Thursday, October 27, 2016

Borrowing Tools ( again )

Oh sure; I’ve got a couple,

I am neither a carpenter nor a furniture maker, this is not a how-to. But … several years ago Ellie and Loretta bought, for a song, an old, cute, wooden rocking chair at one of those discount places. It is a nice rocker. The arms are held up by 5 spindles, four equally spaced from the back of the chair, and a larger one more foreword.

Problem: the seat was cracked along the spindles holding up the right arm, from the edge of the seat near the back to in front of the larger front spindle. The right arm felt wiggly. With enough time and attention, the piece would have very likely broken off the seat entirely.

Though not a carpenter, I have glued wood. I even own some wood glue. And some C-clamps. I know wood should be clamped tightly when being glued and this application meant clamping across the width of the seat. This was not a job for my tool-set.

“Oh, come on,” Ellie said from Loretta’s. “You can use the C-clamps to clamp the seat. The gluing needs to be done and I’d like you to do it. Today.”

As said previously, I have learned it’s unwise to distrust Ellie’s instincts. I packed my glue, my clamps, and left.

I got out my tools. “I don’t see … ,” I began.

“Well, no you don’t,” she said. “You push the crack together … ( some magic happens ) … and viola! It’s clamped in place.”

I don’t remember exactly what she said, but her idea had not occurred to me. She suggested pushing the two pieces together, keeping the pieces pushed together with the inside edge of the C-clamp, and clamping the seat, on the other side of the crack, with the C-clamp.

View of Rocker Seat from front, showing the Crack

View of Rocker Seat from front, showing the Crack pushed together by the C-Clamp

Well … if I could push hard enough, and clamp tight enough, this might just work. I tried and it did. “See?” Ellie asked politely.

We used the chair. I was always a little more careful of the right arm than I might have been with any other chair in the world, but I did not treat it daintily. The chair survived.

Flash forward. Ellie’s been home six months and the chair, again needing gluing, has as well. It has been sitting in our not-overly-large dining room since Ellie returned. I had always believed that proper clamping would have garnered more permanent results than the job I had done.

“Are you planning on doing anything with the rocker?”

I thought of my neighbor and his chain saw … not to murder this chair but as a possible source of large clamps. He is very generous.

“Do you have any pipe clamps I could borrow?” I asked as our card game broke up. “I need to glue a chair seat.”

“Oh sure; I’ve got a couple,” he said and ran downstairs. He returned with two.

This happened weeks ago. I finally did the work. It took less time than I was afraid of ( it seems that all my projects take longer than anticipated … including writing a story for my blog ).
Chair, Clamped
An Up-Close Look at the Clamp
Near the Right-Front Spindle
The glue is currently drying. The instructions say clamp for
thirty-minutes, then leave alone for twenty-four hours. I’ll leave the chair clamped for the twenty-four hour leaving alone period.

I’ll let you know how this turns out.
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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Difficult One

I stopped eating animals several months ago now.  At the time I said it was easy.  I still think it is.  Others think I've given up real food, and I'm scavenging for substitutes.  The truth is, our diets are so rich, I've put on about ten pounds having trouble saying no to all the mouthwatering choices I have.  But it turns out that not eating the animals is the easy part.

For starters there's the social stigma.  I was worried about what people would think from the start.  The only person I've ever told because I wanted him to know was Walter.  Everyone else found out when it came up naturally.  And I was right.  He is the only person I know who thought I might have reasons to do so.  Everyone else I know acted like I've decided to become an alien at best, or have gone out of my way to become difficult or "virtue signal" at worst.  Now this is my experience of these situations, so I'm sure it is exaggerated to meet my experiences.  It's not like there are long conversations when I'm not around about how weird I've become.  I think not, at least.

Then there come the times when I'm actually difficult for others.  For example, I was invited to a party, and was told there would be squash soup there.  I was the only vegetarian who might attend, but this soup was not specifically for me.  It was planned before they knew I was coming.  I arrived, and was told, "Good news.  There will be vegetarian squash soup.  You eat eggs and dairy, right?"  I said that I do, so she poured in a carton of chicken broth.  Then the difficult one (me) had to explain why I find her soup to be unacceptable.  Those aren't the words I used, but I'm sure they're the words they heard.  She insisted lots of vegetarians eat eggs and chickens, so I should have said something when she asked.

Twice now I've been at sit down restaurants, asked the wait staff if a dish can be served vegetarian, then had to send it back because it arrived covered in meat.  And it's not like I go to a sit down restaurant everyday.  This is rough for me.  In the past I've just accepted what arrived, even if it wasn't what I ordered.  Now I'm the jerk that sends his food back because doesn't meet his standards.  And I'm the guy who has to read the label before buying something.

Half the reason they find me difficult is that my understanding of vegetarian and vegan is not universal.  I think it's universal among vegetarians and vegans.  Vegetarians don't consume animals, and vegans don't consume animals or animal products, like dairy.  I've never met one who wouldn't agree with that.  I even did a quick search of the internet, and came up empty.

I've talked to several meat eaters, aka normal people, both friends and people in the food service industry, who don't think those are standard definitions.  Which leaves me wondering, did I know that because I'm the kind of person who would become a vegetarian?  Or maybe we're wrong, and it's the majority who decided what these words mean, whether or not they are part of that group.  Or maybe I should just stop using those words all together, and state my full definition of vegetarian every time instead.

Friday, October 21, 2016

And if Hillary does Win ...

“I’ll just keep you in suspense.”

I like what my co-blogger said about voting for Gary Johnson … see it here. I, however, remain unconvinced that Hillary cannot lose the election.

On the day of the final debate, Ellie, a friend, and I took a leaf excursion down the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful trip, the leaves were fantastic but that’s a story for another time. At a small bakery/deli in a small town in which we stopped for coffee and a Danish, the bakery ran a straw poll of presidential preferences: buy a cookie and vote for your candidate. The ongoing results were hand-written on a sheet of newsprint hanging on an easel in the bakery. It looked something like this:

No kidding. I certainly understand this is not a scientific poll; it might prove only that Trump supporters like cookies whereas Clinton supporters are more into Danish, or Long Johns, or whatever. Or perhaps that Trump supporters are more likely to go into a small bakery in a small town in Minnesota than are Clinton supporters. Nonetheless, as a person who would not vote for Trump if he were the only candidate running, and who is fearful of his being elected, I was chilled to see the results of this poll.

We also noticed lots of “Trump/Pence” political yard signs and few signs for any other side. This reminded me of the large number of signs my wife and I saw many years ago when driving toward northern Minnesota in another election year. That year Jesse Ventura shocked the world with his election to the governorship of our fair state. Had you seen all the “Ventura” signs in the yards that Ellie and I saw, you might not have been so shocked, either.

And then Ellie and I watched the debate. I heard Donald say he is not willing to state, up front, that he will accept the results of the election. I can almost … well, maybe not. I go in and out thinking that the country is going to be in big trouble regardless of the election outcome.

If Trump wins we’ll be in trouble because we have Donald Trump as POTUS. I’ve previously expressed in these pages the concern that brings me.

If Hillary wins, we’ll be in trouble because we’ll have Donald Trump doing everything in his power ( and I’m sure there is much in his power ) to delegitimize Hillary’s presidency. Legal challenges; rumor mills; conspiracy theories. He’s good at all of these things; and he’s already set up the belief that the election is rigged. At a minimum, this will destabilize the government of the United States for a time.

This would result in lots of people who have guns ( for the very purpose, in many cases, of not being out gunned by the state ) being more unhappy with the presidential election than they may have otherwise been and, by extension, the election results in their own state/county/city/school board. Not only unhappy, but convinced the results are not legitimate. I have seen stories ( admittedly, on the internet … which proves they might be true ) that quote Trump supporters that there will be bloodshed if he doesn’t win.

Trumps’s casual, “I’ll just keep you in suspense,” as if he’s keeping the winner of an Emmy a secret, is alarming, as Hillary said in the debate that night and as President Obama said later. His casual response to real violence that occurred at his rallies ( early on, I witnessed it on tape; not recent events ) does nothing to suggest to me he’d do anything were some/any/a group of his supporters to go off the deep end and start shooting people.

I hope and pray I am just an alarmist.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Vote for Governor Johnson is a Vote for ...

I have some more thoughts on Governor Johnson.  Some people say, "A vote for Johnson is a vote for ..."  Essentially saying that he's not going to win, so your vote won't count.  That's just not true.  If you believe:

  1. Gov. Johnson cannot win the general election.
  2. Hillary Clinton can no longer lose.
  3. You are not happy with the choices offered.

, then consider this.  There are only two things your vote can do.

  1. You can increase or decrease her margin of victory.
  2. You can help a third party candidate get to 5% in the polls.

Decreasing her margin of victory is worth doing.  It sends a message to the house and senate that they can afford to vote their conscience instead of supporting her, and risk losing favor with voters.

Every state a third party has 5% of the vote in this election, will automatically have their candidate on the ballet next election.  That is a huge boon that party.  That saves a ton of campaign money, making that candidate much more viable.

Gov. Johnson's "gaffes" make him look bad.  I don't think it is bad to not know the name of that particular city overseas, or to stumble when asked to choose his favorite world leader.  I do think it makes him look bad.  He gave honest 'I-don't-know's' instead of suave deflections that comes second nature to most politicians.

Or maybe he is lacking on specific facts on the situation overseas.  Wouldn't you rather have a president dedicated to peace who needs to lean on his advisors for the details, vs the other two who seem dedicated to insulting and fighting with the rest of the world?

But even if you do consider those gaffes, he can't win, remember?  A vote for Gov. Johnson is a vote for more choices, it's a vote against the choices thrust upon us this election, and it's a vote for all other politicians to be free to vote their conscience.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

More Political Angst

“You’d be in jail.” The second presidential debate of 2016 occurred recently. Donald Trump was, is, and continues to be, scary.

Bill Clinton spent thirty or so minutes alone with the Attorney General within days – or even hours, perhaps – of his wife’s case being ruled on by the AG's FBI. When asked about it, he said that they were just were exchanging pleasantries; engaging in social talk. This is to take us – the voters, the populous, those without access to the Attorney General’s private plane – for idiots. It is to be blind, or, as is often said, ‘tone deaf’ about the perceived meaning(s) of one’s actions. It is to have no understanding at all why I may think the purpose of the visit was to influence the FBI’s ruling. If the visit truly were purely social, even if true, to have paid it at the time he did was to demonstrate in spades his tone deafness. Any adult human being, especially a politician, even though retired, ought to know more about the perception of his actions than demonstrated here. ( Of course, maybe he was just being disingenuous … you think? )

It was about Abe Lincoln’s persuasive powers gathering support for the thirteenth amendment, seen in a movie ( or a play ). “It was a Master Class in presidential leadership.” This is Mrs Clinton’s turn at pulling wool. While it may have been a Master Class, this was her answer to the question if it is OK for a politician to have a public position on issues and a different private position. She was alleged to have reassured a group of Wall Street executives that was her situation. This is quite different from using different arguments to different groups. Her response is also a non-answer to a real question.

But … the United States not only survived but thrived under the leadership of the tone-deaf Bill Clinton. We may, or may not, do the same under less-than-candid Hillary. I suspect we would.

I am afraid, however, and I worry about survival of our democracy, when considering the alternative to Hillary. I’ve written of this before … a prayer, a poem

The vicious chanting of ‘Jail Hillary’ at Trump rallies is haunting. The mob mentality that, in the face of so many investigations that have found nothing criminal, that wants to see any human being, let alone a candidate for President of the United States, locked up, and pine for it in the way the chant expresses, scares me. And, rather than trying to tone this hostility down, Trump encourages it.

And Trump told her, as heard by my own ears, that if he were President, “You’d be in jail.” This is not the way our democracy works; this is not the rule of law; the President has much influence, but does not possess the power to lock people up. When Richard Nixon tried to get his attorney general to do a different-but-similar thing, his Attorney General had the decency, and the guts, to resign. ( For those of you perhaps too young to remember, Nixon himself ultimately resigned the presidency when faced with his own impeachment. ) That Trump would promise such a thing, on national TV, with a huge audience, alarms me. A lot. Such a public threat to lock up political adversaries strikes at the very heart of our system of government … the rule of law and the separation of powers. It is the way of dictators, both two-bit and more successful ones.

We could survive the lies of Hillary Clinton; we could not survive dismantling the heart our democracy by Donald Trump.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Minnesota State Fair - 2016

Weeks ago, the Minnesota State Fair came and went again.  I put off posting because I've had other things on my mind.  But I love it, and go at least once every year.  I was a little concerned because 90% of the reason I go is the food, and this was my first year attending as a vegetarian.  My concerns turned out to be unfounded.  Most of the things I look forward to don't actually contain animals.

Cheese Curds
Of course.  The really good ones are at a place just called Cheese Curds, located on the east side of Underwood St. between Murphy Ave. & Lee Ave.  They even serve them with a marinara sauce.

Wine Country Mushrooms
These were new last year, and not back this year.  They were great though.  RIP

1919 Rootbear Float
They use great rootbeer, but cheap ice cream.  This is not new, but one of my yearly staples.  I think I'll just get the rootbeer next year, and save room for the unique stuff.  I guess my tastes are evolving.

Deep Fried Candybar
They take a Mars candybar, dip it in mini donut batter, deep fry it, and roll it in powdered sugar.  It's health food, if you think about it.  They do the same with Oreo cookies, but try to do both in an hour.  I dare you.  This is probably my favorite thing to eat at the state fair.

Sweet Martha's Cookies
No secret here.  They have three locations, and a line at all three.  I recommend getting a bucket to go to save room.

I had much more, of course.  Those were this year's highlights.  Then I got sick.  I guess I'm not as young as I used to be.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Good Fences and Good Neighbors, Update

“Really? That must have been kind of last-minute.”

Several years ago, the fence between Andy’s property and ours was old, dilapidated, and in need of serious repair or replacement. Andy and I talked, I talked to several fence companies, and we finally decided on a company, a fence technology ( choosing PVC over wood and something called Trex ) and all.

I had thought we were done making all decisions when Andy had one last-minute change; he told me what it was and said, “Tell him that and see what he says.”

I did, and, of course, it was just another change; the estimator sees those all the time. He modified the quote once again, sent it to me, and everyone agreed on it. When I signed the contract for our installation; the salesman said he had not yet gotten Andy’s signature.

We were told it would take six to seven weeks before they’d have the material, they’d call us to schedule the installation, and somebody would have to be home for the first thirty minutes, to make sure the installation team and I had the same fence in mind. It took all of the time they said, they finally called, and the team was ten minutes early on the morning of the installation.

This installation is a two-day process, as explained by everyone at FenceCompany to whom I spoke about it. The first day the crew takes down the existing fence, removes the old footings, digs holes for, pours concrete footings for and installs the posts for the new fence. The poured concrete takes several days to dry fully, so the rest of the fence is installed at that time.

The crew chief and I talked, there was little to say other than to discuss a nagging question I had about one of the gates they will install. The chief had a ready answer, I was satisfied, and they started. And, oh, by the way, Andy’s work has not yet been scheduled.

In what seemed like no time, the existing fence was down, the new footings were poured, the new posts were up and the crew was gone. I notice that, although Andy’s work is not yet scheduled, the post that would serve for both our common fence line and the short piece to his house has holes to accommodate the rails that will run toward his house.

Several days later the installation crew is back. Once again making quick work of it, they put up the horizontal rails between the posts and the vertical pieces between them, and the fence is done.
Original Fence
New Fence
Except for the gates; neither gate is up and the crew is gone. I look in vain for a note; there is none. I call the scheduler; “Oh, sure, Mr Jost, let me put you through to the finisher.”

“For reasons I cannot explain, the crew did not have the material to build both gates. They will order that and be back out to finish as soon as possible.”

“Do you have a timeline?” I wondered.

“Shouldn’t be too long; we’ll call to let you know when we’re coming back.”

They didn’t call, but they were back in fairly short order, and built and installed the gates. They were also, I noticed, taking down Andy’s fence in back of his yard … but not the piece that connects to his house from the gate next to ours. “He decided he didn’t want to replace that,” one of the FenceCompany guys told me.

“Really? That must have been kind of last-minute,” I said.


Andy called later that day, to tell us he decided not to replace that short piece of wooden fence. It really was in good shape. He also wondered if we minded.

“Well, …  we tell him, it’s your fence, but we think it would look nicer all around if it matched the fence between our yards and our gate. But there would be no hard feelings if you leave it.”

A few days later, when FenceCompany was out to install the rest of his wooden fence, they also installed the entirety of the ten or so feet of PVC fence from our gate to his house. It now matches the rest of the fence nearby.

The fence to Andy's house matches

It was approximately two months ago that I signed the paperwork with FenceCompany to do our work. The work is finished, Andy’s work is finished, and I am pleased. In addition, all of my potential financial paranoia was for naught. Everything is good there, too.
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Monday, October 3, 2016

Theological Skepticism #5

As the election approaches, I've been listening to political news.  The way I see it, they're all gonna have their own slant.  The key is to find an honest news source with a known slant, and filter accordingly.  As much as it frustrates me to hear conservative hosts over inflate the danger of immigrants and the threat of terror, it drives me bonkers to hear the liberal hosts refer to tax funded services as "free", and taking money as "sharing".  Which is why I end up listening to people like Ben Shapiro, warts and all.  But then we come to religion.

He is Jewish, and actually reads the bible; the whole thing once a year.  The Jewish bible that is, aka the Torah, aka the old testament.  Every show he tries to find some part that isn't awful to share it's wisdom.  It's fine.  I ignore it.  It's kind of a change of pace for me living in a mostly Christian society.  Then he went off the rails.

First he said that although he doesn't agree with the arguments for Atheism, he does understand them, and why other people do agree with them.  I'd stop him right there.  You don't need an argument to not believe in something.  I wouldn't need to convince him that Muhammad didn't fly to heaven on a magic horse.  His belief that I'd need arguments to not believe in his god tells me he doesn't understand.

But then he said something really crazy.  Specifically talking about Exodus, he said that even us Atheists have to admit that the old testament is our current source of morality, passed on to our society through Jewish and Catholic tradition.

You can't see this, but I'm face-palming as hard as I can.

I haven't read the whole bible, but I've read Exodus.  What exactly does he think we got from Exodus?  Does he think it taught us that murder is wrong?  In the storybook, Moses skips town to avoid being punished for killing a guy before Yahweh even starts handing out rules..  Many cultures predating that book had laws against murder, theft, lying, and such.

And did the average person in our society come to the conclusion that slavery is wrong from wisdom passed down by the old testament?  The book of Exodus says the exact opposite.  It says where to get your slaves, and how much you're allowed to beat them.

Our understanding of ethics has gradually increased over time, like our understanding of mathematics and physics.  The greatest force holding us back from this development are these relics of our ancestors that many have convinced themselves, and their very young children, are unquestionable, and beyond approach.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Attempting to go Home Again ( ? )

“YEAH, lets do … ( it ) “

I am a novice singer, have been taking lessons for 14 years, weekly, from the same instructor. Four or five months ago he stood me up and I was peeved, thinking that perhaps my learning to sing days are over. We did, however, have lunch and talk things out. Our final agreement included these provisions: taking the summer off ( the next three months or so ), were we to resume it would be an arrangement similar to the one we had, with a small exception that I did not need to arrive at four o’clock sharp, but had ten minutes of leeway. The lesson was not to start when I arrived, but at four; I could arrive early and expect to be welcomed. While we were taking the summer off, we’d both be thinking about our situation. We would have to mutually agree to return; there was nothing automatic about a resumption of the lessons.

As those months passed, I experienced the ambivalence of my singing reality. I sang only at Mass. I missed singing more regularly and I missed the “tuning until I got it right” aspect of singing. I did not miss attending lessons weekly; that is, I enjoyed the freedom to schedule my time without scheduling around a weekly lesson. In short, while I didn’t miss going to my lessons, I did miss being at them.

I also worried that if I never had another lesson all I would do was regress, and eventually Ellie would be inching away from me again when I’d sing at Mass … or anywhere in public. Ellie was pretty sure that I had improved so much that it was not possible to regress that far. While I respected both Ellie’s insight into life and her musicality, I remained unconvinced.

The brilliant idea, or so it seemed, that occurred to me, combined the freedom of no lessons with the discipline of regular interaction with my instructor. The idea was returning to my lessons but less frequently than weekly. Ellie had done that to wonderful effect with her piano lessons. And while it seemed to me a wonderful integration of two powerful forces within me, I wasn’t sure how my instructor would respond to it. I was, after all, something of a special project; while he directed choir,  to the best of my knowledge he had no other individual pupils.

When the time came to touch base, I shared my ambiguity of liking the freedom of no lessons with the horrible missing of the lessons and suggested that twice per month might work well for me, say the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays ( or 1st and 3rd ), since my lessons had been on Tuesday from the beginning. I asked him if he’d be open to something like that.

He thought it a great idea, his exact words being, “YEAH, lets do the every-other week,” and glommed onto the second and fourth Tuesday, saying that worked best for him and his wife, and said, “starting on 10/11

I am waiting for my first lesson of this new regimen; I am nervous and excited; I am looking forward to returning to the discipline he has helped me instill in my voice. Be still my heart!

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