2004, second half...

Friday, August 27, 2004

It's been a week since Vern arrived for a visit; he's already home and back at work now, but what a time we had. I must say I miss the days we shared in the workshop; he feels the same way, too. Must try to drag him up to visit more than once per year.

We did the airshow, we saw the sites, we went to the junkyard, we did the BBQ, which was most fun with many hackerly pals dropping by. The BBQ was what I refer to as a "linear", rather than a "parallel" event; i.e. folks showed up all day long rather than all at once. This makes "critical mass" almost impossible, but despite this similarity with the now-defunct SR-BBQ meetings I used to hold we still managed to exchange some useful info. For the first time I got to see the device I've been looking for, i.e. a WiFi Seeker and it told me what I suspected: my current wireless arrangement sucks... Wish I had one, but nobody in SR carries them! No chance of getting one in time to take with us to BM; oh, well...

As usual Vern brought tons of production work that needed doing, but really it wasn't so much a chore as it was a zen thing that I was past due experiencing, to make my head right with the world. Did you ever see a master swordsmith at his anvil? He has a small hammer in one hand and there's an assistant with a big-ass hammer in both hands. Master withdraws the heated metal from the forge, positions it on the anvil and gives taps with his hammer to signify how hard the assistant should whack the metal.

Tap, whack,
tap-tap, WHACK,
tap, whack,
tap-tap, WHACK,
all the time the master is moving the sword back and forth, first one side, then the other, then back.
Tap, whack,
tap-tap, WHACK,
tap, whack,
tap, whack.

It's a beautiful thing to watch; it's a beautiful thing to be a part of a process that runs so smoothly. Vern's got the production process down to something similar; it takes two people working in concert; one on the mill, one on the drillpress, moving parts from one pile, doing one op then another, passing parts back and forth and finally stacking them in another pile. There's a rhythm to it that's very hypnotic, very satisfying, even though it's "work"... I was reminded of a song that I like: DJ Ken O.D - ATB's Don't Stop! [4:42] describes it very well; must remember to get that whole MP3-downloading thing figured out one of these days...

After production was done we got down to the business of attaching the front and rear halves of the quad cycle. We talked about attachment methods so that it could be disassembled after welding was completed; as it turned out I had just what was needed to do the deed with a minimum of hassle. Vern did the welding while I held things in their proper position; it really was a two-man job and it turned out just so with the two of us coordinating our actions. Most fun.

So now he's off and Judy just arrived yesterday evening. The doggies have their pal back and so do I. Now it's on to packing for Burning Man. I'm picking up the rental RV this afternoon so I'll be able to commence loading this evening. Don and Rebecka arrive tomorrow sometime and then we'll set about to going down the packing list in some form of orderly manner. JW suggested a trip to Costco to acquire goods to use for barter and that's in the works too. Tap, tap, WHACK, tap, whack...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Much craziness; time to get it all down. Been kinda crabby; more on that later. Got energized and at least semi-de-crabbyfied last night thanx to 2nd of the 2nd Tuesday hackers bring-a-friend gathering, where I brought Bill H. and talked at length with David, and briefly with Glen, Scanner and others. Wanted to bring cousin Arthur, but he's still un-reachable.

It's about a week since I started harvesting the peach tree; got 17 the first day, 27 the next, then waited a few days and got 32 more today. Maybe 20 or 30 more to go on the tree but they need another day or twol

Bad news: the new-ish neighbors had *six* motorcycles going weekend B4 last; so much dust and craziness that J and I had to close the dogs in the house and close all windows to keep out dust. Just what one wants to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Not why I moved out of the suburbs; SHIT! Had a talk with the "dad" over there a couple of days ago and he said he'd "try" to change the rules. As fathers go this guy's a mite too permissive; something of a wussie, in fact, despite liking to go boar hunting. J and I keep wishing someone will have an accident over there, but they're all proficient riders. We miss the horses.

More bad news: someone in my family is beginning to lose it; as a result of this lapse I lost a pile of dough; helluva way to drive home a message... (Details deleted.) I've always been forgetful, but it's rather disconcerting to think that in as few as 7 years, when I've reached a similar age the same thing's going to happen to me.

More bad news: got a call from my broker today; I've attacked principal to such an extent that they're changing my acount to a different pay scale; higher of course. And it looks like maybe I won't get the benefit of the Top Guy to administer what I have left, either. Shit.

Other bad news: the joys of being a minority stockholder: the company that now manages three properties in which I have a 3% interest, no longer sees fit to write monthly checks because it's too ponderous a chore for them or some such nonsense. And the tenants have exercised their option and extended the lease for another 5 years at a rent that was fixed half a century ago. It looks like the properties, which are worth millions in land value, may be withheld from sale for another 5 years; not sure; can't get in contact with the folks in charge. This means all my planning is out the window and I'll go broke B4 the money arrives. At the moment I've got about a 2 year reserve, then we're screwed. I'll be without adequate funding for something that could be as short as 4, but may be as long as 8 years. LOC is almost maxxed out: I've got something like $5k credit left and it's costing $400/mo to carry the note. 1st Mtge is $700/mo on top of that; good thing I paid it down a few years back...

The real stinker, though, is Blue Cross, which is costing me something like $500/mo for me and J and then there are the non-generic prescription drugs on top of that. In 7 years, when I turn 65 the premiums jump to $1,000/mo for each of us. If I don't have my shit together by then we'll have to do without and live on Medicare exclusively.

Good news: except for the predicament with the new neighbors our home is now worth at least $800k and probably closer to $900k so there's something to say for going into debt doing construction and improvements. The catch is that if we sell we have to make sure the neighbors aren't home. The other catch, of course, is that we don't want to move and we wouldn't know where to move to! OTOH with the neighbors having sold their horses to accomodate the noisy and dusty hobbies of their little darlings, we're not inclined to hang around much longer. Catch 22, neh? Talked to wise cousin Ed on the cellphone while riding around SF with the two Syidas on Monday and he had some suggestions of what I might be able to do to get the little shits next door to cyst and decease. First up: call the County Attourney (never knew there even was such an office!) and ask what's the permissible number of motorcycles that can rampage on an acre-sized meadow in this part of town. After all there's a cap on chickens (8), goats (6), horses (2), dogs (4) and cows (2), so maybe there's a cap on this as well. Wait and see; must be circumspect as we're pushing the envelope a wee bit ourselves, if in a much more civilised way... What a pickle.

Weird news: one of the 4 that was going to tag along to BM with me in the camper has job commitments and I'm left holding the bag with an extra ticket. $200 worth of extra ticket and I can't seem to find a buyer at this late date.

Other weird news: gave a pal a ride back to their digs after a meeting the other night and they had a hissy fit for the duration of the drive. Hated the music I was playing; hated a schizo friend who had the same musical predelictions as me; hated living situation (which is, admittedly, lame), hated, hated. Why have I become such a shit magnet lately??

First time I've written anything here for some time; don't know why... Currently done with one small project in the shop (CSM class team spin-bot) and am awaiting a break in the weather (too hot) and a break in the madness to get back on the quad-cycle project; I'm trying to have it at least on "all fours" in time for the BBQ later in this month.

I'm supposed to "get it up" tonight but I really haven't been in the mood lately; never thot I'd hear myself think that one, but it's the truth. Is it the pills or am I getting old? Sigh.

Unexpected and ultimately bad news: JW found me a braiding machine and I sorta got stuck buying it. It's an ancient behemoth; more boat anchor than anything else. My thought was to trade it for boat work from Eric, but as he uses braiding machines all the time for his side business he knows a turkey when he sees it and it ain't going to fetch in barter what I paid for it in bucks. Also managed to acquire the neat double beam engine just as money became tight and I suspect I'll have to flog this beauty on ebay just to have food money. Gotta learn how to do ebay and soon.

Neutral news: found a guy who wanted to buy the Dyna CNC mill and we shook hands on $11k, which I had planned to use to pay down the LOC, but he's having second thoughts and I might be stuck with yet another white elephant. No more CNC machines for me; the way I figure it, now that I've just turned 58, I've got 7 years left to buy all the "toys" I'll ever be able to afford B4 medical expenses become unbearable and a CNC lathe or mill that will never earn its keep ain't part of the game plan. Shit.

Sister sold Mom's second wedding ring; my share was $17k, which doesn't go far nowadays. Remainder is about $6k after paying a portion of the really onerous bills; we've got to find a way to live on this until at least mid-September. This includes paying the RV rental for Burning Man, the cabin rental at the steamboat regatta, the fees for the Conference and probably some Xmas shopping.

Predictable news: Niece is getting married off while all of this is going down; I hope they've got their bridal registry at Harbor Freight, because that's about all I can afford. Gotta remember boat repairs too; that's cost too much already and it's going to cost more. With luck I won't have to deal with hull maintenance for another decade and by then I'll either have it made and have a grander boat or I'll be in the old folks home sucking prunes.

Started a blog at a site recommended by a couple of friends but frankly I feel better doing it this way; i.e. cut and paste to my webpage on a very irregular basis. No emoticons, no photos, just text and the "theater of the mind" so to speak.

Forgetting a bunch of stuff; oh, yeah, went to Hacker picnic this last Sunday and managed to only eat stuff I brought; i.e. tri-tip and no cookies or gooey things.. Saw Chuck there and he has all the makings of a good sized whale; guess he picked the wrong horse in the diet race. Glad I'm sticking with mine, altho I wish progress were a little faster. Seems like any deviations from the strict regimen and suddenly my pants are hard to button once more. Nice to no longer be 250-something, but I sure wish it was 230-something rather than hovering at 242, then I'd feel like I'd made real progress and hadn't just shucked a pocket camera on weigh-in day... Had a nice long chat with TLB and I'm hopeful that I did a bit of successful recruiting for the upcoming BBQ; I'd like that to succeed and become a hacker shop-dweller's event of choice; wait and see..

The doggies are a great comfort but it's going to be a gruesome week taking care of 'em on my own while J goes to visit the grandkids during BBQ weekend. I miss her already and she hasn't even left yet!!

Running out of words. More another day. Time now: 8:39 PM.