Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007


This is Joey Strong's dogtag, hanging from a handle on the end of his casket.
He was killed earlier this year in Iraq and is buried in a cemetery that I can see from my bedroom window.
I believe he died for a good cause, the goodness of which becomes more apparent to me every day.
So I salute him on this Memorial Day.

Heil Optimator!

I just finished a bottle of Spaten Optimator and I have a serious buzz on.
Spaten is Munich's oldest brewery and Optimator is a doppelbock with a serious (7.something percent alcohol) kick and is judged by many to be the best doppelbock beer in the world.
I believe it.
Our day has been somewhat laid back. We went to a birthday party for Maria's brother Raph around midday and came home to relax for awhile before going to the newspaper to help get tomorrow's edition to press.
I can hear Maria's Bernina humming as she works on a quilt and I've been surfing the internet and sipping my beer.
I also called Craig, the building inspector, and told him George expects to have cement forms and footings ready for his inspection about 1 p.m. tomorrow. I find this insanely ambitious, but am willing to suspend my disbelief long enought to see if it really happens.

Another one


Make your own at redkid.net.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Choices


I love my iPod.
But there are a lot of times when I can't use it because people feel compelled to talk to me and get upset when I can't hear them. Well, isn't that the point?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sounds like an interesting story, doesn't it?

I feel like I oughta blog something about my Phi Beta Kappa stepdaughter getting punched in the face outside a Bloomington bar by an out-of-control girl screaming, "You fucked my boyfriend! You fucked my boyfriend!" but I'm not in the mood to run the whole thing down in print.
Bottom line: the other girl spent the night in jail and faces three class A misdemeanors - just a tick below a class D felony - so she's in deep shit and will probably get a year's probation, which means drug tests that she won't have a chance of passing, leading to actual incarceration.

Hope springs eternal

I finally caught up with George this afternoon.
The new plan for our garage project calls for the demolition guys to appear early Tuesday (Monday being a holiday) and remove the remainder of the bad concrete in time for the new slab forms to be built, with 3.5' footers, and inspected in time for the new slab to be poured in the afternoon.
Considering that he completely blew out his schedule for this week, this seems like an impossibly tight schedule and I'm embarrassed to call the building inspector and ask him to be there around midday.
He also pledged to get the hot tub on the deck and hooked up.
I'll believe it when I see it.
Turns out the cell phone number he gave us last week is his mom's. I called it this afternoon and she answered. So now I know how to contact his mother if he doesn't do right.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here we go again...

As per George, our construction guy, a demolition crew was supposed to show up yesterday to remove the remainder of the ill-fated, improperly done concrete slab.
They did not.
I left voicemail last night on the new cell phone number that George gave us last Friday in which I said I don't want to be considered a high-maintenance client, but I would like to be considered a "maintenance" client in the sense that I'd like a response to my queries and, if possible, reliable information on when a crew would be here for my garage project. I have things to do and places to be, I said, and it's annoying to organize my day on the basis of when a crew is supposed to be here, then spend all day not getting stuff done because I'm waiting for people who aren't going to show up.
I haven't received a response and if I don't hear from him by this evening, I'll call his brother Aaron's cell phone and try to get a message to George that way.
This is all especially disturbing when you consider that seven (rain-free) work days have passed since we got our building permit and no work has occurred. As I probably mentioned earlier, the building inspector is going out of town tomorrow morning for the holiday weekend, then leaves again next Thursday for a seven-day vacation, so the garage project cluster-fuck continues unabated.
I'm giving serious thought to packing my bike and heading for the Biltmore in North Carolina for the BMW Riders Association National Rally in a couple of weeks as compensation for a spring of very little riding and for having to miss the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America National Rally in Wisconsin a month later because we have a wedding shoot that weekend.

Maria & Lauri

Fun at the office.

Listening to Sean's work at Applebee's

I don't care much for Applebee's, but it's pretty much the only game in town when Maria and I go to lunch while she's working.
The menu is unimaginative, the food is overpriced and the ambience is faux eclectic. The only thing missing is the wait staff being festooned with bushels of "flair."
But today's experience was different.
I was lunching with Maria and Lauri when I noticed the PA playing "Phantom Limb" from the new Shins album, Wincing the Night Away. It's the first time that I know of that I've heard music my son Sean worked on being played in a restaurant or other such public place and it was very cool. I suppressed an impulse to tell the hostess why that particular piece of music is significant to me because I figured it would have been wasted on her.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stuff

Had my annual visit to the eye doc today. The cataracts are more developed, but he figures I have another 2 years or so before I need to do anything about it.
In the meantime, he gave me a new glasses/contacts script that just cost me $255 at Lenscrafters. And that's after a $45 AARP discount. At least I can see better now.
At the moment, I'm being held hostage at Kohl's while Maria clothes-shops. Fortunately, I can lose myself in the Who on my iPod.
The March Indy concert recording is amazing!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wakeup call


We heard sirens this morning as we tried to stretch our sleep time as long as we could.
Turns out it was emergency personnel responding to a fatal car crash east of town.
Here's the sheriff's department report and photo:
At 8:43 this morning, the County Communications Center received a call about a car into a tree with the driver lying next to it, on Ind. 47 west of I-65. The caller then advised the vehicle was on fire. Deputies responded with Fire, Medics and State Police.
A white male was driving a 2002 Pontiac when for an unknown reason, his vehicle left the north side of 47 and struck a tree. The driver was ejected from the vehicle. The vehicle then became engulfed in flames.
The driver was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries. At this time, the driver has been identified by a former pastor, however, family members have not been notified. The crash is still under investigation.
He was from North Carolina and, therefore, nobody we knew.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Pete!


Pete Townshend of The Who is 62 today.

Aiiiiiiiiieeeeeee!

Yesterday's rehearsal. We're 30 minutes from the ceremony and things are tense.

Added later:
It worked out fine.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ruthie's nasty habit

Our electronic dog containment system has been inactive since the old garage was demolished six weeks ago.
Pete was always indifferent to it, either because his dense fur blocked the electric shocks or because he is just too high-spirited to care. But it has always been an effective way to keep Ruthie in the yard.
When it appeared she was catching on that the system was down, I reinforced her programming by putting the little white training flags arond the perimeter of the yard. That worked for awhile, but she's no longer intimidated.
We planned to install a temporary setup last weekend, but the time got away from us and doing anything like that during the week was out of the question.
So she has been going walkabout whenever the mood strikes her. I've had to chase her down in my car four times in the last couple of weeks. She never goes far and usually goes in the same direction - west down Mills Street toward the elementary school. Last week, she headed south to visit our neighbor Larry, who is housing or bikes in his barn until we have a garage again.
She took off again this morning when I put her and Pete out to do their business before Maria and I left for work. The first clue that she was gone came when Pete kept running back into the kitchen - I left the back door open for them - and looking at me anxiously, then running back outside. I finally figured out that he was trying to tell me Ruthie had done a bad thing - run off and left the yard. Pete leaves the yard too, but only for a few minutes at a time and he never goes more than two houses away.
I got into my del Sol and backed out of the driveway, planning to drive toward the school and search for the little old yellow dog. I had barely got the car pointed in that direction when I saw her looking at me and trotting back toward home from the baseball diamonds across the street. I whipped a U-turn and followed her as she loped up the driveway and waited for me at the back door.
That's when I caught a whiff of her new scent.
It was clear that she had been visiting with pigs or cows. We went through this a couple of years ago and, come to think of it, it was around this time of year. She apparently thinks she is more appealing if she rolls in poop - ideally pig or cow, but her own will do in a pinch.
So Ruthie spent the day in her kennel, will remain there tonight and will languish there in her own stink most of tomorrow while Maria and I shoot a wedding. I don't anticipate having time to bathe her until Sunday, which means the kitchen - where the dog kennels reside - will smell pretty rank for the next couple of days.

George surfaces

George called this morning.
Oh, thank God!
He was on a new cell phone, en route back to Indiana from Ohio where he has an ongoing custody dispute over a young son.
His plan is to have the heavy duty demolition guys out next Wednesday to deal with the last part of the slab. They discovered it had 4.5-foot footers at the north end, which was beyond their capacity to break up with jackhammers and sledge hammers, let alone lift into the dumpster, hence the need for heavy equipment.
The demo guys will break up and bury/dumpster the remaining debris.
And they will be directed to lift the hot tub into position on the deck where it will be reconnected to power and we'll finally have the use of it again!
Then the concrete crew, including George, will come Friday (a week from today), to frame and pour the new slab. The concrete will cure over Memorial Day weekend and framing will start probably on Tuesday. (George said Monday, but I think he forgot that it's the Memorial Day holiday.) And he expects the framing to be complete by two weeks from today.
He said he put our materials drop on hold with Menards because he didn't want them sitting out in the weather any longer than necessary.
They'd take care of the warping board in the deck too.
And he gave us his new cell phone number, so we won't be left so far out of the loop.
Maria and I have decided we still read him as an honest guy whose life has been in chaos the last couple of weeks and who is making a genuine effort to get our project back on track.
Let's hope we're right.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Five - count 'em - five flying cartridges


I photographed a police memorial service yesterday afternoon and finally figured out how to get the ejected cartridges in mid-air during a 21-gun (7 rifles, 3 volleys) salute.
I set my Nikon D200 on high speed continuous shooting. Then, a moment before I expected them to fire, I pressed the shutter button and held it down until after the rifles went off. I did this for the second and third volleys and caught ejected cartridges both times.
Yeah, I had several frames with nothing happening, but with an 8GB CompactFlash card and a capacity for more than 1,300 images, who cares? Obviously, this would be kind of expensive with my Nikon F5 film camera and 24-exposure rolls of film, but it's a whole new ballgame with digital.
Here's my favorite of the day in which you can see five cartridges flying out of rifle breeches. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Where's George?

I'm beginning to get worried about George, our garage contractor.
It's been about a week since we've had a conversation with him. I've left a dozen or so voicemails on his cell phone - since he doesn't answer when I call - and none have been returned.
Maria's son Austin, who worked on George's crews the last couple of weeks, yesterday confirmed that George has been having trouble with his cell phone and that he's missed a lot of voicemails. And that George had strep throat last week while he and his crew roofed three houses.
But that doesn't completely explain why he missed an 11 a.m. Friday meeting with us and failed to show up at the 6 p.m. Monday building commission meeting. And the $14,920 worth of lumber and other building materials that we paid for on May 1 that was supposed to be delivered to our place a week ago by Menards.
Austin enjoyed working for George and was making more money per hour than he ever has, but he quit this week to take a factory job claiming it was easier and steadier, since construction workers miss work when it rains. So I lost an alternate way to contact George through Austin.
I've dealt with contractors before. My ex and I did an extensive remodel of our house in Indianapolis that dragged on and on because the contractor kept finding other places to be instead of on our job.
Until now, that hadn't been a problem with George.
I prefer to believe he's just overwhelmed with work now that he's working for himself.
But I have a nagging feeling that our $14,920 got used to subsidize someone else's project and that he may be having trouble scrounging up the money for our building materials. God, I hope that isn't what's happening because it would seriously damage the trust I have in the guy.
At the moment we have a very nice deck - although one of the boards wasn't properly secured at one end and is now warping into a shape that will trip someone eventually - but the hot tub is still empty and not on the deck and we have a partially demolished concrete slab that still has to be removed before the new foundation can be blocked out and poured.
And now that we have our building permit, George's lack of follow-through is the only thing standing between us and having our garage.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm a Lifer


I recently earned my Life Membership in the American Motorcyclist Association.
That's what you get if you join and renew anually for 25 years. I can't decide if it's a big deal to me or not. Probably not. It's just the consequence of doing something by habit for a quarter century. But then there are a lot of people who can't manage that kind of consistency in their lives, so I guess it's kinda significant.
Like the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America and the BMW Riders Association, I joined the AMA mostly to get their magazine.
I first saw the AMA mag in 1982 when I was hanging out at the BMW dealership in Grand Haven, Mich., while the mechanic fixed a drive shaft seal on my 1972 R50/5. It was my first out-of-state tour and my first wife was on the pillion seat when the drive shaft started hemhorraging hypoid gear oil onto the rear wheel rim, which in turn was flinging it onto my wife's legs, our luggage and everything else nearby.
The Grand Haven BMW shop appeared to do most of its business in wood stoves and snowmobiles. There were no BMWs in the showroom and nothing to tell you it was a BMW dealership other than the roundel sign hanging outside. I found a copy of the AMA magazine and spent an hour or so reading it, noting with interest an editorial cartoon by Jerry Barnett. I knew Jerry because he was an editorial cartoonist at The Indianapolis News but I had no idea he had a motorcycling connection.
The trip came at a time when leaded gasoline was being phased out and my 11-year-old motorcycle engine was not happy with unleaded fuel. I mentioned that to the mechanic at the dealership and he suggested I top off the tank with 100 octane leaded aviation gas at the airport just up the road. This, by the way, is illegal because aviation gas - like the gasoline used in agricultural applications - has no road tax included in the sale price.
Nevertheless, I rode up to the fuel shack at the airport and asked if I could buy a tankful of av-gas. The attendant gladly took my money and my bike ran amazingly well for the rest of the trip up to Beulah and Crystal Lake.
The Grand Haven BMW dealership is no more, Jerry is retired from newspapers but still cartoons for the AMA and I'm still a member.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Grrrrrrr

I'm staying away from MySpace.
My wife discovered a couple of the malignant imbeciles in a community MySpace group have been writing derrogatory stuff about her. One works for the local college and should know better. The other apparently has a grudge over some perceived injustice the newspaper did to his sister-in-law. A review of the pertinent stories reveals completely down-the-middle non-biased, objective reportage, which calls into serious question his reading comprehension skills.
These people are utter complete morons and I'm having a difficult time suppressing an urge to go online and flame them.
My wife, fortunately, has a greater capacity for patience and diplomacy and will most likely have them turned around 180 degrees before it's over.
In my 34 years with Indianapolis daily newspapers, I've never seen such a pack of retards as the people who think they are qualified to critique my wife and her newspaper. She routinely gets calls from dirtbags who want to argue about the drug or child molest charges filed against them and reported in the paper. That freaking never happened in Indy. Never. The Indy dirtbags had the good form and intelligence to shut the fuck up and not challenge accurate reporting.

Woo-Freaking-Hoo!


We just got back from the building commission meeting where we finally got our building permit.
Our contractor said he'd be there for the meeting, but he was a no-show. Nonetheless, we made our presentation - including my pitch about the alley being vacated - and they approved it all. What an incredible relief!
So I'm having a couple of celebratory Amber Bocks.
Now, if our contractor hasn't gone flaky on us, we're back on track.
In the meantime, the hot tub looks like new with a couple of coats of redwood stain that Maria applied yesterday afternoon and evening.

Oh, Canada!

May 10 was the third anniversary of this blog, which has persisted much longer than I ever expected.
Another blogger, a young Canadian woman named Lovisa, launched her blog a few days later and I had the distinction of being the first to leave a comment.
As I told her three years ago, she's a natural born writer. She's clever and insightful with a rich vocabulary and the skill to use it well. Hers is the only blog I check daily.

Lovisa recently decided to retire from blogging. She did me the honor of a detailed explanation. Her reasons are sound and valid and I respect her decision, even though it leaves a large hole in my online life.
If I were 30 years younger and we both were unattached, I would be plotting a motorcycle trip to Winnipeg. But I'm not, so I'll be happy to admire this wonderful kindred spirit across the gulf of time, space and karma and wish her and the Man all of the happiness and fulfillment they can stand.
And hope she keeps reading my blog and offering the occasional comment.

Last week


It's Monday and I hope this week is a little slower than last week was.
We were decompressing from Morgan's commencement activities. I took her back to Bloomington Monday afternoon and worked with Maria at the newspaper Monday night.
Then, at 4:10 a.m. Tuesday, we were awakened by a call from Maria's publisher saying there was a major fire in the downtown business district. Maria got busy on the phone and deployed her staff and we went back to bed. That lasted about five minutes until we both came to the conclusion that there was no way in hell we could go back to sleep and miss what was likely the news event of the year.
We could see the red glow in the sky from 5 miles away as we drove to the scene.
Thanks to Maria's rapport with the police and fire fighters, we got closer to the fire than any other newsies and I came away with the best shots of the day - no mean feat, considering that we had something like seven people shooting that morning.
The result was a special eight-page fire section for Wednesday morning's paper.
Oh, and did I mention the primary for the municipal election was also on Tuesday? We had local election coverage to handle, which included the incumbent mayor losing the Democrat nomination to a challenger - a major news story all by itself.
We printed several thousand extra copies of Wednesday's paper, anticipating there would be brisk single-copy sales because of the fire. We guessed right, but aimed low. All of the single-copy sales sites - supermarkets, convenience stores, coin boxes, etc., were sold out by 9 a.m. and had to be resupplied until all but a few archival copies were sold about noon.
The decision was made to crank out a second fire souvenir section for Friday, drawing upon some of the hundreds of unused fire images and incorporating several stories about the fire, the investigation and the 24-year-old guy who died in the blaze. Like most Indiana downtown business districts, the upper floors were used for apartments and more than a dozen people were made homeless by Tuesday morning's fire. And there is a strong possibility it was arson.
So, by Friday afternoon we were ready to kick back and cruise into the weekend with an early close on Saturday's paper.
Until we heard reports on the police scanner of shots fired at a police officer.
Doug, the senior reporter, and I headed to the scene - a duplex on the near westside where police believed they had the shooter cornered.
That was about 6:30 p.m.
We stood vigil through the evening while the SWAT team fired teargas and concussion grenades into the house after the department's hostage negotiator tried unsuccessfully to talk the guy out with the aid of a bullhorn.
Once the sun went down and the area illumination was reduced to street lights, I gave up on my 80-200mm lens and went to the f/1.4 50mm. I also dialed up the ISO on mhy D200 to the highest possible setting - something like 6,400, I think - and turned on the high-ISO noise reduction.
I also turned off the little focus-assist light, since it would be definitely uncool to have my camera throwing a beam of light every time I pressed the shutter button. It goes without saying that this was not a place to use flash, hence the fast lens and high ISO setting for available-light shooting.
Counting myself, we had four staff members at the scene, plus Maria showed up for an hour or so because she just couldn't stay away. The lame opposition paper had one guy with a point-and-shoot digital camera. And one of the Indianapolis TV stations sent a reporter-photographer team who showed up about 10 p.m. The SWAT guys finally entered the house about 11:20 p.m., found the perp hiding under a stairway and hauled him outside.
We had been told to stay about a half-block away, but when I saw the perp being walked to a waiting police car, I bolted ahead of the rest of the press and got what I thought was a terrific series of shots of the perp being held face-down across the trunk of the patrol car. I used the pop-up on-board flash on the D200 and after the first flash, he turned his head toward me, shouting, "Don't take my picture! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" Unfortunately, the focus was soft because I hadn't had time to turn the autofocus assist light back on, so what could have been spectacular shots were compromised. Even so, when reproduced in a small size and with plenty of sharpening, they are pretty good.

So with all of the excitement and late-breaking news, we finally got home about 4 a.m. Saturday.
On the garage project front, we find ourselves a little off-balance. George, our construction guy, was supposed to be here at 11 a.m. Friday with the new set of plans that we are to present to the building commission at 6 p.m. today. He didn't show up, didn't call and hasn't returned any of my calls. Maria's son is working for him and reported George was at the roofing job they did on Saturday, so we know he's still alive. At this point, we assume he will show up here a little early this eveing to go over the plans with us before the meeting. At least, that's what he hope.
It appears that the alley behind our property was vacated in 1966 - at least that's waht the town council minutes from Dec. 30, 1966, indicate, but it was conditional upon the ownwers of our property and the one to the north granting a utility easement to the town. A search of the town utility's records and the county recorder's office failed to turn up any indication that that occurred in the wake of the 12/30/66 town council meeting, but there is a record of the owner of the property on the other side of the alley granting such an easement in 1959, so that may satisfy the requirement. We'll run it past the building committee. If they buy it, we can move the garage footprint 8 feet farther from the house. If not, we have the option of waiting and taking it to the present town council, which will probably deny it or drag it out. So my preference is to forget the alley abandonment issue and forge ahead with construction immediately. Maria seems to favor the latter, warming up to the idea of making an L-shaped extension of the deck to meet the west wall of the garage. We shall see.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ridin'

I went for a 20-mile motorcycle ride last Thursday.
Ordinarily, that would not be worth mentioning. But this has not been an ordinary year. Ordinarily, I would have put at least 1,000 miles in my mirrors by this point in the year. For the first four months of 2007, my mileage stands at a pathetic 70 miles.
The ongoing garage project is the biggest reason. As the demolition of our old garages neared, I shifted our two bikes to my neighbor Larry's barn, where they have been keeping his BMW R1150RT company. That makes it a bit of a hassle to gear up and walk about a quarter-mile down the road to go for a ride. (Yeah, I know. That wouldn't be a problem it I were really motivated to go for a ride.)
But with Maria and me working five, sometimes six, nights a week and our weekends getting filled up with photo shoots and her family stuff and the marginal Indiana spring weather, I haven't found the time to throw a leg over a bike and blow out the cobwebs.
But on Thursday, I resolved that come Hell or high water, I was going for an afternoon ride. Besides, my neighbor Larry had a t-shirt for me from BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon. BMWMWO is owned by Larry's daughter and son-in-law. They have a BMW motorcycle dealership in Eugene and just opened a new dealership in Tigard, a suburb of Portland. Larry and his wife flew out for the grand opening a couple of weeks ago and I put in a request for a shop t-shirt, since I expect to visit the dealership the next time I ride out to visit my son Sean and his wife in Portland.
I also had the 2007 registration certificates and license plate stickers to put onto the bikes.
Since Maria's '94 K75S was the easier of our two bikes to extricate from the barn, I chose it for my ride. It was sunny and the temperature was in the 70s when I tapped the gearshift lever down into first, eased the clutch out and rode down Larry's driveway with no particular destination in mind.
It felt great to be moving on two wheels again and I found myself smiling as I accelerated out of town, heading east on Ind. 47. I rode down to the county seat, and had a cup of coffee at McDonald's while I gazed out the window and admired the acid green bike glowing in the afternoon sun.
I thought of a dozen places I wished I could ride to, but realized my time was limited because I had to be at the newspaper by 5:30 or 6 p.m. to help Maria edit copy and read proof. So I took the back roads home, eluding dogs at two farmhouses where I'd not been chased before. In both instances, the dogs were in pursuit as I approached the apex of a 90-degree turn, which made it a little tricky to accelerate before they were on me.
I hated to switch the engine off, but I promised myself I'm going to keep next weekend open for some serious riding, weather permitting of course.

Territorial acquistion


Our modest estate. The deck has been replaced with a larger version and the two garage structures shown here have been demolished. (Click on the illustration to see a larger version)


As I have mentioned before, our property is bounded on the south and the east by alleys that were platted in 1903 but were never built.
The alley to the south is graveled and we use it as a driveway. The platted alley to the east is grass-covered and has nothing to distinguish it from the lawns on either side so, without measuring from a known reference point, there is no way to see where it lies.
I've determined our eastern property line by measuring from the back of the house and also from the front property line and can pinpoint it within a couple of inches, plus or minus.
So we decided to position the new garage on an east-west axis 10 feet inside our eastern property line and six feet south of the north property line, satisfying the town's setback regulations. Since the garage will be about 38 feet wide, that puts the west end of it a bit closer to the house and the new deck than we'd like, but it was something we were prepared to live with.
Until yesterday.
That's when Maria spoke with Donna, our neighbor to the south, who recalled that a previous owner of our house who was a member of the town council at the time, had the alley to the east vacated.
Aha!
If that is true - and we intend to confirm it before the May 14 building commission meeting where we seek a building permit - it adds 8 feet 3 inches to the east end of our property and makes it possible to move the garage that much farther east and open up more space between garage and house.
It also means our neighbor to the north, who also owns the tract east of this presumably vacated alley, gains some land and has an intact L-shaped property wrapping around the north and east sides of ours. I assume he doesn't know the alley was vacated because he didn't mention it when we described our project and the boundaries that dictate where the garage can be.
It's not a huge gain, but it does amount to about 458 more square feet, or about a 5 percent increase in our total property area. The real gain, of course, is in the aesthetic value of having the house and garage a more reasonable distance apart.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Right on, Sean!


Hey, my son Sean Flora is quoted in the current issue of Mix, a publication for professional audio and music production, in connection with his work on the landmark Shins album, Wincing the Night Away, that shot to the top of four Billboard magazine charts upon its Jan. 23 release.
You can read the whole thing here.
The pertinent poop is that he gets mentioned in the second paragraph as engineer with producer Joe Chiccarelli on the album and quoted later on, thus:
Chiccarelli and Flora tried to be creative when it came to recording the drums, too. In addition to the standard complement of mics across the kit, the duo set up Neumann TLM 170s across the room and a mono Lawson L251 in front of the kick drum. “It's a nice, big, wood room with a high ceiling,” Flora reports. “The 170s were across the room set on omni, so it was possible to get a lot of the room sound in there. Once it was compressed, it wasn't so washy as it was the midrange ‘oomph’ that you get from room mics.” As for the 251, Chiccarelli says, “It provided the best leakage and that tone became most of the drum sound.”

The album is still #12 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums and #91 in the ITunes top 100 albums, and Amazon.com customers gave it 4½ out of 5 stars.

The Graduate


Me, Morgan and Maria. We clean up pretty well.

We spent Friday night and this morning in Bloomington, Ind. helping Maria's daughter Morgan celebrate her graduation Summa Cum Laude from Indiana University with a degree in economics and gender studies.
Friday night's event was the commencement celebration for students in the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP), which is a very selective two-year program offered through I.U.'s Kelley School of Business for Liberal Arts majors.
Afterward, it was beer and pizza at Mother Bear's Pizza, which set me up for a fitful night's sleep sharing Morgan's twin-size bed with Maria, while Morgan took the couch in her somewhat stuffy apartment.
This morning, we were off to a reception for graduating students in the Economics Department where Morgan was surprised to discover she was one of only two econ grads who had been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. I think she's starting to grasp what a big deal that is.

She decided to forgo the formal commencement exercises, which seem to be designed to generate income for Herff Jones through cap and gown rental.
Morgan still has one math class to complete during summer school before she actually gets her diploma, but this weekend's activities constituted her formal graduation from I.U.
Needless to say, Maria is enormously proud of her, as am I.
As we drove her home from Bloomington for a couple of days at our place, she got a cell phone call from her conspicuously absent father. He was on a tractor planting corn. She noted later that about the only time he calls is when he's out in a field on a tractor, which means he's temporarily beyond the reach of his evil wife who sees Morgan as a dangerous rival.
He, of course, has no idea what his daughter has achieved over the past four years. Care to guess how many times he visited her while she was a student at Bloomington? That would be zero.

Morgan and Maria and a Mother Bear's deep dish pizza.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Work for the kid


Austin carrying concrete.

The slab we had poured a couple of weeks ago is almost gone.
George, our construction guy, agreed on Thursday to give Maria's son Austin a shot as a laborer, which enabled Austin to quit his low-paying department store job that was killing him with a 50-mile commute in these days of $3+/gallon gas.
He worked for George on Friday and got $100 for his efforts, along with an invitation to stay with the crew when they finish up the slab work on Monday.
They even let him run a jackhammer.
This is Austin's kind of work and he revels in it. He has a great work ethic - if he can remember to get up in the morning and show up for work. If he can stay focused, he can probably do well in George's operation.


George and his crew demolishing the faulty, misplaced slab.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pounding it to rubble

So much for our new slab.

George and his crew rolled in about 8:30 a.m. today.
I peered out of the kitchen window to see George digging under the slab with a shovel, then pounding the shit out of it with a sledge hammer. In 20 minutes' time he broke up about a quarter as much concrete as the entire crew had managed all day yesterday.
It was just a matter of technique, he explained to me. If you undercut the slab and remove the earth supporting it, it's much easier to fracture the concrete. Conversely, if it's resting on solid earth, it's a real bitch to break up. His brother Aaron apparently forgot this important detail when he supervised yesterday's work.
As they jackhammered and dug their way along, it became increasingly clear that the slab had major problems that would have seriously compromised the project. The footer was non-existent in some places, there was too much sand under the slab in many places, there were air pockets and other problems. George said the garage would have had terminal structural problems in 15 years or less because of the crappy slab.
Our friend, the local building inspector, dropped by to get up to speed on the latest developments. We explained the new plan, showed him where the new slab will go - well within the required setbacks - and he assured us we'll get our permit at the May 14 plan commission meeting.
So we directed George to hold off on digging the new footers until we have a permit. In the meantime, he can finish removing the slab, push some dirt around for site preparation and get the hot tub up on the deck.
The siding guy and his kid showed up about 10 a.m., established that the electrical circuit involving the stairway landing outlet is working and did away with the ratty door on the north side of the house.
George and his guys called it a day at 3:30 p.m., promising to be back about 7 or 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to finish the slab removal.
In the meantime, I called Waste Management and put off the collection of their dumpster from tomorrow until Monday.
To celebrate this bit of progress, I walked down to my BMW-riding neighbor's house to visit our two motorcycles that have been stored in his barn since our old garage was razed. I applied the 2008 license plate stickers, stuck the new certificates of registration into the under-seat tool compartments and took Maria's K75S for a 20-mile ride.
I find it horrifying that I have ridden a grand total of 71 miles this year. That's the worst start I've had in the 30-some years I've been riding.
This weekend will be occupied with Morgan's graduation from Indiana University, but Maria has decreed that I must ride somewhere - maybe to a rally - the following weekend. Weather permitting, I'll take her up on that offer.

Gibberish

I'm editing copy at the newspaper tonight.
The senior reporter, who has myriad health problems and often writes stuff that makes no sense, just topped himself with this lede:

"Information about various teen issues will help parents become aware or reinforce what parents already know will be discuss during a parent meeting."

WTF?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Progress. Kinda.


George's brother Aaron arrived about 11:30 a.m. with a three-man crew, a couple of jackhammers and a tracked Bobcat mini-backhoe. It quickly became apparent that they were under-tooled for the job. Even if the slab they're supposed to demolish lacks the 3' footers required by code, the fucker is still a 12"-thick monolith of reinforced concrete.
If they had the big Bobcat with jackhammer front end that the crew used to demolish the old garage foundation, they'd still have their hands full with this new slab. As it is, they've just been chipping away at it all afternoon. Here's what they had accomplished by about 4:30 p.m.
Aaron ran into town and rented a 30" wet saw and carved at the slab a bit, but I can't see much in the way of results from that effort.
Unless they get their hands on heavier equipment, I don't expect them to finish this slab by the weekend.
George called about 2 p.m. to say the guy who's going to close off a dead space on the north side of the house (you can see it on the extreme right in an earlier photo with the crappy door propped up against the opening) arrived about 3 p.m. with his fat son and a Dairy Queen chocolate cone in hand. I showed him the job, explaining that the wiring that ran through the space serves an electrical outlet on the stairway landing and that the outlet quit working during the winter - about the time we discovered the door had fallen off and the space was exposed to the elements.
So the wiring must be addressed before the space is walled off and sided over. But he didn't have his circuit tester with him, so he'll be back tomorrow to do the work.
It's a good thing that I've been able to cultivate a certain sense of detachment about this whole business since we had our meeting with George yesterday. As long as we're moving in the right direction and not running seriously over budget, I can tolerate some delays.
The decision to rip out the new concrete and reposition the garage involved rotating the building by 90 degrees. Whereas the original plan was for the garage, with its two-car-wide overhead door - to face the back of the house, the building will now face the south and the driveway. We had planned to have a rather pricey 16' wide picture window on the front of the second story, but when it became apparent that the huge window would face the south and get pretty much continuous direct sunlight, we scrapped it in favor of smaller windows and three skylights on the north side of the roof.
Wanting to have a structure that looked like it fit with our 104-year-old Queen Anne Victorian house, Maria took a cue from our neighbor Larry's barn and suggested a cupola. At present, the plan calls for a windowed cupola with a light-reflecting system that would channel daylight downward into the second floor. It should be a very cool detail up in the vaulted ceiling.
Rotating the building onto an east-west axis also puts the access door much closer to the house, something we'll appreciate this winter.
Assuming the building is finished by then...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Choking the chicken

Maria, choking a rubber chicken at a party supply store.

Derailed, then back on track (we hope)

George, our project manager/construction guy called yesterday morning to say he was quitting the construction company where he works. It's called Bob's and we have never seen or talked to Bob in all the dealings we've had with the company. Bob, it turns out, is a little short on character and was ripping our guy off.
So George came up this morning to discuss our options.
In the meantime, I did some measuring and was stunned to discover our back property line is way closer than we had thought. The back of our property is bounded by an imaginary alley. It was platted back in 1903 when the three-lot subdivision was created, but it was never built. To look at it, you would think it's just two neighbors' lawns meeting.
The planning regs require a 10-foot setback from an alley or a street. The concrete pad that was poured a couple of weeks ago, it turns out, is 11 inches from the property line - 9 feet 1 inch too close. I completely misjudged where the property line was when we laid out the footprint of the building. This revelation completely freaked us out and plunged us into a very deep funk, worrying that we were hopelessly and irretrievably screwed and that we had just committed a blunder that would wipe out the proceeds from the sale of my parents' house.
At the same time, we dug a couple of three-foot-deep holes next to the concrete pad so as to be able to show the building inspector that the pad had the required three-foot footer. In both cases, the footers were only about two feet down. So the concrete guys fucked up too.
After kicking arond the various scenarios with George this morning, we opted to have him rip out the brand new concrete pad, which gets us back to square one with the local planning authority.
Then, with no unauthorized construction in place, we can go before the planning authority in a couple of weeks and be reasonably sure of getting our building permit, since the new garage footprint will be well within the setback requirements.
The neighbors are going to think we've gone stark staring mad when they see a perfectly good $10k hunk of reinforced concrete jackhammered into bits tomorrow.
Fortunately, since George is no longer partnered with Greedy Bob, the new contract does not include the "Bob tax," i.e., the outrageous markup that Bob required. Therefore, George can build the rest of the project for significantly less and we'll end up spending about what we had originally planned, even with the added expense of doing the concrete twice.
George estimates we're about a month from completion, which is pretty close to my original expectation before we ran into this forest of snags.
More demolition photos to follow.