2009-12-15

Shed Lumber Storage, post 1

I can't recollect if I've actually posted concerning the shed that Bill was building for us, I think I haven't. It's big. 8'x20', near 10' on the tall side [it has a sloped roof], door in one end and on one side, two big windows courtesy of having replaced some and needing a home for the old windows. Sturdy. Well framed. Proper roof with shingles and everything. Still has some work that needs to get done, steps to the doors, gutter, and paint, but other than that the structure is complete. Will need to get someone else to finish it, Bill's now got hernia problems and continuing to do this kind of work, well, it just isn't going to happen.

The intent is that all of our yard related equipment and storage can shift to the shed, and that the vast majority of our lumber storage can also shift there.

To this end I've, you guessed it, bought more lumber, so that appropriate shelving can be constructed.

I'm using a tried and true shelving methodology, or at least one that I've successfully used in the past. 4"x4" uprights and base, forming an 'L' shape, with 1 1/8" holes drilled in the upright to allow for 1" steel pipe, the kind used in plumbing, to slip into and form the shelves. To encourage the pipe to stay in the holes, and to make gravity our friend, the holes are drilled at a 5 degree angle from horizontal, so everything wants to shift towards the uprights. The pipe gets wrapped in pipe insulation so that it doesn't discolor the lumber. The 'L's are joined together to form a unit via 2"x4" cross beams set into notches in the back of the 4"x4"s, and these cross beams are also attached to the shed frame. Angle brackets and bolts hold the uprights to the base legs. Once it's all put together it's solid, very solid, not going anywhere solid, and able to hold lots of lumber. Covers one entire wall of the shed, so it'll handle a lot, with the base and then six shelves coming out from the uprights, 28" sections of pipe.

There are a couple of tricky bits, one being all those angled holes. I'm currently 5/8s done with drilling them, would have been 2/3s but the drilling tool came unadjusted on me and shifted to a 15 degree slope on the last upright I was drilling, didn't realize it until I'd drilled several holes, so that upright is going to turn into base pieces. The tool I'm using is at the end of this link; this tool allows you to drill holes at a specified angle, 5 degree accuracy if you are careful, using a standard power drill. If you have a drill press and appropriate outfeed supports by all means use it, but if you don't, this puppy sells for $39.50 from Lee Valley, and Rockler, Woodcraft, and Harbor Freight all sell variants on it. A drill press would be a much easier way to go, but not having space currently to assemble my drill press, this is what I'm using. Anyway, the settings came lose thanks to vibration after drilling 30 holes, I've reset the thing and will check more frequently to make sure it doesn't come loose again. I've got 18 more holes to go, and my arms are getting sore. Then I'll need to cut the base legs, and break out the dado gear to make the notches, and go get 2"x4"s and the able braces and bolts, etc., to put the things together, and do so.

Then I'll be able to look at moving stuff into the shed from the basement. The goal is to clear out all the lumber, etc., which is underneath the plumbing, because the plumbing is at the stage where we really need to think about replacing it. The building is 90 years old, there abouts, and much of the plumbing is original; the pipe is rusting up on the inside, needs replacing.

I'm not looking forward to selecting plumbers. Frankly, I'm terrified, my various stress-related reactions are all triggering, and it's not going to be a pretty sight.

That I'm working on the storage shelving is nothing short of miraculous. The only thing I can figure out is that one of my medications just changed manufacturer, and they're using a different mix of "inert" components in it, and that I'm not reacting to them the same as I was to the previous manufacturer's product, which I need to bring to the attention of my doctor, because seriously, I'm being far more functional than I have been in some years now. This is what is known as a "good thing".

2009-11-28

Governmental Fiscal Responsibility

There is a mailing address in Salem which is used by various Political Action Committees; one of these days I'll actually try to find out who is the official address holder. All of their mailings have a certain slant to them. And they do themselves no good mailing stuff to me, because I've come to the point where if I see their address, yes, I read their mailing... and vote entirely against them, every time. The address, by the way, is 3421 Del Webb Ave. NE, Salem, OR 97303.

They'd almost get me to see their way this time, except that the current situation is partially the result of their previous actions. There are a couple of tax measures on the next ballot, and they're against them, and have nice things to say about not raising taxes in bad economic times, and how government should be fiscally responsible.

However, they have been against fiscally responsible government when times were good, so I can't sympathize with them.

Fiscally responsible governments raise taxes when things are going good, and build reserves so that when things are going poorly they can continue providing desperately needed services. Fiscally responsible governments retain revenue surpluses against future revenue shortfalls. Fiscally responsible governments do all the stuff that we expect good, fiscally responsible individuals to do. Buy low, sell high. Set a budget that reflects routinely recurring periodic expenses, like roof repairs and a new paint job, which don't happen every year but which are expensive when they do, and which you know will happen; you set aside money every year towards them so you have the funds when needed. Plan for emergencies; things go wrong, set aside a bit more each month to provide for the truly unexpected expenses.

This isn't new. Take a look in the Bible, fer crying out loud! Pharaoh had these dreams, remember? Joseph interpreted them as foretelling seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and set up a system whereby that plenty was capitalized, food reserves were build up, and some of the surplus was sold to build up cash reserves, but enough kept that when the famine came they had all they needed, and enough to sell to their neighbors, as well.

A balanced budget is balanced for the long term, not just this week, month, or year. Properly, you should be looking 20, 30 years ahead, all the time, so that the various cycles can be taken into account.

This is a tough sell to the general public, they don't want to hear about long term planning, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. They are disinclined to listen to the voice of experience if it doesn't say what they want to hear. There is a reason our founding fathers set up Congress the way they did, and our fiddling with it has been detrimental to our fiscal well-being. The Senate has two seats per state, because initially those seats were filled by individuals selected not by the state at large, but by the State government, to represent the interests of The State; they were to be our House of Lords, to counter-balance the House of Representatives, our House of Commons. They were given a longer term of office, so they could really buckle down and work on long-term policy. The Senate was to be that voice of experience, given force. But that's water under the bridge, there's no way we'll ever switch back.

But the next time someone starts talking about responsible government, think a moment, or longer, about what a truly responsible government would be doing.

2009-09-08

Kumoricon 2009

So on Friday I was reading the latest installment of Girl Genius, and saw a note that the Foglio's were going to be at Kumoricon that weekend, and also the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, and said to myself, I did, "Hey, the Nikkei thingy is in Portland!" and proceeded to type a quick search on Kumoricon and found that it was an Anime Convention, seventh iteration, held at the Portland Hilton. Labor Day Weekend. $45.00 at the door.

And I thought about it. It would be crowded. I wouldn't know anyone. The video list was all stuff I wasn't familiar with [not having watched Cartoon Network][or anime in general for far too close to 20 years]. I'd also need to buy food. And if I went to the Dealer's Room, I'd spend money, probably.

And I thought about it. It was a 15-20 minute ride by bus from my front door. I wouldn't need to worry about where I was staying. Given my lack of current anime/manga knowledge, I wouldn't spend that much money at the Dealer's Room. And I hadn't gone to any kind of con in at least ten years. I wouldn't need to explain to anyone who knew me why I'd been a hermit and vanished off the face of the Earth for seven+ years.

If I didn't enjoy it, I could always go home.

So I went.

Got there Saturday morning, stood in line [in the rain] to get into registration. Noticed that anime fandom has bigtime costuming going on, and that this was a young crowd, teens through twenties on the whole, some of us older folks but not that many proportionately, which ties in with my discovery that many of them got introduced to anime via the Cartoon Network, so it's a Cable Generation thing, I got introduced in an earlier period, back in a much more word-of-mouth period, where the anime was available in Japan and what we saw was multi-generation copied... kinda like Blake's 7 fandom was. Anyway, back when I was watching in college it was a dedicated core and only starting to get to where some of the stuff was being imported to the states.

So I'm waiting in line, in the rain, listening to the folks in front and behind me, and it felt good, it felt like a con, full of media fans. And I just know it's going to be bursting at the seams crowded, as I can remember what it was like when Orycon used the Portland Hilton, and I can already tell this will have far more than Orycon had when last we used this venue.

Get registered, look at the pocket program guide, and start thinking about what I'm going to do. Some stuff on the third floor looks interesting. Now how do I get to the third floor... Much latter, after searching unsuccessfully for stairs [they did exist, I found them later on, but not this first time], and then standing in line for an elevator, I reached the third floor.

Which is where I spent most of my time while at the con. Seems there was a programing track on writing fan and original fiction, which I found interesting, and the presenters amusing, so I just hung out there. Did make it to the Exhibitor's Hall, spent not that much money, and didn't stay very late either day as I found myself getting tired and went home, but for a first foray back into the world of fandom, and just back into being around other folks, felt pretty good about it.

Fandom is a separate and distinct culture, homogeneous even in it's diversity, and I really am comfortable in it; my kind of people.

I did, a couple of weeks ago, buy an Orycon membership, so I'll be attending Orycon in a couple of months, the first time in over ten years, and there will be folks I know there; that'll be a different situation, re-establishing contact.

2009-08-07

Memories from Camp

The summer camp I worked at for two summers, 1977 & 1978, has changed it's operational methodology over the years, but is still in the same family and finding a way to survive; I just discovered their website, so I know they're still around. Sherwood Forest or as it was known in my time, Camp Sherwood Forest or Greiner's Camp, at the time was run by Alan & Barbie Greiner, who were the Theatre Arts faculty at The Catlin Gabel School for many years, and during the summer ran their camp on the Long Beach Peninsula of Washington, near Nahcotta on Willipa Bay. It is currently spearheaded by their daughter, Susie Andrews, and her husband, Gordie, who are attempting to maintain it as a gathering place for like minded individuals, friends, family, and somehow make it relevant in the modern world. Not entirely sure how they are doing, the website hasn't been updated in a year and the email is invalid, but the yahoo group appears funct, I've submitted an app to be added to it.

I have some fond memories of my two summers there, one of the highlights being a canoe trip where we left camp, circumnavigated Long Island, and returned in four tides, a little under two days. I was a bow paddler on that trip, and that's when we learned I paddled twice as fast as anyone else, and had to throttle back to keep from exhausting everyone else. By the end of that trip Gordon Leeds, my stern paddler, and I had gotten to where we could go from a semi-broken down camp to in the water paddling in around five minutes, including loading a passenger in the canoe; we were organized, in the zone, and didn't waste any motion. It was a wonderful trip, and also the last time I was in a canoe; haven't had the opportunity since. Thinking about it, I think that's the last time I've been on the water, which says not good things about the last 30 years! Haven't even been to the coast that many times since, and, well, I think I'll leave this be before I start getting depressed, yes?

And on other fronts, the painters finished up yesterday, so the major maintenance projects are done for the moment, although the next ones are already under consideration, the plumbing needs upgrading as previously mentioned. And Bill has started building the new outbuilding/shed, which will clear out a bunch of the basement, which will hopefully enable a lot of re-organizing of things.

I guess that's it for now, next Wednesday is part two of tooth extraction.

2009-07-29

Teeth Extraction, primus

Right now I have cotton gauze pads crammed in my mouth, helping to control bleeding as an aftereffect of having nine teeth pulled; the first of four Adventures in Tooth Extraction. They pulled mu upper molars and bicuspids [I think they're bicuspids, I might be wrong, they're the not quite molars just forward of the molars].

Was a bit of a trick doing it, with the level of decay and the fact that I've got good and solid roots, that really didn't want to let go. There wasn't much to grab onto, what there was to grab onto wasn't the solidest, and they really didn't want to come out. In other words, a good set of teeth for a dental school, they got to learn something dealing with my mouth.

In other news, it's over a hundred, my a/c is busted, and the painters have started work so my windows are shut; only way it could be worse would be if I had a south exposure. I don't, I'm on the north side of the building.

Oh, and my bathroom sink drain is clogged back in the wall, and a major nut on the pipe that I need to remove to get at it doesn't want to move. The next major project we need to save money towards is replacing a lot of the iron pipe in this building, the plumbing is anywhere between 70 and a 100 years old and is demonstrating that rust causes iron pipes to shrink internally.

So I'm not in the best of moods just now, and mom wants to talk, not catching on that right after oral surgery might not be a good time. Parents!

And I just demonstrated that the local anesthetic is still doing a good job, can't use my lips properly for drinking, nice spill all down my front.

*sigh*

It's a good thing I'm innately cheerful, otherwise I might really be down in the dumps!

Think I'll go read something silly.

2009-07-20

The Roof, Heights, and Me

I don't deal well with heights, at least not when I have any sense that I could fall. When I helped some friends when they were shingling their roof, I was the ground crew; was on the roof a little bit, but just couldn't handle it.

So the fact that I actually did get up on the roof of our building to look at the job being done says something. Mind, I never stood up, stayed firmly knees to the roof, but I still got up onto the roof, which is how I know it has slope and all. And the roof covering, this reinforced 60mil PVC sheet stuff, is smooth and slick; Wade [the boss] made it clear that if anything went wonky, call them [hey, 15 year guarantee], and don't even consider going onto the roof in the rain, and really don't consider it with ice, you'd be on the ground way too fast in an uncontrolled fashion.

But I actually got onto the roof. I'm not sure if it was courage, or insanity, or if there is a difference.

2009-07-19

Roofing done!

Yay! Friday they finished up the work on the roof, installing the new cap flashing on the facade; see, the roof actually has a decent slope to it, but on the front and sides it has fake walls running up to form a square profile, just like the false fronts on the buildings in frontier town in the American west. These fake walls have to be capped with flashing to prevent water from getting in and creeping all over the place inside the building, and to finish up the roofing, as the roofing material actually goes up the back side of these wall thingies and needs to be capped to prevent water entry.

So the roof is done. Yay! And there was much rejoicing.

Next up will be painting. Actually, siding repair and then painting.

2009-07-15

Roof work now going on

OK, to understand all this a bit of background on the building is needed.

It's a big square flat topped box. There is interior roof access, if one calls a hatchway accessed by leaning a ladder precariously from the stairs access. Earlier this year we had Bill install a slightly lowered ceiling area at the top of the stairs, with a pulldown attic ladder, making access to the roof quite easy, unless you just have a thing about heights, like myself. The pulldown ladder made it real easy for contractors to get to the roof to make bids, and the workers are finding it super handy, they still have some exterior ladders for hauling up materials but other than that they use the interior ladder 'cause it makes it so much easier. The reason I'd pushed for the ladder install was that otherwise we'd not be able to see what the roof was like, and it had been decades since anything had been done up there.

So yesterday they started on the job, first scraping off the old roofing material so they could see what the roof proper was like, which turned out to be not absolutely awful, but there is some rot, and the surface is rather uneven, more so than works with the roofing material we're having installed. So they're fixing the rotten sections, and then installing 1/2" CDX Plywood over the lot, and then back to the regularly scheduled roofing project. Adds $2295.00 to the cost, which is reasonable, at least to me. And these chaps are good steady workers; it's right above my head, I can tell they are working steadily, trust me on this!

2009-07-10

Whateley Academy, or, What I've Been Reading Recently

Nestled in the Presidential Mountains of New Hampshire lies the Town of Dunwich, near which is located Whateley Academy, founded in the late 1800s by Noah Whateley as a school for Young Gentlemen. Fallen on hard times in the late 1950s, foreclosed upon by the bank, it was brought forth anew in the mid-1960s as a High School for those who possessed 'odd talents'.


Dunwich, New Hampshire? Where, pray tell, is that? Nowhere in our reality, although mentioned by H.P. Lovecraft. Welcome to the world next door to ours, where the Superheroes, Supervillains, and Mutants of the comic books are reality, and where the writings of H.P. Lovecraft are fact disguised as fiction; this is the setting for the stories of Whateley Academy, a High School founded [and protected] by a consortium of Supers, both Hero and Villain, for the express purpose of educating young Mutants in the usage of their powers, and the development of skills needed to survive in a somewhat hostile world, for there are many who do not love the Mutant as their brother.


Welcome to Whateley Academy, student body circa 600. Scrupulously neutral as to the path their students take upon graduation, directed by one of the foremost Superheros of any generation, staffed by some of the finest educators and researchers in the land, part prep school, part mutant academy, their graduates are accepted into the most prestigious colleges, courted by the CIA, NSA, NASA, and other governmental agencies, as well as the established Superhero & Supervillain teams, The Syndicate, and other shadow organizations both malign and benign.


Written, singly and cooperatively, by a group of approximately 17 writers referred to by their fans as 'The Canon Cabal' to difference them from those writing fan fiction set in their universe, the main sequence of stories follows six members of the Class of 2010 starting with their arrival at the beginning of their freshman year, in September of 2006. Brought together initially by the common thread of a change in gender accompanying their mutation, these six individuals rapidly form bonds which will last their lifetimes, however long those may be...


Five years of writing, with significant weekly updates for the most part, has brought the storyline partway through their second term, Winter 2007, although some Fall 2006 storylines are still in progress. Utilizing 'The Canon Bible' [a Secret Compendium of Established Lore regarding the Whateley Universe], a private forum, and individual emails, the Canon Cabal have maintained an astounding level of character consistency and universe coherency. Originally posting their stories at Sapphire's Place, a GLBT Internet fiction site, Whateley Academy has for several years now maintained their own server, The Crystal Hall, hosting the official Canon of stories, a fan maintained wiki, and an active fan forum, including fan fiction. [Some fan fiction has also been posted to The Big Closet.] Several significant members of The Canon Cabal began as writers of Whateley fan fiction, and were invited into The Cabal, and their work revised and reissued as Canon.


Experience the pathos and bathos of life at a coed mutant boarding school, the comedy, tragedy, seriousity and farce of life in the mutant fast lane with fifteen-year-olds adjusting to new powers and abilities, some eagerly, others reluctantly, all while taking English, Maths, Powers Theory & Lab, Home Ec, Basic Martial Arts, Introduction to Flight, Gadgeteer/Deviser Lab, Costume Theory, Introduction to Mystic Arts, Advanced Topics in Mutant Genetics, and others both academic and vocational.


Cliques and clubs abound! Jockey for social position with The Alphas [Whateley's self-proclaimed elite]. Considering a career as a cape, why not rush the Future Superheros of America? Your parents are Supervillains, that's a sure in with The Bad Seeds, admittance only to those of proper pedigree; desire to emulate your parents not required. Fancy a career as a model, Venus, Inc., is for you! Family from the upper crust, hang with the Golden Kids. Think yourself the next James Bond, the Intelligence Cadets [Spy Kidz] might be for you. Spectre more your style, the Masterminds for those with guile.


Acknowledged influences include the various major [and minor] comic book universes, H.P. Lovecraft, Japanese anime [especialy Ranma ½ & Urusai Yatsura], various role playing games with a superheroes/supervillains or Cthulhu theme, Saturday Morning Cartoons, Adam West's Batman, Vincent Price' laugh, and a familiarity with Prep Boarding Schools [US & Foreign].


And that's what I've been reading lately.

2009-07-09

Renovations & Maintenance

We're looking at a considerable outlay this summer, but it looks like we'll do it without going into debt.

The roof needs repairs and replacing, the siding needs repairs and painting, and we need a storage building for lumber, yard equipment, and construction related materials.

It's a flat roof, and little has been done on it in the 33 years we've lived here. Presuming it is still sound, recovering it combined with replacing flashing and a variety of other items looks to run us $9,862.00, with a 15 year manufacturers warranty. More if they have to patch the roof, of course. DialOne Roofing of Oregon.

Big square building, cedar shakes, some of which need replacing and many need reattaching. Plus flashing, and the chaps we're tending towards suggest re-stapling the shingles with snazzy stainless steel staples; the bid we're tending towards is a firm which doesn't just paint, they also do siding and window installation, the sides of buildings are their thing. So we're looking at $2,497.00 for shingle repair, replacement and re-stapling, and flashing on the corners and one window. Then $15,889.00 for all the stuff involved with painting the building, including this snazzy paint from Sherwin-Williams which has a 25-year manufacturers warranty. Oh, and while we're at it, repainting the entry hallway which is this immense two story with stairs space, and which hasn't been done since we moved in, might be an idea, and enough of a pain that paying $1,395.00 to have it done sounds real good to me. Total bid: $19,871.00. But wait, 10% discount somehow comes into play, which knocks it down to $17,802.90. And anything not covered in the bid but added later at $35.00/hour, most reasonable, it's a good detailed bid. C&K Home Improvement.

Storage shed. Say about 18'x8'x8', sloped roof, gutters, windows [we've got one's we've replaced running around, still good double pane, whyever not use them?], 4x4s instead of 2x4s on the south side so lumber storage shelving on iron pipe racks is fully supported, built to last for decades, none of this chintzy backyard storage shed stuff that's falling apart as soon as you finish building it, like the shed we just took down. The idea is that all the lumber in the basement will have a good home, as will the yard tools & supplies, and hopefully the various construction supplies we keep on hand. Get this stuff out of the basement. Clear out the Furnace Room, and make the major plumbing pipes accessible without struggling. Let the shop be a shop. Make it possible for me to move back into my old room in the basement, so we can get my current apartment back on the market as a revenue source. Bill's working up a bill of goods for this, after which he can give us an estimate as to what it will cost. This will go against his mortgage payments. There's around $16,000.00 left on his mortgage, so this will be no out of pocket on our part. Bill will have the mortgage paid off before the end of next year, at which point we have to start actually handing him money when he does work for us.

Once all that stuff gets done we start looking at other things, like the floor work in the apt. 3 bathroom, which is partially rotted out, and the need to replace the buildings plumbing as the old iron pipe is getting clogged with rust.

But the stuff currently bid on, we've got the cash on hand to cover, between what I've had mom socking away for periodic expenses and my Social Security lump sum back payment, which can repay the support mom provided for me prior to it coming through. And my budgeting for periodic expenses will be improved based upon these expenditures, so with care we won't need to go into debt for future repairs, either.

It's nice owning the building free and clear. It's nice to have zero credit card debt. And I plan to keep it that way if I can.

2009-07-01

"Slugs & Snails & Bugs," he wails!

We have snails the way some folks have cats, and boy did they do a number on the zucchini.

None of the zucchini survived, they all got et up before they got past the big fat initial leaves, the ones that pop out of the seed case. Nasty vicious snails!

The butternut squash, on the other hand, appear to be doing just fine, with one weird case. One clump of seedlings doesn't look at all like the others, Seems to me some other seeds got mixed in, some other variety of squash, the weird thing being that they ended up planted together in the one clump. Either that or some volunteers came up looking exactly as if deliberately planted, in a location that matches the pattern of planting I used; which I find unlikely, but I find both scenarios unlikely. It'll be interesting seeing what they produce, as that will be the only way to answer this puzzle.

Something is munching on the peas, and to a lesser extent the beans. Some bug which crawls out at night, with a voracious appetite. The peas have had all their tendrils, the stuff they use to glom onto things, munched away, and a job done on their leaves, and they're being slow to recover, if they ever really do. The beans have something eating holes in their leaves in 3 out of five cases, and the progression is from one end of the row to the other, but they still seem to be doing better than the peas, even if they don't seem to be growing all that fast.

Of course, not doing anything to the soil, other than attempting to remove the sod, might have something to do with rate of growth.

2009-06-18

Allium

The plants which I thought might be onions aren't. They appear to be some version of Allium, a garlic variant, with garlic style cloves and a slight garlic odor. They're going to bloom at this time, waxy onion-dome shaped flower pods peeling back to reveal a snowball of blossoms. Not much of a garlic taste at this time, I'll see what they're like after the blossoms wilt, when if garlic they'd be ready to harvest.

It's just crazy what all grows in this yard, domestic and invasive species growing in a forest edge style of semi-shade giving way to full meadow. And remove one obnoxious ground cover and another appears in it's place, seemingly out of thin air. The latest pestilential ground cover does a great job of smothering everything, even grass, which takes some doing! Long stems, with velcro-like stickery bits, about every eight inches or so a ring of leaves, slender things, and the seed pods are small BBs with stickery bits so they hold onto your clothing [and animal fur] so they can hitch rides and become widely scattered. The stickery bits on the stems make them act like they were sticky in a sap fashion when it's not a sap style stickyness, little brats sink hooks into your skin, can actually leave welts/rashes in their wake.

And the seedlings all over the place, let it go wild and in twenty years this would be a grove of mixed Oak/Walnut/Maple/Filbert, never mind the three apple trees. And the occasional holly.

2009-06-14

Still more garden stuff

Same day as last post, went out and suddenly there were five butternut squash seedlings, and the two I'd previously seen were realized to both be zucchini. The butternut squash are all from the same planting area, so unless I attempt transplanting they'll be kinda cramped. The zucchini are from separate planting areas, crowding should not be a problem; the problem is that one got attacked by a snail last night, and one leaf and part of the other got eaten, just hope it pulls through. Our yard is crawling with snails, also some slugs but the slugs are not so pervasive.

I've gone through and pruned back all the new blackberry growth, except for anything which had blossoms; berries are good, brambles are bad. My plan is to go through and try to dig up the obvious blackberries after the berries have ripened, in the mean time keep them pruned back so it doesn't turn into the horrible bramble mass that it had been prior to my hacking them back last fall.

2009-06-13

Garden update

When I planted, I wasn't sure how everything would do, it's been 30+ years since I've planted anything remotely resembling a vegetable garden; not so for my parents', but for me doing it of my own free will, we're talking back before we moved from Salem, pre-1976, a number of years before then actually.

I'd say we're looking at a high germination rate for the peas, sprouting up all along the two rows I planted, way too close together. The beans, on the other hand, so far... I count three. Yes, three; big bean crop in our future. And to date one Butternut Squash and one zucchini, which is something like a 1 in 20 germination rate for that lot.

Both the peas and beans are pole varieties, at the moment what I'm using for that purpose are those tomato support thingies, the ones with three graduated rings and three stakes to support them. They'll do for a bit, but down the line I'll probably need to add longer stakes, presuming the legumes want to climb higher. But the tomato supports were kicking around in the way, so they were handy to the task.

And wandering around the yard, checking things out, I found, you guessed it, more Clematis striving to creep all over. A couple or three mini-infestations, now history.

I've determined how to quickly differentiate the sprawl-all-over-invasive blackberries from the we-actually-planted-them blackberries [aside from sprawl vs non-sprawl]; the invasive ones have noticeably darker leaves. This will help when I resume working on blackberry control, although part of me wants to see if I can keep them semi-controlled, 'cause they taste soo good, even though there is no such thing as a controled Himalayan Blackberry, they live to bramble, dreaming of the day they will cover the Earth in a layer ten feet deep.

I've discovered something interesting. If you stick a somewhat freshly cut Walnut branch into the ground in the late Fall to mark a possible Clematis infestation, it will take root and put forth much new growth in the Spring. I need to decide if I want a Walnut growing at that location, it's kinda close to the fence.

Also, squirrels will plant acorns a good block+ from the nearest Oak; we've got little Oak trees sprouting up all over the yard, pulling them out is getting to be a nuisance. And I've no idea whatsoever about where the squirrels have been finding the Filberts; those I try to leave alone, just to see if they'll make it. And then there's the Holly growing under the porch, nasty prickly thing, keep prunning it down when it grows through the slats. It's right next to a fern, also a volunteer under the porch, the fern is at least 20 years old now, like the one in the yard just past the rhubarb.

Guess this'll do for now.

2009-06-06

Garden planted. Post numbering

OK, so this is the actual post 100, I'd worked with Blogger's listing in the create post section, and I've got two posts which are saved as drafts and that threw the count off. If I ever finish them they'll show up with the initial date of creation from way back when instead of the actual posting date, which will make this post 102. Like anyone really cares.

Now, the garden. Planted peas, beans, butternut squash and zucchini two days ago, having soaked the seeds overnight, and soaked the ground as well. If they all germinate it'll be very overcrowded, but I'm banking on inexperience keeping germination to a reasonable level. Stuck bunches of apple pruning branches in the ground with the peas and beans, for them to clamber on, may need to add more sticks depending upon that germination thang.

Guess this'll do for now. Weather has been cloudy and chill the last two days, and the SAD thing seems to be kicking in again; really prefer it when it's hot and bright, sometimes I really miss Tucson's weather, or a Chicago summer, even with the added humidity.

2009-05-17

Post 101, early morning gardening, and computer case modding

Hit a milestone with the last post, and didn't realize it; this is my 101st post on this blog, never thought I'd be this verbose, that I'd post this much.

Mind, it's gotten fairly narrow of focus, and a focus I never expected. I mean, me, gardening? Get real! Although, as I've pointed out, it's much more me doing weeding and pruning, deciding stuff needs to go away rather than adding stuff, other than relocating the occasional volunteer filbert or maple sapling to a better part of the yard from my perspective.

Yesterday it was determined that we're getting back into warmer weather, which means yard work needs to shift to the early morning hours, when its not so blinking hot out. So, while it is only 6:58AM, I've already put in a half hour or so of weeding today.

Not having functioning air conditioning is going to impact computer use in a bit, as it did last summer; when the computer does an auto-shutdown because the heat sensors have reached critical, you know its getting hot. Tried to fix it last year by adding more fans to the case, with no real impact. Of course, what I realized a month or so back was that the fans were 12v and the power I supplied was 5v, so they never kicked in; I've rewired them so they are now getting the 12v they need, and it is making a difference in re interior temperature. Not surprising, really, adding two 12cm case fans, one aimed right at the CPU, will dramatically increase the air flow. A bit noisy, but that's OK, just gives me more white noise for the brain to try and interpret as music, I guess. Have to be a little careful opening the case, the new fans are on a side panel, and I have to unplug them to set the panel aside. I've read of cases where contacts and wires have been set up such that side panel fans are powered by contacts integral to the side panel and main body, where you close the side panel and the contacts slide into place. I could try and set something up like that, but I'd want to do it with an empty case, not one that has a functioning computer in it while I was working on it. Properly insulating a slide connection would be the interesting bit, although if I used the adhesive copper tape I have in conjunction with the brush-on insulation, I could lay down a layer of insulation under the tape... You know, that'd work. Provided the side panel was just loose enough to allow that much added thickness. Actually, electrician's tape with the copper tape would do, and be thinner.

Funny thing about the copper tape, Lee Valley sells it as a gardening item, wrap it around the base of pots to discourage slugs and snails, I bought it with the idea of running it behind fluorescent tubes in home brewed light fixtures, providing the ground plane needed to insure full function of the tubes if the structure was built of wood or plastic instead of metal. The idea was to build valances at the windows, covering the tops of the curtains and having lights aimed upwards, I'll still probably get around to this if we get the shop in shape, as my seasonal affective disorder really responds well to lots of fluorescent lighting with proper spectrum tubes, and its much less expensive than fancy light boxes that stand out like sore thumbs.

7:28AM now, time to think about breakfast, or so my body says. So I'm off!

2009-05-06

Volunteer flowers

Scattered around the yard are a bunch of flowers which have appeared from nowhere; at least, we haven't seen them here previously. I was first aware of them as unexpected greenery, which upon investigation was bulb-based, with significantly large bulbs, giving the appearance of being perennials. In the last couple of weeks they've come forth with blooms, reminiscent of what I called 'bluebells' in my youth, albeit in white as well as blue.

They're nice. I like them. I don't like where they are located, as they sprawl through the center of the yard, where one would consider hanging out or gardening.

So... While not weeds, they are now officially candidates for transplanting to the edges of the yard, specifically along the fence on the Mall Street side of the property. There, they can mingle with the other miscellaneous flowers, looking pretty and being out of the way. Of course, an I do this, I'll also need to fill in the holes resulting from transplanting, unless I want an impromptu puttputt golf course, otherwise known as anklebreaker heaven. Got enough problems with uneven ground without adding to it deliberately.

And guess what? While looking around for remnant patches of dandelions, I found a Clematis! Took me a moment to realize what I was seeing, but I promptly dug it out and tossed it in yard debris. There are also some areas with blackberries struggling to come back, so I need to see about harrowing them again; not real harrowing, allegorical harrowing, but going through with appropriate Implements of Destruction™ and making them Go Away.

I'm still finding the occasional dandelion, but I've really done a number on them, and a couple of related weeds; three yard debris containers in four weeks worth, the yard and parking strip are massively better looking, and the weather has helped on this by allowing for nice soft ground to work with.

My breakfast is beeping at me from the microwave, so I guess I'll be going before it gets mad at me! My motto is 'never ignore food'.

2009-04-23

Arthritis of the lower back, oh joy! [NOT!]

So, Tuesday got x-rays taken to look into this pain I've been having in the lower back, that sometimes shoots down the right leg, sometimes like to make the leg want to give way and buckle on me [hasn't quite done that so far, but at times it sure feels like it wants to.]

Seems I've got arthritic developments down there. They've sent the x-rays over to be looked at by more specialized folks.

So when I'm sitting down I've got twinges, depending on just how I sit. When I get up it's a bit more than a twinge, decidedly an Ouch!

Oddly, the position I kneel in when weeding seems to be free of pain, feels like nothing is wrong with the back, everything is nice and dandy. Then I have to stand up and carry the bucket of weeds to the yard debris can, sometimes a major ouch, sometimes merely a lieutenant ouch.

This is having a decided impact upon my interest in doing cleaning and organizing around the place; for some silly reason I don't like pain, and tend to avoid actions which will cause it. Taking pain meds enough to make a difference fogs the mind something awful, so I don't.

Oy. Oy vey, even.

So I sit around reading, and playing stupid computer games. Being a real slug. Or I go and weed for a bit, filling a bucket or two and then ouching my way back upstairs.

But the parking strip is majorly decreased in regards to dandelions, which is nice. Next, I guess, is wandering back to the back yard to continue working on dandelions there.

2009-04-18

Weeding vs Gardening

It's time I came clean; I'm not a gardener, I'm a weeder.

Gardeners look at a stretch of yard, and think about what they can do with it, and see weeds as part of the journey, an irritating part.

Weeders, au contrair, look at a stretch of yard, and look to see if there are any weeds, that they may while away the hours peacefully weeding, enjoying the challenge of each distinct type of weed.

Gardeners tend to work on one area at a time, doing the total makeover, striving to achieve their perfect vision.

Weeders are more inclined to focus on a particular variety of weed, casting about hither and yon to see if one more instance of this fractious weed may be found, ere they switch to another weed, and another method of weeding. Weeders have vision, and it comes into focus somewhere between one and two feet in front of their head, when kneeling on the ground. Weeders may move across an open stretch of yard, following a variety of weed like locusts across a Kansas wheat field.

Gardeners desire order in their yards, and in their lives.

Weeders see order for what it truly is, an artificial construct bearing no relationship to reality. They merely desire a pleasant afternoon in the sun, not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Gardening is a journey with a destination.

Weeding is a journey without destination.

Gardeners are plant snobs, cultivating specific varietals in specific places.

Weeders are egalitarian, asking only 'Is this a weed?' and if not, leave it be, it looks nice where it is.

Gardeners and weeders both wonder if given plants will play nicely with their neighbors. Gardeners will resort to careful plant management to bring out the best of various not-nice playing plants, while to weeders, well, not playing nicely with others is the very definition of a weed, isn't it now?

2009-04-17

Boston Legal, Star Trek, and Stargate

I've never watched Boston Legal. But I just saw an ad for the Fifth Season, and found it amusing that the two male leads listed were William Shatner, formerly James Tiberius Kirk of Star Trek fame, and James Spader, who is the actor who originated the role of Daniel Jackson in the movie, Stargate, a role more commonly associated with Michael Shanks, who first ghosted Spader's performance and then made it his own in the series Stargate: SG-1, reprised the role with several guest appearances in Stargate: Atlantis, and who may reprise the role in guest appearances in the upcoming series Stargate: Universe.

Both Shatner and Spader have demonstrated a gift for comedic acting as well as the ability to be very serious when the roles required it. I may often make fun of Shatner, but he really is quite talented. Spader I have seen rather less of, but if he had not done so well as Daniel Jackson in the movie, Stargate might not have been optioned for a television series.

I could go into all sorts of comparisons between the roles of Kirk and Jackson, how they were both the vehicles for interventionist exploration, but it's lunch time, and food is my friend; a hungry boy is a stupid boy, wherefore I shall go eat.

2009-04-11

More Dandelions

Yep, in case you hadn't guessed, Dandelions are the new Clematis. In other words, this seasons obsession.

Dandelions are perennials; they last for more than one year. Over the years their roots grow deeper, send out side roots from the central tap, and sometimes even appear to have more than one top to a single tap. The roots are filled with the same type of white sap as the blossom stems, and have an orange colored sheath. The greens IIRC are edible, and I have heard tell that some make wine from the Dandelion. They are foreign to the Americas, lore says brought over by an herbalist which implies that at some time they were used medicinally. They reproduce via seeds, which are suspended from a fluff-parachute and distributed by floating on the breeze, landing where the wind dies down; they seem to have a relatively low germination rate given the number of seeds per plant in relation to the number of Dandelions in a given area, taking into account that they live for years. The seeds are light enough that a strong wind could carry them a fair distance, so no area is safe from them, although I suspect they don't do so well in arid terrain, preferring seasonally moist soil to expedite deep tap roots to tide them through the summer months. Their greens are saw-toothed, and spread out radially , hugging the ground, from directly above the tap root. The blossoms grow on long hollow stems, closing up at night and opening fully in response to strong direct sunlight; they don't open fully on overcast days. They prefer a sunny environment, not a shade plant, making them the bane of lawn and garden far more than forestland; at least this is my impression. The blossom is composed of multitudinous narrow yellow petals, with a tough green wrapper enclosing them at night and on overcast days; they are actually quite pretty in full bloom, but this could also be said of Clematis, and like Clematis the problem is that they refuse to be confined to any given area, and where possible smother other plants with their greens; where unable to smother with their greens they do poorly, as they require plenty of sunlight on their leaves and do not have stalks. The true reason they are loathed is because their best environment is domesticated lawns. Any affecianado of golf, croquet, or lawn bowling has an abiding hate for dandelions. They are evergreens, and over the years build a thick mat of leaves.

I have no citations for the above, purely my personal recollections and off-the-cuff extrapolations, so I may be wrong in some details.

Oh, we may be approaching veggie planting time, the bumblebees are coming out of hibernation, as have the ants. Have to start actively laying out ground for garden, not as much fun as pulling weeds, but hey, food is good.

2009-04-08

Dandelions

While I still question planting veggies, being leery of a late frost, sure it's been warm the last three days but still...

Well, the dandelions are in bloom. Spent an hour or so with the weeder in the parking strip and backyard until my back told me, "Enough already!".

Dandelions have weird tap roots. Sometimes long and thin, sometimes not so long, thicker around, and split, like funky carrots. On the parking strip they tend to head straight down, but in the yard some turned about an inch down and ran along under the surface for a foot+ until they suddenly dove down. Difference in soil is my guess, not as compacted in the backyard.

I'd have had better success if I had started weeding several days ago, the ground is still moist but not as wet as it had been, the roots had more resistance than they would have had earlier, so while some of them yielded long sections of tap root, others snapped off an inch down, far too close to the surface, good odds they'll come back to haunt me.

Lot of dandelions, given I haven't done any weeding before and it's years since mom worked on the parking strip in regard to weeds, so I have something to look forward to for a while. They've been settling in for years, roots growing longer each year, getting smug and complaisant. But their golden age is coming to a close, I and my trusty weeder will take them out, slowly but surely.

I find it amusing, Lee Valley and Garrett Wade sell this tool, which they call 'Grandpa's weeder', telling how it had been a Pacific Northwest standby before the Second World War; you see, this is my grandfather's weeder, I replaced the handle and oiled the hinge, it's good as new. I used it as a kid to pull dandelions in Salem, without the success I'm now having, something about weeding at the wrong time of the year, you don't try to pull dandelions when the ground is dry and hard packed, just won't work, you do it in the early spring and early winter, when the ground is moist and pliable, get it done then and you won't have problems with them in the summer. You do your major weeding when you don't have crops in, as part of your prep work, so you only have to do maintenance weeding during the summer, when you go after the new weeds before they get the mondo tap roots. At least that's my theory, and we'll see how it goes. I may be full of it, after all; it's happened before that I didn't know what I was talking about, it'll happen again, sure as can be.

2009-04-04

Still too cold to plant

I've been considering all sorts of goofy things, such as getting a soil thermometer [hey! Only about $10.00 at Lee Valley!], but so far the old hands are good enough for me in re soil temperature.

After all, if after 15 minutes spent digging up odd bits of Blackberry my hands are freezing, it's far, far, too cold to plant anything in the ground.

Different varieties of berries have different types of root. While your garden variety Himalayan Blackberry has the mondo thick 'root from hell' in old established vines, the raspberry has thinner vines, nowhere so thick at their worst. Sometimes it's hard to tell by root, as exploratory tendrils look pretty much the same, and I've not developed the skill to tell apart the various berries based on the initial frilly leaves poking up through the ground as they send out their scouts.

Still no signs of Clematis; the last live section, hiding out on the other side of the fence, was killed back by the Big Snow at the beginning of the Winter, and it's yet to get warm enough for anything to give a look-see. So I'm continuing to feel optimistic that I've done them a serious injury, that there shall be no Clematis in this here yard this year.

The next door neighbor to the East, whose yard I eradicated Clematis from, and shoveled snow from, has gifted me with an electric cultivator, aka roto-tiller; she's shifted away from gardening, having gotten a dog, as well as the cultivator is too heavy for her to use any longer. She got it at a yard sale, don't actually get the impression she used it. So, when it gets a bit warmer, and closer to being plantable, I'll be checking this tool out to see how well it works, if I need to take it apart and give it maintenance, or what. But it'll sure beat spading! Even if I am scared of it, just not as scared as I am of lathes, a tool I just was terrified of back in Junior High, resulting in a 'C' in Wood Shop II, where you had to use it to complete the required project, and I just wouldn't, nothing doing, it looked dangerous. The cultivator isn't that scary, I'll give it a try.

2009-03-23

Powers of Attorney

Powers of Attorney are tricky things. Your generic Power of Attorney, at least as the various software packages present it, grants tremendous power over property. If durable, it lasts until revoked by the granter.

But say you want to grant authority in a narrow area, such as authority to talk with specific firms on specific subjects? Or firms in a given field of endeavor? Your generic Power of Attorney is far too broad, you need a Specific Power of Attorney.

In our case we needed a Power of Attorney for my mother, authorizing my sister to act on her behalf in conversations with her Long-Term Care Insurance Companies, and to enter into conversations and contracts with In-Home Care Providers and Long-Term Care Facilities; having an existing Trust instrument a generic Power of Attorney would overturn all the already established structures and be a right bloody pain. Working with the legal software we had kicking around, well, nothing suitable could be created, or so it initially seemed...

But...

By creating a Specific Power of Attorney, and selecting to not grant power over anything the software suggested, it was possible to create a document that had all the proper phrasing minus the actual area of authority, and then export the document to a text file, an .rtf file in this case. Opening the file in the word processor of our choice, we then went in and specified that the authority granted was to negotiate and enter into contracts with 1) Mom's Long-Term Care Insurance Companies, and 2) prospective In-Home Care Providers and Long-Term Care Facilities. Save the file with changes, print it out and double check, then print it out as a two-sided document, and we were ready to get it notarized and see if this meets the needs of the various entities who had been reluctant to talk with my sister.

This should work; it is a Durable Specific Power of Attorney with 2 clearly specified closely related task specific areas of authority, and I don't think they'd have a leg to stand on to claim it doesn't cover what we want my sister to deal with.

We do need to revise the existing Trust instrument, because dad created it and mom wants to change how things get distributed after she dies, seeing how dad died back in 2001 and his wishes are decidedly irrelevant at this time; mom wants to do things differently, that is her right. And we need to do this while there is no question about her competence. But until that is done we don't want to create anything which invalidates the Trust instrument, which a General Durable Power of Attorney would have done.

So, being a minor computer geek came in handy, being able to figure out how to tweak things around using different software packages to get the document desired.

And that's what we did yesterday and today, yesterday the tweakage, today the notarizing.

Woof!

Post this Puppy!

2009-03-20

Sharp garden tools

Something I've discovered is that when you stick things into dirt, they get dull. Case in point being shovels, trowels, and root cutting knives. Sharp shovels cut through matted grass roots far better than dull shovels. Sharpened root cutting knives cut through blackberry roots far better than dull root cutting knives; sure, it has jaggy edges, but they dull down, get blunt, round off a bit, and there you are wearing yourself down hacking away at a root that's no where near as tough as the one you cut through previously like a hot knife through butter.

Now, the question may come up, just what do you use to sharpen these things? I don't know about others, but I've come to rely upon a nifty carbide sharpener from my old stand-by, Garrett Wade.

Perfect for putting an edge on steel or iron tools, small enough you can tuck it in your back pocket while working in the yard, or purchase the optional sheath with belt loop, or, perhaps, add a belt loop to the sheath it comes with. Not for use on anything requiring exact angles, don't try to sharpen woodworking tools with this, but fine for shovels, trowels, and knives, including all those dull ones in the kitchen [which reminds me that mom's knives are dangerously dull]. Actually, there are woodworking tools you could sharpen with this, spokeshaves come to mind as well as marking knives, scopes, and other hand tools which don't require precise angles, just a reasonable sharposity.

And given I'm making up words again, it's clearly time for me to

Post this Puppy!

2009-03-18

Smile, smile, smile

Something which requires a good set of teeth, as does eating certain foods, and clear enunciation.

Saw the folks at Oregon Health Sciences University School of Dentistry [OHSU] this morning, and the prognosis was as I'd thought it would be: a) do nothing at this time, b) major reconstructive surgery at around $50,000.00, or c) yank them all and go for full dentures at around $4,000.00.

Do nothing at this time is not an acceptable option to me, my teeth are majorly decayed and more and more various foodstuffs are ceasing to be amenable for mastication. Major reconstructive surgery is to laugh, for far too many of my teeth there's nothing to attach fake teeth parts to, and the rest of the teeth would require 50% to 75% rebuild, not really worth doing just to falsely claim I still have my own teeth, with no guarantee that the teeth will hold up, eh, NOT!

So I'll spend the next nine to twelve months, depending upon how things get scheduled with the Dental School Clinics, having teeth extracted, jaws healing, and dentures being made, at the end of which I'll have a removable smile I'll really need to take care of, but I'll also be able to do things like chewing my lip again, and taking bites out of food like an adult and have something to grind with as well. And I'll speak more clearly, which mom will appreciate.

And some dentistry student will have had a real learning experience, working on my mouth. Which is why it will take so long, something about the work having to be scheduled around classes, vacations, etc., but also why it will cost so little.

And thanks to my Disability claim being approved, with a two year retroactive payout, I have the money for this.

Well, that's the latest news from the Brooklyn neighborhood of SE Portland, so I guess I'll just

Post this Puppy!

2009-03-11

Got seeds!

Yeppers, went and bought vegytable seeds, to plant so that we'll have veggies for the table... too late, I already quit my day job.

Anyway, got some bush peas, stringless string beans which wants poles, carrots, lettuce, Butternut squash and zucchini; I realize that even though the packet has many seeds, one only plants one zucchini seed, any more and it'll feed the precinct. Especially since I don't happen to like zucchini, but mom likes it, so I got some.

I know what I'm going to use with the string beans, gonna use a bunch of them apple tree branches I pruned last year for them to climb up, knew there was a reason I was saving them!

It'll still be a while until I plant, we're still getting below freezing weather at night, but I figure this way I've got the seeds, and once it gets safe to plant I can plant.

It seems very strange, my preparing to plant a garden. I've never voluntarily been involved with a garden before, it's always been something I've been made to do as part of my "family obligation", you know the thing, parents not being up front and saying "because I told you to" but instead trying to lay a guilt trip on you so you'll feel guilty about not working on it even though you can't conceive of any rational reason they should expect you to care about a garden, or whatever their laying the guilt trip about. "Because I told you to" is a lot more honest, and had much less negative feeling on my part; don't try no Jedi mind tricks on me, be up front about it, and the most twisty you need to be is to mention that there's a lot done for you by your parents and maybe, just maybe, some help from you when possible might be nice, and give it the thought that they might have a better idea of what you can do to help than you do; not that parents are all knowing and infallible, far from it, they're making this up as they go along, but humour them, OK?

Anyway, got stuff for planting, did just realize that I'll still need to get tomaters and potaters, but those'll wait until closer to planting, too chill for tomaters just yet, and need to read up on potaters as well as the other plants.

Like I'm lacking in reference materials, no sirry bob, got lots of gardening books I've picked up over the years, self-defense 'cause mom would ask me gardening questions and my response would be a quite truthful "How the *bleep* should I know" followed by purchasing books to answer the questions, this is a patron-driven collection development policy, no high-falutin ideals, no sir, we get what the patrons are asking us for; to some in libraryland a strange concept, to me it makes sense, especially for my own library!

2009-03-09

Snow, again?!?!?

Come on, it's March 9th already!

Don't tell me about Global Warming, so far this winter is more of an advert for "Enter Ice Age Four" as it were, in a mild Pacific Northwest kinda way.

No accumulation at this elevation, but it was coming down fast and furious for a bit an hour ago.

Definitely not planting vegetables anytime soon, the ground is too cold and we keep having snow.

But in regard to veggies, thinking along the line of peas, beans, lettuce, spinach, squash, carrots, taters, tomaters, you know, the staples, stuff that can be put up for the winter if in excess of current needs.

Quick! Alert the media! John's talking about vegetable gardening in a favorable manner! Sure sign that the apocalypse is upon us!

Or maybe it's that I feel a need to justify the huge yard by doing something productive with it? As well as truck gardens make economic sense. Yeah, that's it, the Scot's parsimonious nature, something never before seen in me, finally breeding true?

Dunno. Whatever. Just hope it keeps going, and sparks my interest enough to set up proper soaker hose watering and such like so that economical watering of said garden occurs.

Well, off to find something of interest to do. Wish me luck!

2009-03-08

Hibernating Bumble Bees

Bumble Bees are solitary critters, don't live in swarms or hives, hang out all on their lonesome, and when the weather gets cold and their food goes away they creep down through the upper layers of soil and settle down to hibernate, staying below the roots of the grass until it warms up enough that plants start to flower when they perk up and crawl back out and merrily buzz around gathering pollen and nectar to build up their reserves for the next winter. I've no idea how long they can live, how many turns of the season they can have.

So, like, I know this about Bumble Bees partially through reading, but also partially through personal experience, to wit: No *bleep*, there I was, merrily pealing away the top layer of soil, that which the grass had put down roots in, and what do I come across in the cold, damp soil, underneath the roots, but a Bumble Bee! And the shine doth sun, um, the Sun doth Shine upon said Bumble, warming it slightly, and it doth look up, say "no way Jose!", and burrow down through the soil some more until it can return to hibernating, for indeed, it is still far too chill for a Bumble Bee to be a-bumbling about.

Also came across a big old grub, several worms, and the knowledge that grass does surface roots, and various other plants come up from under the grass and stay behind if you are pealing away the grass. Like onions. Of which we have a-many, descendants of onions planted five plus years agone and never harvested, and some other plants which I'm not sure what they are, not aware of having seen them afore, but which are popping up all over in the wake of the unlamented Clematis and Blackberries, said viney types having held done and sorely oppressed many other plant species who are now putting forth greens and announcing to the world, "We are here!" and daring me to name them Weed, daring me to identify them as useful or non, being full healthy already and even bringing forth flowers, some of them. And the onions grow forth, quitely sending up their green tubes in some areas, and slightly different, more leeklike growths in other parts of the yard where I peeled back grass last fall whilst hunting out the Ivy which had snuck in under cover of the Clematis.

And no, I have seen no Clematis, for truly it seems to be gone, vanished, iradicated like the vile verminous viney vamp that it is, not root nor branch to be seen these several months agone. It, and the Blackberries and Ivy are gone, to appear no longer in this yard, slain by "clearcut" Mead himself, removed, banished, repudiated, evicted and exterminated, no more to annoy me with their ne'er ceasing shouts of "neener neener neener" as they creep out from yet another hiding place, gone they art!

[following a quick expedition to the back yard] Yep, still gone.

So, last fall was getting rid of stuff, this year may actually see vegetable gardening occur.

Well, enough, the focus it goeth and the writing thus becomes blurry of topic, hmm?

2009-02-26

Yet more snow... and whistling

Yep, this is a record winter. Another snowfall today, no accumulation on concrete at this elevation, but outside the main metro area there is.

Not since my mother was young have we had snow this late in the season here in Portland. Of course, in my mother's youth the casting pool in Moreland Park would freeze over enough for ice skating in April, which goes to show you how much of a climate change we've had in the last 70 years.

"Casting Pool?" I hear you ask, "What's a casting pool?" A Casting Pool is used for practising fly fishing casting. Big puppy, over 100' each side, with piers projecting into it to provide a place for the fly fisher to stand whilst practicing. Couple of yards deep, takes a lot of water to fill, and to freeze over enough for skating calls for an extended period of very cold weather. Don't know if it's been used for practicing casting in my lifetime, I have seen it used for RC model boats, and also for milk carton boat races. Clearly, when they built the park, fly fishing was much more popular than today.

And now to whistling. Finally, at 48 years of age, I've suddenly learned how to whistle, not very well mind you, but still the ability to whistle at all, and repeatedly verified over a 20 minute period so it wasn't just a fluke, well, it just made my day enough that I had to post about it! Already figured out how to whistle on the inhale as well as exhale, and to do a wolf whistle, and some controlled changing around between notes. Don't expect to hear the national anthem anytime soon. Not sure what my range of notes is just yet, and I whistle in the Soprano range, no deep notes, not that I know that anyone can whistle in deep notes.

So, there you have it, snow, history, and whistling.

Guess I'll just post this puppy now.

2009-02-09

Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail

So...

Decisions, finally, have been made about the oft proposed SE light rail, or at least the first installment. trimet.org/pm for full details, will run from PSU, through OMSI, stops at 17th & Holgate and then SE Bybee & McLoughlin, various other stops finally ending in Oak Grove. Scheduled to be complete in 2015.

We're right inside the 5 minute walk radius of the 17th & Holgate stop, which TriMet's project folks see as being the most heavily impacted, the 5 minute walk radius around each stop, that is.

The one for sure thing is that property values will go up. And the demand for housing in this area will go up.

If you pull up the TriMet site and then look at their brochure about the 17th & Holgate stop, you can see our property on their aerial photo, not on page one, but on the other pages, Milwaukie Ave is the angled street running north/south and from the west toward the east as you look down the map, positioned partway between where 14th & 13th are further north and south; Mall street is one block north of Holgate, the east/west white rectangle in the SE corner of that intersection, with the really tiny white rectangle snuggled up below it, that's us, and Bill's old truck before we got it hauled away; the incredible dark green foliage in the lot to the east of the building is the blackberry, etc., brambles which I've written about clearing out.

We're grandfathered as mixed use residential/commercial, due to the various businesses which have operated out of this building over the years, and we've got a double lot, so I foresee developers being interested in this location.

Interesting times ahead, interesting times.

2009-02-08

Fear

Fear is the great disabler.

Fear requires no basis in reality, or it may have a basis so long removed that it no longer has relevance to current affairs.

Fear can control your life, preventing you from trying new things.

All of these presume that the reaction to fear is to pull in, to hide, to retreat, to entrench, to shield oneself from imagined harm.

I am far too intimately familiar with these forms of fear reactions, they have controlled me for all of my life. The most overwhelming has been the fear of the negative reaction of those whom I know and respect, in situations where the fact that I know them should show the fear to be with no basis, for the fear presupposes their being negative, judgmental, and self-centered, all of which I knew to be false images, yet still the fear would hold me back.

There are times when it is right to fear, but where possible one should strive to work through the fear to the underlying reality, and then take considered action to deal with the rational basis for the fear, to be advised by your fear but to not be mindlessly driven by your fear. Devise ways of testing that which you fear so that you can find out if it is rational to fear, and if it is, then work to define the factual dimensions of rational fear so that it may guide you, not blind you.

It is rational to fear fire, but we have learned to harness fire, answering our fear by learning about that which we fear, and through that knowledge, reducing the threat posed by fire; never eradicating the threat, for it is real, but devising safeguards such that with a healthy fear we can use fire to our benefit. Without fire, flint was as far as we could progress in tool making; with fire, we could eventually progress to building computers.

And I read over this, and fear that it is too fragmented, that too many different forms of fear are dealt with without proper exposition or transitional writing, that maybe its not perfect.

It isn't perfect, but it may spark useful thinking anyway, so I'll post it, in despite of my fear.

2009-02-01

Once a Librarian...

Now, over the years I've done some pretty geeky librarian things, such as assigning Dewey Decimal Classification call numbers to the non-fiction in my library, several thousand volumes worth, and ordering book jackets to protect the dust jackets, but I think I'm now starting on an ├╝bergeek undertaking, to wit, creating a bibliography for a book I'm reading. We'll see how long I keep this project up, n'est ce pas? [And as a former Spanish student, I've no clue if I either spelled or used that French phrase properly, so there, nyah!]

The book: Leonard Lee, The Complete Guide To Sharpening, The Taunton Press, Newtown, CT 1995. And yes, Leonard Lee is Founder and President of Lee Valley Tools, which right off gives him some street cred, added to by the very scholarly technique used in the research for the book. One of the things he did in researching the book was work with one of Canada's foremost electron microscopy technicians in analyzing the tools and the impact various sharpening techniques had on them, and where possible using tools from the same production run to as nearly as possible present the results of different sharpening techniques on the same tool while still having different tools to physically compare, to remove as many variables as possible from the project. In other words, the scientific method lives!

But the book lacks one thing, a bibliography. Works are mentioned as they are come across, but not in full bib format. While the first item mentioned, being a publication of The Taunton Press, is easily tracked down, the second item is a dissertation published in 1950 in Finland, and while the Author is given, I suspect that the True name of the publishing entity is not Finland Institute of Technology, but rather something akin to that in Finnish, and that, to those of you who know me, is what got me interested in making a bibliography for the work.

So, we'll see how long this obsession lasts, and how far I actually get on this project. The spreadsheet has been created, the first two items entered, and I'm about to start searching for a certain Finnish Dissertation from 1950...

The frustrating thing is that there are so many other, more practical things I should be doing, but this demonstrates precisely how irritating my disability is; I can't control what grabs my attention, and if it doesn't grab my attention I'm not able to force myself to work on it. This has resulted in short term brilliance throughout my life, followed by substandard performance once the obsession is appeased; in many classes I was doing A work up until a certain point, that point being when I'd gotten from the course what I was interested in, and then my work would plummet such that I'd come out with a B; this is how I know that my mind really does mesh with COBOL, I got an A in that class, well deserved too as I came out of it understanding the language better than the GTF teaching the course, but enough, off to Finland!

[Later...]
Well, that was easy! Searching Google under Eero Kivimaa, the sixth item was a patent application which provided the bibliographic information required. Seems he's gone on the great things, numerous patents over the years, numerous publications; good street cred.

Didn't even get to try to locate an appropriate Finnish repository and track it down that way, just searching his name was enough. Could not have done it this easily ten years ago, twenty years ago it would have been well nigh impossible without the resources of a major research library and for pay online searching. How the world has changed! Of course, properly I'll need to verify this with another source, to confirm the validity of the posted information.

2009-01-30

Life is good

Yesterday, I packed off the last yard debris from The Great Yard Excavation of 2008, so on [quick, start counting on fingers!] so on Thursday morning, February 12th, the last three cans of yard debris will be hauled of by the lovely folks at Heiberg, who would be delighted if they but knew that this signals the end of most of five months of up to six cans every two weeks. The yard's a full lot, and it was horribly neglected for most of four+ years, and now it looks like my grandparents' pear orchard, slightly uneven ground, patchy grass and onions and stuff, you know, a working farm type appearance as opposed to looking like poor white trash with uky stuff taking over.

So life is good.

And in the last week I've gone from being two years behind on my Mom's taxes to waiting for the last few documents to start the 2008 return, having completed and mailed [or having ready to mail] the 2006 and 2007 returns, both refund returns [yay!] and being caught up on the bookkeeping so that all I need is to get the 2008 tax software and check a few things and 2008 will be done, first time it will be done early since Dad died in 2001, shows that while I have a ways to go getting the place tidied up, still and all, improvements are occurring.

Life is good.

And like clockwork, at slightly over two year intervals for the last 4+ years, I've gotten called for Jury Duty; this'll be the third time since life went weird, unlike the previous two this isn't a set term of two days but instead a pool for a trial which is expected to go 8+ weeks, Federal Grand Jury stuff sounds like, and while I doubt they really want me given why I'm on disability... I don't fall into their exempt categories, being neither 70+ years of age or breastfeeding, so I'll be showing up in mid February and they can decide if I'm who they're looking for in re serving on a Jury.

Life, is weird. All the years I was in fine shape, never got called for Jury duty, now they do it as closely together as is legal. I may ask them about it this time to see if they really want to keep calling me up given my erratic functioning.

But still, the yard is clear and now to wonder what to do with it, and time to try and motivate in like manner to deal with stuff inside the building.

As I swivel around in my chair, I look around and see that while I'm not having folks over, it is much better than it has been in years and there might actually be a tunnel that I can see a light at the end of, instead of a cave with a mirror reflecting the light of the train behind me, as it has so often felt like these past five years.

This'll do for now. All hail the Conquering Gardener! He Who Hast Slain Clematis! Banisher of Blackberries! Pruner of Fruit Trees! He Who Uses Opposable Thumbs! Tool User!

Yea, verily, let this be mine epitaph, "He was a user of tools", for all shall know that this was a man of worth.

Save that thought, for some time many years from now!

Life, is good.

2009-01-28

The absolute best time to go shopping!

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and that means that the best time to go shopping is upon us as well.

Costco is almost vacant during the Super Bowl, the place absolutely echoes, and the malls look like they aren't open. The streets are empty.

And the folks you come across while shopping are great! That is, the other customers are great, they're preselected to not be obnoxious sports fans, their IQ is considerably higher, and they tend to be pleasant non-aggressive types. And they tend to be tired of all the hoopla about the Super Bowl, it's just a d*mn football game after all, not like its really of any import to Life, The Universe, And Everything.

And I'm sure that there are gals who could really dig a straight guy who'd rather be shopping than watching the game. After all, which is more important?

2009-01-27

Now is the Winter of our Discontent; still more snow!

So far this winter we've had more snow than in the last 15 years, possibly longer, combined. Since the last I posted about snow we've had two more snowfalls, including the lovely snowfall going on right now.

The current snowfall looks more like a downpour, except that its snow not rain; coming straight down, rapid not drifting, medium sized flakes so it really has that downpour look to it. Supposed to have a possibility of freezing rain later on, as it warms up.

Makes me wonder what next winter will be like, so we can see if this is a trend or just a fluke, its probably time for another cold cycle, haven't had a really good one in thirty years and that was just a sequence of three years with ice storms, nothing much snow-wise.

The part of me that doesn't deal with shoveling the walks thinks this is grand, its part of what I miss about Chicago [other than the food and bookstores and friends], the part that deals with shoveling the walks thinks if this is more than an aberration I'll need to get a better, read proper, snow shovel, the thing I'm using is more of a manure scoop shovel for unloading trailers than something you'd use with snow, the handle is just too short so you have to hunch over and like to kill your back in nothing flat. Of course, just as I've done with other implements of destruction, I can always replace the handle, just need to drill out two rivets, drive them out using a pin punch, then insert one of the spare shovel handles I just happen to have in the shop, drill proper holes and bolt the thing together and voile! Probably wouldn't hurt if I sharpened the blade as well, dull shovel blades are much harder to work with than sharp shovel blades.

Which nicely segues into sharpening tools, such as hand saws and shovels and trowels, et al., and tools I recently bought for the purpose of doing so, except I don't feel like going into major details just now, but I've purchased the equipment needed to properly sharpen handsaws, which all of the western style saws we have desperately need to have done. Saws are supposed to have nice and sharp teeth, not nice and round teeth, and some of ours are rounder than a hunchbacked mouse, to coin a phrase.

Well, back to killing time while watching the snow come down.

2009-01-16

SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, acronym SAD [yes, they clearly designed the name to produce the acronym], is a bloody pain. At least in my case.

Light quality and intensity affects mood; the gloomier the environment, the gloomier the person. The converse is generally true, the cheerier the environment, the cheerier the person. The best long-term solution to SAD is to move to, say, Tucson, where even during monsoon season the skies are this gorgeous bright blue. Don't even consider moving to Alaska, not if you expect to last a year; seriously, those struggling with SAD have heightened likelihood of suicide during the winter months, the world just is a complete downer. Conversely, those not affected by SAD but depressed during the winter have a heightened suicide potential when the weather changes and they stay depressed, as they realize it's not just the weather.

There are semi-successful treatments for getting through the dreary months, and they involve tweaking your environment. Bright, high intensity lights, balanced output to simulate mid-day summer light levels, combined with paint matched to the appropriate shade/hue of blue found during mid-day, high summer, has the best effect. Combine this with closing drapes/blinds when it is gloomy out, insuring that the drapes/blinds are highly reflective and/or of a cheery color, helps to remove awareness of the outer gloom.

The light stuff is pretty common knowledge these days, I don't know if the medical crowd has a clue about the impact of color; I'm aware of it as it explains my lifelong infatuation with certain shades of blue, especially in shirts; having certain shades of blue constantly in my peripheral vision has an extraordinary impact upon my functioning.

Nifty idea for tracking down the appropriate shades. Take a digital camera, on a day where the sky just causes your heart to sing with joy, and take photos of the sky. Then run the pictures through color analysis software, which will output the mix of primary colors required to achieve that shade/hue. You can take this down to your paint store and they can mix paint to match; take the photo as well as any analysis you've done, they may have their own color-matching software tied into their mixing machines.

For a really neat effect, take photos of the color at the horizon, mid-sky, and straight up; you'll produce a range of shades due to the different amount of atmosphere the light had to travel through. Paint your walls shading from horizon at the baseboard to straight up at the ceiling, your mind will be tricked into thinking you're outdoors on a gorgeous day!

Blending light and color in different ways in different rooms can result in the mind being able to focus better in different rooms for different activities; you need to be able to work on x type activity, go to y room to be properly stimulated by your surroundings. The final touch in environmental pre-conditioning would be audio, blending sounds/music to sight; OK, the real final touch is tying airflow into the whole thing, to produce a sensory virtual environment appropriate to the task at hand.

Now, for a truly scary situation, combine bi-polar with SAD. Bi-polar being a PC way of saying manic/depressive, combining it with mood swings tied to environmental stimulus is just asking for trouble. I know I'm SAD, and there's reason to suspect bi-polar and some autism-related behaviors.

It's bright and sunny outside. I'm slightly manic right now. I need to go do something!

2009-01-07

Income Tax, withholding, and refunds

Back in the day, when I was working for the Chicago Public Library, I always had a refund return on my Federal and a slight tax due on my State taxes. Then Bush, Sr., had his Economic Incentive Brainfart, and withholding was reduced, and I suddenly started owing taxes every year.

The rational was that if people had more money throughout the year due to decreased withholding they would turn around and invest the money in some manner that would enable them to earn more money, and that from this they would pay the taxes with no burden at tax time.

Stupid. That's all I can say about that idea, STUPID. The average worker has no investment plan, does not invest, and presumes that withholding will cover their tax burden with a refund left over, as it should and had done for a long enough period of time that generations of blue collar workers were raised budgeting for a refund to make purchases; the refund was their investment plan!

And withholding has not been adjusted back since then, because they all think readjusting withholding will be perceived as raising taxes. Idiots. The vast majority of folks don't really notice the difference in paycheck size that seven dollars would make, but everyone notices the difference come tax time, when they owe money, serious money, instead of having a refund.

See, the whole concept behind withholding is to spread the burden over the course of the year, in such a manner that no tax is owed at the end of the year. From a strict fiscal perspective this should be done such that refund or tax due is under $10.00, and the understanding being that amounts less than x, where x is the cost of processing payments, would neither be issued nor collected; that you don't lose money due to the cost of processing the paperwork.

For the longest time the majority of workers, the one's able to file short form returns, always had refunds, refunds large enough that they could make semi-big plans around them. Tax time was not looked at with dread, it was looked forward to with anticipation because they had a refund coming, and they had budgeted for that refund; the refund itself was a viable economic stimulus package, and one which had no negative emotions attached to it.

When people get refunds they don't complain about taxes, when they owe tax they complain; the tax burden may be identical, but perception is based on how the pocketbook is hit, and big chunks all at once are a pain and are perceived to be a pain, whereas refunds cause the sense that things aren't so bad, kinda nice actually.

Folks living paycheck to paycheck can't pay tax due returns. They really appreciate a refund. They generally have enough frivolous 'expenses' each paycheck that a slightly larger withholding won't be noticed, but the end result of a tax refund instead of tax due will be noticed. People who receive refunds are happy with their government, those who owe taxes are not.

Truly smart congresspersons would adjust things so refund returns were once again the norm for those who have no non-W2 income and no Schedule A deductions, the folks who fit the norm. It should be that if you do everything you are supposed to do by the governments rules that you will not owe taxes; anything else is the government deliberately yanking your chain, and deserving of public outrage.

2009-01-02

More snow!

So, when I went to bed last night rain was coming down in a decidedly Chicago drown your cat fashion, the kind of rainfall where you expect to be able to sail boats down the street and heaven help you if the drains get clogged, not the weather to go take out the garbage for pickup in the morning. So I didn't, take the garbage out, that is, decided I'd get it done in the morning prior to their showing up to pick it up.

Lo, and the morning came, and it wasn't raining, and I did open the door to deal with garbage & recycling & yard debris, it being that week, and there was snow on the ground!

Not that much snow, a soggy inch of it, so I did go forth and drag stuff to the curb, that the Mighty Men of Heiberg might come forth and Haul It All Away, and I did return to my domicile, and in scant minutes, less than five, I did Hear Them Arrive And Haul It All Away. And it was good.

And the snow it slushith, and turns full soggy and lacy looking, and anon it shall be gone, for it is not a full storm of snow that occurred, just a slight taste of one, on ground full wet and sloppy, and it thus is more akin to normal snow in this region than that which occurred some weeks agone.