Archive for January, 2013

Click, Click, Click

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

All our buildings have metal roofs with fairly steep pitches. The “modern” construction roofs have 9/12 pitches, and the old part of our house is about 12/12. The combination of pitch and slick metal means the winter snow accumulation often slides off during warm spells in winter, sometimes with thunderous consequences. We’ve had the house actually shake when chunks of snow and ice finally let go.

The other evening the snow played a trick on me that was a new one. I was winding down for the day around 8:00 or so when I heard a clicking sound upstairs. The click, kind of like a large pat of water hitting the ground, came quite regularly every 5 seconds or so. I was just passing through the first time I heard it, so didn’t pay much attention. An hour or so later I had my pajamas on and was in bed when I noticed the same clicking at the same rate as before. It had probably been going on all this time. Hmmm…

I walked around the room listening until I determined the sound was coming from the “hip” section of the room, where the roof starts its diagonal climb to the peak. It seemed that whenever I put my ear to the correct place on the wall, that the click seemed to be coming from somewhere else along the hip. I moved throughout the room, and could not pinpoint the location. I was getting somewhat worried that it could be water, and any time I hear water dripping in the house, a thorough investigation is called for.

roofsnowSo I reluctantly put on a coat, boots, and headlamp, and headed outside. My reluctance to go out in the cold dark was in contrast to Franko’s, who acted like he had just won the lottery, “Oh boy! another walk outside!” There was a sheet of snow hanging over the edge of the roof that caught my attention as soon as I got out there. I shined the headlamp up there and just as I heard the click again (much louder outside) I thought I saw the overhang quiver.

I stood out there for several more iterations and the results were unmistakable. The snow sheet was moving down the incline a fraction of an inch each 5 seconds, and then stopping as if pausing for breath. Later on that evening, Alice came to bed and commented that there seemed to be a clicking sound in the room. I explained the cause as I had investigated it. She said she hoped it didn’t continue for long, because she was having trouble sleeping. A very few minutes later, something gave, and the whole side of the roof slid off. We each smiled in our half sleep, and drifted off.

We’re Taking Over

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

My friend Andy Peed posted a link on his facebook page that I have visited and replayed dozens of times. It is a youtube containing the section of the 2012 Kennedy Center Awards show that honored Led Zeppelin with the performance of “Stairway to Heaven.” The song is awesome, of course, but the way it was staged by multiple contemporary musicians was very inspiring to me.

As I watched it over and over, it was the shots of the audience that grabbed me. Some history is probably relevant here…

In my teens and early 20s, Led Zeppelin was the devil’s music. The adults in my life didn’t understand it, and seemed uninterested in trying to understand it, labeling it as decadent, just noise, etc. The relationship between the generations in those days was not, at least from my point of view, of one generation trying to shepherd the next into adult positions of responsibility, but of rejection of the entire counter-culture and the young people themselves that attempted to embrace it. I remember not liking this attitude very much, but making my peace with it because there seemed to be little I could do about it.

Enter the shots of the audience during the “Stairway” performance. We’ve grown up! My generation was in the audience nodding their heads and smiling ear-to-ear throughout the lovely music. We’ve taken over!

I have to admit I neither understand nor listen to much of the popular music of today. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an entire Brittany Spears song, for example. During a trip to Los Angeles last year with my Mom, we took a tour ride through Beverly Hills, and saw a car pull into a driveway. The driver said it was probably Sheryl Crow, and was disappointed when she wouldn’t get out of her car until we moved on. “Who is Sheryl Crow,” I wondered? I still neither know nor care.

The difference, I think, is that I don’t seen any of this new music evil. New avenues in music are being explored by the new generation, and I think it is great. Go for it, and while you’re at it, offend some people! Bend the limits, because that is what good art should do.

Winter Work

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

It has been cold and snowy here. So cold that it is almost useless to try to do much outside. Even starting the plow vehicle, you can hear the lubricating fluids inside the vehicle sounding like tar or bread dough… not doing much lubricating, but just kind of batting around in there. This surely is the time of year that is hardest on the vehicles, at least until they warm up.

It has made me think about the efforts to use the arctic regions for mineral exploration and oilfield development. I imagine the folks that work up there are somewhat younger and in better condition than I am, but still it must be a rough life working so far north in much colder conditions than the ones we’re experiencing. As I’m fond of saying, “everything is harder in this weather.” And when you are doing work that is dangerous for the environment, accidents can be catastrophic. Perhaps it is time for us to rethink the breakneck speed we’re developing the resources of our planet. Maybe we need to take a deep breath, make some serious efforts to reduce our population, and reduce our rate of consumption. Before it is too late.

It’s Getting Harder

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

forks2I got out into the woods around noon today. The forks stayed on the trailer just fine as you can see in the picture. The dozer was cranky from the cold weather, but reluctantly started with some help from brother starting fluid. I let it idle quite a while before I tried to move. Then it was a foot forward and a rest, and a foot backward with another rest. Finally I got the feeling that the vital fluids were viscous enough to move forward, and things felt pretty good.

I drove up to the trailer and snatched the forks off the back as slick as a whistle. I set them off to the side, and drove out to the woods, parked, and started setting chokers. The logs I had in my sights for removal from the woods were in a pretty inaccessible spot. I had to spool out the entire 100′ of heavy cable from the winch spool. As the cable spools out, it gets heavier, and catches on things as I attempt to drag it to the logs. Once there, I need to get the chokers under each log (not as easy in the winter with the frozen ground as it is in the summer.) I kept at it and managed to soak my chopper mitts through.

Once everything was choked, I walked back to the dozer and engaged the winch. Things spun and whined, and then they groaned and stopped. I walked out to the end of the main line, and saw that two of the logs had gotten wrapped around a big maple tree. So they had to be unhooked, led around the tree in question, re-hooked, and tried again. This time I managed to skid the entire load to the dozer. I unhooked everything and, using one choker, was able to lasso all four of the logs I’d just moved onto one, leaving 3 to use to skid another batch.

Similar problems occurred this time, but I did get another batch of logs skidded up to the dozer. I wrapped a chain around the choker ends, hooked the other end to the dozer, got on the machine, and drove off to the landing with my nice load dragging behind me.

Once at the landing with this load, I unhooked the chokers, hooked the forks back onto the bucket, and started loading the logs onto the forks. I learned today that the snow isn’t really your friend for this part of the job. Using my hookaroon and cant-hook, I got a fork-load of logs on, and proceeded to lift them up in order to load them on the trailer. The slippery logs squirted all over the place. It took me three tries to get all the logs loaded onto the trailer.

Then I drove the scout back home, wishing to myself that I not get stuck on the way. The scout lived up to its reputation and moved us flawlessly through the snow and back to the house. Hopefully tomorrow I can saw up and split what I have hauled so far.

Will I haul more this winter? I don’t think so. I’ve learned that I’m not as strong as I once was, and found myself sliding around on my feet out there. A fall at my age (60) can cause more problems than I think I need right now. So I’m rethinking the process, and will do my best to keep you posted.

Lifting Heavy Things

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The other night we were ready for bed and winding down, when I said, “I know how I’m going to load those forks.” From across the room, Alice lowered her book and looked at me with a well practiced indulgent expression and said, “What?!”

“The forks for the Dozer,” I said. “I know how I’m going to load them onto the trailer; I’ve just had an idea.” Even from across the room, I could see her eyes roll back in her head. I said a few more words, and we both returned to our reading.

You see, I had taken the dozer out to the woods a week ago in order to skid the logs out and haul them home so I could work on cutting and splitting as time allowed this winter. The problem was when I took the dozer out, I forgot to put the forks on the bucket. I need the forks in order to lift the logs onto the trailer. I’d devised one way I might be able to get the forks onto the trailer. It involved trying to use the come-along to jack the forks up there, and then chaining them down. It seemed like a bad idea considering the forks weigh more than 200#, but it was the best I could come up with.

forksMy new idea was to wrap a chain around the forks, and drag them into the garage behind the Scout. Then I’d bring my crane around, and pick the forks up with the chainfall. Then I could easily move the forks out of the way, back the Scout out, hook it up to the trailer, back the trailer into the garage and lower the forks onto the trailer.

This was a WAY better idea than the come-along one, and by golly, it worked just the way I figured it would. The forks are now firmly chained down onto the back of the trailer. Assuming I can drive out to the woods without them falling off, I should be able to snatch them off the trailer with the dozer and get back to work.

Why not just drive the dozer back from the woods and carry the forks back out there on the bucket? I did give that idea some thought, but hated the thought of driving the dozer all the way back home for nothing. So this is what I came up with, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Unfortunately, it stayed cold today contrary to the predictions, so I just parked the Scout and hope to take advantage of warmer weather tomorrow to get the job going again.

High Five to Faye

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

fayenalicesmallFaye Ravi, Alice’s mom, was a remarkable woman. She was not the type of person that got her way by bullying others. Yes, get her way she often did. One of my favorite stories about her goes something like this:

The family bought a refrigerator, and it turned out to be a lemon. Faye went through the normal procedures to try to get it fixed and/or replaced. Perhaps because she was a woman in the 1950s, no one would take her seriously. She began a letter writing campaign designed to get the satisfaction she felt she deserved. Mind you, these were in the days of manual typewriters, and if you wanted a copy for yourself, you had to insert a sheet of carbon paper between the two pieces of paper. If you made an error (she rarely did) you had to razor blade the ink off the copy.

When Faye got no satisfaction at one level of whatever organization she was attacking, she tucked the cc (carbon copy) in her ever expanding folder, and went the next level higher. This “dialog” went on for months, while the file folder grew and grew. The story goes the quest ended with the president of the corporation that manufactured the refrigerator. This man saw to it that she not only got a new refrigerator, but boxes of food to put in it, and an apology from the company for all the needless hassle she had encountered.

Something similar happened to me recently. This past summer, Alice, Franko and I made an end-of-the-summer trip to Elkins to visit Steve and John. We rented a car while we were there, and unfortunately, on the way back to Elkins from a trip, the car hit a discarded bungee cord on the side of the road, and it caused significant damage to the car. You can read more about that adventure by CLICKING HERE. Since I had declined to purchase the additional insurance for the rental, I was responsible for and paid the $500 deductible for the damage to the vehicle.

Fast forward about 60 days. I was reading Google News as usual at my computer, and came across an article about, “hidden credit card perks most people don’t know about.” I clicked on it and read the article. It turned out one of the perks was automatic insurance on rental cars, as long as you paid for the vehicle rental with your credit card. I called Visa the next day and learned that indeed we were eligible for coverage, although (there is almost always an “although”) we were to have reported the claim within 45 days. The agent explained this was not a hard and fast rule, however. I told the agent I’d like to go ahead and file the claim and take my chances.

What followed was a blizzard of requests for information. I needed to provide a copy of the credit card statement showing I’d charged the vehicle, copies of all the insured vehicles (to make sure all had $500 deductibles) copies of the rental agreement, copies of the insurance claims, etc. etc. etc. I had a checklist and emailed numerous documents to the Visa insurance company. A few days later, I’d get a form email saying I had not supplied the following, followed by a list. The list always included things I was sure I had included. This went on for a long while. Sometimes I’d call the insurance company and get them to open my case and explain to me exactly what was missing. So back I’d go, calling, digging, scanning, and sending.

The final time I called Visa, I was near my wit’s end. I’m thinking that by this time I’d sent them over 30 documents. I spoke with the rep, and he told me that as far as he was concerned, I’d provided everything they needed, and the claim should be processed shortly. Yay!

Some time later, I got a letter from them, saying my claim had been denied because I had not submitted the original claim within the 45 day period. I am not a violent man, and I’m happy to say I didn’t slam any doors or kick any chairs. I was pretty upset though. If I hadn’t qualified because of the 45 day limit, then why did they put me through the whole send-us-the-documents thing? I let the letter sit for quite some time, and finally called the insurance company back and asked for an explanation. The fellow was very apologetic, but said there was nothing he could do; the claim had been denied.

I asked him if there was a appeal process, and he said there was. I immediately said I wanted to file an appeal. Guess what? I needed to supply them with MORE PAPERWORK; a letter stating why I felt my appeal had merit. I wrote the appeal letter and sent it along to them. Some weeks later, I got a phone call from the appeals department with their determination… my appeal had been denied. She was very apologetic, but that was that. I did tell her that on the last phone call I had made to their company, the agent told me that my claim payment would be processed. “He shouldn’t have told you that,” she said. And she promised to listen to the phone conversation and get back to me.

She called me back several days later with the news that, based on what the agent told me on the phone, they’d reversed their decision, and would pay the $500 deductible. Alice happened to be sitting next to me on the couch when I got that call. When I hung up, I asked Alice to give me a high five on behalf of her Mom. Tenacity doesn’t always pay off, but giving up never pays off. I don’t think I made much per hour for my efforts when all is said and done, but I have to say I got about as much satisfaction from this endeavor as I have in a long time. Thank-you Faye Ravi for being an inspiration to us all.

January Fog

Friday, January 11th, 2013

I recently heard that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the US. Our weather has been kind of goofy this winter. We had one big snow that caused us to polish up our plows and attack the banks. We did this with the seasoned sense of the inevitable… more would be coming, that much was for sure.

Except it hasn’t really come. We’ve gotten very little snow since then. The snow removal equipment has been sitting idle, and what little snow we’ve had on the ground has barely held its own compared to the little that has fallen out of the sky. It has been in the 40s for the past several days, and tonight on our after-supper walk, it was foggy! In January!

It was neat to watch the play of the light from the headlamp. Sometimes during heavy snow storms, the car lights can cause a hypnotic dance of the snowflakes… one which the driver must not indulge in, I’ve found. It can get so interesting that the demands of the road might not be met. But with the headlamp, you can get away with it. I found the distance at which the fog swallowed the entire light beam, and the closer distance in which I could see the trees. If I looked up close, I could see brightly lit water droplets moving and waving about in an interesting dance.

Frozen Twigs

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Yesterday, I was walking with Franco along the powerlines that cross our property. The company running these high capacity lines is widening the right-of-way in order to replace the aging wooden towers with new steel ones. Their crews have been in the neighborhood for the past week or so, and I wanted to see how they were progressing. As we were walking along, thinking nothing of it, I stepped over some small cherry branches they had cut. The trigs of these branches had gotten into some water after they were cut, and were frozen to the earth. One of my boots got tangled up in this twig mess. My other foot came forward quickly to compensate, and it also got stuck. Down I went.

It was one of those times that everything happens so quickly that you can only try to remember what happened. My mittened hands came forward and when I hit the ground with them, I said, “ungh!” I’d say that my knees and hands hit pretty much simultaneously. I quickly got up and did a quick system check. Nothing seemed amiss, and I continued the walk. The first thoughts I remembered were about how my arms caught my body so effectively. Had my knees have had to absorb most of the fall, I think I may not have gotten up so gingerly. I remember thinking, “lucky you do all those pushups.”

Each morning when it is time to do the exercises, I have a mental battle with myself. Most days I win the battle (how can I lose when the battle is with myself?) and do the exercises. What I don’t get very much of during the active part of my day is positive reinforcement for the exercising. Yesterday, I got some, and I strongly recommend exercise to anyone that is not bed-bound. If you walk, the chances are good that one day you’ll fall. And the better shape you are in when it happens, the more likely it is you’ll get up, dust yourself off, and continue your journey.

Bandwidth

Friday, January 4th, 2013

I was working on my computer this afternoon, when I noticed the internet was a bit slow. When I turned around, I suddenly figured out why:

laptops

As we were joking around about what a modern non-nuclear family we were becoming, John announced to everyone that he had just posted something interesting on his facebook page. Having had about enough of actual human interaction by this time, I turned around to my computer and launched facebook to see what he’d just posted.

Note, parts of this post were shamelessly enhanced to increase its entertainment value.

Stomach Flu

Friday, January 4th, 2013

One of the nice things about the intestinal flu, is your awareness of and appreciation for your GI track is enhanced. The various pains and gurgles force one to remember the anatomy lessons you’ve largely forgotten; “Oh yes, that must be my small intestine acting up right now!”

Another insight has to do with one’s relative pep. I see the most humanity when I do my weekly errands, and can’t help but think when I see other folks things like, “if they’d only work out some more, they’d have a little more pep.” It is easy to be sanctimonious about such things until your personal pep vanishes into a puff of smoke. “Oh, that must be how it feels,” I found myself saying.

Alice and I do most things together, and this stomach flu was almost an olympic synchronized event. She has been about a day ahead of me throughout, so I can kind of see what is coming down for the road for me. We’re both up to a couple of small meals a day now, and can foresee the time when food will actually start to look good to us again. Meanwhile it is poached eggs and toast, potatoes, rice, and not much else. Even my beloved iced tea has been back burnered these past few days. I try to listen to the wisdom of my body and not rush the eating thing too much. The consequences of failure are high.