Monday, February 28, 2011

Too Busy

Life has been a little too hectic and too busy for the last week. Blogging has taken a distant second. Perhaps tonight I'll have some time.

Yesterday I came across this photo from 1998 or 1999. We have changed.

Isaias, Anne, Paul, Julie.
From the left: Isaias, Anne, me (less bald and without a beard) and Julie. We had been bicycling somewhere around Lubbock, Texas.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekend Training

Julie and I have had many fun and interesting experiences over the years and this weekend was another one.

I looked forward to the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training but didn't want to loose the entire weekend. The Friday night session (6-9 PM) was enjoyable and made me anticipate Saturday's sessions (8-5 PM). Long before we finished Sunday evening we both agreed it was a good experience. In the end I didn't feel like it was a lost weekend.

CERT Training Group.
CERT Training Group. Julie and I are second and third from the left.

We met new people from the area (one a master gardener who lives a mile from us!), got better acquainted with neighbors we've know for a few years, learned new skills and laughed a lot. Now that we've completed the basic training we scheduled to attend a regular monthly meeting in town tomorrow night.

One of the interesting things for me was discovering that much of what I was taught years ago about emergency first aid is no longer considered valid. One of the instructors, a retired police officer, told stories from his experiences that related the same message concerning emergency procedures other than first aid. Time passes and new research reveals the fallacy of current practices. This emphasized the need to keep learning.

Initially I expected only training but we were given backpacks, helmet, eye protection, gloves, tools and manuals. A second basic class will be held in April for a group unable to attend this weekend. Both groups will meet in May to organize and plan periodic meetings and on-going training.

Julie and I worked together as buddies on each exercise. We put out fires, put splints on one another (my arm, her leg), did search and rescue and used a lever and cribbing to remove a wall off a training dummy.

A good weekend!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Piki Bread

Yesterday morning a co-worker came to my office with a gift of piki bread, a gift she promised several months ago. Piki bread "is a thin dry rolled bread made by the Hopi with nixtamalized corn meal, obtaining its dark grayish-blue color and unique flavor due to the use of blue corn and culinary ash. The light, thin sheets are dry to the point of brittleness, melt in the mouth, and have a delicate corn flavor." (wikipedia)

Piki Bread.

While digging a footer to begin construction of a sun room in July of 2008 I hit something hard. Thinking it was just a layer of caliche I came down hard with a pick and pulled a piece of sandstone out of the ground.There is no sandstone for miles, only volcanic cinders, so I know I had found something.

Piki Stone.
Piki stone discovered while digging a foot for the sun room.

A co-worker is Hopi so I showed her a photo asking what it might be and she replied "a piki stone", a stone used to bake piki bread. At that time she promised a gift of bread.

Reassembled piki stone.

When she gave me the bread she said it was made different than usual because it was the time of the bean dances and the initiation of children. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to talk so I was left which many questions that will have to wait. I did a web search and found the following.
The Bean Dance (Powamu) is the most complex of all ceremonies and is considered to be one of the most important of the Kachina dances. It occurs in February, and is divided into two parts. One part is the time when disciplining of the children occurs, and the second part is to promote fertility for the upcoming growing season, which is when the initiated males grow beans in the kivas. The Katsinam appear in the villages carrying the bean sprouts and bringing gifts for the children in the morning and a dance is held later that night. Young children are also initiated at this time into the Katsina societies.

The disciplining of children occurs during the other part of the Bean Dance ceremony. That is the time when the Katsinam in this painting appear. During the Powamu, or purification ceremony, there is a procession of Katsinam that will go from house to house to lecture unruly children, and in some situations, adults. They are, from left to right, Ha-hai Wuhti, the grandmother Katsina and also the mother of the monsters. Behind her stands a Soyoko known as the Black Nata-aska, an uncle from the Ogre family, and two Soyok' Wuhti's who are attendants and considered to be Aunties. Behind them is another Ogre known as Wiharu, or White Ogre. He is also an uncle, as are the four other Soyokos standing behind him. The last three Katsinam are He-heya's. They are uncles also.
As the Ha-hai Wuhti talks to the children, she will tell them what they are doing wrong and give them assignments to prove their worthiness. She also informs the children that she will feed them to the Soyoko's if they fail to meet their tasks. At this time all of the Uncles will begin growling as their mouths flap and their saws are raked across the ground. At the same time, the Ha-hai Wuhti will also inform the children that the Aunties have baskets of food for the Uncles, but, they could be added to the basket if they don't behave. During this ordeal, the three He-heya's will be intimidating the children with their ropes as if they want to tie them up. This is a very solemn time, and the audience watches with great reverence. It is a time of regeneration, a time when purity is renewed and the beginning of another life cycle.

I found the above here which shows the painting. On another site I read an interpretation/opinion that may help:

Monsters enter the village and go to each house, threatening to eat children who have misbehaved, and demanding fresh meat. (It is my opinion that these monsters represent hunger and the lesson of preparing for winter is well-taught.)

I have three reactions. First, I'd like to know, to hear, to see, to experience some of these ceremonies but ignorant, arrogant and thoughtless outsiders have forced the Hopi to close some of them. Another co-worker who is not Hopi grew up on the reservation where her grandfather and father were doctors. As a child she learned the Hopi language and played with Hopi children. She remembers feeling a sense of shock and horror as a preschool child at the behavior of outsiders at a snake dance.

My second reaction is one of sadness at the challenges that face not only the Hopi but all small cultures. Their beliefs and values are being overwhelmed and lost to a world economy that values only wealth and gain. Sad, truly sad.

My third reaction is one of slight envy. I've lived in seven states and had thirty-some mailing addresses over my life. I had a sense of "belonging" for only the first ten years of my life. After that I was the outsider, the one who didn't belong. I wonder what it's like to live in a small group, to have a sense of culture and heritage, to experience a history with the land and shared memories with extended family.

I am truly thankful for the gift. Next week I want to talk with my co-worker and learn more.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cat Stories, Customer Service and a Koala Fact

I woke up when I heard the bedroom door open in the middle of the night. We keep the door closed to prevent the cats from sleeping with us. Julie was it bed beside me so I knew it wasn't her.

While doing some remodelling we replaced all passage locks with lever style handles. Maggie, the younger of our two cats, studied the problem over several months and learned how to open the door. She jumps up, grabs the lever with her front paws and swings her hind feet against the door to cause it to open a few inches. Smart cat. Getting into a room is one thing but learning to open the door from the inside is another. If she ever solves that problem then I'll consider her a feline genius.

Maggie feeling ill.
Maggie feeling ill.

Julie took both cats to the vet recently for annual shots. It was Macy's first trip. She's become fairly tame but turns into a rigid furry cactus if we pick her up. Through a little deception and artful use of Macy's addiction to mayonaise Julie managed to get her into a carrier.

The trip went well with two slight complications. For two days after the visit the cats didn't eat or move. They chose safe spots and slept. Julie phoned the vet to determine if this was normal and received a "I don't know. I guess it could be due to the shots." She completed an online form expressing concern about the response and a person phoned her. In the end it was great customer service.

The second complication is a little more serious. About a week after the visit Maggie began limping. We checked her leg and she didn't react. We touched her toes and she pulled away. Using a light and magnifying glass we failed to find an injury. After a week of limping where she got progressively worse so we made another trip to the vet. It turns out it was a reaction to the feline leukemia shot which sometimes causes a small lump at the point of the injection. If the lump grows larger or lasts longer than about 10 weeks there could be a serious problem. Wish they had told Julie this when the shots were administered. Not good customer service. The vet provided some syringes of an anti-inflamatory which stopped the limping after two days.

There are three interesting items from the second visit. The man who phoned Julie after her online response to their service heard we were in the clinic. He came in, introduced himself and spent about 15 minutes talking with us. Julie had inquired about cat doors (magnetic, infrared and chip operated). He couldn't answer one of her questions so he did some research, phoned manufactures and emailed Julie. Once again, great customer service.

The second interesting item relates to Maggie's limping. She didn't limp while in the clinic. I commented on this and was told that ninety percent of cats mask symptoms when they enter the clinic and smell dogs and other animals. When we got home she resumed limping until the anti-inflamatory had time to take effect.

The third item relates to koalas. A small video screen in the clinic shows images of animals and relates interesting facts. I learned the fingerprints of a koala are almost identical to human fingerprints. In fact, koala prints have been mistaken for human prints in crime scenes. Being skeptical (as I think is wise in the information age) I did a web search and this fact was confirmed. Either that or there's a world wide conspiracy of misinformation to which the Australians are party. I'll go with it as fact.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's Beginning

Julie decided to see an allergist and get tested. The results weren't surprising but one item was of interest. Her strongest reaction was to Junipers. Yep, Junipers like the ones that surround our house.

She started a regimen of shots a few weeks ago. This Thursday she steps up to a higher dosage.

Guess what season is beginning. About this time of year amorous male Junipers begin turning slightly red. Before long I'll be able to shake a branch and watch a red cloud of pollen drift with the breeze.

Seasons come and go. This one will pass without too much discomfort hopefully. In a couple years we'll know if the shots alleviate her reaction.

Paul and Julie in Arches National Park.
A photo of us taken in Arches National Park.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MP3 and Me

I have an MP3 player, a child's MP3 player sold by Hasbro. I never had a desire for one but I have found it to be a valuable tool.

A few years ago Julie and I were walking to the mail boxes when I saw a small device on the side of the dirt road. One of the ear buds had been crushed by a passing tire. I picked it up, turned it on and worked. The music on it wasn't my kind of music (assuming I'm gracious and call it music).

I had neither cord nor adapter to connect the player to my computer so it lay in a drawer for a year until my son visited. He gave me an adapter. I charged it, erased the noise on it (OK, being ungracious now) and put some different noise on it, noise that I label enjoyable.

The player is limited to 128 megabytes so it holds only a few pieces of music but that's enough for me. It's become a valuable tool. I use it regularly.

Before work, before the sun comes up, I ride a stationary exercise bicycle. Normally this would be an immense boring drudgery but the music on the player makes time vanish. During the day I try to walk but without the player. I never take it to work. Before bed I ride the bicycle again. Today I got about one and one half hours of aerobic exercise.

I like this toy.

Post in ice plant.
Post surrounded by Ice Plant. This photo has nothing to do with the subject of this blog entry. While going through old photos I found this picture and like it. I'm not saying it's a good photo but I like it and don't fully know why. The why isn't important but does make me wonder. Why?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another Weekend in Our World

The weekend is drawing to a close.

Thursday we took Opie, the stray male cat, to town to meet a woman who needed a barn cat. It's amazing how quickly we can get attached to an animal but he and our cats weren't making much progress in arriving at a live and let live truce. This weekend was heaven for Maggie and Macy. Once they felt safe after his departure they kept the cat door swinging going in and out enjoying the sunny warm weather.

Friday morning I put one load of water in the house cistern which filled it to within one inch of overflowing. My second load went into the garden cisterns. I need about 3,500 gallons to fill them. That's fourteen loads and I want them full by the time gardening season begins. On my return with the second load I heard a noise from the trailer. I've got a bad bearing. It's an old shop built trailer and I don't have a clue where to get a bearing. I have another cistern of 500 gallons designed for a large pickup bed. I've never used the cistern and have it only because a guy owed me money and I knew it was wise to take what I could in goods because he would never come up with the cash. I think I'll clean this cistern and put it on my tandem axle trailer. The problem is that full the cistern and trailer will far exceed the rated towing capacity of my vehicle. But, it's only two miles to the water station and only about one mile is on a highway so I think I'll give it a try and see how it does.

Friday afternoon I worked on a solar hot water system for a friend. She has been having problems and I think we've diagnosed it as dust in the heat exchanger that is restricting flow. About 230 degrees in the collector and only 80 degrees in the tank. Sometime soon I'll take a quarter inch hose and try to get the sediment from the bottom of the heat exchanger. The next step will be to put a filter on the vent to the glycol tank. It appears dust in the air has been getting into the system over the years. Such is life in a dry windy environment.

Saturday we went to the landfill. It's been 18 months since we last took off the trash. For a long time I've been planning on writing about this subject that breaks down into composting, reuse, donations, recycling, scavengers and trash cans. It's an interesting subject in my opinion.

Saturday evening we had supper with a family in town. The young lady lived about one mile from us but moved to town late last summer. Her husband died about two years ago and Julie and I helped occasionally when needed with simple maintenance issues. Her father lives in California and visited about twice each year. We worked together on a few maintenance tasks and got to know one another. He is visiting now which prompted the supper invitation. (Between supper and dessert we cleaned furnace filters. Just for old times sake!) Over Christmas her mother, who lives in Colorado, visited and we were invited for supper. It's good to meet her family.

Today we had planned a motorcycle ride to some location with an opportunity for a hike. About a month ago I checked the motorcycle and the system that keeps the battery full during the winter. All was well and it started immediately. A few days ago I tried to start it and the battery was dead. A test indicated a shorted cell. I tried to find a battery locally but it's not to be. I'll have to order one. Since the ride didn't happen we changed our plans and took a walk to a local cinder hill. I last climbed the hill in March of 2008 but Julie had never been to the top. Last week (or was it week before last) when we climbed to the top of Frances Crater we found the pile of stones marking the summit register but it was missing. Today we found the summit register on Junction Crater, read the entries (which is how I know I last climbed it in 2008), sign it and returned to it's location. Round trip we did a little over four miles.

That was our weekend. Well, part of it anyway.

Now, I'm going to work out on the exercise bicycle. Four weeks from tonight we'll either be camped near the Nankoweap trailhead (on the north side of the Grand Canyon) or be here trying to get to bed for an early start. I'm hoping the snow isn't so deep that this backpacking trip has to be abandoned. But, even if it falls apart, I'll be ready for some lung-challenging alternative.

Jar containing the summit register.
Jar containing the summit register on Junction Crater.

Gate with cattle guard.
Julie crossing the cattle guard into an enclosure around a trick tank on the edge of the national forest.

Trick tanks.
The tank held water with a thin layer of ice on top. This is an ideal bird watching opportunity. As we neared the tank we frightened doves, bluebirds, robins, juncos and other species.

As we meandered through the Junipers toward home I spotted a collection of stones that seemed a little unnatural. We changed our direction to investigate and found several pieces of pottery around the ruins.

1916 boundary marker.
We headed east until we came to the national forest fence then turned south to avoid private property. When we came to this 1916 boundary survey marker we crawled under the fence and chose a direct path toward home.

Coyote skull.
It's always interesting to watch for pottery, historic litter, strange lava pieces and other unusual items. Today we discovered what I assume is a coyote skill. A little hair remained so it's not been dead long. We found only the skull.

Friday, February 11, 2011


East of Flagstaff, beyond Twin Arrows, on the edge of Canyon Diablo is Two Guns. Among the ruins from Route 66 days is a small building with two doors. Behind each door are two seats.

Two doors.
Two doors.

Two seats.
Two seats.

I was going through old photos tonight when I came across these pictures. They brought back memories from long ago of a similar building a short distance from the log cabin where my grandmother lived. It had one door and two seats. Or was it three?

It is strange why my brain stores some memories. I clearly see my cousin beside me and the remains of a Sears catalog. Why do I remember this? Was it the fourth of July and the excitement of the day with extended family? Or was it the day we were raking a field of hay? I remember being on top of the haystack holding the center pole and walking in circles to tramp the hay down. Was it that day?

Regardless, strange as it may be, I remember and it's a good memory of good times.


Next weekend Julie and I will take part in 19 hours of CERT Training. CERT is the acronym for Community Emergency Response Team.

I don't like the thought of losing an entire weekend (Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday) but I do look forward to the training.

There are seven sessions on the agenda.
  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Disaster Fire Suppression
  • Disaster Medical Operations Part I
  • Disaster Medical Operations Part II
  • Light Search and Rescue Operations
  • Disaster Psychology and Team Organization
  • Course Review and Disaster Simulation
The county comprises 18,608 square miles. There are 45 deputies in the county. Our response time is 45 minutes, assuming the local deputies aren't covering some other part of the county. There are sections of the county with only one deputy. If a local deputy has to cover that area during the absence of the normal deputy then the response time to that part of the county may be two hours.

Due to the lack of many roads it is sometimes impossible for emergency services to get to individuals in need. Recently during a snow storm Interstate 17 was closed south of Flagstaff. The sheriff's department couldn't get to stranded vehicles. A CERT team in that area provided overnight accommodations and food for 60 people in a local church.

Another problem is that lack of systematic addressing of residences and mapping of roads. (Our address is Leupp Road but we don't live on Leupp Road. Our road has neither name nor number.) At two recent meetings local residents have been highlighting a map to identify roads that still exist and are used. As large tracts of land have been subdivided the new owners have put up fences and closed roads on their property. As a result emergency vehicles have difficulty finding residences. Recently Julie saw an ambulance stop about a half mile from our house. The driver was lost and didn't know which fork of the road to choose.

I'm not in favor of some of the ideas that have been suggested at recent meetings but I can't find fault with the CERT program. Next weekend should be enjoyable and helpful. I like where we live and know we have to rely on ourselves.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What If?

"Would you ask me to the prom?"

I received this strange question yesterday in a message from Julie. The message came before a photo of her as a graduating senior in high school. The photo gave the question context and took away it's strangeness.

Even though I answered her with a "Yes" before I saw the photo the truthful answer was "No".

Julie as a senior in high school.

By the time she graduated from high school I had completed two and one-half years of college, spent four years in the army, gotten married, had two children and was working at a Ford stamping plant. I would never have given her a second look.

There was another factor that would have caused me to never notice her. She had long red hair, bright red hair. I had a sister with bright red hair and never, ever considered a redhead as a potential date.

Sometimes I wonder how our lives would be different had we been closer in age, met in high school or college and married. There are many indications both our lives would have been happier, easier, better. But when I think seriously about it I doubt it. I would probably have been too dumb to make the best of a perfect situation. Regardless, I got older and slightly wiser, moved to Texas where we met and life is good.

Valentine's Day is next Monday. We're planning a celebration for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I think old people are wise, experienced, kind, content and knowledgeable. I do not think they are feeble, wrinkled, cantankerous, slow or boring.

The above isn't quite true. Julie and I had a discussion last night about stereotypes. We both agreed that most of the older people we have known have created less than positive stereotypes. That's sad both for them and for us. Here's why.

Early this morning I finished reading Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. Near the end of the book is a discussion of research by Yale University concerning hearing loss and elders' stereotypes. (A web search led to this article: Elders' Stereotypes Predict Hearing Decline). The findings are intriguing.

To measure age stereotypes, participants were asked, "When you think of an old person, what are the first five words or phrases that come to mind?" The responses were judged on how negative or positive they were and how internal or external they were. Stereotypes rated negative included "senile" and "feeble," whereas stereotypes rated positive included "wise" and "active." External stereotypes included visual images such as grey hair, wrinkles and stooped posture. The study adjusted for initial levels of hearing, as well as several other variables that are known to affect hearing including age, education, gender, race, depression, chronic conditions and smoking history.

Older persons with more negative and external age stereotypes performed worse on hearing measures at the end of the three-year study. According to Levy, "Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition among persons age 65 years and older and can lead to increased social isolation, self-denigration, loneliness and depression.

I have some hearing loss. If I have negative and external stereotypes of elderly people, a population that I am joining an a accelerating rate, then my hearing will decline faster. Scary!

Equally scary is the Brafman brothers' expanded application of this research.
Negative and external feelings about old age, in other words, can actually make people physically age faster. And the effect is not limited to hearing alone. Similar studies have found that negative stereotypes about aging contribute to memory loss and cardiovascular weakness, and even reduce overall life expectancy by an average of 7.5 years.

I think I'm going to take a Pollyanna approach. In the novel Pollyanna (which I have never read but do remember from my youth the Disney movie staring Hayley Mills) the author Eleanor H. Potter penned this line: "When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." Perhaps we should turn it around and adapt it to read "Look for the good and the beautiful in the elderly expecting to find it and you surely will."

Seriously, I work on my physical health through diet, exercise and stretching. More and more I'm working on attitude, specifically attitudes when encountering people. I'm trying to write stories for them. (ex: "She isn't rude. She's an overworked single mother struggling with stress.") This may not help the other person but it helps me look for the good. I can expand this to see the elderly in the most positive light.

Pollyanna? Let's make that Paulyanna.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Toto Review

A few years ago, perhaps four or five, we replaced our toilet in order to save water. I decided to wait a reasonable amount of time before writing about our experience to insure no problems developed. It's been more than a reasonable amount of time.

The toilet that was in the house when we purchased it was manufactured in 1992 or 1993. It was an old siphon vortex model that used three and one half gallons per flush. Newer models are required to use 1.6 gallons or less.

We researched dual flush models which have two buttons or two handles, one for a full flush and one for a half flush. I heard complaints about dual flush models that they didn't work efficiently and that they tended to clog waste lines. Interesting, only one person who belittled dual flush models actually owned one.

We selected a model manufactured by Toto. There were three reasons for our choice. First, it was available in Flagstaff and did not require a special order. Second, it has a skirt that makes cleaning easy. Third, it was rated high on the MaP tests (Maximum Performance Testing). In other words, it was tested and found to work well.

One of the complaints I read in reviews was the difficulty of installation. Due to the skirt the installation is different from older models; different but not more difficult in my opinion.

Toto Dual Flush.
Toto Dual Flush.

Though not required I installed a water meter six years ago in an effort to manage water usage. In theory the toilet was set at the factory to eight-tenths and one point six gallons for half and full flushes. I've tested the Toto. It used seven-tenths of a gallon for a half flush and twice that (1.4 gallons) for a full flush. This is adjustable in the tank but I've never adjusted it.

Is it reliable? Definitely! Works first time every time. Fast and efficient.

This cost was somewhere between $300 and $400. Our costs for water are high when compared to municipal water costs since we pay for water and have to haul it which necessitates a trailer, tank, fuel, maintenance and miscellaneous costs. I estimate the Toto will pay for itself within six years.

Once we get rainwater harvesting completed the dual flush toilet will help minimize the size of storage tanks which can be expensive (40 to 70 cents or more per gallon).

The Toto was a good purchase.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


I am not pleased with my tomatoes. Well, actually I'm pleased but know they could be better.

Early last spring I found a partial package of Yellow Pear seed dated 2004, six years old. I decided to plant the seed to see if they would germinate and they did. I transplanted them and two other varieties to the garden. A friend gave me one plant. I asked the variety but she couldn't remember, perhaps a Big Boy.

All of the tomatoes did well except the gift which set only three fruit. We had far more than we could use and gave away several pounds. One Sunday afternoon we picked twenty-two pounds and drove around the neighborhood giving them away. During late summer both Julie and I took tomatoes to work and gave them away.

22 pounds of tomatoes.
Twenty-two pounds of tomatoes.

Over the course of the summer several tomatoes volunteered in the garden. I selected three and moved them to pots and set the pots in the ground in a garden bed. Near the end of the summer before the first frost I dug up the pots and moved them to the utility room where I moved them to larger pots. The south wall of the utility room is glass, seven feet tall and 10 feet wide. The tomatoes get plenty of sun but the environment isn't ideal.

Winter tomatoes.
Tomatoes growing in the utility room.

The plants have done OK but not extremely well. One set fruit, another blossomed but didn't set and the third set a few large fruit and stopped blossoming. I began working with them to encourage fruit set and they did much better. We've picked tomatoes, have more to pick and have several green tomatoes as well as continued blossoming.

I'm going to research greenhouse varieties for next winter. By fall I'll have an attached greenhouse completed. As for these three tomato plants, I'll care for them until I can transplant them into the garden. They should do well this coming summer.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Mea Culpa

On January 1 the year began with minus twelve degrees. Julie started a load of laundry and the washer failed to fill with water. A little trouble shooting and I knew the water lines were frozen to the washer.

Last year when we built a utility room and moved the washer and dryer I thought about protecting the pipes. Our addition turned an outside wall into an inside wall so I ran the pipes on this wall. No danger of freezing. I cut the drywall close to the floor in the back of a closet, pulled insulation out of the way, installed the water lines and pushed the insulation back in place. What I didn't realize was that my "inside" wall was actually an outside wall for the first foot. Our addition didn't extend as far as I thought with just a quick visual inspection. Since I had put the waterlines behind the insulation I had doomed that one foot section to freezing at some time. My mistake. It took about 10 minutes to open the wall, thaw the frozen pipes, put the insulation behind the water lines and put the drywall back in place.

Last Wednesday it happened again but a little more serious this time. We discovered we had water to the bathroom sink and washer but nowhere else, not to the tub or the kitchen. The overnight temperatures were about minus ten for two or three nights and the daytime temperatures were barely out of single digits.

When we remodeled the kitchen in November and December I had to move water lines, a drain and a gas line. This necessitated cutting the vapor barrier and insulation under the floor. I finished the task but left the cuts unrepaired for a few days to check for leaks. No leaks so all was fine. Wanting to finish the kitchen I left the vapor barrier unrepaired with intentions of finishing the repair "soon". Small holes only large enough to get my hand through them didn't seem critical but they let a freezing wind get to the pipes. A complicating factor was the fact that we no longer use our central furnace and I had closed all floor vents. Had the furnace been running it would have heated the ducts that run parallel to and a few inches from the water lines. Had the floor vents been open a little warm air could have circulated through the duct. Once again, my mistake.

Since both Julie and I are working and since we had hot and cold water at the bathroom sink we ignored the problem and left it for today to fix. But I had to work today on my regular day off. Shortly before noon Julie phoned and said "Good news! We have water" Last nights low of 20 degrees and today's high of 47 took care of the problem. The water pump hasn't come on at unexpected times so that's an indication there are no breaks in the lines. Problem solved.

Actually, small problems like this are enjoyable. They provide a pleasant break to our routine. This is my opinion. I haven't asked Julie for her opinion.

Tomorrow I'll fix the holes in the vapor barrier and insulation.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Reading List Update

I've updated the reading list on the right sidebar.

By coincidence I read two WWII books authored by women. I found both books a little disquieting. Rather than portraying the horror and revulsion of war they tended to romanticize the experiences of the men about whom they wrote and ignored the tremendous suffering and abuse they experienced. The books were U-Boat Adventures: Firsthand Accounts from World War II by Melanie Wiggins and 4000 Bowls of Rice: A Prisoner of War Comes Home by Linda Goetz Holmes. Interesting books but needing more brutal honesty.

By contrast I picked up a book written by a German officer (Five Years, Four Fronts by Georg Grossjohann). Before my trip to Kentucky I wanted a second book to take along. I spent five minutes in a used book store and made a quick decision. When I bought it I thought the book seemed familiar but I was short of time and didn't browse it but for a second. When I started reading it on the plane I knew I had read it before. It's a good book that more honestly portrays an unpleasant reality.

A conversation with a co-worker led to the loaning of Click: The Magic of Instant Connections by brothers Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. I found the book interesting but not gripping. It was easy reading but was too long on examples. The jacket mentioned Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior that was authored by the brothers. I found a copy of Sway at the local library and am well into it. Once again it interesting but a little too wordy on the examples for my preference.

Freakonomics, a gift from a graduate student.
Freakonomics, a gift to Julie from a graduate student.

A graduate student gave Julie a copy of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The student is a brother to one of the authors. I found the book fascinating. I recommended it to one of my sisters. Her reaction: "Went to the library Saturday and got Freakonomics. It is SO me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for recommending it! You know what I like best about the book? That there are independent thinkers who don't just accept a given explanation. I find that totally refreshing and it gives me hope! I don't feel like I personally run into too many of those types.".

Julie and I enjoyed Freakonomics so much that we tracked down a copy of Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by the same authors. We are about halfway through the book. Do I agree with everything they've written? No, but it does challenge me to think which is a good thing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Of Education, Men and Women

One of my sisters has begun blogging. She is intelligent, educated and many other good things. She is opinionated (unlike me). One thing she is not is brief, to-the-point, of few words. To my surprise, like me but not to the same degree, she makes typos!

Recently I sent her an email asking instructing her to read a post by AnvilCloud entitled Of Men and Women. She posted a comment, a LONG comment, to his article. I find her response interesting.

My brother Paul sent this to my email. He was supposed to be answering a question but told me I had to read this first. I loved it! (He knew I would. Glad I was compliant.) Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the blog post, but I loved the unretired grampa part and the picture of you little granddaughter. She is precious and wonderful!

I will soon be 62 so this is particularly interesting to me. For several reasons. First because of the grief my dad had to put up with when the men he worked with found out I was going to college. (He was a machinist.) I guess his co-workers kept telling him how foolish it was for him to let me go to college. They said I would only get married anyway. Although my dad really liked the guys, he was truly irritated. He finally responded that evidently they considered their daughters second class children. He went on to say that he had two daughters and they were not second class children to his son. I guess he couldn’t resist. But he ended the conversation that had persisted several days by saying that if I wanted to get married some day, at least at college I might find someone who would appreciate me; and he liked that idea a whole lot better than thinking I would marry someone like them who would not. When he was telling me about the incident, he went on to say, “Remember honey, you never have to work for a man if you don’t want to. You can do whatever you want. Let them work for you!” I doubt my brother or sister have ever heard that story. I don’t see why they would have. He was ahead of his time, and I am so glad for it!!

The second reason I love the story is that from the first day of school I knew I wanted to teach. I loved school! Imagine if I had lived at a time or in a place where little girls were not educated. At that time, at least in West Virginia, there was no kindergarten. So we entered first grade. My brother and all my cousins next door were already in shcool. And I thought it highly unfair that I couldn’t go when I wanted. When I finally got to go, I waited patiently for the teacher to give me homework like by brother and cousins had. She didn’t! So finally I asked for some. She wisely gave me some. When questioned at home about why I had homework, I explained I had asked for it. I’m SURE Paul does not remembe this, but he went around complaining that he had the dumbest sister in the whole school and everyone would know it and he didn’t want to go the next day. I ignored it all and did my homework!

I like these stories. I had never heard the one about my father since I was in the Army at that time. I like the first grade story and do not remember my reaction.

My father had an eighth grade education. There was no bus service to a high school so he attended eighth grade twice in hopes that rumors of impending service were true. After the second year he gave up and went to work in the coal mines.

My father and my sister knew the value of education many, many years before I saw the light.

(Read AnvilCloud's article. I think you'll find it interesting and informative.)