Home Improvement Oops

I learned to measure things at my dad’s sheet metal shop. Two things about working with sheet metal and my dad: metal doesn’t change dimensions much with humidity; and a 10th of an inch is close enough but hardly fussy.

Ever since I started working with wood, I’ve had problems: wood, at least along 2 out of 3 axes, does change dimensions with humidity, and a 10th of an inch is way less than the amount the width and thickness of wood change as it dries and absorbs moisture. I keep telling myself not to cut things so tight, and I keep cutting it too close anyway.

Current case in point: this oak door I made for the brick oven:

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Weeeell, I was shooting for about 3/8″ of clearance on the sides, which I more or less achieved – during the heat and dry of summer. Should have shot for 1/2″ at least. One problem is that the old, recycled bricks that form the arch into which the door fits are hardly consistent and smooth. They have uneven surfaces even apart from any inconsistency in my brick work. My 3/8th” theoretical clearance was not achieved in practice.

So: While it rained maybe a week before, had a few nice days over Thanksgiving and the almost 22 year old son was in town only a couple days before his birthday, and so was thinking about firing the oven up. The door, while maybe a bit snug this summer, at the time still fit without too much falderal.

When we last used the oven, we left the door in. On Friday, it had swollen to the point of complete immobility. I yanked. I pushed. I wiggled. Nothing – stuck so that any more force seemed likely to break it.

Found a little fan, ran it for a day straight – nothing. I’m considering seeing if I can whack it from the inside with a sledge stuck down the chimney (kind of doubt it). Seriously getting worried it may destroy the brickwork if it swells any more.

If I ever get it out of there, will trim the sides a bit – and store it somewhere dry for the winter.

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Prayers, Thanks & Updates

1. Start it off with GKC:

The Americans have established a Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers reached America. The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day; to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England.

Chesterton had a pure and white hot hatred of Puritanism. He granted that at least the old Puritanism encouraged reading the Bible, thereby populating young heads with heroes and warriors, feminine woman and masculine men – something new improved Puritanism has eliminated.

2. 5 years ago, our son Andrew’s death was a means of grace for a conversion. Here is Nadia Mitchell, convert from evangelicalism, being interviewed on the Journey Home:

3. Just yesterday, Mrs Yard Sale of the Mind and I were talking about Pat Bravo, a childhood friend of hers with whom she’d stayed in touch since they’d graduated high school and went their separate ways. She had not heard from Pat in months, even though Pat is the sort of friend to remember every birthday and holiday and unfailingly send cards at the very least.

Anne-Martine had left messages on the phone and had not gotten a call back. Finally, yesterday after our discussion, she tracked down Pat’s father’s number, and left him a message. He called back this morning.

Pat suffered a massive brain aneurysm on August 18th and died the next day. She had had brain cancer many years ago, went into remission after treatment, then had a recurrence, went into remission again, but I guess it finally caught up with her. She was 55, I think. She also had a rough personal life, with a husband who left her and strained relations with her family. She had moved a couple hours away, to Orville, where she’d bought an old house and spent her time fixing it up.

Now Anne-Martine is beating herself up for not having gone to see her this summer. This summer was super-busy around here, and the last conversations she and Pat had were looking at calendars and not being able to work something out.

Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Pat’s death is the third among the small cohort of my wife’s friends from high school or before. Historically, I know having lost a large percentage of childhood friends by your early 50s isn’t all that odd. But it sure seems like a lot.

4. From the profound to the ridiculous: the cat, who spent 10 days in a vet hospital after having eaten a bunch of Nerf darts (stupid cat!) is now sleeping on my bed as I type. He smells like shampoo, which, given his condition and the laxatives they were treating it with, is a huge improvement. Huge. Improvement.

It’s almost like cats know what to do to reestablish bonds with their humans – humans who, in this case, are more than a little grossed out and lighter in the wallet as a result of said cat’s decision to eat toys. He’s been wanting to be carried around or lie on laps purring since he got back.

It’s working. Stupid humans. Remaining issue: he was in no condition to groom himself and neither were we there to brush his super-fine and long hair. So now he has mats, several in locations where brushing (or cutting – don’t tell the vet!) them out will be difficult. We’ll see how tolerant he is of people tugging on his fur in awkward ways and places. Did I mention he’s a very large cat with serious claws and a high 0 to shred them! time? Sigh.

5. Grateful for my family, faith and health. Grateful God has seen fit to make us not poor by any stretch – learning magnanimity sounds like a better draw than learning poverty. Grateful I live in a beautiful place in a time of peace and plenty. It would be small of me to regret having to share it with those Californians who give us the reputation we, unfortunately, deserve. Right? Give me a second to unclench my jaws. There, much better. The weather is really, really, nice – about 70 and sunny today, for example.

6. Heading off to Uncle John’s for family Thanksgiving in a couple hours. 3 out of 4 extant children are here. Anna-Kate, the younger daughter attending school in New Hampshire, is staying with her Uncle Patrick in Massachusetts with other family. She baked them pies – she’s very, very good at baking pies, or, indeed, baking pretty much anything. Lucky them.

However, Mrs. Yard Sale of the Mind, from whom Anna Kate learned to bake, is baking *us* pies. Lucky us!

Have a happy and holy Thanksgiving!

Pre-Thanksgiving Southern Instance

Most years for the last decade, we Northern Moores have headed south the weekend before Thanksgiving to visit my little brothers and their families. Turns out, it’s generally cheaper – and a lot more fun – to rent a Newport Beach beach house at off-season rates than to put 6-7 people up in a Motel.

So, this year, we had 3 of the 4 extant children, grandma and a houseguest friend in a house at the north end of the beach one block off the sand. It’s been fun. Had the brothers ( and our elder daughter’s boyfriend – a first ‘family meets the boyfriend moment! He is a very nice young man) over for dinner yesterday.

Right now, the 5 of us left went to the Balboa Fun Zone for ice cream, then took the ferry over to Balboa Island from which we watched the sunset: 



Catching the return ferry back to the van, then to the house where there’s chicken to barbecue. Head home tomorrow.

Life is good.

Curious Aside

So, traffic has been up hugely at this humble blog – relatively speaking, of course. Still a humble blog. Since views are up much more than visitor count, seems like someone or some small number of people have been reading through the blog?

Just a shout out, if you’re a human being – thanks. Let me know what you think.

And, since I have an unhealthy interest in numbers, it’s rained over 2 1/4 inches in the last 24 hours here. That’s a big storm by CA standards. Was told to expect ‘up to 1″ ‘. It’s almost like the forecasters are just guessing!

Updates: Airports & Atlanta & Reading

(Taking this up from yesterday evening.)

A. Sitting in the T Terminal (named after the fashion of D-Day, I suppose) in Atlanta International. I like Atlanta and its airport, mostly. Not getting a chance this trip to walk the long subterranean corridor connecting terminals A through, I dunno, Z? which has some interesting art as well as a bit of a spelunking feel about it. The narrower and darker-feeling  passages one walks between well-lit art areas and busy shuttle train stops are tiny little adventures, with few boring businessmen or travelers of any kind taking them. The bright and fast shuttle trains beckon, Siren-like.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Things have changed at ATL. I had several hours to wander T-Terminal, and found it had been remodeled. My memory, which also ain’t what it used to be, recalled that T had the best food options of all the alphabet terminals – e.g., a hip-looking place that dispensed good fresh salad, and, I think, a better than average burrito place. These are things you find out when you travel for business a lot. I did so a decade ago, not so much the last 5-6 years. My information is both dated and faded.

So I got a veggie footlong at Subway. Hate sitting in a ‘real’ restaurant by myself, and Subway was the next best thing.

Compare and contrast with SFO Terminal 2, out of which I flew to ATL. It’s been years since I’d last been there – I tend to fly out of Oakland – OAK – because it’s closer and smaller. But I’ll drive a bit for direct flights, and the cheap ones were out of SFO. Anyway, due to a confluence of forces (missed noon flight, next one out was a redeye), I was stuck there in Terminal 2 for a number of hours.

The food options were, frankly, awesome. They had, among other nice choices, very nice Mexican food, a sushi bar that always had a line, a gourmet burger place, two Peet’s, frozen yogurt – in short, all my on the road food whims were abundantly addressed. Ended up having marvelous fish tacos for lunch, and 5 hours later, a very good burger for dinner. I don’t recall anything remotely this nice from the last time I was through, but, as noted, it’s been a while and my memory is not Dante’s.

Don’t know what to make of this. Terminals get nicer, mostly, while the flights themselves get more like Greyhound bus rides without the gritty charm. The economics of all this are not transparent – while many travelers including me shop price first and foremost, leading to bare-bones flights, we evidently are willing to drop $30+ on fish tacos, guacamole & chips, and a beer? Or are the airlines competing for one set of customers – bottom feeders – while the shops and restaurants in the terminals compete for the money of the 1st and business class people? Airlines compete across a wide range of factors, so provide a wide range of options. But you couldn’t find a Taco Bell in Terminal 2, nor a sushi joint in T-Terminal. Whoever is leasing out terminal space seems to make a narrow call, intentionally or not, that attracts a set of retailers with a fairly narrow target market.

I’m sure MBA papers have been written on this. I’ve about exhausted my curiosity for now.

B. MARTA is one thing I like about Atlanta. As long as your destination is along that north/south corridor, MARTA’s hard to beat for convenience. So far, over the years, all but one of my Atlanta customers and conventions have been on that artery. I get to grab my luggage and walk to the ATL MARTA station, and, for a couple bucks, take a nice clean train to within a couple blocks of my destination. Sweet.

But mostly I like people watching & interactions. This trip, after my red eye, I was catching the train at 5:30 a.m. There was one man asleep – his feet were sticking out – and a couple more people who did not look like travellers.

(On the ride back, a woman struck up a conversation with me and three other conventioneers who were together because we were all heading back to California – she took MARTA to work from the airport, because it was easiest for her mother to drop her off there. So, even at the end-of-the-line airport station, it seems a lot of the passengers are locals.)

As train filled up over the next couple stops, I noticed I seemed to be the only white dude on the train. It was filled with black folks going to work or school. Later, the sleeping man awoke and sat up – the two of us were the only caucasians. Later still, as it filled up more, we lost that distinction.

Emotionally, this was like noticing I was the only bald guy – little more than a curiosity. Maybe if I lived there, and did this every day, it would seem different? As it is, it reinforced something I’ve noticed ever since I started traveling: race relations in the South are much mellower than they are in the North.  Again, small sample size and all.

I stood for a woman who was standing, motioning for her to take my seat. Instead, she mumbled something about getting off soon and gestured to another woman, who took the seat. Totally normal interactions. But then, a few stops later, after the first downtown stops where many people got off, the seated woman got up to leave and made sure I sat back down, and said thanks. Again, perfectly normal stuff, but not what I’d expect in, say, Chicago or Boston. Atlanta? Seems perfectly normal.  YMMV.

(Pretty soon, I may start getting the Old Guy deferral, and have women insist I keep my seat. Hasn’t happened yet, whippersnappers!)

C. Now back home. Read Lyonesse – Spring 2017 (vol 1) on the planes, most of the way through Storyhack Issue 1 as well. And I read some other anthology/collection on my Kindle, but can’t remember which one (I’ve got a dozen or more on there…) Anyway, some reviews coming up.

Also reading Writing the Breakout Novel, which is proving inspiring. Maybe I’ll get back to more ‘serious’ writing than just this blog. It would help, maybe, if I at least kept the blog moving… Aaaand – Nichomachean Ethics. Because I had this thought, and wanted to know what Aristotle thought about it, dimly remembered it was addressed somewhere in Nichomachean Ethics, and – you know. Now I’ve forgotten why I started, but feel committed to the reread.

Kinda stopped reading Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, only because it is long and was becoming somewhat repetitive, and I suspect I should have read Livy first. Discovered that Livy’s Histories are very long (even though the surviving version is some small fraction of the complete work!). Sooo – maybe later? Got a fair pile of half read books at the moment. Didn’t used to do this – I’d either read it, or stop. No twilight zone of half-read I’ll finish this eventually books. AHHHHH! I want to retire and read and write. At least 3 years to go.

Weekend Update: Shield

Been busy. David, our 13 year old son, is now too old for that trick-or-treating nonsense, but not too old to want a cool costume to wear to school & parties. It so happens that the beloved Mrs. YSotM is, how do the kids put it? tots awesome at this whole costume/seamstress thing, and has been for a few decades,  so we’re often close to a great costume just based on what’s lying around the house. (The daughters have inherited this skill, and are therefore pressed into everything from costuming plays to modifying wedding dresses. A reputation for competency is a burden.) David once went to one of those fantasy cons down in San Jose, and Mrs. YSotM put together a wizard outfit for him to wear that had people stopping him and getting their pictures taken with him.

The bar has been set pretty high, in other words. Dad has wisely stayed out of it.

Until this year. As a fun project this summer, David and I made a couple fiberglass shields – one to screw up completely, and one sort of OK and usable. (I’d never done fiberglass before, so wanted to – probably funned out for life on goopy, messy, tricky frustrating projects – would rather do wood or brick stuff.)

Anyway, always intended to paint the shield something cool. David decided he wanted a winged sword, so he could use it with his St. Michael’s costume he envisioned for Hallowe’en.

Well. My one year of art school helped me become not totally incompetent in drawing, but we didn’t get to painting before I quit, and I frankly had little interest in it, so – nada.

The result of this minimal skillset is that was able to do a few pretty decent mock-ups in pencil until I got David’s sign-off, transfer the winner in pencil to the shield without much trouble – and then learn the hard way that going from pencil to paint is tricky.

It’s looks OK from > 10′ away. Just don’t get too close.

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Things I learned:

  • painters love oil paints and those expensive brushes for a reason. Trying to paint straight lines with gloppy latex using cheap little brushes that keep  shedding hairs – DON’T DO IT! Lumpy, uneven, frustrating.
  • The fancy gold leaf style paint uses a solvent that seems to dissolve the black latex paint unless the latex is really, really dry. Therefore, you’d want to put in on FIRST. Not, in other words, the way I did it.
  • Masking tape only slightly improves things. And it tends to peel off the black latex paint when you pull it up.
  • My hands are pretty steady. They could be a LOT steadier.

If I find myself doing any more painting like this, I’ll spend the money on decent brushes and paint. And maybe watch a YouTube video or three on basic technique.

David is pleased, though, and that’s what counts in these things.

Book reviews, more schooling stuff, as time permits.

Frivolous Links/Update

Every night this week I’ve had something up, and have something scheduled for tonight and tomorrow. A week straight of ‘free’ time rare and in 30 minute chunks. Mostly, I’ve been working on Bach in those breaks. But no stretches of an hour or two, not if I want to sleep – and I do.

Many of these things are fun – Chesterton Society Reading Group, Caboose’s violin lessons, the Feasts & Faith class I run – but they cut seriously into blogging time. Boo hoo, cry me a river.

I also sometimes look at stuff on the web – one can do that in small (exhausted) chunks of time. I’m addicted to people making stuff – go figure. The more outrageous, detailed and beautiful, the better. For example:

Here’s an Aussie who makes clocks and is working on making a replica of the Antikythera Mechanism:

Here’s a young couple who are building their own boat to live the rest of their lives on: https://saltandtar.org/

Here’s a maniac after my own heart: older guy building an ocean-going ship. In his front yard. In Tulsa, OK.:

And a 19 year old British kid who blacksmiths like a boss:

I’ll post something real first chance I get – I’m up to 102 drafts! Eyeeeeiii! Something in there has got to be blogable.