Monday, January 25

HOLY COW! I’m seventy-five!

I know, I know—it’s inevitable if you don’t die early. In fact, I personally know several people who have achieved this ancient-ness. But when it actually happens, well it’s kinda surprising.

I have always been young. Been that way ever since I was a baby. Bio testing of my body shows that I am at least 15 years younger than I am
supposed to be. But even that is  retirement age. So why am I still vigorous enough to use a chainsaw, then stack the wood, then unstack it when it’s dry and split it to smithereens with an axe-like splitter? Or dig maybe 50 feet (15 meters) of ditch to divert rainwater off the dirt road. Took a whole hour. Without breaking a sweat, by the way.

There are advantages to aging. Medicare pays for my seeing a naturopath doctor on a regular basis to try and get a handle on the occasional mini-seizures I keep having. Nothing serious, but very annoying. I lose a whole 30 seconds out of my day whenever they happen. Oh wait—yesterday I got a letter saying that Medicare no longer applies; I will now have to pay $120 per visit. Oh, well. So much for Medicare.

My formerly staggering IQ seems to be diminishing. The fact that I
blew away the Stanford-Binet record in my high school, got the highest score ever (100%) on the Armed Forces Qualification Test when I joined the Navy (only one other person did that), nearly aced the SAT when I started college (which I didn’t complete, by the way), and got the only perfect score ever on the test given to everyone who applies for a job at any American Association of Advertising Agencies member—need I go on? I used to be one smart dude and it kinda hurts to have all that slipping away.

Oh by the way—just a few years ago I found out that when I was nineteen years old and one of two guys who hosted a Saturday night TV show on Channel 47 in Fresno, it was the highest-rated locally-produced show in Central California. I didn't know this at the time because if the boss had told me, I might have asked to be paid extra for it (I started working at the station in the production department when I was seventeen and starting college). My partner on the show was 22 years old and got paid a bottle of Jack Daniels bourbon before each show, which he sampled liberally, being susceptible to stage fright. Things were different in 1960 as you can see.

Oh well. As long as I remember to brush my teeth before going to bed I’ll probably be just fine. Oh wait—I just had a tooth removed (#9, the big one right up there in front) because it just flat died. It broke off at the gum line while being extracted, so surgery was required to dig out the root. Right now there are still a couple of stitches sticking out of my gum; the other three or so broke off yesterday and this morning (they’re organic and self-removing). Medicare didn't cover that, either.

I haven’t been regular in keeping the blog going, mainly because when I think of a good idea to write about, I'm away from the computer. When I get to the computer, I have forgotten most of what I wanted to say. It’s annoying because sometimes I come up with very good ideas to write about. Maybe I should carry a notepad. But I’d probably forget to have a pencil with me. Or keep it sharp even if I did.

Oh well. Happy birthday to me anyway.

Thursday, December 24

Homemade apple corer—it works!

Karla was preparing the stuffing for cored apples when she discovered that our corer was not to be found. Tom to the rescue—we’ll use a hole saw instead!

I boiled the saw first to get rid of the lurking crud inside, cooled it off, then used pliers to poke it into the first apple. Success! But the core remained in the apple.


Not to worry. Use a wide flat butter knife blade that gets poked down the center of the cored part and twist it as if loosening a screw.


The core pops loose at its bottom and comes out with ease. 

Then the hole gets stuffed with things (including brown sugar! which we almost never eat!), and the apples are arranged in a baking dish ready for the oven.

Sunday, December 20

You HAVE been warned!

That seems to be the message on the power cord of our fake Christmas tree. There are—count ‘em—NINE labels, each with a dire message regarding your personal safety if you ignore any of the warnings. One of them says: This is an electric product—not a toy! Whoa. I’ll try not to play with it or put it in my mouth. Or take a shower with its cord around my neck and plugged in to a thousand-volt circuit.
Hm-m-m—neither of those activities is listed on any of the labels. I smell the potential of a lawsuit here....

Thursday, December 3

Digging a big hole when you have plenty of time

Karla is standing in a hole made by a pine tree (most likely) several decades ago. Starting as a mere nut, the tree grew really tall, then died and fell to the ground, its roots pulling up a whole lot of dirt and making a really big hole.

As time went on, the tree's body slowly disappeared except for a very few pieces and a mound of composted wood and soil. Nice stuff for planting.

So the next time you need a big hole and have a few centuries to wait for it to be dug, plant a pine nut.

Thursday, November 12

A trapezoidal parallelogram, eh?

I’ll show YOU, sez I. Throw me a curve, and I’ll set you straight! It took all of a morning and part of an afternoon to place, then re-position the main tiles for our entryway. Then do it all over again shifting the orientation maybe half a degree, then another quarter of a degree, then moving the whole mess an eighth of a — you get the idea.

The open square in the middle will be filled with a different pattern using tile which Karla is picking up at Creative Tile in Fresno this afternoon.

I guess our builder never figured the room was going to be a showcase for any fancy tile-work. It wasn’t built very square, that’s for sure. So laying big square tiles in it may seem a fool’s errand, but we’re doing it anyway. Besides, we have most of the tiles we need because they’re left over from a job where we changed our minds (again?!) and decided not to use them anyway. Not only that, it’s a shame to waste tiles that are brimming with fossilized sea life millions of years old and cost over twenty-five bucks apiece. So there.

We will fill the center square with a pattern we fell in love with at Creative Tile, but had no place for in our plan. We reserve the right to change our minds even in the middle of a job.

So there.

Monday, November 9

Making do...

We used to have a nice surveyor’s transit. Well, sorta nice. When World War II got going, the US Government grabbed hold of every surveyor’s transit level they could find. They promised to return them when the war ended. Karla’s grandfather was Fresno County’s chief surveyor, and he “donated” his very-high-end finely-crafted instrument. After the war the government sent him a mid-quality replacement instead of his original instrument. Bummer.

Meanwhile, that instrument got some rough handling and became unusable. So when in need, innovate. Shown here is our homemade transit. It consists of a stepladder, a cardboard carton, a block of Styrofoam, a five-gallon plastic bucket and a carpenter’s level. When I sight along the top of the level, I see that it matches the height of the garage floor, our target. My measuring tape shows that the difference is six feet (1.8 meters).

We want to build steps from the driveway by the house to the door of the garage, and need to know how many of them and what height they should be. Our plan is to use railroad ties for the steps, with stone bricks to fill in between ties. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Who knows what the finished product will be; we still could change our minds a few times. Maybe we’ll luck out and run across an old escalator in a junkyard somewhere.…

We’re running out of floors and walls!

There is more work to be done before our house is finished. Our builder/advisor, Randy, told us to be patient—don’t try to get it all done in a hurry. Live with it; let things evolve. (That can also be an excuse for the phrase, “Not now Honey. I’m thinking about it.”)
One of the rewards of waiting came to me a few weeks ago. I ran across a pattern of black and white squares that makes a very strong illusion of converging and diverging lines. It would make a fascinating tile design, but where to put it—a floor piece? a wall piece? Where would it work? It could be said that any permanent part of the house with this pattern on it should be easily concealable so it doesn’t drive us batty. Maybe a tabletop would work. When in need, hide it with a tablecloth.

Here is the Web address of the site where this and more illusions are shown.

Saturday, November 7

Porch tile done. Entry tile next.

Here I am using our underlayment roller to flatten the stuff that’ll be under the entry tile. Yesterday we ordered the tiles that will be in the center of the pattern in the entryway and today we laid the Schluter Ditra underlayment. All of the tile inside the house has Ditra under it for three reasons; it’s waterproof, it’s as flat as you can get any floor to be, and it insulates the tile from any movement of the floor beneath, such as cracks or swellling.

At the bottom of the photo you can see finished tile and grout on our front porch. There is some work to be done for the final touch, but we don’t have the chemicals yet. Thursday our entryway tile will be in, and we’ll pick up some scrubbing stuff for our front porch tile then. Since the tile is made of natural stone, it’s slightly porous and quickly fills up with anything you’re using as adhesive or grout. So it’s dull-looking. But we’ll get it shined up real good real quick. And when we’re done scrubbing, we’ll be real sore and real tired.