a decent cup of coffee or glass of beer each, not to mention the comparison to a haircut or movie... or more appropriately in my case, the cost of a book, any book. No question about it, at the rate I'm going I'll have all the yard debris piles eliminated by the end of the year.

Then I'll have to find something else which grabs my interest in similar fashion.

Hopefully, organizing the shop will grab my interest, and then organizing storage, and moving things into said storage, and determining what stuff we have that can Go Away, and making it go away, and making it possible to do stuff, like sewing and leathercraft and woodworking and oh just lots of Neat Stuff which will utilise materials I've accumulated over the years, and setting up an electronics lab, and trying to repair dead circular saws and such ilk, and basically wanting to get myself doing stuff that continues to give me a sense of accomplishment.

And it wouldn't hurt if the fancy caught me to finish getting Apt 4 ready for renting again, and got it rented, this time to reasonable folks.

And seeing about having contact with people locally, like actually seeing people in person, not just Internet stuff. Although reasons of vanity and self esteem puts that off until after I've gotten a ton of work done on my teeth. See, I discovered that Whole Grains are bad for you, if not cooked properly, which is tricky, bad for you as in wearing off the outer layer of the teeth bad, which is then followed by wearing down the teeth; if I was a Gift Horse, you'd sure better look me in the mouth! So I'm very selfconcious about my teeth right now, and given that when I'm happy I beam a lot, great big smile, lots of teeth, nice enough expression that it alone garnered me one girlfriend, well, being around others is and is not something I want right now, but I've an appointment with the OHSU Dental School on December 4th, 8:30 AM, to have an initial evaluation; I think the dental school will find my mouth a useful teaching environment, which given no dental insurance other than whatever Medicare A&B provides is a good thing.

And don't let any English Majors see that last paragraph... Oh, Hi Missy!

busted

Anyway, getting on toward when eyeglass shops would be opening, so time for me to think about vamoosing, as in time to

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2008-10-31

Fall is upon us, Indian Summer is past

We had an extended Indian Summer this year, pleasant temperatures and little rain through much of October, but the last several days foretold the coming of Fall; whilst still not raining, it had become overcast and brisk, with my fingers getting chilled even with gloves if I spent time working outside.

And today, the rains are upon us.

Makes me glad I spent time yesterday dealing with the pile of Blackberry & Clematis clippings created during the first foray into yard work, back in August. Four yard debris containers later, the two piles which were mixed Blackberry, Clematis, and Rosemary were all gone, except the larger hunks of Rosemary, which I'm still looking at in re uses for the wood; at the least I'm planning on keeping the large diameter sections, so I think it will only take one yard debris container to deal with the to-be-clipped sections of Rosemary.

After that I still face four piles, to wit: 1) Blackberry, Clematis, and some unknown tree, said pile located in the NE corner of the lot. 2) Apple & Walnut clippings, located just south of central in the main yard. 3) Pile of Blackberry and another unknown tree, against the south fence in the area south of the building. 4) Mondo pile of Blackberry, wild pea, and the second unknown tree, all in the off-ground frame I made to prevent anything from rooting.

The first unknown tree has big spiky thorns, up to 3" long, sticking out of the main trunks, like the stereo-typical spikes on a bead of nails; nasty! And they are rigid, not wimpy.

The second unknown tree has an Oak-like bark, in that it has all these canyon-like fissures running the length of the trunk, starting out as mild surface patterning on the twigs and growing deeper as the wood thickens. The color doesn't match my recollection of Oak trees growing up in Salem, OR, in that it's more orangish, drying to an off yellow in the younger sections after being cut, the larger sections to a steel grey/green. Um, thinking about it, this may be two related species, as there are three trees, one in the main yard NW corner, two in the south extension along the fence, and the yellow/orange clippings are from the second area, with the grey/green from the first, and the striations differ between two, yellow/orange having more Oak-like depth... Except I think they show both together? Aughh! "Memory is the second thing to go." "What is the first?" "I forgot."

I should take good pictures and go to the library to research these trees, well, the 2nd two varieties, the first unknown, the one with the spikes, that got clear-cut, the other two merely pruned to my satisfaction. Be nice to know what they are, the wood for the handle came from one of them.

Ooh! Ooh! The rain has stopped, it's getting brighter out! Time to take the mid-day meds and see if I'll be up to going shopping in a bit! At the least I want to make it to Trader Joe's, I have decided that a slight increase in Kidney Stones is an acceptable cost for increased functioning via Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans, being a stimulant that does work with me, and a means of controlled dosage. I really wish the meth-heads hadn't forced them to ban pseudoephedrine, that stuff dealt with allergies and contained the prime anti-narcoleptic stimulant, combined with Ritalin and Adderall it kept me functioning half-way decently; not well enough to be off disability, but well enough to regularly go shopping as my reaction time was dependably prompt.

So. Meds. Wash my hair. See about obtaining CCEB.

Post this Puppy!

2008-10-29

It works! Da handle is Da Man!

So, anyway, spent some time today looking for things to eradicate, and found some more Blackberry and Clematis; every time I tell myself I've beaten the Clematis more hops out saying, "No you haven't! We're still here! Hey, get away with that implement of destruction!" and various other pithy comments whilst I endeavour to remove the evidence of Clematis survival.

Clematis just isn't very smart, taunting me and thinking I'll leave them alone.

The Blackberries, on the other hand, haven't really tried to fool me, I'm still dealing with stuff that was around earlier and I just wasn't quite up to dealing with at the time, stuff that I trimmed down fairly close to the ground but knew I'd be back to deal with later, say after it rained, when the ground would cooperate. Which is what I've been doing.

And as the heading for today's missive states, the new handle I made yesterday for my root cutter, it works. No slippage, no tool trying to elude my grasp, no, instead very rapid cutting through roots, as advertised. Yeah!

Also spent some time lugging branches into the basement for storage until I come up with projects to use them. Kinda funky with the Walnut, I've three or four branches which have matching curves, not all the same length but to scale, I can see a sofa in my future, Walnut with Apple rungs, even have branches shaped properly for arm rests at each end. It'll be a fun challenge. Of course, where I'd put it when finished does not bear contemplating at this time.

That's the burbling for today.

And I'm being good; I'm not ranting about the idiocy of Bill Sizemore and Kevin Mannix, two of Oregon's top idiots in regard to misuse of the Oregon Initiative Petition system.

Um, why yes, that was a mini-rant, and I filled out my mail-in ballot today, how'd ya guess?

And to prevent any further, I'll just

Post this Puppy!

2008-10-28

I can handle this... the replacement handle is made!

Clearly I need to take these over again with a better contrast background.

Old handle above new handle; the new handle is a tad shorter, due to the shape of the tree branch I was working with, but also due to the shape of the branch it fits my hand much better. From this view, given better contrast, you can see a slight ) shape, with the handle continuing a slightly flattened curve from the blade.

View with blade facing toward me

View with blade facing away from me; the s-curve shape to the handle is subtle

To the left the new blade cover, then the blade with new handle, followed by the original handle and sheath.

I'm not sure what kind of wood I used, I haven't succeeded in ID'ing the tree; it wasn't one of our apple trees, nor the Walnut. Its one of the unknown volunteers, which has been de-volunteered with extreme prejudice. It might be a variety of Oak, the bark has that type of pattern to it, which really helps in regard to holding onto it and not having it slide out of my hand in use.

Initially I thought I was talking big in yesterday's blog entry, about how I could whip this off in nothing flat today, but I wasn't. Except for attaching the blade, I had this done by 8:30AM, starting a bit after 7:00.

First step was evening up the ends, for which I used my TopMan Japanese Saw Double-Edge Cross and Rip Cut, Harbor Freight item 92599, purchased around seven years ago, my first pull-saw.

The initial pass on narrowing down the end for the ferrule was done using the Shinto SR-30 Saw-Rasp, purchased from Garrett Wade in the same order as the root cutter; hadn't expected to use it quite this soon, but this is the type of thing I purchased it for.

After I got within range of the proper shape/diameter on the end I shifted to my Dremel, using a sanding wheel to finish shaping the end for the ferrule.

So far, easy-peasy. Now for a trickier bit, cutting the slot for the tang of the blade. Back onto the back porch with the pull-saw, clamp the hunk of handle-esque tree branch onto the railing using my left hand, and start cutting with the saw in my right, deliberately wobbling it a bit to widen the kerf sufficiently for the tang to fit. Well, that was the theory, I had to switch to a wider blade later on to get it wide enough for the tang.

Taking the old handle off turned out to be much easier than I had expected it to be. I used my trusty Stanley Yankee Handyman No 46, a lovely push/pull drill which they no longer manufacture, although you can buy a very good replica of their upper end model from Garrett Wade, their Classic Push Drill, Chromed Brass rather than the plastic, aluminium and steel of the No 46... Now where was I? Oh yes, I drilled a hole in the old handle from the side opposite the nail that held the tang in place, got it in one try, then tapped the nail out, grabbed my vise-grips and wiggled the blade out of the handle, shifted it to the new handle, tried to wiggle it on, re-sawed the slot, wiggled it on, held it firmly while using a deadblow hammer to tap the bottom of the handle the final bit to get it fully seated, and then tried to locate the hole in the tang...

Tried is the operative word. After several wrong guestimates as to where the hole in the tang was located, I shifted back to the Dremel, grabbed a carbide drill bit of appropriate size, and drilled a new hole; I presume I drilled a new hole, I could have suddenly found the old hole for all I know, wasn't taking it apart to check now was I? No, not checking, Mrs. Mead didn't raise that stupid a son.

The nail from the old handle wouldn't work with the size hole I created, so I grabbed a left-over steel rod from a pop-rivet, tapped it through, got it to bend a bit inside the handle to lock it into place, used a hacksaw to cut off the ends of the rod, and voila! New handle made and in place, total time approximately 2 hours.

I'll be 48 in December, I'll be using this tool many years from now. It has a really great blade, and now has a handle, custom fit to my hand, made from wood from my own yard. I'm a happy camper.

Post this Puppy!

2008-10-27

These roots are made for cutting...


Garrett Wade calls this a "Japanese Short-Bladed Root Cutter"; I call it well worth buying! Does a very nice job cutting through 2" Blackberry roots.

OK, it does have one problem. The handle is lousy. Can't hold on to it for beans. Especially if wearing gloves. Too small around, too smooth; nothing to hold onto to prevent it from getting yanked out of your hand. No problem, my next project is a new handle, got a section of branch just the right length and diameter, nice curve to it so it fits well in my hand, nice semi-rough bark, just need to shave down the end to fit the ferrule properly and slice a notch for the tang, should be able to get it done tomorrow.

Already made a sheath for it, the plastic thing it comes with is fine for hanging in a store but wouldn't hold up to everyday use, served as a place to start in making a pattern. Did a proper sheath, including the in-between layer of leather so that the saw blade rests on leather and can't slice any stitches or tangle with nails; thinking I'll use clinch nails to reinforce the sheath, currently it's just held together with Elmer's Glue-All. Sure, I could use my Dremel to drill holes for stitches, but that'd be a pain compared to clinch nails.

Clinch nails, it you are not familiar with them, are ball-headed nails, short like brads, which basically have on side shaved off at an angle. You use them to attach soles to boots, things like that, by hammering them through your leather into an anvil; when they hit the anvil the point curls up along the shaved angle, effectively creating a rivet-like fastener. You can buy them in various lengths depending upon how thick the leather is that you are fastening together. Ideally you will size them such that they curl up inside the leather, not actually projecting out the far side, that way they grip the leather better and don't wear away from walking on concrete or rocks or whatever until the leather is already needing replacing. I've used them a couple of times, and have yet to size them properly; another example of my being fine on theory and a disaster in practice. This boy really needs to cultivate patience, and take the time to buy the proper tools instead of trying to hastily make due when working on something that is meant to last a while.

But like I said, the blade itself is good. Despite the difficulty holding onto the haft, cut through 2" blackberry root in a matter of minutes, with a better handle it would have gone much faster. Also did a good job working Clematis loose from against a concrete wall, slipped around the roots and loosened them up so I could pull the puppy out without breaking anything off.

Whoa. Evening meds just hit, getting woozy and time for bed.

Post this Puppy!

2008-10-25

Good weather for blackberry eradication

Hasn't rained the last couple of days, so the grass is dry, but the soil is still nice and damp.

Perfect for going out and routing blackberries. OK, not quite perfect, perfect would be damp and warm soil, not damp and cold soil. But as things go, pretty darn good for grubbing around in the dirt, dragging up blackberry roots so they don't grow back.

Did this along the south side of the building, the not-quite-penultimate holdout of blackberry bramble; now to deal with the scraggly bits along the south fence, gonna have to move the pile-o-tires to do that, think the tires are left over from either potatoes or tomatoes, haven't been used in ten years, probably need to find a home for them somewhere along the line. And then the scraggly bits along the north fence. After that, well, the only berries left will be wanted berries, need to build new trellii for them. Yes, trellii. Singular Trellis, Plural Trellii, and we have both blackcap and red raspberries at different sections of the yard, so trellii it is. Tra-la, tra-la.

Sorry, couldn't resist. Actually went back to add the tra-las, sprang to mind whilst rereading prior to posting.

Seven remnant Clematii running around, the two next to the north fence are growing rapid-like, the others not-so, fairly soon I'll take more pictures and then remove the six on our property, the seventh, the one growing the best, is growing on the other side of the property line, so permission should be sought prior to eradication.

Limb remnants from pruning are going away fairly rapidly, another two or three yard debris pick-ups should do them, then the stuff to the south of the building will go, that will probably take a couple more, so by the end of the year all trace of The Bramble That Ate Brooklyn should be gone. For those who don't know, I live in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Portland; I blame my accent on that. Mind, my accent doesn't match any locale I've ever lived, and changes as the mood strikes it, but do they know that?

Still dealing with bouts of depression since they approved my disability, I see my psychiatrist on Monday, hopefully we can get a handle on this.

Enough. I've demonstrated I'm still alive, and getting some stuff done.

Post this puppy

2008-10-12

Cold...

It seems like I have not-so-much body fat these days, and an internal thermostat that doesn't work so good, as well as an imprecise thermostat for the baseboard heaters.

I'm either shivering, or sweating. Trying to adjust apartment temperature and layers is a trick.

Do need to replace the old thermostat with a digital programmable one, the current jobby is from 1976 and one of those turn-a-knob things with no precise gradations.

Not a happy camper.

2008-10-06

Clematis Observation Project Begun

Today, while taking a break from other activities, I wandered around checking for nasties growing in the yard, just for reference sake as I didn't have the Hori-Hori knife on me, and found three Clematis that hadn't been there Friday.

I marked their locations by stabbing Apple prunings in the ground near by, so as not to misplace them, and then went and got my


[wait for it]




[hope this is far enough to have been off-screen!]
camera to record current growth, as I plan on leaving them alone for a bit so I can chart their growth; how fast does Clematis grow being a relevant question, and this gives me three to observe in somewhat different settings.

Might even try to time-lapse the photos, presuming I stand close enough to the same positions.

Oh, and on pruning, welding gloves aren't particularly good when trying for any kind of delicate work.

On an entirely different topic, I'm investigating duplex sheet feed scanners, in addition to my previous interest in tablet input systems. The cost is way down since I worked at OHS, I suspect this is revolutionizing document preservation and management big-time, being able to purchase 50 sheet feed duplex scanners rated for 1000 copies per day for under $500.00, including top-notch software.

Nifty.

Post da Puppy

Gloves ordered

Yep, wandered over to Garrett Wade, they have some gloves that look pretty good for this kind of activity; actually, two types of gloves, not sure which is better for using with saws and which for blackberries, so I ordered one pair each; cost is not a concern when dealing with a clumsy oaf and his hands, ya dig?

Hopefully this'll be the last you hear of my cutting myself with sharp tools or prickly plants.

Speaking of which, one should always wear pants, not shorts, when removing blackberries, as documented by this photo from back in August...

Like I've mentioned before, I'm an idiot. And yes, I'm wearing sandals as well as shorts while fighting blackberries.

idiot idiot idiot, three times I name myself Idiot!

Next post will probably have some comparison photos, pre-Apple Pruning and post, and ditto in some ways in re blackberries, just to make clear just what got accomplished. It blows my mind, but then I'm clearly A Bear Of Little Brain.

Post dis Puppy

2008-10-05

A Message from Gen. Incompetence

'Greetings!'

"Maj. Stupidity was scheduled to give this talk, but he wasn't dumb enough.'

'First, let's sing our regimental song, dedicated to those gems of brilliance, the 2nd Lieutenants!'

All join in singing 'Louie Louie', extra credit for using the words generated by the FBI prior to the words being printed on the jacket liners.

'Excellent, none of you sang in the same key; you are a credit to the Corps!'

'My talk today is on safety, but first, march in review over that nearby suspension bridge; remember, KEEP IN STEP!'

Transcript ends following sounds of bridge vibrating apart as resonance frequency is reached...

****************
Safety. I've previously mentioned saws, and gloves, and fingers, and the lovely things that happen with a bad mix of the above. Writing this is taking a bit more effort than normal, as I have bandages on three fingers and thumb of my right hand.

So, no bleep, there I was, working on trimming twigs, etc., off the branches I'd removed from the Apple trees yesterday...

You only think you see what's coming, remember, Maj. Stupidity was too smart to give this talk...

Left hand is holding pruning saw, with lots of nasty sharp jagged teeth. Right hand is holding pull saw, used to cut thinner stock. Right hand brushes freshly cut branch to the left...

No, still not there, this is dumber still, Maj. Stupidity is too smart for this.

I'm wearing bicycling gloves. Bob Cratchet style bicycling gloves, the kind with no finger tips. The better to control what I'm doing while keeping my hands warm, as its wet outside...

I've no idea whatsoever how I avoided slicing my right index finger. But three knuckles and the ball of my thumb slid ever so smoothly along the pruning saw, thankfully not much pressure involved, small miracles happen.

I'm going to order proper safety gloves today.

Man, Gen. Incompetence may be too smart for this, I might be a 2nd Louie...

sound effect heard in the distance, a 'rim-shot'