Saturday, September 23, 2017

Making (Security) Movies and Watching Movies

Front porch
What a day! In honor of the legal action against the contractor, I decided that security cameras around the property were a Good Thing. Costco had the top-ranked system (Arlo by NetGear) on sale so I got a set of three. They are completely wireless (including power) and incredibly easy to install. Now we'll see how they do longterm. The images are great--even the night vision IR ones shown here. So far I have three, but as easy as they are, I think I'll add 3-4 more.

Back deck
This morning I exchanged some texts with a friend and when she asked me how I was, I said slower. That's the honest truth, and I just have to learn to accept it. I want to go and go and go (the spirit is willing), but after a few hours, I poop out (the body is not). This morning I managed to install the cameras, do a bit of work on another project, and practice piano. Then, somehow, it was time to go to Lego Ninjago. Eh.

Fortunately when we got home, Repo Man was waiting for us. We had been wanting to watch it in honor of the life and work of Harry Dean Stanton who died a week ago. It's a movie that's definitely held up and was perfect for washing the taste of Ninjago out of my mind--that one was strictly for kids. I should've known we were in for it when the first preview shown before the movie was for the upcoming My Little Pony the Movie, which appears to have nary a smidge of irony in it. I was left wondering why it's coming to the big screen at all. The only movie previewed that I had ANY interest in is Jumangi, and it'll be a tough sell for the spouse.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Live Escape Rooms

Went to a live escape room called the Austin Lockout today for Zaga's birthday. It was amazingly fun! I was feeling pretty confident about half way through the time because I thought we were halfway through the puzzles. Turns out we were about 20% through, and with the two of us it would have taken us easily two hours to do it with no hints--and there's no guarantee we would have made it even then. It's a fascinating business model and the room was really intricate in the way it presents information. I feel like I'm being really coy, but I'm not even going to give a hint of what you do in there because anyone who is here in Austin and has the opportunity to do it really should. Now enough babbling. Going to take a picture and get to bed!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dragging My Sorry Butt To Bed

Today was one of those days that started out derailed from the start and it (and I) never recovered. Dave and I both woke at 2:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Dave also has a cold so he's pretty miserable awake or asleep so he got up and never did go back to sleep. I read until 6:30 when I was finally able to get back to sleep. Of course falling back to sleep at 6:30 when workmen are coming at 8:30 is not very much time to sleep, and I dragged all day.

Dave took the J to school and then came back home to the Nyquil and bed. I stayed up and puttered--feeling the day drag on interminably, but unable to kickstart myself into getting anything done. I did get in a kiln load and almost stopped before doing the last two pieces (which don't need to ship yet as I don't have the stands for them), but I decided to push on through the heat and humidity in the studio. (It was over 90 degrees and steamy in there today.) And I shouldn't have as I blew the layout on both pieces and have to remove the first layer and a half of glass and redo them tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or Monday.

At the end of the day I dozed a little in the recliner (when did I become an old man?!) before Jessie got home. Poor J--she's coming down with the cold too and can't afford to miss any more school so she has to tough through it.

Now Dave's in bed, I'm pretty sure Jessie's in bed even though she has homework, and I'm going to give in and go to bed too. Tomorrow morning I have a surprise activity planned for Zaga's birthday and then I'm taking her to lunch so I had better get some rest.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Stages Of Learning a New Skill

Today was supposed to be a full ceramics day but I came home mid-afternoon to pay home bills and unsnarl my medical bills. *Sigh*. Paperwork just made me tired and aggravated, so back to ceramics!

Whenever you attempt to learn a new skill you pass through a couple of distinct stages in the process. At first--no matter what you're learning--the teacher gives you instructions on how to do something, and you blindly follow them with no understanding of what they mean and no physical feeling of doing them correctly. Then comes the moment where your brain connects to whatever part of your body is trying to pick-up the new skill, e.g. your hands, and the brain remembers the instructions, and the hands know the feel of what they're supposed to do. Oh they probably can't do it yet, but they can feel where they're going. Or it could be your mouth as you pronounce a new language or sing a song. Whatever the body part is, the practice begins. You can feel your mistakes, and you frustratedly fumble around trying to overcome them. You get to the point where you can concentrate and will your body into a posture or series of actions to get the result you want. Eventually--if you practice enough--you get to the point where you don't think with your conscious mind anymore about doing anything, you just do it, and it flows as naturally as breathing.

Today I had the moment while I was throwing the clay where I could feel both where it was and where it should be as I manipulated it. I could feel when I did something that was going to cause the piece to fail before it failed. I am still abysmal at correcting my errors and saving the piece, but I am on the path and can see what it will feel like to succeed.

Now if I could just throw pieces with thick enough bottoms that they could be something other than flower pots.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Growing Old and Medicating

Another day has blown past me. I keep reciting my three-things-a-day mantra, but some days it's less effective than others. I don't even know what I got done today, but I know I decided against hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I am post-menopausal (TMI!!), and my new doctor was all rosy about HRT when she first mentioned it to me over a month ago. She touted it as the end all be all for obliterating hotflashes, preventing osteoporosis, decreasing the risk of some cancers, and keeping your skin and boobs taut. Who doesn't want taut skin and boobs I ask you? HRT is also linked to improving mood through increased serotonin and neurotransmittergamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production. An end to depression and anxiety? Sign me up!

When I went in after my lab tests to see what my hormone levels were (and progesterone and estrogen were non-existent--I suppose that's normal for my age), I had an appointment with the PA as the doctor was on vacation for three weeks. The PA gave me a sheet of paper with the potential side effects of the medications and had me sign it. She didn't have any further information to offer me about HRT, and didn't say anything specific about my medical history that would argue for or against the treatment.

But then I talked to Bill, who is also a doctor and who is someone I trust implicitly, and he wasn't wild about HRT and urged me to do more research and make my own decisions. My own research led me to the Mayo Clinic site and an article on HRT and heart disease. The clincher for me was at the end: "If you already have heart disease or you have a history of blood clots, the risks of hormone therapy have been clearly shown to outweigh any potential benefits." Considering I went to see my current doctor right after an episode of extreme blood clots in my kidney, I was more than a little surprised that she thought HRT was a good idea for me. I can put up with hot flashes, saggier skin and boobs due to loss of collagen, and look for another solution to any possible osteoporosis issues. It will also be nice to not have the additional cancer risks associated with HRT. It's also time to find a new doctor. Again.

I am not ready to go the route of the new trend in medical care--a boutique doctor who takes a limited number of patients, accepts only cash (no insurance), and has a membership fee that guarantees weekend and off-hour immediate access--but I am ready to make a change. Fortunately I met a very nice family physician at a clinic very near to us who is accepting new patients when I took Jessie in for dermatitis and allergies a couple of weeks ago. Now if I can just find her card...

Monday, September 18, 2017

More Work With Steel

Home from my metal and wood class, and tonight I learned to use the oxy-acetylene torch. I didn't weld with it--or heat form--I used it to cut through steel plate. Tonight was just playing around and learning the tool. Next week I think I'll make a cut and welded candle box for the deck. Now I need to go commune with my spouse. Tomorrow: decisions on hormone replacement therapy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

And On the Seventh Day I...

My only accomplishments so far today have been getting up, listing off everything I plan to get done, and pumicing the bottoms of my feet. Oh yes, and supervising Dave in his task of putting the wood caddy back up on the side porch with all the fireplace logs moved aside by the painters. Nevertheless, I am taking a break to post. Oh dear, it's going to be THAT kind of day!

Thanks to Morganica I rediscovered another artist/writer, Luann Udell, whose work I used to follow and I am adding her to my favs list on the right. Write of the devil and the phone will ring! Not that I am calling Morganica the devil--far from it--but I did just have a lovely chat with her. We had been planning to take Ricky Frank's enameling class at Arrowmont together next month, but she has more important things to do--like save Elmo. I am going to miss seeing her, and I am even more resolved to get out west to see her either this fall or winter.

Clearly I am not going to get through my list for the day, but I bet I can put in a kiln load and get my glass orders done, re-pot the orchids, buy my secret-pal back-to-school gifts, and take Zaga to the airport. Oh, and take a nap. Weekends are for napping. Now off to read the repotting section of my book on orchids again.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What I Learn From My Child

Many (many) years ago I bought a greeting card that had a picture of a grinning (evil-looking, or was it just mischievous?) child on the face. The text read: "Children keep you young", with "But first they make you very old." on the inside. Never were truer words written.

My child is keeping me young right now with the music she introduces me too. Her latest offerings are from the album An Awesome Wave by a British group called alt-J. My J has an assignment to make an experimental film for her AV Production class (due in two weeks), and she would like to use one of the songs from the album in it. Part of the process of making the film is to obtain the rights to use any music you need for it. The film is to be shorter than the song she wants to use, nevertheless copyright will be strictly followed and permissions obtained, or the music won't be used. I really like her teacher. Now if I can just get her to get off her butt to see what she needs to do to obtain the rights.

The music she has picked is very eclectic--it is not at all like anything you'd hear by Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry. In fact Jessie doesn't, in general, like female vocalists. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at her current musical taste as she introduced her father and me to the spoken word poet and author Shane Koyczan when she was about 12. We were blown away by her mature taste back then. As with Koyczan's work, alt-J's music can be very disturbing--the videos for it even more so. (J hadn't seen any of the videos when I asked her.) At her age I liked the Beach Boys and read novels with women in ripped bodices draped over Fabio on the covers (remember the movie Romancing the Stone?). Jessie reads manga and listens to alt-J. I know who's cooler. I can't wait to see what she's like when she's my age.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Houston, We Have a Wood Shop!

Wood stash, horizontal wood and metal bandsaw, compound miter saw, shop vac, table saw.

I'm not going to call it a studio--we have enough of those as it is and this new work area is something special. It's my manly cave. I can't have a man cave as I am missing some necessary parts requisite for membership in that club (borrowing Dave's doesn't count), but I can have a manly cave, and I do! I am not exaggerating about the caveness of the space: the room has no windows and no glass in the doors either. It's also under the house accessed from under the deck. The floor is concrete, the walls are stark white, and there is a window A/C unit sticking through a non-window in the wall to the outside. I replaced the A/C unit today for $139 and am using it to further dry the lumber. (Home Depot is having a thing where if you open a Home Depot card you can have $100 off your purchase. I already had a card, but the clerk told me you can have up to five so... Score)!

Table saw (again), 14" bandsaw, 6" joiner, 10" planer, wood stash (again)
My carpenter, Craig, and his assistant Darren unloaded and set up all the equipment for me (I couldn't even lift half of it), and they also moved all the wood out of the trailer and stacked it to dry in the wood shop. As I looked at all the pieces as they came out of the trailer today I realized I have an extra slab and its accompanying cut-off. Each slab is eight feet long and has a four-foot cutoff. So I not only have the three slabs for the bed, one slab for the desk, and one cut-off for desk and bed shelving, but I also have an enormous slab for a new glass and wood dining room table with a cut-off for a leaf for it and three more cut-offs for tables! The one thing I don't have and expected is a 2 X 8 for the bed. I have the 2 X 10's, and the 4 x 4's, but not the one 2 X 8 I needed for the shelf behind the headboard. But never fear--I'll figure something out. Monday we learn to oxyacetylene weld and do our class designs, and I'm going to propose the desk even though it's so large I won't be able to take all the materials to class to work on it! I'll do the welding there and the shelves, but I'll do the top surface prep and the assembly back in the cave.

In the above pictures I'm standing in the middle of the floor where the eventual workbench will go. Some of the equipment is on wheels or otherwise easy to move, some (like the bandsaw), not so much. I think I had a genius moment and put the bandsaw in front of one of the doors (the one I never open) so that if I have a long piece I can open the door and run it through unimpeded.

Hobbies--and cool workspaces--are good.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Got Wood?

Bubinga tabletop from
Owl Hardwood Lumber
Deep breath in, deep breath out. No anxiety tonight, and that is good. It was also good to hear some innocuous news about butterflies and pottery from Ellen (comments on previous posts). Every time I think of her, I think of the slogging clean-up she's having to do after Hurricane Harvey and all I see is endless, smelly, gooey muck. Butterflies are better.

Today Zaga and I did the inspections on the last two hives (all suited up of course) and it was a breeze. It was even a bit breezy and we HAD FUN! What a concept: Bees can be fun. This afternoon we searched for local hardwood emporiums where we could shop for materials for our steel and metal class (materials for her--I have a ton of blue pine to use for my desk and even a table or two). We went to two of the four I found--and one of those was a hardwood flooring supplier, not fine hardwood for furniture building so the trip was a bit of a bust. So far Woodcraft is the best we have seen, and Zaga was a bit disappointed with it. Apparently there is a place in Chicago called Owl Hardwood Lumber that has an enormous selection of all kinds and sizes of wood and it puts Woodcraft to shame. It's true there is only one small area for wood at Woodcraft as they also stock all the major tools and those take up most of their floor space.

Westbrook Metals
After Woodcraft we went to Westbrook Metals and I looked at i-beam, angle iron and tubing as candidates for the legs for my desk. I brought home small samples of each for $.50 a lb ($11 total--I love a hobby with relatively cheap materials!) and tomorrow when we unload the pine from the trailer and move it to the wood workshop I'll be able to look at the wood and the steel together. The slabs are really big and I need to balance the size and weight of the metal with the wood. It would look silly to have little, spindly one-inch steel tubing for the legs under a massive, three-inch-thick-slab desktop.  Right now I like the idea of i-beam standing on end and coming up all the way through the top of the desk so its end is flush with the surface. Somewhat like the leg on the bench below, but without the wood missing from one side of the i-beam, and the i-beam would not be all the way to the edge of the top either.

I think I'll use four-inch i-beam and put a leg in each corner... but who knows! I need to touch and move the wood around to see what I want to do. Big problem with that idea is that the long slabs of pine weigh about 176 lbs each, and the cut-offs weigh about 88 lbs each. I need a hobby that isn't so physically demanding. I guess I'd better figure out how I'm going to manipulate my materials. If I do use the i-beam for the legs the weight of the desk will jump to over 250 lbs (each leg will weigh about 20 lbs). And that's before I've added on any shelves or shelf hardware. Maybe I should cut the slab down to two inches thick--or I could make the desk six feet long instead of eight. That would be a better proportion of length to width anyway.

What an exciting project! After I do the desk for my class project I'll be in better shape to do the bed. And speaking of bed, I think I'll make my way to mine. Allergies are kicking my butt this week and I am TIRED!!