Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

It has been a few 80 to 90 degree days here, with lots of outdoor work going on, when it is tolerable to work. There has been a flower bed out front of the which has been growing in size and height for a while, it predates us and I have tried to take it down a little each year. Maria bought impatiens to plant this year and decided to start the annual taking the bed down some. This was a week ago and when I started helping that evening we ran into the biggest tangle of roots that could be tucked into one little area.

We hacked roots, dug roots, cut roots, sawed roots, pried roots and pruned roots. And this was all in the name of making the flower bed manageable. Right... After nearly provoking an international incident involving nationality of the said roots, the job is now done and the flat of impatiens is in the ground, along with some allysum and johnny-jump-ups. And some grass seed and a few bags of dirt and a bag of peat. And it looks good, if I may say so. And a few hours after it was done it actually rained, proving there may be a benevolent God (though I am not sure how it proves it. It did keep us from killing each other while not turning on the air conditioning.)

The other project has been thinning the maples going down the hill out back. Earlier I put in a raised bed for a vegetable garden and while we were in Minneapolis the deer had a picnic including a some of my tomatoes. I decided to start cleaning up the bank to make it less hospitable for deer, and try to get some more sun in. This weekend I managed to cut four little trees with an old buck saw and my Ryoba, which has also been cutting roots. I have some clean up left, like dragging one tree up the bank and a couple more trees to go but its getting better. Eventually it may be terraced gardens or planted to perennials.

Though I enjoy all this, and Maria is enjoying getting things done, I want desperately to go back to work. I really don't remember much of last summer, and Maria tells me I slept much of it. I believe her. There are still a lot of things wrong and I can do all this by working an hour and then doing something much less strenuous. From time to time I get frustrated. I played tennis this week for a short time and just couldn't get anything to feel right. Some of it is the heat. I haven't been on the bike in a couple of weeks, though I was at my mother's for a good part of this week.

On a positive note I am feeling stronger. Once again I learn more little things I have lost, like questioning everything I do when driving. My next door neighbor told us about a friend of his who had had a stroke. He came back to work six months after the stroke but didn't feel up to being the group leader he had been. Six months after that he went on disability, he had lost his edge and was continually fatigued. I understand, but I also look at Clark out in Minneapolis. Yes he is dealing with cancer and chemo, not a stroke. But as he told me, "Here I am seven years after starting this and all of the sudden the bottom drops out of the housing market, I am seven years behind in the computer world and then they tell me I have cancer. Now it starts getting fun...." Clark, you make me want to get stronger, much stronger.

I am not a veteran, it was not an option in my father's eyes at the time, coming right after Viet Nam. But I cherish my freedoms, as much as I complain. I am proud to be an American and I thank every soldier who ever gave his life defending what I and we have. Happy Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Give Us This Day Our Daily Drugs

Fourteen pills each day, four for blood pressure, one for cholesterol, two for spasms that developed after the stroke, one for allergies, a full strength aspirin, folic acid for something and four vitamins. And nasal spray because I have lost a lot of function there. Not included are the ambien to sleep and the ED drugs since the blood pressure medicine causes ED.
I used to laugh at my fathers pill minders, he had the Cadillac of them with five compartments daily, now I just grimace. Sure it gets annoying, but I don't feel like having another stroke.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Home, And Some Fly Fishing (If I'm Lucky)

Tomorrow I head to Barneveld to spend a couple of days with my mother. Mom sounded pretty blue over the phone, and she does have every right to be, she is 80, has Parkinson's and lost her husband of 53 years in the fall. It's been a little tough for her. The drive is about two hours and I can make it without too many problems, longer requires planning stops to rest or a co-pilot. I much prefer the co-pilot but she is busy with a 16 year old girl finishing up her school year and the futon in my old bedroom is pretty uncomfortable for one, let alone two.

But I will accompany her to a doctor's appointment, with my "sister" Terry and maybe take her to physical therapy. And if I am lucky, get some fishing in. Barneveld has three excellent trout streams. The West Canada Creek is designated "catch and release" in the "Special Trout Area", but also is down stream of a power damn which chooses the flow of the day. The fishing can be great and the trout big, but the water can get ugly fast. The Cinncinnatus Creek runs into it and holds some fish, I would say mostly stockies, but I haven't fished it in years.

The last is the Nine Mile Creek which I used to live next to. Strangely enough I know all the pools on this one. The trout are small, but wild for the most part in the part I fish. I should probably note that there really are no truly wild trout in upstate New York, all of the creeks and rivers have been stocked and had species introduced. Its not a bad thing and after a few generations of fish reproducing in little holes on creeks like the Nine Mile, you again have wild trout.

I must mention an aside here. A few years ago I would visit my folks and spend a day with my kids. Before heading back to Rochester I would usually try to walk the Nine Mile for a bit and see what would bite. Now my ex has a knack for picking blind dogs at the pound and one was named Watcher. Watcher only had one eye and that was going, but he loved to fish. A number of times I would come across deer drinking and eating but he never noticed. He just stayed with you diving into pools and scaring fish.

I would get a few fish too but it was always worth taking Watcher. He didn't shake well either. He would go walk home soaked, the kids would let him in and he would head right upstairs and fall asleep, exhausted on my ex's bed. He was a damn good fishing dog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boring Machine

I am probably boring enough that I don't need a machine to help me, but I found one anyways. Jack Sobon uses one and I was surprised to find several on a shelf at the Heartwood School. They apparently have not outlived their usefulness. This was on ebay and I wasn't going to, having just spent too much in Minneapolis and getting to and from Minneapolis, but it sat there for a few days with no bids. I was in fact the only bidder. It appears to be a Snell, I didn't ask any questions. Timber frame here I come...

Monday, May 17, 2010


As I mentioned, our first morning in Minneapolis was a little disconcerting. Maria had an early seminar to attend and after getting up with her I headed out to the street. It was raining some and was pretty early but the streets seemed empty, except for the type of people your usually wouldn't want to be around. Sure, I am a little more skittish since the stroke, but I am usually quite comfortable in cities. But something didn't add up too. Here was a downtown with no people or business people.

The mystery was solved when I discovered the Skyway or skyways. Here you have a city where it gets down to -45 in the winter and they want to stay warm and I just picked the morning they wanted to stay dry also. We had talked about stores in the downtown and it turned out there was a plethora and very high quality ones also. And, of course, Target is everywhere. There is Target Field, Target Center, Target Headquarters and the Target store with the shopping cart escalator, perhaps the coolest part of the Target empire. How do they think these things up? Below our hotel was a Target training center with mini marketers running around testing marketing strategies. It was almost exciting.

Sadly, the Twin had just left to play first in New York and then Toronto, and I believe the Timberwolves are out of contention with Kevin Garnett elsewhere. But there was no shortage of things to do. My visit to Northern Lights Timber Framing was fun and informative and Clark turned me on to some new area's of the skyway. The food was excellent where ever we went, from the sandwiches to the sit down meals.

Saturday evening we ventured out deciding to see the river. The city was built by the flour mills and sawmill along the Mississippi. We had grabbed a couple beers and appetizers on the Nicolette Mall, a street closed to traffic except taxis, buses or human powered. It was early so we walked to the river and across the Hennepin Bridge, and ended up at Nye's Polonaise, a world famous bar featuring the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band. We managed to escape several hours later, after discovering Grain Belt Nordeast but not having the famous Polish Sampler, a mere 5 or 10 pounds of food.

Clark had told me that each corner of the Northeast area had a church and one or two bars on the corner. We probably could have found other examples but this turned out to be a fun one. We'll have to go back and explore more on the next trip. In all, everyone seemed friendly and wholesome. There was much to see and do and we couldn't do enough. There is great shopping and food and we never go near the Mall of America. We found a deli on the fourth floor of Gaviidea Commons that served an unbelievable Gazpacho. I ate Walleye, liked it and could have tried it thirty different ways. If you are bored in Minneapolis, you are doing something wrong.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


We are back and I once again apologize for not posting, but I don't think I had the computer out for any length of time while we were there. And while my search for Ted Baxter was fruitless, Mary Tyler Moore will live forever in a statue across the street from our hotel. And while some might say why Minneapolis, I have two answers. 1) It was very cool to see my wife present at the American Society for Indexing meeting, and 2) Minneapolis is a surprisingly fun and nice city.

While we arrived Wednesday evening and left this morning, very early this morning, I had Thursday, Friday and Saturday to explore the city. Thursday was a washout in a lot of ways, I am learning how I can operate while traveling and the day after isn't the best. But I started walking, found virtually no one on the streets and only as the rain got worse was I able to find the hamster maze of interconnected skyways and bridges. This led to some frustration, when the rain was the heaviest I stood in a bridge looking a store I wanted to be in, only two blocks away, but the only route in the skyways would have taken me back almost as far as our hotel. I took a nap until Maria could come with me.

I also have to thank Clark Bremer, the owner of Northern Lights Timber Framing for showing me around the "Nordeast" and his shop, being gracious and very enjoyable to meet. Clark also wrote the Timber Frame Rubies for SketchUp and that proved to be the only time I used the computer on the trip. More on all of this soon, now I am trying to relax. But it was a great trip!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ignoring This

I looked at this blog tonight and realized I have to change my reading list and I have to post more. I am trying to remember what I did last week and after drawing a blank, I remembered the neurologist and the physical and putting endless bags of topsoil in the new raised bed and cleaning the house before we entertained Maddy's new beau. Maybe I'm not slacking off that much.

I have also been drawing and redrawing a frame in SketchUp trying to remember and figure out everything I learned. My computer or its operator has a glitch in making the timber frame joints, so anyone who knows me, knows I have to do this until I get it working right. Mike says it is a problem with the video driver in the machine, which is fine. It may be the case for some of the error, but it doesn't explain inconsistent results, so I continue to try and try again.

I have also been reading a lot on timber framing. One author is Jack A. Sobon, an architect who graduated from RISD and timber frame historian. Jack initially built his house with out wiring and works with out power tools. I have heard stories about those "architecture students" from my daughter. They apparently work way too hard. I also have to finish Green Metropolis, by David Owen. It is very enjoyable, but like The Whole Earth Pragmatist, runs opposite so many things I would like to believe in. I was raised with the good wholesome belief that living in the country and building green houses, driving a small car and growing ecologically friendly food was good for Mother Earth. Stewart Brand debunks any of those beliefs, after building them up providing Whole Earth Catalogs in my youth. Owen only suggests that cities are more earth friendly and points out how we got to the sprawl with the help of Henry Ford and Frank Lloyd Wright among others. Where is Jane Jacobs to weigh in when you need her? I doubt she would look kindly on timber framers, but I will have to read her now and see.

Some other books in the queue first. While I was in Massachusetts, Yvon Chouinard arrived on the doorstep with Let My People Go Surfing. I started reading his buddy Royal Robbins' Basic Rockcraft as a kid and then found Chouinard's classic Climbing Ice. I dabbled some with climbing rock and ice and sadly gave it up at the insistence of an ex-wife after the children were born. I would have done better giving up the wife much earlier and kept on climbing. It might have prevented a stroke.

Anyways I am looking forward to Let My People Go Surfing when we get back from Minneapolis next week. It is the American Society for Indexing annual meeting and I am joining my bride for some real fun. It actually should be fun and we'll get to see some new sights. But that's a couple days off. Back to drawing timber frames in SketchUp. I will figure this out...

Monday, May 3, 2010


The SketchUp course was a wonderful success and I learned much more than I hoped to. Thank you Mike, Will and Michelle. I am trying to remember and repeat all we learned and I am. I am also amazed what a powerful program it is. Looking around the internet this morning I found many Efco and Winco products, so it is being used in the commercial world also.
Of course I now want to start timber framing and take another course or two at Heartwood, but then again I have always wanted to timber frame.
This week brings some rest and some important doctor's appointments. Wednesday I see a neurologist and Friday get a physical. At ten months after the stroke, I have only seen the neurologist once, having to reschedule around my father's decision to pass. Hopefully some good will come of this.
I was wonderfully energized for the course, but getting back was tiring and I don't have the same stamina today. Some of this leads me to think I should be doing something work wise, but this afternoon I am changing my mind. I think last week and my travels are catching up with me.