9 Feb 2016

Disappointing. Snow fell for about 18 hours, leaving a total accumulation of … nothing. A smattering on the grass, a damp road surface. It was just too darn warm coming into this event – the storm never had a chance. It didn’t even frighten the schools in my county into closing – and they frighten real easy!

*      *      *

A challenging day at work, with Internet issues external to our sphere of control, but massively annoying, taking center stage. That, plus a failed piece of hardware, made the first half of my day disappear. I’ll get caught up, somehow (although there’s a replacement piece of hardware that’s in flight and will need fettling and installation tomorrow).

*      *      *

I also finally figured out how to get the six tracks of AFP’s Strung Out in Heaven onto my iPhone. I’d had iTunes setup to do conversions to Apple’s lossless format, because why not? Well, why not appears to be: iTunes won’t transfer those tracks to the iPhone, being afraid I’ll be angry that they’re so big. So I dumped everything I did the other day, re-imported the WAV masters, then converted them to AAC format, which then synced to the iPhone just fine. I suppose I ought to figure out how many other things I’ve got sitting on this box in a frantically high bitrate. Just not tonight.

*      *      *

New Hampshire? #WTF

7 February 2016

I see that I missed y’all last week. No particular reason, at first, I was just busy. But as I broke into the last week, a strong cold hit me like a tonne of bricks, then morphed into the flu. Today was my first properly upright day since Tuesday last. I’m gonna have to talk to the doc about this shizzle at my next physical (a couple of months 0ff). After a good couple of years, I’ve been running into a bad stretch of health, and I can’t figure why. Oh, well. Life goes on, until it doesn’t.

*      *      *

Speaking of which, David Bowie. David Bowie.

David Bowie made a HUGE impression on me with his music, from early on. Certainly Space Oddity was my first impression of the dude, but thereafter he never, ever failed to impress me with his talent, his ability to rebuild himself and his art around new platforms, new audiences, new everything. I’d hear a song on the radio, scratch my head and think, “That sounds a bit like David Bowie, but he doesn’t do this style.” Yeah, well, now he does. I saw the Thin White Duke but once, at the Oakland Coliseum for a Day on the Green Event. September 17, 1983 (I can trust Wikipedia for that, right?) It was a stop on the Serious Moonlight tour (SRV wasn’t playing in the band, sadly), and it was a rockin’ night. Some nobodies opened the show in the late afternoon, The Tubes put on a stellar set, then Bowie and the band played for a couple of hours with a grand stage show. By then, I was about 40 feet away from the stacks on stage, left center. Amazingly loud.

David Bowie knew how to put on a show. He was a proper artist, musician, human being. We were blessed by his presence. If you haven’t yet, then get his last album, Blackstar. Yeah, he worked the last months of his life to give us one more album. Videos, too, you can find them on the Tube of You. Deeply excellent and moving work, as usual.

*      *      *

In related news, Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff were working on a track one long day a couple of weeks back when the news of Bowie’s death dropped. Blink. It’s two weeks later and those to amazing people along with other musicians and artists have put together, recorded, mixed, mastered, and released a Bowie string quartet tribute EP: Strung Out in Heaven. I’ve got the tracks because I support Amanda on Patreon, there are many paths to get the music beyond that one, follow the link. The Blackstar cover is right there. Six tracks, strings and vocals with Anna Calvi, John Cameron Mitchell, and some bloke named Neil Gaiman contributing vocals, along with a bunch of artists doing up track artwork backing up Sarah Beetson’s wonderful album cover. Also highly recommended!

*      *      *

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:

  • Sgt. Joseph F. Stifter, 30, of Glendale, California, died Jan. 28, at Al Asad Airbase, Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from wounds suffered when his armored HMMWV was involved in a roll-over accident.
  • Blane D. Bussell, 60, of Virginia, died Jan. 26 in Manama, Bahrain, of non-combat related causes.

25 Jan 2016

Snowzilla, revisited. Here’s the “view” of the mailbox on sunny Sunday morning at 10° F, 12 hours after the storm ended. The driveway and sidewalk I’d cleared out had refilled pretty well:

After Snowzilla

After Snowzilla

24 Jan 2016

“Snowzilla” – that’s the name some of the local weather liars gave to this storm, and it was a doozy! The closest local airport to us, BWI, had record snowfall of 29+”. I’d say that here, we got a total of 22″, probably a bit more. Hard to tell more precisely than that because of drifts and wind. Here’s the view out our garage door Saturday morning around 0900 EST:

Snowzilla - Saturday morning

Snowzilla – Saturday morning

I measured 14″ accumulated in the middle of the driveway. That drift next to the door was about 3′ high. I cleared the driveway and the sidewalks once on Saturday. The snow was just about the height of the throat of my snow blower, so that worked out okay. Today, I went out again and cleared everything again – the day started clear and cold (at 16 F), but I waited until after 9 again to start work, and the temps were up into the mid-20’s. By 1230 I’d cleared all my stuff, and helped out a couple of neighbors who needed it. Here’s the driveway:

Driveway after final clearing

Driveway after final clearing

Even with the machine, I still did a fair bit of hand shovel work at the berm down at the roadside.  I also cut a path to the mailbox in from the roadway, and cut a couple of spots off the driveway and sidewalk to give Lexi some greenspace on which to do her business. I’m reasonably tired, at this point.

The best news is that, regionally, we appear to have dodged the wide-spread power outages that were anticipated, between the heavy, wet snow and high winds. Can’t say as I’m disappointed, but I was ready: Along with the snow blower, I’d also spun up and checked out my generator on Thursday evening in advance of the storm – we were ready.

 *      *      *

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

17 Jan 2016

The hickory gel stain was curing on the yet-to-be-assembled pieces of Marcia’s new quilt ladder at the end of last week’s cliff hanger episode. (Vendor and product names property of their respective owners, duh!) Here’s the rest of the story, in pictures:

Quilt ladder glue-up

Quilt ladder glue-up

The glue-up was straighforward. A dollop of glue (Titebond III) in each dowel socket, a bit of assembly, and a bunch of clamps. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided to back up the glue with a #6 x 1-5/8″ finish trim screw through the rail into the end of each dowel. Some fastening is good, more is better.

Applying the finish

Applying the finish

Applying the finish to a single ladder nearly 8 feet tall would have been a pain. So would have been moving this piece around. So the initial design involved two-part construction that permits the ladder to be handled in two parts. Makes finishing a lot easier, too.  A clamp at the end of each rail, at the overlap point, holds the ladder sections vertical while I applied the finish to most of each section. Then rotate, and do the leftover bit, followed by rinse and repeat (with two or so hours in between each finish application) In this project, I used two coats of Minwax Water-based Oil Modified Polyurethane. It really brings the hickory gel stain to life.

Quilt Ladder in the foyer

Quilt Ladder in the foyer

The quilt ladder’s home, at least for the time being, is in the front foyer of the house. We had a couple of framed pieces on those walls, but they’re already re-homed. Details: The feet are cut at a 6 degree angle, to configure a safe leaning angle for the ladder. A couple of small rubber bumpers are affixed to each foot to prevent slide-out. And I think that the ladder looks pretty good, if a bit lonely…

Ladder and quilts

Ladder and quilts

Four quilts currently adorn the ladder, and Marcia professes to like her new quilt display device. She’s been after me to build her something like this for years. Finally, I found the inspiration.

The biggest single direct cost of this project were the dowels for the ladder rungs, at a bit over $20. The rails were fabricated from shop scrap. All the other costs were for materials of which I only used a little bit for this project: I either already had some around (glue, finish) or have lots left over for future projects (sealer, stain). I made one tool purchase: a 1-1/8″ forstner bit was something I previously lacked in the shop.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Maj. John D. Gerrie, 42, of Nickerson, Kansas, who died on Jan. 16,  in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, from a non-combat related incident.

10 Jan 2016

A full work week to start the new year, and things are going well. I’ve lots on my plate, which is a good thing. Interesting new projects combine with ongoing operations to make my working days exactly as I like them.

 *      *      *

On the home front, I’ve been working on building Marcia a quilt ladder, which she’s been wanting for years now. I’m fabricating it out of shop scraps and 1-1/8″ dowels. Here’s the fit assembly, before I started on the finishing:

Quilt ladder fit assembly.

Quilt ladder fit assembly.

All of the material is pine, so after the fit assembly looked fine, I took it all apart. On Saturday, every piece got sanded, then wiped clean with a damp cloth. I rested the materials for a couple of hours, then gave everything another light sanding to deal with the initial raised grain. Another wipe down, then a coat of pre-stain sealer. This is an important step with soft woods, since they tend to take up stain unevenly. I let that sit overnight.

This morning, after shopping, I came back down to the shop, and sanded everything again with 320 grit. Then I applied the hickory gel stain:

Quilt ladder hickory stain

Quilt ladder hickory stain

Each piece got a coat, followed by a couple of minutes of rest, followed by a wipedown to remove any excess gel stain. I’ll let that cure for a couple of days, then do the assembly. The last step will be a couple of coats of polyurethane. So by next weekend, perhaps, this will be done.

 *      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Matthew Q. McClintock, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who died on Jan. 5, 2016, in Marjah District, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when the enemy attacked his unit with small arms fire.

3 Jan 2016

Happy New Year, y’all!

I’ve spent the last two weeks holidaying, eating, reading, relaxing, doing chores, and fixing things around the house. Tomorrow, I go back to work. Grumble.

Not really grumble. I enjoy my work. I appreciate and respect the team of people I work with. Especially, I love to stay busy. I have specific goals for the next two weeks – a lot of stuff to accomplish and document in a relatively short amount of time, so I’ll be very busy indeed. That makes me happy.

In the woodshop over the last few days, I’ve been working on building a quilt ladder for Marcia. Pictures in a week or two, as it approaches completion.

That’s all I’ve got for now: I’m looking forward to this year.

*      *      *

DoD has reported no new casualties in the last week. Ciao!

27 Dec 2015

Another busy weekend gone by. I was doing some clean up in the shop, and came across a stack of 2×2 acoustic tile matching the small section of drop ceiling in the basement kitchen. Wonderful – I have a few of those that need replacing. A couple of them had holes in them, not hard to replace. Another one, though, was severely bowed by the HVAC vent attached to a floating, insulated feeder. The additional weight had bent the tile nearly an inch out of true. Were I to just replace it, the tile would be good for a year or so, but as the moisture in the house fluctuated over the seasons, it’d have bowed again. So I glued a plywood reinforcing bar to the back of the tile, and let it cure overnight.

Reinforced ceiling tile

Reinforced ceiling tile

I installed that back in the kitchen today.

Also today, I worked on (finally) patching the section of sheet rocked basement ceiling that I pulled out when we had the upstairs fridge water line leak., back in the middle of the summer. I first put the work off because the remaining rock had to dry out. Then I put it off because, well, I forgot about it. I so rarely go through into Marcia’s fabric room. So today I cleaned up and made the opening rectangular, and lapped in some half-inch ply to perform as a stop as well as something to screw the new rock to. Using offcuts from 2″ x 2″ x 1/2″ drywall (I don’t keep full sheets laying about), I patched the hole, and overlaid the gaps with mesh tape.

Patching drywall

Patching drywall

I then applied the first coat of mud. More work on that project tomorrow. Remember – I’m not planning on being back in the office until 4 January.

  *      *      *

The unseasonably warm weather has continued – I was walking the dog after dinner while wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and dock shoes. I could have been wearing shorts – it was still 65 F out at 1830 this evening. But according to the NOAA, we’ll be back to normal, below freezing overnight temps by the end of this week.

  *      *      *

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors. They died Dec. 21 of wounds suffered when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

  • Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, 36, of Plymouth, Minnesota.
  • Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas.
  • Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Staff Sgt.  Chester J. McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia.
  • Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, of Bronx, New York.
  • Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, New York.