Monday, February 29, 2016

Minnesota Nice - Not Always the Best Choice

When Steve & I were honeymooning in Arizona back in 2012, we did a bit of wandering around, exploring the greater Phoenix area. We were just heading out from a western wear store where Steve bought a belt to go with his wedding present from me, a turquoise and silver belt buckle.

The street we were on was busy, though at this late date I have no idea which one it was. A family was trying to cross at the corner, and as we got nearer it was plain to see their frustration while they waited for a safe crossing. There was at least one small walking child and another in a stroller. Nobody was stopping.

Now Minnesota, a little late to the party, I thought, had just passed stricter laws about stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks. Wisconsin had done it several years before and I had to pay attention as I crossed state lines. I was happy to see the trend spreading. I had no idea about Arizona laws on the subject. So while I didn't know if it was legally required (and I suspected not, judging by other drivers), I did know what was morally right. I stopped, blocking all northbound traffic.

After a few more southbound cars passed, an opening appeared in their lane and the family started crossing. Safely. When the rest of them were nearly to the curb and safe, the dad darted quickly back in front of our car and looked at our license plate. Minnesota still has front plates. He smiled, waved, and shouted, "I knew you weren't from around here!"

That was Minnesota nice. The attitude behind it is a big part of how I was raised. You can call it civility, manners, the Golden Rule, humility, all sorts of things. When I think back on it, the core hinged on the idea that I'm not the most important person in the world. I am not the most deserving, the most interesting, the best anything, and especially not the most everything.

On the whole it has stood me in good stead. But not always. The choice is always there to slide into the easy opposite, and assume I might very well be the least important, deserving, interesting, etc. Mom was a great help with that. I learned very early in life that if I had a disagreement with another, particularly an adult, it had to be my fault. Now granted, she was more right than wrong.

However, not always. I recall what might be the only time she picked my side of something. It was a new class year in a new school, new town. The teacher placed us kids in the "smart" and "stupid" reading sections by handing us the book and having each of us read from it. The day dragged on, and being too soon over, a few of us had no tryouts. I got stuck with the stupid kids and was very upset about it. I was always an avid and speedy reader once I'd learned how, and was so bored in reading classes that I read ahead and finished the reading book within a couple of weeks. It was supposed to last the year. So there were a couple weeks of less boredom anyway.

Mom was getting ready as usual to find a reason why I deserved the stupid kids reading section. Had I misbehaved? Not paid attention during the read aloud test? When I informed her that I had been placed without being given the test, she actually placed a call to the school (no getting off work for the little stuff) and a day or two later I got reassigned. Also a grumpy teacher. I hardly noticed. Fourth grade was for the most part one of those wasted years.

As an adult I had reason to judge for myself whether or not an instance of Minnesota Nice was really the place to go. I was in a hospital for something or other, and they needed to place an IV. One of the things about IVs is that if you don't hit a vein square on, you have to remove the needle and start again. In a new spot. With a new needle. I the patient will now have contaminated the old ones.

I was trying to be patient. Be nice. But after about the 4th unsuccessful stick, I began to speak up. Began, I said. In looking back I firmly believe that guy doing the sticking had way more ego than skill. Obviously his lack of success was my fault. My veins were too small. Hell, I was a 10-gallon Red Cross blood donor. My veins were just fine, thank you. Might he try letting somebody else do it?

He refused, sure that this vein would be "the good one". Nope. By this time the frustration and pain were bringing tears to my eyes with each successive poke, something I tried to hide because I was supposed to be the adult, the good patient, not the whiner. Nice.

Lucky for me just before his 7th poke (!) an older, might I say female nurse wandered in to see what was taking so long. I verbally grabbed her, begging for them to give me someone who could actually do the job. She looked at the holes and bruises in my hands, wrists, forearms, and noted he was getting ready to start on my legs!

I'm sure I caught a dirty look pass from her to him at the carnage, but she simply stated mildly that he should learn to call for assistance in a case like this. (Pick one: "a case like this" is defined as A: an uncooperative and difficult patient, or B: a medical staffer performing procedures way above his skill level.) Then she deftly found an unpunctured spot, wiped it with alcohol, and slid that puppy in as sweet and smooth as you please!

I never was troubled with that particular young man again during my stay.

I have mentioned the incident to phlebotomists here and there in my medical forays. I did it today as well, since part of the pre-registration process at the hospital is drawing blood to make sure of a type match. (It's A+ guys, just like the report cards!)

Hey, did you know that in Arizona, it's now the law that after only two pokes the patient can insist that they send in somebody else to do the job? Wooo Hoooo!

Let's see now... what else could I complain about? You know, that 30-some years later somebody could fix. Somebody NICE.

Many Pardons...Again/Still

It's the goofy pills, I'm afraid. Still making me goofy, but hey, I can walk, even if it's not in such a straight line. Still taking less than the Doc's dosage. Still goofy. Still can't read. I mean I can, but the rate of two naps per page is not an exaggeration. Dang! I pick up the Kindle thinking I'm just fine, awake and sober, and three lines later I'm aware... that I haven't been aware for more than the first few words of whatever it was. The eyes were shut. The br...

OK, here's perfect example. My phone rang, interrupting my thought. Assuming it qualified as one. You judge. I cannot even imagine what I was starting to say that started out as "The br".

Let's hope it wasn't important. At least I remember that the interruption was a pharmacy robocall, letting me know that what I called in for a refill yesterday is ready to be picked up. After Steve wakes up and can drive, of course. At least I have proof of what condition I'm in, i.e., non-drivable. I'm not quite so goofy as to try to argue the fact.

Preparations have been proceeding at a slow pace to get ready. Two loads of laundry have been done but there will be another tomorrow night before packing. Dishes have been washed, so the kitchen will be clean unless somebody decided to eat in the meantime. I plan to bring the Kindle, but that's likely more habit and optimism than a reflection of my real expectation of use. Somebody remind me to bring the charger. It fits both the Kindle and the cell. I do have solid expectations of needing the latter. "Hello. Yes I'm fine. My PT schedule is nutzo but you might try a visit at ___. Where are you? Can you please bring___? Will you double check that the DVR is set to record ____? Oops, here's the nurse for more torture sessions, gotta go."

The hose is watering the back yard. It'll be a real challenge to take the walker out through the rocks to turn it on/off after surgery. The plants better be happy for what they get, that's all! It is a desert down here, doncha know. I didn't set a timer on it exactly, but the lady who brings her haircutting tools on house calls will be showing up at just about the perfect time to shut it off. We'll do the cut out on the patio, so less fuss about the mess.

And so far the breeze isn't kicking up pollen. I know: I was just out. I can't even smell the orange blossoms today, and now that they've started, they should remain overpowering for weeks. So knock on wood. I've been trying to avoid kickstarting the nose dripping sneezing coughing because I can't help but fear the surgical staff will mistake it all for the flu and cancel my surgery. Then what do I do?

Anyway, I'm getting a very short cut. That way it won't matter if I muss it in the hospital or can't make it into the shower for a few days. As long as I finger comb it to follow the directions of the cowlicks, it'll look like somebody thought that's how it should look.

Haha! Fooled ya!

OK, maybe a 5 minute nap before she gets here....

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On The "Goo-o-o-o-od" Stuff

This will be shorter than my usual. Why? Because I'm on the "gooo-o-o-od" stuff. Percoset. Double the usual strength, if I can judge by what Steve has prescribed for him.

I don't actually like it.

Oh, the absence of pain is great. I can walk around with the merest twinge in the knees, and the fact that I pulled something in my back yesterday, when I was out pulling weeds from the back yard so I could be sure it got done before my surgery, means that under the influence of this stuff I am merely feeling what I'd call a mildly annoying itch along my spine.

It doesn't make me high. I consider that a good thing. I've been high on alcohol. At the time I considered that to be fun. Wheee-e-e-e-e-e! Of course I was legally under age at the time, and appropriately stupid. I also felt out of control, and found that to be somewhat less than fun. Designated driver is a more appropriate niche for my comfort level.

Now I merely feel like I've been pushed aside in my own skull. There's a feeling of pressure, almost but not quite rising to the level of a headache. There was also quite a stomach cramp with the first pill. I tried a couple extra glasses of water, as if it were an acid stomach needing diluting. When that failed in relief, I ate a couple handfuls of Wheat Thins, the only crackers in the house. Those helped.

I decided it was not a time to worry too much about carb counting.

I further resolved to cut the rest of the pills in half. I throw out any resulting crumbs. I've heard they can make you super-high, not what I'm looking for. The lesser dose seems to be sufficient.

My insomnia disappeared, at least for the first night. I slept so soundly you might have thought it was the old sleep-deprived me, gone at the drop of a head on the pillow. I've heard that weird dreams can be a side effect of narcotics. Of course, in order to remember dreams, one must wake during one. (Check the studies.) As asleep as I was, that didn't happen, so I can't tell you whether any were more weird than usual or not. What I woke up from, what I always finally wake up from, was one of those gotta-pee-but-not-here things that finally get me out of bed.

Good thing too!

Having slept the night through, I managed to sleep most of the morning through, as well as a good part of the afternoon. I do remember Steve coming out midmorning and asking had I watched any TV? I also recall telling him no, but I was trying to read a bit, managing it at a rate of two naps a page.

I'm anticipating that my body will begin to adjust to the medication and some version of normality will again appear. I still have stuff to do before heading to the hospital.

Starting with finding the list of things I still have to do.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Changes - and Updates

Just when you think you've got a plan....

Surgery is both the same and different. My 1st new knee is still scheduled for early next month. I've done the see-your-primary-care thing, been working on the pre-surgery PT thing, gotten the strong meds to replace ibuprofin for that last bit of time when I have to cease so-called blood thinners. I'm being good. I've even been to Joint Club, where they fill you in on all the expectations and requirements of the surgery.

Yes, I'll be walking right after surgery, just as soon as I'm awake enough to stand up. They promise us no bedpans and lots of fluid input by IV, so there will be a WHOLE lot of incentive to get up and ... uh ... go. Wish me luck with getting an assist with that soon enough after the urge hits. That, or somebody with a good mop. I can't imagine the staff being in as much of a hurry as I will be, without demonstrable incentive.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

The big change comes first in paying for it, and second in scheduling the second one. Which will also render a change in scheduling the northward journey this year.

First, BCBS (stands for Blue Cross Bull...) just send me a letter informing me that the supplemental insurance I am paying for will renew automatically on the 1st of April. OK, I guess. First I heard of that as the renewal date. Since we have to sign up for it to start on Jan. 1st, shouldn't it carry through Dec. 31st?

Apparently not. And guess what happens with the renewal? Yep. Price increase. Ding ding ding, you got it.

So I called our health insurance agent. Just another thing she neglected to inform us of back when we signed up for the new year's coverage. Turns out she knew about that renewal date thing. Apparently it's a change for this year. Oops, sorry.

After a lengthy couple of phone conversations, one with BCBS and one with the agent, it turns out that supplemental insurance is a bit different. It can be changed any time during the year, not just during the sign-up period. And yes, there are cheaper options out there. The cheapest one that's equivalent to what I now carry is just over half the price, with a couple caveats. I need to sign up before my next birthday to qualify for the lowest price. And I need to be able to honestly answer questions about dialysis, end-stage renal failure, and whether, within the last two years, any doctor has recommended any surgical procedure that has not been done.  So there is a rush to get the second knee done before my next birthday. Once I qualify for that special price, there is a lock-in on price increase increases, an even bigger incentive to act ASAP.

Keep in mind we want to head north to see family including a planned wedding, escape the summer heat, and in Steve's case, fish. Could we do all that in time?

I contacted the orthopedic office to check when the second knee might be scheduled. The delay to next fall had been my idea, accommodating summer plans and my not driving long distances on a recently replaced knee. (We're doing the right or "driving" knee second.) Best possible case, no complications and good recovery, good follow-through with the PT, the second knee could be scheduled for late April and I would be required to stick around The Valley for 8 weeks.

OK, we're good for the insurance scheduling, knock on wood. But what about the driving? We are used to making over 1800 miles in three days, two motel nights. That includes dog walking as well as our own necessary stops. I would not have been doing much of any driving for close to four months by then. No daily 300-500 miles for work on a regular basis. The body readjusts.

I called Paul, my youngest. He's coming down to visit and escape winter late next month. That will use up his available paid vacation, but when would he have more days? And would he be willing? Two of those three driving days can be over the weekend, so maybe two or three more off work, one to drive, one to fly, one to relax and help with the closing up the house routine, as well as "insurance" against weather delaying his flight. And yes, he was willing, as well as having more time off by then.

Another phone call established that the family wedding is planned for July anyway, so we won't need to miss that.  Great! This one is really important to me, being my granddaughter. Maybe by then I can even walk for it!

So, other changes? My brother is finally a granddad. His eldest daughter just had their first baby, and already we're being flooded with adorable pictures. (Keep 'em coming!) Many years ago my mom bemoaned the fact that all my kids carried my married surname, and my brother's kids were both girls. The family name, Maxson, on this continent for nearly 4 centuries, would not be carried forth by this branch of the family. What did my niece and her husband do? They named him Maxson James for first and middle names. While I suspect he's mostly named for my brother, I prefer to think of him as being named in honor of our father. Either, both, doesn't matter. He's healthy, adorable, sucks his thumb with his fingers all but poking his eye, and once again makes me a great aunt. This makes two great nephews from different sides of the extended family.

I think I smiled all day. It didn't hurt a bit that he was born on our Valentines Day 4th wedding anniversary. I wasn't surprised, as his mother was born on my daughter's 12th birthday. At least there are two relatives whose birthdays I can remember.

Don't confuse that with getting sent presents. Or even cards. Sorry.

Another change that means a whole heck of a lot more to us that it will to any of you, unless you come visit, is that we now have two functioning showers. And for way less that the $18 grand the first plumber quoted, though to be fair it was for a somewhat bigger job. To still be fair, it also didn't include wall repairs, etc. so the final price would be still higher. For those who haven't been following or haven't cared, the shower in the master bath had a knob you pulled out to switch water from tub to shower, then pushed for back to tub. One day well over a year ago I pulled and the knob just kept coming. One shower down.

A couple weeks ago I was using the other shower, since I don't do tubs. It started making that funny high pitched sound - luckily at the end of the shower - it made when the water was almost all switched back to the tub but a bit was still being forced through the pipe at high pressure. I couldn't push this knob all the way back to shut the water off. I had to call Steve for enough muscle to shut it down. No more showers.

It's not like we now needed to be filthy nasty or anything. There was still what one can do at the kitchen sink or down in the pool showers at the community center. But still.

Steve and I went to Home Depot shopping for tub surrounds, knowing any plumber would have to bust through one wall to fix both showers. We would up with a handyman who could do all the other work and who had a helper who's a licensed plumber in the state of Washington. They started Monday and finished Wednesday. Both showers now have hand-held water saver nozzles, look good, don't leak either behind the wall or around the tub tops.

And I still have a bit of a budget left. In case. You just gotta know something else will need repairs.

Shhhhh, don't jinx it!

And if you happen to be local and need some work done, I heartily recommend Cletus. He does stuccoing too, if you're interested. But I'll only tell you how to reach him if we don't need him at the moment. We've gotten selfish. You can decide for yourselves if that's another change.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


I'm sure most folks agree that an inventory is a necessary thing. I also believe most all of them hate to have to do one.

There are good reasons for that.

I recall years ago having to take inventory of all the clothes hanging on the racks at the dry cleaners. One year one of the part time employees managed to take off with what was probably the most expensive outfit in the place. While we didn't actually catch her at it, she was the only one in a matching size 3. Unlike many of the clothes forgotten and hanging there year after year, this was left by one of our most regular and least favorite customers. And really, she only left it for most of a year. It wasn't like she had really forgotten it. She apparently didn't quite have enough closet space at home for everything, and this was free rental space. Or so she thought. And really, what would you expect to have happen to a pink ultrasuede suit?

The cleaners had to pay quite a claim on it. She actually had kept the receipt from the purchase.

That was the kind of inventory with consequences. I'm now helping work on a slightly different kind of inventory, the one for Sterling and Stones Club. Nobody's going to put in a claim for what might be missing. After all, who can really tell? Nothing is numbered, things have gotten broken or lost, some replaced, some re-entered on the list under different names, everything on the multiple pages is in no recognizable order, and for most of us, there is no actual connection between objects and names on the list.

What is a dremel tool? Anybody?

For years, whoever has been in charge has just signed off on the list without actually checking what is or isn't there. I can understand trying to avoid the challenge, especially now that I'm one of six working at it. But this year the club has a new president who isn't satisfied with just signing off and being responsible for who-knows-what. The original list is 4 pages. I'm betting on 8 to 10 once it's corrected.

So we're all learning. Today will be day 2 for us. Wish us luck.

Take mandrels. Do you know what one is? I didn't. I'm still not sure I could point to one and name it. One spot on the list just says we have four of them. Other spots on the list breaks them down into one each in four different categories. All of those entries are scattered over three pages. Somehow we have to locate all the mandrels at once, sort them out, and find out whether we have 4, or 4 unspecified plus four highly differentiated ones. Maybe something altogether different. I'm betting on the latter. That's how it's been going.

That may be the easy part. When we're done, there will be the data entry for somebody else to do, trying to read our notes, figuring out when we are duplicating each other, and putting everything in some kind of sensible order. After all, this will have to be done again next year.

Poor whoever they are.

At least some of the folks doing inventory this year actually know what stuff is. Another woman and I were the ones who knew just enough at the start of the process to count coffee pots, chairs and stools (5 kinds), cameras in the security system, microwave and fridge, kilns, crock pots (not for food), tables - assorted by length. At least those needed to be counted too, so we were still some help.

But again, nothing matches the list, or when it does, like the one small fridge, got listed without the serial number. There is a definite column on the list for serial numbers. Good luck!

The old sheet said we had one large and one small coffee pot. After searching and much discussion, we decided a large coffee pot should be something like a 30-cup unit, the kind of thing one sets up for club meetings. Not one of the 3 12-cup  units qualifies. We're not sure the third one even works, but that's not a question for this count.

The two listed shop vacs turned into three, only one being wet/dry, and no upright vacuum was found. Three kilns became 4, 3 crock pots became 2. A whole lot of acetylene tank accessories came up missing, until one of the locked cabinets got opened, giving us a higher count of many things I can't remember the name for. Oh wait, one was called a "third hand": how do you forget that? And where can I get one?

What? Not that kind of hand?

We had 1 large and 1 small vise listed on one page. Another listed a standard vise - whatever the heck we decide that is - plus one swivel vise and one jeweler's vise. As we were getting ready to call it a day yesterday but nowhere near thinking we had any real answers for most of the questions (nevermind understanding the questions!) we located three - oops, four - vises attached to tables, 13 hanging on a rack, three different kinds hiding in various cabinets, several items with some clamping capability but likely called something completely different due to their specialized use....

Uff Da!

I do recognize some tools. We have something like 97 assorted drill bits. We found one drill, not cordless. I guess there weren't enough funds in the club back when that got purchased. I can tell a hacksaw from a coping saw, although there was much discussion about how exactly those were different from jewelry saws. There were no actual blades in the latter, so I'm still left clueless as to which is what. I can tell a screwdriver, and can also tell you nobody cared to count how many were flat bladed and how many phillips. You'd think hammers would be easy too, but it seems we have rawhide, wood, and funny rounded-pointed kinds in either wood or plastic with a different kind of name that I can't remember but which are used to shape metal by pounding it into a rounded hollow in a metal cubic form. Oh, and one short sledge hammer.

If you remember the rock hammer from "Shawshank Redemption", well, there was nothing like that in all the hammers. Apparently they are more useful in breaking out of prison than working on actual rocks.

So now it's time to get dressed, grab lunch, and head out for another day of... uh... education? Happy Valentines Day! How are you spending yours?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Runnin Around

Good thing I had a week or so to do little or nothing. That's defined as reading, catching up on TV, letting dogs in/out, getting dressed/undressed - or not, refilling hummer feeders, etc. Like I said, nothing.

At least it gave the knees a break.  Now I'm making up for it. I got one of my bigger rocks slabbed, ready for sawing/grinding/polishing/mounting, after a month's worth of impediments. I got some volunteer assignments so I have stuff to do for the club, and because of getting some of that accomplished, I got some pieces submitted, past the jury process, and up for sale in the shop. I also got feedback on how to do it better, much of which boils down to using different wire than my instructor a year ago told us to use. Of course, honing my skills with wire is another part of it.

The back yard pruning is started. It needs to mostly wait for this time of year, called "late winter", or otherwise noted as when the temperatures rise up into the upper 70s and the 80s again.  Winter. One bush is left, but it's a biggie and needs to be cut back to the ground. Then the pieces need to be cut up to fit into a discarded dog food bag so the bazillion thorns on them do not bother the garbage pickup crew.

We don't want to in any way bother those guys. So far they treat us very well.

I found the latest spot in the fence where Ellie has been getting out, and put a couple chunks of concrete in front of it. The first one is to block the hole. The second is to keep the first one where it'll do some good. I also bought tent stake nails which can be pounded into the ground on either side of that first chunk on another day to keep it in place should the second chunk not do it. She can dig, after all.

There have been doctor visits and related phone calls. The orthopedic surgeon requires a primary care visit within 3 weeks of surgery  (there'd be another one but my cardiologist sent a written note), and the primary requires an x-ray and lab work. I just visited the lab for a retest after one questionable result from January and now I'm right back. The bruise from the last needle stick barely had time to fade. Hmmm, I might throw in my mammogram too while I'm thinking about it. AND while I can actually stand for it. Literally.

I need iron pills before surgery so that - I think - I have plenty extra blood built up inside to spill all over with the first scalpel slice. And the next. And the rest. That was another trip to the store, but I found some groceries I was getting a bit low on while I was there.

There was the first visit to the one store which actually carries the wire recommended to me for jewelry use. I did say first. It lasted just long enough to find out that no, they have no electric shopping carts, nor any department signs over the aisles so you don't have to walk every single one of them to find that one thing. I'll head back when I feel like dismantling and reassembling my little scooter for the trip. I have to get over being pissed off at them first.

There was the trip to the pharmacy to drop off the scrip for the Percoset which I'll need to replace the ibuprofin I won't be allowed to take before the surgery because after all these years somebody has decided that ibuprofin actually is a blood thinner. They have insisted it wasn't since, well, forever, or at least 1985 when I started using it regularly. (Yes, I still have a great stomach and kidneys, thanks for asking. Liver too, since I never used Tylenol because it didn't do what I needed.)

There will be a return trip to pick up the pills, no hurry because I still have a few days before I start to switch over, but I have to get them within 7 days or they change their minds about letting me take the stuff. Just 'cause, you know, there are always folks out there that take the stuff like candy and spoil it for the rest of us.

There was the ER visit with Steve who was having severe gastrointestinal pain. He got new meds and a new worry. They found a spot on his chest x-ray. It's possible it's "just" scar tissue from getting valley fever after first moving down here, but until they can find an expert that his insurance will pay for so he can get a definitive diagnosis, we just don't know. The words "spot" and "lung" seldom go together innocuously.

Then there was the trip to Home Depot to look for shower surrounds. Sure, the old curved plastic one probably cost $13.95 when it was first put in a hundred years ago, or at least looks and behaves like it's that old and cheap. I mean, if you push on it because your balance isn't perfect during your shower, there grows another hole. But we were looking for one because the old one has to come out so that the plumbing in the wall between both showers can be replaced.

Last year we were down to one functional shower. The knob that pulls out to switch water from tub to shower in the master bath just kept coming... away in my hand. Since I don't do the bath thing, just shower, the tub became, in effect, a catch-all. The toilet plunger has an extra long handle and doesn't go easily under the sink. The toilet cleaner and scrubbing bubbles sit there, just because I'm lazy. And the bathroom wastebasket sits there because it keeps the dogs out of it. They seem to think snotty tissues are a delicacy. I could flush them, the tissues I mean, but it's a desert down here and water is expensive.

The other shower was mostly working just fine if you didn't mind the holes, and mostly the water wasn't aimed at them anyway. But late last week it refused to shut off. Funny, eh? One won't turn on, one won't turn off. I yelled for Steve and he managed his guy brute force powers to pound it back against the wall. (My hero!) So now we're down two showers and have to resort to kitchen sink cleanups the way my mother did.

She called them spit baths. I doubt spitting was actually involved.

In a pinch, we can hit the showers at the community center pool.

Or maybe you can just chose not to visit us for a bit.

Anyway, back to Home Depot. While we were looking for surrounds, an employee helpfully directed us to store staff who could hook us up with handymen. While they couldn't vouch for them, they did vouch for them. In other words, they have recommended them to other customers who couldn't quite do it themselves and were happy with someone who could. They (H. D.) asked for our feedback on the people/companies they recommended to make sure they were still skillful, inexpensive, speedy, and trustworthy. All in all we were in there just under an hour. Good thing they have several electric shopping carts!

1st bit of feedback: of the 4 recommendations, one called us after we were promised by H.D. that we'd hear from them all  within 24-48 hours. Granted, it was Superbowl weekend, but we were in there Friday morning and expect a contact by Tuesday morning to qualify for the 48 hours. Of the one who called, he inspected the job, asked questions to make sure we both were discussing the same job (break out wall on 1 side, replace plumbing for both sides, put drywall back on and replace old surround with new one, reinstalling sliding glass doors). He was back with his estimate later that same day. We both needed a few days, him to finish current jobs, me to transfer funds out of an IRA with all that paperwork. Monday morning he will pick me up, we'll go to Home Depot together, and I can select the style of fixtures and surround. It will be completed before the end of the week, with one shower functioning after the first day, and water will be off to the whole house for only a few hours.

If we like his work as well as we like his price, we've got a few other projects we'd like done. I'm thinking maybe after my knees and I recover from this last week or so.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

On a Phoenix Brouhaha Regarding City Council Prayers

My daughter lives several large states and one to two time zones away, depending on Daylight Savings timing, She's not plugged in to Phoenix local news. As an atheistic activist, I thought she might be particularly interested in recent events down here. I know I was, even as "just" an agnostic. So I sent her the following email a bit ago:

Just an fyi for you. You can do more research in local news outlets if you care to. This is just a summary gleaned from local news, the bits sandwiched between Super Bowl, Waste Management Golf, Zika, and traffic coverage.

A group of Satanists applied for, and fought for over several years, the right to say their own prayer at the Phoenix City Council meetings. They were finally put on the agenda for later this month after attorney advisement that they couldn't be singled out when Judeo-Christian prayers were offered regularly. Naturally, as soon as it got some press, folks went bat-shit crazy. That got more press. A special council meeting was held to discuss it. All the usual opinions were expressed.

The upshot is that the city council will now be having a moment of silence rather than anybody's prayers being spoken.

This being Arizona, somebody in the legislature is sure to try to bring a bill up to defy the constitution.

*    *    *

A tiny note of perspective from a former small town mayor: We never had prayers. And despite repeated encouragement to me, we never started meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance during my 8 years either. I started each year with a sworn promise to uphold the constitution. That was enough. I didn't need to hold a piece of fabric as a sacred object, and I figured everybody could make their own determination as to whether any deity held jurisdiction over zoning, water and sewer improvements, stray dogs, or tax billing.

Love you,

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wasting Wire

There is a purpose here, but we have to begin with a few premises. The aspiring wire wrapping jewelry maker hopes to graduate to silver wire. Gold is for experts, well funded ones at that, so forget that. Copper is therefore popular and sensible as starter wire, and you can throw in brass and alloys, even colored wires for variety.

Jewelry can be made more simply, like gluing things like bell caps, but, well, it tends to scream "cheap" to the discerning eye. (Uh, sorry folks. It's a process. It'll get better. Just know you were thought of.) When one makes jewelry to sell, one can move it faster and for more money if one goes beyond that technique. That's a challenge. While building your skill with wire wrapping, mistakes are made and stuff gets tossed. Wasted, mostly, though pure copper can be recycled. Silver absolutely will be recycled, but we're not there yet.

My wire wrapping experience started with taking a class using 22 gauge half-hard square ( ! ) wire to make, in order, a bracelet, a ring, and a pendant, the latter two of which incorporated cabochons (stones) into their designs. There was little room for creativity, though much room for error. At the end of the class, we were told that this was just one method of making each item, and just one kind of wire that one could use. We could go online for free patterns and lots of ideas. Class was done.

Yeah, OK, I'd had my class but I was into the lapidary piece of jewelry making: buying, cutting, shaping and polishing the stones to be used in jewelry. I got pretty good at it. As I went, I got fussier about the quality levels, improving my quality, making me even fussier....  Eventually I could mostly produce stones of a quality to be sold in the shop. I still haven't figured out sodalite, for one.

Of course, the shop doesn't sell plain stones. It sells jewelry, meaning those stones have to be mounted into or onto something to make them wearable. So, bolos. Simplest to do, though not all that cheap. Of course, there is a limited market for that sort of thing. I was discouraged from trying to sell any, though local sales have recently been on the upswing. But hey, they make great gifts, and with a little sizing down of the stones, can be marketed as "Lady Bolos". They can be worn as one would any other necklace, on wardrobes with or without collars, and plenty of adjustment for length to the main stone.

That would go over better for the ladies if there were matching earrings to go with them as a set. Suddenly my lapidary skills needed a brush-up, adapting from larger cabs to tiny ones, as the majority of women I've talked to require light weight earrings, and from front-only cabs to full front/side/back polishing. Additionally, those stones needed either bell caps or wire wrapping as a base for mounting to ear wires. Once I mounted over a dozen sets of earrings using bell caps, I was strongly encourage not only to discontinue doing that but to undo what I had done. (About three more steps up beyond my skill level, they could be inset into a shaped form of, say, silver. That works if one actually has an interest in that skill and is willing to produce perhaps one project per month. So... no.)

Well, at least I didn't go out and spend a whole lot on buying bell caps. The copper ones I found are pretty cool, with a leaf design that even the club members who judge what is of sufficient quality to go into the shop thought was allowable. Furthermore, to "rescue" those stones, the glue used to adhere the bell caps is soluable in acetone,  reasonably inexpensive if one buys it straight rather than with all the extra stuff that's supposed to improve your nails while you remove the polish.

So that got done. I'm back to a whole lot of very nicely done stone pairs that need wire wrapping.

None of my class instructions covered how to do that.

I went back online, going through other people's samples and ideas, trying to figure out how whatever it was they did could be adapted to my stones. Or not. And trying to figure out what techniques were used, what kind/size/hardness of wires might work. Make a cage? Criss-cross spiraling wires? I even checked out drilling the stones to see if they could simply be turned into beads, thus simplifying wrapping. No go. Laser cutter, anybody?

My tendency to insomnia got fed by lying in bed imagining how which wire could be used with which stones. Over and over. Some I tried to do in real life and found out just how unskilled I am in wire wrapping. Or how slippery some of those small rounded earring stones are. I tried new wires, new sizes, packs of multiple colors - just for fun - and did manage to accomplish a couple things. Never what I originally wanted, but some of the side trips were interesting.

I figured out how to loop a few beads on a matching colored wire and fasten it to the tip end of a bolo cord so it couldn't be pulled off, then wrap the cord up an inch rather than gluing an expensive pre-formed silver tip on it, as an adaptation of lady bolos. One three-yard spool of 26 or 28 gauge wire did both tips of one cord. Yes, that much wire. Since those fun colored wires came in multi-packs and I only used a few, I had lots of that wire left over. At least those packs come cheap.

I tried using some of the left-over wire from class to try a few projects on my own. I think of those as re-learning experiences. They sit tucked out of sight, where they can't mock me.

While going through some beads for the bolo projects, I came across a set of ammonites I'd bought and set aside while I thought of something I could do with them. Think flat snail changed to stone fossil, mostly browns with incredible detail looking like a neverending leaf margin if the original shell had gone, or an incredible starburst of opalization if the shell was still intact. Maybe both if it had a partial shell. They were still waiting for that thought to occur.

I finally bought a pair of titanium drill bits and tried to drill a hole in their middles. If I couldn't wrap them, maybe I could string them? Let me just tell you that drilling through a fossil is an extremely difficult task, even using titanium bits, and I only got through about 2/3 of them before deciding other things needed my attention more. So they still sat.

This weekend I finally decided to try them with some of the square copper wire using a combination of the designs I'd seen online. No instructions, of course, but what the hay? I came up with a design I liked and discovered just how awful I was (OK, am) at wrapping something so that it looked like something. Anything. Just something above kindergartner skill level.

No go.

But I lay awake another night and came up with an idea. I had those spools of colored wires, way too tiny to do anything with, but what if I could fix that? I know that small wires can be used for viking knit to make something appearing thicker. I can't do that yet, but... how about if I tried braiding the wire? I used to be able to braid fairly well, even, once upon a lifetime ago with long hair and good shoulders, doing my own french braiding. Those wires were just sitting there, money already spent. What would I lose?

After some thought and several tries, I found the right thing to anchor the starting wires to. Thank you Steve, my first anchor, but I now can do it without waiting for him to free up a hand for 20 minutes. Each. Just an fyi, there's a chair involved now. Those 3-yard spools make 3 one foot braids, perfect for looping through the drilled hole (after filing it a bit bigger with a round file), and making a two-bail connection with a fat middle wrap, turning it into a pendant for whatever your favorite necklace may be: cord, thong, or even sterling. The first ones are in bright red wire, in case somebody wants a cheap - uh, inexpensive - Valentine's bauble, or green in case somebody's shopping for St. Paddy's Day. Or just in case you like those colors with your fossils. The ammonites which had opalized either in reds or greens were given matching wires.

Too bad none opalized in blue or purple. I still have spools of those colors.

Obviously there was a lot of wasted wire in the process. There will be a lot more. But is it really a waste?  OK, is it really an unforgivable waste?

Meanwhile, I have my first projects submitted for sale., You know, so I can make some money. So I can buy more wire to waste. While I wait, maybe I'll try braiding some 3-color wire, see how that works. I still have that chair....