A Twist Of Fate
August, 2008 Entries
As seen on "Captain Kangaroo Outtake Extravaganza" Disc 4!

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(08/31/08 - 11:26 PM)
I added three lights to the back portion of my basement today. Why on Earth the contractor wired the lighting as he did will always remain a mystery to me. I ended up having to drag the wires from the only light on a switch to a junction box across the basement. From there I just tendriled out to the new lights - and nothing blew up. Ya-hoo! Now I can turn on all my basement lights (and more of them) from one switch.

(08/30/08 - 11:13 PM)
Today is my Mom's birthday - Happy Birthday, Mom!

As such, my wife and I had my brother and his wife, as well as my Mother over for dinner. I decided that I had plenty of time to install a screen door on my garage. I've done them in less than an hour, and I've seen them done in thirty minutes, so past history indicated that I should be able to accomplish this task in the alotted three hours before anyone showed up.

Say it with me, kids: "WRONG!"

I knew I was in trouble when, at eleven twenty, I was still adding the first of the special hardware packages (there were three.) The problem I had not forseen was that the doors I had done in the past were the inexpensive, off the shelf, type. You simply opened the box, scoffed at the directions, and slapped it in. No problemo.

This door, however, was a special-order, higher-end door. Apparently when you order such a door, they want you to truly savor the moment - and, vicariously, your purchase - by experiencing each and every subtle nuance of each and every component in all of their unassembled glory. This was my plight. Every piece was there, sure, but there were a lot of pieces, some the likes of which I had never even seen before. Then, there was the drilling, and the drilling, and - oh yes! - the drilling. I popped enough holes in three hours to accomodate even the most robust of prairie dog towns.

So, my Mom arrived early as I'm still freaking out about the door not being done - unshowered, and profane. She tried to "help", but quickly realized that I would sooner cripple her than accept assistance at that point.

This made for a bad setup for what was already a bad day. The night before, in an affort to get some sleep, I had taken a couple of Tylenol PM. Suffice it to say I was a bit hazy at best for the entire next day, and all I could think about was dozing off. Coupled with my screen door mocking me with its un-finished-ness and it made for a tough grind.

I felt like I was less than a good host (which is something I normally aspire to be), and on the whole I felt like I let down my family.

The high notes were Mom liked her gift, and my brother told a great story about a client of his who had dealings with a shady Phillipino "investor", and how he had taken the deeds to not one but two houses, all of the husbands' pension, and all of their remaining money under the auspices of "investing" it for them. He had then deeded the house in which they currently live to a second pawn, who eventually came to understand - a year later - that she actually owned the house in which this old couple now resided when the foreclosure process against HER was well begun. Read that again if you like, but it's a true statement.

Suffice it to say, the client still holds fast to the Phillipino investor, even to this date, as the Sheriff is on his way to evict she and her unknowing husband from what was once their home. She just knows that he'll come through, and that there's been some mistake. Worse still is the fact that all the while, she has kept EVERYTHING from her husband - who now has no idea that all of his pension money is gone, that they no longer own their home, that the proceeds from the sale of their prior home are gone, and that in a scant few hours the Sheriff is coming to evict.

Imagine being that guy.

(08/29/08 - 11:19 PM)
Today was one of those days that I dread. I'm a middle-ground sort of guy: I need enough work to keep me going, and make the day go fast, but not so much that I spend fourteen hours at work with nothing on my horizon but a necessary weekend of work as well.

And today, at a little after twelve, all the work disappeared. With the advent of a mass-exodous of all my buyers and clients, I was left with next to nothing to quote. With the early departures and vacation days of my employees, I was left with a scant amount of quality control. Suffice it to say, a lot of odds and ends got wrapped up this afternoon. A long, slow, arduous, boring afternoon.

(08/27/08 - 11:03 PM)
Does anyone else remember a product called "Soup Starter"? I mentioned this the other day, and everyone looked at me like I had just imploded.

Am I really that old?

(08/26/08 - 11:58 PM)
What are you still doing up at this hour?

(08/25/08 - 11:06 PM)
Looking at lakefront real estate online makes me wistful, at best. All my life, I have dreamed of owning a lakefront property (who hasn't, really - I know, I know.) Yet as I continue to look in the area I am interested in being - even in a down market - I am realizing (nee - accepting) that the property alone will cost me more than a nice house here. Even twice as nice as my current, humble abode. Then there's the little issue of actually building on the site. And, if I can surmount all of THOSE hurdles, there's still the little matter of taxation.

And don't even think about purchasing pre-existing structures. Even the tiniest shit-hole built in the forties for a small, elfin dude to go hunting in the winter or to just escape his harpy wife, will still set you back over a hundred grand. And you're lucky if it passes a PERC test, doesn't have restrictions, and offers ANY pre-existing utilities.

The upside is that I'm hoping to leverage the lakefront property that I DO own (but is too far away to be of any recurring recreational use to me) into a lakefront property somewhere in Polk county, Wisconsin at a later date. The down side is that property values should continue to escalate on both fronts at about an equal margin. So this, in and of itself, might just be a waste of time and nothing more than an equity-building exercise.

Finally, even if I do manage to commit to a property on a lake, will I be able to actually AFFORD it during my golden years? With property taxes as high as I suspect they will be, will any abatements be enough to allow me to live comfortably?

I think this is all kind of sad. I'm thirty-three years old, and yet I've been planning for retirement with extreme prejudice for nearly eight years now. It makes living in the moment seem only a means to an end, and yet my "programming" won't let me think otherwise.

And I know that to the outside observer this seems like an insane rant coming from a plebian spoiled brat, but it really isn't meant to be.

(08/24/08 - 07:51 PM)
I finished Peter S. Beagle's second book, "I See By My Outfit", which documents the scooter journey that he and longtime friend Phil embarked upon cross-country from New York to California to see his soon-to-be wife Enid Noreen.

While I could not fathom the draw that everyone had to "The Last Unicorn", I was conversely impressed with this particular work. While it was a bit dated, it had all the makings of a slightly more modern Kerouac tale (think "On The Road") - and perhaps slightly better as well. In my humble opinion, anyway.

Here we see the simplicity of a journey across America laid bare by a man who is part poet and part bum. For a majority of the book, I found myself smiling at the situations he and Phil found themselves in, often wistfully. Specifically as they traveled through areas that were at once familiar and yet forty years foreign to me.

Commentary on the human condition is present and accounted for, and I can't help but imagine that there was a great deal more story to be told than just the scant 246 pages had to offer. And, in hindsight, we are all the worse off for it.

If you enjoy travelogues, or simply wish for an invigorating aside, then by all means read this title.

(08/24/08 - 10:26 AM)
For those of you regular blog-o-philes here (you know who you are) I apologize for not posting for so long. The truth of the matter is that we took a weeks' vacation to get a ton of projects done at both our home, and my brother and mother's home as well. As such, we were both exhausted. I apologize, and don't expect it to happen again any time soon.

Thank you for your patience!

(08/23/08 - 12:46 PM)

Oh, and I got to drive the company van again!

(08/22/08 - 11:08 PM)
A couple of days ago, three guys claimed to have found the corpse of a Sasquatch. I too thought I found one once, but it just turned out to be someone's hairy, homeless aunt sleeping in the woods. Live and learn.

Seriously, I didn't believe it for a second, namely because as soon as someone really does find one, they will invariably contact the news media about four seconds later and invite free and open inquiry to make them instant celebrities. And this didn't happen.

Here's my theory: Sasquatch do exist, but they're aliens observing us as though we were endangered pandas. When they die (if they die) they are immediately taken off-planet by a corpse-recovery vehicle and team.

There you are - mystery solved.

And, no - I'm not serious.

(08/21/08 - 11:12 PM)
I have to admit: I actually like the Olympics. I know, I know. You're saying, "But, Heath! You HATE sports!"

And that's true: I do.

Why I like the Olympics, I don't really know. And, even more strange, is what I like about them. Oh, sure, I was astounded at the likes of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt (who WOULDN'T be?) But I think that the high points for me are when a country that most people have never heard of, like Latvia, wins a gold medal against much stiffer - and better known - competition. As Latvia did in BMX.

This is what really gets me charged up, I guess. Seeing nations such as this winning against the thousand-pound gorillas like the U.S., China, Russia and Australia. I think I also enjoy the realization that billions of viewers are reminded that each country isn't just made up of faceless bureaucrats seeking new and inventive ways to kill one another - people just like us actually live there too.

Eat your heart out, war-mongers. I'm looking at you, George Bush.

(08/17/08 - 11:46 PM)
Spent another day at my brother's house. Today we worked on baseboard molding. I've never done it before, but with what little I did know and his good ideas, it came out far better than I had dared to hope.

Then, it was back to the basement for me. Since I began working with him on his new home, I have been progressively working on the electrical problems in the basement. Specifically, fixing what I can only surmise a drunk primate did with the wiring in the basement. The boxes are all drywall boxes, hung loosely, incorrectly, or not at all. The Romex isn't clamped into the boxes, and junction after junction yields as many as sixteen wires sharing a box.

Fun on the bun!

I finally felt like some progress was being made today as I finished a third outlet run, and cleaned up a 16-wire traffic jam in a new, clamped box.

And don't even get me started on the cable situation...

(08/16/08 - 11:33 PM)
My cousin Sara got married today. FINALLY.

Sara is one of those level-headed individuals who in some ways reminds me of myself, and in other ways makes me wish I were a better person.

The ceremony was held in a little country church in the middle of nowhere and somehow, it suited her perfectly.

Plus, I got to watch my Aunt Linda get a buzz on. So, bonus!

(08/15/08 - 11:56 PM)
I got called in to work today at about a quarter after one. Apparently everything had gone to hell and my Expediter was suggesting that I work the weekend. The problem with this was that I had plans on both days, and both were not only irrevocable but out of town as well.

So, I worked until about eight o'clock and then went home. As I got out of my car, I realized that I had forgotten my check somewhere in the inspection area and I would need to go back for it. So, off I went.

As I pulled in, one of my employees was exiting his vehicle. He was surprised to see me, and asked why on Earth I was back already. I mentioned that I had forgotten my check somewhere, and without blinking he asks, "Is it anything like the one in your back pocket?"

Yep. Just like that, in fact. >Sigh<

(08/10/08 - 11:18 PM)
I went to my brother's new home once more today to help him get it squared away and homey-feeling. My task today was to pressure wash his algae-ridden patio slab. Clearly, the algae was in control, and he was having none of it.

Things began as they usually do - nothing went right. The hose that had been left with the house turned out to be past its prime, so the first order of business became clear: Get new hose.

After obtaining said new hose, I then realized that I would have to clean the calcium-rich spigot in order for it and the hose to once again mate comfortably. It was like cross-species marriage counseling for inatimate objects. I'm thinking of writing a book on the subject.

Finally, I "coaxed" the hose in place, and the water was a-flowin'. Now, for the pressure washing. I hooked up the R-2-like unit and began the uniform expunging of algae. Within moments, pressure ebbed and flowed. For the briefest of times, I had some semblance of pressure. Enough, in fact, for me to believe that it was operating within proper margins. As I tried nozzle after nozzle, and setting after setting, it became clear that something was wrong.

Then, the water turned dark orange, and pressure - while present - seemed not to matter based on the miniscule trickle that now ejected limply from the wand of the pressure washer.

Finally, I gave up and told Nick to call a plumber friend of he and his wife. I had no clue what the problem was, nor why the water was solid orange and the consistancy of paint.

I packed up the pressure washer and went about the next task. Minutes later, my brother could be heard hollering for me from the front of the house. As I ran around the corner, a sight that I had never witnessed met my eyes. From the spigot, I could now see emerging like soft- serve ice cream wave after wave of miniscule orange balls. Pounds and pounds of them. We sat and just watched, dumbfounded as the seemingly endless supply ejected itself from the spigot. We brought over some neighbors, who were as clueless as we were. All the while the little spheres kept gushing out.

After several minutes of this, they finally began to ebb off. The water began to run clear-ish, and I once more attempted pressure washing. This time, with a great deal of success. Below is an e-mail that my brother send me, some time later.


Kathy's friend's mom thought that this sounded like salamander eggs, so Kathy feaked out a bit and called the City of Sycamore Water Department to check it out. They did check it out and determined that the stuff was water softener medium, whatever that is. I guess that it is an internal part of the machine and when the machine, original to the house from 1974, broke down, the stuff got free.

Kathy was told that, by bypassing the water softener, we may have saved ourselves some damage to the rest of the system. I don't know how it worked that the softener was bypassed but still managed to get the crap into that particular line. Oh well. I think that we'll have a water softener rental place come out, install a new one and clean up any of the old crap."

(08/09/08 - 11:36 PM)
Went to my Mother's today to finish up her new house. Wanda painted the one remaining garage wall while I installed a new ceiling fan. We did a few other little odds and ends and then we were through. We can now officially decree that Mom's house is finished.

One more thing off the list. Woo-hoo!

(08/08/08 - 11:43 PM)
I was ten minutes away from my vacation this afternoon when my Shipping/Receiving Manager came running into my office to let me know that one of my operators had hurt himself pretty badly.

I was shocked to find out who it was, because this guy is so experienced and careful.

His thimb looked like hamburger, and I could see the bone sticking out the now non-existant end. I sent him to the E.R. post-haste, and tried to piece together what in the hell had happened to him.

Here's what transpired as near as we can tell:

The disc sander - one of the SAFEST pieces of equipment in the plant - grabbed ahold of the piece that he was sanding, and turned it on end. It was just thin enough to get through the guard, and stuck to the wheel. On the very next rotation, stuck to the wheel and still sharp, it now acted like a blade and slammed into the end of his thumb before he could even react. The result was a partial amputation of about three- eights of an inch of the end of his thumb.

That poor guy. At least he's okay, and the damage isn't too God awful. But still, what a freak thing to happen.

(08/03/08 - 11:18 PM)
Went to my brother's new house and learned how to remove wallpaper. It turns out that whomever hung said wallpaper did a fan-schmabulous job of it, rendering it most righteously affixed.

So, in essence, I learned a new skill that I have no desire to ever put into practice again.

(08/02/08 - 11:46 PM)
Went to see my brother's new place in Sycamore today, after working this morning. I stopped and bought him a bitchin' housewarming gift that I thought would be super-useful. The problem was he already had one, but he was very gracious about the whole thing.

Then my mother decided that we probably needed to eat something (channeling her mother, God rest her soul), so we all went into town for lunch. As we were walking to the restaurant, my wife got a disturbing phone call from her father. Her mother, apparently, had fallen ill and was in the upper echelons of hospital care. So, we headed back home post-haste, and spent some time in the hospital before finally arriving back home. A most taxing day that both of us are all too eager to pretend never happened.

(08/01/08 - 11:33 PM)
My brother and his wife finally bought their first house. I'm so happy for them! Now the biggest obstacle is remembering that it's not MY house, and that I can't just fix it up for them the way I might like. Because I know that my instincts will be to do just that.

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