Friday, May 28, 2010

Technology Overload




We were all lined up to take out the 4 for an early evening row. The weather conspired against us. Storms have been passing in and out of the area. The Nimbus clouds have been racing across the sky, with wind gusts and rumbles of thunder. Any chance of lightning keeps us off the river. So much for rowing tonight: As much as I’d like to get on the water, it is just too dangerous.

I did my rowing practice this morning at the “Y” on the Concept 2. I started with warm ups doing two 500 meter intervals. All warmed up I set the program for a fixed distance of 500 meters. I froze at the ½ slide position. In my mind I said, “We have alignment, GO!!!” That is when my racing start kicked in: ½ , ½ , ¾ , Reach, and finally full slide. The main readout I concentrate is the split time shown for rowing 500 meters. My starting time for the first 30 seconds or so was in the high 1:30’s. I tried so hard to keep that number, but my muscles had other plans: Slowly the time crept up into the 1:40 range.

At the 1:20 mark my legs and arms were jelly and tingly. I kept going and finished out the set doing 500 meters in 1:47.0 minutes. How I wanted to break 1:45.

Because I started with a racing start, I was legal to rate my performance on the Concept 2 site. The 2011 season began May 1st. For my age and weight class (50-60 years and under 165 lbs for a lightweight rower class) I was 8 out of 15. Now I have a target to work towards. If it is any consolation, I was the oldest rower showing a rating so far in my class.

I printed out my Google maps and directions for the upcoming trip yesterday. This is such an improvement over relying so on a vague road atlas. However, I was spoiled driving with Louis in California and using his GPS.

He called me this afternoon using his cheap/free long distance. I told him I was actually checking out TomTom GPS’s on line. He told me to stay away from them and to go with Garmin, like he has. He then started to rattle off the technical stuff. That is where my head shut down and wanted to explode!

The price has really come down on the things. Researching on the internet gave me all kinds of information, such as: never buy a refurbished unit at any cost!

Louis told me he has a 255 WT model. The t stands for being able to get traffic alerts. For as much as I’ll be using it, the extra expense was not justified.

Because I’ll be leaving Tuesday, I did not have the luxury of shopping on-line for the cheapest price. I went to the BestBuy site and priced out the Garmin 255W at $119.99. I printed out the page to take with me.

Stores like Best Buy work my last good nerve… all that technology in one spot. I found a computer stand where I entered the stock number of the GPS and discovered there were 9 in stock. I will say the help here is very helpful and personable. I found the display of GPS’s. The store price was $139.99. The nicest clerk was at the aisle. I asked her if the store would match the internet price from the Best Buy site. She told me that was no problem as long as I had the print out from Best Buy. Yay…my plan worked!!!

I then asked her about getting something to back up my hard-drive. After I nearly lost everything a few months back, I don’t want to take any chances. She told me how she accidentally deleted her operating files, but was saved because she had them backed up on an external hard drive. In the “Memory aisle” this clerk and another guy who was stocking the shelves were recommending what I should get. My head…. hearing about all the billions of bytes and whatever!!! These young kids are so up on this stuff, it is all second nature to them.

I really had them laughing saying I’m such a Luddite, I was on overload just from the GPS!! They set me up with a Toshiba unit which I was assured would be adequate for my needs.

We got everything squared away at customer service. I declined the extended warranties and the frequent buyer card. I told them I was lucky to get in the store once or twice a year because it makes me so nervous. As I paid with cash I had to say, “See that proves me being a Luddite!!! How many people pay with cash anymore??!!” I left them laughing as I said good by!!

I needed to pick up some things at Hel-mart. Friday afternoon the place was a “Horror Show”. Since bar-b-que is the main item on the menu for Jason’s party tomorrow, I don’t want to use my good linen. Plain old plastic will be fine. The plastic tablecloths were so ugly… blue or red. Blue seemed to be the least offensive colour, so I got that one. I’m reminded of the Bar-b-que I went to in Bradford, PA back in the summer of 1997. I suggested on the way we stop for a quick bite so we would not be starving when we arrived. Oh, no I was assured, this is a picnic, there will be lots of food before hand.

This turned out to be a real “Yupped out” affair. The food before hand was fancy crab dip on crackers. That was it! We were starving from the 2+ hour drive. My companions Dan and Barry just gave me sick looks! In my mind a cook out – picnic is down home eating. Save the fancy stuff for some other time.

From there I had to hit Sam’s Club. I needed to print out the pictures of the cabinet for the phonograph show. The pictures turned out pretty well. A spare box of wine, and some sandwich buns was my big purchase. The snack bar was not crowded so I splurged and got me an ice cream cup for $1.06. That is my favourite extravagance!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Party and Cleaning




Where do I start? Our coach Jason will be leaving us in a few weeks. The rowing club will be hosting a going away party for him at my house Saturday night. That was the reason I was so frantic to finish up the patio project and get the back yard into shape. I picked up a bug spray to keep the mosquitoes down. It is a new type I’ve never used before with lemongrass oil which is supposed to be much safer to use around pets and humans. I also stocked up extra citronella oil for the “smudge pot” patio burners. Those damn mosquitoes don’t stand a chance! All looks good, so now we are hoping the weather will hold and not rain.

Yesterday I cooked down two pork butts and pulled them all apart. That meat is now soaking up my “special sauce” in the ice box. This sauce is so easy to make and gets rave reviews…. Cook together 1 bottle of chili sauce, one can of soda (cola or Dr Pepper is best) 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and two tablespoons hot sauce. Flower can be added to thicken if desired… that all there is to it…..

While messing with all this in the kitchen I did up a batch of cloe-slaw. There will be good eating here Saturday night!!

Another project for me has been getting ready for the road trip coming up next week. Will first be going to Scranton, PA and continuing on to Elgin, IL for the antique phonograph show. The first time I attended this show was back in 1980. It can’t be 30 years ago!!! Then I’ll loop home to Alabama, I’ll be adding some 3,000 miles to the truck odometer. That truck still keeps going. I have 142K on it; it is working on its 9th year on the road with the original battery and clutch!

I’m going to be taking my old Mira 15 ½ inch disc music box out to unload. I get so attached to things; this music box is no exception. I bought it back in 1972 and made payments on it for months before I was able to take possession. I was living in Lancaster, PA at the time. I used to make twice weekly trips to “Lancaster Blood, Plasma, and Components” to sell plasma to help pay for the thing. If you went eight times in four weeks you got a five dollar bonus!

Two years back I acquired a much rarer model in the same disc size. It makes no sense to hang on to this, regardless of the sentimental attachment. I picked out a good assortment of discs, oiled it up, and waxed the cabinet. It is all packed and ready to ride on the passenger seat in the cab of my truck. This just goes to prove when you collect this stuff you never really own it, you are just a caretaker for a while.

The base I later acquired for this box is worth almost as much as the music box itself. I’ll be selling that off separately. I will be tossing some lines out at the show for that. I did a photo shoot in the front yard in the evening sun for the best light. The cabinet is so rare and hard to find it should pretty well sell itself.

Cleaning out that cabinet I found vinyl LP’s I’ve not played in decades. I’m playing them now as I type this out. That is one thing about being frugal, I never dumped over my old technology when new came out. I was so impressed when CD’s were introduced in the 1980’s.

There was a magazine in those early years that reviewed the limited releases; I think it was called Digital Audio Review. Google could not confirm this for me. Those early CD’s were very expensive. Now CD’s are pretty much obsolete. It all just makes my head want to explode!

Back in the 1980’s there were record shops on 8th Street in Manhattan that sold the best 1930’s music. Many of those records were bootleg recordings produced in small pressings that never made it to CD status. The memories so many of my LP’s hold….

One memorable “New York City “ moment occurred when I was headed back uptown after a day of shopping at the Strand Bookstore and the record shops on 8th Street. There was a second hand shop called the Salvage Barn on Hudson St. I stopped in to see if any treasures could be turned up. I don’t like to haul my back pack or bags around in this kind of place. Too many things can get knocked into. The conversation with the lady behind the counter went as follows;

Brick: Would it be OK to leave this stuff here so I don’t destroy anything looking around?

Lady: Sure, you’ve been shopping. Did you find anything good?

Brick: I hit the gold mine today! I scored the best Ruth Etting LP. (Pulling the record from the bag to show it off)

Lady; Ruth Etting… My husband was a producer. He knew Ruth and the “Gimp”. (That would be Moe Snyder, Ruth’s first husband. Portrayed by jimmy Cagney in the movie “Love Me or Leave Me”) The “Gimp” always said, “My Ruthie has the best legs. I’d swear an oath on her legs.”

This exchange floored me. Where else but in Manhattan could something like this happen?

How I miss those days when I would spend hours upon hours in the stacks of the Strand Book Store and the funky shops along 8th Street. It was such a special place in time and my life…..

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brick PatioWork/ AT&T Rant




I have been so consumed with the latest patio revamping project. Friday the 14th I got the last of the bricks cut and installed in 90°+ temperatures. What a relief that was. I showed up for the Friday evening row. For once we had more than enough people. For the first time I bowed out of a row; I was so beat. My rowing peeps had never seen me do that before. I’m known as a “seat slut” in that I’ll normally do anything to be able to row!

Saturday the 15th was the big yard sale for the Rowing Club. Unfortunately there were not the crowds we enjoyed at our last sale. The timing was off in with graduations and all: it was a very busy weekend for people.

I hauled all the stuff that did not sell at the sale to the Alabama Thrift Store. Returning home I went to work to do the final installation on the bricks. I dropped a bag of the Sand Topping mix on the left hand top of the patio and split it open. Using the wide driveway broom I proceeded to sweep the mixture in between the cracks. Something was not right; stones were all mixed into the topping mix. What a pain in the butt to get those stones shifted away so as to not interfere with the mixture flowing into the cracks.

This is a tedious job involving lots of sweeping to work the mixture into the cracks. I opened a second bag of the mix and sure enough it too was full of stones. This time I shoveled the mixture into an old colander and sifted the stones out before dumping it onto the bricks. I only did half the patio as the follow up work is so involved.

Once the topping mixture was swept out to my satisfaction it was time to use the spray nozzle on the hose and wet it all down. This activates the cement and really sets the mixture so it flows between the bricks. It also puddles and makes a mess on the face of the brick which I have laid so to show the makers names and trademarks.

Now for the “fun” part: I have a piece of ¾ inch copper pipe duct taped to the hose of my shop vac. Each brick has to be vacuumed to remove the water/topping mix before it hardens. Otherwise it sets up and ruins the whole job……

The face of the bricks has to be kept wet. It is a miserable job that takes hours. Even with my top shelf gel knee pads, my knees were killing me from hours of kneeling and vacuuming.

Sunday morning I took a chance working in the cool morning. I got about ¼ of the way through when to began to rain. DAMN! The open bag of mix had to be covered, and the mixture already on the bricks swept down as fast as possible. Then I had to vacuum up the puddled up mixture in the rain. I was not a happy camper!

Things cleared up in the afternoon and I was able to get the brick saw cleaned up and put away, as well as starting on general cleaning up of the backyard.

No, this is not the Grand Canyon! It is the water tray under the blade of the brick saw showing by layers the different bricks cut during the course of this latest project!.

Monday morning I finished up working with the topping mix. I called Sakrete to complain about their product. I was told the mixture had not changed that the most likely cause was in switching a line over caused the stones to be in the system. Fortunately I only used 2 ½ bags. The other two bags I returned to Blowes. After working in a factory for 30 years I can understand how those things happen.

Monday night I installed the Smith fire hydrant to it’s base. Normally this has a “break-a-way” clamp connector to the water line. If it would get hit by a vehicle, the clamp would be the weak point and cause the hydrant to break from the pipe with minimal damage.

That said, there is no protruding pipe or flange to fasten the hydrant. Instead, when I poured the cement for the base I fabricated a plug for the hydrant to seat over. This insures it will not get tipped over.

It all turned out well. This hydrant originally saw service in Bronx, NY, not far from Yankee Stadium. I bought it off Craigslist in Ft Myers, FL from a retired NYC firefighter who moved it south. What a history, from the Bronx to Long Island, to Ft Myers, and finally to Tuscaloosa!

I’ll keep the silver and black colour scheme as those are the original colors. The only change I plan is to do is to highlight some of the casting and date information. I have to save that chore for when I’m in a REAL anal mood. It is real fussy to cut that all in to look good.

Now to get to my everyday life… AT&T has been more of a pain than usual. First off I have been losing my internet connection at random times. I called the help number a few Sunday’s back. They ran all kinds of tests and came to the conclusion that I’m supposed to be getting the middle DSL service, it think it is called “Ultra”. Instead they have me receiving the super fast extreme service which they claim is jamming my modem.

The representative called the local AT&T here, but being Sunday all was shut down. Apparently something is supposed to be changed at the pole. I was told I’d be contacted to set up an appointment. Naturally nothing ever became of it. I also inquired if I could have an explanation as to why I lose my internet connection at 4:50 a.m. for one minute without fail, every day.

I was told it was from a timer… possibly for street lights on the line interfering. It did not sound right to me. I told him so, and how it even happens while I’m wearing my tin foil hat!!

I have a Mastercard through AT&T that was supposed to be “no yearly fees” forever. I’ve had the card since 1990. It sat for years without me using it. I’d cancel the thing, but that would mess up my credit rating. Last year I got a notice if I did not start using the card, it would be canceled. I now charge a tank of gas a month to it to keep it active. The balance in full gets “autopayed” from my checking account every month so I don’t have to use postage stamps, or run the risk of a late payment.

My new card arrived in the mail and I had to call the 800 number to activate it. I HATE doing this. The automated part is a piece of cake, then I had to speak with a representative. This is the part where they try to reel you in for the kill.

I could barely understand this person.

AT&T: Do you know what your credit score is? We can sign you up to a program…..

Jamie: No I don’t know my credit score, and I don’t care, I don’t want to sign up…

AT&T: Would you like balance transfer checks so you can transfer other credit card balances……

Jamie: No, I don’t want balance transfer checks…

AT&T: Would you…….

Jamie: STOP!!! LET’S SAVE OURSELVES A LOT OF TIME AND TROUBLE. I have no debt period. My bills are paid automatically when they are due. I have not paid an interest or service payment to a charge card in over 20 years. When they took off the interest deduction from the income tax code I never paid any interest to a charge card again. I’m the kind of customer you people hate; you call me a deadbeat because all you make off me is the merchant fee.

I don’t want checks coming to my house every month that can be stolen, ALL I WANT TO DO IS TO ACTIVATE MY CHARGE CARD. PERIOD

I try so hard to keep my temper, but these people work my last good nerve. Supposedly my card was activated…. If there are any extra charges…. trust me there will be Hell to pay!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Working With the Brick Saw Again




I actually started to clean for the first time in a while. I can always judge by the amount of Stumpy’s hair on the white tile in the bathroom when I need to clean. I’m ashamed to say there where balls of his fur floating around!

The rain also reminded me I needed to clean out the gutter on the front of the house. That was my project Wednesday. I had to laugh as I got some looks from passers by on the street. Folks here are not used to seeing Utilikilts being worn on the roof!!

Thursday my boat got cancelled for the morning row. I had to bring a cox box for the row to the boat house. I showed up in my work clothes (ripped up shirt and Utilikilt) but brought along a pair of spandex shorts in case I got to row. I had the crew laughing telling them about my friend Jerome who stopped by my house.

Jerome visits when he is in the neighborhood. This last visit he was on his special bicycle with the dog carrier on the back. He loves to ride with his “wiener dog” MoJo on the back. He showed up as I was taking a break. Jerome laughed saying how I looked like an Alabama redneck from the waist up, but from the waist down it was a different story! I told him he was just a little bigger in the waist from me and he might like to try on my other Utiliklt. His face lit up!

I got him in it and he looked pretty good. He is going to bring his girlfriend over to let her see!! I guess I’m doing my part to change the world over one Utilikilt at a time!

The crew was short a person so I was able to row after all. It was a great session with Jason and Katie coaching. Starting the day on the river pretty much always predicts a good day.

Finally got my butt in gear and started working again on the patio rebuild. Installing the outside perimeter brick is a real fussy job. If I knew what I was doing the angles needed to be cut could be easily calculated. But, figuring out radiuses and the like are beyond me: Being hands on I just figure out each cut and go that route. Using the brick saw is a religious experience for me, so this is not a real problem.

The Blue Angels are in town to put on an air show this weekend. They have been flying over the city for the past few days making a lot of noise. Things will be insane over at the airfield in Northport tomorrow and Sunday. This boy will not be there!

Time to get changed into work clothes and get to Blowes for some more mortar mix and get back to my patio……

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About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.