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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Article by Buckley, "It Didn't Work."

Article by Buckley, "It Didn't Work."

Re: Buckley's article: crap. MY objective was to get rid of Saddam. Temporarily accomplished. He is still alive, he may still worm his way back into power. The Sunni's can all go rot in hell. Thieves, the lot of them. The two sects want to kill each other, they've been preaching it for years. Let them. Just make sure they have equal supplies of armaments. If one side is a little short of cash, use the cash from the other side to pay for guns. Keep Winchester in business.

No matter what we do in Iraq, someone will bitch about it. I like to think that we are keeping the death toll down. Last I heard it was running about a thousand Iraqi's a week. They have a civil war going, even if some people are saying they aren't. If we weren't there, the death toll might be running two thousand a week. Or not. How can you tell?

Should we pull out? Yes, let the ragheads kill themselves. No sense in our getting involved.

Should we stay? Yes, the good Iraqi people need a chance to build a decent life for themselves.

Maybe we should install our own strongman and make Iraq a colony and just take all their oil. If we give them money they just spend it on guns and bombs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Noritake China

So I am cleaning out Dad's house, slowly but surely. I drug the china home, feeling that I should store it, since I have room. There is a neighborhood garage sale coming up next month and we expect to get rid of a lot of stuff, so we will have more room to store more stuff! I am planning on hanging onto the china, mostly since I remember seeing it around the house when I was little.
Google found 9,120 Noritake Priscilla China items.
On E-bay, looking for Noritake China, there are 48591 items found.
Still on E-bay. Looking for Priscilla (the pattern name), there were 7 items found.
I have eleven each of:
10.5" dinner plate $22
6" lugged cereal bowl $20
7.5" salad plate $10
6.25" bread & butter plate $ 7
subtotal $59
times eleven $649
One each:
16" platter $ 80
12" platter $ 50
Grand Total $779
So these are replacement prices. I imagine the cash value at about 10% of this.
Michael said we was going to take some cups and saucers. I didn't find any, so I suppose he did.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Last Week

Kathryn had her State Championship dance competition last Thursday. There were about 20 teams competing. They were divided about evenly between "show" teams and "drill" teams. The big difference is that the show teams had a painted vinyl floor and stage props, whereas the drill teams performed on a bare floor. Kathryn danced her part very well. Glencoe (her team) came in fourth in their division, one place better than last year. All kinds of scuttlebutt about the judges and the scoring, but that's the way it goes with these small closed communities.

I was looking through a copy "Inc" (a business magazine) last week while I was waiting for lunch, and I found an article about "Freakonomics" (Freakanomics?). Seems to me it was a recent best selling book, but maybe it was last year. Anyway, it was a big hit and got all kinds of people excited. The book is about economics. One of the assertions the author made, and the one that got everybody stirred up, was his explanation for the drop in violent crime. Seems that during 1970's and 1980's violent crime was on the rise, but that in the early 1990's it suddenly dropped. Of course everyone who was in law enforcement claimed that they had new policies and procedures that were responsible for the decrease. The economist who wrote this book had a different take. He attributed the drop in crime to Roe vs Wade back in 1973. Before that decision, women with unwanted pregnancies carried their children to term. After that women could get abortions, so the number of unwanted children decreased. Twenty years later, the number of unwanted children who were becoming adults was much lower, and so violent crime dropped.

Ross and I went to "V for Vendetta" last Friday night at 10pm. The movie was great, all about freedom, security and fear. The 10pm show time screwed me up big time. I didn't get to bed till 1:30 in the morning, and by Sunday night I was still staying up till midnight.

Johnny and I fixed a coolant leak in the van. We started on Friday afternoon and finished up Saturday morning, but then you have already seen my report on that.

Saturday night Anne and I went to dinner at Stanford's and then to the bookstore. I picked up an $8 science fiction paperback novel. I cannot remember the last time I bought a new mass-market paperback. It is something I have not done for quite a while. Guess I am feeling a little flush since I started getting checks in the mail from Dad's TOD accounts.

The science fiction novel was nothing great, it was about werewolves and vampires in present day Washington state, but it was enjoyable reading. There was an interesting high point. Somewhere in the middle of the book I came across a paragraph that was just crystal clear. I cannot remember the subject, but I remember reading it and thinking, wow, that is really good. I am not sure I would be able to find it again if I looked.

Johnny and I went to "Iguana Micro", a small, local, computer shop, Saturday afternoon. He wanted to get a couple of fans for his computer. I have been paying him $5 an hour to exterminate the black-berry bushes in our backyard and in the swamp in back of the yard. He likes the idea of making money and he has been working diligently at it, and making good progress. He wants to get a new computer, and he sees this as a way to make the money he needs to pay for it. So now he is very excited about.

The company I work for hired a guy to run the company. His name is Larry and he started here about nine months ago. He is a very jovial, plump, at least 60 years old, and enjoys talking. His beginning was not auspicious. He had an attack of appendicitis shortly after he got here. The appendix burst and he was in the hospital for a while. OK. Bad luck for him, and he did recover. But I didn't hear a word out of him for several months. At first I let this slide, figuring he needs time to get his feet on the ground. But months went by and still nothing. So I finally took the initiative, because I didn't want this to go the way it had with the owner. So we started talking and I started attending meetings, which was good because I found out what was going on in the company.

But things did not improve. The owner was still coming in, and he was still jerking us around. Last Thursday there was supposed to be a showdown at the board meeting. Didn't happen. Larry is in Austin, where he would do well to stay. Scott, the owner has been in every day. So there was no showdown, Larry is not in charge, and Scott, the jerk, is still playing around with
the business.

I called in sick Friday, so I got a three day weekend. Very nice. I am going to try and set up a computer at home so I can do some work at home while I look for a new job. I have had it with this one.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Elephant Wrench

Friday Johnny and I replaced the leaking heater hose in the van (1995 Windstar). To get to it, we had to remove the alternator. To do that, we needed to get the serpentine belt off the alternator pulley. Well, it was not really necessary to unship the belt first. I think it would have come loose when we got the alternator loose. But how do you get it back on afterwards? I tried an adjustable wrench, but I could not pull it quite far enough to get enough slack in the belt to shift it off of the pulley. Then I remembered I had a large pipe wrench, and I thought it might work. So I got down my box of big, ugly iron tools, and lo and behold! An elephant wrench! Just what the doctor ordered! Put it on the tensioner, pulled, and the belt came off the pulley easy as pie. And what, you may ask, is an elephant wrench? Well, there are guns, and then there are elephant guns. This wrench is a large adjustable wrench. Johnny named it. It must be 18 inches long, and the head must be five inches in diameter. Andy gave it to me. He used to use it for fixing forklifts. I have had it for years, and I think this is the first time I have used it. Only problem was that after I got the belt off the alternator pulley, and I relaxed the pressure on the wrench, when it went back, it ran into the edge of the engine compartment, so I couldn't get it off the bolt. Fortunately, it wasn't in our way. It also means that if I had just dumped the belt off the pulley when I took out the alternator, I probably wouldn't be able to get the wrench on the tensioner at an angle that would allow me to compress it enough to get the belt back on. Oh well, no point in worrying about that now. So we got the alternator out of the way. Now to take the hose loose. The right hand (as you look at the engine) end of the hose is relatively easy to get off. It has a spring clamp holding it in place, and there is room to get to it with a pair of pliers. It is simply a matter of wrestling with it until it comes free. Well, maybe not that simple. I resort to cutting the hose to make it easier. The other end of the hose requires a decision. The hose connects to a Y-pipe that connects to the water pump and to another hose that runs off in back of the engine. It might be wise to replace the whole thing, but only this one piece is leaking and I want to finish this today, not in six months. So I decide to only replace the section of hose that is leaking and not the entire two hose and Y-pipe assembly. This requires cutting the crimp ring that secures the hose to the Y-pipe. It is aluminum, it is in the open, so it is easy enough to cut with a hacksaw. Well, at least most of it. Get down to the bitter end and the full hacksaw can't get to it. Pull the blade out of the saw, wrap a rag around one end for a handle and manage to get through the last little bit of the ring. A screwdriver works well to pry the ring open. The hose slides right off. Now it is off to the local NAPA auto parts store for a piece of hose and a couple of clamps. $7 and change. Sliding new hoses over fittings works better if there is some lubrication. Spit works well for this, though it grosses Johnny out. I can get the hose started on the one fitting, but it won't slide all the way on. Fuss and fume and finally go dig out some old spark-plug-wire-pulling pliers, they work surprisingly well. Now I am fussing with the other end, and I push down on the hose, which pushes down on a hard plastic vacuum line and snaps it in two. Bah! Now I have to replace it as well. We have the water hose on, so we postpone the vacuum hose till tomorrow. Saturday Johnny and I eventually get back to the auto parts store. The guy trys to find some fittings that will work but he is not having any luck. I finally ask for a generic PCV valve and some hose. This he manages to deliver. Meanwhile Johnny has found a package of magnetic tipped screwdrivers. I find magnetic tips more annoying than useful, but I do have one on my electric screwdriver. Johnny wants them for working on computers and he has money so we get them. The PVC valve is a valve, where as the old fitting is just that, it has no innards. So it behooves me to gut the PVC valve before using it. Clamp it gently in the vise and saw around the bottom with a hacksaw, very gently. The top end is plastic and we don't want to break it. Manage to get the end off and the guts out. File the burrs away and plug it into the valve cover. Fits fine. When I pulled the old fitting out a small pile of rust fell out. Can't imagine where it came from. Tried to use the old fitting, but ended up destroying it while trying to get the old vacuum line off. I think the tube was shrunk onto the fitting. The other end of the old tube plugs into a hole in the intake system. The new hose needs a fitting, so I end up using a short piece of the old vacuum line to adapt the new hose to the intake. Now for the alternator. Johnny manages to pinch his finger under the alternator while putting it back in. Other than that it goes in easy enough. Tighten the bolts, pull on the elephant wrench and slip the belt back on. Connect the wires to the alternator and battery, add some antifreeze to the overflow tank and we're done.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Last Weekend

Saturday Johnny took Ross's computer apart. Ross's computer had been frequently resetting itself. Johnny investigated and discovered that it was running very hot. We suspected there was a large accumulation of dust inside the case, so John was going to open it up clean out the dust. Well, when he opened it up he found a heat sink lying loose on the bottom of the case. This prompted him to disassemble the entire computer, including removing the heat sink that was on the CPU chip. All would have been fine, except he decided to clean off the heat transfer compound from the CPU chip and its' heatsink. Well, now we can't put the computer back together because we don't have any heat transfer compound. If we did put it back together and tried to run it, there is a good chance that the CPU chip would overheat and fail catastrophically. This annoys Ross to no end, but he really does not have any room to complain, as he did not have to pay for this computer in the first place, and he has been negligent in caring for it, as you shall see.

In addition to the heat sink lying in the bottom of the case, John discovered that the fan on the video card was unplugged. Turns out one of the fan blades had broken off, which had caused the fan to start vibrating and making a terrible racket. Ross's solution was to unplug the fan. Lucky that the video card has not cooked itself.

But what about that heat sink in the bottom of the case? It was cooling a chip on the mother board. The heat sink was held in place by a clip that hooked into a couple of U shaped wires on the motherboard (like croquet wickets, but very small). One of these U shaped wires had come out. Normally I would expect such brackets to be soldered to the motherboard, but in this case they were apparently just pressed in. I took the one that had fallen out and pushed it back in. We shall see if it stays. I got a dollop of heat transfer compound from work today. Johnny and I will be reassembling Ross's computer this evening. Hopefully, everything will work out all right. I plan on cutting off every third blade of the fan on the video card, it had nine blades to start with. That might be good enough to let it keep working. Obtaining a replacement will be difficult.

Saturday morning I dealt with our van. Anne had reported that it was steaming on Thursday, so I took a look under the hood. I did not see any obvious problems, but the coolant was low, so I filled it up. It took about a gallon. Well, something is definitely wrong. I drove the van to the library. I had to take a long detour because the police had blocked some roads. I think there was a St. Patrick's Day Parade going on. When I got to the library, the van was steaming. I looked under the hood. Right off I could see the area where the steam was coming from, but it looked like there was water dripping from a fuel line. Well, that didn't make any sense. So I looked some more, and some more, and some more, and finally I spotted a needle thin stream of water coming from a rubber hose on top of the engine. Okay, now I know where the problem is.

I went in the library and used my usual technique of walking down the science fiction aisle and just picking out books at random. I don't bother screening them, I just grab a bunch and take them home. I figure there will be at least one good one in the lot. I checked out six science fiction novels and paid a $9 fine that had been outstanding for quite a while. I did not like the check out lady. She used her formal voice at me and I did not appreciate it.

Next I drove to the auto parts store and picked up a couple of items for the silver car. I inquired about a hose for the van, but they told me it will be a dealer item. Now I have a dilemma. Do I get the part from the dealer and spend all day Saturday fixing it myself? Or do I let the dealer do it and pay the two or three hundred dollars they are going to charge? And if this hose fails, can the other hoses be far behind? Maybe I should replace them all. And if I do it myself, how am I going to handle draining the antifreeze ? I can't just wash if down the street, that would be bad. I have to collect it and recycle it. The dealer is looking more attractive.

Saturday afternoon Kathryn and I watched "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" down in our basement.

Sunday Kathryn had dance practice all day long. The State Finals are Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Sunday morning I took Johnny to the Zoo for his interview for the "Zoo Teens" program. The had a bunch of stuff posted on bulletin boards there. I found three articles of interest. One was about imitative behavior in chimpanzees versus small children. Another was about an imbalance in the the ratio of male to female flightless parrots in New Zealand. The third was about the huge amount of work going into the Florida Everglades. They had some glass display cases there with some skeletons of small animals and some skulls of larger ones. They had a skeleton of a fish that was about five or six inches long that must of contained at least a hundred bones. Johnny observed that it must have been very difficult to assemble. They also had a skeleton of a turtle, which I do not think I have ever seen. Very unusual, hardly any bones, just some leg bones, and very unusual leg bones at that. They had a couple of giraffe skulls. As you may recall, giraffes have a couple of horn like things on top of their head. Well, they are not horns, and they are not antlers. They are bone, and they are part of their skull. I wonder if there are any other animals that are like this.

After we left the zoo, John and I went looking for a place to eat breakfast. John did not want fast food, or donuts, so we looked for a restaurant. It took quite a while to find one, and when we did we had to wait for a table. Still we were lucky. When we got there, there was one person waiting in front of us. When we got our table, there were about eight people waiting behind us. We ended up going to O'Connor's in Multnomah Village. It is funky little restaurant with an adjacent bar in an old building. Much more comfortable than any of the flashy new places that get put up in shopping centers.

Sunday afternoon I walked to the video store for exercise. Sometime later I drove there and rented "Magnolia" for Ross and bought a bunch of groceries at the grocery store, which is right next door to the video store.

Late Sunday afternoon Anne and I drove over to Dad's house in Cornelius to pick up the mail and check on the house. We stopped for coffee for Anne, and gas for the truck on the way.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

March 5th, 2006

Things continue to grind along here.

My father passed away in January after about six months of hospitals, rehab and adult foster care. It all started at the end of June last year when one of his artificial hip joints went bad and he fell down and couldn't get up. He was checking in with me everyday by email, but one day I noticed that I hadn't heard from him, so I called and got no answer. Kathryn and I went over to his house and found him lying on the floor. He was conscious, but very weak. Called 911 and they took him to the hospital. Checked my email and realized I hadn't heard from him for a couple of day. So he could have been lying on the floor for a day or two, not just the few hours he told us about.

In July we (my brothers and I) had a hall-way conversation with Dr. Doom-and-Gloom who told us that the prognosis for my Dad wasn't good. If we went ahead with the surgery to fix his hip, he probably would not survive more than a year. Turns out he was right, but what were we going to do? Not get his hip fixed? Not sure that it did him any good in any case.

November was his best month. He was able to come to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. He was getting around with a walker, able to get in and out of our mini-van without assistance, though I would stand right next to him. Sometimes he would loose his balance for a minute and I didn't want him to fall. But come December, he started to decline and it was pretty much
downhill from there.

Should we have done anything differently? Well, maybe. Back in mid-June he had a stent put in to block open one of his arteries. I think this was done with an anesthetic, though I am not sure how much. When he first went in the Hospital they thought his hip had become dislocated, and they gave him a general anesthetic to make it easier to put the joint back together. That didn't work, so then they operated to repair the joint. That required another dose of general anesthetic.

After he had been in the hospital for a while I learned that general anesthesia is not your friend. It can take three or four days for young people to recover from general anesthesia. That's how long it takes for your body to flush all the drugs from your system. For older people it can take longer, weeks, or even months. It took my Dad about six weeks to come out of it.

So now I am dealing with his estate. I had a guy call me last weekend about my Dad's house in Cornelius. I intend to sell it, but I haven't listed it or advertised it or even put up a sign. Got a letter from someone else wanting to buy it for cash. The real estate market may not be as hot as it was, but it is still plenty warm. There are two developments in Hillsboro that I know of that are on tiny tracts of land that are bordered on one side by railroad tracks. They are crammed full of tiny houses. There is one street going into these places. You can't get back out unless you turn around in someone's driveway.

Work continues to be a sad comedy. The owner is getting back from two weeks in Europe. One week at the Olympics and one visiting potential customers. Meanwhile, the company didn't have enough cash to make payroll, so we had to get some cash from the owners wife so we can have real checks on Monday, as opposed to automatic deposit. Time to look for a new job? Or a sailboat?