Saturday, November 10, 2007

Spider Symbiotic Relationship Contract

It is very likely most scientists (and Wikipedia, from whence the following information came, and in whom we trust) will tell you that Spiders fall under the Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda, Class: Arachnida, Order: Araneae, of which there are 111 families, comprising 40,000 species, including the Suborders: Mesothelae, Mygalomorphae, and Araneomorphae, (whew!...may the spelling Nazis and anal retentives spare me!). That's a heck of a lot of spiders to look through especially if you are looking to identify any particular one.

Of course any child will tell you that there really are only four types of spiders (correct me if I missed any) as follows:

Classification: "Big and Hairy" - Though not indigenous to this part of the country, can be found in some peoples homes where they are kept as pets, and might I add, do qualify as pets, since they are "pet able", wherein fish are not.

Classification: "Long Legged" - best known; "Daddy", the largest of the long legged species, and friends to most children as they rarely/do not bite.

Classification: "Big, Fat Booty" - Spiders, according to children are debatable the scariest, next to the "Big and Hairy", but do "pop" when stomped on, confirming death. Often misclassified as the "Big and Hairy" type by those who are most fearful.

and finally

Classification: "Itsy Bitsy" - Best known from their "water spout" fame, but besides that are generally ignored except when found inhabiting the screen of a window or door, that they seem to confuse with a pre-made web, just the right size for them.

(boy is the spell checker taking a beating).

Of these (except for the "Big and Hairy", as mentioned before), I have many, living both inside and outside of my home. We do have an acceptable symbiotic relationship wherein I allow them to live, and they keep the six legged creatures inhabiting our living area down to a minimum. In many of these cases, training of said spiders has been required in order to maintain a peaceful symbiotic relationship. I would like to mention, that I have found the spiders sharing my living area, as easily trainable, and most cooperative when it comes to sharing a living environment. I would like to point out two spiders, in particular, for showing exceptional wisdom and understanding, and for following the rules of living amongst humans:

To the female spider, of the "Big, Fat Booty" variety, living on my back porch (one of many there, but known to be female for the multiple egg casings laid. See picture above; most cooperative with the camera lens one inch from you, I might add) I would like to say: "I did not particularly enjoy the time when you were maintaining a spot directly over my doorway, though I must mention that you resisted the temptation to jump in my hair while I was locking and unlocking the door." "I must also mention that the time you built a large web right in the walkway, which I walked directly into, and took said web full in the face, did nearly stress our relationship to the breaking point and was not in any way enjoyable." I am glad to say that "the position you have now taken up on my back porch is much more acceptable, and I am glad that we have worked through our previous issues." and finally "Please maintain your present position this afternoon when construction is going on to wrap said back porch for winter, as moving to the outer areas of the porch where the panels are being hung could be unsafe (O.S.H.A. Standards apply)."

To the spider of the "Long Legged" variety that has attempted on at least three occasions to take up residence in my bathroom, I would like to say: " I am glad that you survived the two occasions that you attempted to take up residence in the shower, and chose to exit said shower when I held the shower door open for you, and changed your mind against heading towards the flowing water, as you attempted on both occasions, and might I add, would have been disastrous on your part." I would also like to say "I'm sorry for disturbing you when you had taken up residence behind the bathroom door, I did not know you were there, but must also commend you for leaving when I held that door open for you." "I must say that I am surprised by your wisdom and intelligence in understanding exactly what, 'a door held open for you', means."

To all of the rest of my eight legged, symbiotic partners, inhabiting my living environment, I would just like to say before winter sets in, "Thank you for your on-going battle in keeping our living area clear of those nasty bugs (especially the 'skeeters'), and to your progeny next year, I extend the same 'symbiotic no squish/no bite contract' that I had with you this year, providing walking areas are kept clear of webs, and the shower (due to its inherent danger) is, once again, an off limit zone."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Boo Smiles for You...

These aren't your mamma's jack-o-lanterns...

Here's hoping all you Goblins have a most wonderful All Hallows' Eve...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Woodworking #101 Part #1

Ok, now I'll tell you everything you need to know about woodworking... Well... maybe not... The truth is I am certainly not the greatest woodworker on the planet, I don't create great works of art or stunning pieces fit to be seen in some posh gallery downtown. But then again that's not really the point of it, or at least it isn't for me.

I've been woodworking my whole life with little more than simple hand tools and have loved every minute of it. I know people that make absolutely fantastic creations out of wood and probably don't get any more enjoyment out of it than I do.
You see, when it comes down to it, I am not really overly concerned with what I'm making, or how impressive it comes out, as long as it comes out reasonably decent, I'm good with it. I'm not trying to impress anyone.

For me there is just something so magically relaxing about the sound of a hand plane sliding over a piece of knotty pine, or block sanding some rough hewn lumber down to a silky smooth finish. Beveling an edge purely by eye and having it come out perfectly equal just brings a warm fuzzy feeling all over that's hard to describe. I find reading or watching movies very relaxing, but with them, when you are done, there is nothing for you to grab a hold of, nothing solid you can hold in your hands and say to yourself "I made this".

These pictures show a display stand I made the other week for a replica blunderbuss pistol I picked up at the medieval fair over the summer, and this is a good example of exactly what I am talking about.
I really liked this pistol and didn't want to put it away until next years fair, so I got out my tools and went to work on a new piece of pine. This isn't en extravagant project, it didn't take weeks of meticulous, labor-intensive work, in fact except for the staining and lacquering, and the entire thing was completed in a few hours. But it really made for a relaxing Sunday afternoon, it wasn't some massive job that took weeks and weeks and hundreds of dollars, and when I was done I had a nice functional item that I could be proud of.

If you watch some of the woodworking shows, you may get the idea that you have to have thousands of dollars in equipment filling up your garage (I don't even have a garage, this was done in my kitchen, 'women insert derogatory remark here'), and spend thousands more on the finest exotic woods, and have master designs laid out, but this just isn't the case. You don't have to break the bank to make some very nice things, and I didn't even have any plans for this, I just sort of followed the vision in my head, planning it as I went.

It really is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon and you just might find your wife would prefer you creating something nice, even if you have to take over the kitchen for an afternoon, rather than you sitting there watching football games all day... well, maybe as long as you clean up the sawdust afterwards and don't cut into the kitchen counter top...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"You've Been Wandering the Wastelands, Fighting with Half-Men Again, Haven't You?!?"

Ok, here come the excuses... Sorry for being absent from blogger lately. It's amazing that if you just say "you are not going to blog today", how quickly that can turn into tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and before you know it a month has gone by. I guess I took a break from blogging without really meaning to.

Now I could say that so many things have been going on lately that I really didn't have time to blog, but that wouldn't be totally true. It is true that sometimes I get way too many "projects" going, and start many more than I finish. It always seems to be a question of "what am I going to work on today?" and "what am I going to let slide?" I have projects going on here that I have literally been working on for years, and one would think I would finish up some of them before I start any new ones, but what would be the fun in that.

I've often thought that people don't die "wishing that they had done all these things that they always wanted to do." No, I believe people die when "they run out of things to do that they always wanted to do." I see people in their "mid-life crisis", rushing around doing all kinds of wild and dangerous things, wanting "to get them in" before their time runs out, and I wonder "if you get them all done, what's left after that?"

Fortunately, I've been spared the desire to go climb mountains or jump out of perfectly good airplanes (shouldn't people save that one for last just in case the parachute doesn't open?). My desires are much simpler. I want to get rid of all my bad vices (smoking and drinking), I want to learn Tai Chi, I want to learn all about Buddhism and learn to meditate, I want to become a calmer, more focused individual. Some people that know me would say that "I would have to die to become any calmer", but these people only see an outward projection and do not have a clue how I feel inside. It seems as I get older, I am having a much harder time staying "in the eye of the hurricane", if that makes any sense to you.

If I just thought about all the books I want to read before I died, I could probably come up with about 300 years worth of reading, and the list grows daily, much faster than I could ever possibly read them. The invention of e-books hasn't helped the situation much either, and lately I've found quite a few of them that have taken up more of my free time.

I would like to say that all the things I have been doing have been positive things, but anyone who has a life knows that that can never be the truth. Work has been a bear lately, with several people leaving, and the rest of us having to pick up the slack. So there has been more than one day of coming home and zonking out on the couch. One might also think that I have been wasting my time watching TV, as the new seasons of many of my shows and the hockey season have started, but unfortunately keeping my eyes open to see them has been more of a challenge than anything else lately. I can't blame this napping all on work though, since I know a lot of it is being caused by my trying to quit smoking (8 weeks now), so I guess that fixes the Karma of it.

It hasn't been all bad things either, as I have been taking some long walks through the neighborhood (camera in hand), mostly trying to slow down this weight gain that quitting smoking has thrown at me. I have also rediscovered my love for vegetables, which is a good thing, and has helped slow down the weight gain as well, if only food didn't taste so good right now. I have also completed a couple of woodworking projects that have helped to keep my hands busy. I will try and bring you pictures from my walks and my woodworking projects in some later posts.

So there are my list of excuses for not blogging for the last month, all of which I know may seem pretty lame, but thats my story and I'm sticking to it. I will try to pick it up, and be a better blogger, but I ain't makin' no promises (by the way I have been reading your blogs but haven't always been in a position where I was able to make comments on them).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Seafood Bisque

Yesterday dawned more like any fall day you can imagine, even though the calendar says we still have a week of summer left. It was drizzly with dark clouds and no sun to be had, and the thermometer on the back porch read a bone chilling 46 degrees F.

Though I've been living here for many years it still surprises me by just how quickly the weather changes right after Labor Day. So being chilled to the bone I decided there is just one thing to be done about it, I broke out the 16 quart stock pot and decided to "go to town" on a batch of seafood bisque.

Now I love summer and the hotter the weather is the better, but one thing I do like about fall and winter is cooking becomes "no holds barred". When it's hot you may not want to fire up the stove or the oven, but come fall you don't mind a bit simmering a nice stoup all day long, and there is nothing better than the warmth it brings when consuming it, not to mention the bonus of heating the house up a couple of degrees without turning on the furnace.

This is my recipe for Seafood Bisque, guaranteed to warm you up on any chilly fall day:

1 stick butter
4 stalks celery - sliced (including tops)
1 large onion - diced
1 bunch green onions - sliced
1 red bell pepper - sliced
1/4 cup flower
1 can mushroom bits & pieces 4 oz. (include juice)
1 can white corn 15-1/4 oz. - drained
1 can diced potatoes 14-1/2 oz. - drained
1 can chopped green chiles 4-1/2 oz.
1 pint heavy cream
1 can cheddar cheese soup 10-3/4 oz.
1 can cream of celery 10-3/4 oz.
1 can cream of potato 10-3/4 oz.
2 cans whole milk 10-3/4 oz.
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
2 tbsp. Creole seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. basil
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 cups water
1/2 lb. langostinos
1 lb shrimp peeled, deveined & detailed
1/2 cup white wine

Start by sauteing the celery, onions & bell pepper until soft then add the rest of the ingredients and cover and reduce all day. I simmered this batch for about six hours on very low heat. If you don't want to cook that long, reduce the amount of water, also this does have a little bite to it, so if you don't want it quite this hot you can reduce the Creole seasoning and crushed red pepper. Also adding and 8 oz. package of crab meat wouldn't hurt this any, though it does tend to disintegrate in the soup. What seafood you use may depend on your taste and what's available at the time...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Little Things

It's a little after 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and the sun is just starting to come up. I love being up this early in the morning while it's still cool out and oh so quiet. The rain continues to come down outside as it has all night, but I am not complaining since it is our first real rain in a very long time. In fact I can't remember the last time we received any significant precipitation. One problem with living this close to the windward side of lake Erie is that sometimes you can go all summer without rain. The lake can cause storms to "split" and go around this area so that it rains everywhere else but here. It's a strange phenomenon, but one I have lived with all my life. There are times when you can see that the thunder and lightning are being "pushed" way south of us and you know they are getting the rain that you were so desperately hoping for. Very often we can look up at the sky and see a ring of storm clouds in a circle all around the horizon, but nothing but sunshine and blue skies right over us. This may sound nice, unless it hasn't rained in two months and all your greenery is turning brown.

Last weekend I decided to move the small saplings that have been growing in my flowerbed out into my yard. I knew with as dry as it's been t
hat I was taking a chance with this, but I have noticed that some of the trees around here are starting to change colors already and I didn't want to wait any longer. So last Saturday I moved sixteen trees, mostly Maples, out into my back yard, and have been carrying buckets of water out to them every night since. My hands were very swollen after all that digging but it was nice to stand among them and imagine what they will look like in ten or twenty years. Now all I have to do is keep them alive until the rains come, which hopefully last nights rain marks the beginning of the wet season. Weather forecasts around here really are useless. I may have lost two of the trees that are out in an area that gets a lot of sunlight, but hopefully most of them will survive. This year I hope to get some nice pictures of the fall foliage as it changes. Last autumn we had tremendous winds that blew all the leaves off of the trees as soon as they would change. The only good thing about that was that I didn't have to rake because all the leaves blew out of my yard. We'll see what this season brings.

I was going to mow the lawn today but the rain is putting an end to that idea. I am going to have to work on the mower before I can do so though. Last week I was about twenty minutes into mowing when, for no apparent reason, the mower lost most of its compression, which caused it to run very slowly. It wasn't mulching after that, but I did manage to fight my wa
y through the rest of the yard, hopefully I haven't blown the engine on it. I really don't want to have to buy a new mower with so little of the season left, though now is a good time to do so, as they are all on sale. This mower is only two years old so I don't plan on giving up on it just yet. It does take quite a beating, as my yard is big enough for a riding lawn mower. All my neighbors have riding lawn mowers and the neighbors on either side of me (good guys that they are) have been mowing quite far into my yard. I think they feel sorry for me, not having a rider, but I've tried to explain to them that I like push mowing my lawn (it only takes me about two hours) and I don't intend on ever buying a rider. I tell them that some guys walk eighteen holes of golf every week, I push mow my lawn, but this hasn't stopped them, in fact they seem to be mowing further and further into my lawn every week. I'm not complaining mind you, last week, when the mower gave out, I was very glad to have less lawn to mow. It has always been a puzzlement to me, that we do things to make our lives easier (like buying riding lawn mowers) but then we have to start an exercise program because we've made our lives too easy.

I have found a new Website,, that has quickly become my favorite site. They have lots of interesting articles, and new ones every day. The site changes all of the time (unlike my blog), which means you can go back to it every day and find new and interesting stuff to read. They also seem to be affiliated with half a dozen other sites, which provide new and interesting articles as well. The most amaz
ing article I have read so far is one about a hexagon shape they have found in the upper atmosphere on the planet Saturn, which they can't explain, and it doesn't seem to go away, as they have seen it for over twenty years now by different space probes. These sites also have top 10 lists and trivia & quizzes that are a lot of fun to take. I know just the mention of the word "science" for many people will conjure up nightmares of high school science classes, but I was fortunate to have some really excellent teachers that fostered a love of the subject in me. These sites also tend to deal with the more interesting discoveries in science these days and they won't be asking you to memorize the periodic table either...

PS: The picture of the moon at the top is just one I took with my camera zoomed all the way out and really has nothing to do with this post. The picture of the hexagon on Saturn, on the other hand, was borrowed from as my camera can't zoom quite that far...:)

Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Most Unusual O.C.D. Trait

Now I don't usually post about my job, (being in Engineering, it isn't all that exciting to anyone but other Engineers), but Friday was just too good to let go. I wrote a question up on a dry erase board in my department, "What is your most unusual O.C.D. Trait?", and I received some anally wonderful, obsessive-compulsive answers.

Now if any of you know any Engineers, you will know exactly what I am talking about. They may possibly be the most meticulous, anal-retentive, perfectionists that have ever worn a pocket protector. Women that are doomed to the unfortunate hell of having to be married to an Engineer know exactly what I am talking about. Their husbands generally don't cheat on them, or physically or mentally abuse them, (though you may call being married to one a form of mental abuse). These women have to put up with some things that are much, much worse. The constant rearranging of things into their proper locations (a place for everything and everything in it's place), the lack of spontaneity (if you want us to be spontaneous, you have to allow us to have a design review meeting and write some specifications on exactly how this spontaneity will be performed), and the generally just strange quirks that Engineers exhibit on a daily basis. I won't even talk about the female Engineers, they are an entirely different breed altogether.

I received many of the standard answers, "The toilet paper has to be on the roller so that it rolls outward, not towards the wall", "Constantly straightening the dish towel that is hanging on the handle of the stove", etc., but what I was looking for was the really unusual ones. To understand the difference between "normal peoples" obsessive-compulsive disorder and Engineers O.C.D. you have to realize that if a normal O.C.D. person sees a picture on the wall hanging uneven they will constantly have to straighten it, where the O.C.D. Engineer will tear the wall down and rebuild it so that the picture never goes out of level again.

We did have one Engineer that claimed not to be anal at all, and we even called up his wife to find out the truth (wives know), but she actually confirmed his story. We have decided to have his degree investigated to make sure he is actually an Engineer and not one of those Art majors.

Now I would like to share with you the best ones from the list, in no particular order (hard to believe isn't it?), starting with my own:

I have coffee cup tree in my kitchen which has to hold the same six mugs, each of which has their own location on the tree, and each of which is used on a specific day of the week. One is used twice, it is my weekend mug, which means dishes are done on Saturday night so that it can get washed for use on Sunday.

Another Engineer has two jugs, one of milk and one of juice, which go in the door of their refrigerator at home. Now most of his family members will just put them anywhere in the door, and normal O.C.D. would cause a person to put them in the exact same location every time, but this Engineer's O.C.D., means that he has to put the one that is the most full closest to the hinge of the door since the heavier weight towards the outside edge of the door would change the center of gravity and it's moment of inertia (sorry for the Engineering terms) and would cause the door to swing open too fast.

A young, Intern Engineer claims that whenever he sees a new piece of chalk for a chalkboard he has to break it, but not just break it normally, he has to "twist it" to break it, since anything that is broken by twisting, will break at a 45 degree angle. If you don't quite understand this one, just realize that it's an Engineering thing. We did debate whether this is actual O.C.D. or just youthful destructiveness, so for the time being, though I have included it, this one is still up for review.

Finally, I have saved what I feel is the best for last. When asked what his most unusual O.C.D. trait was, one Engineer replied, "that's easy", and pulled up his pant leg to reveal a safety pin hooked to one of his socks. Apparently he has a safety pin hooked to every pair of socks he owns so that he can pin them together before putting them in the wash, that way each sock will have the same amount of wear and tear on it, he can also use the safety pin if he splits his pants at work, or he can use it for an emergency fishing hook, or a suture if he cuts himself. I'm told it's also important that it be a brass safety pin so that it won't rust in the wash.

So if you think my O.C.D. isn't as bad as some of these others, you have to realize how many hours I spend on each post and how many times I rewrite them, and still am not satisfied when I do finally give up and post them from the sheer exhaustion of nit-picking them to death (I am going to try and post this without a re-write, but I don't know if I will be able to stand it)...

What's your most unusual obsessive-compulsive disorder trait?

"In anything at all, perfection is finally attained, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away."

-Antoine De Saint-Exupery - Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939


Update: Seven days and still not smoking. It's been harder than I remember it, but I figure that's just because it's been longer.