Tag Archives: Thoughts

Angle grinder + finger = bad

Emily and I finished up digging the footer a while back so that left the best part…mixing concrete!  We mixed and poured 184 bags of concrete into the footer ditch.  Just to save you the math, 184 bags of concrete is a metric crap-ton!  When you pour concrete for just about any purpose, you need to add steel rebar which gives the concrete something to which to bind.  You can buy nice pre-cut pieces or you can buy large pieces for about a quarter the price and cut it yourself.

Angle grinder
Not a fingernail trimmer!

The perfect tool to cut rebar is an angle grinder.  I happen to have an angle grinder with a metal cutting blade on it.  Running an angle grinder is a bit of an adventure!  The same blade that cuts steel with ease and throws sparks like a 4th of July show, spins mere inches from the user’s fingers.  Mostly, when the user is not exhausted, it is a simple task to keep separation between fingers and blade.  A few weeks ago, I was in a fatigued state and co-mingled my left index finger with a spinning blade.  I am incredibly lucky to still have my finger and am even luckier to have only cut a nice gouge in my fingernail.

angle grinder finger cut
This is several weeks healed but you can see the potential…
On the next to last bag of concrete for the footer, I dropped the bag and my finger got between the bag and the blade in the mixer…it was an 80 lb bag and yes, it hurts even 2 weeks later

I both cussed and bled, for roughly the same amount of time, before I surveyed the area for a first aid kit.  We are usually pretty conscientious about keeping first aid supplies on hand, but in our fatigued state, we left home without one.  I have always been one to improvise and really, my solution is not terribly new, but I am still proud of my first aid solution…duct tape!

Redneck Band-aid?
Redneck Band-aid?
Almost done laying the block!

I was able to continue on with work for the day but I was much slower and continued to mumble bad things off and on through the day.  It was not a lot of fun though and I still have a nice bit of concrete filler in the gouge where my fingernail should be.  Friends, I have to tell you, if you feel an urge to trim your fingernails on the work site, DO NOT use an angle grinder.  Stick to a metal file or cross-cut pliers or even tin-snips…but not an angle grinder!

Dark times

Friends, these are dark times.  No really…it is still dark at my house.  No power for 5-7 days or so is what I heard somewhere.  It is really strange as usually we can see lights somewhere around us since we live on top of a hill.  This time, there are no lights anywhere.  Everyone is without power.

In the summer, that isn’t too big a deal.  It’s hot but the generator will run a few fans and lights so we are fine.  In the winter, however, the cold gets to be a pretty big drag.  Remember a few weeks ago I got a kerosene heater at the junk sale?  Well I am pleased to report that it works great!  Our house was still 57 degrees last night but that’s warmer than it was when we started!  We had ventilation and 2 carbon monoxide detectors so we were being safe.  All of our appliances are electric so it was an all around uncomfortable evening.  Luckily, since we had snow, we took everything from the ice box and put it out in the snow banks.

Kerosene heater
Kerosene heater – what a pretty glow!

It was weird to look out of the area where there are normally hundreds of lights.  Last night, there were only a few that coincided with the roar of the generators stationed nearby.  Even with those running, it was so much more quiet than normal.  Kind of weird.

I guess the other weird thing is that Emily and I decided to replace one shower head last night in the dark…I guess we finally had nothing else to do but a little light house work.  Our house was so odd to listen to without the normal buzz of electrical things as well.  I could hear the kids talking and the cats walking across the floors.  I heard a few creaks and groans too…she was cold too I suppose.

I guess that, even as much as some aspects of this outtage suck, there are some neat things that happen around home that I normally wouldn’t take the time to notice.  Maybe dark times are good every now and then…

Edit:  Power came back on around 9pm Wednesday!

I can dig it!

My buddy with the excavator came out again the other day.  He was able to dig some of the foundation out for me (more on that soon) but had to run to another thing he had going on.  Bravely, he left the excavator for me to use to dig additional footers for my pump house.

Digging a footer with an excavator
It is so dry!

I have run an excavator exactly one other time and that was somewhere around 2001…and that was only for 20 minutes…and it was on flat land at our place in Nashville.  Here in West-by-God-Virginia (the one true Virginia…sorry East Virginia), there is nary a piece of flat land to be found.

Running an excavator
I promise I was sober!

So, my buddy left and I went to town.  The basics of running an excavator are not hard but the devil is in the details.  I guess I ran the machine for about 3 hours and dug an ugly but usable footer for the pump house and was able to move a little additional dirt out of the way.  I had a good time doing it and didn’t get bored for even a second.  I also felt like I was still on the machine 8 hours later, swinging the arm back and forth bumping and bouncing.

Running an excavator
Some success!

I think one thing I have learned in building this house is that folks who do any sort of construction work are probably under-appreciated.  It’s hard to run an excavator well.  It’s hard to make sure walls are plumb and it’s hard to cut miters.  I think that is why Emily and I are building this ourselves and why we are particularly proud of how things are turning out.  I also appreciate that I do not have to do this every single day!

Country Roads

My job isn’t as stressful as some folks but there is a good deal of pressure involved with writing computer software.  That’s what I do for a living and I mostly like it.  Writing software is like working a gigantic logic problem like you get in those puzzle books on the magazine rack…except it is all day long, every day.  It takes a good bit of concentration and the ability to block out everything else.  Of course, deadlines are always too near and bugs happen in software.  Just think of how often you get to install windows updates!  Behind the scenes somewhere, there was a programmer retracing logic and trying to find the hole in (probably) someone else’s thought processes when they were coding it…and they were under a deadline…and they were fueled by Mountain Dew!

Don’t get me wrong, most days I really enjoy that but it is hard work.  I have to tell you though, I really enjoy my therapy:

WV Country Road A view from my WV Ridge

Driving out my country road is so beautiful and although there are plenty of bumps on that old dirt road, it still seems to smooth things out for me.  I know I am fortunate to be able to get away and for that, I am truly thankful!

Dystopia…it’s what I love!

Our whole family loves to read.  We read all of the time and are pretty diverse in what we read.  Emily and the kids, in particular, like sci-fi and fantasy.  They all read the same books and truly love to get away into the lands and places their imaginations take them.  I like sci-fi and fantasy too, but my real love is reading about the end of the world.  Of course, there are all sorts of zombie shows on right now and with global tensions and economic craziness, I think many more people have a particular view of what that vision of the future might be, even without zombies.

The first book I read about a bleak future and the poop hitting the fan (SHTF), was the Grapes of Wrath.  If you search of apocalypse or dystopia on amazon, you will not see Grapes of Wrath, but life as depicted in that book was about as tough as it gets.  It has no discussions on zombies or mercenaries gone wild or killer plagues, but it demonstrates the strength of humanity and the willingness to endure and survive anything life can dish out. Lots of people also get their first exposure to the genre (sort of) in school.  Lord of the Flies introduces 8th graders all over the country to the end of the world (at least for the characters) and the struggle to survive each year.

After The Grapes of Wrath and Lord of the Flies, I was hooked.  I read 1984 and Animal Farm, Years of the City and Neuromancer, The Stand and Thomas More’s Utopia.  I read Walden and Walden II and Huxley’s Brave New World.  I love these books.  They are a few of the classic books about other futures, some good, most bad.  The Hunger Games series is, of course, an international dystopic hit that everyone knows.


I also like to read about more contemporary scenarios tied to specific modern subjects. One can ponder the future after global economic meltdown, killer asteroids, nuclear war,  pandemics and volcanic destruction by reading among Lucifer’s Hammer, Alas Babylon, The Postman,  Thomas Sherry’s Deep Winter series, One Second After, Rawles’ Patriot  and American Apocalypse.  I think the real possibility of most of the scenarios are slim, but I enjoy reading about the strength of human character and the will to fix what is broken and preserve what we hold dear.  I looked over my kindle and I have over 100 similar dystopian future books and that future looks bright!

Does anyone else share my love of books about the end of the world as we know it (EOTWAWKI)?  Do you know of any other books similar in subject?


It’s getting hot in here…

So, last week (or was it two weeks ago?) we were without power for 6 days.  It was hot and without power, it got pretty uncomfortable. The fantastic effort by a bunch of linesmen from all over the country got everyone turned back on and life was once again electrifying.    I was all charged up to get back to a normal lifestyle and enjoy the rest of summer.  You see, I usually like heat quite a bit.  This Sunday, however, our air conditioner decided it had gone on long enough.  We kicked on the AC and the compressor outside sounded like it had a zucchini stuck inside.  It clanged and clattered and sputtered some.  It took me a few minutes of listening to the behavior but I finally ruled out the zucchini.  It didn’t seem worthwhile to try to investigate the possibility of other vegetables so we called a repair place.

The offending piece of junk…out of frame is me mooning the AC

As a side note, I think I am in the wrong business.  All of the hvac folks are days and days behind…every last one of them seems to be running from place to place removing zucchinis from AC units.

Anyhow, it is somewhere around 95-100 outside which leaves the house about 10 degrees warmer.  It’s very hot in here.  It brings to mind Nelly, the talented musician who recorded Hot in Herre (I’ll leave you to find the videos of the song…PG13) as well as other classics like Ride Wit Me and Grillz.  The gist is, he enters an establishment where folks do cardio-vascular strengthening exercises to the beat of music piped to all parts of the room.  In time, with such exercise, the patrons of the establishment find that their body temperatures begin to rise so Nelly suggests removing some of their extra layers of clothing (your mom told you to dress in layers didn’t she?) to expose more skin to the open air in order to allow perspiration to evaporate, thus cooling their bodies.

The repair folks came by and have scheduled the installation of a new AC unit on Thursday morning.  That leaves us several days where we find ourselves in a predicament similar to that in which Nelly found himself.  I’ll not describe the state of things around here in any more detail, but let me confirm for you that evaporation of perspiration is in fact enhanced with less clothing covering bare skin.

Well friends, as I said, you can find the original Nelly video but I hope you will be inspired by these folks who were overheated in their Sunday best:


I have a brother…which of course means I am a brother.  My brother and I are long time best of friends…as long as he has been alive anyhow.  We have fought like wild animals of course (sorry brother…I really do hate how awful I was to you sometimes!), but we also were about as close as can be growing up.  I think I “had his back” a few times too.

My Brother

We have “got all growed up” and moved apart which makes it harder to be as close as we were but when we do get together, it’s like we were never apart.  Oh yeah, he has a backhoe…that makes it easier.  He has a firetruck too.  It’s not hard to go back to being kids with toys like that!

My Brother

Anyhow, my brother had a birthday a few days ago and I plum forgot to call him.  We don’t send cards in our house as I would rather express my sentiments in a conversation rather than with an overpriced card that someone else wrote.  You would think that the ease of calling the day of the special event would be easy…no need to plan ahead to account for the postal service, etc.  Still, I forgot.

In addition to not sending cards, we also have a tradition of singing “Happy Birthday” in a manner we call “Loud and Proud”.  If you have ever heard the camp song that includes the line, “a little bit louder and a whole lot worse”, you get the idea of how it progresses.  So, we called my brother and left him a message with an extra helping of “a whole lot worse”.  I hope my brother had a happy birthday and that he will forgive his older brother for nearly forgetting…no age jokes here please…

Deeper than a holler

The kids are staying with my parents in PA this week.  They finished school a week earlier than Emily so it was a perfect opportunity for them to visit up in Yankee-land.  So we delivered them over the weekend and spent some time with family.  I always think back to my roots when I “go back home”.  I live in a city now, albeit a small one.  I have lived in a big city and several places in between.  Cities can be fun and all but I am and always will be a country boy.

Sitting on the front porch
Sitting on the front porch...just catching up

Ok, so when I go back home, I get to pondering.  I don’t want to sound all sappy and stuff, but it’s so simple to enjoy the simple things.  It’s dark and quiet where I grew up.  Most nights you can hear the whippoorwills and see more stars than you can count.  Most days there is nothing better than riding around the yard on a lawn tractor doing whatever you feel like and playing in the hose (does anyone else say it like that?) or sitting on the front porch talking and napping.  It is pretty hard to beat living like that I think.

Kids on the garden tractor
Abigail isn't heavy enough to keep the seat sensor depressed!

Anyhow dear friends, it occurs to me that some of you may not have ever heard a whippoorwill’s song.  It’s simple but sort of an anthem to country living and you simply must hear its call.  My mom and I walked around one night until we got pretty close to one singing so I could record it.    Have a listen:

Being kid-less this week also makes me remember back to when Emily and I first met and fell in love (we still are of course, but those first years are so special).  Anyhow, as much as I love country living, I love Emily deeper than any holler and taller than any pine tree, tall upon the hill…so, since I can’t sing with a durn, let’s all enjoy a little Randy Travis singing my thoughts to Emily

Sad but tree

Right after Emily and I were married, we moved to KY to go to graduate school.  The first year, we lived in a tiny little apartment, not much bigger than our current living room.  We were given an opportunity our second year there to earn free rent in another place (which is a great story I will tell another time).  It was a great apartment and allowed us to collect more junk finally unpack all of our boxes.

For some foolish reason, we had a fish tank in that apartment and felt that it needed an algae eater.  There was a local pet store called Fishy Business…a great place to buy a fish, right?  So we walked in and decided to take a turn about the store.  There in the back, we found our kitten.  I do not like to buy pet store animals, but she had chosen us.  Emily and I looked at each other and decided to take her home.  She was Madeline…Maddie the Cattie.  She was a great kitten.  She sucked on her tail at night, not completely over being taken from her momma too young (I guess).  Imagine getting slapped in the face each night by a soaking wet cat tail. Anyhow, Maddie also played fetch as a kitten.  She was our first dependent and sort of the perfect thing for this newly married couple trying to figure out how married people are supposed to be (still working on that one!)

Planting the pear tree

Fast forward 16 years.  Madeline has moved many times with us as we have changed homes.  She has endured other cats and two kids.  Madeline was old.  Plain and simple, she was old and time had finally started to show itself on the poor girl.  She became incontinent and we could not abide that change.  Madeline was put down on Friday among many tears and memories.  I guess it sounds silly but she has been a part of our family almost as long as we have been a family.  She gave us something to be responsible for and she provided many hours of therapy.

To honor those memories, we decided to bury her at our place in the country and we planted a pear tree over her remains.  The kids were pretty cool about it all and I think it was a good life lesson…for all of us

In the black!

Isaac started taking Tae kwon do a little over 2 years ago (I looked back at that picture of him when he started…*sniff, sniff*  where is my baby?) and I had pretty mixed emotions about the whole deal.  I mean, taking your kid to a class where they learn how to fight, and I mean seriously fight…it just sort of seems messed up to me…or at least it did.  Isaac took his black belt test today and passed beautifully.  He has mastered his forms and knows many good kicks.  He had to break a number of boards and spar with several other students.  He really demonstrated that his skills are well defined and that his training has paid off.  As I watched him spar the other students, I saw Isaac take some hits and land some hits.  In both cases though, he handled it.  He’s not just a little kid any more.  He handled a challenge, he overcame a little pain and he fought hard and with determination.  He’s become such a different (and better) young man than when he started TKD.

Getting ready for the taekwondo black belt test
Getting ready...
Getting ready for the taekwondo black belt test
What nerves?

I think the thing that made me most proud today was how he handled himself and his nerves.  Of course it is a big deal to test for the black belt.  What he didn’t fully know is the degree to which he was to be quizzed on everything.  The instructors asked him all sorts of questions on all sorts of topics and he really made me proud.  He answered with thoughtful, complete answers that were more mature than I ever expected.

Taekwondo board breaking
Getting ready to break boards
Quizzed for black belt test
Grandmaster preparing to quiz Isaac

Teaching a kid to fight is one way to look at learning TKD.  I think the more important view is that TKD  teaches a young man how to handle himself in many situations.  I think this whole process taught me something too.  My son is growing up and I am learning just how exciting it is to watch my little boy grow into a young man. *sniff sniff*