March '98

March 10: White Dog caught a "mousie" today! Well, it was a gopher and not a full-grown one at that, but she was pretty proud of herself and so was I: not bad for a 14 year old doggie! I grabbed her by the tail just once and she let the little critter go. Made her day, it did: Spring appears to be making its appearance once more and just in time. Life is returning to "normal", i.e. endless paperwork and then more of the same. My new secretary is a real find and with her incessant nagging (required in the job description, penned by your truly) I am at long last making headway with the mounds of paperwork that have littered my office for aeons. The real bottleneck is hand-written letters that have been accumulating for years. What criteria determine whether I respond to a letter dated 1992? If the information is still useful, yes. If it's not but I need to find out if the guy's got email, yes. A lot of "ifs" and a lot of affirmative answers. I'm trying to increase the "ignore" pile and put them in the circular file, but it's always a tough call.

Driving myself out of paperwork mode is difficult: I've spent so much time driving that I really don't want to do much other than sit in front of a screen and type these days. Still and all, I've pretty much burned out on that option. But as the ideas begin to flow and the days become longer I am beginning to migrate once again to the workshop. Yesterday I went to Bryan Mumford's shop and for the first time in 2-1/2 months I began to whittle Puny Tunes out of maple, cherry and walnut. It felt great to be blowing walnut boogers out of my nose by day's end! Bryan is always doing something in addition to woodworking and yesterday was no exception: he showed me the prototype of his new tachometer, which reads with an accuracy of 1rpm and does so over a range of speeds from zero to several thousand! I plan to go back there later this week and whack out several of his tachs, for this or that application around my shop and for my steamboat's engine (I've been making do with model airplane tachometers, but they are very fragile).

Today I finally bit the bullet and after a year of searching in vain for surplus examples of a Uhling Drive mechanism, I ordered a "small" one (25lbs of thrust) from the manufacturer. I also whacked on some aluminum and started work on a mount that will cradle a 3/8" variable-speed drill upside-down. This in turn will couple to the rotating shaft within the Uhling Drive. With luck I'll get the unit in the mail some time next week and then I'll make a traversing carriage and guide assembly. Once that is done it's on to the remote throttle assembly and some research into "end effectors". With luck I should have the prototype operating by April 1: a fitting tribute to April Fools around the world...

I've been starting to exercise a bit more too: three months of road trips have taken their toll: all the weight I lost last year is back in the form of Arco dogs (two for a buck and an easy return to the freeway), and fajita wraps. And those dreadful onion rings: what is it with those things? Is this a lost art? Why can't *ANY* fast food restaurant make good onion rings?? The last place I had good rings was at Broiler Burger, up near Petaluma and that ain't local... So why am I driven to bother losing weight? The back hurts when I get fat and the sweetie objects as well! I am not without a certain amount of will power, provided I am living in a "controlled" environment, i.e. no unexpected (or even expected) house guests who want pancakes in the morning, followed by the inevitable trip to the local watering hole that evening. When left to my own devices, I tend to eat not exactly Spartan fare, but certainly low- to no-fat: the flavor I leave in and slowly, an ounce a day, my weight declines.

I've got this friend who is one of those people that is so fat he has trouble breathing. When I asked him about trying to lose weight he said he could only lose so much before his back began to hurt, etc, etc: he had a million excuses and it just came down to a lack of will power (or "won't power"). This guy's body has about a CAT-40 taper to it and his pants stay on with a jam fit: I don't think they make suspenders that big! If this guy ever farts near an open flame, he'll burn like the Hindenburg. I have every intention of living a long and comfortable life and when I see relatively young folks who are stuck in the big black "exit-only" lane on the Road of Life I am spurred to renewed efforts regarding my health.


Well, it looks like my favorite radio show is toast yet again. I don't know who he honked off or why it happened, but the "listener supported" Space Pirate Radio this last Monday morning was filled with political attack ads: what I paid to have *omitted* from the stream-of-consciousness programming I had come to expect. I called Guy up at his home the next day and told his answering machine that it was the concensus of my household that he had become a more or less typical "media whore". Well, he didn't take that lying down (ha-ha), he sorta got it doggie style: KTYD first sold the air-time to him and then they turned around and sold the same time *again* to some political hacks!! Shit. I am sympathetic to Mark Twain's opinion, to wit: "I never vote: it only encourages them". Now I find that in spite of my best efforts they are intruding into what I consider My Personal Space!! Next thing you know KTYD will be canvassing neighborhoods with all manner of intrusive technologies: I had a nightmare that car alarms had been reprogrammed to whoop out their logo: yecchhh! Well, I don't want to get run over by the times ahead so I've got to think up counter-hacks real soon. Trouble is, the only avenues of "escape" from this homogenized society of ours are by the very means I wish to avoid, i.e. politics. Of course, there *is* bribery: since at least one person at KTYD seems to have the moral fiber of a wet paper bag, maybe we can figure out what squeaky wheel needs greasing.

Spent all day yesterday cleaning up the wood shop, which is (slightly) open to the weather and blowing leaves. Add to that the torrential rains which caused all to be about an inch deep in water and muck and you get an idea of the problem. Fortunately most of my good wood is up on racks and the roof is sound, but there is always something that gets a thorough soaking and it happens to be a couple of jigs I made for the table saw. Swelling has occurred and the jigs are probably no longer square. Tossed 'em in the bin and will make new ones as needed. Man, I really want a bigger shop, one with an un-cracked floor, with a heater, with a door that closes, with a raised foundation, with-- with *everything*!!!

Judy's out of town so I wound up with an extra ticket to the Music Academy of the West last night. Let my fingers do the walking and my secretary Jan was the first to respond in the affirmative. I picked her up and off we went: the performance was in the beautiful main hall which has architecture reminiscent of times long past. Hanging on the walls are paintings of Ladies (with a capital "L") from perhaps the 18th Century and these paintings are flanked and illuminated by electric replicas of candelabras. The vaulted ceining is festooned with two monstrous chandeliers and the mood is intimate: there is seating for perhaps 180 people at the most. I generally order tickets on some whim or other and as the audience arrived I realized I had probably guessed wrong: many "LOLs" and no "young folk" at all. Sure enough, it was an evening of chamber music (hey, I like most chamber music), but it was all 20th Century works. Classical music stopped being "good" around the turn of the century and in my opinion didn't return to that status until Copeland and Glass came down the pike. Ah, well. Fun to talk to Jan in a non-business setting. She is a "pearl of great price" as the saying goes. I wonder if she ever wonders why I've never made a pass at her? Well. Several reasons, not to mention my own ethical code that would never permit such a thing to happen. Then there's the fact that I'm a fat, ugly bastard and she's a sweety-pie. Sigh. We talked at "half-time" and as she is a fantastic cook, I asked her what she thought might be the reason why the bread I have been making lately has not poofed up into nice spherical forms in the oven, but has instead resembled rather thich tortillas once baked. I thought then that it might be over-kneading and she concurred, saying that it had something to do with the break-down of gluten from doing so.

After dropping Jan off at her digs, I went home and found the festering goo that was rising dough (started around Noon) just about ready to take over the kitchen counter. I quickly started the oven, shaped the loaves (being careful not to over-knead them), brushed on beaten egg, cut the tops cross-wise with a new razor blade (like they showed me in class), sprinkled fresh chopped sage in the declivities and plunked first one, then the other in the fire. Ah, what a smell! It was after midnight when I got the last one out, but they are both just about complete spheres: it worked!!

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