31 August 2008

One year ago...

I made the biggest mistake I can remember making.

My father was dying. We knew this. Over the last few days he had nearly stopped eating. The lung cancer that had metastasized and taken up residence in his bones was winning. We knew it would, he knew it would - but we thought he had a few months to live. They told us at the end of July that he had two to nine months to live.

The 31st was a Friday. Wednesday of that week my mother had called and said she thought he wasn't going to be with us much longer. I called the girls in Vegas right after that phone call and told them they needed to get to Indiana if they wanted to see their grandfather before he died. Nova had been there in July. Aluna had taken a new job that summer and did not feel that she could take time off. When I told her she needed to get to Indiana now, she went to her new boss and got the time off and made plans to fly herself, Nova and Tay out the following Tuesday.

What was my mistake you ask? The mistake I made was putting my job and my normal life ahead of my father and my family. In all honesty, none of us expected him to pass that day. So I went to work in the morning with plans to leave around noon.

It's a 10-hour drive from Winona to my parent's home in Linton Indiana. If I had piled everyone in the car and left early in the day we would have made it in time.

Instead, leaving at noon meant that we were somewhere between Bloomington/Normal and Danville, Illinois when my brother called to tell us that my father had passed away. They told me that he knew - as much as one can know in the final hours of life - that we were coming, but he just could not wait for us to be there. He died at 8:45pm.

I wasn't there. Forever I will know that my decision to work those 4 or 5 hours meant that I was racing down a highway in a futile attempt to be there when my father died.

I hate it sometimes, that my family is so spread out over the country. I know something like this will happen again.

25 August 2008

A New Budget

September always brings new budgets in our house. Every year, at this time of year, at least one person in the household (and probably more) is retooling, rethinking and reassessing wants, needs and how far a dollar (or $20) can be stretched.

It's the time of year when school shopping has been my love-to-do/hate-to-do task (one I no longer face since everyone is out of high school and either done with college, or paying for their own stuff). Love the "organizational" shopping that notebooks, pens & pencils & markers, post-it notes, binders and those nifty zipper pockets for them, implies. Hate the list of "must-have-on-first-day-of-school" that the public school sent out every year (divided by grade level). Hate the fact that kids can be so cruel and if daughters and son came in less-than-stylish clothing they would be tortured, cut to the bone with a glance and a snicker.

For the last 20 years or so, I have had to postpone a birthday celebration for myself (d.o.b. 9/13) because school shopping would so blow the budget. We would finally recover in time to do the Christmas shopping sometime late-October or early-November. Not a bad thing, since I have way too much stuff anyway. But some years there wasn't even enough left to have a cake and ice cream.

Thinking about McCain's $5-million-dollar-is-rich jokey response to the discussion of class and wealth...
NY Times Op-Ed by economist Paul Krugman

18 August 2008

Endangered Species Act - Part II

A few days ago I posted a link to a NY Times article about the Endangered Species Act and some upcoming changes the Bush administration wants to push through. I also included the link to the information on public comments.

The proposed changes are on the government website where you can submit comments. This evening I plan to read through the change document and make some comments.

Tire Pressure

This weekend I got a very dramatic lesson in how tire pressure affects gas mileage - from my bicycle.

Abelisto and I usually ride our bikes to the Farmer's Market in Winona on Saturday mornings. We have panniers on our bikes that can hold the equivalent of 2 brown paper grocery bags each. Together we can get over a week's groceries in the panniers.

Anyway, over the last couple weeks I had been having more and more trouble riding the bike. I was cursing poor Adventure Cycle, thinking that they were at fault (had a recent tune up and one of the problems following it was this difficulty/trouble with riding - the other problem, erratic shifting issues still is going on). On Saturday morning Abelisto noticed that my rear tire was extremely low on air. We quickly went to the service station and added quite a bit of air pressure to both my tires.

Getting back on the bike was amazing - it now rolled so freely, so effortlessly... The difference in energy expenditure was unbelievable. It must be much the same with a car, except we do not notice it since we aren't doing the pedaling...

Now I have got to check the tires on all the vehicles in the household.

Now I need to check the tire pressures on all the vehicles.

Mead Update

Got some advice from Jon (a veteran mead & wine maker) concerning the mead. He said to date it and put it in a dark, cool place for 12 months to mellow the taste.

So on the 16th of August in 2009 we will open a bottle and test it.

15 August 2008

Mead Making

Tonight Eli and I bottled the first batch of mead. This mead was made with honey from a local beekeeper that we got at the Farmer's Market in Winona. I do not drink alcohol so I do not really know myself, but others in my household think it tastes good.

This batch was made sort of willy-nilly. I did read the meadmaker book, but I did not have any special equipment for doing it other than the carboy and the fermentation lock. I did not even have a thermometer. I guess I was really lucky that it made at all. It took DAYS for it to start fermenting, and it was not very vigorous when it did start. There was maybe a bubble every 15 seconds. We worried that we were going to end up with honey vinegar, or something like that.

A week or so ago I stopped by the Wine & Beer Making Supply store just north of Rochester on Hwy 52. I bought a polycarbonate carboy, another fermentation lock, a racking tube and hose, a floating thermometer, a hydrometer and testing tube, some stabilizer, and some yeast energizer (or maybe it was nutrient - don't remember and the box is in the other room).

Abelisto and I picked up 12 pounds raw honey at the food co-op. I started a second batch of mead with part of it last weekend when I moved the first batch to the secondary fermentation carboy (the rest of the honey went to the roofers in appreciation of taking such good care not to drop old shingles on the bee hives). I really did not need to move the first batch into a secondary fermentation carboy, it was absolutely done with the fermenting, but it did help clarify it. Anyway, the second batch of mead was bubbling away about 4 hours after I mixed it up. The bubbles were rising through the fermentation lock at about 1 bubble every 2.5 to 3 seconds this time. I took specific gravity and temperature measurements and am keeping better records with this batch. 

It will be interesting to see how it comes out.

14 August 2008

Endangered Species Act

Normally I do not regurgitate content from other websites. However this is something I think needs to be passed along:

NY Times Editorial - An Endangered Act
Published: August 13, 2008
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s latest assault on the Endangered Species Act deserves to be struck down.

Information on commenting during the 30-day Public Comment period.

I would suggest that we all think about commenting after the proposed changes have been posted (sometime tomorrow - 8/15/2008).

  • Online, at Regulations.gov
  • By mail, to:

    Public Comment Processing,
    Attention: 1018-AT50
    Division of Policy and Directives Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service
    4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222,
    Arlington, VA 22203

When the proposed rule changes get posted I will try to put them up here - it is confusing to find them on the gov site.

06 August 2008

Leclerc Tissart Tapestry Loom

I have not posted on here for a few days - mostly because I was busy getting some things done. There is this thing about doing and/or writing about doing that I sometimes struggle with. It is the residue from graduate school. I want to do the work. I do not always want to document it. However I realize that I can get pretty lazy intellectually if I do not work at documenting the work.

However, that was not the reason I have not posted lately. The reason was that I have been all wrapped up in the new tapestry loom. It is a 60" Leclerc Tissart loom, probably made in the 70s or 80s (still need to do more research).

We drove to Chicago in the new car (2007 Pontiac Vibe - more about that later) on August 1st to spend the weekend with Eileen at her new place, go to some museums, visit Loyola where Abelisto went to grad school and just hang out. On the way back we drove to Krakow Wisconsin (an hour or so north of Green Bay) to pick up the loom.

We took it apart and put it in the Vibe. We had to fold down the wider section of the back seat and the front passenger seat to get it all in there. Some of the pieces are around 6' long. Abelisto ended up sitting behind me in the narrower section of the back seat.

When we got it home late Sunday night we piled the loom in the front room and went to bed. Monday night I cleaned and oiled the wooden parts and steel-wooled the brake assembly and the harnesses (slight surface rust). The heddles are wire with inset eyes (maybe stainless steel - I did not look that closely at them) and are in really good condition considering the loom sat out in a barn for a few years.

Then Abelisto and I put it back together.

Step one: Side pieces and bottom piece with treddles.

Step two: Added the front and middle back beams and the beater assembly (which is backwards in this photo - we discovered that pretty quickly and turned it around).

Step three: Added the cloth beam (or whatever it is called on a tapestry loom) and tension arm.

Step four: Here we turned the harness assembly around the right way and added the warp beam. All that is left is the top back beam.

Once the loom was together we decided to move Sheba's desk and put the loom in front of the big window.

Tonight I plan to start dressing the loom.