Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ooo let's go for a car ride.  To love life this much, to relish every waking moment, every moment I'm around someone else, every moment I'm out in the open air, to go... to.... the dog park!  Oh boy! ...Uh, hey... we're not stopping, Andy.  Dog park.  On the right...  Meanie.  I shall roust you with slobber at 3AM for this.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Full moon fever

The last week or so I've worked more than I have in years.  The money's good.  The days fly by because it's that kind of work, like in grad school.  Setting up an engine lab.  Wiring, assembling, re-building, re-wiring, etc.  But it's June and it's nice out - just like June in grad school.  Now where's the lake and the terrace and the sailboats and the Leinie's?  Far away.  Tonight, however, I have me a moon in the sky like a big yellow-orange pizza pie. And tomorrow I have work.

Because I like her, Neko Case.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Porch begins

What begins as a fix-the-floor and restore-the-railing upkeep project has taken a bit of a turn.  The columns that hold my porch roof up are, in fact hollow - without the post inside I was expecting.  They are caving in on the rotting floor beneath them.

From the outside, after careful -surgical- stair removal:

And, after pulling out the cedar ceiling in the basement below, I have this view of the column support:

So... today, up goes the roof.  Up up in the air.  This should be fun.  The neighbors are certainly amused.

House for sale

The park next door (West Park) has been closed all summer for a huge drainage project - which is a bummer since it's my shortcut walking downtown.  So anyway, there's a couple of very interesting unique homes at the other end of the park that I haven't walked by in a while.  Walking home on Sunday morning I went down Chapin and saw this house for sale:

I really like the craftsman details on the porch of this house - a little jealous in fact.  It's a few years newer than mine and a good bit closer to downtown with less street traffic.  But.. no driveway and no garage.  Not that I ever use those luxury items at my house... heh

Anyway, it's a comparable home to mine, just as quirky in that it's only two bedrooms and lacking in some of the modern "must-haves" that realtors like.  So it's encouraging to see that it's gone fairly quickly at what I imagine is close to their asking price.  Encouraging for me.  Not that I'm going anywhere.

Well, if I can't buy the house I might as well steal some design themes for my next project...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Way out west

If you need something to get lost in for hours, follow this guy's ride report.  Montreal to Vancouver to Tucson to El Salvador.  Amazing photography.  Kind of the gold standard for bike photography, putting my pre-Spring ride to shame several times over.  Starts slow but builds quick after page four or so I'm hooked.

I'm not really drawn to "adventure" riding - always seems a bit cliche, with the BMW's, the knobby tires and expensive gear. But, man... to go there.

One of those things that makes you realize how amazing the internet can be.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not building four mailboxes

The last couple of weeks free time was spent overhauling my front steps.  I had to pull, re-grade and re-lay all the brick pavers to deal with the erosion and settling on the hill.  That fix (so far) has proven a winner.  And then I needed to get a hand rail on my steps because of my many concerns regarding America's aging population.  (I've always been a bit of a demography buff)  Anyway, the stairs posed a challenge for my usual geometry because of their lack of straight-lines.  So I came up with this personalized "code-approved" design.

And I think it came out really good. My neighbor across the street, Jake, was watching the second post go in and wondered why the hell I was building two mailboxes.  Then I had to leave just the posts in for a while while it rained, I worked OT, etc. And it really looked like I put four wooden crosses on my front yard. Ehh... it's Ann Arbor.

Anyway, it's the front of the house and it's nice to show off in my own silly way. It's also nice working out there. The neighbors come by and chat and all give approval. I have really laid-back neighbors, which is good for a lazy irresponsible single-guy homeowner like me.

Yes, but the point of this post for an otherwise minor and uninteresting project is this:  I found I really like working on this exterior / landscape woodwork. The materials were a lot more forgiving than cabinetry and I like how my concept came to me and how it worked with the yard and the house.  Next step is the front porch, which will be more-or-less a basic re-finishing but I may still look to add some of my own touches.  From there, I've already got ideas for next year's side-yard garden-ararium.


About my job, cont'd

I usually leave for work around 6:30.  I get in just after 7, which is really too early.  But my intention is always to minimize the hours in the afternoon I'm in a cubicle.  I have to drink more coffee than I want to make it through this early start without becoming the amusing head-bobbing-as-he-nods-off-seven-times-a-minute guy.

I sit in a cube in the middle of a small-ish area (say 20 or so cubes) and I have no windows or natural light.  I sit directly below a paging intercom.  I do not enjoy this.  We have mobile phones, SMS and two flavors of voicemail.  The pager routine may make sense on the shop floor, but it's silly in an office.  Maybe it's a regional thing.  But I digress... I have a small cube with just my chair.  No visitors chair or B.S. table.  No one in my immediate vicinity works with me, but that's OK.  They're all nice.  As always, I keep a pretty sparse workplace.  Was a time I thought it'd be nice to surround myself with all sorts of personal effects to humanize the cubicle, but I've never gotten to that spot with a job.  Where I identified with that desk as my place.  Even when I've held a spot for three years, it never has that comfort.  And I think I'm OK with that.  Maybe if I had an office.  Ooo now I'm dreaming.

Until recently most of my work was at my desk, researching and documenting software to control this burner contraption I described last time.  Lately I've been returning to my old familiar role as lab-rat.  Around the corner from my cube is the lab, which consists of five engine test rooms (dynos) a couple of sophisticated gas-flow labs, and a bunch of "acoustic" rooms with the weird traingular sound-absorbing things surrounding you.  I just deal with the dynos.  And also the prototype vehicles we develop for the customers for this burner contraption.  Being a lab rat means getting computers to work properly, wiring and re-wiring, doing mechanic work (since we really don't have any) and a host of troubleshooting.  It's the sort of stuff that takes up all your time when it gets going, so all the brainy-yet-boring desk work I was into back in April is basically gone.

There's no place nearby for lunch.  We're surrounded by hayfields, two farms and a lake.  Two miles down at exit 150 on the interstate there's a Mobil Station with a Subway.  So... I bring my lunch every day.  I usually make peanut butter and honey on wheat bread.  Because I like it.  May not sound like much, but it's something I look forward to every day at 11:30.  And I think it's moderately nutritious.  When I'm cooking a lot I bring leftovers instead which is more exciting and showy.  (leftovers!)  Lately I'm not doing dinner at the house so much.  I eat lunch at my cube to minimize my lunch time to, again, get out of work as soon as possible when possible.  And there's the added incentive of less lunchtime = more $$, but we'll cover that another time.

Every day at 12:00 I go for a walk with Tom, usually Gary and most of the time Eric.  We walk on the 1.2-mile test track behind the building most of the time.  Or...when conditions are favorable we hike about the same distance on a two-track clearing through the woods and a corner of a hayfield to the lake.  Which is nice because the lake always smells like summer to me.  Tom and Gary and another guy in my group worked together previously at Visteon, a big bankrupt supplier towards Detroit, before taking the ever-so-common "package deal" to leave.  They're both a good bit older than me, but working together and b.s.'ing as we walk it's never really noticeable.  I consider myself well-versed at being middle-aged, at least between the hours of 7 and 3:30.  Tom's a pretty committed motorcycle commuter, which I have respect for.  He has an old Kawasaki sport-tourer with almost 100k on it - basically if it isn't icy or pouring when he leaves in the morning, he's on the bike.  Gary is an amateur beekeeper.  Turns out bees are pretty interesting.  Eric's the boss, about halfway between my age and the other guys.  He's pretty cool.  He took this job just days before interviewing me so he's the new guy also.  He had to leave a managing job near his home when the company relocated to Canada.  So now he drives 90+ minutes each way from Oxford to work here.  Tough stuff, but he's been a great boss for me so far.

Anyway, that's my work life post-GM in a nutshell.  A rather plain and unsalted nutshell.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cat Power

Old video and maybe a little bit odd.  But a pretty girl and a pretty voice...

On a rainy night. It's been raining a lot lately.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The garden liked May

And so did the visitor to my garden. 

Dum dee dum dee dum dum...I'm hungry.  First I'll try parsley.  OK just a few bites I gotta go update my blog.  OK, I'm back let's try some basil - eww, don't like that.  Ok, back to the parsley - oh no... look, the parsley's all gone.   Hm - this over here's new.  Up in a box, these must be tomahtoes [yes, my visitor pronounces it "tomahtoes"].  I'll try a bite of this and a leaf of that.  Ooo I think I like tomahtaillos the best.  I'll just eat every freakin' leaf but one...

Thus the unsightly chicken wire went up.  Why couldn't my visitor enjoy lavender?  Or mint?  Or bamboo??  Answer:  because then he'd be an English-by-way-of-Kentucky Panda bear.  Think about that.

To whom shall I give these roses?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bullet points

No point in organizing this:
  • The most ridiculous-yet-valuable website in the world has to be the "Geocities-izer".  Very intelligent people most likely of my generation have developed a tool to turn any modern web page into the formatting of our youth - Geocities.  
    Dizzying tiled background clip art.  Animated GIF files.  16-color pallette.  And, of course, the ubiquitous MIDI file playing in the background.  Just playing around with the site, I've already heard MIDI Sheryl Crow, MIDI Semisonic and MIDI Counting Crows.  The New York Times really should consider adding MIDI "Mr. Jones" to their homepage.  It's totally them.  "Make any site look like it was made by a 13-year old in 1996".  Fantastic site, like a time capsule to our children.  Next I want access to the random phrase/image generator that are used to make all those weird ads that show up on the weather sites.  The ones that say "Obama Tells Moms to Go Back to School" paired with a picture of a guy who looks like a wolfman.
    • Fact about robins:  Babies eat approximately 100 meals a day in the 14-16 days they nest.   Entirely worms and grubs during the developmental stages, unlike the mature adult's diet of mostly berries and greens.  The parents are quite busy during this time hopping around my conveniently grub-nurturing lawn.  I know all this because my robins are into round two for 2010.  Read on..
    • Some days my headphones are more important than others.  Lately, I've been looking for a new soundtrack.  Ted Leo and the Pharmacists always gets me motivated and he's got another good new album.  And also Broken Social Scene a few weeks ago.  They are usually the perfect stop-my-brain-from-pummeling-me-while-I'm-stuck-sitting-at-this-windowless-cubicle listen.  The first track on "Forgiveness Rock Record" doesn't disappoint.  To steal a YouTube commenter's opinion - "I'll take this song in pill form please."

    • Tornado sirens are going off right now.  What the hell do I do?  I live in a city.  Come on.
    • Fact about mourning doves, of which I have none, but I came across reading about robins..."The male looks for a good place to build the nest, once he finds a good place he calls the female and she either approves or disapproves. Once they choose a site the male finds small twigs and delivers them individually to her by standing on her back. She arranges them around her and uses her body to make a simple bowl."
    • I can't make a coherent thought out of my last bullet point. It's going nowhere. I'll just leave it as "peace on earth, peace to all the suffering and peace to all the people I care about".
    • May wasn't that good. Go June.

      Tuesday, June 1, 2010

      Furniture, Part 7a

      The is-it-a-bookshelf-or-is-it-a-dresser furniture creation boondoggle finally went together OK.  Making the drawers was a first of sorts.  I went for broke on the first try at "cabinetry" by using a flush fit, no overhangs on my two 29-inch wide drawers.  So I had to get the measurements just right ("dead nuts" to use the King's English) for no gaps with the frame boards and of course no interference either when closing.  Overhanging drawer faces allow a bit more slop in the fit.  I should have been aware of this as I was envisioning the thing.  Because I'm really not equipped for precision fixturing.  So I measured about 50 times all the hole positions, centerlines, etc.  Norm Abram shakes his head in dismay at all this lost time cutting into the bottom line... to think I want to be a cabinetmaker....tsk tsk.

      Drawer quasi-joinery meant I got to use my most showy German power tools.

      The neighbors must be so impressed.  I made the drawer faces out of MDF, with the intention all along that they'd be painted black.  Then I had the idea to make decorative inlays with a crafty thing the ladies call a "stencil".  Upstairs to the paint department and some "CFC-free" inhalant indulgences.  Brain cells aren't solving my problems these days, so why not mow through a few cans of Krylon?

      Anyway, a stencil job for the big finish.  Patience, yes.

      The neighbors must be so impressed.  I could complain at this point about how the S4S white pine I got at Fingerle did not take the 5:1 Minwax Red Oak/Jacobean stain blend NEARLY as well as the dripping-wet crap at Home Depot I used on the bed project.  I could point out how I was sloppy with the glue on my fancy biscuit joints and it shows now in a couple spots.  Or I could ramble on about why furniture lacquer spray is not the way to go on top of spray paint in high humidity.  But whatever.  The finished product is satisfactory.  Drawers fit and slide pretty damn good.  Small victories.  Whats' next?

      The neighbors must be so impressed.

      Whatever, a bird and a tree for my bedroom fort up in the trees.  Actually, a robin and a tree.