May 20

This is for the birds

I do believe spring and summer showed up on the same day, making themselves unmistakably known during today’s little jog. It was a simple and persperific 5K, and the first time this year that has felt actually warm during a ride or run. Oh, I’ll sweat in almost any temperature. We are, however, now suddenly, and without any proper build-up befitting it’s importance, flirting with that time when you wonder if the concept of sweat does, in fact, cool you down like you were always told.

Which sounds like I can’t be pleased by the weather. Too cold. Too gray. Too damp. Too hot. And for the first two those your analysis is correct. For the third, no such thing. For the fourth, I just need a week or two of acclimation, that’s all. And that’s where we find ourselves today, wishing there’d been a proper subtle transition. But sometimes you aren’t allowed nice things, meteorologically speaking.

Sometimes we complain just because we can.

Hey, 77 felt fantastic. And then I elevated my heart rate a little and the sweat started stinging my eyes and that was fine, I guess. Later I got to that point where the ol’ internal thermostat decides to flip on over and there’s a signal from the engine room: all pores answering. And that’s how my run ended, doing planks, sweating a lot, laughing at the idea of a spring, missed.

It sounds like a mid-20th American novel: The Spring Season Lost.

None were concerned at the bird feeders. The blackbird least of all:

Fun tidbit about the House Finch. It was originally a western bird. Someone took them east to try to sell them in the early 1940s, but eventually set them free in disgust. (“I just knew these people were going to want them as caged birds!”) And they’ve spread to be seen across the country and southern Canada since.

That’d be an annoying caged bird, if you ask me. But rare is the bird that isn’t. And they should all be flying free, filling their role in the ecosystem, not cluttering up the house.

Now this guy isn’t judging me, at all:

It took a long while to win over this blue jay for pictures. But at least he didn’t attack me:

I got a few nice shots of him. And I think I understand his hesitancy.

He’s conscientious about his combover!

May 20

So many photos to enjoy

Happy late Mother’s Day. I think all of our flowers arrived today. But the cards got there early. One of those years. Mothers, being moms, completely understand.

The cats are doing just fine. Phoebe is in a tunnel phase:

It’d be wrong to ascribe human emotions to cats, of course, but that is one content-looking cat:

I have decided to keep the cats out of my home office for the many breakable things. Any closed door, to a cat, is an opportunity. (A mentality I totally appreciate.) But figure out the pattern, dude. I open the door, you sneak in, I scoop you up and put you back out in the hall. He has not figured out the pattern. So I made a sign.

The Yankee says it was nice of me to put it at eye level. That, I thought, was the best part of the joke.

He disagrees. And he likes to let me know about it.

A view of one of the local lakes from Friday’s lovely bike ride:

One of the apps that I use — there are three — to track rides gives you the maximum speed you hit on each mile segment. There were 35 miles in that particular ride and there are a lot of times that make sense: 27.2, 25.2, 28.8, 24.5, 28.1. If you looked at the terrain or stop signs or things, it tracks very well.

Except for that one spot where, I know I was sprinting, but I’m fairly certain I didn’t hit 2,513.9 miles per hour.

I will accept the data it gives me for a split three miles down the road where it says I was doing 51 mph. Probably I wasn’t — in my experience when you hit about 46 it all starts to feel noticeably different — but I’ll accept it.

The Yankee on her weekend run:

I was on my weekend sit-on-the-deck phase …

I was sitting on the deck to have a Mother’s Day call and watch the birds. Check out this little guy:

You can sit up close to a bird feeder and, if they are hungry enough, most birds will come to accept your not being in the way of their dinner:

Anyway, it was a fine time, a nice long chat about this and that, some pleasant weather for a change and watching the wildlife go by:

Like I’m a nature photographer over here:

A red-winged black bird on the ground, very common in this area:

One of our neighborly cardinals, which aren’t exactly in abundance, but not scarce. I guess that means they are plentiful. There are at least four:

And a nice brief little look at an Indigo bunting:

We call the red-winged blackbird a Superman Bird. You can really see it when he flies. And I guess you’ll have to take my word for it since I only have pictures of it standing around:

And a nice red head finch wrapped up the photo safari on our back deck.

So that was the weekend. And how was yours? And back to the new week. How’s yours shaping up?

Nov 19

Remember the old saw …

Measure once, cut twice? I’ve been measuring and measuring.

First, I created a test version of this project I’m working on. And we decided how to change the project. It is going to be smaller. Just six inches high, and not seven and change. And so the work model was disassembled. Part of it was plywood, and that was stacked away neatly for some future project that might require quality plywood.

The original side pieces will be re-used for the finished project. So I ripped them down to size this weekend:

And I took some extra pieces of pine and cross cut those to (more or less) the width of the finished project. It will require three pieces:

One of them is warped. It might have a warp in a whorl, I don’t know. But I think I figured out a way around that. Measure twice (measure a few dozen times) and cut once.

Then! Use the belt sander to sort it out:

I’ve learned several things, working with wood the last two years. One of those things is that I prefer the product to the process. So it’s a nice side hobby, but this is never going to be a primary interest. (Begging many questions, I know.) I’ve learned which parts of the process that I like less than others. Usually it has to do with some moment that marks no going back. But, I remind myself, measure twice and so on. And I’ve learned to recognize when it is time to stop for the day. Before you get frustrated. Before you rush. Before you hastily get past some no-going-back moment that belies the notion that it’s only wood. Before the process wears you out.

This was much of my weekend.

At least until I overdid it with the belt sander, so the new phrase is this: Measure twice, cut once, use the belt sander to sort it out, and then cut it again.

So, really, get lumber larger than the size of your finished project. For refinements.

And this evening I glued up and assembled some of the pieces. Later this week I’ll make the final cuts, and glue the final pieces. And then, we’re going to finish the project, so it is a finished project. Probably next week I’ll show you what this is.

Turns out I’m a slow worker on matters that aren’t the primary interest.

Oct 19

Just add sawdust

That parking deck, I said to a colleague yesterday, is like a sundial. The topic was how you could tell the time of day just by what floor you wind up parking on. I usually get the second level. Yesterday he barely got the fourth level, and almost had to park in the rain, horror of horrors. The bigger issue was he had to trudge up two more flights of stairs because anyone that rides that parking deck’s elevator will only do it the once.

But that parking is also a clock looking from the outside in, as well. There, at the turnaround onto the second deck, you get this view just before you hang a right:

Those trees are telling us a story and, right now, it is the best part of the morning drive.

This evening I got in just over an hour of sanding, which means I got one piece of the current, and perpetual, project halfway done.

At this rate, in three more hours I’ll be two-thirds of the way through the sanding.

No one likes sanding, but it is acceptable to like the process toward the result. If anything it slows the project down, though, just because you have to work up the morale to sit down and sand the wood that will make the darn thing. (Plus there’s the rest of your life to consider … ) For me, to know you’re going to get an hour here and there doesn’t really fit the workflow. People that can steal a few minutes and make progress, on any project, are geniuses. I need big blocks of time, for any kind of project, it seems. This is a problem with sanding, though, because I am doing this project entirely by hand and you can’t sand for hours at a time without having a shoulder fall off. So the problem is the sanding, really. Which no one likes.

The idea, which is well more than a year old, and which begin in December, picked up steam in April and then lulled its way into a soft summer slumber, is going to gain momentum in the next few weeks just because I am going to grit (Get it? That’s a sandpaper joke!) my teeth and push through.

Why, the next time we talk about this, I might be three-quarters of the way through the sanding.

Sanding, I think, is the part of the project where you really get to know the wood. And this particular lumber, which is a Western White Pine, is telling me a lot about itself.

Here are some photos from yesterday’s run. I got in four miles, which is the longest run since my April injury. I guess I’m on the slow road to recovery. Emphasis on slow.

Like my shutter! She’s both almost in, and definitely out of, focus:

Some years back, whenever they were planning that particular neighborhood, some designer drew these on a map. And a purchasing agent filled in some paperwork and then a delivery guy dropped off the order and a few people dug some holes and put these in the ground, just for moments like these:

So what you do today may take a bit of time to reflect its beauty. We may never see it, other projects and parts of life and all of that, maybe you just forget to go back and check. Other priorities, and all of that. Maybe it just never occurs to you. But there it is, out there, doing their thing, because someone got the thing started.

The trees on the path running behind our house:

That first rain of the fall, the first few leaves:

It’s easy to love the moment. But there will be more leaves, and then perhaps more rain. And that’ll turn to who knows what. Those moments are less easy for me to love. But that’s just me.

Oct 19

About that

I had yesterday off. And unlike the last two times I had an off day, I did not go into the office for a meeting.

So I went to the tailor instead. New suit pants need sizing and that guy is the man for the job. It would be helpful if the tailor’s name was Taylor. Once, in some parts of the world, names were tied to vocations or locations. It had its conveniences, not the least of which was that it bound people into one place and role. Why, some ancestor of mine worked in metals, I guess, and look how far I’ve come since then.

Well, I’ve just looked up the other five of my most proximate family names. They are all English, or diminutive of German, or maybe Greek, or just rare and relatively unknown to the Internet. One site says there are 242 people in the U.S. with that rare name. Surely that’s an underestimate. But I didn’t even know I had that name until well into adulthood and I don’t think I’d ever heard it around the ancestral haunts, so I’d agree it is rare. But it, and the rest of the family names, seem to be without detailed insight and description. Not like “Smith,” I guess. Not all names, it turns out, are terribly patronymic. But names ought to mean something.

Anyway, the tailor did his measuring and marking. I went to the store, where I saw this this scarily detailed poster. Despite it’s insight, it leaves off some important suggestions: after counting money, before and after performing surgery, after high-fiving your mechanic, after pulling a double-shift in the infectious diseases laboratory and so on.

Also, the instructions are missing. That’s a deliberate choice by some germy Batman villain, I’m sure. But we’ve all been to a restroom and where people demonstrate poor hand hygiene. Warm-to-hot water, soap, 20 seconds. Sing Old MacDonald song to yourself if you must.

MacDonald, by the way, is a common Scottish patronymic surname meaning “son of Donald,” meaning “world ruler.” So Old MacDonald was one of the less ambitious members of the clan, one supposes. Anyway, the Internet goes on — oh, how it goes on — to tell us that MacDonald is from the Gaelic Mac Dhamhnuill.

Anyway, I’m sure the merchant has noticed the problem with the poster. It’s not the dirtiest restroom you’ve ever been in. Nothing that a coat of paint and some better lights couldn’t fix. But here’s my worry. If your initial read, as the merchant who placed that poster, is that you should tell people when, you are absolutely right, and you should tell them how.

At home, sanding wood this afternoon. I’ll be sanding wood into my golden years, but it’s going to be a nice project, when I get through with the sanding in 2024. (There are 10 pieces still to go on the sanding. They are substantial pieces. I’ll get three or four done before next week, I hope.) So there I am, sitting in a chair in the garage, in between the cars, taking down some western pine from milled and kiln-dried lumber, into the dimensions required for the project, and then through sandpaper of 100-, 150-, 220- and 400-grit. The end pieces will then get a few passes with 600-grit. Then I have to somehow de-dust 24 large pieces of wood, condition, stain and seal them. And then I can assemble the finished product. It’s going to be awesome.

In 2024.

Oh, also, welcome to Catober. You met Poseidon earlier in the day. You’ll meet his sister, Phoebe, tomorrow.

They’re neat. OK, she’s neat. He’s a complete and total handful. That’s the first picture I took of either of them, and it almost perfectly encapsulates his personality. We got them midway through the summer and they are now getting good and settled in. We’ve more or less learned their styles, they sometimes acknowledge us.

We’ll do the photos throughout the month. I just couldn’t do it in September. Maybe, I hope, it’ll be a bit better here.

Poseidon got his name because his original one was not good, and he also loves water, so now he’s named after the god of the sea. Phoebe, on the other hand, came to be associated with the moon in late Greek mythology, but she was originally a Titan with gifts of prophecy and calmness. Names ought to mean things.