Friday, December 24, 2010

Where In the World Has Ed Gone?

Find out when he returns next year and resumes blogging. Hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Post From the Photo Archives of My Father

The End Is At Hand

Flee From the Wrath To Come

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Yielded To the Man To the Right of Me and He Yielded It Right Back To Mine

So here was the dilemma. I was sitting at a red light in town one morning with several other cars behind me and three cars (hence for to be referred to as white, gray and black cars as ordered from the stoplight) heading in the opposite direction and a beer truck in the center turn lane. At a high rate of speed with lights flashing, a cop car comes up behind the three cars waiting at the red light heading the opposite direction as I am and just as he gets to the intersection, the light turns green. What am I supposed to do?

All of us evidently thinking the same thing chose to sit at the intersection and wait for the cop car to swerve out into the lane I wanted to head for, go around the traffic blocking his way through the intersection and let him proceed so that we could continue on our merry way. However, the cop car just sat behind the three cars in the lane in front of him with lights flashing.

The beer truck in the oncoming turn lane made the first move and turned in front of my car even though he should yield the right away to me but since I was still at a standstill wondering what to do, I guess I yielded him the right to turn by default. The white car in the three car (now four car with the cop included) string of oncoming traffic also proceeded. The cop now had a center lane clear and only two cars in front of him and me heading towards him in the far lane to contend with but still he sat there with lights flashing.

Simultaneously, I finally started through the intersection with caution as the black car immediately in front of the cop pulled off the street into a parking lot evidently assuming he had done something wrong and was getting pulled over. A split second later, the gray car in front of the black car also started to cautiously proceed through the intersection. As I made it through the intersection and picked up speed, I looked back in my side mirror to see the cop drive past the driveway the black car had turned into and nose his bumper right onto the gray car's rear bumper and finally sounded a blast from his siren. Evidently the gray car had done something illegal up the road and like a sheep herding dog, the cop car took awhile to get his prey sorted out from the rest of the herd. I don't remember this scenario in any of my driver's manuals that I studied as a youth.

Anyway, that is about as exciting as my morning commute to works gets these days.

-Song lyrics in the title of this post are from 'The Accident (Things Could Be Worse)' by John Prine

Friday, December 17, 2010

Disaster Averted

While talking with my wife over the phone, my daughter interrupted me a few times to tell me about some noise coming from the stairs. Since I had earlier set a box fan in the hallway above the stairs to distribute the air better since our air ducting system in our house is inefficient at best, I assumed that she was hearing it and told her not to worry about the noise.

A while later when I was off the phone, my daughter again mentioned the noise and offered to 'show' it to me. She climbed halfway up the stairs, put her ear to the wall and said, "see!" Intrigued, I put my ear to the wall and the unmistakable sound of water gurgling made me blood run cold. It sounded like a pipe had burst inside the wall but since that wall was the same wall as the utility room below it, I decided to head down there to see which pipe might be going up through the wall and of course to shut off the water supply to the house.

When I opened the door to the utility room in the basement, I was greeted with a much louder sound of gurgling water and the visual sight of water dripping from the ceiling, pipes and wiring onto the floor and running to the floor drain. It wasn't a vast volume of water but definitely enough to get ones attention and so I proceeded to diagnose where it was coming from. In the wet half of the utility room, the sound of gushing water was the loudest in the vicinity above my water heater near a valve that controls water flow to my whole house humidifier. I shut off the valve and instantly the sound stopped so I knew where I was looking for the leak but still couldn't find it. So I turned on the valve and started following the plastic tubing between the valve and the humidifier and soon found the problem. The plastic tubing somehow had attained a pin point sized hole and was spraying water up against the ceiling and bottom of the stairs before being deflecting and dripping off various pipes and wires in the vicinity.

How does a plastic tubing develop a hole after seven years of flawless performance and while nobody was around? I haven't figured that out. It hadn't been happening for more than a day since two days before I had been down in the utility room in that very area turning on the whole house humidifier and then later doing laundry and I'm certain I would have noticed that house of the utility room was dripping water. It was also loud enough that I'm certain that in the quiet of early morning, I would have heard the noise from our living room earlier that same day. So sometime during the day, it decided to develop a leak that left unchecked, could have gone through a lot of water and done a lot of drywall, electrical and wood damage.  I made sure to heap lots of praise onto my daughter and reward her well for her services. Why anyone would break into my house and poke a tiny whole in some plastic tubing going to my whole house humidifier is beyond me but if I catch the bastard, I'm thinking of using the Chinese water torture method on them.

Post Script: A few days later, just when I was beginning to feel comfortable with my repair job, I went down to the utility room to get something and was greeted by water being sprayed everywhere. The bastard had struck again. Twenty dollars and an hour later, he had better bring pipe cutters next time because I installed copper tubing in place of the plastic crap.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Joys and Downfalls of Work

I'm not allergic to work, especially engineering work but it does have its joys and downfalls. Although I am part owner of my company and an engineer, I still get plenty of opportunity to get my hands dirty. I often times fabricate parts with welders, drills, saws, grinders, shears, presses and benders. It might not be pretty but if it works and lets me test an idea, I'm okay with it. This part of my job is the joy part because I love the variety even though it plays havoc on my work clothes. I may go to work wearing better clothes thinking I'm going to be doing mostly computer design work or at most electrical wiring and end up welding or grinding with a generous amount of touching greasy objects thrown in. Fortunately my wife isn't home as often anymore so I can generally sneak them through the wash before she frowns her disapproval.

Eventually my design is built and in the test phase which generally means I can focus my attentions elsewhere, sometimes doing accumulated paperwork which needless to say isn't a joy. Most of the time I put in enough legwork to assure a successful test but occasionally, things beyond my control like a badly welded (by someone else) joint can cause an unexpected failure. This is the downfall to my job especially when there are timelines involved. Why am I thinking about this subject? Because just such a event has happened to me and now I am scrambling to redesign, rebuild and retest one of my designs, all things I love to do but not when the focus of a timeline is squarely on my shoulders.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Down and Another One... or Two Left to Go

Once again I have successfully dressed myself in a nice button up shirt and khakis, the latter one I have only donned once in recent years and that was for my brother's wedding under threat of being excommunicated from the family, and played the part of supporting spouse as I ate dinner with a bunch of doctors at another country club. Why their choice of location I don't know since none of them so far have played golf. I hope I nodded at the appropriate time, said the right amusing antidote at the right time, and for god's sake, picked the right fork to eat my salad and the right one to eat my entrĂ©e. On a side note, I would feel much safer if the interview was held at an Applebees or a Chilis instead of a country club.

This group of doctors was very similar to the previous group of doctors that my wife interviewed with except this group had one oddball. While the others had on suits, the oddball had on a button up shirt that could be found at any big box clothing store on the discount rack. I could relate with that. While the other doctors talked of their children here and there at various colleges on the east coast, the oddball talked of duck hunting and doing triage on his dog before fishing a couple more hours and heading home. I could actually understand and identify with this guy and I am not a big hunter. I guess that makes me an oddball too.

At the last country club dinner interview I attended a few weeks ago, everyone was ordering steaks and so in following my motto of doing as Romans do when in Rome, I also ordered a steak. It was tough, chewy and flavorless. In fact, everything I tasted at that dinner tasted as it came out of the same bland, overcooked pot. So this time I decided I was going to order what I wanted regardless of what everyone else ordered. This group of doctors were evidently the chicken or salmon type as they all ordered something in one of those two groups so I ended up being a Roman in Rome again. I went with the crab cakes and asparagus with mashed potatoes. My wife who hadn't been paying attention to my order, ended up ordering the exact same thing. I'm not sure if that was a social faux pas or not. Regardless, the meal was outstanding.

This group of doctors really wants to hire my wife in the worst way I think. There are three of them, two of whom are nearing retirement. Incidentally the oddball is the youngest which makes me think I would have a hunting buddy or at least someone I can talk too intelligently if my wife accepts the job. I'm sure a job offer will soon appear in the mail and then my wife will have a big decision to make though she may still go ahead with the other two hospitals wanting to interview her. Of all the hospitals she has or will most likely interview with, this was the only one that is most likely out of commuting range. It is an hour and fifteen minutes away so it is possible but it would be a tiresome drive to do everyday. The location however makes up for being so far away as it is full of views overlooking two large rivers, my kind of place and a place where a custom boat building business could really take hold. The town itself is about the same size as the one where we currently live though being more of a regional focal point, has a lot more businesses. It still is suffering like most of rural Iowa and is gradually dying but it has more life in it than most.

My wife is torn because both interviewed groups of doctors really like her and both are groups of MD's specialized in internal medicine so my wife would have company. In the other two hospitals, my wife would most likely be the sole internal medicine doctor. One group is large and has access to lots of doctors of other specialties to help read various tests pertaining to diagnosing someone who might become a patient of my wife. The other group is small and they pretty much learn to read all those various tests themselves, something my wife hasn't been taught and will have to learn from them. Also since the small group is probably just a few years from retiring two thirds of the doctors, she could quickly be leading it. Decisions, decisions and for once, I'm glad it isn't me who has to make them. I'm just sitting back (while being supportive) and seeing where life will take her and ultimately me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tales of the Widow Lady

My parents have owned a bit of vacation property for well over a quarter century down in the Ozark mountains of northwest Arkansas. It has always been a little piece of heaven to me and a place that I've spent lots of time hiking, biking and boating. I've even done just a bit of spelunking. The area is extremely scenic because of its ruggedness but what makes is scenic also makes it unsuitable for making much of a living. Thus the people in the area of my parent's cabin are mostly those retired from working elsewhere, on some sort of pension or what you would call dirt poor.

A post by TC whose invite only blog is linked in my sidebar got me to thinking about one of those neighbors in particular. We try to be good neighbors and go and visit our neighbors once a year taking some homemade food stuff and chatting with them for awhile. In return, they are good in looking over our property down there and alerting us if anything might happen. Though it is just a tiny cabin with beat up salvaged furniture and nothing worth stealing, a lot has happened over the years. There has been everything from giant ice storms that have fallen large trees onto the cabin to a run away stock trailer that missed the cabin by inches and unleashed a stirred up and raging bull onto the property. Always we hear about these things long before we show up to the property to inspect the damage ourselves. However on one memorable occasion after we had just arrived and were eating dinner and not having had a chance to meet the newest neighbor who moved into the house across the road, a knock sounded on the door.

An old woman who introduced herself as the 'old widder lady who dates the crippled man from yonder holler' handed us a welcoming gift of warm grits and said she would like to meet us sometime when we got a chance. I'm not sure any of us still know her real name for she is long gone and in our stories we simply refer to her as the 'old widder lady'. So the next day we went for a hike and in the evening when we suspected supper would be done, we walked across the road to meet the old widder lady.

She cordially invited us into her house and shut the door before yelling, "shut up nigger!" My first thought was Tourettes Syndrome but she soon explained that was the name of her dog who eventually just tired of his barking after awhile and went into another room. As I have seen in many poor areas of the world, racism seems to flourish and though she never made a racist remark in my presence other than her choice of name for her dog, I would be willing to bet that she was one. Still, I never felt comfortable when sitting on the porch of our cabin and hearing her shouting, "Nigger get in here," in the evenings.

After we were more formally introduced to her dog and seated, it was then that I noticed the old double barreled shotgun leaned up against the trim of the big window next to her door and within easy reach of her rocking chair. I have no doubt that she could have that think leveled and with the safety off (assuming there was even such a thing as a safety on it) before an intruder could get up the three or four steps of her porch. I'm also willing to bet that she was a good enough shot to shoot me off of our cabin's porch if she took a notion too. It was definitely an ancient piece and had probably been around for the better part of a century. The two bores looked like they could swallow canaries whole with room to spare.  Below the window that the shotgun was propped against and between it and the rocking chair was a little rickety end table with a pair of binoculars and a framed picture of a man in a coffin who she introduced as her first husband. Between her dog's name, the shotgun and the picture, I never did get comfortable which perhaps is why I don't remember much of what we talked about that evening.

Despite my memory loss, I do know we made her the usual deal of calling us back at our farm in Iowa if anything was amiss because the next year, my brother would take on a full time job about 40 miles down the road from the cabin and would live there year round for a piece of time. I know this because she would call us quite often to let my parents know that their son (who was then in his mid 20's) didn't get home to such and such time on one particular day. She probably knew when he was going to leave before my brother did. Fortunately there is only one small window above the kitchen sink on the side of the cabin facing her window and it has a good light blocking set of horizontal blinds on it so my brother and our private life inside the cabin remained off limits to her.

Eventually my brother moved farther south and the old lady either died or married the crippled man and moved to the 'yonder holler' along with her dog 'nigger.' But her legacy still remains in our family in the form of stories. I also wonder if the next owners of her house inherited the antique doubled barrel shotgun and if it is still propped up against the trim of the big bay window.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

White House

Assuming that the picture of John F. Kennedy's grave was taken sometime in the spring of 1964, I'm guessing this picture of the White house was taken in the same time frame. I'm about 99% sure this was taken by my aunt from the top of the Washington Memorial since a quick Google of those two sites produces hundreds of similarly framed photos. Modern day photos show a much more groomed lawn and fewer trees. The area of the lawn up close to the White House in this picture is now much wider, wide enough for the Marine One, the presidential helicopter to safely set down to deliver the president to and from his activities. Years ago when I toured the White House, the most prominent thing from that visit still in my memory banks, was walking along a path winding through bunkers topped with military men with machine guns to get to the door we entered. Because I don't see any of that in this picture or modern day versions of this picture, I can only assume that it was somewhere along the backside. Anyone else remember that from a tour? Do they still give tours?

Monday, December 6, 2010

John F. Kennedy

I'm still in the process of scanning through my old slides and those belonging to my parents. I found this slide evidently taken by my aunt on a trip to Washington D.C. shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Here is a picture taken shortly after his burial between two of his children. Of course it looks much different these days and I had to do some research to verify that this was actually what his grave looked like back then. Now it is paved over with cobblestones and the gravestones have been replaced with heavy bronze plaques set flush to the surface.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Halloween Revisited

I know this is over a month late and truth be told, I had other things to post back then and bumped this post. Then it got too late to fashionable post it and it languished in draft status. But for some reason or other, I have been having a severe case of writer's block. My tanks are on empty and once again, I have nothing to say. I'm not sure of the reason other than I've been exceptionally busy as work and my home life is the model of routine. I think I am in dire need of a long vacation and one is creeping closer but isn't coming fast enough to suit my taste.

So to take the place of a post this Friday, here is a picture of our pumpkins that we carved. By we I mean, I carved though my daughter did help gut her pumpkin for about ten seconds before declaring that her arm was tired and she needed to lay down.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doctor Doctor Give Me the News!

Though it really wasn't a shocker after years of hearing that doctors, especially family practice and internal medicine doctors, are in short supply, it was still nice to know after her first interview for a job she won't even start until fall of 2012, that they want her. In fact, they want her so badly that they are willing to give my wife a signing bonus and a monthly stipend from now until 2012 if she just commits. I know if they had offered me the job, I would have committed on the spot but they didn't and since my wife still has two more scheduled interviews and possibly a third, she is in no rush to commit until those have been completed. I have no doubt that all two or three remaining hospitals will be interested in her too which leads me to the conclusion that engineering is the wrong racket to be in.

The nice part about the whole thing is that all the hospitals save one are easily within commuting distance from where we currently live and where I currently work. So this gives us some leeway if we would like to take some time to relocate and one way or the other, one of us will have at maximum, a twenty minute commute. Most likely it will be me so that my wife can be closer to the hospital so that on nights when she is on call, she can still come home and be at the hospital within the allotted time should need arise.

The whole thing is also emphasis that big changes may not be too far off in our lives. The biggest change is that we would like to sell our house here in town for an acreage outside of town. Our hope is that it would allow us to live our dream of being more self sufficient by having a larger garden and perhaps raising our own meat. I've always had a dream of designing and building a house, and though that isn't relegated to beyond city limits, the ability to start fresh might let me work that into the our life schedule. Finally, I've also had dreams of starting my own business and working for myself instead of others, and with her most likely making more money than me, perhaps that will be the time to try it out, perhaps being a stay at home father and raising another kid along the way. Exciting times for sure.

I'm still way ahead and counting chickens before they hatched because the doctors from her first interview have yet to even talk money. That is being scheduled with their person who does such things who lives in the same urban jungle where my wife works. It didn't make sense for her to drive all the way down here to talk money only to have both her and my wife drive back to the urban jungle afterwards. Plus there are still upwards of three more interviews in various nearby communities and who knows, one of them could still make us an offer we can't refuse.