issues & thoughts

archive

Photos

Paul's Restoration Progress Report

4's update #2

update:   restoration and repair continues on Tall Paul's cracked cookie also known as a stool seat.  [see "structural" report below]

The latest photo (left) shows a rather dusty Paul resting with Brooks after under-going extensive repairs (Zipbolt installed + epoxy "crack filler").  The serious, invasive work is mostly complete ... a few additional strategic epoxy pours on the bottom of Paul's seat, and then 3 fresh coats of our absolute fav topcoat finish from General Finishes (that'd be: Arm-R-Seal).

It's a learning process.  We'll keep our fingers & toes crossed in hopes that all the restoration work solves the problem.  So far none of the other stools we've made has displayed the horrific cracking like Paul experienced.  [knock on Buckthorn ... er, wood]

posted 05.08.24 ... just one day after Stephanie Clifford exposed the details of the Donald's disgusting sexual appetite.  He should just change his plea to guilty, drop out of the 2024 race and end this madness.  [This message is sponsored by the HighPoint political action committee.]    

4's All Cracked-Up? It's Structural

Tall Paul's cookie crumbles

warranty work:   We didn't hear any tell-tale sounds the other day ... but the seat on that super thick, stellar stool known around here as: Tall Paul cracked.  Yep.  That tough-as-nails slice-of-oak seat, also known as a "cookie", is nearly 3-inches thick ... and, all on it's own, Paul's seat nearly cracked itself in half!  The split follows the "checking" or natural splitting of wood that developed when it was originally drying - that initial void was filled with colorful aqua blue/green epoxy with the intent of holding the seat together (and stop the split from growing). The seat and legs were sealed with several coats of an oil based top-coat. 

We thought all was fine.  We thought we had another winning, though quirky, example of the sorta' stuff Mike likes to make. Then without the slightest warning the tough, hard oak developed a major crack along the path of the epoxy-filled checking.  Ugh!

Rather than just toss it on the scrap-heap, Mike installed a Zipbolt like he used joining sections of the laundry room butcher-block countertop. The fastener is sunk 3/4" into two pocket holes created with a 1" diameter Forstner bit -- the slot for the connecting bolt is carved with a scary sharp chisel ... and soon, the Zipbolt and the cracks will be re-sealed with more epoxy.  (Photo to left is of Tall Paul's under-belly.)

Stay tuned; we'll let you know how it goes. [posted 05.04.24]

As Promised ... 

project status - ready for finishing

Shower Seat:   Louise is showing off the new shower seat that Mike's crafted in his workshop - it's nearly complete - finishing will take a couple of days.

It has become painfully obvious to most observers that this little beauty needs a name ... any sound you may now hear  could well be the infamous "Jeopardy" theme song as folks ponder.  Keep in mind it's purpose ... a good shower seat will provide weary bones some relief, or a sturdy base one may use while shaving a leg?  So yes, it's going to get wet ... other than a few photo-shoot sessions, this puppy will be spending most of it's extended existence in a dank, damp environment. 

So how about famed swimmer Esther Williams?  American competitive swimmer and actress.  Hmmm, Esther.  Whaddaya' think?
posted oh so early on this sunny day: 04.22.24

Workshop Update(s)

what in the world is going on in Mike's workshop?

Rag-in-a-Can Oiler:   Louise made us something new to keep our assorted tools healthy - she has made us our very first Rag-in-a-Can Oiler ... which is great for protecting saw blades, chisels, planes, axes & even a hatchet (pictured #1) from rust & providing light lubrication too.

It's not an original idea here - we read about it online and faithfully watched legendary British cabinet maker, Paul Sellers make one like he's used for some 50-yrs. (pictured #2, right)  Paul uses plain old/good old/readily available at most every hardware store in America and beyond: 3-in-1 Oil. (#3, right)  Now that Mike has learned the secret behind scary sharp chisels and maintaining most every tool made of steel it's appropriate for the Rag-in-a-Can Oiler to have finally arrived in our workshop!  Louise watched Seller's video and quiet as a mouse - proceeded to make her very first Rag-in-a-Can Oiler.  The Oiler was meant to be a gift - perhaps a birthday, or the 4th of July ... but no sooner had Louise filled a small tin-can with a VERY tightly wrapped cotton "rag" ... she decided the joy of giving was too great to be contained ... and that lucky guy, Mike, is delighted.

This other photo?  (#4)  It's the beginnings of what shall be a "shower seat" ... see photo below - a month ago we completed a make-over of our master bedroom walk-in shower ... and Louise says she loves it so much she just wants to "take a seat" and enjoy.  Mike sketched out the concept a few days ago - did some research - and then finalized a simple "seat" which will sit just 18" tall ... the seat is 10" deep x 17" wide and made from the red oak from that tree M&L cut down 3-yrs ago while building Shed.  Mike realizes red oak is likely not the ideal species of wood (vs. teak or mahogany) for a damp, wet shower.  It'll get multiple coats of topcoat finish and 4 anti-skid pads affixed to legs.  Mike will resume building & finishing this afternoon - stay tuned in a few days for the final, "another project completed" photograph.  (BTW: the seat above hasn't been glued together yet ... so fear not, the spacing of slats will be uniform.)

posted 04.20.24 - less than one-week into Donald Trump's 1st criminal trial.  (Lock him up.)

Before We Had Snow Plows ...

                   We Had:   Snow Rollers !

Never Knew This ('til now):   Louise posted something on Facebook that got me digging and search for more info about Snow Rollers ... particularly timely since we got a dusting of snow overnight.  Not enough snow requiring a plow - like last week's surprise accumulation of snow - but a strong reminder about that April a decade or so ago when we got 8" of snow (in April) ... which was certainly plowable!

The internet machine had a lot of info, and old pictures about snow removable efforts, back in the day.  I learned a great deal thanks to the folks in Monson, Maine who celebrate "Snow Roller Day" each February ... and naturally have a website to highlight the event.   In times before there was wide-spread snowplowing, winter roads were made passable by packing down snow with horse or ox-drawn snow roller.  Before roads were packed with cars & trucks (19th century and early 20th century), folks got around thanks to the work of Snow Rollers (and the horses or oxen who pulled the hefty cylinders).  Rolling snow made the roads great for sleighs and for sledding.

The Monson, Maine website explains further: "The snow roller was made primarily of spruce and oak and was equipped with round rollers each measuring about six feet wide and five feet in diameter. With the roller in operation, the roads were smooth and made sleighing and walking easier. Most towns in New England had rollers, using oxen rather then horsepower. It was said they performed well in light fluffy snow, but heavy wet snow would stick to the rollers, which would need to be cleaned off before continuing the road. Also, as spring approached, the 8 to 10 feet of packed snow would turn to ice, and of course when that melted, there was plenty of mud!"

Pictured Below: (left) idle, refurbished Snow Roller in Maine, (right) double roller - Trenary MI 1910.

posted 04.05.24 ... on the day our Bureau of Labor says 303,000 jobs were created in the US of A in March!

Nearly A Month In The 'Making' ...

New Shower:   it's taken us about a month to replace the tile and make a few modifications to the layout - but today, it's done.  Completed.  Mission accomplished.  Mike & Louise handled demo - our new favorite tile artists Steve & Jeff put it all back together better than ever.  Here's a snapshot .  Oh, and get this: we also made a 50-second "movie" - like a quickie tour:  LINK TO MOVIE.

The porcelain tiles (grey 2" x 2" on floor; grey 12" x 24" on walls; white 3" x 12" subway style ceiling tiles) offer a far less slippery surface than the ceramic tiles we had installed in 1988. And Louise is thrilled with he prospect that maintenance will be easier ... manufacturers (and our installers) insist the "new grout" used these days effectively.  Installer Steve says, "this new type of grout is incredibly low maintenance. One of its biggest benefits is that it does not need to be sealed, like cement grouts. The material will not absorb water, dirt, or debris."

Our plumber Jason moved the showerhead location/direction & also brought us a new fixture.  The project has been all about adapting to what may lay ahead for us in our senior years.  We sought a shower that would be safer, less slippery, and less maintenance.

The eye on safety is where the project started.  The forever romantic character, Mike, gave Louise a bunch of "grab bars" for Christmas.  Oh, but wait, grab bars need to be anchored, preferably, into the studs.  Best way to access the studs is before tile is installed.  Mike pondered: "Hmmmm."  Then like the game of dominos, all the pieces lined up and screamed: "time to remodel!"  The elimination a short 26" partition and removing the existing threshold at the shower entrance will help make the shower wheelchair accessible ... but also created the need to water proof the space immediately "outside" of the shower.  We opted to not re-tile the entire bathroom floor - just the shower & the entrance area.   

posted 03.22.24  (check-off another task on our never-ending "to-do" list.)

Clean Out A Closet: You Just Never Know What You'll Find

46-years ago:  we buried a little memento into a box, which got stashed in a closet ... and hauled along with us thru multiple moves over the years.  Well, we've grown to the ripe old age when one oughta' be downsizing or at least sorting thru clutter and stuff gathered & accumulated.   So that's where Louise found herself yesterday afternoon while Mike was manufacturing sawdust in his shop. 

What Louise found were a lot of yellowed pieces of paper, some held together with crispy yellowed Scotch tape ... like this fun menu we got back in 1978 at the Wabun, an Oscoda landmark restaurant back in the day.  The menu spans 4-pages with various olde tyme news articles from the region like the news of the fire in 1911 that nearly wiped-out AuSable and Oscoda ... giving dining patrons plenty to read back in that awkward era (when folks had to make actual conversation) before we had mobile phones to entertain us.  Scattered thru the publication are bill-of-fare features like the one shown to the right: "Wabun Favorites".

What caught our attention immediately were the prices:  Fried Chicken dinner: $4.75 (and yes, this included baked potato & tossed salad!)  Adjusted for inflation, $4.75 in 1978 is worth $23.12 today. 

And the reason Wabun's $4.75 chicken dinner caught our eye is 'cuz just a week ago we celebrated a family birthday at Zehnder's of Frankenmuth (MI) ... reportedly "America's  largest family restaurant".  The good folks at Zehnder's are famous for their chicken dinners which has not just kept up with inflation ... it's blown it away!  Zehnder's charges $38.95 for their Sunday Buffet which includes all the chicken and one-can-eat as well as prime rib of beef, shrimp and every bountiful side dish ever invented.  Oh, you only want chicken, you say?  That's just $29.95 but be prepared to stand in a really long line.  And the math whiz in the crowd knows that's about 30% more than the inflated price of that Wabun chicken dinner Mike used to buy for his dates to the prom back in the 1970's. 

See more: 
    ►   the 4-page Wabun menu & historical news articles
    ►  Mike's and his prom date Teri in 1970 (or was it '69?)
   
►  Zehnder's of Frankenmuth - website

post 03.02.24

Over, Under ...

... sideways, down.  While waiting for the 3rd Arm-R-Seal topcoat to dry on Butterfly, our latest stool creation ... we're thinking again about Tall Paul's unique "over/under" stretchers  (shown left). 

The reference reminds Mike of a 1960's song by the legendary Yardbirds the group that brought us 3 of the most talented guitarists to ever walk on planet Earth: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

(Handy Link to MP3 for those who wanna' hear tune.)

posted 02.27.24

Bookshelf - Update

Historical College Football Story From The 40's:  "Most interesting"
 ... But Now Back To Our Current News

completed:  The All Americans by Lars Anderson.  The basic storyline appears right on the cover: "On November 29, 1941 Army played Navy.  Eight days later Pearl Harbor was attacked.  This is the players' journey from football field to battlefield."  I'm happy to say I just finished reading the book, another holiday gift from Louise.  I liked it a great deal.  She knew it might well be a fine book, right up my alley of recent sports books, and assorted historical topics from the 1930's and 40's.  The "golden age".  The author, Lars Anderson, has been a writer for Sports Illustrated and co-authored Pickup Artists: Street Basketball in America.  The central heroic characters in this historical summary all survived WW2 and lived rich, full lives. When Anderson interviewed the men they were in their 80's and eager to share their experiences.

Readers of this "blog" know that we've been slightly obsessed with my father's collection of baseball & other sports cards from the 30's & 40's - many of them framed and displayed in my den.  (Link to photos of the keepsake cards posted on this website a few years ago.) 

Louise also knows I've also followed a political story from the '40's introduced to us by Rachelle Maddow's podcast called Ultra.  I've also read Maddow's follow-up best-seller: Prequel.  Here's how NBC News summarizes the content of Maddow's work/book:  "Sitting members of Congress aiding and abetting a plot to overthrow the government. Insurrectionists criminally charged with plotting to end American democracy for good. Justice Department prosecutors under crushing political pressure ... Ultra is the all-but-forgotten true story of good, old-fashioned American extremism getting supercharged by proximity to power. When extremist elected officials get caught plotting against America with the violent ultra right, this is the story of the lengths they will go to… to cover their tracks."  I'll repeat with emphasis: this is a TRUE STORY.  Many of us recognize the similarities with the this story and today's fractured MAGA right-wing.

Over the holidays I was thinking quite a bit about my father and his service in WW2 (1943-45, see below).  In short, I'll admit I've been dwelling quite a bit about many things connected to the period of time about ten years before I was born. 

next:  Sedition Hunters: How January 6th Broke the Justice System by Ryan J. Reilly.  Since the January 6th 2021 Insurrection, I have paid a great deal of attention to news surrounding this event ... I watched the riot on live television ... and, viewed all of the House Select Committee hearings, read their final report.  With great interest I'm tuned-in to news reports of those participants who've been prosecuted and jailed for their participation in the riot.  Many have plead guilty to their crimes.  It drives me (and most other thoughtful observers) crazy to hear Republicans referring to the January 6th insurrectionists as "tourists" ... and “political prisoners.”  Lately we've heard House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) ... and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) using a new absurd term: “hostages.”   They should be charged with fraud (impersonating a responsible legislator).

So, I'm anxious to dive deeper into Reilly's new book.  Equally anxious to encourage others to stay informed and seek more information to help crush today's Violent Ultra Right.
posted with pride 02.26.24

.
Other Projects Delay Completing Stool 5

butterfly.  Our latest stool creation.  Finally got all four of it's slightly curved legs cut out and attached, mortise & tenon style, and than placed her next to "Red" for a quick photo-shoot.  Today I'll finish sanding and installing the legs before adding it's 3-coats of Arm-R-Seal finish.

Butterfly and Red - siblings. Similar height (25") and buckthorn legs around the same thickness/diameter, red oak seat - it's cracks filled with blue-colored epoxy. 

Louise & I are in the process of re-tiling our master bathroom shower ... we're doing the demo - which has been a lot of work; professional second-generation tile layers will handle installing our new non-slip tile - hopefully: next week!  As fate would have it, our "tile guy" Steve pulled up seconds after capturing this snapshot of Butterfly & Red. He said he loved rustic furniture and was going nuts when I told him that yes indeed, these were made right here in the GoodPlanet Sawdust Works using material gleaned from our land ... he loves 'em so much he said he wanted to buy one for his wife (anniversary gift).  Sadly I had to decline - the stools are still too precious to both Louise & I ... I'm loving all of 'em.  But could that change in the future?  Could Mike actually sell on of his stools?  Don't hold your breath.

We make stuff.  More photos to come - bookmark the site and stop back from time to time. 

Posted with pride & joy: 02.23.24 (after taking a little break to study the amazing impact Bidenomics is having on our economy ... even though Fox News and other rabid right-wing extremists try to claim that only Donald Trump can fix it). PS: blue painters tape used to identify parts, rubber bands used to help hold it all together, temporarily.

SB-58  (er, sorry ...Super Bowl LVIII)
One Critical Moment

A Blake Lively / Taylor Swift Moment

Anyone good at lip-reading?  This screen-grab was captured early in Sunday's SB-58, 2nd Q after KC went 3-and-out twice ... but it appears the Chiefs may finally be running on all cylinders ... 52-yd completion (QB Patrick  Mahomes to Mecole Hardman) the CBS camera-person captured the following fan reaction ... Taylor Swift and side-kick Blake Lively.

Video Link

posted 02.13.24

 

Stool 4 Joins Cast Just As Construction On 5 Commences
                      And, get this: 5 is called Butterfly . . . now you're really curious, right? (see below)

More info:  Link to "Tall Paul Preview"


Louise wants Mike to "sign" each of his stool creations (it'd be hard to find two that are alike) ... so after consulting today's popular "research venue" (YouTube) Mike found some instructional concepts to "print on wood using an ink jet printer" ... the output is less than ideal but it's a start - see preview above.

Never Guess What Mike's Obsessing Over, Now ...

3 Guesses . . .

Yep, Mike's quite delighted this season with the play by two local football teams: the Detroit Lions and the Wolverines of University of Michigan.  During my current stay here on planet Earth, the Detroit Lions have had 19 head coaches (not counting interim coaches like Dick Jauron, Darrell Bevell and Robert Prince) ... how many of these guys do you recall?  Buddy Parker, George Wilson, Harry Gilmer, Joe Schmidt, Don McCafferty, Rick Forzano, Tommy Hudspeth, Monte Clark, Darryl Rogers, Wayne Fontes, Bobby Ross, Gary Moeller, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Rod Marinelli, Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell, Matt Patricia, and now Dan Campbell.  Collectively these fella's amassed 451 wins over 1,027 games ... which for the math whiz in the crowd, represents a win/loss record of just .439143%.  During that span (1951-2023) seven Lions squads qualified for the NFL playoffs ... coaches Fontes & Parker each enjoyed 2 post-season games ... 14 of the coaches never lead the Lions to the playoffs.  Parker & Wilson lead the team to win NFL Championships (1952 1953, and 1957).  Since then: goose-egg.  None.  Na-da.  Flop-ola.  So it is with great interest to be watching the Lions win their division this season and also victorious in their 1st playoff game.

The University of Michigan Wolverines have enjoyed greater success on the field - but no national championship since 1997 ... 27-yrs ago.  Love the way they won too - a collective team effort with balanced pass & running offense schemes.  My hunch is that coach Jim Harbaugh will bail ... opting for the NFL rather than dealing with NCAA hassles over possible rules violations.  Oh well.   Things never stay the same for long - I'm just delighted over the fabulous seasons both teams gave us fans to enjoy!   (Detroit Lions logo above was used by the ball club when Mike was but a little fellow ... 1952 to 1960.  The Maize-n-blue Wolverines from University of Michigan used the above wolverine cub sporting a Popeye The Sailorman-style cap 1948 to 1964.)

posted 01.17.24

Evidence: not everything can be replicated with wood

Failed attempt to replace missing jigsaw puzzle piece with hand-cut hunk of scrap wood

situation:  those game loving folks at HighPoint are experiencing a bit of a "pause" ... their table top 700-piece jigsaw-style puzzle from Buffalo Games is missing a few pieces.  Obviously that means the puzzle can not be completed as it now stands.  Louise contacted the manufacturer, and they said they do not offer replacement parts (unlike our favorite brand: Liberty Puzzles, who does offer such customer service). In their defense, the Buffalo Games cardboard puzzles retail for about $10 ... while the deluxe laser-cut wooden pieces from Liberty run 10 to 15 times more ... giving them the resources to support their replacement warranty.

solution:  Mike figured: why not craft the missing pieces from little scraps of wood?  (This is the stage of the story where audio engineers work feverishly to insert "man-at-work" sounds as metal tools clang in the background, the "Jeopardy" theme-song plays quietly in the foreground.)  In just a few minutes time Mike produces the prototype wooden puzzle replacement piece.

outcome:  Louise glances at Mike's rough wooden puzzle piece which was quickly handmade by tracing the void to a slip of scrap-paper, and then taping said paper hunk to a chunk of wood.  Presto-change-o ... Mike proudly holds up the piece to inspect ... but when placed into the completed puzzle the "fit" is hardly snug.  Mike thinks: back to the drawing board ... Louise says: "fear not erstwhile wood-crafter hubby.  Buffalo Games is sending us a coupon for a new puzzle."  Sweet.
posted with a smile 01.20.24

We May Need A Larger Bookshelf

one good read often leads to another

next.  As mentioned below, one hot new book in our library is Rachel Maddow's Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism ... which expanded upon her 8-segment podcast known as Ultra.  It's a vital American history story that is sadly not well known - but oughta' be ... because it deals with a series of events very much like we're experiencing today with the Trump inspired MAGA right-wing radicals and their assorted disinformation campaign(s). 

Prior to World War II a large portion of Americans were not interested in defending Europe from the advances of Hitler's Nazi Germany.  Some isolationists were just tired of America fighting any wars (having just slogged thru WW1 but a few yrs prior) - while another faction of Americans actually sought to destroy democracy in favor of a more authoritarian-style of government.  There was also a large, vocal group of citizens and members of Congress as well as members of various law enforcement personnel (from the FBI, down to local police) who agreed with the German efforts to eradicate the world's Jewish population.  Anti-Semites.  Maddow's Ultra podcast series and her book, Prequel,  traces the fight to preserve American democracy back to World War II, when a handful of committed public servants and brave private citizens thwarted far-right plotters trying to steer our nation toward an alliance with the Nazis.  Investigators even went to Germany to interview Nazi's there who orchestrated many of the efforts that were employed in America by Hitler's Nazi government.  Many of the charges involved some 28 member of Congress - some of whom were actually paid by Germany to disperse propaganda directed toward American citizens.  

Many of the tactics used back in the 30's and 40's are quite similar to those being used today by the MAGA Republicans, and the sad part of Maddow's historical summary is that the right-wing actually prevailed.  Even with overwhelming evidence, the 28 insurrectionists charged with sedition from the 40's all got off.  They beat the wrap!  Washington Post, in reviewing Maddow's book, says: "The trial was such a failure that most of us don’t know that the politics of the era were far more divisive than Greatest Generation mythologies would have us believe. It’s hard to point to exactly where the Great Sedition Trial failed, but the details Maddow presents are galling."

Fearing that something similar is happening right now with delay after delay in the assorted legal proceedings Donald Trump faces ... and the hypocrisy demonstrated by Republicans in Congress (Senate & House leaders, McConnell and McCarthy, flip-flopping on holding Trump accountable) ... I'll admit I'm worried that history is about to repeat itself. 

The lead prosecutor in the sedition cases from the 40's was a skilled prosecutor from the Department of Justice named: O. John Rogge.  When the actual cases against the 28 charged with various crimes including sedition ended the DOJ opted to not renew the charges ... but Rogge continued his investigation including travel to Germany to interview Nazi's arrested & imprisoned after WWII.  The attorney general at that time assured Rogge that a final report would be issued to ensure the American people had all the facts.  Trouble is, President Truman had other ideas - he did not want to see his former pals in Congress exposed for their dirty deeds ... and the report was frozen - put on ice - buried.   It took Rogge several years but in 1961 he published a book summarizing his findings.  "The Official German Report" by former assistant attorney general O. John Rogge is my next book to read and study.  Stay tuned; likely I'll have comments on that material, too. 

posted early on the 5th of February 2024.     

Mike's Bookshelf

A healthy blend of politics/current events + sports ... lots of sports!

read.  And I have Louise to thank for keeping my selections of reading material "well-stocked"!  She gave me an early holiday gift last month so that I'd have something to read after polishing-off Liz Cheney's excellent book: "Oath and Honor" ... in which she provides specific, ample evidence that Donald J. Trump is unfit for office and should be blocked by American voters from inflicting more harm and danger to the country.  So, to lighten-up a tad for the holidays, I turned to one of my favorite sports authors, Jim Dent, former sports reporter who covered the Dallas Cowboys for years.  The first book by Dent that I recall reading was Monster of the Midway: Bronko Nagurski, the 1943 Chicago Bears, and the Greatest Comeback Ever ... since reading that I've tackled six of Dent's books and have a few more on the "must read" stack.

The latest: The Undefeated - the Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in college football ... Dent focused on head coach "Bud" Wilkinson who lead the Sooners from 1948 - 1963 posting an amazing record of 145–29–4 (college).  Wilkinson's teams won 3 national championships (1950, 1955–1956), and were conference champs 14 times.  Much of the book focused on "the streak" mentioned in the title ... there actually were 2 streaks but the longest streak was 47 consecutive victories.  The streak began in 1953 spanned most of that season, 1954, 1955, 1956, and most of 1957 - losing only to Notre Dame that year 7-0.  Wilkinson's Sooners also enjoyed a 31 game win streak (1948-50).

on-deck.  Having enjoyed the Michigan High School football championships (all 8 divisions) plus a healthy dose of college football games (U of M, CMU & a few MSU) and of course, the Detroit Lions record breaking division championship season ... I'm ready to dive right back into heavy political discussion that I anticipate in Rachel Maddow's Prequel.   I swear Louise must have been the first person in our zip code to buy the book!  A year ago Maddow hosted an 8-part podcast called Ultra about "Great Sedition Trial of 1944" which was a real eye-opener for me ... as I'm a bit of a history buff and I do not recall ever hearing this American political news story. 

As the Ultra podcast explained our current political situation is quite similar to a series of events dating back to our pre-WW2 era: "Sitting members of Congress aiding and abetting a plot to overthrow the government. Insurrectionists criminally charged with plotting to end American democracy for good.   Justice Department prosecutors under crushing political pressure." 

[Spoiler alert: if you don't want to know the outcome of Ultra ...  stop reading this article now.]   For the remainder of us who are paying attention - the radical right-wing extremists got away with it.  Seriously.  There were several people murdered, and too many plot twists to summarize here.  If it sounds remotely interesting, I advise you listen to the podcast; here's a link to 8 individual episodes at MSNBC's website which offers bonus pictures and sample documents.  Or, if accessing streaming podcasts is not a viable option for you, see the links below [More Things Ultra] ... we have the mp3 files for episodes 1 thru 8 loaded right here on the server you're already connected to if you are reading this. The average length of Maddow's Ultra podcasts: about 45 minutes.  Please note: Maddow's production company sold (and hopefully profited from) the few ads included in each podcast ... Mike does not benefit in any way (from these ads) other than being enriched with the knowledge & information from the entire series.  

So flash forward some 80+ years and we find that the majority of republican voters in this country actually believe Trump's BIG LIE bullshit.  From what I understand, Maddow became so engrossed by the story that her Ultra podcast revealed, she decided to expand the topic even further with this new book: Prequel.  I know I will enjoy reading the new book and learning even more about our fractured history, which will undoubtedly elevate my blood pressure even higher while watching the Nightly News regarding the latest crap from the MAGA republicans who deny the truth (that Joe Biden beat Trump in 2020 by over 7 million votes).  We've been thru much of this before.  For many of us, the lessons of the past make it that much more important that we expose and prosecute the perpetrators of the BIG LIE and Trump's hoaxes that our elections are "rigged".  You can be sure I'll have more to share about Prequel as I get into the book.

posted 01.13.24  (BTW: happy New Year!)

More Things Ultra

breaking news - One more thing: astute readers may have already heard the news ... Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment is developing a feature project based on Rachel Maddow's Ultra.  How cool - hope it comes out this election cycle!  [news link for those who prefer to read stuff like this for themselves]

handy - Listen now or download the podcasts to listen at your convenience:
Episode 1    Episode 2    Episode 3    Episode 4    Episode 5    Episode 6    Episode 7    Episode 8

Sneak Preview:  Stool № 4

Hope to finish this one today
before the Lions victory out West

 

Stools.  So far this year Mike's jovial focus in his workshop has been on stools.   Listen carefully and you too can hear the guy: "hey, let's build a stool."  (see article below ... just a few inches South)

Red oak seat - check cracks filled with blue tinted epoxy ... how thick, you ask? About 2¼" thick and roughly 12" in diameter.

Legs made from de-barked Buckthorn.  (Why buckthorn?  a.) is really strong ... and b.) it's free to Mike - plentiful on his property at HighPoint.

The plywood spacer that looks like a big + with a hole in center is Mike's attempt to encourage legs to follow a specific path (splay = 5-degrees).  And yes, it's temporary - it'll be removed this afternoon when the seat gets glued-up.

The "cross over/under" stretchers is an attempt to modify the design ... "Dare to try something a little different," Mike says.

After the glue dries, the 2nd to last step in this Stool build out naturally is to apply General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil-based topcoat.

posted 01.28.24 ... just hours before the resurgent Detroit Lions take the field vs. the 49'ers of San Fran.

Update: 01.30.24 ... just as a few inches of fresh snow fall on us here in Michigan, comforting us in our loss to the 49'ers ... the stool is being "finished" and now has a name! 
Meet: Tall Paul  (so then Louise comments: "all of these stools are named after men - what gives?")

 

We Are Compelled To Build Stuff

It's what we do.  (sure beats standing in a long line at some bigger box store!)

Regular readers of this 'blog-like' webpage likely know Mike's a bit obsessed with stools.  Portable, moveable seating.  A few months ago, after building a 'shave horse' Mike finally was able to tackle a project he's wanted to complete for years: making a short 'milking stool' (flashback link).  The shave horse really helps hold round stock like the stool legs when they are being debarked and shaped to fit.  Assembly?  Mike's learned to use good old fashioned 'mortise & tenon' joinery and decided to call the quirky little seat: "Brooks" 'cuz of the bowed legs - reminiscent of James Whitmore's character Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption (librarian who famously hobbled about the prison pushing his cart of books to inmates in their cell).

Next, Mike built a taller 4-legged stool that he's named "Andy"... sticking with the Shawshank theme ... Tim Robbins' character Andy Dufresne who's a tall, lanky sort of fellow. (Yep, another flashback link.)

So now with a 3rd stool coming out of Mike's dust filled workshop, Mike's pleased to dub this one: "Red" to commemorate Morgan Freeman's character in the same movie: Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding.   Why, you ask?   The wooden seat is crafted from a slice of a red oak tree trunk which fell in the woods, not far from Mike's house.  Legs are made from sections of the invasive Buckthorn, a deciduous woody shrub or small tree found all over Mike's property.  The heartwood of a Buckthorn is reddish-orange ... and sorta' resembles the color of Donald Trump's hair.  So, red + red = RED. 

Bet you can never guess what Mike's working on now?  Yep, you're right.  Another stool.

posted with pride just one day after Christmas!  12/26/23

White Rabbit. Ready To Feed Your Hare?

Check that, Mike - it's s'posed to be Head ... feed your head.  Anyway, it's Strudel Time!   Episode 8

Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow, released in 1967 was among the first rock music albums my brothers and I owned.  Likely, big brother Pat picked it up - he played guitar and was/is musically talented.  I'm not ... but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy tunes of all sorts: jazz, rock, folk ... toss in some big-band pieces for diversity.  Any way today's segment of Strudel Time has roots all the way back to 1967 ... when I still had hair on my head.  (Say, what is this strudel business?  Ah, good question; it's my shorthand to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry ... which BTW, Louise baked this week, but now I'm really veering off course.)

Favorite tune from the album?  Hands-down, it's: White Rabbit ... and for 56-yrs I had the lyrics wrong.  (Link to Grace's original rendition.)  My brain thought Grace Slick, the writer of White Rabbit, was singing "feed your hare".   Like so many paths one takes exploring on the internet I'm not sure how I got this, but somehow I stumbled upon the correct lyrics, and several neat renditions of White Rabbit by various artists.  For theatrics I like one rendition performed by Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway - a musical group ... dressed in Alice In Wonderland costumes.  Molly is playing the lead, dressed as the Queen of Hearts.  Other bandmates are dressed as Alice, the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, and a Hooka Smoking Caterpillar. (Actually I never saw the rabbit ... but the grinning bass player, Shelby Lee Means, is a hoot & obviously having a blast. Check 'em out (link to Tuttle's band on YouTube).

Naturally after watching these video clips, YouTube suggested other opportunities to gobble-up more of my time ... and one of their suggestions really tickled me: The Toronto NewChoir as they are known.  (Yep, another link.)  My brain tends to associate more traditional musical selections from a choir ... instead, they're singing:

One pill makes you larger, And one pill makes you small.  And the ones that mother gives you Don't do anything at all; Go ask Alice When she's ten feet tall; And if you go chasing rabbits; And you know you're going to fall; Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar Has given you the call; Call Alice When she was just small; When the men on the chessboard; Get up and tell you where to go. And you've just had some kind of mushroom; And your mind is moving low. Go ask Alice.  I think she'll know. When logic and proportion, have fallen sloppy dead. And the White Knight is talking backwards. And the Red Queen's off with her head.
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head. Feed your head.

Songwriters: Grace Slick - 1965 White Rabbit lyrics © Copperpenny Music

Update (12/21/23) - It's a process: exploring, learning.  After posting the above yesterday I stumbled upon more info, learnin' new stuff.  'twas news to me anyway:  

  • Grace Slick performed and recorded "White Rabbit" with another group she was in before Jefferson Airplane known at Great Society ... 1965-66. 
  • Grace & husband, drummer Jerry Slick recorded one single: "Somebody To Love".  The band broke up in '66 before a complete album was finished, and Grace joined Jefferson Airplane. A few years later Columbia Records released recordings of live performances by The Great Society at The Matrix, a small nightclub in San Francisco.  Link to YouTube recordings (by Grace Slick & Great Society): White Rabbit and Somebody To Love.
  • Grace & Jerry divorced when Great Society broke up.  (Okay, okay - they divorced in '71 - 5-yrs after band split.)

Previous Strudel episodes:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
this crusty flashback was initially posted just in time for your holiday enjoyment 12.20.23 
Be safe, be well. And please stop voting for insurrectionists.
Update: Molly Tuttle and the Golden Highway won 2024 Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album with City of Gold. In addition the group took home the same award at the 2023 Grammys for its breakout album Crooked Tree.

I'd Like You To Meet My Father ...
Staff Sergeant Ralph Dawson as he appeared in his WW2 uniform a few days before he was transported to New Caledonia in the South Pacific, as part of the US Army's 31st Chemical Decontamination unit.  The same day the artist captured Dad's likeness at an Army base in Alabama Dad attended a movie: "This Land Is Mine" starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara." Admission price: 15¢. 

I'm fortunate to have a series of journals that my father maintained throughout his military service with near daily notations about where he served, promotions, and personal finance - like who owed him a buck or how much he spent on snacks, meals, personal care products.  He tried to account for literally every cent.  Example on May 24th, 1943: "coke 05¢; haircut 35¢; and 60¢ paid for someone to sew his new 'suntan stripes' on his lightweight summer uniform.

After the war Dad went into broadcasting: radio (WJR) and television (WXYZ) and set out to raise a family with Grace.  His rich life ended far too early - Dad died of a brain tumor in '72 at age 51.

posted 12.08.23 ... 82-years after the U.S. entered World War II.  Congress had just declared war against Imperial Japan, a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  More pictures of Ralph Dawson and his WW2 experiences can be seen in Scan-A-Slide, Mike's collection of family photos.  

Winter Chill Ends Most Outdoor Projects; So, Now What?

We move indoors, silly.  Besides wrapping gifts and playing with a jigsaw puzzle loaned to us by my sister-in-law
(without a freaking picture of the finished puzzle for guidance)
what have we been doing at HighPoint?

books.  Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame ... by Jim Dent.  In 1964 I was 11-yrs old when Notre Dame selected Ara Parseghian to be their varsity football head coach — and it was now his responsibility to rebuild the once-proud program and teach the Fighting Irish how to win again. I've become quite a fan of Jim Dent's books ... Monster Of The Midway was my first of Dent's biographies - its a great story about the amazing one-man wrecking crew in college and pro football: Bronko Nagurski. Since I am tearing thru Resurrection, Louise gave me an early Christmas gift: Liz Cheney's Oath and Honor.  I appreciated her work on the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th, 2021 insurrection.  I listened to, and watched, multiple interviews with Cheney on various newsy shows like Terry Gross and Fresh Air on NPR ... and look forward to learning more about what she sees as a vital threat to our nation and our government.

stools.  Multi-tasking in workshop this past month making a few Christmas gifts ... and crafting 3 sets of legs (4 each) out of some thin Buckthorn tree trunks.  They're just under 2" in diameter ... 25-27" tall.  After Louise & I retrieve the thorn encrusted stock, I use our homemade shave horse to debark the Buckthorn & whittle 'em down to a common diameter.  The seats will be made from slabs from a fallen Red Oak in our woods ... the 12" round discs (aka: "cookies") have developed a few significant checks or, cracking as wood dries and shrinks ... which I have filled with epoxy just as we did on previous stool projects.   posted 12.08.23

"Like It Was Meant To Be There"

Says Louise - but what's the topic?

gator port update - those who recall seeing previous articles (below) about the Gator Port we built this month may be interested to know that we enhanced the railings.  How so?  Well, we added a post, cutting the span in half.  Now each section of the railing is 6-feet.  Mike used his handy shave horse to de-bark the sections of buckthorn ... their diameter ranges from 3¼ to 2¾ inches ... before adding the post the thin railings were, shall we say, rather springy.  Not "GoodPlanet secure" Mike says.  And, Louise helped craft the traditional mortise & tenons to ensure a nice, tight joint. 

Louise says: "The post enhances the railing.  It is like the post was always meant to be there."  Nice. 

And get this: Mike's got an idea for a "post-topper" which is nothing like a PO-stopper.  "Don't be silly," Mike says.  "I've got an idea ... we'll see if it ever germinates into a full, blooming reality."  Mike admits that many ideas that trickle out of his goofy head "never get off the ground, Orville."  (An obvious wink & nod to the Wright Brothers.)  "Some of my BEST ideas are laying on the cutting room floor."  Stay tuned.

posted with a smile on 10.30.23

It's A Wrap! Mike's First 4-Legged Stool

Louise wants to call the stool: "Andy".  Read on ...

[We thrive on projects.]   A few weeks ago this webpage introduced the 4-legged stool Mike was making from wood salvaged right here on our property.  The seat is a slab of red oak, the legs are sections of buckthorn, an invasive plant prevalent along the trails at HighPoint.  The first project of this sort mentioned a month or so below was a 3-legged stool was named "Brooks" for the character in Shawshank Redemption played by James Whitmore.  (So named 'cuz the bowed legs reminded Mike of the gnarly, seasoned librarian seen in the movie as he pushed his cart of books around the prison.)  Anyway, Louise said this taller 4-legged stool oughta' be known as "Andy" ... yep, we're sticking with the Shawshank theme ... Andy would be the lanky Andy Dufresne played brilliantly by Tim Robbins.  Just for fun here's a Link to audio clip from movie & the opera Andy broadcast over the prison P.A. system prompted. Andy's friend Red (played by Morgan Freeman) says: “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it.”  Mike gets a similar warm-fuzzy, satisfied feeling working on these projects.

The cracks on the seat - normal "checking" that happens as wood dries - was filled with a dark blue epoxy mixture (in hopes that the crack would not continue or split further). 

So what's with the book: "Courage Beyond The Game"?  'twas a recent anniversary gift from Louise ... a biographical glimpse of Univ. of Texas football star Freddie Steinmark who battled bone cancer.  Louise knows I enjoy the works of Jim Dent ... mostly sports related ... 1/2-way thru the book and Mike's giving it a solid "thumbs up".
posted 10.23.23 

As Jed Bartlett Used To Say: "What's Next?"

Tracking HighPoint Projects and Goings-On ...

project watch.   (... the latest from HighPoint)   1. 24" inch high stool crafted from wood harvested right here on our property ... sitting on Mike's workbench, up-side-down.  Why up-side-down?  Well, Mike's plotting the location and splay of stool-legs, and in doing so, he's decided the gnarly Buckthorn leg furthest right has a bit too much bend, and will be replaced today with a straighter section.  Fear not, fellow frugal minded folks, that curved leg will find it's way into one of the next stool projects ... Mike's thinking there could be several more in the works.  The seat (which again, is still up-side-down) is made from Red Oak ... a "cookie" ... a simple 2" thick cross-cut hunk of a trunk from a fallen tree ... with it's edges left natural.  Cross-members that Mike is carving right now out of another section of Buckthorn will be added, mortise-n-tenon style, for support.  The Oak seat has some serious checking - on a previous milking stool project a "butterfly" was crafted from a piece of walnut in hopes we'd stop the crack right in it's tracks.  The jury is still out on that approach, so on this stool the plan is to fill the cracks with epoxy.  Then it's legs will be trimmed, and the entire stool will be sanded before finishing with Arm-R-Seal our favorite oil based top-coat product.     2. Stool-making is fun but we know the value of diversity ... so besides washing windows (and dishes), mowing/fertilizing the lawn, and getting the snow plow ready for service ... Mike finally tackled one of Rachel Maddow's books: Blowout.  'twas a gift for Louise when it came out in 2019 just as the Trump reign of terror was winding down, and she highly recommended that I read it.  Glad she did 'cuz I found the book to be fascinating, and well researched.  Blowout highlights the impact of the global oil & gas industry ... and the effect is has on our economy, politics, and environment.  Climate Change Deniers (as well as the rest of normal society) should read it. 
posted 10.14.23

More Strudel [episode 7]

Some readers asked if the Harry Nilsson piece below was actually another in the series of Strudel Works?  (You know, that tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry! Yummy.)  My short answer is no.  It was another plea to get the boy inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, where he deserves to be.  But the question does invite another installment of this beloved series: episode 7 ... today's focus: an interesting tune written and recorded by Steve Winwood back in 1980.  Those sporting a touch of grey may recall Winwood played with Blind Faith, the Spencer Davis Group, and was a founding member of Traffic (Low Spark of High Heeled Boys).  "While You See A Chance".  How many versions of this song have we uncovered?  Well, there's Winwood & 3 added variations on our playlist - all 4 are particularly pleasant:   Joe Cocker, Petula Clark, and Anthony Bonsera, and of course Steve Winwood.

The Bonsera rendition is becoming my favorite - though on any given day of the week I'd probably give you a different response.

Never heard of Tony Bonsera?  Well, grasshopper, Anthony Bonsera is a respected musician (trumpet) and composer.  He's also a college professor, and interesting fellow. Today he leads a small group known as Los Angeles Classic Rock Orchestra.  What I like most about Tony's rendition is a slight change in the lyrics ... he dropped "fake it" after urging the listeners to "find romance".  Because, after all, it is all on you ... your responsibility.  When some cold tomorrow finds you ... some sad old dream reminds you ... no one left to leave you?  Nuttin' can deserve you?  (Wish the Trump voters would come to this realization.)

Enjoy all servings of Strudel, today.  Previously:  one, two, three (non-musical), four, five, and six.

10.13.23

We're Naming The Structure Below: 'Gator Port'

Do Ya' Think We Oughta' Get The Name Trademarked ()?

project watch.   (... the latest from HighPoint)   Back in the 50's and 60's the architectural style known as 'mid-century modern' often featured car ports instead of garages.  Besides saving the prospective homeowner a bit of cash upfront, the open and airy mid-century modern home emphasized function and simplicity.  And there is little that can be simpler than a car-port for protecting the family sedan from the elements.  Sort of.  It's gotta' roof held up by a couple of posts, and no walls.  Wide open, baby.  I recall back in the 80's helping my buddy Ed close off the open walls of his car port to stop blowing winter snow from piling up around his van in his car port.  Ed eventually added a garage door and the walls we built were soon filled with cabinets and shelving to increase storage lacking inside the home designed for the minimalist resident.

So that's another typically long-winded intro Mike apparently picked up from watching way too many Rachel Maddow episodes ... or, maybe Mike's interest in story telling stems from listening to a few too many Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully broadcasts of major league baseball games when he was a kid.  In any case, a couple years ago Mike & Louise bought a John Deere Gator ... a quirky 4-wheel drive utility vehicle that's become a vital component to life at HighPoint.  The Gator loves chores as much as Mike-n-Louise ... hauling, pulling, cruising.  And it's gotta' get parked somewhere ... no room in the 2-car garage ('cuz 2 vehicles have "no cut contracts" which clearly state: HighPointe vehicles shall hereby be garaged and not left rotting in the rain & snow).  And, whoever designed the 'shed' mentioned in multiple articles below, purposely designed it to be small ... hence its name: shed (vs. POLE BARN).  Nope, no room there.

What's the solution for keeping snow drifts and rain water and falling leaves off a Gator?  We hope this lean-to-style Gator Port could be just the ticket ... adjacent to the 2-car garage (see photos).  Louise posted a picture a few days ago on Facebook of Mike digging the holes for post supports ... and the past week a building plan was completed, the materials were secured, and the dust was flying and the critters around HighPointe were alerted by the sounds of hammers hammering, and saws cutting.  Louise stained all the wood surfaces to match the house, natch.  On top of the rafters: 4 steel panels, painted red in a factory setting.  The two unstained horizontal pieces connecting the two 4x4 posts is Mike's latest handiwork repurposing invasive Buckthorn tree stock.  The guy built a shave-horse and look what happens!  (It'll be a great place for Ben and Hoss and Little Joe to tie up their horses when they visit.)

Oh the joy! posted 09.30.23
Updated again: 10.03.23 - replaced 2nd photo (above) showing progress made Sunday & Monday: rafters complete w/ tie-down straps, corner post bracing, and strapping to support that handsome red metal roof which will be secured today. Stay tuned.

Ok ... Now What?

Avoid Attention Distraction: Stay Busy

indictment watch.   It's going to take many months before the nation gets past the series of indictments brought against the insurrectionists who sought to over-turn the will of the people, so we've figured out how to cope: we stay informed and busy.  (Instant recall: grandmother repeating one of her favorite sayings about "idle hands".)

Louise's multiple interests in fiber arts, photography, nature, puzzles and cat named Otis, her new constant companion. The picture, right, highlights my recent activities:

  1. building stuff out of wood found here on our property ... it began with clearing some land so we could build a shed ... and then finding a ways to utilize some of the wood.  We've built a bridge, assorted benches, picture frames, made a "shave horse", added railings to our deck, and now we're making a series of stools.  We're calling this first stool "Brooks" in memory of the character James Whitmore played in The Shawshank Redemption (bow-legged librarian who famously pushed his cart of books around the prison).  Brooks is nearly complete ... it just needs a bit of sanding and application of the polyurethane finish. 
  2. We just finished reading an excellent book A Very Stable Genius that summarized Trump's first 3-yrs of his presidency - and even for a couple of news hounds like us, the book was an excellent refresher of the madness Trump's administration has brought into our lives.  Fortunately for us, the authors of Stable Genius wrote the companion piece: I Alone Can Fix It ... Trump's 4th year in office featuring not one but two impeachments, and missed opportunities for the GOP to rid the world of this creepy, destructive, evil man. I started reading it this morning and it'll be my companion when I'm not making sawdust, or working outdoors, or sleeping. 
  3. The stack of sliced red oak discs, or "cookies" as some woodworkers call 'em, represent pending woodworking projects ... yesterday I cut one of the "cookies" on the top of the pile into a neat circle on my bandsaw using a technique taught to us by Norm Abram of PBS' New Yankee Workshop fame.  We'll share pictures of the collection of stools: 3 and 4 legged varieties as the project progresses.

Stay tuned, and stay informed!
posted 08.27.23 after surviving over 4-inches of rain this week.
update 09.09.23: just finished "I Alone Can Fix It" ... highly recommend it along with its companion "Stable Genius" - a terrific reminder to the insanity we became numb to during the Trump reign of terror. To the Republican voter who still plans to vote for DJT in '24, even after being charged in 91 criminal indictments, and found guilty in several civil cases, there is probably no hope for you ... you drank the Kool Aid.  But for the remainder of conservative voters who are not yet committed to a candidate ... you need to read both of these books. 

Rock Hall--Fame Thick As A Brick; Doesn't Get The Point ...

Popularity Fleeting.  Serious Omissions, Dubious Inductees

music.   It had not dawned on me before reading in USA Today that Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull has never been invited into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  I find it to be odd that a musical group that has performed through seven decades would not be charter members in the Hall ... and equally curious to me that the writer of Aqualung, Thick As A Brick, and A Passion Play seems not to care.  At least outwardly Anderson claims to not care.  "Quaint though it may seem, America is a little isolated pocket of the universe that only thinks of itself. The rest of the world is where I work most of the time," he's quoted saying in the Gannett news article. 

Perhaps Ian Anderson has reviewed the list of previous inductees and figured some bands just are not in the same vaulted class as Jethro Tull.  I would agree.

Consider if you will my short list of questionable rock-n-roll HOF inductees:

  • Clyde McPhatter 1987 - as a solo act? No way. As lead singer of The Drifters?  Ok.
  • Jimmy Reed 1991 - maybe the Blues Hall of Fame ... but his "rock" roots are limited.
  • Bobby “Blue” Bland 1992 - much like Reed, Bobby's focus seemed to be "the blues", not rock-n-roll.
  • Ruth Brown 1993 - rhythm-n-blues singer; played the piano occasionally, wrote very little of her own music.
  • Little Willie John 1996 - a virtual one-hit wonder ("Fever"); left music scene by age 30. Jailed for murder.
  • Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps 1998 - Another '50's era one-hit-wonder: "Be Bop A Lula"

There are tons of examples - but I'll stop there before I get accused of attacking the R&B artists honored in Cleveland.  My real focus this morning is on those true rock artists, musicians, writers and performers who are NOT enshrined in the Rock Hall of Fame.

Besides Ian Anderson and his Jethro Tull bandmates, how about Harry Nilsson?  Singer, songwriter, performer Harry Nilsson wrote tunes that have been used in some of America's most popular movies (Forest Gump, Contact, Goodfellas, The Addams Family, Midnight Cowboy, You've Got Mail, and more).  Harry even wrote The Point - songs and movie and TV special.  Heck, he even created Oblio & Arrow!

Recommended Listening: Let's Put Harry In The Hall - a performance by 30 of Harry's pals back in 2015.
posted 08.22.23

More books, more lose ends ...

Reading, building, renovating

books.  The other day I mentioned re-reading a childhood fav: The Little Engine That Could (below) but it's just one of several books I've recently consumed.  The latest:  Zero Fail by Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize winning writer, explores the history and recent breakdowns with our Secret Service ... this is the book I shoulda' been reading when Louise & I traveled for the first time since the pandemic altered all of our lives.  I opted to hijack Louise's copy of Team of Rivals thinking that Zero Fail may be a bit too dry to carry me through our pending road-trip.  I thoroughly enjoyed Doris Kearns Goodwin's biographical review of Abe Lincoln's diverse selections by naming former rivals to his cabinet, just as I enjoyed Leonnig's book.  Carol has reported on the Secret Service for a couple of decades and is well connected with agency responsible for protecting our President and key government officials and visiting dignitaries.  It's a huge ask, and one that with no margin for error.  (Think JFK, Dealey Plaza Dallas, 1963.)

Some of the other books I've recently read: Weapons of Mass Delusion by Robert Draper, and a few sporting books by Jim Dent:  The Junction Boys and Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football, and a biography of baseball legend Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner.

I'm glad to have the time to read more.  Saying that reminds me of a scene in The Godfather movie, where Don Vito Corleone is talking with son Michael while relaxing is his backyard, nursing a glass of red wine and talking mafia strategy. “I like to drink wine more than I used to.  Anyway, I'm drinking more,” the ailing don says wistfully.  So, I'm reading more than I used to. 

shed.  When weather permits we've spent a bit of time on a smattering of projects ... including repainting/staining our shed.  When built 2-yrs ago we always planned on giving the structure a 2nd coat ... so when it's dry enough, we cleaned & caulked & re-stained.  Louise wanted the doors to match the brilliant red front door on the main house, just a slight improvement from the original pumpkin color (shown below).  The color also is quite similar to the red toaster in the picture above showing the books I've read so far this year.  

shave horse.  As mentioned earlier, I finally completed building the Shave Horse - now it's time to use it.  First up: crafting some pieces of railing for our deck ... the other day Louise & I ventured into our woods to harvest pieces of Buckthorn - the invasive bush-like tree that nearly took over our woods South of the house.  Why be concerned about buckthorns?  I'm not, but Michigan's DNR is: "If your buckthorn is more like a jungle than a few shrubs you will likely want to plan on removing the buckthorn in sections. Begin removing the buckthorn from one section of your property and set a reasonable goal for the year, remove more and more buckthorn each year until it is eradicated.". Well, given the level of infestation of Buckthorn through our woods, it'll take the rest of my life to "eradicate it".  Meanwhile, I use it to craft railings for our deck, and perhaps make a few rustic stools or benches.

We're having fun learning.  To quote Steve Winwood from his tune While You See A Chance:

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free? Can you be?

When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you

While you see a chance, take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it's all on you
 

posted with pride: 07.24.23 
update: 10.14.23 we've enjoyed the Winwood tune quoted above so much it has become "Strudel episode 7" above.

Early Lessons: from books

A few of my favorite keepsakes are books that captivated my imagination as a youth and likely influenced the sort of person I could become.  The books were some of the earliest forms of motivational thinking that I can recall while growing up.  I began to ponder these books after completing several interior decorating projects ... painting, new carpet ... repeatedly shelves of books in our living room and den were moved and more than once I paused and read a bit.    

It had been years since I gave the books so much as a glance.  So with fresh eyes I'm finding the books to be cool, and in amazing condition for their age and the abuse we gave 'em as kids. Big Ball of String, Raggedy Andy Stories, Little Brown Bear (which does have water damage), and The Little Engine That Could. There was even a copy of one of Mom's childhood books that she got in 1933: Hot Cross Buns ... which I forwarded to brother Tom and his household filled with grandkids. 

While re-reading thru a few I'll admit, I got choked-up a bit … recalling the time spent reading 'em, and the emotions they generated back then. The stories are great but so are the many illustrations that I likely dwelled upon for hours. For example, in the Big Ball of String the book's colored pencil illustrations by Marion Holland captivated my mind and attention I recall inspecting the drawings and the details they revealed.

The Little Engine That Could inspired a bit of "can-do spirit" in young Mike.  "I think I can, I think I can," said the Little Blue Train Engine, who had just been recruited to rescue a train full of kids and toys.  "Will you pull us over the mountain?  Our engine has broken down and the good boys and girls on the other side (of said mountain) won't have any toys to play with or good food to eat ..."   It's fitting that author Watty Piper identified the Little Blue Engine to be female because, wouldn't you know it, Piper says: "she tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged ... puff, puff, chug, chug went Little Blue Engine.   "I think I can, I think I can" soon became: "I thought I could, I thought I could".  Positive reinforcement.  If the book were being made into a Hollywood action adventure, this is the point in the story when the birds would be chirping and a-singin', the sun would come out shinin', and all the kids and toys on the train being hauled to the other side of the mountain would be hootin' & hollerin' & cheerin' (to beat the ban, as Grandma used to say when she read the book with Mikey). Goal setting, and tackling projects.  All of this being instilled in a 5-1/2 yr old lil' Mike ... circa 1959.  I mentioned to my brother John: "I think I'll write about the books on my webpage one day soon."  Check, another task completed.

posted on this 18th day of the hottest month on record (July 2023), just 10-days before what-woulda-been Mom's 99th birthday (07.28.1924).  

At Last: Mike's Shave Horse Is Finished

Building project kept getting "bumped" by other projects

The project began last October.  Mike & Louise have wanted to build a "shave horse" for years after seeing all the neat things it could help us do on the Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill on PBS.  We've loved the show - been watchin' it 40+ yrs.  The Shave Horse is a neat device - it helps a crafty-person who needs to hold pieces of wood while cutting or planning or chiseling.  It is "foot-pedal-powered" and really simple in concept.

When a beautiful Red Oak had to be cut down to build a shed (see below) ... Mike vowed he'd make good use of all the wood! A friendly guy with a portable sawmill helped mill several sections of the tree trunk into usable lumber, in a variety of thicknesses.  We used some of the wood to build a bridge, and dozens of benches, and picture frames, and other misc items.  And now that Mike's drawknife has a scary sharp edge, it's time to make a Shave Horse!  The rough design and material was selected last fall, but then other projects bumped the Shave Horse to the end of the line.   "Got painting to do ... and repair garage door, etc."

But as the calendar flipped forward to June & we're well into our summer heat wave, Mike figured it's time to get back to the project.  The design was gleaned from multiple sources online, and besides the wood, all materials needed were salvaged from past projects.  A hunk of steel re-bar became the pivot point, a pair of old hinges allows the Shave Horse height to be adjustable.  Even the knob on the side of the main work-surface was carved out of a piece of Red Oak.  About the only store-bought item required: a simple steel "hitch-pin" for about a buck.  Before applying the beautiful oil finish ("Arm-r-Seal" from General Finishes) ... Mike was showing off the finished Shave Horse a few days ago and Louise captured a short video which she posted on Facebook ... just to be fair, Mike captured a video of Louise trying out the Shave Horse.  Videos can be accessed here > Link to Mike's video ... Link to Louise's video.

posted 07.09.23  

"To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child"

Author of the above quote highlighted in Goodbye Mr. Chips

Students of Latin are likely familiar with Roman statesman and scholar, Marcus Cicero.  For the rest of us, we rely on popular culture to aid our process of self-education.  In Goodbye Mr. Chips Latin professor, Robert Donat resists redefined pronunciations of historical names like Cicero (SIS-er-ro, and not as KEE-kir-ro) ... I donut recall, 'er, don't recall, that I heard of Cicero before Mr. Chipping mentioned him in his film.  Turns out the quote is but a tip of a massive iceberg of writings by Cicero.  A few other gems: Cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare - which means: "any man can make a mistake; only a fool keeps making the same one."  Or, how 'bout: Non nobis solum nati sumus "we are not born for ourselves alone".  The guy rattled off more hits than Paul McCartney and the Beatles.  

So, it would be fair to say that I find history most fascinating.  Not long ago my best friend, pal & spouse, Louise picked up Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  Louise is a voracious reader, often with multiple books in progress ... so when the Lincoln biography sat, collecting dust, I stepped up to the plate and asked: "mind if read it?"  We were preparing for our first trip outside of our home county in 2+ yrs and I needed some fresh reading material having just finished the biography on baseball legend Honus Wagner ... it never occurred to Mike that he'd be dominating control of Lincoln for awhile ... Goodwin's tome spans 700+ pages.  Even after taking "speed reading" courses in college, Mike's a pokey reader, but that may be, in this case, 'cuz Doris' book is filled with so many "I did not know that" moments. 

Well, I am proud to say after 5-weeks, I finally nailed it ... finished it, and enjoying fresh new insights in our nation's history and the similarities with today's political nonsense.  Example, Goodwin dug us a quote from Civil War General William T. Sherman, who reportedly said of Lincoln, several years after his assassination: "Of all the men I've met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other."  Sherman, fellow history buffs may recall, was the brave Northern General who delivered the sort of hell on Earth campaign during his conquest of Atlanta & Savannah ... giving the rebels a dose of their own treatment of slaves.  

One other historical note on this 4th day of July ... for just $3,498 you, too, could be the proud owner of the first Corvette sports cars created by Chevrolet in 1953.  See the USA.   (Mike was about one-week old when the 'vette rolled out of the production center in Flint, MI.)  Just 300 of 'em were made that first year.  Ah, history ... helps keep my brain engaged ... or, to quote Cicero: "A home without books is a body without soul." (Postea vero quam Tyrannio mihi libros disposuit, mens addita videtur meis aedibus).

Happy 4th of July, America! And thank-you Joe Biden for all you've done to rescue our country.

Creating drinking water 'from thin air'

Solar hydropanel captures 10 liters (daily) of clean drinking water out of the air per day

Yesterday I heard a short story on the radio that captured my attention.  And my bold, interest creating headline above gives readers a clue where this article is heading. 

You see, I'm a big believer that the world has plenty of issues that need attention and action ... and I am betting that folks have similar lists on their brains - other stuff that may be broken and needs attention.  Example:  instead of 24/7 "news alert" coverage of the assorted trials of Trump, or the next presidential election (Nov. 5, 2024 ... 493 days from now) ... whaddya' say we get to work on a few other nagging issues like our record heat wave, or the smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketing states like Michigan? 

Two days ago the Detroit News reported: "Detroit has world's worst air quality".   [cough, cough]   There are plenty of 'hot issues' currently facing our world ... right now: Russian invasion into Ukraine (with assorted acts of war crimes);   or, consider Sudanese Civil War raging right now in Africa's largest country where nearly 1,000 civilians have died in the past 2 months.  If you'd prefer to focus on matters closer to home there are a number of issues we can explore, such as the growing white supremacy movement in the US of A.  Or, how about clearing the air over assorted anti-vaccination attitudes?  How 'bout women's reproductive health, library book bans, LGBTQ attacks, or GOP platform of disinformation? 

Our Department of Justice appears to finally have multiple investigations of the Donald's assorted dirty deeds ... so can we move ahead, move forward.  We don't need a daily rant just because some people have turned this political stuff into an industry.  Nah.  Follow the advise of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac: go your own way (or, 'you can call it another lonely day'.)

So - as mentioned, I heard a neat story on NPR that I think is noteworthy: these folks are making clean drinking water out of thin air!  It's not a 'pipedream' or wish-list or another sketchy scheme with a near impossibility of coming to fruition.  And the company that is making it happen is Source® based in Scottsdale, AZ.  Source® has developed a system that is generating water in people's homes who previously had none.  (No water well, no municipal water service.)  Source® has systems available today for residential service and larger community/commercial applications utilizing sustainable technology that uses the power of the sun to extract an endless volume of clean, reliable drinking water from the air.  A solar powered hydropanel ... simply amazing. 

posted with delight and good cheer 06.30.23

Lose Ends:  a scooter, a tool & a book

scoot.  The other day we picked up a gift for a relative who lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula: an electric scooter.  Naturally ... we captured a video clip of Louise who was eager to take the scooter for a test-run.  It's rather slick - top speed: 18 to 20 mph and will go-go-go for about 10-hours on a charge.

See Louise, rolling along > 

tool.   A few days ago I posted several photos Louise has captured over the past few years that she affectionately calls her "men-at-work" series ... a collection of photos of hard working folks, typically in black-n-white.  And since I tend to be readily accessible, and often working on some sort of project that can involve dirt, a goodly number of the pictures Louise captures are of me.  Not the most flattering poses but I do realize which side my French toast is buttered (and by whom) so I don't voice any objections. 

Seriously, the photos have a nice artistic quality to 'em ... and you too can see what I'm talking 'bout ...  'cuz I posted a sampling of her work on Scan-A-Slide, our family's cyber-based collection of photos.  One of Louise's pictures captured a view of sweaty Mike after cutting down a few spruce trees ... Louise caught me holding a tool called a mattock which many of us often misidentify as a "pickaxe".  It's a great tool for hacking out roots or otherwise loosening the compacted, heavy clay soil found here at HighPoint.  But, as I've learned, a dull mattock is rather inefficient and requires the user to deploy far more effort & energy than needed - like when I'm cutting out soft spruce roots protruding from the ground where trees once stood.  So - flash forward to the present - Mike's mattock got a "tune-up" - sharpening both cutting edges with a steel file just like your Grand-Pappy may have done it! 

Photography has become one of many hobbies that Louise enjoys - her focused subject matter changes nearly as frequently our weather here in Michigan.  Often.

book.  Our book selection keeps growing ... which I can attest to because we just had to move 'em all a few months ago during our assorted interior painting projects.  The latest addition to the sports section of our library is Junction Boys a biography of Paul "Bear" Bryant - legendary college football coach.  Subtitle: "How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team."  Louise gave me the book a while back knowing that I had read and liked work by the author, sports journalist Jim Dent.  It was an interesting read ... but my opinion of Bryant tanked after reading about some of his unsavory training practices.  He literally put the lives and health of student athletes in extreme danger during his reign of terror at Texas A&M in the early 1950's.  I reflected back to the training equipment and facilities we had in Oscoda where I played high school ball ... we toiled on a sandy patch of earth which was challenging, to say the least.  But water and occasional breaks were not intentionally withheld "to toughen" us up, as Bryant did as he whipped his team of Texans into shape.  
posted 04.28.23 as I eagerly await the next indictment against our twice impeached former president: Donald J. Trump.

 

Louise's "at work" photo series

Photography has become one of many hobbies that Louise enjoys - her focused subject matter changes nearly as often our weather here in Michigan.  Often.

On any given day her camera lens may be capturing birds.  Or other wildlife ... tomorrow she may be exploring plants, or insects, or just about any project or task that may be going on near her.  Like when our neighbors had their asphalt pavement patched.  CLICK.  CLICK, CLICK.  Or when we had gutters replaced on our home.  CLICK.

Louise has only had this latest fixation to capture people on the job the past few years since liberating herself from the retail business trade that was her life since she was a teenager.  Time.  She now has more of it to pursue a variety of interests, and she's loving it.

Louise calls these pictures of interesting working stiffs "Men At Work" but it's not a collection devoted exclusively to the sweaty male species.  Men At Work is just her catchy name for the collection of pictures, which she likes to produce in Black & White photographs. 

The other day we had s'more mulch delivered and for the 3rd time in less than a year a woman: Daneed Fick skillfully kept her truck on the driveway pavement (and not making ruts in our lawn).  We appreciate that.

Since we are often tackling lots of chores and projects around home by ourselves, many of her favorite Men At Work pictures depict Mike toiling, digging, building, sweating.  She could probably sell much of her work to Proctor & Gamble to use on their Tide laundry detergent ads.

So I decided to add another album here on Scan-A-Slide, our collection of family photos ... devoted to Louise's creative gritty photographic work.  Check it out when time allows ... here's a handy link ... or, click the "photos" link at top of this page and look for the icon above that I created for her work.

posted 04.16.23

 

Better Than Most ...

NBC-TV golf analyst Gary Koch famously described a putt by Tiger Woods to be "better than most" as the ball rolled 60+ feet down a slope, ball curving left than right ... and then one final revolution as the ball dropped into the cup for a birdie on the famed island green, the 17th hole at the 2001 Players Championship.  Woods won the tournament by one-stroke, but our memories get skewed over time.  The famed "better than most" putt happened in the 3rd, not the final, round.

About 5-years ago I stumbled upon a cute little diner on Fenton Rd., Flint called Kristal Jo's Diner ... what caught my attention was their slogan neatly painted on the front window of their narrow restaurant: "sort of good food".  I liked the self deprecating vibe. 

So yesterday while digging thru a drawer in search of a particular matchbook I may have possibly saved from my college era, 47-yrs ago.  You see, Patti - a long-time friend from college - saw a photo of a simple matchbook posted on Facebook for a place she once worked at in Mt. Pleasant, MI ... a quirky little tavern called Tom's Foolery.  The place closed in 1989, but for many who attended college at Central Michigan University in the 70's and 80's it was an essential place to connect with like-minded free spirited kids ... and I was hoping to find a little memento - perhaps with a phone number scribbled inside which encouraged a sense of getting lucky in the future.  But, no such luck (getting lucky or finding a matchbook) ... but there is still hope - other stashed treasures in another drawer or box awaits. (Interesting commentary/article found online mentioning the Foolery...link.)

What I did find was the pristine matchbook shown (above/right) for a dining establishment in Troy, MI that I frankly do not remember: Joe Kool's.  However, I love their slogan, boldly set in the red reverse: "better food than most hospitals" which is likely the reason I retained the matchbook years ago.  Both Louise & I are still cracking-up.

posted 03.23.23

update [03.25.23]: I have to tell Patti: "sorry - no dice finding the vintage Tom's Foolery matchbook."  I did however stumble upon several pristine matchbooks for a handful of restaurants that I loved to visit years ago. Center-top: Carl's Chop House, Detroit - located near old Tiger Stadium - last visited in '84 while attending Tiger's World Series game.  Sadly, Carl's closed in '08, demolished 2010.  At 2-o'clock: Chicken In The Rough, Port Huron, MI at the Palms Krystal Bar & Grill.  History buffs will enjoy knowing this nugget: Chicken In The Rough is the first nationally franchised restaurant chain in the US of A dating back to 1936 .... and their seasoned chicken, fried-chicken livers, and perhaps the worlds best chicken noodle soup are still served today [link]. 

My personal favorite matchbook design goes to Lindey's Place For Steak, St. Paul, MN.  At 10-o'clock: Mamma Leone's - world famous Italian cuisine with multiple locations in NY, NY ... the last closed in 1994.  Having recently experienced a bit of the vintage baseball card collection my father started in the early 1930's I naturally began wondering if the matchbooks had any value.  Turns out, they do ... but nothing like the $14,000 Bronko Nagurski card we had. I found pristine, unstruck matchbooks are selling for $20-30 each ... common variations for $10.

update #2 [03.25.23]: I do share the above thoughts & recollections with a warm smile because it appears multiple indictments are about to be issued to the twice impeached, defeated former US President Donald Trump ... now it's time for convictions!    
Tool Collection From Louise Keeps Growing ...

Shown below left: a spokeshave.  To be precise: it's a Stanley #151 ... Stanley Tool Works began making 'em in 1911 in New Britain, Connecticut in the US of A.  It's a good example of the many products now manufactured elsewhere - like China ... but they really oughta' bring production back where it originated - America.   Below right: Mike's version of the Paul Sellers' style Spokeshave Honing Guide to make sharpening of blade accurate & quick [link].

Today, I was back in the workshop playing with a gift Louise gave to me for Christmas: a spokeshave (upper left).  It's a cute little hand-held tool that's a bit like a free-hand wood plane, often used by chair makers to craft spindles and chair legs, wheel spokes, bows/arrows. The spokeshave blade from the factory was dull seriously needs sharpening. I've learned while sharpening chisels and plane blades that it helps to have a "honing guide" to keep the tool square to the sharpening stone (diamond encrusted plank about 4" x 8"). However, the spokeshave blade is too short for my honing guide … a problem many woodworkers have encountered (hence: a slew of YouTube "how-to" videos), or I can buy one commercially for about $60.  Besides being cheap, I was also anxious to get to work on the tool (rather than waiting a few more days to have something shipped).

So this is where we'd normally cue the soundtrack for another episode of MikeGyver … as I proceeded to make a homemade version from a piece of oak (1/2" x 2-3/4" x 8"), and attach the short blade, red-chip guard, and my regular honing guide so that I can draw it over the sharpening stone. It took over an hour of guiding the jig over the stone but now the blade is flat and scary sharp.  Mr. Hand (above right) is pointing out one modification I made to the Seller's jig ... I chiseled out wood to set a common nut in a bed of epoxy so that the blade can be secured to the jig.  Sellers' design just had the machine screw sunk into the hardwood - I figured over time the threads would surely wear out or give way - and then where would I be?

posted 03.18.23, just one day following St. Patrick's Day!

Daylight Savings Time? Nah ... It's Strudel Time!

If your brain is having trouble grasping the basic concept of "strudel time" perhaps a quick review may help.  Strudel Time is my shorthand to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry.  In this case, we're talking: tunes.  Music, Daddy-O

For years I've enjoyed tunes crafted by a neat group of musical beatniks known as Dave's True Story.  Louise and I are just barely old enough to have experienced a tiny bit of the anti-materialistic "beat generation" of the 50's & 60's ... running around with the cool kids to coffee shops, poetry readings and frequently engaged in assorted forms of heightened sensory awareness exploration.  (Pssst:  we'll let you in on tiny, inconsequential secret: Mike's a bit of a pot-head ... has been for over 50-yrs.) 

Dave's True Story (DTS) and lead singer Kelly Flint have a unique and rich library of original works ... and a few more renditions of old favorites.  And those old fav's is sorta' where this Strudel Story started.  Somehow I stumbled upon one of those tunes that I had thought was the written by DTS: If Dogs Run Free (lyrics - glance to your left). Well, I was mistaken.

What is the meaning of the song: If Dogs Run Free? "The song is about the reality and value of unity and creative activity, as opposed to separateness and inactivity. It is extremely concise and exhibits the sort of complexity and compression normally associated with metaphysical poetry," writes David Weir, a guy who understands this stuff better than I.

The song was written and recorded by Bob Dylan.  Al Kooper played piano, and crazy scat-singing Maeretha Stewart is Dylan's guest vocalist.  Thanks to the magic of the internet you too can hear both versions; I'm not sure I can say which I like best.  How 'bout you?
Bob Dylan   ...   Dave's True Story.

Previous Strudel Stories (below):
1. Puddles Pity Party (Mike Geier with Haley Reinhart)
2. Mad World featuring more Puddle, Reinhart, Jeff Goldblum, Janet Devlin & Gary Jules (and more!)
3. Stairway to Heaven - featuring (still more Puddles, Gilligan's Island, Led Zeppelin, & Spirit)
4. Blue Moon (featuring Elvis, Al Bowlly, Cowboy Junkies).  Believe it or not, those 3 artists somehow get connected in Mike's warped mind with the song: Sweet Jane - again, the Cowboy Junkies playing Lou Reed's song...which then lead to Mott The Hoople, and a fun connection with an all-female trio I previously had never heard of: 2 Nice Girls (thought you said it was a trio, Mike....).

posted 03.10.23

Art Imitating Science

In 2008 Louise & I were captivated by a fun little movie called Wall-E that made fun of so many aspects of human life - our wasteful habits, human laziness.  Disney/Pixar told a story set well into the future, and the animated movie's star central character, Wall-E, is a "a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind."  Ok, the Disney copywriter may have gone over-board and overstated the cute little robot's influence on the world.   

But as it turns out, a real-life space adventure featuring a semi-autonomous rover was unfolding on the planet Mars.  In 2003 NASA launched two rovers, actually, Spirit and Opportunity, to explore the surface of Mars ... engineers envisioned the rover's useful life to be short, perhaps 90 days ... 15-years later, NASA engineers were still receiving data from the hard working little robot, Opportunity - or Oppy for short.  And the story has been captured in a new movie from Amazon Studios "Good Night Oppy".   The film is opened in a limited cluster of theatres yesterday (not GB) or streaming online November 22 ... darn, I wish the film were available this weekend to provide some relief from the political strife caused by our Mid-Term Elections.  (Yes, only a BLUE WAVE on Tuesday can safe the day!)

Links:  Good Night Oppy trailer
NPR News: story & 4-minute audio review

posted with a smile on 11.05.22  (Oh, by the way, did you notice Treasury Bonds are now paying over 4%?  If that tidbit sounds appealing, check this out: "Government bonds suddenly became a sexy investment - NPR")

Puzzled.  A gift that celebrates our quiet life

Simple pleasures are plentiful here in Grand Blanc.  We don't get out much; really have no need or burning desire (to get out/go out).  The virus has certainly changed us and how we interact with others.  This week Louise had a good friend stop for a nice socially distanced visit & hike down our trails thru the woods and around the ponds ... first time in 2-years that we had company at our home. 

One thing that we've done that's helped us adapt tremendously has been a series of projects - many chronicled on this webpage.  And, to celebrate these recent activities Louise had a jigsaw puzzle made for me that shows what we've been up to. It's a nifty gift celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary and our well-lived life.  Nine pictures surround a large picture of Mike the day his new "zero-turn" Toro arrived. 

The other pix?  Start with center top, Louise captured a swell close-up of two cabinet doors reflecting a total make-over in our laundry room.  Next, our new shed ... storing lawn and snow removal equipment.  Two pix below the shed: (L) is a small bench, one of a dozen Mike made in the past year or two, strategically placed around yard and trails ... and (R) Ripley in his heated bed - not a project ... the little guy is just part of our family.  Lower right:  the Pod - a fun project - a quirky table that we made for brother John in Florida.

Lower left:  bridge over the "great gorge" connects North and South trails thru our woods.  "We built a bridge!" Mike likes to say.  Above the bridge is, of course, the lovely Louise ... who makes much of what we do here on planet Earth to be fun.  And worthwhile.  At 9 o'clock: snapshot of our deck and East side of home - the deck by itself is an ongoing project, but also shown, more subtly, are the new gutters with "leaf filter" ... which, so far, is working out nicely (keeping gutters leaf-free).  Above the deck: a wind chime Mike rebuilt for Louise that features cypress panels on all 4-sides.

Five hundred or so pieces make up the jig saw - which Mike admits, was quite fun - almost addicting to put it all together.

posted 10.14.22 as he hummed: "happy anniversary to us, happy anniversary."

At A Glance ... Mike's Brain Does Not Compute: "Mankiller?"

Before tossing the blue jeans into laundry basket Mike dumps pocket change and car keys on table ... the shiniest coin in the small pile caught his eye.  "Hmmm, what have we here?" wondering, "sumpthin new?"  The brilliant star ... something related to the lone star state (Texas)?  The youthful female face and her flowing hair didn't register but then his eyes focused on the name: Wilma Mankiller.  Mankiller?   Ever since he was a kid, influenced perhaps by his Dad's coin collections, Mike has been fascinated by coins.  So much so that even at a young age (7 or 8?) Mike instantly identified the rare Indian-head penny a gas station mechanic had just given to him (change for a nickel, Mister?) so he could buy a penny-gumball.

A day or so passes before Mike takes the time to check the Google to see why we have Mankiller stamped on a U.S. Quarter.  Turns out Wilma's coin is part of a new series from the creative folks at our US Mint called American Women Quarters, recently released.  Mankiller, Mike learns, is "the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and an activist for Native American and women’s rights," says US Mint.  [Learn more if interested

Other notable honorees:

  • Maya Angelou – celebrated author, performer, and social activist
  • Dr. Sally Ride – physicist and first American woman in space
  • Nina Otero-Warren – a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement
  • Anna May Wong – first Chinese American woman to be a Hollywood film star, director, and producer

posted 09.15.22 ... 617 days since the US Capitol was attacked by insurrectionists.

Path to latest piece of strudel: from Sweet Jane to birth control & a beer

My apologies for neglecting my Strudel Stories - as regular readers here can attest: we've been busy with projects! Pods & painting, bridges and cabinets ... generating a mountain of sawdust (which gets spread on our trails to supplement the wood chips). So you may be asking yourself: "how did I get here?"  Oh, wait, those are lyrics from a David Byrne tune.  No, you may be asking yourself: what's a piece of strudel?  Hmmm, good question Grasshopper. A piece of strudel is shorthand " ... to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry."  Still lost?  One can retrace prior servings of decadent strudel treats through these links:  One, Two, Three, Four.

But our latest delicious bit of connected tissue begins with Elvis and his unique 1956 rendition of a classic Rodgers & Hart tune: Blue Moon.   For years artists performed the song much like Al Bowlly who popularized the song in 1930's.  Decades later the Marcels enjoyed a breakout with their doo-wop rendition ("bomp-baba-bomp") but in-between those two versions came the first rock-n-roll crossover by an emerging Elvis Presley ... RCA included his version on his debut album (when Louise & I were just 3-yrs old) ... Blue Moon is a tune I've long enjoyed, and have probably a dozen or more renditions ... from Mel Torme to Billie Holiday.  But I don't recall hearing Elvis' version until just recently. The closest any other group or singer has come to replicating Elvis' style is probably the Cowboy Junkies ... lead singer Margo Timmins sounding much like the female Elvis ... slow & sultry. 

The next succulent layer of strudel was discovered when YouTube, as they are prone to do, suggested my life would be enriched if I were to select/listen to similar tunes displayed off to the side as they attempt to keep us online and exposed to more annoying pop-up ads. Sweet Jane, a fun little song Lou Reed wrote while headlining the Velvet Underground.  College party pals: Tedd & Gary often referred to one of our dorm RA's as Sweet Jane ... which made sense ... her 1st name was indeed, Jane.  Anyway, the Cowboy Junkies rendition is rich and timeless ... and they're Canadian! What's not to like about talented Canadians? (Think Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Shania Twain ... music fans whose brains are not stuck/frozen in the 70's/80's may also suggest: famous Canadians Drake or Celine Dion.)

Which leads to the last layer of this fine pastry - website Second.Hand.Songs is a valuable resource when you try finding the answer to that age-old question: ok, who ELSE recorded this song???  I know, many folks merely turn to their new best friend Alexa in such cases: "hey Alexa ... what bands recorded Sweet Jane?"  Likely Alexa wouldn't have found Two Nice Girls, but I did, thanks to a forum at Second.Hand.Songs.  Which reminds me: "Did you ever see heaven right in your arms, saying, "I love you, I do" Well, the dream that was walking and the dream that was talking And the heaven in my arms was you!"  Ok, ok, wrong song ... but it just seemed to fit into the flow of our dialogue.  Mott The Hoople has a particularly catchy version that I can put on a loop & listen ... Sweet Jane!       But let's get back to 2 Nice Girls ... they recorded a simple, sweet version, and then I found another version of Sweet Jane they mashed-up with "Love & Affection" by Joan Armatrading.  Sing it, sing it!  Both versions have merit.

By now ... my hunch is ... you are getting the hang of this drill ... 'cuz the next obvious question we need to answer has to be: what else has the group 2 Nice Girls recorded?  The title made me smile: I Spent My Last $10 (On Birth Control and Beer).  Catchy little tune.  [Chorus Lyrics: I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer But the love of a strong hairy man has turned my head I fear And made me spend my last ten bucks on birth control and beer.]     I'm resisting a smart-ass connection to Sam Alito and our insane SCOTUS ... but it's hard.  I'd hate to ruin a particularly delicious slice of strudel.

posted 07.30.22

This Pod Will Remind Us: A Good Plan Is Better Than None At All

The plans were most likely covered in a bit of dust ... the idea for the newly built Spring House in Tallahassee, FL was to feature furniture designed by the architect who designed the home ... but those plans sat and ripened for sixty-nine years.  The architect mentioned would be Frank Lloyd Wright, and the house would be just a 1/3 of a mile from brother John's home, as the crow flies.  John has participated in several projects and fund-raisers to help restore and maintain the unique house - the only private residence in Florida designed by Wright, and in April John asked if I may be interested in helping build a table or Pod ... that never was.

The table Wright envisioned was referred to as a Pod because of it's unique shape - much like the Spring House it self - loosely resembling the bow of a boat.  A Pod. John said Wright's Pod plans would be made available. "Would you be interested in producing a "Pod" from Wright's designs in your workshop?"  Goodness, what a compliment - to think big bro may be skilled enough working with wood to tackle a FLW project.  The only catch was I had to agree to not proceed in making additional Pods for profit ... no QVC channel selling 'genuine Wright Pods'.  

Naturally I said yes.  (Actually, I probably said: "absofreakinglutely!")Louise & I were in the midst of painting the interior of our house ... a project that was years overdue, so as much as the Pod Project interested me - it'd have to wait a few months, if that was ok with the Spring House Institute.   Meanwhile, a tiny copy of the "plans" were sent here electronically and the wheels began turning it my head: how to build it given my limited workshop & skill.  I researched other building projects designed by Wright, as well as searched for products to produce the finish & color the Spring House folks requested. 

In June Louise & I decided to take a mini-pause from painting to tackle this Pod and other projects that were screaming for attention (like landscaping chores with spring in full bloom).  Well, in a bit over 3-weeks our version of the Pod was carefully packaged and shipped.  The picture above/right was captured in Michigan ... prior to transport to Florida.

To left is photo of Byrd Mashburn, recipient of the Pod at Spring House, Tallahassee.  The images provide us with rich memories of a fun little project from the GoodPlanet workshop.  It proudly stands 18" tall, 24" wide, 36" long. 

And no, the Pod is not going to be re-produced, traded, or sold. But, if you're curious & wish to see how we built it, here's a link to a .pdf file showing our interpretation of Mr. Wright's Pod and development from the lumberyard to shipment: http://www.michaeldawson.com/pod-project-photo-album-public.pdf

In hindsight, the Spring House Pod was much like the Card That Never Was mentioned below.  Article wordsmitten and posted with pride 07.11.22 ... photo of delivered Pod 07.23.22;  Spring House logo © Spring House Institute.

Happy Father's Day

It's among my fav snapshots of my father, Ralph Dawson ... captured in the spring of '57 but not on Father's Day because I can see Mom in background, pregnant.  I was 3-yrs old going on 4.  Brother Tom was born in early June - so this may have been an Easter Sunday pose ... Louise loves the little suits-n-ties Grace had us wearing back in the day. 

Dad was a snappy dresser ... one of the original "Mad Men" ad execs, back-in-the-day.  (Previously Dad was WJR's ad sales mgr.  Big brother Pat says by '57 Dad had moved to WXYZ-TV.)  He died way too young in '72, my 1st year in college.

posted Sunday 06.19.22 (corrected 11.06.23)

Today's 'Rabbit-Hole'? 

 It takes little to divert this old guy's attention

The other day I mentioned (last paragraph in article below) that the photo of the woman about to dive from the dock "... looks as if she's modeling to be the next hood ornament on a big old Packard."  Ever since writing that the notion has stuck in my mind like a jelly bean sticks to my dental work - so much so that now every time I glance at the newly framed pictures in our remodeled den I see the pose and think: hood ornaments.

I even Googled the topic and quickly found several fun articles about automotive hood ornaments and their designs over the years ... and naturally captured thumbnail copies of a few that struck a cord with me.  No doubt some enterprising author has published a book on the topic - probably several.  (Advance notice to relatives who like buying me coffee table books on topics like this: don't do it.  By the time my birthday rolls around I'll have moved on to some other quirky subject.)

But shown to left are three hood ornaments that I find creative and appealing.  Cool, aren't they?  Can you guess which vehicles they are from?

Greyhound - while the "Roaring Jaguar" is among the most popular animal hood ornaments, my vote in this category is for the "Leaping Greyhound" found in the '30's on the Lincoln.

Pontiac Motors' Chief of the Sixes is my next current fav - the reference to the car maker's 6-cylinder car.  On assorted Pontiac models through the 1950’s ... the likeness of an Indian Chief in Lucite on chrome, mounted on the car’s hood.

Nash Rambler hood ornament designed by George Petty in Art Deco Chrome.  Shown here, the "Flying Goddess" adorns the splendid 1955 Nash Statesmen.

posted 05.31.22

Make-Over A Great Time To Expand Golden Era Of Sport Celebration

 ... with a bit of diversity

So the parade of projects continues - this year the focus has been paint ... as you may have read below we tackled the laundry & workshop last year.  This spring we continued marching South thru the back hall, ½ bath, morning room, kitchen & dining areas ... in our den we decided to be daring with a wall of red.  As Louise puts it on her Facebook page: "It is quite a departure from our all-white home. This is my hubby's room and it was his idea to paint dark green or red. Glad he chose this color."  This is the wall where I put some of my favorite classic baseball cards: Babe Ruth, Mickey Cochran, Jimmie Foxx, and Charlie Gehringer along with the "Sport Kings" collection which I wrote about a few years ago.  

This collection included two female athletes (Olympic gold medalist and World Swimming champ Helene Madison, and golfer Mildred Ella “Babe" Didrikson Zaharias) ... but male athletes easily dominated the group.  So I decided the collection of characters from the Golden Age of Sport (1930’s) needed help to be a bit better balanced ... so I recruited into service another golfing pioneer and an anonymous but daring diver.  Shown above, our brilliant red wall and vintage sporting characters, now flanked by two female athletes from the same era:

Marion Hollins - 1892 • 1944
American amateur golfer, golf course developer, winner of U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in 1921. Hollins competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur 15-times, and enjoyed dozens of competitive golf victories (such as the Pebble Beach Women’s Championship - 7 times … and twice she won the Long Island (NY) Women’s Championship. Hollins competed throughout America at a time when golf was just beginning to catch on with the sporting public, as well as competition abroad in England & France. As a young business woman, Hollins helped develop Cypress Pointe and Pasatiempo Golf Club (both in CA) and was instrumental referring golf course architect Alister MacKenzie to help design Augusta National Golf Club with Bobby Jones. Hollins was proficient in many sporting endeavors in addition to golf: assorted equestrian events, tennis, marksmanship, swimming, and even automobile racing.

The Daring Diver - have no idea what her name is ... or where the picture was taken.  Do you?  I just liked the picture, and think she adds a great deal to the display.  She looks as if she's modeling to be the next hood ornament on a big old Packard hauling Ms. Hollins around scenic Monterey Peninsula.

The living room is getting painted now - back to the all-white pallet.  Then after a wee pause to tackle some outdoor chores, we'll return this summer to finish the job ... painting bedroom & bath.  It's been a lot of fun and I know Louise has wanted to tackle this for quite some time.  Then our focus will be on floors.  They need attention! Stay tuned.

posted 05.24.22

True today, just as it was 10-yrs ago ... the joy is in the doing

 ... we love our projects!

The device with an old fashioned telephone dial attached to it may not be recognizable to half the world's population.  Dial phones lost favor to push buttons in the early '80's and joins its place in history next to yellow page phone books, TV antennas, and home delivery of ice and/or coal.  So ... how is that related to "joy" (mentioned in headline above)?

Oh, just follow along ...  we'll connect the dots.  As regular readers here may have noticed Louise & I have been on a tear around HighPoint with a variety of projects.  (Roughly 117 projects in the past 12-months, says Mike, the keeper of lists - while repeating the mantra learned from Janet Disbrow: "can't manage what you don't measure.") 

We love being busy and learning new things, and finding ways to get stuff done ourselves rather than hiring others to do our chores.  It saves us too from an affliction some call boredom ... and, gives us great satisfaction tackling all we can and saving money in the process.  The quest for happiness for many folks revolves around vacations and travel.  For the two of us, happiness is right here ... safe and sound ... Louise creating amazing art through her looms and camera lens (while Mike makes a boat-load of sawdust, learning how to make his chisels scary sharp).

That's 'cuz "the joy is in the doing" which is a 'nuther one of those mottos that Ripley often hears us repeating.  Yep, I know, it's in the headline above too.  About 10-yrs ago Louise wrote about the concept on our business webpage - which we've archived here if you'd like to see it [link].

So it all came full circle this morning when brother John sent an email saying:  "Look what’s new in the cell phone industry!" with a link .   When we stopped laughing and rolling on the floor we opted to read more and have concluded the rotary dial phone is actually kinda' neat.  The organization behind this genius is Sky's Edge, an open source tech site with a number of references that reminded me a bit of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.

Sky's Edge is an invention factory ... the brain child of Justine Haupt, who shares quite a few of her personal philosophies throughout her web-site ...  the Rotary Un-Smartphone™ Kit ... a cellphone.  "You know ... for making CALLS," Haupt says and it's just $390.  Much of the site reminded me of the thoughts above & that mantra we hold dear: "the joy is in the doing."  We found a similar notion on Haupt's site: "The Purpose of Work" [link]  where she  says ... "the end result of work is supposed to be happiness". 

Check it out - might be time for a new cell phone ... for making calls!  Novel idea.
posted with a smile plastered on my pudgy face this Wednesday 04.27.22

Back in the day ...

 ... when postal deliveries arrived more than once a day

For as long as I can remember I've had a glassine envelope filled with assorted postage stamps.  What's a "glassine envelope" you ask?  It feels a bit like waxed paper - the postage stamps from bygone days had glue on back that one would moisten to affix to a letter or package ... so the anti-stick quality of the glassine envelope was a nice attribute.  And why would someone have a collection of old stamps?  Well, Bucko, prior to the creation of the "forever stamp" most anytime the USPS raised prices we'd get 1¢ and 2¢ stamps to combine with our stash of older first class stamps. (For those of you who no longer mail much of anything in this high-tech world, I realize you may need a moment here to scan through your memory bank to recall: 'what the heck is a forever stamp?') 

The other day I needed to sort through my stamp collection and found just about what I needed: Ike's 8¢ stamp was close enough (I actually needed a 7¢ stamp but given the destruction Louis DeJoy, Donald Trump's criminal Post Master General, has inflicted on the nation's post office, I'm happy to let 'em "keep the change").  Along with the Ike stamps was a filler piece that caught my eye that was meant to urge consumers to "mail early in the day" ... because prior to 1950 most metropolitan areas had home delivery twice a day.  Can you imagine?  Mail volume has dropped so much now in this digital age with folks paying bills online, and zapping internet messages to each other (vs. taking a moment to write Grandma a hand-written thank you note for the birthday gift).  We used to send lots of notes and cards through the mail.  But today when we learn about a dear friend passing, we post a messages on Facebook

Another goofy reminiscence by MKD on 04.15.22 (Oh, and Happy Easter to all ... I didn't have time to send out cards.)

What's A Guy To Do ...
When His Cigar Boxes Are Worth More Than Contents
?

The short history of a fixture made for HighPoint workshop

Building & remodeling projects keep us busy and help bring order to our lives in this crazy, often mad, world. This fixture was originally designed to hold seven cigar boxes containing small parts and materials like hinges, or, router bits, and plenty of assorted nails: finishing, common, roofing + an array of brads & tacks! The Tower of Thinga-ma-bobs & Whatcha-ma-call-its brought order to the stuff that often fills old empty coffee cans and dusty toolboxes thanks to a steady supply of cigar boxes from Perry Harding, family friend and cigar loving fellow from in Greenbush, MI. It was just what was needed to organize “stuff” in 1982 when Mike & Louise moved to Westover Pass, Gr. Blanc. All materials for the “tower” were salvaged from assorted projects, like the sides ... made from 1x8 pine boards that had supported curtains & valance in the living & dining rooms that Jerry Foutch former homeowner had assembled. The pegboard back panel came from some workbench project in the basement.

Flash forward nearly four decades, Mike’s workshop was in serious need reorganizing. Several new shelf units were built to organize “stuff” and the array of Perry’s cigar boxes, now filled with miscellaneous parts of questionable value, had expanded … so now the fixture needed to hold 21 boxes.

Again the use of salvaged materials made expansion possible: the top was fashioned out of an old maple cutting board that was retired from kitchen duty (due to a couple cracks) … a portion of the bottom was a scrap of melamine covered particle board from a JJ Cardinal’s store fixture Mike made 17-yrs ago. The 2 new side pieces were salvaged from the 3/4” plywood used on kitchen island to support the granite countertop installed in 2004 (range cook top insert cutout). Additional pegboard backing was leftover from another ancient JJCardinal's fixture. The support strips? Plywood scraps from old laundry room cabinets that now hang in workshop (cuttings from modified shelving). The maple edge-banding on front? … they came from new laundry cabinets Mike & Louise made (2021). Even the paint was leftover from the workshop makeover in 2021.

Likely, over time, the cigar boxes will be worth more than the modified contents of bits of metal, plastic & wood.
posted 03.27.22

High Pointe Solar Array Celebrates "Birthday"!
Ten years ago we began making energy from sunlight.  February 1st, 2012 our solar array was switched "on".  Why did we become "early adopters"?  Good question - especially during an era when the anti-science deplorable radical-right-wing-extremists continue to be climate-change deniers ... calling it a hoax.  The rest of us are moving on (and leaving them behind).

When it was time to replace our natural gas powered forced air furnace in 2012 we opted for Geo Thermal which uses the Earth's temp 5-feet down in the ground to heat & cool our home.  No fossil fuel is burned.  The Geo system relies on electric power so we added an array of 20 solar panels mounted on a neat rack constructed in our backyard.  Since then we've shared our production data, particularly for those who think only Southern states get enough sun to justify the investment ... because it's a false narrative.  Even in cloudy Michigan where half the year you need a sweater or jacket when venturing outdoors ... we generate electricity from the sun.  Year 'round.   Since 2012 our solar panels generated 41.8 megawatt hours of power, reducing our energy bill by $7,140.
Photo-story Link 
posted 02.01.22
Updated 08.15.22 Lifetime solar production now up to 44.4 megawatt hours ... reducing our energy costs by $7,577

Update: the Mike-Gyver Files

Louise's "fixer" of broken things keeps learning new tricks, and simple fixes.  Even 'how-to' make chisels "scary sharp."  A couple years ago one of Louise (and Mike's) nieces dubbed the latest workshop creation or repair as "another genuine Mike-Gyver" in honor of the '90s era TV program: "MacGyver".      [link to article below]

So what's the big guy been making now, you ask?  Another cabinet for the laundry room and a little crate to hold "things worth keeping" ... like: manuals for washer/dryer.  Also had to make a repair to another project previously mentioned: fixing a broken toilet paper holder ... it needed a screw.  "Making our world just a tiny bit safer," Mike says with glee.  Posted 01.18.22

Louise's Baby Just Turned 30

J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store recently celebrated it's 30th anniversary ... 30 consecutive years of operation in Grand Blanc, MI of all places!  The past 4-years the store has been owned and operated by new owners: Gretchen & Ken Giles are making it happen these days along with help of long-time associates like Tammy.  How is it possible? 

Certainly plenty of hard work over the years and good fortune has driven it's success and adds to the appeal this cute little shop.  The product offering remains basically the same: the best nature has to offer ... but Gretchen's love for plant life has expanded the shop's reach into more gardening related products including plants.

This year, as in the past, attractive gifts from J.J. Cardinal's will certainly put big smiles on people's faces.  "Stop in today," says Louise, creator & founder of J.J. Cardinal's.

posted 12.12.21

We're Happily Well Seated ... 'er, Benched!

A spin-off activity this summer dovetails nicely with our other projects mentioned below ... that would be crafting assorted funky benches to position around our trails thru the woods giving Louise places to park and take a load off.  (As in: rest.)  If you missed the previous thread of activity here at High Point this year, here's a quick recap (as it pertains to a bench):  First, we had to drop a beautiful oak tree when we built our shed - and decided to turn the trunk of the tree into useful slabs of lumber with the help of a local portable sawmill service.  Then just this past month we used some of the slabs of oak for the deck of our new Bridge (see below).

Some of the scraps and leftover pieces of oak were perfect to create a bunch of benches (so far, we're at 14) ... shown to left is one I built today.  It proudly stands 19" tall and about 27" long ... little pieces of pressure treated wood serve as the "bench slippers" to help the bench remain upright (and reduce rot & decay).  When time allows we'll capture pix of the other 13 benches and create a collage.  posted 11.11.21

Our Parade of Projects Keeps Rolling!

Prior to 1957 travelers in the state of Michigan had to take a ferry to traverse Michigan's upper & lower peninsulas - then the original Big Mac ... The Mackinac Bridge ... was built.  So we can relate in a small way to the thrill folks in and around St. Ignace & Mackinaw City must have felt when their universe suddenly expanded ... 'cuz we've just built a bridge of our own which spans a depression on our property we refer to as "the Great Gorge".  The 16-foot span over the gorge is dwarfed by the Big Mac's 26,372-feet span over the straits of Mackinaw ... but it allows us to connect the trails along the North side with the South side of HighPointe.

It took us just a few weeks to build the bridge which is a good thing 'cuz winter (and frozen turf) approaches.  It's been a wet autumn around our home ... which translates to MUD ... the trails will dry out soon and when it does, you can bet we'll be out riding our Gator and enjoying our special world.

Louise posted the video clip shown above on her Facebook page of the inaugural ride across our sturdy little bridge.  posted 11.02.21

Men At Work

Hard to say what influences us sometimes.  Perhaps watching plenty of PBS documentaries - loaded with history shapes our minds ... Ken Burns' movies (Civil War, Baseball, Brooklyn Bridge, and now Muhammad Ali).  Maybe images and stories on Shorpy.  Whatever it may be, Louise is into her "Men At Work" photos ... many of these have appeared on her Facebook page.  And it has been quite a year of projects as mentioned below ... lots of sweat, dirt, and it can be hard on even the toughest work clothes (like Mike's wardrobe of Duluth Trading Company gear).

Louise captured Mike as he's digging out some of the roots from the spruce trees that were cut down earlier this summer.  "Gotta' get some grass & clover (all over) seed down so we can get some sprouts this fall before the snow flies," Mike says.

Thank goodness for the pickaxe.  There were a few roots Mike actually used his electric reciprocating saw to cut out - but most were removed with brute force with an ax.  We don't shy away from tackling chores and who knows how many more years he'll be able to tackle the physical tasks - so its good to have a brief photographic record of that period when he could split a log or hand-dig a trench. (Some purists think the tool Mike's using is actually a "mattock".)

This week: spreading 6 cubic yards of topsoil over spots like this root project and the gutter drain project.  Autumn has arrived.

posted 09.30.21 

Technology Can Lead To Closure

Bringing closure to a small piece of the madness that surrounds us ... like having faith in science to produce a vaccine that can end a pandemic ... assuming all the people of the world have access to it - and the lunatic fringe, anti-vax crowd begin to realize they can have a shot, or buy a plot: 3' x 9' ... dug 6' deep.  We're tired of screaming at the TV every time the news media produces another one of those human interest segments of well-intentioned people advocating how we "gotta' meet people where they are at".  Without being judgmental, they say, we must answer the questions these hesitant folks may have and allow them to decide to do the right thing."  Well, some are - too many aren't.  And the radical right-wing nuts are now attacking our public school systems as they resist the one mitigation effort that has proven to be effective: WEARING A FREAKING MASK.  Enough!

So we dwell on things within our control ... remain isolated - social distancing, and enjoying our own little universe - a small one.  Like focusing on a subset of like minded friends & family to help us all to remain safe and sane.  We're staying productive, engaged, active, & fit - mentally & physically.  Thank goodness for the many projects mentioned below like building our Laundry Make Over and building our Wee Shed ... that cute little structure we've needed for quite some time to house our assorted lawn and snow removal equipment.

Back in the day we had fun making and selling little ornaments at our store, crafted from scraps of barn-wood and rusty metal.  "Who Left The Barn Door Open?" became a theme for some of us.  A metaphor of sorts.  Is the job really done?  No lose ends left for someone else to stumble over?   Did you think ahead?   ... plan for potential consequences?  ... prepared?

One design consideration we had for our wee little shed was be able to see from the house and confirm: "is the shed door open or closed?"  Pretty simple.  But the additional consequences of leaving a shed open by mistake ... and discovering it's open some cold rainy evening - having to dash out to close a freaking door ... didn't sound appealing.  Thankfully, technology - albeit nothing new - solves this made-up, manufactured dilemma.  Close it, Dan-O.  Damn shame this Genie device doesn't work on wing-nuts.

posted 09.15.21
update 09.19.21
Louise painted the doors ... so here's our wee Shed - actual vs. concept ... "plan your work; work your plan."

Leader of '68 Tigers World Series Passes

A few years ago Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press wrote a nice feature story about legendary Detroit Tiger catcher, Bill Freehan.  Bill died at age 79 this week after struggling through the past several years with dementia.  Freehan was one of the best American League catchers during his 15-yr major league career - a native Detroiter, and spent his entire pro baseball career with the Tigers.  Many of his former teammates have said the guy belongs in the Hall of Fame ... PSA* says that Freehan "caught 1,581 games, with 706 runs, 1,591 hits, and a .262 batting average. His home runs (200) and total bases (2,502) totals placed him behind only Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey for American League catchers in those categories ..."  Berra and Dickey are members of the Hall of Fame - I'm lucky to have Berra's autograph on a photo Louise gave to me a few years ago ... one of my favorite collectables, and a vintage 1935 Bill Dickey baseball card that my father saved.

My older brother Pat and I are lucky to have attended the 1968 World Series game #5 with our father which featured one of Freehan's outstanding plays on the field.  The game story by the Detroit Free Press describes nicely the classic action photo (shown above/right): "In the pivotal play of the Fall Classic, with the Tigers trailing St. Louis 3-1 in the series and 3-2 in the fifth inning of Game 5, the Cardinals threatened to extend their lead on a sharp single by Julian Javier. Speedster Lou Brock tried to score standing up, but left fielder Willie Horton made a perfect one-hop throw to Freehan. The play was captured by Free Press photographer Tony Spina showing Freehan tagging Brock while blocking him from touching the edge of home plate."

The 1965 Topps baseball card #390 (above/left) in my collection is in nice condition two corners slightly smashed, but otherwise it's nearly pristine.  Maybe a PSA grade 4 or 5?  It's likely worth more to me than what the card would fetch in the marketplace these days.  * PSA - Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is a division of Collectors Universe, Inc.

posted 08.21.21

 
Update: makeover progress  

The other day we mentioned  our laundry room is getting a make-over (below "One Thing Leads To Another"). "A total gut job," as Christina Haack would say on Flip-or-Flop

As the nation is learning, it's best to tackle infrastructure first.  So, our plumber replaced the water and drain lines - out went the old utility tub and in it's place sits a new hard maple cabinet that we built to hold the new utility sink ... we patched the wall (right) and connected our new laundry appliances. 

Then we went to work building some new upper cabinets which got hung over the weekend.  Louise finished the doors which were hung on Tuesday.  Don't the simple, round knobs look swell?  (Mike just loves the photo Louise captured!) Meanwhile, Mike is now building the remaining 3 cabinets and L-shaped counter-top.  Ripley's a bit confused ... he thought for sure the project was coming to a conclusion.  Sorry, kitty, you're getting a new linoleum floor too.

posted originally 07.14.21, updated 08.09.21 & again 08.11.21

News Story Confounds Bible Thumpers

"Michigan's Lake Huron sinkhole is a window into how Earth's earliest forms of life diversified".  The headline caught my eye ... two aspects to a news story that I spotted online today appealed to my brain:  1) a sink hole in Lake Huron (just a few hundred feet North of Middle Island, which is just East of Alpena, Michigan) and 2) the quote: "cyanobacteria evolved more than 2.4 billion years ago" ... I know reference to life beginning on planet Earth more than 6,000 years ago just drives the radical right-wing Bible thumpers just absolutely MAD.

As a kid I grew up on the shore of Lake Huron, about 45 minutes South of the red balloon on the map.   CNN picked up the story [link] published in the Nature Geoscience journal.

posted 08.03.21

Happy 97th, Mom! 

Celebrating (last week) what would have been Mom's 97th birthday ... years back I posted a cute little movie clip on YouTube of Mom recalling one of her fav childhood tunes: Mares Eat Oats  - but the account changed and I seem to have misplaced the file. While I continue to search for it on some back-up discs, here's another fun little tune Mom liked to repeat..."Show Me The Way To Go Home" captured 11.08.12.

Show me the way to go
I'm tired and I wanna go to bed
I had a little drink About an hour ago
And it's gone straight To my head
Where ever I may roam
On land or sea or form
You can always hear me Singing a song: Show me the way to your home!

posted 07.28.21

This Is Only A Test ... 

... a test of a new hinge solution for the new cabinets Louise & Mike are building for their laundry room (continuation of the article below "One Thing Leads To Another").  With sawdust flying in the workshop, Louise is wisely finishing the maple doors in the dining room as Mike tries to figure out how to install the "Euro-style" concealed soft-closure cabinet hinges shown in the photo inset.  What began as a short-stack of maple  1x3" boards  and some maple veneer plywood is now being transformed into new fully functioning cabinets.  At least that's the plan.  These first two doors will go on the new utility sink cabinet next to a gleaming pair of American-assembled GE washer/dryer appliances.  The new "old-timey" style linoleum tiles are due to arrive any day ... and with the colorful tiles in hand, Louise will pick out some paint that will not be white.  Shocking news, I know.  Stay tuned.  (Mike has 5 more cabinets to build - this may take a little while.) 

posted 07.18.21

Wooded property & clogged gutters

It seems that most folks who live near a bunch of trees generally battle with leaves, gutters, and ice-dams.  Keeping gutters clean along the front side of house is never a problem - it's a single story. But out back we're talking "two-stories" as our property slopes rapidly toward the pond at the Northwest corner of our property.  Mike is not a guy who does well on ladders.

So, after studying the array of gutter systems available today we've opted for a "non-branded" system featuring a perforated aluminum screen built into our new gutters.  So far, so good ... installed late fall last year after most leaves had already fallen.  That mean this autumn will be it's first big test.

I'd like to find one of those sewer cleaner guys with a camera on a "snake" to inspect the sealed gutters to see if any debris is accumulating (inside the gutter).  Last summer, Mike replaced the buried gutter drains that divert rain water away from our foundation. 

 project completed 11.12.21

 
time that has gone so fast 

In 2007 Paul McCartney (of Beetles fame for those under age 50) released a tune, Ever Present Past, that I've always liked - nice tempo ... creative & catchy.  But this morning I was pondering the lyrics - especially the part about "it went by, in a flash":

I've got too much on my plate
Don't have no time to be a decent lover
I hope it isn't too late
Searching for the time that has gone so fast
The time that I thought would last
My ever present past
I've got too much on my mind
I think of everything to be discovered
I hope there's something to find
Searching for the time that has gone so fast
The time that I thought would last
My ever present past
The things I think I did
I did, I did, I did
The things I think I did
When I was a kid
I couldn't understand a word that they were saying
But, still, I hung around and took it all in
I wouldn't join in with the games that they were playing
It went by, it went by, in a flash
It flew by, it flew by, in a flash
There's far too much on my plate
Don't have no time to be a decent lover
I hope it's never too late
Searching for the time that has gone so fast
The time that I thought would last
My ever present past
The things I think I did
I did, I did, I did
The things I think I did
When I was a kid
When I was a ...
The things I think I did
I did, I did, I did
The things I think I did
When I was a kid
When I was a kid

link
posted 07.11.21

One Thing Leads To Another ...

Our washing machine died, and as it often happens, the solution couldn't be a simple repair call to a repair shoppe.  The unit was nearing the end of it's projected useful life - so why toss good money - yada, yada.  Nope.  Replacing the appliance simply became the launching point for a total laundry room makeover:  new utility sink to replace the 60's era DuraTub is about to be installed in a new cabinet that is being crafted in the freshly painted, reorganized, casterized workshop*.  A companion gas dryer with fresh new venting & gas lines will be coming along too.

'tis an opportunity too, Mike surmised, to justify replacing the pedestrian 1985 Black-n-Decker circular saw with a new DeWalt.  "Need crisp, clean cuts," Mike says with a straight face.  "Minimal tear-out is the goal."  The B&D saw's been a workhorse - a pretty decent saw, Mike says as he visualizes thirty-plus years of household projects - but not a tool for fine cabinetry.  That's the goal: to craft the sorta' laundry room space she's always wanted.  "Three decades in the making," Mike says, speaking of dreams.  It'll be a furious weekend with saw dust flying ... already fetched some lumber the other day, new LED ceiling lights too ... even ordered new/old style linoleum tile floor to give the space a fresh, springy vibe.  The Shed project mentioned below continues to limp along: roof freshly shingled, garage door arrived and hopefully will get installed in the coming week, along with electric service.  (Photo gallery continues to be updated.) 

posted 07.10.21 
* casterized workshop = moveable shelves, tools.  Note to self: might be nice if one were to capture photographically what we're talking about here just to illustrate.  

It's happening ... and you, too, can watch our progress.

We're building a shed.  The picture above was captured on Day One of framing ... today up on the roof we have some tar-paper on top of the sheathing they put up yesterday before the rain began falling.   The garage/shed project was only an idea ... a concept, for years ... but it's finally a reality.  The shed will be our handy storage structure for lawn & snow removal equipment.  We had planned to build it in 2020 then the pandemic happened.  And now we have the Gator utility vehicle which also needs shelter.  So we're thrilled: after getting vaccinated in March/April our situation & outlook, as many folks have discovered, has improved dramatically.  We found a quality builder: Tri-City Construction, based in Flint the past 38-years, and even with labor & material shortages we're feeling fortunate to have some good guys who do good work.  The cement was poured last week and framing has begun - it could be finished in a few days if the weatherman would cooperate.  The green/blue tint on inside of OSB means nothing ... and Mike's still thinking he'll paint the interior before moving stuff inside.  The slot (8" x 8') on that back wall is for a thin transom window facing South to let some light into the shed. 

updated: 02.26.24 ... photo-album removed.

With much of the country facing drought this summer, including Northern Michigan, we're fortunate it's wet & green here in Genesee County.  The soggy NOAA 7-day outlook for our community:

There's Always A Chance We Can Learn Something ...

... learn something new.  In this case: how to operate a simple log splitter.  Our neighbor, Hank, was kind to offer the use of his Huskee Log Splitter.  Not the fastest log splitting device known to man but simple to operate, and powerful.  We had to drop two good sized oak trees in preparation for building our shed and as reported below one of the trees got "slabbed" by our portable sawmill guy, but there was plenty of oak that got cut into fireplace length.  Rather than splitting it by hand it was sure handy to have this mechanical assist to tackle the remainder of the log pile.  I'll check moisture content later this fall - by winter it should be dry enough to burn.

Louise even captured a short action-packed video [link].
posted 06.02.21

Schwinn Monogram Saddle ...

... instantly recognized.  Mike's brother John sent the big guy an early bday gift: a vintage 1962 Schwinn Racer bicycle that Mike had when he was just 9-yrs old.  Memories that took root nearly 59-years ago, deeply imbedded - it was, after all, a really BIG DEAL for a 9-year old kid to get a brand new bike and became an all-time fav. 

While opening the shipping carton Mike first spotted the seat and the flood-gates of memories began to surface.  "This is exactly as I remember it," Mike says as he's holding the black-n-white seat he now knows vintage bicycle collectors refer to as the Schwinn Monogram Saddle with a big S.

Natch, Mike did some light "research" and found that many of the parts on Schwinn bikes were made by a variety of vendors from around the globe.  This was made by the Mesinger Bicycle Saddle Company, a New York firm that has made seats for bikes since 1896.  "... with extra cushioning! for a smooth ride."  The 3-speed shifter was made by Sturmey-Archer in England - to this day they're a dependable maker of quality internal gear hubs.  Well, you get the idea ... old guy reliving a small chunk of his youth.  Louise captured the day with photos.  [Link]

posted 05.17.21

So Now We Wait ...

... for the oak to dry.  It's all stacked in garage where our  snow plow normally rests in the summer.  With new garage/shed being built, the Meyer snow plow will move into that new space - meanwhile it's being stored at the repair shop, it's mounting connection to Whitey requiring a quick fix.  So the long oak planks mentioned in the "sawmill" tale below have a nice dry, flat storage space. 

Oh, by the way, while stacking the planks we recomputed the volume of wood pile ... the estimate of 181 board feet has grown to 207.  Two more steps before closing this chapter: 1. seal end grain with a product called Anchorseal, an oil/wax concoction Mike has on order (to reduce cracking and checking); and 2. place some weight, evenly on the pile to encourage boards to remain flat.

Several people have asked: "Whatcha-gonna do with it?"  Not sure.  The vast quantity of Red Oak likely exceeds the volume of oak hardwood purchased over the past 42-yrs.  Most of the bird houses and products I made for Louise's store was built with cedar.  But a few projects have come to mind: like a new workshop workbench replacing the slightly wobbly surface built in '79 ... one of my early projects after marrying Louise and moving into our home in Mott Park.  [note to audio crew: cue audio file Streisand and "The Way We Were"] 

Posted 05.11.21

Portable Sawmill Creates Mountain of Sawdust ...

... and about 181 board feet of lumber*.  (board foot defined: 1" thick x 12" square)  As mentioned last month we're planning to construct a small garage (or as Mike likes to call it: a Gator shed with room for lawnmowers, snow-throwers and other equipment).  We cleared a small hunk of our property East of the house, north of the great bog, which included dropping one large red oak tree, which saddened both of us a bit.  But we figured if we did something special with the wood, perhaps we'll be partially forgiven by the neighboring trees who likely view such destruction by humans with the same distain as Native Americans may have about invasive Caucasian settlers hundreds of years ago.  So, we hired a really nice guy with a portable sawmill to visit the site and quickly turned 3 large sections of the oak trunk into dimensional lumber.  That's how we came up with the estimate: about 181 board feet of red oak which is now neatly stacked in our main garage, drying out ... which could take a year. 

To reduce checking and cracking in our precious lumber we have a wax based sealer product to "paint" on the end grain of each board, as well as new tools to monitor moisture content.  We're thinking it might be neat to have a mini-stack in our basement right next to our deluxe dehumidifier that keeps our "lower-level" from smelling like a basement, to see if that may speed up the process. 

So ... how shall we use our red oak lumber?  So chatter has been picked-up that perhaps a new workbench could be in preliminary planning stages, or maybe some shelving in the laundry room which is about to get an extreme makeover.  Stay tuned.  But for now, here's a brief one-minute "little movie by Louise" of the sawmill, its sawyer in action as Mike gathers and stacks the freshly cut boards in a "tiny trailer" attached to the Gator: link to mp4 file (be sure to turn on your audio).   Oh, and Happy Mother's Day to all ... none of us would be here without 'em!

posted 05.09.21
update: 05.10.12 - took the time today to more accurately measure our stack of oak boards and figure we have more like 207 board feet of oak.  Thursday I'll seal the ends of boards with a special oily wax substance designed to reduce cracking & checking.  Yesterday I hauled the mini-mountain of sawdust generated by the sawmill ... filled my rusty "tiny trailer" - then spread it along my newly blazed nature trails.

NPR: Making Sense Of Complex News & Events The Past 50-Years ...

This week, as National Public Radio celebrates their 50th anniversary and I'm experiencing a variety of flashbacks.  As a young-pup college student, and then rookie sales guy traveling throughout nooks & crannies of Northern Michigan ... I discovered NPR stations scattered all about the state providing curious minds with a connection to the news of the day/week. Mt. Pleasant, Traverse City, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Port Huron, Bay City, Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette.  And it was essentially non-commercial - no annoying jingles or local DJ personalities to decipher.  (Apologies to my brother who's worked successfully in radio for over 40 yrs.) 

NPR was a great way to start most any day with Morning Edition and then All Things Considered would guide my way home or off to the next town. Today ... there are 27 affiliate NPR stations in Michigan.  No matter where I was, it seemed, there was almost always a clear NPR signal to keep me company, and help me understand the news of the day.

Broadcasts on NPR this week will be peppered with vintage recordings of the early days and recollections by founding journalists from NPR.  Susan Stamberg, Nina Totenberg, Bob Edwards, Cokie Roberts, Linda Wertheimer.  Goodness how I miss thoughtful programs like The Diane Rehm Show!  Here are some links to podcasts for those interested in the early days at our nation's finest radio information venue: National Public Radio:

  • Terry Gross - likely the best interviewer anywhere speaks with founding NPR staff [listen]
  • Author Lisa Napoli discusses her new book: Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR [listen &/or read about]
  • A flashback from ten-yrs ago: "First Person: When Bob Edwards Met Susan Stamberg" [read]
  • A brief history of NPR [read or listen]

To this day NPR programming provides much of my weekend entertainment as well - a companion in my workshop or out working around the yard: Car Talk, This American Life, ATC Weekend Edition, Radiolab, Wait/Wait, TED Radio Hour, The Moth and more.

posted 05.03.21

Four Trees Down In Minutes ... Clean-up Takes A Little Longer

Thirty-plus years ago Louise & I planted a slew of little blue spruce trees around our 'new home' in Grand Blanc.  A friendly neighbor had referred us to a tree farm north toward Saginaw ... we hitched up a utility trailer to our car and proceeded to the farm which had potted 3-foot spruce trees - we filled the wagon - maybe 20 trees?  Can't recall for sure, but we came home and began planting 'em all around the house, and most of the trees survived. 

We planted two side-by-side near the garage with a nice clearing to the South West - they grew like crazy and because of their proximity to each other we made the mistake of naming them: 'Mike-n-Louise'.  Lovely sentiment as the branches appeared to be reaching out to each other, and then eventually holding hands ... but naming a living thing after ourselves became a problem when it was time to remove them.  "You wanna' butcher Mike-n-Louise?!?" we'd ask ourselves incredulously. Well, no, but they were blocking sunlight needed to grow some grass behind the tree and now they'd grown tall enough to be competing with a nearby oak tree for sunlight. 

Spruce trees in our area have a lifespan of about 25-30 yrs a wise farming friend of ours told us, as if to lessen our guilt for killing our 'Mike-n-Louise' spruces. The spruces began losing lower limps and were thinning out ... they were entering the back-nine of their expected lifespan.  Time to let them go and replace 'em with one unified conifer nearby and rework the lawn/yard where 'Mike-n-Louise' had previously thrived.   A third spruce twenty-five feet west was even more sparse ... so Mike fired up the trusty chainsaw and in minutes the spruce tress were flat on the ground ... then cut up into moveable hunks to haul to our private "city dump". 

Chainsaw Massacre part 2 involved removal of an oak tree that was growing right in the middle of our new, soon to be built garage (shed) to store our array of outdoor tools: mowers, snow throwers & snowplow, and now a handy John Deere 4-wheel drive utility vehicle.   Louise tells the story best on her Facebook page, which you may have already seen:

"I hugged the tree and told it I was so sorry. We had to cut down a huge oak today. I counted 81 rings! It was healthy and vibrant but would be directly in the middle of a new shed we are building. Not to worry, the wood is being milled and what cannot be used will be split for firewood. I then spoke to its tree neighbors because we now know the woodlands are all connected and made sure they knew we cared. (Pictured) the vascular layer of the tree's cambium. It was glistening and healthy." 

Both of us feel badly about killing a healthy tree, but we look around the homestead and can point to a thousand or more that continue to thrive.  If you're curious there's a 'little movie by Louise' on FB of Mike cutting down the oak ... the oak wanted to fall South while Mike was trying to guide it the other way, North.  Mother Nature and general laws of physics won out.  Now we're thinking strongly about salvaging the oak (20" dia x 19' long) thru a local sawmill and building something special out of our lumber - estimated at 160 board feet ... plus a face-cord of firewood when it's dry.  Time to quickly learn more about sawmills, and drying/storing lumber ... and figuring out what to build with it.

posted 04.28.21

Recent Project: relocate & repair mailbox post

It's been buried some 29-yrs ... I wanted to move the mailbox forward a foot or two so the mailman would stop driving on the edge of my yard ('tis a muddy mess every spring & without fail I would utter the pledge: "I oughta' move that mailbox someday"). Well someday arrived - last week I yanked the pole (after considerable digging) and found the portion closest to the surface had the most decay/rot but likely was not in jeopardy of breaking/falling for many years as about half of the wood remained solid.  However, I figured since I dug the sucker out of the ground, why not repair it?  I used a This Old House lesson/tip and cut off the old post at ground level and attached the healthy top portion to a hunk of 6x6 pressure treated wood using a "scarf joint" ala' Tommy Silva. 

I concealed much of the joint with a 1x4 band of pine, combined with a series of assorted molding scraps I had on hand, remnants of many past projects.  Louise stained the assembly before we "replanted" the post … looks kinda' dark now compared to the grey oxidized cedar, but I'm sure it'll lighten over time. I trimmed the top of the post which I had cut at 45° angle … the end grain had absorbed quite a bit of moisture over time and was getting sorta' punky. The trim job looks ok, but I decided to actually spend a buck on a new copper cap.

posted 04.10.21

Bringing This Chapter To A Successful End?

We're slated to receive "dose 2" of the vaccine this week ... knock-on-wood, and we sincerely hope you and those you care for either have or will soon get your shot(s).  The rationale for vax-resistance has been effectively neutralized now that millions of doses have been administered safely but there will always be wing-nuts who don't follow the science.  So what does a nation do with so many regions prematurely relaxing mitigation measures and refusing to wear masks, or ignoring CDC Guidelines by flying on airplanes (because they are just so sick of "big-government over-reach" or other such silliness)?  Thank goodness there are effective treatments for those who become infected that can potentially save lives.

Monoclonal antibody treatments - " ... new drugs that successfully treat COVID.  So if you get COVID, you won't get sick and die from it.  These treatments have been around, for a while now;  some started getting approval from the FDA late last year.  President Trump, himself, got treated with one of these drugs when he was in the hospital ... a lot of studies already showing that they are effective," said Rachel Maddow on her show last week.  Rachel's guest on Thursday 3/25/21 was Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chairperson of the Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force: "The positive impact of these treatments has become pretty clear. These treatments can make a huge difference. Eli Lilly's newest monoclonal antibody combination therapy has shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by up to 87 percent." 

"This is not some snake-oil thing. This is proven stuff. And these treatments are a potential-exit door from the worst of the COVID nightmare.  We're just not taking it.  We're just not using these treatments, as a country, broadly speaking.  And that's because people don't know to ask for them, or how to get them," Dr. Nunez-Smith told Rachel.  "The patient needs to be infused,"  Maddow explained, "it's a shot that you have to sit there and take for an hour ... while the drug is infused into you."  Inconvenient, you say?  Spending 2-months on a ventilator is inconvenient.

So, exactly what are the "monoclonal antibody" treatments that are effective with this virus?  There are a variety of drugs being tested and used to treat a host of ailments (cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease - link to more info if you wish to delve deeper).  Treatments for the virus include:

  • Regeneron and Roche's antibody cocktail - link to article written March 23, 2021.
  • Bamlanivimab/etesevimab - 02/25/21 Eli Lilly & Co. received "emergency use authorization" from FDA for the investigational monoclonal antibody treatment bamlanivimab/etesevimab.  [article]  You can also read the FDA news release.
  • Veklury (remdesivir) - One of the first FDA approved the antiviral drugs, October 22, 2020, Veklury (remdesivir) for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. 

If you care to go even deeper:  Rachel discussed some of these treatments with Dr. David Kessler chief science officer for the Biden administration's Covid response, about these treatments.  [YouTube video clip]

posted 03.30.21


... Evolving bits of Americana ... sitting right in our pantry!

Preparing a grocery order … lately we're using Meijer's website & curbside pick-up instead of InstaCart to keep our pantry well-stocked.  We figure we're saving on average $50 per order compared to the fees & tip we were paying InstaCart.  Anyway, while formulating said shopping list Louise & I got to talking about how several national brands are reacting to the 2020 "Lives Matter" marches and protests of various sorts … and businesses dropping ethnic or heritage images. 

Case in point: NFL's Washington team drops Redskins … General Mills retires Aunt Jemima - even changing the name of the pancake mix and syrup.  Same with Uncle Ben's rice and the black chef is leaving the Cream of Wheat box, as is our Native American Princess from Land-O-Lakes products.

Each of these products have undergone a series of packaging design changes over the past century.  Take, for example, the aforementioned Aunt Jemima pancake mix products, soon to be known as "Pearl Milling Company" says parent company PepsiCo (owner of Quaker Oats division).  Yep, you read that right: cola giant Pepsi owns Quaker Oats, which owns Aunt Jemima ... er, now Pearl Milling Co.   For years the face of Aunt Jemima brand, named after a catchy song "Aunt Jemima", was Nancy Green, a 56-yr old model often called "the pancake queen" who had a lifetime contract to promote the products emblazoned with her likeness (left).  If you were to Google the brand name: Aunt Jemima you would find multiple images in the evolution of the famous pancake mix's brand.

Same is true with Land-O-Lakes butter and assorted dairy products as Mia, the indigenous woman who, for decades, was featured prominently on all Land-O-Lakes packaging.  In 1924 Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association, representing some 320 dairy farms, sponsored a contest to find a name to help promote the Co-Op's sweet cream butter.  Legend has it two winners each received $500 in gold for submitting the Land-O-Lakes name ... and shortly after that Mia's likeness began to appear on packaging and advertising.

In the mid 1920's a Chicago waiter, Frank White, was asked to pose in a chef's hat and become the face of Cream of Wheat products.  White reportedly received no royalties for his modeling gig, but did pocket $5.   Soon, White's smiling image will be gone as parent company B&G Foods re-evaluates its marketing strategy.  Consumers will find similar changes that some critics say perpetuated a racist caricature that stereotypes African-American people in subservient forms of employment.  Bye, bye Uncle Ben's rice, Eskimo Pies.  Can Mrs. Butterworth's products expect the same fate? 

posted with a smile 02.28.21

...carrying out duties that cannot be left undone...

We just completed watching a TV series that Louise recently recorded on PBS "All Creatures Great and Small" ... she said the Gignac girls had read the books back in the 70's ... and we thoroughly enjoyed the series.  Salon magazine says the show will return for a second season and maybe beyond ... but will be missing one quirky character: Mrs. Pumphrey played by Dame Diana Rigg who passed away in September 2020.

Apparently we are not the only viewers who enjoyed the show ... Salon magazine says "All Creatures Great & Small" was the 2nd most watched TV show on Super Bowl Sunday: "PBS' reboot of "All Creatures Great and Small" premiered just days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots that shocked the nation and those watching news reports overseas.  In the wake of that crisis, it was difficult to predict what appetite Americans would have for a series set in the 1930s Yorkshire Dales about a veterinary surgeon."

"With the riots in the Capitol that was unfolding . . . I think that was the thing that struck me was how many people felt that sort of gentle peril was needed at the time," said series writer Ben Vanstone.   Ah ... there's the secret: gentle peril instead of a steady diet of Donald Trump's Big Lie, or life in America during a pandemic.

One interesting connection for Louise & I was the season finale closing scene where lead characters sat around their living room on Christmas night listening to a radio broadcast of King George VI's 1937 Christmas Day speech, which we first learned about from the celebrated 2010 Best Picture: "The King's Speech."

Let us turn to the message that Christmas brings, of peace and goodwill. Let us see to it that this spirit shall in the end prevail, and every one of us can help by making that immortal message a keystone of our daily lives. And so to all of you, whether at home among your families, as we are, or in hospital or at your posts carrying out duties that cannot be left undone, we send our Christmas greetings and wish you under god's blessing, health and prosperity in the year that lies ahead.  --  King George VI.

[mp3 audio file - edited]
[YouTube - complete Christmas 1937 speech by King George VI]

Carrying out duties ... that's the line that registers in my brain.  Carrying out duties - doing a job well - completing a task like shoveling snow on the front sidewalk "edge-to-edge."  And shoveled "down-to-the-wood" so-to-speak, to keep visitors safe.  Not a wimpy, half-hearted job that some sloven slob might render.   Carrying out duties with a sense of urgency, getting the job done right with attention paid to details. 

posted 02.26.21

We're easily delighted:  snow-days, vaccines & internet connections!

As kids there were few things that delighted us more than a "snow day" ... no school, but tons of things to do &/or mischief to get into.  But first, there was snow to shovel ... after that, perhaps sledding and maybe tossing a few snow balls.  Mike bought his 1st snow-thrower back in the early 70's at a garage sale on Cedar Lake Drive up North in Greenbush [action photo].

'twas a narrow machine (perhaps 16" wide) a semi-self propelled Craftsman.  I say semi self propelled 'cuz the wheels would mostly just spin - not getting much traction and we'd end up having to push it, but the auger held up to it's end of the bargain and tossed even wet, heavy snow into the woods or in whatever direction it was pointed.   Mike bought it to use with his lawn maintenance business (Blister Industries) and expand - offering services virtually year-round!   

So the die was cast at an early age and Mike would forever ensure sidewalks and driveways were clear at any home he owned or rented.  Heck, he even went in to his office at Ameritech early on snow days to make sure sidewalks were clear for the staff.  Years later when Louise bought a Jeep, we attached a snow plow ... and Mike once again provided snow removal services to help keep the world just a little bit safer. 

So when we got dumped-on the other day with 6 or 8 inches of snow we did feel a bit like kids again: SNOW DAY!  In this year of the pandemic (that did not have to be this deadly) we wondered how kids reacted to the "snow day" news during our current "lockdown" status.  It's just one more example of how life has changed by virus.  We adapt.  We putz, and tackle chores, enjoying our hobbies.  Louise has connected with her sisters via Zoom and other internet-connected tools ... even Louise's older technically challenged sister up in the U.P. has stepped-up to the plate and taught herself a few new skills.  Louise posted a short video clip on her Facebook page showing a rafter of wild turkeys waddling up-hill from the Hollow behind our home.  Yep, Turkey Hollow.  Thank goodness for the internet ... this morning the service was out for a few minutes as Comcast was repairing something ... and we realized how dependent we are to having instant access to cyberspace.

Hopefully the country, heck, the whole world, will continue efforts to mitigate covid spread as vaccines are rolling out.  Louise & I received good news the other day: we're tentatively scheduled to receive our shots in a few weeks.  Until the vaccine is in my arm I'll worry that something could screw up our plans, like the weather or maybe a supply issue ... who knows?  But for now we are delighted to be heading in a positive direction.  Feels good to have hope.

posted 02.16.21

former President Trump's image found on vintage sports card collections

One of my brothers mentioned he had bought some reprints of a few vintage era baseball cards for his grandkids ... and one of the cards turns out to be the 1933 Goudey Gum Company card #144 - Babe Ruth, swinging for the fences. "Hey ... I own that card," I exclaimed ... then proceeded to the eBay website to look at some of the current auctions.  [link to Mike's previous article on his bargain Babe Ruth card.] 

And it surprised me to see several parody cards ... former President Donald Trump inserted in several classic, vintage formats.  I've studied and own several authentic cards from this era so I couldn't help but capture the pix and assemble the above illustration.  (natch)  The cards are designed to mimic several legendary collectable card styles popular during the "Golden Age of Sport". 

  • Above/Far left:  "Boxer Trump" is patterned after the 1948 Leaf Gum Co. style card popularized by their bright colored backgrounds.  (Mike has several football and baseball cards from the same series.)  Naturally I notice the small fists on the illustration and think of Marco Rubio's comments about Mr. Trump.
  • Middle two images are designed to look like the legendary 1933 Goudey Gum Co. series ... the yellow background card showing Trump taking a mighty swing looking much like the Babe on card #144 mentioned above.  Notice - the outfield wall resembles the infamous Southern border wall that Mexico was s'posedly going to pay for ... and the gas mask inserted in the green background Trump catcher image.
  • Above/Far right: "stoic Trump" replicates the classic "T206" card from the American Tobacco Co. circulated from 1909 to 1911 in packages of cigarettes and loose tobacco pouches.  

posted 02.11.21

Legendary Slugger: "Hammering" Hank Aaron passes

Louise spotted the news story over the weekend before I read/heard about: major league baseball Hall of Fame power hitter Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron died at age 86. Originally the news shared here indicated there were complications related to the virus but Factcheck.org says that's not true.  Mr. Aaron died "from natural causes, according to the medical examiner’s office in Fulton County, Georgia. There’s no evidence that his death was a result of being vaccinated against COVID-19 in early January, as multiple posts and articles shared on social media have suggested." 

Over the past few years I've written about some of my sports memorabilia (below) focused mainly on the "vintage golden age of sport" (1920's thru '40's) but I did have several hundred cards from my childhood era ('60's) ... though most of those cards were "well-loved" and worn.  Great memories, but not worth all that much.

One exception however is my 1964 Topps #300: Hank Aaron ... the card is in amazing, pristine condition. The edges so sharp & crisp, nicely centered, no wrinkles or creases ... awesome color - no printing flaws ... professional grading services would likely rate my Hank Aaron card rather high (PSA 7 or 8?) ... worth a few hundred dollars. 

I recall watching Aaron on TV in 1974 when I was in college as he hit his 715th career home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth's long standing-mark of 714 homers.  Aaron went on to play a few more years and ended with 755 career HRs ... 21-yrs with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (played his last season '75-'76 with the Milwaukee Brewers).  Only steroid abusing Barry Bonds has hit more home runs (762) ... but most observers discount Bonds' stats because of his use of performance enhancing drugs.

posted 01.25.21 - revised/corrected 02.01.21

Oscoda High School Football - Record Season Comes To End

Recently I wrote to my brothers about the 2020 pandemic challenged high school football season at Oscoda High.  They just went 9-0 this past year, but had to cancel the remaining playoffs.  Why?  … not enough players to field a team.  "Oscoda opts out of high school football playoffs, ending historic season"  MLive News reported.

"OSCODA, MI – The greatest season in Oscoda football history won’t extend into January. Oscoda coach Mark Whitley confirmed Monday that his team is opting out of the high school football playoffs, which are scheduled to resume with the regional championship round on Jan. 9. “We are going to shut it down,” Whitley said. “The No. 1 thing is keeping everybody safe. When we came together and talked about it as a team, we just won’t have the numbers – for many different reasons. It is not safe to continue on and play with 11 or 12 players."  [link to news story]

What a great season, indeed, especially considering it took place during a freaking pandemic! But there's one point made in the story that requires clarification: the 2020 team's wonderful 9 win, zero loss season may have set a school record, but to say (as the complete story does) that it's the 1st "district championship in the program's history" is technically true but slightly misleading.  Currently, Michigan's high school football championship program has 8 divisions in which teams compete and it can be great fun.  In previous years, the state finals were played at the Detroit Lions home turf: Ford Field & televised … which Louise & I made a point to watch. 

When my brothers & I attended OHS as kids we didn't have a "playoff" system for football ... it's relatively new in MI  beginning in 1974 [source].  So the current claim "best in history" really means "best since 1974" as teams prior to that date never had the chance to compete in a playoff system.  In my senior year the Oscoda Owls football team won 8 games, lost 1 … and were "conference champions" several years in a row.  There was no "district, or regional" competition at that time in Michigan high school football.  The "state champ" was typically recognized by polls.  The Associated Press rated Oscoda 6th in the state, while Detroit Free Press famed high school sports "swami" Hal Schram said in 1970 that Oscoda rated #4 in the state for "class B" schools.  There's an awesome sports data website that you may want to bookmark if the topic interests you ... they captured virtually all high school results (football and other sports) from 1950 to the present, and links to similar data sources in 13 other states.

Glad I kept scrapbooks & mementos … I'm pictured in the above Oscoda Press article circled in red just above Athletic Director Pat Tate. (The "district champ" badge above is for '69-'70 OHS wrestling … which DID have district, regional & state finals, as did other sports like basketball…but not football.) 

Last year I spent quite a bit of time on this website talking about sports and baseball cards my brothers and I collected when we were kids ... and my father's boyhood collection.  As a kid I was the original game-boy,  I played most all sports at some point with the exception of ice hockey.  I enjoyed little league baseball and at school (junior & senior high) I played baseball, basketball, football, and even one season of track.  Likely our baseball coach would dispute that.  And, when our family moved north I became an Oscoda Owl ... 3 seasons of football, 2 seasons of wrestling ... and enjoyed it all.  Fortunately I saved quite a bit of memorabilia, and enjoy digging into the scrapbooks to reminisce.  

posted 01.03.21

Why Do We Throw Stuff Like This Away ... Shouldn't It Get A 2nd Life?

In an attempt to conserve a bit of water, rather than individually washing or rinsing jars and plastic tubs that packaged assorted food products we just consumed, we figured: "why not just put 'em in the dishwasher and clean it along with the rest of our normal load of plates, glasses and silverware?"  Brilliant, my dear Watson!  we said to ourselves figuring it was also a good way to save a smidgeon of energy (less water to be pumped from our water-well). 

While the conservation concept may be sound I have discovered that once the sparkling clean container is unloaded along with the clean dishes I am having difficultly throwing them away.  Case in point: this clear jar brought us some tasty blueberry jam made in Baraga, in Northern Michigan.  And now that it's all clean and like one of Trump's shiny objects that captures attention, my normal instinct to toss is shattered.  After donning my trusty thinking cap I decide it's the ideal vehicle to hold assorted fasteners and thing-a-ma-jigs in Mike's workshop.  Perhaps the next one could hold spare buttons in the utility room?  Hmmm.  Previously I have cut slots in the lid and used these as a terrific "coin bank" ... after all, t'was our first postmaster general Ben who taught us a penny saved is a .... yeah, you got it.

So while I'm marveling over the clear jar with its plain white lid - and keep in mind it's the holidays - so when my brain says "see it glisten" naturally my brain's playlist automatically kicks-in: "Sleigh bells ring, Are you listening? In the lane, Snow is glistening.  A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight ... walking in a winter wonderland."   Okay, so it glistens ... is it really all that valuable to clutter one's home with empty (but sparkling clean) glass jars?  Good point ... how much did it cost the maker or packer of foods to buy this little item, and is it another example of mass-importing of merchandise that once was made in America, but we're not capable of making stuff like this any longer? 

The Google tells me more than we need to know (but I find it interesting anyway): "A16-8 AGC 38" stamped right in the glass ... could cost about 50¢ apiece when purchased in dinky quantities ... or half that when buying 10's of thousands.  AGC = Arkansas Glass Container Corporation*.  But get this: the lids are extra.  Huh?  Well, there could be a variety of styles depending on contents of jar. Lids add 20¢ to 30¢ each to the equation ... or 70¢ per unit to have your favorite spaghetti or barbecue sauce conveniently packaged and stacked high at your neighborhood grocery ... but now we're getting a bit deep in the woods.

The point is: why have we become such idiots, throwing away perfectly good containers?  And at the same time dashing out to some big-boxy store to buy more plastic tubs to store the Christmas tree ornaments?  Folks, it's insane.

posted 12.27.20 
(*Note to radical rightwing extremists: No, AGC was not part of the Whitewater investigation into the Clintons.)

Fun Time To Look Back ...

Louise posted some pictures on her Facebook page with a few captions that only told 1/2 of the story: "Mike just found a pack of slides and he scanned them for us so I could share them with you! Washington DC, 1966."  What she didn't say is that after years of digging thru family collections of pictures and photographic slides from the Dawsons it turns out the newly found little-box-o-slides was 100% Gignac.  And as Louise says, these were taken in 1966.  Here's a sneak-peek ... Louise looking all grown-up at age 12.  (Whata' cutie!)

See my Scan-a-Slide "photo" page  for the link to the new 1966 Gignac collection as well as 2 other "albums" of Gignac Family pictures (album one - album two).   posted 12.22.20

Mike's Bookshelf ...

As the Presidential Election drew near I enjoyed reading the frank assessment of our disgraceful President from his personal attorney Michael Cohen ... Disloyal: A Memoir.  Sure, I heard him testify before Congress and followed his appearances on various news talk shows over the past few years.  He seems like an opportunist and thug.  I'm only partially sympathetic for the guy ... he made his choices in life and he's paid for his mistakes.  That's something I hope Donald Trump will begin to experience after January 20th.  My fantasy still has Trump being arrested seconds after Joe Biden repeats his oath of office.   But hey, this posting is supposed to be about books, not politics! 

Just finished:  The Greatest Game Ever Played.  Astute readers of this webpage will note that I previously mentioned reading Francis Ouimet's autobiography ... as well as biographies of other legendary golfers from the golden age in sport: Byron Nelson, Walter Hagen and "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias.  The Greatest Game book was the basis for a 2005 movie of the same name which I've seen several times.  Over the years I've heard people say they "liked the book more than the movie" and now I can say I relate.  While Mark Frost's book was the basis for the film, for the movie to be an accurate historical record the film would have to be produced in serial form - because sadly with limited time some actual events had to be modified. Example: in the movie (spoiler alert) the margin for Ouimet's 18-hole playoff victory was just one shot when in truth Francis won by 5 strokes. Overall, Frost's book weaves a lovely story that chronicles and connections of Ouimet's early career, America's first amateur champion of the US Open golf tournament, and that of Harry Vardon, winner of 7 majors including 6 British Open titles, and Ted Ray who won two major championships, the (British) Open Championship in 1912 and the U.S. Open in 1920. 

It is now a personal favorite - perhaps the best sports-related book I have read.  Louise has been kind to humor me as I related some of the rich detail the author uncovered & wrote about in the book which was not highlighted in the movie.  Overall, its a fabulous true story, and a book I know I'll read again as my memory of the details begin to fade over time.  

[posted 12.06.20, updated 01.01.21]

Louise's "fixer" of  broken things has a new nickname ...

[Since Louise posted the photo shown to the left Mike figured
he'd tell the rest of the story, strudel-style ... a tasty treat in layers.]

When a niece spotted one of Mike's recent frugal-guy repair projects she exclaimed:  "it's a genuine MIKE-Gyver!"   A what?  You may be asking yourself ... (this story may make more sense if you play the following audio file ... sort of like accessing the sound track stuck in Mike's mind).   A MikeGyver ... in honor of the 1990's era television series "MacGyver" which follows the adventures of Angus MacGyver, a secret agent famous for his remarkable resourcefulness as he solves problems encountered in the field using whatever materials he may have on hand.  MacGyver it seems still lives in the land of cable TV re-runs, but for those unfamiliar with the show: Google it.

So, this week's MIKEGyver episode has a little Martha Stewart cooking flair that we'll call: "Fixing A Wisk".  Some 40-yrs ago Louise got this handy kitchen gadget and it had a wooden handle, but the handle came off and was lost many moons ago.  Recently, on a cool summer day while marveling over some other home-handy-fellow projects mentioned below, Louise turns to her fixer and says:  "my wisk could use a handle!"   That is all it took for her fellow to spring into action, especially since the fixer has become quite partial to Louise's baking and cooking.  But wait, there's more justification for this strudel-story, since Louise's birthday was approaching.  Mike donned his imaginary mullet hair piece and pondered: what would Angus do? ... how does one craft a missing handle that he's never seen on a tool he rarely uses?  Hmmm.

The snapshot to the left illustrates of "the making of a wisk handle".  1.) cut hunk of dowel, split in half and 2.) carve out inside of dowel to accommodate wire wisk "handle", then glue and 3.) clamp assembly. After allowing the glue to dry and a bit of sanding Mike plunged the wooden handle into a can of Plasti Dip ... a soft plastic coating like you might find on a screwdriver handle.  Presto: one brilliant red handle & another delicious strudel-story.   posted 10.19.20

Our Time Flies ... How About You?

Not certain when it began but for as long as we can remember significant milestones in our lives (birthdays, family holiday gatherings) are celebrated with a treat from Oliver T's in Grand Blanc.  "sinful desserts -- in moderation" of course.  This cake is our celebration for 41-wonderful years of marriage.  The rich chocolate cake is concealed by smooth (and not too sweet) white chocolate butter cream frosting ... & white chocolate mousse separating layers.  Oh, goodness ... it took more than an ounce of self-control to NOT devour the entire small cake in one sitting.

Political notions are typically stashed on the "issues & thoughts" page of this website.  But, with Michigan's new "any reason" vote-by-mail option starting this year (after voter referendum passed by an overwhelming margin in 2018), we are thrilled to say:  "put a sock in it Donald ... we already voted."

posted ... joyfully on 10.01.20

Is It Frugal To Place A Value On Longevity & Quality?

Some of our favorite tools are stamped: "made in the USA" which always brings a smile to my face ... especially after this past Friday's "jobs report" which estimates nearly 1.4 million Americans went back to work last month.  Most of these are not "new jobs" like the Donald is trying to make you believe, but rather, existing positions that had to temporarily shut-down as the country learned how to live with the virus safely.  Had the Trump administration implemented a comprehensive plan for testing, contract tracing, and isolating those infected with the virus, not only would America have experienced fewer deaths, but less destruction to the economy as well.  But the jobs that are coming back now are not the manufacturing jobs lost over the past 2 or 3 decades.

Our Swingline stapler in the home office is one of those products that was made here - in Saginaw, MI.  Same with several of my trusty tape-measures, and several other tools in my workshop.  Until this country finds a way to bring manufacturing jobs back to America it will be a struggle for America's middle class.  The other part of the equation is the consumer ... will they be willing to pay a few dollars more to ensure we have jobs for everyone? I have my doubts. 

Louise & I are buying less "stuff" than we did 30-40-yrs ago when we were active buying properties, fixing up homes, & learning new skills to maintain 'em.  We're buying less partly because we have most of the things we need.  It cracks me up when TV news broadcasters post annual "first snow storm of the season" report with the obligatory film footage showing lines of consumers buying-out the hardware store's supply of snow shovels and sidewalk salt ... I keep wondering: "what happened to the shovel they used last winter?"  Until we recently sold Red, our beloved utility pick-up truck, the American-made snow plow was 15-yrs old and everything was still functioning.  Our trusty snow shovel collection includes tools at least 10-yrs old, most of which were made in USA; same with our walk-behind snow-thrower.  Or, how about several wide-fan leaf rakes that we've had our entire married lives?  We have 3 of 'em ... with over 40 years of faithful service.  Ok, I don't know where the snow thrower or leaf rakes were manufactured but the snow thrower still working more than 11-yrs after buying it.  Knock-on-wood.  It's been said that we've become a disposable society, which is not good for the economy or the environment.  Because when you buy quality stuff and basically take care of it, things oughta' "last" ... less junk tossed in landfills. 

So as I dumped a load of laundry this morning I noticed the basket has a well worn, hand-written note on bottom that reads:  "this basket has been faithfully serving since Aug 2000".  Yikes, a landmark service-anniversary just passed, un-noticed until now.  Twenty years.  [Note: this would be a good place to insert a short audio file of spectators & fans clapping, much like the crowd does at a golf tournament.]  Buy quality, folks & insist on "made in USA' merchandise!    

posted with patriotic pride 09.06.20 (minor updates 02.27.21)

Bringing New Meaning To Our Goal: Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose

There were two supply items at our store that never seemed to last very long and I am not sure why: vacuum cleaners and scissors.  Since we sold millions of pounds of birdseed at J.J. Cardinal's it made sense we'd have some seed spillage to clean-up on a regular basis ... but why the lot of vacuum cleaners took such a beating, I never figured out. We seemed to go thru a machine every other year.  And since we offered gift wrapping we always had several pair of scissors in the shop, but never enough it seemed, and keeping 'em sharp was another story.  There was one pair of scissors that Louise purposely hung onto even when it got badly damaged - there were 4 breaks in the finger side and 2 on the thumb side ... wrapped in tape and they barley functioned.

Equally curious, after selling the shop, this broken pair of scissors found their way to our home in one of our utility drawers along with cellophane tape, glue sticks, and grocery store coupons.  Well, this week I decided to give it a go and repair the broken scissors via a make-over that resembled the film set on the 1985 classic movie: Brazil ... a quirky, unique "dystopian satire".  In the event I failed, I figured it wouldn't be a huge loss to toss 'em.  But, armed with assorted tools, gadgets, a scrap of sheet metal and a thin steel rod I cobbled together several repairs that are not exactly pretty ... but very functional.  In fact, with freshly sharpened titanium blades, this pair of scissors cuts like it has never cut before.  (Somehow that sentence sounds rather Trumpian.)

First I made a clean cut thru the plastic on the larger "finger side" ... drilled holes into the blue plastic base near the pivot screw and inserted the steel rod, bending it in the same basic shape as the original plastic part.  I then cut a groove on the broken plastic parts that I had removed & glued them back in place along the new supporting rod  [see illustration].  The "thumb side" of the scissor was more challenging.  I opted to cut a "splint" out of a piece of steel sheet metal and screwed it in place.  Presto: one really ugly pair of scissors ... saved from the landfill and back in service, functional, and hopefully happy to still be useful. 

posted 08.05.20 (wishing I'd captured a "before" image)

Another repair job - in a pinch, it works

My brother and a niece have referred my little repair projects as Mike's MacGyver Moments.  Don't know about that!  No explosives were involved, no timer about to display 00:00:00.  No duct tape. Unlike the 11.03.20 general election, no lives were on the line with this fix. 

The home-handy guy's quick household repair task of the week: fix a broken toilet paper roll holder.  Recently the bathroom toilet paper holder got knocked to the floor and broke.  Can I epoxy the broken end?  Nope.  Too many little plastic pieces broke away - not a 'clean break'.  Hmmm…

After sorting thru my "handy-guy" stash of mix-matched parts & thing-a-ma-jigs I surveyed various cylinder-shaped pieces of stuff (metal, plastic, wood), and I settle on a bunch of wood dowels salvaged from countless projects &/or dismantled store fixtures, etc.  I found one oak dowel that was just a hair wider in diameter than I needed ... which is a good thing … easier making the piece smaller vs. larger.  Then off to the bench sander, carefully down-sizing the diameter so it'd fit snuggly inside the part that still held the spring … then I use a grinder to fashion the little nub that holds the holder in place.  Presto.  I'll still go to hardware today to get a replacement part to have on hand in case this patch-job fails.

posted 08.22.20

Stairway To Another Strudel Treat

4  It's happened again.  And yes, it's almost involuntary ... when a yummy  Piece of Strudel  presents itself I just have to let it run it's course.   Natch.   I refer of course to "my shorthand to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry."  "A" leads to "B" and then "C", and so-on, and on, & on.  Strudel.

And once again that crazy clown Puddles (Mike Geier) led the charge with a creative mash-up: the theme song to Gilligan's Island with Led Zeppelin's legendary Stairway To Heaven.  I loved it and sought to find more which is how this whole Strudel thing really transforms the exploration (and is also a grand way to blow a few hours).  In short order I found there were more layers!  The mash-up was actually created by a group known as Little Roger and the Goosebumps in the early 2000's, who got sued by owners of the Led Zeppelin's original rendition for copyright infringement.  The irony here though is that Led Zep had been sued previously by a group "Spirit" who said their tune Taurus was the basis for Stairway's melody ... but once again, I'm getting diverted to another tasty layer best preserved for another day.  (For context purposes, here are links to renditions by Led Zeppelin and by Spirit.)

Those interested in the recipe for today's taste treat, let's get back on point:  so, Puddles sings this tune and creates a video with some neat video recollections of the Gilligan's Island story ... and I liked it a lot.  We'll call that layer 04-01, the fourth piece of strudel described on this webpage, layer one.  The next layer, 04-02, is the original mash-up by Little Roger and the Goosebumps, which really was pressed into vinyl and sold in record shops (back in the day when there actually was such a thing ... a store devoted to music & recordings ... not just a short aisle that is slowly vanishing from the aisles of big-box stores).

As they say in those late-night infomercials on TV: but wait - there's more.  Some guy named Rikk Wolf made his version: Stairway to Wisconsin with some creative lyrics ("There's a cheese head who's sure ...  that the beers are all cold...")  Slice #3:  04-03.   Not to be out-done, someone produced our 4th creative version (04-04) Stairway to 7|11.  "There's a lady who goes ... to the store that won't close..."   Great fun.  But, time now to dash & hop on my treadmill.

Previous slices of strudel:  1 | 2 | 3 (a non-musical fat-free treat)
posted 07.20.20

"Someday" Finally Arrives

Weather throughout Central Michigan has been so warm & humid that we've limited our time playing outdoors.  A week ago I was playing in the woods: cutting trees that had died into firewood ... splitting most of it by hand ... even though we rarely burn wood (which is strudel story of a different flavor).  Anyway, it's too hot this week.  So we are watering plants & lawn and making sure critters and winged life have access to water, giving us plenty of time to tackle "in-door" activities including some projects that fall into that massive category known as: "someday I'll get around to it."  At times it seems as if "someday" may never arrive, but yesterday my personal list of pending tasks shrunk by a count of one.  I fixed a stool.

Yep.  And if Roy Underhill, the Woodwright on PBS, was over for a visit he'd be impressed that I used a hunk of wood salvaged from a dead tree in my woods to repair the broken stool stretcher ... even if I don't have a froe to split the log, just like Roy. 

There's some dispute here over the variety of wood Mike pulled off the tidy stack of firewood to craft the new part ... Louise says the orange colored heartwood may be Osage Orange while Mike suspects its something less exotic like common Buckthorn ... straight, tight grain.  "Easy to cut, plane and cut out the tenons ... and since the piece has a rustic appearance it was a piece of cake to make."  A bit of stain and polyurethane, a dollop of glue, and presto: one repaired keepsake seat that's not being tossed into the landfill.

The rustic stool is among the few tangible things I still have that came from Drop Anchor, my family's home in Greenbush from the mid-60's to early '80's.   One of the lower stretchers broke decades ago ... snapped right off at the tenons.  'bout time it got fixed, don'tcha think?    

07.09.20


Happy 4th of July to all ... Mike's political thoughts on "issues & thoughts" page.

Mike's Bookshelf:  the latest "find"

With all that's been written about Thomas Edison, I was eager to see what new perspectives I can find about the man through a fairly new biography by the late Edmund Morris best known for his take on history of two US Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. 

Morris' work on Edison did not disappoint - as I've learned a great deal about the World's 1 inventor. I can't say I liked the approach Morris took organizing his work in reverse ... beginning with the end of Edison's life and then working backwards through time.  Certainly there was far more source material for the author to work with in the later half of Edison's life (which would be true for most of us).

Next up /"on-deck": another sporting book ... a biography Louise got for me about the famed baseball slugger Jimmie Foxx who played 20-yrs among the stars of the golden age of sport.  I mentioned below that I'm lucky to have a really swell Jimmie Foxx "Heads-Up" baseball card from my Dad's collection which came out in 1938.

posted 07.03.20  [previous "bookshelf" article]; updated 09.16.20

"Clean Cole" & "A Case For Red" ... Miscellaneous Car Talk 

No, it's not another shameless assault on Republicans and the "clean coal" advocates ... it's simply a play on words.  You see, we enjoy naming things around our home (High Pointe).  Louise named her Beetle "Cole" short-hand for Coleoptera.   Huh?   Well, Louise loves her bugs … as explained on her Facebook page: "Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera."  So that's my long-winded explanation for the photo-caption: "Clean Cole" ... Louise & I washed her car by hand and took care to remove some stubborn tar stains. 

Our other transportation option for the past 15-years has been "Red" our hard working Chevy pick-up.  Regular cab, short bed.  It was the most compact Chevy truck available at the time, unlike these behemoths rolling down the roads today.  I told Louise at the time (2005), that Red would pay for itself ... and it's a fact.  The first 10-yrs Red plowed a lot of snow - in addition to our driveway, and that of several neighbor's, and private road that the township never touches, Red plowed.  And plowed.  Just the snowplowing revenue alone paid for Red, and it's bright yellow Meyer plow, maintenance, insurance and fuel with a ton left over.  Red also hauled a lot-o-things: dirt, rocks, furniture, even Louise's new loom!  Red also hauled tons of birdseed ... literally.  J.J. Cardinal's was among the first Michigan retail stores to sell NutraSaff, a protein rich organic strain of safflower that our birds at High Pointe continue to enjoy.  We met with the owner of the company that developed the strain and purchased NutraSaff wholesale requiring a jaunt to Lansing area every 3 or 4 weeks ... in eleven yrs Red & I fetched over 240,000 pounds of the stuff. 

It's quite a legacy Red leaves behind, but its now retired and we welcome another slightly smaller Chevy Colorado pick-up that was just screaming to be called: "Whitey" for obvious reasons.  We'll add a snowplow later this fall.  The "other Whiteys" in photo?  Whitey's Fish & Chips in Davison, Mickey Rooney tough-guy played Whitey Marsh in the 1938 classic Boys Town with Spencer Tracy; Whitey Ford, Hall of Fame NY Yankee pitcher; and James "Whitey" Bulger Jr., the notorious American organized crime boss.   

posted 06.19.20

Mike's Bookshelf:  We Can Learn From The Past If We Study It

There are plenty of reasons for me to enjoy bits of history.  To those familiar with this website you know well that I tend to dwell on politics and business a great deal - typically on my "Issues & Thoughts" page.  Many of the our current political stories and issues can be put into context through history: take the competitive fire that legendary golfer Byron Nelson displayed during his career.  In 1945, the last full season that he participated in the PGA tour Nelson won 18 tournaments, eleven of his wins were consecutive.  Today, our competitive sports have been benched by the pandemic, so vintage telecasts and books offer sports fans a way to stay connected.

During his intentionally shortened career ('32 - '46) Byron Nelson won 52 tournaments, including 5 majors - keep in mind this included a period when most major golf events were put on hold during WW2.  Nelson opted to go out on top in '46 when he bought a 630 acre ranch in Texas, and retire from the tour. 

The biography was a holiday gift from Louise and nicely chronicles Nelson's amazing string of 11-consecutive wins in '45 with plenty of rich detail about his playing partners, venues & foes.  This was a much less glamorous life on the tour compared to the modern day jet-set millionaires we have today.   Winning prize money was meager, transportation was challenging, and even the tools of the trade: balls & clubs were scarce - affected by war-time rationing.  

Just finished this selection on Mike's Bookshelf:  "D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II" by Sarah Rose.  Momma always told me not to judge a book by it's cover ... but in this case, the attractive post-art deco dust jacket caught my eye, and the content convinced me to buy it.  "The spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the Nazis, and helped win World War 2," screams the sub-header on the cover & provided ample justification ... and the fact it's based on true stories ... made the appeal that much greater to me.  Given our current political climate and our nation's embarrassingly weak leadership I felt I needed to consume something that was honest, real, and noble.  During a period when Donald Trump is destroying our relationship with our European allies, and when Republican Senators haven't the courage to stand up to a criminal president, I needed an "inspiring story for our own moment of resistance: a reminder of what courage—and the energy of politically animated women—can accomplish when the stakes seem incalculably high."  And the book provided that and more.  It also corrected many mis-conceptions I had on the history (like the speed of the Allies advance following the Normandy beach landing ... took months not days like Hollywood lead me to believe.)   

posted 06.03.20  updated 07.02.20

Stuck In Our Pandemic Lock-down

Staying home is something that comes naturally for us during this coronavirus pandemic ... we're home-bodies, Louise & I.  But yesterday we got seriously stuck right in our own backyard - photos to right and below capture the terrain that caused us trouble (trouble right here in river city .. hang on Big Guy, that's a tune that goes with a different story).

Anyway, since mid-March we can count on one hand how many times we've been to a grocery or drug store.  Just before the "stay home" request was issued by our highly effective Governor (That Woman) Gretchen Whitmer we had the good sense to pick up some grass seed & fertilizer, anticipating a few springtime yard projects.  Mike also picked up a new lawn-mower (as repairs on little red our faithful garden tractor, exceeds its value).  Trouble is, our dealer no longer sells "garden tractors" favoring instead a cast of "zero-turn" models that landscapers use.  "Heck, I used to be in the landscaping bid-ness," Mike likes to reminisce about his Blister Industries lawn care operation in the '70's ... (but again, that's another story).

So, as grass began to sprout Mike was all set to put the new mower to work ... and it does a swell job on flat surfaces.  Not so much on wet, soggy turf.  In a matter of weeks Mike's gotten "stuck" 3 times ... right in his own yard.  Embarrassing, to say the least.  The biggest problem is "turkey hollow" where all rainwater from around the house & yard flows ... and typically is a muddy mess until late June.  One would think with that knowledge, one would avoid driving a freaking lawn mower down into "the hollow".  But nooooo.  A week or so ago Mike got stuck and needed to use a hand-cranked winch ("come-along") to get it free. 

Given that bit of history, how can one explain why Mike drove the mower once more down the slippery slope?  It took a couple hours to set the zero-turn mower free.  And when the yard dries up a bit, Mike will invest more time fixing the series of ruts carved in the turf West of the solar panel array.  Says Mike: "its like quicksand - and it sucks you in ... " but he realizes its sounding like another lame excuse.

Today, Mike began researching small power winches like his buddy Joe has attached to the front bumper his off-road, trail-blazing Jeep.  "Heck, I was a Boy Scout for a few months as a kid ... about the best thing that experience taught me was: be prepared".   Yeah ... likely a good idea - as is Louise's advice: "Maybe we should avoid Turkey Hollow until July."  Smart gal, that Louise.

posted 05.23.20

A panoramic view of the devastation:

Water, water ...  Everywhere

Just heard on the news that the famous Smelt Dipping City of Omer is submerged - and US-23 is closed temporarily.  The news prompted Louise to request that I dust off my archives of web-stories...this one from 2003.

a town that has no H in it's name

sunflowers
Changing seasons is certainly nothing new, nor is my appreciation for the beauty around us. One day recently while driving north on US-23, roughly a mile or two north of the tiny but cute city of Omer, Michigan, I spotted this field of sunflowers. The hardy stalks swayed in the breeze. Some flower heads were past their prime, while others continued to soak up rays, determined to dazzle anyone or anything that might notice. The nearly cloudless clear blue sky contributed to the lovely scene.

fun factoids about Omer
It's one of Michigan's smallest cities, and was originally going to be named Homer but the founders discovered the name was already in use.

After learning that bit of trivia, I imagined some poor chap who hand-carved a lovely sign that read "Homer - thriving on the Rifle River" or something like that. No one wanted to waste a perfectly good board, and being justifiably proud of their work they opted to simply cut off the "H". Now, before you start scolding me for making disparaging remarks about wood carvers, or the founding citizens of Omer, remember, I said "I imagined" … it's just a tale. I do however think that is exactly how much of our "history" is generated. Regardless, it's a mighty fine sunflower field (of dreams), near a town that has no H in it's name.

"There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew." - Marshall McLuhan

posted 05.19.20
[Flashback:  I captured the above sunflower pix with our 1st digital camera ... & thought we were so "high tech."]

In These Tough Economic Times ...

During the previous economic downturn '07 - '09 often referred to as the "financial crisis" the media created a phrase that was repeated so often it's stamped in my memory bank: "...in these tough economic times..."    And then we'd see a news story about mindless consumer spending, or perhaps a TV commercial promoting a fabulous new automobile - with the price tag equal to or greater than the cost of my first home in Mott Park.   I'd shake my head at the many ways people find to drop cash ... and not plan for the future or save for an emergency.  What seems now like just an instant ... mere months ago ... the news was filled with a story: "Why 4 in 10 adults can't cover a $400 emergency expense."  Ouch.  

The financial crisis of '07 - '09 was largely man-made ... caused by greedy people.  Just a year before the meltdown Louise & I were pondering a chunk of property in Michigan's U.P. so we explored the prevailing mortgage rates with our local bank.  They offered us a bonus exceeding a thousand dollars just for the privilege of taking their cash.  We opted to not acquire the property so the loan and "bonus" never materialized, but I do recall thinking: "this is pretty stupid" (for the bank to be making such an offer). 

What we're experiencing today with this pandemic is something that is out of every one's control ... like a natural disaster on steroids.  Since this Coronavirus story is still being written its hard to assign a title or designation, but it's looking to be every bit as serious as the "great depression" that began in 1929.  Which is why I am glad Louise & I are such a great match (in many ways) including basic frugality.  We have always embraced the concept of living below our means ... and take pleasure finding ways to repair, repurpose, recycle.  So, I had to chuckle when an ad popped up on my computer screen tempting me to spend money that I don't need to spend.  A new $75 "wallet"?  Laughable.  My wallet is a nice, fat rubber band and I get a new one just about every month from the grocery store from a bunch of broccoli or asparagus!  And, much like my nerves, they tend to snap under pressure ... temporary fix: tie a knot.

A Very Stable Genius - highly recommended reading for every voter in America

One writer called it a "terrifying book".   And, "among the most closely observed accounts of Donald J. Trump’s shambolic tenure in office."  After a steady diet of  biographies read over the past few years I confess I worried slightly that I'd have trouble getting into a political synopsis given how much time I already devote to the news.  I tend to watch little else on television, my radio dial is set for NPR, but I do have WJR preset for those occasions I can stomach a few minutes of elRushbo.  (That's Rush Limbaugh for his listeners in Rio Linda.)  I read less prodigiously than Louise, but so do 99.99% of the people on this planet.  I have several biographies on my stack of must read books like one about golfing legend Byron Nelson ... and had thought maybe I'd alternate between 2 books: a biography & a political summary. 

But when I got into A Very Stable Genius I was quickly captivated by the detail and the way it supplemented details I was already familiar with.  The format follows Trump's occupation of the White House chronologically so it's easy to follow and quite compelling.

And with Trump feeling more embolden & empowered now after Republicans were afraid to remove him from office when they had a chance, the President has embarked on a dangerous course of action: firing several Inspectors General, turning the WH's Brady Press Room into the Trump Re-election Daily Dump of his insane & illogical chaotic ramblings and ill-advised policies.  He's attacked the travelers, democrats, the media, Obama, China, the US Postal Service, the WHO (world health org), the Voice of America (seriously - in the midst of a global pandemic, he's attacking a radio network for being too liberal).  True to form the Donald has attacked virtually all women he's had to deal with the past few months (MI Gov Whitmer, GM's Mary Bara, PBS's Yamiche Alcindor, CBS's Paula Reid & Weija Jiang). One minute he seems to be unhinged & losing it; then the next day he flip-flops & reverses himself.  He claims to care mostly about the nation's economy, yet signals nothing but uncertainty to investors on Wall Street who clamor for stability & certainty.

Other than partially restricting travel (after it was too late to have any positive impact) the Donald has done nothing to help constrain the Coronavirus outbreak in the US of A.  We have no national testing strategy or national testing program, no coordination of material & equipment supply chain issues, nor a national plan regarding medical & emergency staffing.  He's attempted to take credit (for what?) while he's refusing to take responsibility.  Then he claims "the President, not the governors & mayors" have absolute power ... "the authority is total."  A day later he reverses himself when he realizes that the power he wanted to assume opens himself and his administration to attack and blame if things do not go well.  "He doesn't really want to assume responsibility for anything," WH observers say.

So all, in all, given the crazy stuff happening in Washington, voters have to be prepared with fact and remain highly motivated to ensure we don't have to put up with this guy for the next 4-yrs.    

Too busy to read?  Try the audio book link: PRH Audio on SoundCloud  
© Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, Penguin Press, New York, 2020

posted 04.19.20

Groping for positives during Pandemic? Next to the phone there's nothing better.

Noticeable decline in robo-calls and unwanted telephone solicitations

Knock-on-wood, our home phone hasn't been ringing anywhere near as often as it was 2-months ago.  It was typical to receive 6-8 calls daily from scam-artists trying to extract cash from my wallet.  Or, those trying to get us to sign-up for their Medicare plan ... or, a low-low interest credit card.  How about someone from Microsoft (or Apple) struggling to communicate in their broken-English: "may I speak to Louis?"   Sorry, sport, no Louis here.  Then a chemical lawn application firm offers to rid our home of unsightly weeds, bugs, critters & wildlife [your pick].  Or, perhaps we need to show our appreciation for our nation's wounded warriors, fire fighters, police [again, your choice].  

All this silence got me thinking back ... sort of a flashback when phone calls were far more rare and far more exciting!  We'd all come a running to the phone strategically located in my parent's house.  The vintage Bell System ad (right) reminded me of this delightful phenomenon.  Likely this will be just a brief pause from telemarketing calls that always seem to come during meal-time ... likely call centers had to shut down in hotbed communities due to the spreading virus.  After all, these robo-callers have to be chomping at the bit with all of their prospects staying home. "It's like shooting fish in a barrel!"

The ad copy below the headline:

"Is it for ME?" You kind of hope it is - for good news and good times often come your way by telephone.  Maybe it's a date for sister Sue. Or a business call for Dad. Or Bill asking if Jimmie can go to the movies.  Or Grandma calling Mother to find out if things are all right.  And everything is more likely to be all right when there's a telephone in the home.  In many, many ways, the telephone is a real friend of the family. And the cost is small - just pennies a call. 

Aw, reminds me of those swell Hallmark card ads from that Leave It To Beaver world ... "when you care enough to send the very best".

posted 04.10.20 by a retired "Bell-head"
updated 09.22.20 - yes, a few months into the pandemic & telemarketing calls are once again interrupting dinner hour.
 

Slices of Strudel Turn Up In The Craziest Places

Strudel?  Yep.  This is actually my 3rd slice!  And if you're unfamiliar with the term here's a fat-free HOT LINK to slices #1 & #2 "A piece of strudel"  ... my shorthand to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry."  As Haley Reinhart says in my strudel slice #2:  It's A Mad World.  Well, this little journey is courtesy from brother John who had recently spotted a photo below/left of the "Mich-a-Gander" resort hotel in Oscoda, MI from the '40s: "Looks like the Pack House; could it be?" I thought John was spot-on correct but I did a quick plunge into the internet machine to see for myself ... and sure enough: "you nailed it ... windows are in the same place, the dormer on the front has the same structural detail … same roof … even the bump-out on north side (likely a window to illuminate the stairway since it's located between 1st & 2nd floor) … I'd say your photo captured the Pack House before the handicap ramp was built … before the parking lot was paved … before the tree was cut down." The Pack House (and it's Rathskeller subterranean pub) was a popular dining destination when we lived in nearby Greenbush ('70's).  I can not recall ever knowing if the place had ever been a "hotel" But that was indeed the case.  Fifteen charming rooms said one historical website for the Huron Shores Genealogical Society (HSGS).

Naturally, the joy of discovery didn't end there ... 'cuz there was another article that said the mansion was built in 1878 by a local lumber baron named Pack and his lumber mill was located directly across the street.  Lumbering was big throughout Northern Michigan and quickly became the #1 business in Iosco County in 1865.  Some sources said the "most valuable pine timber was gone by 1870" particularly along the AuSable River basin.  Another source reported it wasn't until 1890 when the region hit it's "peak production: AuSable & Oscoda produced 324,503,531 feet of lumber."

That was 25-years after Henry Loud was the managing partner at Loud, Priest & Shepard - one of the largest employers of lumbermen in Oscoda.  These hard working guys made 75¢ a day ... a 12-hour day ... likely 6-days a week.  Ouch. 

Just as the forest was largely depleted a massive fire broke-out in 1911 and wiped out the entire community (colorized image below/center).  It took decades for the area to recover, financially. 

"... I say, old chap. This lie calls for a mashie niblick!"

As mentioned below, after reading a swell book about Red Grange, 1930's era football star,  I set out to tackle an autobiography by Francis Ouimet, U.S. Golf Open Champion.  I'm about half-way thru it and enjoying the book tremendously, but it's taking a bit longer than I thought - mainly 'cuz I find myself translating quite a bit of the content.  Example ... Ouimet writes: 

The thirteenth hole at Flossmoor was a very short one, calling for a mashie niblick pitch. The green sloped abruptly from right to left, ordinarily the player tries to place his ball on the upper part, allowing for the slope to turn his ball toward the center of the green.

A mashie niblick?  Louise gave me a link to a great website: "Golf Clubs? Mashies and Niblicks, Baffies and Spoons — Sorting Them All Out"  They say: "back in the early days ... golf clubs in a set were not identified by number (e.g., 5-iron), but by name. There were clubs called mashies, niblicks and mashie-niblicks, among others ... [which] had the role of the 7-iron".  Ok, a 7-iron ... now I can relate.

We saw the movie: The Greatest Game Ever Played based on the true story of 20-yr old Ouimet's victory over reigning champion Harry Vardon at the 1913 US Open.  What I did not know was Ouimet would enjoy a long, successful amateur career winning 28 tournaments including the US Amateur title (twice) and the French Amateur championship.

posted 03.09.20

Another star from the "golden era of sport":  Red Grange

That's the topic of the latest book I've had the pleasure reading:  'Red' Grange - The life & legacy of the NFL's first Superstar.  The book was a gift from Louise and part of my deep dive into the characters who gave Americans something to cheer about in the 1920's & 30's.  My current interest stems from my father's childhood sports card collection that Louise & I dove into in 2018.  Dad's cards stashed away for decades in a green metal tackle box didn't include 'Red' Grange's football card so Mike bought it ... 1933 Sport Kings from the Goudey Gum Co. [link to Mike's collection]. 

The Grange card from this landmark series tend to be rare & expensive so initially I was just gonna' get a budget minded "reprint" ... but then found a nice one for a price I was willing to pay, and have it framed with 13 other legends from the golden era of sport.  Grange is a 3-time All-American running back/defensive back from the University of Illinois ... who signed with the Chicago Bears in 1925.  Harold Grange teamed with Hall-of-Famers like George Halas and Bronko Nagurski to win 2 NFL titles in '32 & '33.   After Grange's playing days were over he coached a few years and then got into writing & broadcasting - both radio & TV - and in his free-time: sold insurance. 

I'm debating which book on my stack of "must read" volumes will be next: an autobiography from Francis Ouimet, America's 1st US Open golf champion ... or A Very Stable Genius - Donald J. Trump's testing of America by Phil Rucker & Carol Leonnig.  Given that this week is Super Tuesday (primary elections for 1/3 of the country) it may be wise to tackle the book that addresses our current problem: a White House occupant unfit & unsuited for the job.  I know, I know ... politics are s'posed to be banned on this page and discussed only on my "issues & thoughts" page.  Well, that's the nice thing about being self-employed and the master of my own universe: I get to flip-flop and not feel the slightest bit of remorse ... after all, the majority of Americans agree: the Donald needs to be removed from office even if the GOP hasn't the spine to do it. If you disagree, read the book mentioned and let me know where it's factually inaccurate.

posted 03.01.20 [hard to believe it's March already!]

update 03.02.20 - watched President Trump addressing conservative whack-a-doodle CPAC convention where the Donald called the corona virus a "hoax" and blamed Democrats ... naturally I nearly vomited.  With "super Tuesday" primary elections looming I suspect I'll have my fill of factually challenged "news" & will welcome an escape hatch.  Yep, I opted to read Francis Ouimet autobiography and will tackle A Very Stable Genius next week. Besides, the Ouimet book is short: under 300 small pages featuring large type ... published in 1932.  There just so many elements & rich detail to the Ouimet story and his unexpected victory at the 1913 US Golf Open ... defeating legendary Harry Varden ... living literally across the street from the course ... the ages of the winning team: a 20-yr old amateur & his 10-yr old caddie!  Should be swell.

Say It Ain't So: Oblio Turns 50??  Yikes.

Friends of ours posted a note on Facebook about an NPR story celebrating the fiftieth birthday of The Point.  Scott Simon says: "Harry Nilsson's concept album The Point turns fifty this year; to celebrate, the 1971 animated film adapted from the music will be released digitally and on BluRay for the first time. Nilsson, a beloved if occasionally overlooked writer of late 1960s pop hits, died in 1994, but his strange and endearing fairy tale album still resonates with those that remember it."  Digital?  Cool, where do I sign up? 

I do take exception however, with depicting the musical as "strange" and I just don't quite understand why Harry is so often overlooked given the volume of work that he produced ... but I am thrilled to finally figure out how to get "Simon says" into a sentence posted above.

I've been a huge fan of The Point ever since it was released as an album (still own it) and as a TV special and then finally: as a movie!  RCA wanted to beef-up the credits on the film so they hired Ringo Starr of Beatles fame to handle the narration, but I actually prefer the original story telling on the album by Harry himself, who wrote and produced the songs and the story.  (I don't recall if I ever heard the Dustin Hoffman narration on the TV special.)

So what's the story, you ask?  It's a fun one: The Point is a fable that tells the story of a boy named Oblio, the only round-headed person in the Pointed Village, where by law everyone and everything must have a point.  Everyone has one ... that's the way they wanted it, and that's the way it's gonna' stay!  In the land of Point ... every thing and every one had a point.   Oblio's best friend is his handsome and empathetic dog, Arrow, and the round-headed Oblio wears a pointed hat to conceal his "pointless" condition from his pointy-headed peers.  It's a rich story about acceptance and resisting authoritarian pointlessness!

The album is rich with information about the Land of Point and it's residents ... including a rich illustrated storyboard depicting Nilsson's stories.  Artists even put a point on Nipper, the famous RCA Master's Voice logo (shown left).  Plenty of music fans consider Nilsson to be the most important musician to NOT be in our Rock-n-Roll Hall Of Fame ... a wrong that needs to be righted. 

posted 02.16.20  [minor tweaking 02.17.20]

CDC study identifies the laziest states in America

To remain focused on my personal weight loss efforts I find it helpful to view myself much like the blockbuster movie WALL·E depicted most all human life forms who trashed planet Earth.  Not familiar with the movie?  Likely you can find a copy at your local library, or, like the fellow eating lunch on the sofa (left) you can stream it at home.  Quick-plot-summary: rampant consumerism and environmental neglect have turned Earth into a garbage-strewn wasteland in the 29th century. Humanity is nowhere to be found, having been evacuated by the megacorporation Buy-N-Large (BnL) on giant star liners 7 centuries earlier. The couple wearing red suits (below left) illustrate the affect their sedentary lifestyle has had on Earthling descendants who made the giant star liners "home".  Of the robotic trash compactors left by BnL to clean up Earth, only one remains operational: a Waste Allocation Load-Lifter - Earth Class ... hence, WALL·E.   

Not real happy with this story line?  Blame FOX News who recently reported:  "The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) this month released its findings from a recent study on physical inactivity levels across the U.S. The study, which combined data from 2015 through 2018 ...  overall, all states and territories had more than 15 percent of adults who were considered physically inactive. Physical inactivity was determined if they responded “no” to the question: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?” In particular, seven MAGA states: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee & Kentucky – reported the highest levels of inactivity.  In these states, 30 percent or more of adults were physically inactive. Colorado, Washington, Utah, Oregon and the District of Columbia were the most active areas in the nation." (Not sure if it's significant but all 'cept UT are considered to be "blue states".)

Time for me to hop back on the treadmill ... then, I'll need to carve-out some time to watch impeachment proceedings which begin today.
posted 01.21.20

New Feature Added By Popular Demand

Okay, that's a stretch, but last month I mentioned discovering some music that was new to my ears using that technique most of us have encountered but did not have an official name ... so I called the process: "A piece of strudel"  ... my shorthand to describe a tasty treat in layers ... like a fine pastry."  You find one thing of interest on the internet and next thing you know you find a dozen more things, and well, there goes a perfectly good morning.  "A" leads to "B" and then "C", and so-on, and on, & on.

In last month's Strudel I mentioned finding a cute little tune ... a duet sung by that creepy clown, Puddles (Mike Geier) & Haley Reinhart. The song, "Mad World" was written Roland Orzabal in 1982 & performed by the British band Tears for Fears, sung by bassist Curt Smith back when MTV was the rage. Well, I liked the original version, and especially liked what Puddles & Reinhart did with the song ... so following the natural progression of things, I wondered: who else has recorded the tune?  Enter layer #2:  Janet Devlin a singer / songwriter from Northern Ireland who has an excellent but rather sad version ... and that lead to layer #3: Gary Jules who sings a slightly more upbeat, positive rendition.  But wait! There's more, as I stumble upon layer #4 ... Gary's version of "Mad World" was incorporated into a creative movie-short: "Mad World Remix of Moby Video" an absolutely amazing animation by Steve Cutts which "tells a powerful story, with or without the music."  Well worth viewing ... just love the way Cutts depicts all the mindless souls walking about with their faces buried deep into their "smart phones" almost trance-like.

If, however, all of this talk about strudel has awakened other parts of your brain and made your tummy growl, here's a fun little apple strudel recipe you may wish to try at home.  (Or dash out and buy a box of Pop-Tarts, America's mass-produced version of fine French pastry.)

posted 01.15.20

Mike's book shelf ... rich with history

“I’ve always wanted to write a book about people we never heard of,” said McCullough, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author.  McCullough checked that bucket-list item with the publication of his latest historical book: "The Pioneers" which Louise got for me last year.  She knows I'm a huge McCullough fan having read just about all he's written. The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path Between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Truman, John Adams, The Wright Brothers.  She also gave me a copy of 1776 which I struggled at the time to develop an interest and never finished.  The Pioneers may provide the context to help me try once again.  McCullough's books were a great companion back in the 80's & 90's when I was a young-pup salesman out on the road ... they gave me a bit of inspiration & knowledge as well as purpose (vs. doing stupid stuff some traveling sales folks do when "on the road again").

McCullough's Pioneers chronicled the migration of Americans into the "Northwest Territory" (Ohio) beginning in 1787 which expanded West into what is now known as Indiana, Illinois, Michigan & Wisconsin. The massive chunk of land was ceded by the British in 1783, and McCullough follows the creation of the "Ohio Company" to populate America's new Western regions including the courageous quest of America's pioneering settlers & surveyors.  It's a worthy read.

On deck:  a biography on Red Grange - America's first pro-football superstar.  (Two other biographies were found under the Christmas tree this year, so this is no time to dawdle ... both books chronicle lives of some of American golfers: Byron Nelson & Francis Ouimet.)

posted 01.11.20

Mike Wins Championship Game - Not Enough; Louise Wins High Pointe Bowl Pickers Contest

So Mike picks LSU to win the big game while Louise was rooting for Clemson. The final score (42 - 25)  overwhelming favored Mike, but the rest of the contest belonged completely to Louise.  She owned it this year.  If you're totally in the dark we'll try to 'splain: each year around this time Mike & Louise watch excessive amounts of football at all levels: high school, college & professional ... and then if we're not totally brain-dead we attempt to select the winning teams participating in the major college bowl games.  We call it the High Pointe Bowl Pickers contest. And this year Louise's 12 game margin of victory established a new household record.  Mike picked losers more often than winners (19-22).  In the nine years we've done this - the largest margin of victory was 6 wins ... in 2013, Louise won 22 to 16.  The national championship game was a fun finale to our household contest but in reality, Louise secured her victory after the infamous Belk Bowl way back in 2019.

(Above photo: Ohio Univ. celebrates it's 30-21 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win over Nevada by dumping French Fried potatoes on coach Frank Solich.)

How did this get started?  Well, decades of ineptitude by the Detroit Lions tends to drive fans crazy - it stands to reason that we would move on ... namely to high school & college football.  We started our annual contest in 2011 ... you may have read about it in Mike's article:  "He Lacked" (story archived here).   And, it's no wonder Louise has dominated the event in recent years.  She does her homework.   And we're not talking about simply reading headlines off some Twitter-feed"Every bowl season, Mike prints out an official High Pointe Pickers sheet so we can keep track which team we pick & game results," Louise says.  "I read articles like: which team has a rookie quarterback or which key players are injured ... coaches retiring or fired … teams with awesome defense or offence, etc.  I also take into consideration their travel time to the bowl game and it may affect the team, etc."

updated 01.15.20

historical:
2020-21:  pandemic - no contest here.
2019-20:  Louise won! 31-19 (new record)
2018-19:  Louise won! 16-15 
2017-18:  Louise won! 22-20
2016-17:  Louise won! 24-22
 
2015-16:  Mike won 25 to 20
2014-15:  Mike won 19 to 16
2013-14:  Louise won 22 to 16
2012-13:  Mike won 24 to 17
2011-12:  Louise won 18 to 14.

Like A Kid ... Again

Sort of like "show-n-tell" when you were a kid ... here are some of Mike's favorite Christmas presents ... an official vintage Walter Hagen golf ball from brother John, and neat display case from Louise ... the ball goes with the Hagen Sport Kings card and biography mentioned a few months ago [link].  Louise also got us the cute model of the 1940's GM Futurliner ... one of 12 rolling exhibition vehicles that took information and science "to the people" at state fairs and other venues back in the day.

So where did Louise get this brilliant idea to buy Mike a model of the GM Futurliner (above)?  Well, as many of us are prone to do, Mike was surfing the web one day and spotted these photos below of the 1941 Western Flyer vintage RV designed by a guy named Clifford Brooks Stevens ... who as it turns out, designed all sorts of amazingly cool stuff.  All sorts of vehicles, including the famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!  Boats, motorcycles, household appliances.  In researching the Western Flyer, Mike stumbled upon the GM's Parade of Progress and their Futurliners.  If you're thinking: "hey, this sounds a bit like the strudel story below, you would be right.  The point is: we used to actually build neat stuff like this in America.  With a bit of courage, we can again.


[more pix of the Western Flyer, inside & out]

posted 12.31.19 - updated 01.02.20

SOLD!  J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store...the fun little shop that Louise launched in 1991 now has a new owner (eff. Oct. 2017).  Our beloved Little Red wagon that hauled over 4.7 million pounds of the birdseed has such rich patina we couldn't give it up.  Brother John was kind enough to get us a new little red wagon for JJ's new owner Gretchen Giles so that our original little red can enjoy retirement, too.  Little Red is now Louise's "Chuck Wagon" ...helping with the daily task filling bird feeders at High Point!

Archived: 2018 + 2019 articles
hammock lovers....head to toe (times 2)...the rest of the story.best friends
while in college Mike had a roommate who nixed the standard issue dormitory bed in favor of a hammock. Yep, he strung it up with lag bolts secured in concrete walls. Quirky guy that boy we called "2-shirt Tanis" (because he always employed the layered look: shirt on shirt).

Anyway, this isn't a shirt-tale, but rather, a hammock story. Louise has bought a couple of 'em for our little utopia in the woods - strung between two sturdy oaks with the bolts slowly being absorbed by the growing trees. It's a peaceful way to spend some quality time with a good friend: swinging in a hammock. We made a design note to ourselves recently that when it comes time to build a Superior home we'd be wise to incorporate a hammock to be placed indoors so that we could use it year-round (ala' 2-shirt)! See? There was some linkage after all, to these tales. 


What happened to the "blog"?  Too much spam.  Given the political landscape in this country, one more ranting voice is certainly not going to make a difference.  I'll continue to write an occasional piece under the heading above: "issues & thoughts". 
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It's really not a shock ... something on this page was revised on 05.18.24