Archive for February, 2014

Getting Old

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

I was at the counter of our local corner convenience store the other day buying a few things, when a voice greeted me. It was my neighbor, who, along with his brother, run a very successful dairy farm. I have tremendous respect for these two. They are smart, hard working and capable. These guys work outside all year long in all sorts of conditions, and are not much given to complaints.

Now this has been a hard winter up here. It started snowing early and kept at it. In addition, it has been very cold, and very windy; sometimes both at the same time. We are not strangers to these conditions, but the way they have lingered this year have put some of us on edge. Outside winter projects have had to be postponed again and again because working out there is just too hard.

My neighbor’s sole purchase appeared to be a large box containing numerous cans of beer. He had his purchase on the counter next to me, and he was slumped over the box, his face turned up toward me, with his eyelids looking pretty droopy.

Without a hint of irony, he looked at me, sucked in his breath, and said, “This shit is getting old.”

I did laugh a little as we both did, because it is a little funny. It was only when I got home and told the story to Alice that I let loose with a good solid laugh. About the time we can’t laugh about it anymore, we’d better be looking for some psyche-patching equipment.

Reply from the Getty

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Note: This reply came as a result of the letter I sent the Getty Museum, which is available HERE.

Hi Ted,

Thank you for sending us this remarkable resemblance to one of the great masters paintings. Bill must be very proud to be such a part of art history now. I will be forwarding your letter on to the paintings department as well to see if they appreciate your work as much as we do in the Visitor Services department.
Please do visit us again as I am sure there are other works around the galleries that will inspire your creative imagination.

Thanks again
Stacy Perkins-Smith
Visitor Services Supervisor

Thank-you Getty Museum

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Dear Friends at the Getty Museum,

First of all, I want to thank you for running such an excellent facility. In each of the last 3 visits I’ve made to Los Angeles, I’ve worked in a visit to the Getty, and hope to visit in the future as scheduling permits.

rembrandtI understand that Mr. Getty’s vision of his museum was that the public have an opportunity to engage with great art. On our last trip, while wandering through the exhibits, I came across Rembrandt’s “An Old Man in Military Costume” What struck me about this piece is the resemblance between the subject of the painting and my neighbor Bill. I asked the security guard if I could take a picture of it, and he politely explained I could do so as long as the flash was disabled.

When I got home, I printed the picture for Bill and showed it to him. He was skeptical about the resemblance until his young grandson came over, saw the picture, and said, “That’s Grandpa!”

billI did a little searching online, and found one can still purchase ostrich plumes for a reasonable price. I talked to an old friend who is active in our local university’s SCA club, and got her to let me borrow one of their gorgets. Armed with these important two costume pieces, I invited Bill over and spent about a half hour with the following result

The resemblance isn’t perfect, but we were both very happy with the result, and felt compelled to share it with you folks.

Once again, I’d like to thank you for all the good you do, and for adhering to Mr. Getty’s concept of making great art accessible to everyone.

Sincerely,

Ted Soldan

Belly Laugh

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Those of you that know me, understand I can’t resist a good laugh. And boy do I belt them out when the spirit moves me. The other day the spirit moved me with just a few words from my son, but first a little background.

The winters up here in the north western UP of Michigan are long and cold. We all know and understand this, and have become pretty good at getting by in all the ways you must; physically, mentally, psychologically, etc. We resist the inconvenience of the whole thing, and do our best to enjoy the advantages the season has to offer. But there are limits.

We recognize the “cabin fever” syndrome, where we become cranky for no reason, and grab any excuse to jump in the car and go somewhere, do something, just get the blood moving for a bit. In my opinion, any relationship that weathers a long cold winter is capable of weathering anything.

mailboxI happened to be at the house my son is renting in Hancock (about 20 miles from here) the other day, and was helping him with something or the other. As we were walking from the car to the house, he looked over at the garage, and said, “Oops, it looks like the mailbox is gone again.” And that is what started me on a good minute of belly laughs.

During the non-snow time of the year, the mailbox, which is attached to the side of the garage, is a comfortable height for the mailman to insert the letters. Over the course of this relentlessly snowy winter, several steps of his porch have disappeared beneath the snow. And if he doesn’t keep after it, the snow completely covers his mailbox, making it important for him to shovel it out so the mailman can crouch down and deliver his mail. At this point of the winter, which I was privileged to share with him, he decided that it was just too much effort to keep the mailbox open, when compared to the advantages of getting his mail.

I remember listening to myself laughing at his comment, and am pretty sure there was no hysteria present, but you can’t be sure when you are observing yourself. So keep an eye on me if you don’t mind, and if you see the telltale signs of acute cabin fever, book me a flight to Cancun.

Nelson Mandela

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

One of the great heros of my life is Nelson Mandela. Why? I guess I’m just a sucker for quiet dignity. There surely were people more powerful than him, people who could and did imprison him for daring to suggest people should be treated equally. I can imagine his jailers dusting off their hands, slapping each other’s shoulders, and saying, “well, that’s solved that!” As the years went by, this diminutive man endured what was tossed his way, but did not lower himself to the level of his captors. He continued to speak the truth, even though the retributions for his actions must have been harsh.

I’ve wondered myself how I would respond in a similar situation. And I doubt very much I’d come anywhere close to his level. One of the advantages of following the lives of great people is it gives one an ideal to aim for.

Although the scale is vastly different, this winter has been a jail of sorts for us. I get most of my satisfaction from working outside, and tend to take on more and more outside projects. My latest was to arrange to have logs that were generated from some recent work along the powerlines hauled to a spot just west of my workshop. When I agreed to take this thing on, I did not have a clear picture of how much there would be. As my neighbor used his logging truck to deliver load after load, and the logs piled up, it became clear to me I was in for a big job. “No problem,” I told myself. “I’ve got all winter.”

I had made satisfactory progress on the logs up until we left for a vacation in late November. The weather was getting cold by then, but there wasn’t much snow. When we got back in early December, oh my, it had snowed. So much so, that I decided to wait a bit before getting back into the log project. Wait I did, but the weather continued to be difficult to contend with. As the days went by, I think I got more and more stressed. I began to feel like I was in jail. That I had a clear idea what I would have done had I have been free, but freedom was elusive. And as I thought back on it today, I realized I’d put myself is a zone where my exceptions of the break I felt I needed became lower and lower. I also noticed myself not taking on projects that were more doable because it would be like admitting that this weather wouldn’t break.

Other years, we’ve had a fairly reliable “Janaury thaw,” where we’d get a few days of warm enough weather that the snow would fall off the metal roofs of the buildings. Not this year. Day after day the weather stayed cold and the snow kept coming. I reluctantly climbed the roof a while back and removed as much snow and ice as I could.

Of course we are poor judges of our own physiological state. But I do have to admit I have been interested in trying to catch a glimpse of myself from the corner of my eye. We are wired up in interesting ways, some Nelson Mandelas, some Ted Soldans, and everything in-between.

Old Guys Can Get Smarter

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Ok, I’m sure some of you took a look at the title, and said to yourself, or perhaps out loud, “you’re going to have to show me on this one Ted.” Especially you women. Well, please bear with me and see if it isn’t true.

boots1The other day, Alice had a dental appointment, and I had some work to do in town, so I drove her. Since the in-town project was outside, I wore my winter boots. Now these are serious boots. I dislike cold feet, but equally dislike being stuck inside in the winter, so I got some warm boots. They are 16″ tall, with full felt liners inside. These are the boots snowmobilers wear.

While Alice was at the dentist, I did my outside project, but was vaguely uneasy all the while. I usually drive my truck, which is a big F250 Super Duty with lots of pedal room. Today though, we drove the car, a Pontiac Vibe with a stick shift. With my big boots on, I could, by wiggling my toes just right, put the clutch in and hit the brake. I was pretty sure, though, after the experience of driving to town, that if I were to have to make a quick maneuver, that my feet could get tangled up. So here is what I did. When I picked Alice up, I ASKED HER TO DRIVE.

bootsI almost never ask her to drive, and she seems very content to be the passenger when we ride together. She is a fine driver, but for some reason, over the years, driving is one of the things I’ve just done. I did some rewinding, and couldn’t really think of another incident where I’ve felt that my driving might not be safe and asked for help. Me! Asking for help! As if.

So there you have it. Proof that as we age, we can possibly get smarter. An anomaly, you suggest? You might be right. In fact, you probably are right. For now though, I’m glowing with the knowledge that I’m on a run of one in a row.

It’s Alright It’s Alright It’s Alright, Propane

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Alice brought home some stories from her Tai Chi class the other day. One of the ladies knew a fellow who stopped by the local propane facility to ask a question, and was put to work answering the phones, because everyone was so busy. The local furnace repair contractors are only responding to calls where the furnace is dead and the house is cold. The cost for propane has risen from $1.70 per gallon to $5.50 per gallon, and the delivery trucks will only bring 100 gallons because supplies are so tight, even at that price.

Alice and I have a 250 gallon propane tank that feeds our backup furnace, and also runs the clothes dryer. After I heard her stories, I walked out to check the gauge, and saw we were at 40% full. With our wood stoves as the main source of heat for the house, and the propane as our backup, that amount would probably last us a month in this extremely cold weather. But to make sure we make it, we’ve turned down the thermostats.

We normally keep them around 60 degrees, but moved them down to 50 for the duration. The furnace pretty much only comes on at night or when we’re away during the day, so the house is almost always warmer than that. The temperature got down to minus 4 last night, and even with a hefty wood stoking last night, the house was a touch over 50 degrees this morning.

There is a large difference between a 50 degree house and a 60 degree house, but it isn’t as negative as I had thought it would be. I surely was motivated to put my slippers on rather than pad around in my socks. And I paid great attention to all 3 wood stoves this morning. After a couple of hours of effort, the house is up into the low 60s; still pretty cool, but we’re going to warm up shortly.

And let me put in a plug for wood heat in general. When the house is cold, you can snuggle up to the woodstove as soon as it starts to give out heat. Regular central heating means you have to heat up the whole house before you warm up, unless you have forced air blowing up from the floor, and you have a Marilyn Monroe dress on.

Turning down the thermostats was the right thing to do. There are a lot of people that have no other heat than their propane furnaces. If we can stay out of the market until this cold snap ends, we won’t be competing with them for a scarce and expensive resource. And realistically, fossil fuels are non-renewable and will be running out in future generations. If we can figure out a non-destructive way to stay warm in the winter without consuming scarce petroleum, I think we should.