Back to Work

I took all of last week off so I could put a dent in several around the house projects that I should have tackled this summer.  While I accomplished about a third of what was on my list, I did manage to get a fair amount done.  The big project was finishing off a doorway/stairwell project that has been lingering for two years.  Our house is laid out so that the stairwell only opened into the entry way, so that one had to walk around the first floor if going from the family room, laundry, downstairs bath, or garage to get upstairs.  This was a real pain if we were carrying a load of laundry.  So my response was to open up the stairwell with a new doorway and step into the family room.  It also greatly helps with getting heat from the woodstove upstairs, since it is located directly across from the new opening.

Putting in the hole itself was probably the easiest part.  The biggest part of the project was stripping wallpaper and painting the stairwell itself, which involved a ladder and makeshift scaffolding.  This week, I finished off the opening with trim and painting, etc…  There is only a little bit of drywall to do yet; and I need to recruit a friend to carpet the new step, but things are pretty much done and not looking too bad, although I’m sure a carpenter would cringe if he looked closely.

The other big project, and the one that kept me from doing much riding, was firewood.  A friend graciously invited me to clear some “tops” that a logging company had left after taking out some large red oaks, so I spent several mornings cutting up and hauling out a little over two cords of logs.  It was hard work, but definitely a good workout.  After a few hours, I’d find myself pretty spent and ready for a nap.  It helped me get caught up with our supply for this winter, although there is still much to do with splitting and stacking.  Ideally, I should have a full six cords for this winter and close to that laid up for next year.

Speaking of bikes, I may have solved my problem with the Long Haul Trucker up-shifting.  After doing a search that narrowed things down to either a worn out spring on the derailleur or a snagged cable, I ended up putting a dab of grease on the plastic routing thingy under the bottom bracket where the rear shifting cable passes through.  Apparently this is a problem area, especially for steel framed bikes that have a bit of flex.  The frame will very slightly change its angle under load, and if the cable does not move freely to compensate, the derailleur will sense the tautness and upshift.  So far, without a long ride to really put it through its paces, it seems to have worked. (fingers crossed).

I was out for a short ride around the neighborhood last night, mainly out of guilt after seeing the dust on the bike, and I have two observations:  first is that the combination of the steel frame and 37c Paselas is really a nice ride.  I can recall a similar feeling that I’d get on a Fuji steel framed tourer with 27×1 1/4 tires that I used to own where I swear I can feel the frame “giving” ever so slightly and taking out the bumps.  Second is that I just love this bike.  In addition to riding so well, it just is comfortable in all its components and issue free.  On top of that, I like how it turned out appearance wise…it completely met my expectations and my only regret is not riding it more.

In other news, our computer came down with a bad case of adware/spyware.  It turns out our daughter turned off the firewall because it was taking too long to load for her druthers.  I logged on one morning and was greated by a picture of a young woman in all her glory, and at least three dozen ads for spyware removal programs.  I’ve got all but one of the pop ups blocked now, but things are still slow.  McAffee doesn’t seem to be helping much, so I might have to take it into a shop to see if they can clean things up.

We had a winning sports weekend with the kids: football, baseball, and soccer.  My oldest son got a lot of playing time with his football game, filling in on offense as well as defense.  It was surprising because he is not really a “hitter.” He appears to read the plays well, but is rarely the first one on the pile.  I think they like him because he knows the plays and where he should block.

Ian continues to improve with baseball, especially throwing and catching.  Its strange to realize that kids need to be taught some of this stuff – but he has gone from looking like a shot putter to more like a baseball player.  Hitting is more of a challenge though, because he is really scared of being hit, so he tends to back out of the batter’s box a lot.

Finally, we finished up with a soccer win in a really ugly match against a South Middleton team yesterday afternoon.  Our girls played really well – the best all year – and they played a clean game.  Unfortunately, the SMSA team got frustrated and came out swinging in the second half.  Hits from behind, elbows, tripping, and other nasty stuff that should have drawn cards, but were practically ignored by the referrees.  Our girls were taking a beating, but we came out ahead.  Again, Anna managed a goal, which now puts her as the top scorer for the team.  For a kid rehabbing from major knee surgery and woefully out of shape, she manages to always be in the right spot to tap in a cross or a corner.  One parent suggested that we order knee braces for all of the squad.

I’ve made time to read books lately – here’s a quick list: 

Preacher to the Presidents (Billy Graham): interesting but mostly because I’m a history/political wonk who reads a lot of presidential biographies.  It was a good read, and I might pick up a copy of his autobiography.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt:  This was the first of a three book series that details his life leading up to his presidency.  The second is Theodore Rex.  I’ve come to conclude that he is probably my favorite president.  A great book.

Deception Point:  By the same guy who wrote the Da Vinci Code.  My daughter gave it to me on vacation.  Light reading, very predictable, and being the geek that I am, I was able to point out some mistakes he makes in stuff like how a fossil could form under pressure, but the insects themselves supposedly developed in a low pressure environment; and the fact that a Kiowa helicopter can only carry four Hellfire missiles-not sixteen; and two crew-not three.  (Isn’t it scary that I know that!?)  I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this book, but I wouldn’t throw it away either.

Stealing the General: I’m not exactly a Civil War buff, but I have an interest in steam locomotives.  This book is strong on facts, but I think a little more dramatic writing would have made it a better read….after all, it is a great story.

Blue Highways:  I’m actually re-reading this for about the fourth time.  This is my all time favorite book.  I’ve given it as a gift, and I find myself smiling all over again recognizing some of William Least Heat Moon’s insights and observations.

Since this post is turning into a book in itself, I’ll mention that I’ve been taking glucosimene/chondroiten for the arthritis in my hands and it appears to be helping.  My hands are still stiff in the morning, but not nearly as painful as they had been.  I’ll withhold the final verdict until some cold weather hits, but so far it been so successful that I actually played my drums for the first time in eight months this weekend.

Finally, here is a link to photos of women bikers in Copenhagen.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  What appeals to me is that a site like this exists because biking is such a part of the city’s culture and infrastructure.  It shows women riding bicycles in all kinds of “regular” and sometimes not so regular dress because that is how they get around.  I also took down the link to Planetary Gears.  This is the second time that blog has self destructed, and I don’t have patience for the drama.

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