Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hope & Friendship . . .

As I have been on this recent journey of self-discovery and exploring the possibilities in life and living I have rediscovered one of our basic ideas of how lives work and go through many changes.  The scenery may change but the core values and work ethic remain the same.

There may be an ebb and flow of old friendships leaving an area but there are renewed and new friendships made along the way to another location.  That dynamic has always fascinated me as you come in contact with those and the friendships grow stronger.  Renewed or meeting new friends can sometimes bring fresh perspectives which you may not have thought about before. 

Part of my time here in Oregon has been getting to know friends who I have vacationed with but known long distance for many years while others are part of a large online gaming community.  Many of us gather once a year in various locations around the country to have a weekend of fellowship, music, and food.  It is a living community which has had over the last fifteen years within our membership births, illnesses, graduations from high school, college or other organizations as well as dating or marriages within the community.  In our gaming community there is support and people who care . . . not just in the virtual world but in our real lives too.  This community is about friendship and love for one another inside and outside the context of playing a game . . . many people have the opportunity to express it on the forum boards and during our yearly gatherings.

I was watching television last weekend and was reminded of my favorite film of all time, Shawshank Redemption.  

Here's a film that's worth watching over and over.  I cannot count the number of times I have watched it and each time come away with different aspects of life, how to live it, not waste it and those people around you.

It is a film about Friendship and Hope. 

I had never really given much attention to novels by Stephen King other than The Shining until this movie was released.  It did not do all that well in the limited release in movie theaters at the time but developed an almost cult following in the home market with Blockbuster, Net Flicks, and all of the mom and pops video stores.  

The script, the extraordinary acting, the cinematography, the symbolism, the music, everything comes together perfectly in a cinematic experience that moves me every time I see it.  The thing that sets this movie apart is the narration throughout the film by Morgan Freeman, who plays Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding.

I could write a lot about this film but I would recommend that you just go watch it if you haven't ever seen it and give it another look if you’ve seen it already.  Just remember it is about prison life and it is not all happy times.  It's tough and sometimes gritty with some scenes of violence that are pretty gut wrenching, however, the scenes of prison brutality are necessary for the final redemptive pay off at the end.

Stuck up banker Andy DuFresne, played superbly by Tim Robbins, is sent to Shawshank prison for two life terms for murders he didn't commit.  While there he is put through hell. He faces the worst kind of corruption, violence, religious hypocrisy and brutality . . . but through it all he hangs on to hope.  

Hope is the theme and Hope is the final word.  

In the midst of a world of stone, Andy retains a heart of hope.

Seeing again what was one of the best moments for me in this film.  Apart from the overwhelming relief of the twist ending, it's when Andy locks himself in the warden's office and plays a duet from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, then decides to broadcast the music across the prison's courtyard PA.  The hardened prisoners' faces light up with wonder and innocent joy.  It's unforgettable.  Music is a common denominator throughout the world and affects each of our lives differently but with a common thread of notes and sounds within our universe.

I'm sure that scene will go down as one of the greatest moments in cinema. It not only captures the theme of the whole film in one delicious, everlasting grin of a moment, but it also conveys the inexpressible beauty, poignancy and redemptive quality of music for all humanity.  More than that, the theme of hope is communicated in a way beyond words.

In the movie’s closing scene you hear the narration of Morgan Freeman’s character Red, speaking of Friendship and Hope

". . . I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.

I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel,

a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. . .   

I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. . .

I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. . .

I hope."

Never give up hope or friendships within our lives, old or new . . .

Sweet dreams . . .


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Thinking Again

The weather here in Oregon is getting better and summer solstice was yesterday. It doesn’t seem to have the same importance here as Alaska where everything is in full light mode right now.  There were a couple of mentions and the declaration that summer is here but that was about it.  No parties that I saw or happenings around town.

It was sunny and 75 degrees today and it is slightly noticeable the days are longer when sunset is about 9 pm.  The trees and flowers are in bloom so it is green and colorful around town.  As I have explored different areas it varies quite a bit. There are many nurseries, tree farms about and many vineyards not far away with many different varieties of wine being made locally.  Wine tastings are held in many places to the west and southwest of Portland.

Missing my fishing after surviving another cold dark winter in Alaska but at least I was able to go with my buddy Russ in Campbell River on my trip south.  There are many good rivers around so I am hoping to wet a line soon once I scope out the area.  I know Nate and Jan said the Salmon River runs very close to the bar close to Mt. Hood.  The Columbia River runs by the airport so maybe I can fish from the deck of one of several bars there.

I was thinking again today and pondered . . .

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting weak?

Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

I'm not sure if this is everywhere but Alaska and Portland seem to have these ads on all the time.  Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it back down to give the vacuum one more chance?   Does everyone do this or is that just me?

When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, "It's all right?"  Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, "That really hurt, you should try to be a little more careful!"

The statistics on sanity are one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness.  Think about that for a minute . . . of your three best friends -- if they seem to be okay, then it's you who is screwed up.

Remember . . . We don't rent pigs!

 It’s time now to put Placido Flamingo down for the night, re-hydrate from the warm day today and get ready for tomorrow’s next adventure.  Ciao  


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hail Caesar . . . Hail yeah!

The weather here over the last couple of days has been interesting to say the least.  It has many similarities to Alaska weather in the summer.  Mornings can be chilly requiring a sweatshirt and quickly changing to sunny, warm making one shed the layer of clothes put on.  It has been for a few days with a cold front coming through that it has been constantly changing multiple times a day.  Chilly, cloudy, misty rain, clearing for a hour or so then mid to heavy rain.  There have been a couple of thunderstorms with lightening, thunder, and hail.

Working in it has been a mixture of setting up the saws and other construction items to work for a bit then covering up everything with tarps, sitting it out for thirty minutes or so then uncover and continue working.  Some small showers you have a tendency to just work through until you are soaked then you debate whether or not to put on a rain jacket or be wet.  After the fourth or fifth time shedding clothes it was time to just be wet.

My helper, Paul and I were building a patio pergola in Sandy the last couple of days working between the raindrops.  It turned out nice but drove us crazy putting on and removing rain gear, also putting on and shedding sweatshirts as the sun came out and we basked in the sunlight.

The patio cover turned out nice (see photos) and today we started a project doing repairs to a house who’s clogged gutter had rotted out the wood fascia and soffit overhang underneath.  We pulled off the gutter and removed about 20 feet of fascia and soffit only to find more damage underneath so tomorrow will be doing a little more demo before we can rebuild it, caulk and paint the new materials.

Where Alaska is hurting work and otherwise, this area seems to have plenty to keep busy with things starting to schedule out a bit every week.  Another summer day has come and gone away with this tired sore body but it is good for me right now after a nice day working seeing the results building things with my hands again.

Have a great week everyone!


Monday, June 13, 2016

Blitz Build Kitchen Remodel

Many years ago when I lived in Atlanta I was involved with Habitat for Humanity as the Atlanta Chapter plumbing lead.  I originally got involved because they were going to do the first ever “Blitz Build” of 21 homes in one week.  I was more curious than anything at first to see how they would pull off such an unheard of feat completing 21 homes in a week starting from scratch.  Short version of the story is we accomplished this feat with the efforts of many people, tradesmen, volunteers, and the proposed home owners who did “sweat equity” as part of their qualifications to receive the home.  I did other projects for Habitat over several years both in Georgia and Utah before heading to Alaska.  Alaska had a program but I was so busy I did not remain involved during my time in Alaska but they did build much needed homes there.

I give you that background to start this story of my latest project.  During my stay here in Portland I have started contracting work on Craig’s List for handyman type work projects.  In my typical fashion to stand out among the many ads I used a concept I was going to use in my retirement to do odd jobs.  The ad stated: “Rent a husband or boyfriend to get you handyman work completed.”  It is getting calls every day and getting booked up several weeks in advance for myself and carpenter helper Paul.

I received a call on Wednesday from a lady who was telling me that she needed a kitchen remodeled and that there was a 78 year old woman who was living in a care home that was being verbally abused and she needed to get her out of that place immediately.  The move was supposed to happen in two weeks but the situation had deteriorated and had to be completed by Friday afternoon.  The problem was the kitchen needed to be gutted with all the cabinets, sink, stove, vent hood, dishwasher and refrigerator being removed and new cabinets, sink and appliances installed.  

The kitchen was very small with little to no room for one person much less two to cook or prepare a meal.  She had a basic layout in mind and had ordered the cabinets from Home Depot and the butcher block counter tops from IKEA.

She had gotten a bid from another contractor who could not start the job till Saturday which would not work so she cancelled the other contractor after talking with me and we started the demolition of the kitchen on Thursday morning.  We had everything gutted by the afternoon and was starting the installation of the new cabinets when it was discovered the new layout would not have adequate room in the aisle to move.  A quick call was made and within about thirty minutes had a new layout for the small kitchen.  The problem was moving things around without having to buy additional cabinets or having a layout of things that would be awkward with food prep, doing dishes or getting items out of the refrigerator.

The new layout worked great with the cabinets and appliances working harmoniously with a triangle for movement between work stations. The old gas line was about 4” off the wall so I was able to change the nipple and 90 degree elbow to make it hug closer to the wall allowing the stove to push back almost to the wall.  It was a much nicer, cleaner look to it.  A new deep well stainless sink with disposal installed on the beautiful butcher block counter top giving depth and color to the room and counter spaces.  When the walls are painted shortly, it will have a rich color tone giving the appearance of a much larger space than the existing cabinets that were removed.

We worked long hours on Thursday and Friday making the move for the woman and came back on Saturday to finish installing the plumbing drain lines, the counter tops and the cabinet base trim.
Everyone was happy with the way the kitchen turned out and most everyone was surprised that we could completely gut a kitchen and rebuild in two and a half days.  I knew it would be some work but remembering the old Habitat days I knew we could do it if we stayed focused on the problem at hand, removing her from a bad environment.

On to the next project building a patio pergola with the polycarbonate roof panels, rain is in the forecast so we will see how that project will go or if there will be a rain out period.

Have a nIce day!


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Baking Building Sunroom

I finished another project this week building a sun room for a couple across town in Milwaukee.  They are retired with the husband, Rich being ex-military and we were stationed in the same place though different years.  Great guy, a little battle worn over the years but it was nice spending a few days around him and his wife Angie.  She is a great gardener with a three tier back yard with flowers and gardens on all levels.  It was nice listening to her describe all that she has done and what stage various plants or vegetables were in their growing season.

They hired me to build a 12’ x 16’ sun room on a slab recently poured for it.  Rich wants to make it into an outside kitchen for his two grills, one pellet & one charcoal, a smoker, and a refrigerator along with seating area. They also want to replace their deck once they return from a camping trip which they are leaving next week so I will probably get more work shortly to do the deck.

This sun room is a kit that Costco and several other places sell and comes in four large boxes with many parts and pieces.  It was funny looking at the directions and instruction which like everything now had several languages in the booklet.  I noticed that in several of the languages there were additional drawings or details that were not in the English version.  I find that odd that we were slighted in not having the same information as other countries as the detail drawings did show several items more clearly that could have created problems if I had not seen it.  

And yes women, I did look at and read the instructions for information but mainly with all the pieces I wanted to confirm that everything was there.  It was with no leftover screws, washers, or bolts and there were several that were not machined well and could not be used causing a trip to the hardware store for a replacement piece.

End of day 1 walls up and part of room supports up.

During construction there was a heat wave here with temperatures at 100 degrees.  It was hard to stay hydrated but getting a tan easy.  The parts sitting in the sun were extremely hot since there was little to no shade so parts were placed under tables, around the corner to cool them off so they were not too hot to touch.  It was crazy and I had to use gloves several times because items were so hot to the touch.

Day 2 roof panels going in

Day 3 Finishing up and looking great.  

Lost 10 pounds working in the sun, a good way to diet, sweat it out and Richard Simmons was no were in site but was rocking to the oldies on my iphone music.
Angie will send me some photos after it is decorated so it will be nice seeing what they did with the inside as she had some neat ideas.

I'm starting a kitchen remodel tomorrow so I will see where that leads . . . until then have a great week.


Sunday, June 05, 2016

Life Observation # 162 . . .

Life Observation # 162 . . .  

One of the hardest things in life, letting go of what you thought was real.


Monday, May 30, 2016

A Memorable Memorial Day – The three (3) B’s: The Bar, Beekeeping, and BBQ

For most people Memorial Day is about the first camp out of the season, cranking up the grill or the first get together with friends for the start of summer.  For me it is those things and a day of reflection of the sacrifice that friends of mine has made, brothers whom I have never met but in the fraternity of having served in the military. 

Memorial Day weekend starts out with many flags put on graves at many cemeteries, front yards across the country, and readying for many private and public events across this nation.  There are many big events planned during the weekend such as the 100th running of the Indy 500 where there is much attention paid to what this time means and why it is celebrated and remembered.

This Memorial Day was a little different from the last few I have observed in Alaska with a new twist being in Oregon this year.  It was busy but also a laid back weekend with various things going on.  Monday brought a cloudless day with bright blue skies, the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens showing on the horizon and warmth in the air that was a beautiful start to the summer season. 

Jan, Nate and I left the house around eleven this morning with shopping stops for supplies that the bar would need for the coming week.  Normally the shopping is completed on Sunday but circumstances made for the “chore” to be done on the holiday.  A full size pickup truck load of food, supplies, and other items were loaded and up to the mountain we headed to take the weeks provisions.  A few minor things were done at the bar mainly getting ready for a fund raiser “poker run” for a local boy’s family who was killed at the high school several years ago by another student.  This was a tragedy for sure but the community still remembers and rallies around the family and the foundation set up to keep these needless shootings out of our schools. Jan has been mentoring his sister and family as they cope with life after the incident.

We left the bar and headed to their bee hives to do the weekly maintenance and see the progress of how the hives were developing.  There are three hives that were started about two months ago so the colonies are developing and spreading like crazy.  I have found it to be an interesting experience as I have gone with them several times since arriving as they inspect, feed, and see the progress of the hives. 

Today was to inspect to see if the inner chambers were getting at least 70% full so they could expand and put another layer (box) on top of the existing one.  Out of the three only one was able to expand this weekend but the other two should be ready by next week’s inspection.

From Wikipedia on Beekeeping:

Sericulture (or apiculture, from Latin: apis "bee") is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (including beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard".

Beekeeping dates back over 15,000 years with depictions of humans collecting honey.  Modern day apiarists use a movable comb hive and there are many different types depending on what part of the world you keep the hives.  In North America the most commonly used hive is called, Langstroth's design who has been called the father of beekeeping in America.  The differences in hive dimensions are insignificant in comparison to the common factors in all these hives: they are all square or rectangular; they all use movable wooden frames; they all consist of a floor, brood-box, honey super, crown-board and roof. Hives have traditionally been constructed of cedar, pine, or cypress wood, but in recent years hives made from injection molded dense polystyrene have become increasingly important.
Hives also use queen excluders between the brood-box and honey supers to keep the queen from laying eggs in cells next to those containing honey intended for consumption.  Most beekeepers also wear some protective clothing. Novice beekeepers usually wear gloves and a hooded suit or hat and veil. Experienced beekeepers sometimes elect not to use gloves because they inhibit delicate manipulations. The face and neck are the most important areas to protect, so most beekeepers wear at least a veil. Defensive bees are attracted to the breath, and a sting on the face can lead to much more pain and swelling than a sting elsewhere, while a sting on a bare hand can usually be quickly removed by fingernail scrape to reduce the amount of venom injected.
Smoke is the beekeeper's third line of defense. Most beekeepers use a "smoker"—a device designed to generate smoke from the incomplete combustion of various fuels. Smoke calms bees; it initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire. Smoke also masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees or when bees are squashed in an inspection. The ensuing confusion creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction. 
A colony of bees consists of three castes of bee:
·         queen bee, which is normally the only breeding female in the colony;
·         a large number of female worker bees, typically 30,000–50,000 in number;
·         a number of male drones, ranging from thousands in a strong hive in spring to very few during dearth or cold season.

When we arrived the group had gathered to do the maintenance and other items needed for this week’s inspection.  Several were already dressed in their protective clothing including the veil.  Jan put her suit on and her friend Mary also dressed out as they started working on the hives.  Each one the lid was removed, the different hive sections (10 in each box section) were removed, inspected for the comb making activity, the larvae chambers, and to see if the queen bee was in the hive. 

As things were pulled apart smoke was used to keep the bees in the hive sections and swarming around calm. 

You could see their agitation at times when the sections were removed or more when they were being put back into the boxes.  I think as the 10 sections were re-installed the crowding made the bees start to swarm as they were being moved or slightly crushed as the sections were added into the box.
Over the course of the afternoon only three stings were encountered, two on Mary’s fingers (no gloves) and on Jan’s arm as she removed her veil several bees swarmed into her hair and as she could hear them buzzing around her head started moving too quickly and stung her as she ran her hand through her hair trying to get out the couple of bees that had gotten into her hair.  Nate and I did not suit up but moved slowly when we were in the swarms or next to the hive parts being removed.  I have always learned that bees do not attack unless provoked so no fast movements or actions doesn’t upset their nature.
After our beekeeping chores we went over to some friend’s house for a BBQ get together with several of their friends.  It was a fun afternoon but everyone was ready to head back home to relax.  It was a nice quiet day of enjoyment and reflection.  I hope everyone had a safe weekend with family and friends.