Monday, July 26, 2004

If I had the money, I'd buy... 

this car.

Back from vacation 

Spent a lovely week in my hometown of Rockport, MA.  Weather was great.  Water was cold.  My parents were overwhelming in their graciousness and hospitality (as always).  Spent 1 day at Museum of Science, 3 at the beach, one hiking Halibut Point State Park.  I spent an extremely peaceful hour quietly rowing around the harbor.  Quick stop at brother Ben's house on the way out of town.

Lovely.  Can I retire now?


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Golf ball guts just ain't the same 

Ever slice open a golf ball as a kid? Of course you did - you can't graduate 6th grade without showing the scar on your thumb from where the utility knife/hacksaw blade/Swiss Army knife/screwdriver slipped and gashed you good while you were prying open that Slazenger 6.

Remember what the inside looked like? One big long rubber band, wrapped around itself a zillion times. You make a small cut into the mass of rubber and it starts to come undone, feeling like a ball of worms in your hand as the bands snap and peel away. You cut and cut and cut and what do you find in the center? I forgot, but cutting away all the rubber was sure fun; good for hours of entertainment on a slow July afternoon.

My brother Ed lives next to a golf course and the last time we went out there, Alex came home with about 2 dozen golf balls he had picked up in Ed's yard. Being the manly man that I am and anxious to pass on family traditions, I took Alex down to the shop to cut one open.

What the....?!! Where's the big ball of rubber? What's this hard, boring-looking thingie in the middle? Seems they've change construction methods sometime while I was growing up. Gone is the thrill of unraveling the rubber core. You're left with a grey-green stinky superball thingie.

No matter - Alex is unfazed and pleased with the results. We saw open a few more before calling it quits.

I went searching around on the web for the history of golf ball construction, trying to find out when the guts changed. I didn't find it, but found this tongue-in-cheek version of golf ball construction. Very imaginative.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Fun with boy 

Alex and I went to the Family Golf Center last night to hit a bucket of balls or two at the driving range. Alex has never done this before, but the last time we went there to play mini-golf, we wandered over to the driving range afterwards to watch people hit. He opined that he'd like to try that sometime. Lo and behold, yesterday's paper had a 2-for-1 coupon, so we headed out after dinner.

Hardly anyone there, as it is still dinnertime. We set up at the end of the row of tees, next to the batting cages, which provide additional entertainment between swings. I am no golfer by any stretch of the imagination - I have played maybe 4 rounds in my life. I do have a basic idea of what to do, so I set Alex up at his tee, and we go at it. I clang a few here, there and everywhere (much to Alex's amusement) before I get my first clean hit. A good golf hit gives the same satisfaction as a clean line drive in baseball, or the perfect overhead smash in tennis - you feel no shock, no vibration, and the sound is a clean, sharp *smack*. Aside from an annoying hook, I'm doing pretty well - 200 yards, some at 250.

Alex meanwhile is splitting his time between watching me, watching the batters in the batting cages, hitting his own balls, and watching the guy next to us. This guy is, well, not good. One of his hits somehow goes straight backwards and riccochets off the building behind us. Alex practically falls down laughing. I think the guy is gonna get sore, but he's laughing too. The guy also decides to use this automatic golf ball tee-upper machine, which provides additional entertainment.

More people are drifting in as the evening progresses. This real sharp-looking guy sets up next to Alex. He's got his own clubs, some monster-headed drivers that look $$, and golf gloves. I'm thinking that he's gonna show us how it's done. Wrong - he stinks too. He's sending grounders left and right (more Alex amusement), shanks one at the batting cages. Meantime I'm hitting 200, 250 with my crappy golf center driver and feeling just a bit smug, thank you very much.

We finish up our buckets, wander around a bit more, then go to Flayvors for ice cream. The perfect end to a great outing.


Monday, July 12, 2004

Deck Update 

Not a lot of deck activity this weekend - weather was too nice so I did other stuff. However I did get the vinyl siding re-installed underneath the ledger. I also hoisted one of the 20' Trex boards up onto the joists to see how it would look. Man that stuff is heavy and floppy! Kinda like a 20' section of turkish taffy.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The joy of a simple task 

I was going to title this post "Auto Shop Merit Badge", to go along with my HVAC and Geek merit badge posts. Last night I changed the differential fluid in the truck, and was going to write about that.

However, the thing worth writing about isn't the fact that I got this task done. Nor was that the point of the other 2 Merit Badge posts. The important thing for me, the thing worth writing about, is the pleasure I get in performing these tasks. In all 3 cases, I had the time to perform the task in an unhurried and unstressed manner. I could take the time to do all the things that needed to be done, without having to worry about deadlines or the like. Also, all 3 tasks weren't that complicated mentally, so my mind was free to wander about in a very pleasant free-form manner while my body completed the task.

Here's an example of what I mean. Part of changing the differential fluid on the truck involved removing the differential cover to let out the old fluid. Once you remove the cover you have to put it back (duh), but that involves scraping off the old sealant, cleaning the mating surfaces, etc. Mindless stuff, but as I sat outside last night doing it, it became a pleasant task. Temps were in the low 70's, sun was still bright, no mosquitos (yet), some kids were playing ball in the field next to our house, the ice cream truck came by, Emma was flitting in and out and around, and there I was scraping a differential cover and thoroughly enjoying the experience. Not just the experience of getting my hands all crapped up with 90-wt and Form-a-Gasket. The experience of living and doing and being.

That's what was important to me. That's what was worth writing about. The joy of a simple task.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A reader reacts to my blog 

Via email:

"Wow. Is that BORING. Who reads this stuff?? Steve, you described the nail sizes you used!! You need help. I don't think I get blogs just yet..."

I am unfazed.


HVAC Merit Badge 

I finally installed the ice maker in our fridge today. We got it when we bought the fridge - the delivery guys found that the first fridge was damaged so they gave us an ice maker for our troubles. This was maybe 6 years ago, and I finally got around to it.

When we re-did the kitchen we had the plumbers run some 1/4" soft copper tubing up behind where the fridge would go, so I didn't have to deal with any of that mess. The instructions were somewhat daunting - 4 pages long - but weren't terribly difficult. The only hitch came when I finally turned on the water - the damn shutoff valve the plumber installed was leaking! I stuck a wastebasket under it and completed the install. Turned out that the nut that presses down on the valve's packing was loose and needed to be tightened. Of course I didn't discover this until I went out and bought new packing.

So I get the thing in, hook it up and 3 hours later - ice! Joy! No leaks yet, either.


Deck Update 

Here's 3 days worth of deck updates, all in one easy-to-read format.

Friday 7/2
They let us out from work at 3:00, so I scurry to Taylor Rental to borrow a hammer drill. Recall that I needed to fasten some sort of support system for the beam at the house foundation. Hammer drill is a massive tool, but is fabulous at drilling holes. 4 3/4"x4" holes are drilled in 15 minutes. I lag a 12"x12" P/T wood block to the house, nail a joist hanger to it and slide the beam into place. Very secure.

Saturday 7/3
Joist day, baby! I get all joist hangers up, then all joists. I add blocking between the joists for stability, and then off to the pool for a swim.

Sunday 7/4
Using my 20' header joist as a makeshift metal brake, I bend my 8"x20' roll of copper flashing into a right angle. I then drag it into place, slide it up under the siding and nail it into place. I then wrestle the 2"x8"x20'header joist into position, and nail it in with 16d nails.

Monday 7/5
Looks like it might rain any minute, so I start by taking down the post braces and batter boards. Hmmm - rain is holding off so let's try to get some of the landing posts in place. Hmmm - rain is still holding off so let's get the landing framed out. Still no rain, so I install the landing joists. End up completing the landing.

Next - re-install the siding under the ledger, then either railing posts or decking.

Updated pics can be found here.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Ice Cream Truck! 

We have an ice cream truck in the neighborhood again. Last time we had one was maybe 6-7 years ago, when the kids were really little (and unaware of things like ice cream trucks). Now they are 10 and 7 and boy are they aware!

I didn't have an ice cream truck in my neighborhood growing up. The only time I'd see one is when I went to my grandparents in Oakdale, LI. Oh how we'd whine and pester our parents for something! And oh the hurt when they'd say something like "Nana's popsickles are just as good!" Butbutbutbutbut Nana's aren't rocket-shaped! Or race-car shaped! Or red-white-and-blue! Mommmmmm!

So anyway, now we have one again. It first came around during a thunderstorm last week. We heard this strange music playing outside. I knew immediatly but didn't feel like going out in the rain so I kept mum. Kids figured it out and we chased him down. Couple of guys in a somewhat-beatup Chevy van, its side plastered with items and prices. Kids bought SpongeBob pops; I bought something or other.

Now every evening they strain their ears for the seductive siren song of the ice cream truck. Last night we were all outside playing when someone first heard it. We knew it was somewhere in the neighborhood but couldn't figure out where. Song would drift in and out of range; sometimes over there and then over on the other side. Kids were in a lather of impatience, hope and anxiety that it would pass them by. Finally Emma and her friend couldn't stand it anymore, jumped on their bikes and tracked it down. They sent him our way. The music grew louder and louder as it came sloowwwllly around the corner. All the kids (there were a bunch that were playing baseball in the field next to our house) burst into a run rather than wait the 30 seconds until it arrived. I tag along to maintain some semblence of parental presence. Everyone buys something (even some grownups), and the truck moves on, still playing its Pied Piper chorus.

I'm sure as summer wears on (and their money runs out) the kids will relax a bit about the ice cream truck. For now, however, it is Disney on wheels. Who am I to deny them that?


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