Sunday, December 29, 2013

Work Hours

Someone that serves on the lake board with me always gives me grief about how much firefighters earn in a year. It's hard to argue that we don't do well, but there are some things the media, when they print our names and incomes, fail to mention-- ---Our retirement is only figured on our base pay, not on overtime. By short staffing, the city saves money on retirements, insurance, and benefits. ---Some of that overtime is voluntary. Much of it is mandatory. I worked 418 hours of mandatory shifts in 2013. ---I was physically at work more than I wasn't at work in 2013.... Compare that to our troops, though. Some earn as little as $17,832 for the year, and get, as I undestand it, about 30 days worth of 'leave' per year. Or How about AnnaMarie? Her pay is essentially zero (this is hard to quantify. She has complete control over our finances and has access to all 'my', technically 'our', income) But she has no real time off, either acting as Mom or Wife or Gardener or Painter or Entertainer or Chauffer or any of a thousand other tasks...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Knott's Revisited

There's a special deal at Knott's Berry Farm for firefighters this time every year. I took McKenna and her friends a few times. Lauren couldn't care less for roller coasters, but Patrick, being Dangerboy, loves them. Since we downscaled from the giant Durango (7 seats) to the Versa (5 seats) we only invited 3 other kids. It was a great group and the park was pretty empty---they never had to wait for a ride and did 36 rides.... I touched bases with them a number of times but pretty much left them alone. I spent my time riding a few rides and researching alternative building methods..

I have to say I had to deal with some nostalgia. We sure had some fun back in the day, and though I wouldn't trade where I'm at for the world, I got that 'can never go back' feeling. That might have been part of my motivation to take Patrick and friends out of school for the day for the 2 1/2 hour drive (with no traffic) so maybe he could get a taste of it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I'm Not Gay, But I Do Love Rainbows

I'll have to get pictures of it now that it's decorated. AnnaMarie recruited me to cut down one of the many feral western red cedars on our property and lug it to her cottage for her Christmas tree. Somehow the act of bringing it indoors made it double in size, and I had to bring it back out to take the bottom 18" off it so the angel wouldn't concuss on the ceiling. That's when this sunset rainbow appeared...Actually I had a much more vibrant picture but didn't save it properly...Same with the unicorns that appeared.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Just Need Paint and an Outtage

Got the generator box all finished. It really is quiet and runs cool. It's about as loud as the fridge inside the cottage. Plumbed to propane so the gas won't ever go bad. The roof is hinged in case the electric start fails and you have to pull start the thing. The exhaust is a water heater flue pipe wrapped in glass wool insulation then wrapped in aluminum high temp tape. I re-did the exhaust, it's double walled pipe going through the wall and extending out 12"---I was worried about exhaust heat so close to the fascia.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sound In, Heat Out

The challenge is keeping the sound in and the heat out. I made an adapter coming off the muffler so I could channel the exhaust out of the box. I suppose I could get a better pic of how the adapter attaches; I wrapped the elbow with high temp aluminum tape for insulation and to keep the elbow from sliding around. The interior is all lined with foam board. The walls that face the house, have the studs turned sideways--that way there's room for insulation and sound transferring lumber doesn't go all the way through the wall.
Then, outside the foam board, there's a layer of fiberglass insulation. Even before putting all the vents in and roof on, it runs much quieter with a little sound barrier between the generator and the house. I walked AnnaMarie through the start-up procedure for the first time---she's able to manage it fine

A three inch duct will take the exhaust out. My adapter isn't a tight fit, I didn't want to create a backpressure issue (but I think 3" pipe for a short run won't be a problem)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Power Foundation

So the base is done. I like the effect of the concrete that was poured against the bubblewrap. Some of the cells filled with concrete, but if I ever did this somewhere that shows, I think I could be gentle enough so that wouldn't happen. I got the texture I wanted to absorb sound at least. I ran the generator. The transfer switch seems to work well, and I was able to power everything in the cottage. There's a slight flicker in the lights when you start up something with a motor, like the range hood or garbage disposal.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Generator Base

Just before I left for a week in Catalina with patrick's 8th grade class I got the base poured. I had to resist the temptation to strip the forms before I left--the concrete was still pretty green. You can see the sewer pipe elbows that will draw cool air in below the unit. I wrapped the inside of the forms with bubblewrap---the idea is walls with more surface area will absorb more sound than flat walls. We will see.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talkin' 'Bout My Generator

Here's the trench.  I want everything nice and hidden.  There's this dark olive green pipe dope I've had great success with for the joints; I'll admit that getting threads started on 10' pipe isn't easy.

It seemed like I was going way too small with the wires from the generator, especially after wrestling with 6 AWG.  THe tables assure me 10 AWG is plenty for the short run and voltage I'm feeding.  Good thing, too---pulling that wire was hard.

Here's the form so far.  It still needs to be leveled and the rebar/anchor bolts pre-set.  I've got 1800 pounds of concrete mix in the back of my truck all ready to mix but I had to quit to get to Patrick's soccer game.  If it doesn't rain in the next 6 days while I'm working a 144 hour shift, it'll be fine.  Then I have to build the actual housing which should be simple

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Projected Projects Project

Well, nature bats last.  We had some flashfloods last week---over a foot of rain.  It channeled down the trench for the power, and filled the future laundry room with some very rich soil.  It's not too bad really and my tenants are going to dig it out and use the soil elsewhere.
   It's a reminder that winter is coming.  This project will get backburnered a bit while I take care of some pre-winter projects----gathering firewood is one.  The other is the generator project.
 AnnaMarie's cottage was built to accept a small generator as backup power.  We get power outtages all the time--hot weather, windy weather, snow.  I finally found the generator I wanted---5,000 watts continuous, CARB compliant, electric start, dual fuel, 240v.  I'm plumbing it to the house propane cylinder which, if full, will provide about three weeks worth of fuel.  That should get us through anything.  I want it easy enough that if I'm gone AnnaMarie can just turn a key and flip a switch.  It was more complicated than I thought---geting the correct inlet pressure through the correct size pipes and all.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Slip Up

     Ready to start pouring the first slip form.  All the forms are ready; first step is getting materials in place.  I really prefer to make my own concrete but on a slope it's hard to get the sand, gravel and cement in place so I'm using readymix stuff and just adding a little extra cement.  It's 112 steps from my old truck to the pallet there.  For some reason the first sacks are full of styrofoam beads and the last ones, though exactly the same dimensions, are full of lead shot.

    Here's the slip form.  The rebar is in place and the forms are lined with plastic for a smooth finish.  This is the threshold, and the rough opening for the steel door is 34" wide so I have a 34" board holding things in place.  The continuous pour extends well past the doorway to prevent water leakage.  You can see the stub end of a carriage bolt stuck through the form----those will be set in concrete and give me something to secure the doorframe with later.  Here's a better picture from the other side---
 So now you're looking inside the form just pre-pour.  That bolt will be well embedded in the concrete.  I'll put one every 24".
Here's a yard of concrete, mixed in my mixer, wheelbarrowed over, and dumped in the form one shovel at a time--along with much tamping and vibrating the form in the hopes of having no voids or honeycombing.  The plastic lining really helps the concrete slide into place.  It'll also make stripping the form easier.
 The first pour is the easiest.  The next one I'll have to lift the shovel up higher---doesn't sound like a big deal, but it makes a difference.  Then the next pour gets more complex with the forming because I will be past the outer soil form and have to build an outer wooden one and support it; but, I'll be able to pour from above which will make things easier.

Friday, August 9, 2013

More Floor Pour

   Ready to pour the floor.  A vapor barrier is down but it has a gap over the french drain---vapor barriers work both directions, and I want water to be able to drain down.  This IS a laundry room after all.

AnnaMarie came to keep me company for awhile, and was productive being creative with acorn caps.

Here's the floor all poured.  Next will be building the slip forms.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Slip Form

It's been awhile since I've updated things---I've been stuck at work a lot so progress has been slow....The hand digging is mostly done so got the rough plumbing and french drain in.

Next is a bunch of gravel.  Since this is all below grade I want a really easy path for water to naturally drain away.  The white pipe is a perforated pipe with this long sock thing over it to keep it from silting up over time.

Then build the forms and set in all the rebar to get ready for concrete

  After that it's time for some concrete.  WHen I get back up there I'll strip the forms, add the rebar to the middle part and pour the floor.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I'm Shedding

Here's a quick building update for the cabin's outbuilding.  It's basically a 12x12 shed with a walk-in basement which will become the laundry room, with room for an extra fridge (The cabin just has an under the counter fridge )
By digging out a sloping entrance tot he subterrainean room, it'll be easy to handle drainage.  Also---by having completely independent entrances for the shed and laundry below, interior stairs are eliminated.  They take up lots and lots of space and the slope is steep enough to allow it. 
All hand dug.  Work has been crazy busy---I've spent more hours at work than not so far this year--Mostly by choice, some by mandate.  So thankful the cottage was completed before work needed more

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Legislation Can and Can't Do

   leg·is·la·tion (l j -sl sh n). n. 1. The act or process of legislating; lawmaking. 2. A proposed or enacted law or group of laws.

     Legislation can fund a defense department.  It can build roads, it can set up rules for business and trade.

    It cannot change what marriage is.  It can pass laws seeking a public acceptance of, and to legitimize,   some relationships----but it isn't the legislature that ever formed the bond between a man and a woman.  That institution way predates any government system or current religion.

   It can protect the rights of parents.  It can protect and respect life and human dignity.

   Legislation cannot change when life begins.  It can be warped and twisted for the sake of convenience, but a unique organism is a unique organism, and if a single celled anything was found by a Mars probe, everyone would be calling it 'life'...

   Legislation cannot mandate prosperity.  It can re-distribute, but legislated re-distribution is such a counterincentive to productivity, it overall brings prosperity down.  Best to just stay out of the way.

   Legislation cannot change the weather.  It can impose carbon credits, punish corporations for being too successful, and remove a nation's competitive edge---but no amount of legislation will change the weather. 

      But they'll still try.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Laundry/Studio Project

   Here's an update of the latest project.  Our tenants at the cabin need a laundry room---when I designed and built it there was no intention for it to be a full time residence---what it lacks is ample storage, laundry, and a full sized fridge.
   Outbuildings are limited to 12' height and 120 square feet floor area.  My plan is to build the laundry underground with the entrance cut into the slope; the studio will be above.  It's built on a 4:1 slope, which I'm taking advantage of by having an upper entrance for the studio and a lower entrance for the laundry--no space wasted for interior stairs.
    It's slow going just because I've had to be at work so much.  McKenna's home from college and between summer stuff and her internship at the lake has been coming over to help dig

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stimulus VS Apollo

   Obama's stimulus was, in my opinion, a HUGE waste of borrowed money.  It served to get him re-elected and curry favor, sure, but workforce participation rates are the lowest they've been since the mid '70's.  I know, I know---Liberals will claim it would have been far worse if he hadn't done it.  Impossible to prove or disprove----I could claim if we hadn't invaded Iraq we'd all be dead from nuclear Armageddon,  too.
   Now consider Kennedy's Apollo program (which, by the way, cost less than Obama's 'stimulus' even when adjusted for inflation)  It, too, was a massive government pork project and there was lots of backscratching and maneuvering---Huntsville, Cape Canaveral, Houston, Long Beach---all got their slice of the pie....But it was a challenge.  It was something other than war we could all rally behind, take national pride in.  I believe Apollo 11 was the single greatest moment of American pride ever.
   New technologies were spun off from it.  New materials were formed.  The whole while, there were some saying it was a waste of money while there was still poverty in the nation---not realizing it was a very responsible way to address poverty.
   Obama's stimulus handed cash to failing 'green' companies, that failed anyway, after kicking back lots of the funds to election campaigns.  The money was borrowed, now it's gone, with nothing to show for it but higher debt.
   Instead of handing out cash, that money would have been better spent by offering lucrative government contracts to the first company that could produce a better solar cell or other renewable energy source.  If a tiny percentage of 'stimulus' cash went into streamlining domestic oil production and refinement, with an emphasis on lowering emissions, we would be seeing a return on our investment soon if not already.
   Instead of bailing out GM, a government request for proposals for competitive contracts would have rewarded the best company.  Part of the necessary cycle a recession brings is to cut out the deadwood.  Companies fail, people innovate, move on---should we subsidize buggy whip manufacturing companies just so the employees can feed their families?  Or, once there's no more market for buggy whips, do we let them go?
   In a nutshell, viable companies don't need bailouts because they are viable.  If there's some global influence that challenges a company, and that company is necessary for national security, help it through contracts, not handouts.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Life Lessons of Jenga

  You really don't ever win at Jenga---you just try to not lose.   You pay close attention, watch others, try to keep things in balance.   You carefully select the ones that are ready to move, and move them up to the top.  There are quite a few that aren't ready to move yet but as things change, so do the pressures and forces exerted on each.  As things grow higher, you can't help but reach higher yourself.
   Concentrate on individual moves, not an overall strategy.  Sometimes the ones at the bottom are the easiest to move to the top. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Small Experiment


      This is a section of the porch ceiling.  There's a cross beam, and the fiber cement material and trim that meets it.  Before painting I decided to caulk every seam.
       It looked better because even the slightest crack looks like a black line.  The real benefit now that Spring is here is, it eliminated spider habitat.  There's nowhere for them to hide

Friday, March 15, 2013

User's Guide to Totalitarianism

     If you want to set up a totalitarian government, there are some tried and true steps to take.  You can't do it without the buy-in of a good majority of the people, and you have to hope they are weak minded enough to be convinced the government provides for their needs.
     A very good start is to take over healthcare.  It's about 1/6th of the economy.  It's a great equalizer---everybody (well, excpet for you since you run the government) gets the same care regardless of ability to pay.  Unfortunately, once government takes over healthcare and it's 'free', demand skyrockets, and without revenue, people stop becoming doctors and nurses---but I digress.
     Next, belittle religion.  Tell people they are clinging to their Bibles, or religion is a crutch (just hope they are too blind to see the people with strong faiths usually aren't the ones neding a crutch, but I digress) You don't want them helping others in the name of God---those helpees might get the impression things don't always come from the benevolent government.
     It's very important totake away guns.  Once your totalitarian government is in place, and the utopian promises you had to make to get there go unfulfilled, the people WILL turn on you.  It happens every time, especially with people who have tasted freedom already.  Don't just take their guns away---build yourself great flying guns and make it clear you're willing to use these against those that fall out of line.
    Blame others as the standard of living continues to fall.  Control the media so you can keep telling people how great things are---you can always make statistics say what you need, like reporting 7.5% unemployment (U-1  Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force) Works much better than reporting the actual record low in labor force participation at 63.5%.
     Tell them there's plenty chocolate.  If there's not, blame George Bush or create another bogeyman that gave all the chocolate to the wealthy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


AnnaMarie said she needs a potager at her cottage.  So I said   "Sure.  I'll build one".   First step was to look up the word 'Potager'.

potager - definition of potager by the Free Online Dictionary ... - Similar
(Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Horticulture) a small kitchen garden. [from French potagère vegetable garden].
   OK I even know where to put it.  The retaining wall next to the steps needs finishing anyway.

  My 90 year old neighbor came over and told me to level out the soil at the bottom (it followed the natural slope) so when she waters it stays in better.  Then I added 3 cu ft steer manure and 3 cu ft mulch.  I wanted to dig out the rich soil under the bridge anyway so that filed in the rest, and I kept mixing it in as I added.  Amended soil goes all the wal down to the level of the walkway.

The bridge didn't look very bridge-like because the soil was pretty high underneath.  After digging it down and shaping things, a layer of gravel added contrast.  I ran out of daylight but the gravel 'stream' will continue downhill all along the dripline of the porch

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bald Truth

  My son, Patrick, sometimes teases me about my thinning hair.  I was once sitting next to a girl on a plane and she pointed out the miracle laser combs from the Skymall catalogue, that are supposed to stimulate hair growth. (AnnaMarie bounce between telling me my hair isn't thinning, then immediately pointing out all the handsome bald guys.  Her list starts with Kelly Slater.  It also ends with Kelly Slater)
  I tell them the same thing---if any of those products worked, I think Donald Trump would have used them by now.  But then I realized Bill Gates can probably afford a comb and some hair products, so there goes THAT theory.
  Here's a picture of me eating bull testicles

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Something You Need To Know About Power Tools

  There's something that doing this building stuff taught me about power tools I didn't know before I thought I'd pass along.
   When they build power tools, they install a little packet of blue smoke deep inside the tool.  I think they do the same with blenders, actually.  There's some sort of timing device that's bluetoothed to your bank balance, and a logic circuit that weighs how badly you need that tool at that moment, your financial status, and how long it's been in service and at the proper moment it automatically activates the packet of blue smoke. 
    It's an important feature.  The blue smoke is a power tool's version of an expiration date on a carton of milk.  It's trying to tell you it's time to go get a new one.
    The other thing that will set it off is if you've borrowed the tool; not always, but it is a bit like Russian Roulette-- You could have gone to buy yourself a brand new tool, but you borrowed one instead--it blue smoked, so you have to go buy a new one anyway except you don't get to keep it.
    I think the old Dodge has the same technology

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Date Night

Hey Cool!  They are letting me post pics here again.  I guess data space is expensive or something.
It is hard to describe how awesome it is to be over there.  Three times now we've packed up food and drink, walked across the street to her cottage, and had a nice evening.  Sometimes with a movie, this last time not---we cooked each other dinner.  She decorated up for Valentine's, making all these hearts out of a variety of stuff---my favorites are the ones from my work jeans.  That 'tree' behind her is copied from something she saw on Pinterest, made from scraps of flooring and jacareuba trim.  It was supposed to just be for Christmas but looks like a year 'round addition.
After three years of trying to design and build AM's perfect place, and imagining what it would feel like, it's indescribable to be there.  It's taken on a life of its own.  But it only comes to life with AnnaMarie there and if I'm there without her it feels like I shouldn't be there.  Also I love this dress on her ($18 The Closet)

Monday, January 14, 2013


   I've 'suffered' from high cholesterol most of my life.  Even when I was a strict vegan, my cholesterol tested high. 
   I resisted the statin drugs---I felt great, and was very hesitant to take a pill because of a number on a test----the annual physical I have to do for San Diego Fire results every year in a scolding by the doctor---"It's absolutely insane tp put your life in jeopardy with cholesterol levels like yours"----Never mind I hold the record for the 12-lead treadmill stress test for my age group.  Great blood pressure.  My calcium score, which shows plaque build up, is at ZERO.  Show me something else, something other than a single number.
   Well, this year had some particularly stressful parts----dealing with AM's health, building a house, work stuff---which led to chronic heartburn, then skipped heartbeats.  Then xanthelasmas around my eye---big yellowy bumps that are basically cholesterol deposits exuding out of my body. 
   There's the 'something else'.
   So, went in for bloodwork to my own doctor---total cholesterol of 252.  He started me on Lipitor 20 mg per day (lowest dose).  I stopped eating out at work (saving about $25-$30 per shift) and AnnaMarie sends me to work with healthy stuff.  My doc also has me on 2,000 mg of fish oil supplements a day, and I'm taking Coq10 (an important enzyme that statin drugs can block your liver from producing along with the cholesterol--main cause for most statin side effects)  and bumped up my workouts.  I'm on the stair stepper, one hour a day, right now up to level 15---according to the screen I burn 1113 calories--and I've dropped 7 pounds.  I really feel great---no more heartburn, no more skipped beats, sleeping well, and the xanthelasmas have all but disappeared.
   Here it is six weeks into the new program.  I'll violate my own HIPAA privacy laws and share these numbers with you
                                  was             is
Total cholesterol        252            176
HDL                          44               46  (good cholesterol)
LDL                         177             102
Triglycerides             157             141

     Unfortunately I can't say how much a role the statins played since I changed a bunch of things at once.  I do know I've always tested high.  I also know I don't want a stroke, heart attack, or any other life limiting event.  I don't like the fact I take daily pills now but it's not a big deal