Thursday, August 31, 2006


My mother's side of the family has traditionally held a family reunion on the Fourth of July every year. I have always enjoyed getting together with the relatives I don't see the rest of the year and see what everyone has been doing. Not the same people show up every year, so there is always someone different to talk to. It is always potluck, with everyone bringing something they make especially well or are proud of (not necessarily the same thing). It is pretty much a traditional Fourth of July.
Except for the dynamite.
My Aunt and Uncle live on the South end of Vashon Island, where they have a sizeable chunk of property. It is a very rural setting. The land is mostly second growth timber and brush. At the time, because they were clearing land, they could but dynamite (for agricultural purposes only) at the Co-op. Anyone who has spent time on the business end of a muck stick and prybar trying to get a stubborn stump out of the ground can really appreciate the pristine beauty of a couple of well placed sticks of dynamite. Not to mention the fact that it is a heck of a lot of fun to make things go BOOM. Both the relatives on Vashon and my family in Idaho had obtained and used dynamite for a number of years.
For the family get-together, people would usually start arriving around noon, and start out with the veggies-and-dip, and chips and snacks. Around the same time the first fireworks would show up. The policy towards fireworks has never been consistent in the State of Washington. Heck, it is not even consistent from block to block. It is literally possible to buy fireworks, walk a couple of blocks and be arrested for setting them off. It is not a policy designed to to build a great deal of respect for the law and its enforcement. To complicate matters, the Indian Reservations are only subject to Federal Law, so you can get a lot more of "The Good Stuff" from the Indians, including some stuff that is outside Federal guidelines.
Every year, McCord Air Force Base in Tacoma holds an Airshow to celebrate the Fourth. They generally flew North out of the base and turned around at the North end of Vashon. During the day we would see all kinds of Aircraft from fighters to cargo carriers, to bombers. We would hear them coming and rush outside to see if we could identify the type and model of the plane.
The fireworks would typically start with the younger kids lighting snakes and smoke bombs, then progress through lady fingers, regular firecrackers, bottle rockets and the usual small fireworks. Since we had to take the last ferry back to the mainland at around 7:00 we never got into the more elaborate airborne displays. We spent the afternoon and early evening, when not occupied eating, inventing new and more elaborate ways of blowing things up.
Firecrackers were placed under tin cans.
Holes were punched in tin cans to pass the fuse through, and then the cans pushed down into mud or soft sand. The idea is to see how high in the air you can blow the can. My personal favorite was an Old El Paso chilies can inside a regular soup can partly filled with water. If you didn't get the fuse wet, it was good for at least a hundred feet of altitude.
I suppose that it was inevitable that we would someday come to the conclusion that since we had dynamite, and there were stumps to be blown, there was no reason we couldn't blow stumps an the Fourth of July. We didn't do this every year, just when the urge was irresistible.
One year after sending cans flying as high as possible, we started speculating how high in the air we could send something if dynamite provided the propulsive force and we could find something sturdy enough to not disintegrate. First we took an old wellhead, dropped a lit stick of dynamite down it, followed by a section of madrona. It made a satisfactory BOOM, but the wood disappeared completely. We never saw it after it left the pipe.
Next we saw a car wheel laying out by the barn. Perfect!
We put the car wheel on a flat place over the top of a stick of dynamite, lit the fuse and got back.
Totally unsatisfactory. The wheel, spinning madly went about thirty feet in the air. Heck we could blow tin cans a lot higher than that. The problem seemed to be that the force of the explosion needed to be focused. Not an insurmountable problem. Having experienced the benefits of the fact that water is not compressible, we decided to dig a pit slightly larger than the wheel about a foot deep, fill it with water and try again. And since one stick of dynamite didn't provide enough propulsive force, three ought to do the job!
We finished digging our pit and filling it with water. Actually, but the time it soaked in, it was more like thin mud than water, but we were pretty sure it would do the job. We had waterproof fuse, so we didn't have to worry about the fuse going out. We set three sticks of dynamite equally spaced in the pit, and dropped in the wheel. We lit the fuse and got the heck out of there.
Just as we lit the fuse ad retreated, we heard a thumping noise on the horizon. It was a flight of six helicopter. Surely they wouldn't be coming anywhere near us! But they kept on a course that would bring them right overhead.
We looked at the wheel with the dynamite under it. The fuse got shorter. No one was willing to go near it to pull the fuse. A mistake would probably be fatal.
The helicopters came closer.
The fuse got shorter
We had succeeded in our plans, for the wheel flew a couple of hundred feet in the air.
Right into the view of the helicopters. They must have seen it, because the formation split apart and headed away.
We figured we were in huge trouble. The first thing we did was put the dynamite back in the powder shed. Then we all went in and watched some sporting event on TV and prayed nothing came of it. Every time a car went by, we figured it was going to turn in the driveway, filled with guys in grey trenchcoats and black fedoras, but we never heard a thing.
I always wondered what the Flight Leader reported. I don't think he would want to report that they were under attack by car wheels. Maybe they never said a thing and that's why we never heard anything.
The only thing I know for sure is that the next time we went to the Co-op to buy dynamite, they wouldn't sell us any.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

At Last.

So I am taking tomorrow off to help Rose move.She is going to be staying here at least part of the time. If she is genuinely trying to get herself together, it is a good thing, although I foresee some stormy weather ahead.

I haven't managed to get much done on the deck lately. All I have left to do is nail in the 2 X 2's to close it in so kids can't fall off and get hurt (or growed-ups either). I wanted to get done by Friday so I could actually take a couple of days off and maybe swill a couple of beers and read a book. I just bought Dean Koontz's latest (The Husband) but haven't had a chance to crack the cover yet. Maybe when I get through here.

I haven't written anything here lately because there has been too much other stuff going on. I need to order up a couple of extra hours a day.

Tonight it is raining, so I had to give up on working on the deck. OK with me. I have spent nearly every available moment working on it for the last couple of weeks.

I know there is a good story roaming around in my head somewhere, but I haven't had time to do much with any of them lately. Maybe I'll pull something out of some orifice or the other.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So, here's the deck. I am getting set to start on the handrail.

On the homefront, both L & N have jobs, so they are looking for apartments. Mrs. A and I had to co-sign the lease, but we will be dropped off of the lease after six months.

R. comes and goes. I'm not sure of what her plans are. She referred to the spare bedroom as "My room" so she may be moving back in. When N and L move out she can have the big bedroom in the basement. She and I can work together to fix it up.

I had my annual diabetes checkup yesterday, and my hemoglobin acl was 7.1 which is very good control. Everything else was normal too, so I guess I haven't abused my body too badly. The one complaint I had was not being able to sleep, so the doc prescribed some sleeping pills, with the understanding I only use them occasionally. I think I will try one Saturday night. I have been averaging only about 5 hours a night, and I'm getting pretty raggedy. Thank God for caffeine

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to the grind

My computer at work will no longer allow me to log on to update my blog, so I have to do it from home. No big deal, I just used my lunch and breaks to do stuff.

I am not quite done with the deck. Still need to do the handrail and ballisters. I don't have any pictures at the moment.

It was hard to get up and go to work today, having slept in for a while.

R. spent the weekend. It's the first time she has been around for any significant amount of time for months. Emotionally she is all over the map. I hate to see her suffer, but she chose to go down the junkie path, and I can only support her if she is trying to go straight.

At one point she wanted somebody to drive her over to her suppliers house, but everyone told her we loved her too much to do that, so she left on the bus.

It is awfully hard on me to let her go, but I need to separate myself if I am to survive.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Get'n 'er done

Progress on the Deck. I think one more day and the deck will be done, less the handrails and that kind of stuff. And my life will return to its normal state of chaos.

I hurt in all sorts of places from doing things my body isn't used to.

Surprisingly, the sholder that was operated on last October hasn't hurt in particular, and it hasn't hampered me from doing whatever I wanted.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Some progress

So here is the progress on the deck so far. Things are taking a lot longer than I anticipated. I guess there probably won't be a camping trip at the end of the week.


Monday, August 14, 2006

And so it begins

Bolgger is messed up and won't let me upload any more photo's for now. I wanted to show the progress we have made. The framing is about 40% done.

We went with Morning Light this weekend for a concert in Centralia, so Saturday was a great but long day, Sunday after church there wasn't much time to get started on the deck, but today we put in about 6 hours. I have to admit that V. was a big help, which surprised me. Of course I let him use my new cordless power tools, so that had a lot to do with it.

More pictures tomorrow, if Blogger allows.
Here's where the deck will go. It's a real mess at the moment

Here'e the big pile of wood dropped in our driveway Hard to believe it cost almost $7,000.00

Friday, August 11, 2006


Tomorrow we are going to jail.

We are going with Morning Light to Maple Lane in Centralia for a concert. They will load up the truck with 13,000 lbs of gear tonight and we will head out in the morning. When we get there, we will set up a full sound system with light show. Not to mention setting up chairs for a couple of hundred kids. Two one hour shows, then break it all down and go back home. It is one long day.

Here's a picture of the crew and band from last time:

I am on vacation as of tomorrow. Oh yeah, I have a deck to build, but I am looking forward to it. The deal is that whenever I take on a major project at home, I get to buy a new toy (oops, I mean tool). Since I will be puting the deck down with deck screws, it will require the purchase of a new cordless drill.

And I will be working with my hands, which I don't get to do all that much. It is a nice change from my normal work.

I had to move to a different cubicle today, first thing this morning, fourth time in the last month. I have it down to a science now. It took me an hour from when I started until I had the computer up and running and was handling my e-mail.

Happy Friday everyone. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


They delivered the materials for the deck yesterday. They mixed up some of the order, but I'm not going to complain. I ordered treated redwood decking, and they deliverd Redwood composite decking. I priced the composite stuff, and it was almost $1000.00 more. I won't be returning it. Someone also threw in a 14' treated 4 X 6 that doesn't appear on the manifest.

I am taking off next week to build the deck, but I may get started tonight. I need to remember to take pictures as I go along.

Saturday we are going with Morning Light to jail for a concert. That is always a lot of work, and a lot of fun, and a long day. I'll try to remember to take the camera. I am hoping R. will go with us. They have a lot of resources for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. But you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Chapter VIII of STAR is available at


Today they deliver the materials for the deck. I went to Lowe's hardware and they have a program where you just put in the dimensions and what kind of wood you want and it spits out plans and a complete materials list.

Right down to how many nails you need.

So I have spent several hours going over the materials list and the plans and trying to make sense of it all in my head. It shouldn't bee too difficult for me, after all I am a Manufacturing Engineer. And decks are a whole lot easier to build than 737s.

Nonetheless, when I awoke at 3:00 this morning, my mind immediately went to work building the deck, getting the exact sequence of events set in my mind. And of course revising the plans as I go to accomplish what I want.

I am taking next week off to get the deck built. Hopefully we will get done a little early so Mrs A. and I can disappear into the mountains for a short camping trip.

I have a special place in mind, but will have to sedate Mrs A. to get her there. She has this fear of going off the road and into water and drowning. The place I want to go is 23 miles of bad road out in the wilderness, a lot of it with a cliff on one side and a dropoff on the other, plus the last barrier to the campground is you have to ford a stream with the car.

The payoff is one of the most beautiful camp grounds on the face of the Earth.

I think if I get her to take a couple of benadryl before we leave she will be enough in LALA land that by the time she realizes what is going on, we will be there. Of course this means she won't be helping me set up camp.

And then there is the trip back.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Another fine mess

I mentioned a while back that R. was back on meth again. I love my daughter with all of my heart, but I had come to the point that I had to let her go.


Be prepared for the phonecall from the Police or the Hospital. It hurt like Hell, but I did it. Not that you can ever be prepared for those phone calls.

She got her head straight, and got clean (or so she claims). I have had a couple of conversations with her recently, and she seemed all right.

Last night I got a call, and she is all in tears and practically incoherent. She had this boyfriend. He was hit and dragged by a Metro bus a couple of years ago, and his settlement with the Transportation Department was several million dollars.

He is also a junkie.

They had a big fight a couple of weeks ago, and started not coming home at night.

Last night he showed up with a couple of his "homies" to get his stuff. They of course got into a big shouting match, and she got choked into unconsciousness.

One of the neighbors called the police, but he was gone by the time they got there.

While the Police were there, he called her on the phone and told her he was going to kill her, kill me and Mrs A. and everyone in the house. She told me not to answer the door for anyone I didn't know, and she was scared half to death. She said that the police checked and he has outstanding warrants, and so do the two guys that were with him.

Doesn't really worry me particularly.

First of all, I can take care of myself. I have no compuntion to "fight fair" and the quicker you can take them out, the better off you will be.

Second of all, most of these punks run on hot air and intimidation. If they were going to kill anyone, they would have started with R. when they had her. The threat to kill the whole lot of us is just a lot of hot air.

Mind you, I did put a baseball bat under the seat of my car just in case.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's Only Money

So I went out over the weekend and spent a whole lot of money (by my standards anyway).

The deck off of the living room here at Moneypit Estates has been deteriorating for quite some time. It was bad when I bought the place 20 years ago, so I reskinned the deck with some nice cedar decking. But the underpinnings were rotting out, so it was time to start all over.

While Mrs A. and I were in Mexico I had N. tear the old deck off of the house. He thought it might be a good idea to run under the deck, hammer on the support beams and run out before the deck fell.

Of course that didn't work, and the deck fell on him and he ended up in the Emergency room. Luckily there were no major injuries. I pointed out to him that there were several lenghts of chain hanging in the shop that he could have used to PULL it down with, but he kinda got the "Deer in the headlights" look.

Shortly after that, he flicked a cigarette butt into the pile of debris from the deck, and set it on fire. Luckily they managed to put it out before the house caught on fire. The only casualty was my old yellow cooler.

Saturday we finished up cleaning up the boards from the old deck and got them neatly stacked in the back yard. I plan on using them to build raised beds in the back yard to plant vegetables in.

So Sunday after church, we went down to Lowe's and sat down with the computer and plugged in my design and it spit out the bill of materials.

I about had a heart attack when I saw the bottom line.

$6746.17 of my hard earned dollars just for the materials.

Luckily we have been saving for this for over a year and already have the money set aside.

Wednesday they are delivering the wood. Then comes the hard part: turning a pile of lumber and hardware into something approximating a deck.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thanks Denny

I was so inspired by Denny's declaration of yesterday to be a national holiday dedicated to laziness that I stayed home from work today.

Since I found out too late to celebrate yesterday, I figured today was the next best thing.

Whew, that was tiring.

Think I had better go take a nap.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Home Blogging

So is home blogging kinda like home schooling? You don't have the interaction with the other delinquents, so it is safer, but the social skills are somewhat questionable?

I guess all of our social skills are questionable anyway.

I kicked V. off of the computer, partly because I felt he was beginning to morph with it, partly because I had not been able to use it for a couple of days. Withdrawal.

I haven't been able to blog at work, because it has been so damn busy I can hardly use my lunch time to catch up with my work.

If anybody gives a shit, here is an example

We buy a wire bundle from a company in Morocco. At the end of it it has a sensor that has six wires coming out of it, and a bunch of nuts and washers to adjust it. This is the flap sensor unit. It sends a signal to the cockpit to tell the pilot when the flaps have been fully deployed. The wire bundle and sensor and engineering are perfect. The unit goes on every airplane.

When we get the wire bundle, it goes to Everett, where it is integrated with other wire bundles. When we get it, it has a small bag with a bunch of hardware taped to the wire bundle.

A couple of nuts, a keyed washer, a lock washer. Well the routing of the wire bundle happens a couple of days before we install the switches and adjust them on a rigging job. Some times the little bag of parts gets lost.

Because we don't ever order the adjustment hardware as a separate item, there is no allowance in the procurement system to order them separately. However, the switch and attached wires IS an orderable item, so when presented with a missing washer or locknut, the mechanics have been ordering the whole switch, stealing the washers and throwing away the switch itself. The switch is a hundred bucks, the hardware, probably a couple of bucks.

So my mission for this week has been to figure out how to get a little bag of parts that costs a couple of bucks, but saves the company a bunch.

I am almost there. I have a couple of technical hurdles to get over tomorrow, but a small problem that costs thousands annually is about to be fixed. Other people have worked on this for several years. but no one could figure it out.

I can't tell you how I did it, or I would have to brain wash you.

If we can produce the most affordable and reliable aircraft if the world, the world comes to us.

We have that product. Now if we can make it even MORE affordable...............

That is one of several problems I have been trying to fix this week.

I always told Mrs A. I am happiest when I am juggling at leat three balls at the same time. This is one.

Busy day

No time to blog today. I am burried in work.

The main problem is that I am only here through Monday and I have several problems that I want to get resolved before I go back to my other job.

Got to get back to the rat race!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Statler and Waldorf

Statler and Waldorf are the two old guys that sat up on the balcony and heckled the cast on The Muppet Show. The were always one of my favorites.

At work , Billy and I sit at the shipside support area (called The Barge). We are a couple of well known curmudgeons, and somebody told us this morning that we reminded him of Statler and Waldorf.

Actually what he said was we reminded him of "the two old dudes in the balcony who heckled everyone"

Art imitates life, and life in turn imitates art.

I am now complete.

I am Muppet, hear me gripe.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I tried to blog yesterday, but nothing came out.

It's not that there was nothing there, I just kept getting inturrupted. People expecting me to do stuff and all. Then when I got home, V. was firmly entrenched, playing Warcraft. He has just gotten a new subscription card, and it has been over a month since he was able to play, so I figured "WTF let him play, I'm blogstipated anyway."

Sunday I got up at zero dark thirty to go fishing. Here I live in a major metropolitan city, and at certain times, you can go catch a limit of salmon in the lake right here. There is a sockeye salmon run that goes up the Ballard Locks, through Lake Union, out into Lake Washington, down thru Renton and up the Cedar River to spawn.

They linger in the lake for a couple of weeks until whatever internal clock drives their lives clicks over and they get the urge. That urge must be pretty powerful, because the minute they hit fresh water, they start breaking down.


I am all enthusiastic about sex and everything, but death as a consequence would definitely make me think twice.

"Oh baby, oh baby I need you so bad"

"OK, but you're going to die"

"Can I reconsider this?"

At least with fish, it is equitable, because the fish BOTH die.

Not like praying mantises where the female literally bites the males head off WHILE they are copulating.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, sockeye.

The thing was, I also has a family reunion on Sunday, and I had to go pick up my mom.

So down to the lake, catch my limit of two fish, back home to clean and filet them, back down to bring my mom fresh salmon and pick her up for the reunion, back home to pick up Mrs A., off to the ferry terminal to catch the boat to Vashon Island. And all of this before noon. We missed the first boat by three cars, but that was OK with me. It gave me a chance to catch my breath.

Sockeye are wierd.

You don't use any bait or anything. By the time they hit the fresh water, they have quit feeding. So you use a flasher and trailing behind it about 18", bare hooks. For some reason they strike at bare hooks.

Oh, not just any bare hooks, they have to be red.

Why do they do it?

Not a clue.