Archive for the 'Family & Friends' Category


07 25th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom for (this) Week:

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” — Lance Armstrong

Montélimar to Mont Ventoux, 167 KM of high mountain racing is going on right now as Lance Armstrong tries to again grab the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour de France. It all makes me feel a little bit awkward sitting here with my rear shoved very deep into my oversized chair while drinking some (great) morning coffee.

Just stage 21 to go on Sunday and holding on to third place, Lance Armstrong is still in ‘the hunt’, but facing a bit of an uphill battle—“GO Lance, LiveStrong!” I was surprised to read on his Twitter updates that at the end of stage 19 he was tested for doping—for the 11th time. At that testing pace he should be barely able to finish due to all the blood letting.

Mentioning coffee, a couple of days ago I opened a pack Pieter brought me a few weeks ago when he visited. One of those small roaster specialty brands, this one called Deadman’s Reach coffee by Raven’s Brew. And you know what? It is great stuff. It reminded me not to wade too deep in our established ruts. It is just too easy to get set in our ways. It’s important, in all matters, to spread wings, to explore new things, and maybe even to jump out of our comfort zone. At least once in a while.

Last weekend’s neighborhood party was a hoot. Our kids also attended and that was fun. But, I had the best time watching two year old Dinah. She was on top of her game, strutting about as if she owned the street. No fear, no shy clutching mom, she just threw herself into the thick of the festivities and played her little heart out.

I made one slight mistake in that I attended the ‘after-party party.’ My body long ago lost the ability to recover quickly from these wee hour happenings. The next day Marcia made note that my voice was a bit throaty and somewhat deeper. She placed that completely as a result of late evening/early morning imbibing. I know better and am fully convinced it was all the talking; two AM tequila shots were not part of my mix.

Last night was “Free Fridays” at the Museum Center. Adrianne wanted to explore and see if Vai was too young to enjoy our Children’s Museum. We quickly realized t was not a museum it was a zoo. The place was packed with thousands of kids, a cacophony of little high pitched voices, and too many pushy adults. Vai did fine; Adrianne and I started looking for an escape.

Luckily our Museum Center is comprised of three museums in one physical location. Based on our newly surfaced criteria we ended up in the Cincinnati History Museum—least number of visitors. The quiet was absolutely perfect. On top of that the visit was totally enjoyable and Vaioleti, in her sling, and thus close to mom, was oh-so comfortable. We had a great evening.

Tonight, should the weather hold, will be food and music at Marcia’s pool. The band is an award winning local group, Jake Speed and the Freddies. As his site mentions; “For the past eight years, Jake Speed has hitchhiked down Cincinnati’s American folk, bluegrass, and ragtime music highway.” I have loaded his All Roads Do Lead to Cincinnati so listen by clicking on the top of the page. So now the wait is on – no rain will mean much fun!

Mid-week we’ll be heading up north again. When we last left summer had not yet reached northern Ontario, Canada and cold with rain was the daily formula. We keep getting reports that it’s still the same. So, Marcia and I thought that we’d help out by heading back and dragging some of our weather with us. Oh wait, our weather here is way sucky, much too cool and oh-so rainy. This could be a major problem.

I do want to extend deepest condolences to my friend Mark with his loss. For all of us the message is that life is fragile and not very certain. Make certain that we all make every day count; make it a great week.

Cheers,

Dirk



07 18th, 2009

Back in the city, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The (past) Week:

” ISS Sun Jul 12/10:00 PM 5 46 10 above W 12 above NE” — NASA – Human Space Flight – sighting information for Sudbury

Daniel sent the link with this information. Based on it, last Sunday Marcia and I climbed aboard our Pontoon boat. Two minutes to ten and the sky was bright enough to have not a star visible. Ten PM on the nose and from the West, all lit up in bright reflective sunlight, we saw the International Space Station hurtle across the sky. From West to North East it completed its arc in five short minutes. My quick calculations were that during these few minutes, while sitting in the gathering dark of evening, we had witnessed the ISS travel 1,500 miles.

Now THAT is something to reflect on as I sit here sipping my morning coffee. While I am groggily waking up, 200 miles above, and shooting by at 1,500 miles in a 5-minute span, is a team of six astronauts busily at work. Even more so since the Shuttle Endeavor and its crew just joined up with the ISS. Pretty stunning stuff.

We just made it back from Canada where “Climate Change” is really happening—to date, so far this year, the average temperature is around 4 degrees below normal. Crops are running 3 to 4 weeks behind previous average growth schedules. Anyway, just last Wednesday evening we had a space heater going; “to take the edge off” said sis-in-law Marlene. It crossed my mind that we should have invited Gore for dinner that evening.

The other bit was the rain. While Tuesday was spectacular the weather placed us in Ark building mode for the rest of the week. It got to a point where I wasn’t going to venture outside at all and I made plans to just hover about inside drinking Caipirinhas.

Thursday morning there was a break in the weather and we took advantage by grabbing every last bit of dirty laundry we could and “heading out of Dodge.” “Dodge” being our little patch of heaven in the North Woods. Even the Custom’s Agent nodded knowingly as we crept back across the border into the US informing him that the only items we were importing from Canada was a pickup truck bed filled to the gills (pun) with dirty wet clothes.

A couple of hundred miles later the weather had changed to warm with bright sun, blue skies, and puffy clouds. Taking advantage Marcia and I had our dinner picnic-style at a rest area just south of Bowling Green, OH. It was great, with the smell of fresh hay (and once in a while a smoky highway truck) and an inquisitive squirrel watching our every move. I believe that the squirrel had never seen anyone use these picnic tables before—we truly were the new explorers, breaking new ground, and opening new horizons.

Two weeks from now we’ll head north again to try all over again. August weather will be better!

Now I have to get busy. One reason we came back is that this weekend is our big neighborhood event. Marcia, normally in bed and fast asleep on these Saturday mornings, is scurrying about organizing the neighborhood yard sale. Another few minutes and the ‘early bird’ bargain hunters will storm through the streets.

I just ‘love’ yard sales. This is where you grab that special poster, you know the one you had to have when still in College, and purchased for $10. Then as you started working full time were finally able to get it framed for $60 or so. Now, retrieved from the attic, it is waiting to be someone’s ‘treasure’ as it is being bargained down from the $6 price tag you put on it.

This afternoon will have an array of kid friendly events. Then this evening the street will be closed to traffic and it will be music, grills, and ice cold brewskies. Normally this will bring close to 100 folks into the street and is always a blast.

Make it a great week. Oh yes, last week I mentioned that a bear had been seen wandering around some of the cabins on the south end of our lake cabin. Well, it was trapped the very next day and taken about 60 miles north. When we get back in a couple of weeks, just enough time should have passed for that bear to hike 60 miles south.

Cheers,

Dirk



07 11th, 2009

From the North Woods, Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Bad is never good until worse happens.” — Danish Proverb

Actually, the events of this week should really have me start with the old line I once heard in Kentucky; maybe wild turkeys are wild due to all the whiskey. My body is bruised and battered. Last night I took the bandage off my elbow and things appear better there. However, my toes are still taped together.

During the night I woke up a couple of times as a heavy rain and a thunderstorm blew through. The cabin has a metal roof, so while a soft rain sounds mesmerizing, a heavy rain makes it seem like being inside a kettle-drum. This morning especially I do need my coffee.

Some of you might remember that I had, as a winter project, the patching of an eBay purchase, a 40-year old folding Folbot 2-passenger kayak. Earlier this week the two sacks containing the boat were opened and about 2 hours later sat the finished product; all 17 glorious feet of it.

A short loop in the bay proved two things, the boat was very seaworthy, and I could handle it. Next was the all important maiden voyage. Since there currently are no ice bergs on the lake I felt it safe to cross the lake to the south shore – between 2 and 3 miles of open water. The water and wind were a bit rougher than expected but all went fine. However, since white caps had started to show I decided to leave the kayak and manage the return paddle the next day.

The captain’s log shows that the next day the water to still be quite rough. In fact I was watching my winter’s project get beaten to a pulp on the dock it was fastened to. The shoreline on the south side of the lake is basically a large, smooth, rock formation jutting up out of the water. It was onto this that I planned to pull the kayak. One step out and I realized I had made a huge mistake. Between the water and lichens growing on the rock surface it made as if I were standing on well oiled ball-bearings. That adventure resulted in my elbow patch.

By the way, the taped toes resulted getting out of the kayak the next day. I misqueued the exit process resulting in a broken/sprained/ruptured/whatever toe.

Many a family has that one relative, who, although nutty, is also loved. Thursday we had ours drop in totally uninvited and absolutely unexpected. And who you ask is this character? None other than Jonathon Livingston Seagull (or maybe his cousin once removed—since they all look alike) is who.

Late afternoon our little group was enjoying a lakeside Social Hour in front of our cabin. It must have been our laughter which attracted JLS. Initially Paul was the one who noticed a gull the size of a Tom Turkey landing on the cabin roof. Steady footing on a well pitched metal roof when relying on webbed feet can only mean a quick downward slide – off – and directly into the garbage can below.

So far only a ‘whoops’, but hang on, it quickly got much better.

As our little group started yelling Jonathon Livingston Seagull, in a bit of panic, flapped around and then flew directly into our front window’s most excellent reflection of the lake.

At 24 inches tall, JLS thudded hard on the deck, and now hopelessly embarrassed, he started flapping again and this time flying directly at our niece, Molly. Up until that very moment Molly had been resting comfortably in the hammock. She changed instantly from being somewhat sleepily bemused by everyone’s banter to being terror struck. Jonathan flipped (or tripped) over her hammock and then bounced beak first into the adjacent tree.

Here sat a very large and very stunned gull right in our midst. Most of us screaming (some of us were actually laughing). Above the noise we were making we could hear that bird, it was screeching louder than the nine of us combined: “Keeyow, keeyow, kyow—kyow—kyow.”

Finally Jonathan got his bearings and flew off. Eventually, Molly too, peeled the rolled layers of her hammock off and gathered herself out of her cocoon. Way too late I began looking for my camera. Paul never did find his 40-Magnum.

Make it a great week. For you bird watchers, here is what’s new this week. Yesterday a Common Tern put on a fish catching aerial diving display about 30 feet from where Marcia and I were having a bite to eat. This was shortly after we confirmed that the woodpeckers drumming on a nearby Birch tree were in fact a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers.

Oh yes, yesterday news spread that a bear was seen by several people while wandering around some of the cabins on the south end of our lake. Doesn’t he know that if caught the Ontario Wildlife Management people will trap him and move him to the north end of the lake. Wait a minute…..

Cheers,

Dirk



07 4th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep.” — William McKnight

For some reason I was completely whipped last night. It was one yawn after another, to the point that I got embarrassed believing Marcia would think it was something with her. This morning still a bit groggy; and no it was not alcohol related. This morning we switched our coffee over to a fresh can of Tim Hortons—maybe that will do the trick.

No sheep here, we are up north at the cabin, unfenced, free and clear. Well, not quite free, at least not for the first few days. The rains held us quite captive indoors and slowed dramatically my plowing through the list of “to dos”. What was accomplished was gaining a start on a new book.

The weather up here has made it a somewhat of an ‘eternal’ spring—cold mornings, cool and wet days with one rain front after another. Yesterday, while running errands in our nearby town (25 miles away) I overheard one of the locals talking to the shop clerk, “that sure was a short summer, eh?”

This morning the sky is blue, currently the early morning fogs over the water have the upper hand. All that will change as soon as the sun starts to burn through. It looks like things have turned around. I just know it will be a spectacular weekend.

Our Loons are still with us. Back this year from their winter migration they are happily paddling around showing off with their diving skills. The evening sounds are complete with their plaintive calls. Our woods are also home to a family of Ravens and these are the loudest. Yesterday, driving into town, a large bear crossed about 100’ or so feet in front of us.

I got so into spotting wildlife that at one point I turned and pointing ahead on the road and excitedly said to Marcia, “look, a wolf!” Closer in, the dog tag was a dead giveaway that I was wrong.

What has been accomplished is that we’ve put in our dock. Big deal, you say. Well, since each section weighs over 300 pounds, it is a big deal. Last year I noted that the sections were held together with an array of boards and 37 three inch screws (I counted them). This year I figured that all of that could be managed with a bit of angle-iron and three pins. Tevita made what I needed, using stainless steel angle-iron and drilled each piece perfectly to spec.

Once the two pieces were bolted on I shoved the two dock sections together while brother-in-law Paul dropped the three pins into place. A perfect fit. Marcia is now mentioning that we price an aluminum dock. She has no sense of adventure or authenticity.

By day’s end we’ll have the pontoon boat launched and docked.

Last Saturday I participated in a nearby car show. I really burned and wilted in the ‘Natti heat. By the end of the day, and after seven hours of enduring our 90+ degree temperatures, I was rewarded by winning the prestigious “Most Unique” award for our little Deux Chevaux. Around 65 cars participated so I was pleased to get a first.

I also want to report that my outdoor antenna scheme is working as hoped for. My cell phone went from ‘nada’ in the reception department to a full three bars and crystal clear connectivity. Now I just need to remember to keep my phone on.

The fog is gone, time to get busy. Marcia is outside weeding around the fire pit – probably the only person doing so in all of northern Ontario. Sorry, but I just took a break to look up the duck she spotted by our dock. Based on the ragged crest feathers that she noted on its head, it had to have been the fish eating red breasted Merganser—or so says my Duck guide.

Make it a great week. Maybe instead of setting about doing projects I might just keep an eye on the hummingbird feeder to study the activity there.

“OK, coming dear, really, I am. What, you want me to mow what yard?”

Cheers,

Dirk



06 27th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Nothing very very good and nothing very very bad lasts for very very long.” — Douglas Coupland

Very very seldom do I head for the medicine cabinet. Last night I dove in on a desperate ibuprophen hunt. This morning I am in pretty good shape. Now, once I get a hold of my morning coffee, life will be good.

The ibuprophen came a necessity after hacking up a driveway full of fallen branches, the result of a Thursday evening storm. The storm woke me up at 02:15 worrying that our shade umbrella would pull the glass-topped table over. Since Marcia had cranked it down prior to heading for bed, this left me watching the deck furniture itself perform a little dance.

In the morning I spotted my neighbor in his side yard watering the smoldering parts of a lightning struck tree. Shortly, I heard our Red Tailed Hawks; they survived the night’s 60-70 mph wind gusts.

Monday evening my long-planned visit with Marin at his gymnastics class took place. I could not get over the sheer pleasure and “can’t-wait-till-we-get-there” attitude as expressed by this (nearly) six year old. He loves his gymnastics.

I watched him breeze through a series of exercises, each of which would have me be somewhat aware of approaching ambulance sirens prior to my passing out. For a full hour he handled broad beam, flips, trampoline, bars, and rope training with aplomb.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihmC0KIqQ58]
The little clip shows Marin practicing a proper landing. Here in a foam pit, eventually on a mat

I have to remind myself to savor these moments for they are life’s very best.

In a few days we’re heading back up to the cabin. Much to the chagrin of some of our family we have no communication with the outside world. Even though I have purchased a plan that allows us to ‘seamlessly’ use my cell in Canada, it turns out that like real-estate, it is all location, location, location. And we are seriously on the reception’s outer fringe.

Now, I believe I have solved the problem. Mid-week our mail delivered a package containing a 41” whip antenna, low-loss coax cabling, and an external antenna connector for the phone. My plan will be to mount the hardware by the peak of the roof, suck in any and all signals, pass them through the cable into the cabin, providing for a perfectly clear phone signal. Is everyone now happy?

As backup, our new walkie-talkie radios also arrived this week. 36 channels with 83 privacy channels and a 30 mile range, so there you go, just a few short weeks since our last stay and we go from zero communication to communication overload.

Next on my to-do list is to quickly wash our little Deux Chevaux—our Duck. At ten I will have it parked at a nearby local car show. That the temperature will be over ninety with bright, cloudless, and sunny skies; makes me an idiot for doing this. We’ll see if a few bottles of water, a bag chair, and straw hat allow me to survive the day. Luckily Adrianne’s home is less than a mile away; a home that I am certain is filled with ice chips.

If Marcia would have had her way the truck would already be packed for the trip north. As it stands, for the next few days there is one huge pile of stuff primed to be tripped over. I don’t think our plan to have “everything we need” permanently parked at the cabin is working all that well.

Yesterday was Tevita’s birthday. Next week it’s Kellen and Marin’s turn. Happy birthday guys!

Make it a great week everyone.

Cheers,

Dirk



06 20th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Possessions are usually diminished by possession.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Even with the A/C cranking away I woke up hot after going to bed after midnight and then sleeping for barely five hours. Yes, we’re experiencing our normal hot, sticky, muggy mid-August weather pattern, and this should not occur during the month of June. The better news is that for the first time in memory I am in no hurry for my morning coffee. This is because I still taste the BenRiach single cask strength Scotch Whisky from last night—it’s the new love in my life. More on that a bit later.

This week it’s been ‘people appreciation’ week. All the highlight events of the week have revolved around people. I guess that is how it should be.

A couple of days ago little brother Art, sis-in-law Jolene, and their brood of three spent the day with us. In the state for a wedding, and having come across from Murrieta California, they felt it was just too opportune not to make time for a visit.

Talking some time back he and I agreed it was a wonderful time for all the cousins to also re-acquaint and therefore this quickly turned into a deck party/dinner for eighteen. Marcia swung into high gear by creating what seemed like a small van load of Shish Kebabs. I managed to load the grill up a few times over. Hint, for desert there are few things which will beat grilled pineapple drizzled with Canadian Maple Syrup.

Their two oldest are studying on Track and Field scholarships and had to get their runs in. The site of choice was our nearby Spring Grove cemetery. Aside from being the nation’s second largest cemetery it is also a leading world-class arboretum. Rolling hills, lakes and small forests all interconnected by miles of paved paths circling around and about made for the perfect place to put in their miles.

It is amazing what kids spot. They, of course, managed a visit by the graveside of my parents, their grandparents. More importantly they took note of special statues put up in honor of differing groups; babies who died shortly after birth, Civil War casualties and veterans, even a small special cove with a statute of thanks for those who gave their bodies to medical science.

By the end of the evening little Vai was absolutely over stimulated with all the attention she received. Right before they left I saw daddy Tevita holding her and laughing away. Here was Vai, sounding like a Gatling gun; “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da”—breath— “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da”, and over, and over. I think she must have slept well.

Last night was our neighborhood progressive “Pub Crawl”. House #1 was a beer tasting with a focus on locally produced beers, hot dogs, and about 20 toppings. My favorite was the grilled hot peppers. House #2 was Sangria on the front porch. Marcia took note that even the evening breezes didn’t slow down my ability to sweat profusely. House #3 was a back-yard event complete with pumping salsa music. Of course the drink of choice was the Mojito complete with a live mint plant with leaves for the picking.

Then came house #4, a poolside Scotch whisky tasting. While bag-pipe music was playing, our hosts, dressed in their respective clan kilts, led us through a discussion of five differing whiskies; two blends and three single malts cask strength varieties.

I have always loved a Glenlivit served “neat”. However, last night I was introduced to a new world. First was a very light, almost cooling, 12 year old The Balvenie Doublewood, which I think great for summertime. But then! Then I was introduced to a 1994 BenRiach. As a child I have some very vague memories of my early days in the Netherlands when, on occasion, our living room stove would be fired by peat that had been carved from some local bogs rather than the normal shovel of coal. Fresh peat has a very distinct smell. This drink immediately transported me back to those days with the smell of that fresh peat and the taste of licorice and spices. It was stunning. It was wonderful!

I love my Scotch

Couple all of this surrounded by neighbors and friends and you have one of those “seldom” type of evenings.

Make it a great week-end, especially you fathers. Then make the rest of the week equally great. And Nick—please don’t go camping, comprende?

Cheers,

Dirk



06 13th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

The week flew by. A new article to be written, a Citizen’s on Patrol meeting and a couple of days later an evening patrol. Dinner with Adrianne and Tevita and an “off for desert” walk to our local Dairy Queen was noteworthy. Especially since little Vai knows where she is heading and sits in her stroller much like Jeff Gordon sits and grabs the steering wheel on his race car. But, it was the evening that Jason and Cathy along with little Dinah and the “growing so fast” Marin came for dinner. This became the week’s highlight since it had been nearly a month since we’d seen them. Now I best go and start up the coffee pot so I can plow-ahead with my post.

In the you think our elections are messed-up department: This morning the headlines have both Iranian rivals claiming victory in their Presidential election. The little firebrand, Ahmadinejad, having garnered a supposed 69% of the vote. His opponent, the moderate candidate Moussavi, therefore being left with the remaining 28% of the vote. Moussavi is quoted as saying: “I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin.” Huh?

Of course these numbers were reported by the Iranian Interior Ministry’s election commission, The Interior Ministry just happens to be controlled by Mr. Ahmadinejad. See any problems with all of this? Nah, of course not.

Continuing with the morning headlines we head for the go ahead kick-em in the shins department: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings for hockey’s big prize, the Stanley Cup. First of all, the Red Wings were up by two games and no one had ever lost the playoffs with that kind of lead. Then there is the downtrodden city of Detroit itself. Earlier in the year the city’s thug Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, got shipped off to jail. During the last month the town’s largest employers went belly-up (Chrysler and GM).

But then, it’s only a game isn’t it. The days when the likes of Gordie Howe, Tim Horton, Frank Mahovlich, and Maurice (The Rocket) Richard had their faces bashed in for the love of the game and little money are long gone. Last night Marcia asked what Hockey players make since they were always considered the ‘poor boys’ of professional sports. During the 1990-91 season the average NHL player salary was $271,000. Now this has climbed to $1,906,793. The big change that I notice is that players today are wearing helmets and face guards and are thus keeping more of their teeth. That’s definitely worth a 703% salary increase.

Quickly continuing with the signs of the times department: Last night Marcia and I decided to enjoy an after dinner coffee and bit of desert by driving the “Our Duck” (our little Citroën 2CV) to Hyde Park’s Awakenings Coffee, Tea, and Wine emporium—one of our favorite coffee shops.

Soon the Friday evening music started up, this week it was a guitar player doing Buddy Holly, the Kinks, and Buffet covers. Stan, his name, was close to my age. While he was playing I whispered to Marcia, “do you realize that until recently Stan was the CEO of Fifth-Third Bank?” “Noooo”, answered Marcia, “you’re kidding aren’t you?” The fact that for a moment she even considered that possibility as plausible was something incomprehensible only a year ago. What a difference a year makes.

Finally, in the north woods comes to the city department: This past Thursday a local guy caught a 100 pound Catfish in the Ohio River. Here we drive twelve hours to reach our cabin located in what is touted as being the prime fishing area of North America and we’ve not seen anything like this. It’s just not right.

I have no idea how exactly the guy caught that beast. But, since we live on the edge of Appalachia with it’s very rich 200-year old history of independence and a self reliant lifestyle developed from living in isolated ‘hollers’, I have an idea. This You Tube has a couple of guys showing how it might have been done:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYREGzfIiJE]

Now, time to get ready. First, we’re off on a run to our outdoor Findlay Market to load up on fresh veggies and fruits. Then we’ll join Adrianne as she takes nine month old Vai to the main downtown branch of our library for a young kids and families reading session. Adrianne said that last week she was there for the duration and loved it. This week Marcia and I are accompanying her to document that fact.

Make it a great week everyone.

Cheers,

Dirk



06 6th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” — Elie Wiesel

Marcia and I made it back safe and sound. Actually, I’m not so sure about the “sound” part since we were pulling an empty trailer. Just for the heck of it, go ahead and rent a single axle trailer and spend an afternoon towing it about, then we’ll talk a bit more. In the meantime I am sitting back a bit to enjoy my, just perked, morning coffee.

These past weeks have been amazing, especially for a city kind of guy. It started at the cabin when, one morning, we heard geese honking. Over a period of several minutes the honking got louder and louder. All of a sudden, overhead came several flocks, each made up of hundreds of Canadian Geese. The summer migration north was well underway. These birds, in full ‘V’ formations, had traveled throughout the night and were unerringly honing in on their summer home.

Compare that to the Moose we spotted at the side of the road minutes after starting for home. Unlike the geese, the Moose appears to just blunder about the woods. Very skittish, I get the feeling that everything from flies to people will cause this huge beast to veer about from one path to another.

The Moose’s tromping about made me think of General Motors. On Monday we drove south at about the time GM was declaring bankruptcy. Our route took us directly through ‘ground zero’; Flint and Detroit. To help pass the time we tuned in to several AM radio talk stations. Many of them had shoved their syndicated content aside to focus on dialogue regarding GM.

My observation on all the discussions? We heard lots of depressed people, most only hoping and wishing for the best, but most not really having much hope. No one was able to point to a clear path to success other than GM pulling out of bankruptcy, but no long-term strategy was detailed.

Personally? Hearing that Obama has placed a 31-year old law student with zero manufacturing experience to head up the oversight management team, and seeing that the other members are primarily accountant types gives me little hope. This is a team assembled for an ‘annihilation’ strategy rather than a stabilize, gain control, and grow strategy. I don’t see GM ever making a profit again.

This feeling was furthered when I heard that Rep. Barney Frank had personally strong-armed the new GM CEO into giving a plant in his district, which was scheduled for closing, a reprieve. OK, now that the sick arm of politics is firmly in charge, any perceived direction for change becomes chaotic as congressional members begin the “but not mine” chant. The “taxpayer partnership”, i.e. bailout, is quickly becoming more of a quagmire.

I have made it a hobby to review why some companies are hugely successful and others whither and die. My conclusion is that little of it has to do with labor costs, regulations, and all the other platitudes. Much of it has to do with leadership, the value placed on and input sought from employees, suppliers, and customers, all then made part of a Lean manufacturing strategy. If anyone would like a greater discussion, drop a note and I’ll happily respond.

Our little Vaioleti has now been out of the hospital for 6 months. The couple of weeks that we were gone had her change completely from being an infant to an active baby. She has started creeping, and almost cheers when her baby carrots arrive. She reaches for stuff she wants, looks about for mom and dad. She smiles continuously, is about the most patient baby imaginable, but cries when something absolutely doesn’t suit her, like being strapped into the car seat for the umpteenth time. What an absolute delight she’s become.

The rest of our grandkids are now home for the summer, so far so good. I’ve no reports of any parents losing it—yet.

In the meantime I am still in need of recuperating from the work done to open the cabin. Thanks Paul for the guidance given on purging the air out of the water system. Thanks Donn for teaching me how to begin ‘squaring’ the cabin from heaving caused by winter frost with only a 12-ton bottle jack. Thanks to the Loons for reminding me that it’s not impossible to stand in 40 degree water while placing the boat dock. And, most importantly, thanks Marcia for being the newly crowned “north woods appetizer queen”. I do so miss our daily Happy Hour.

Make it a great week.

Cheers,

Dirk



05 30th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Most people don’t know what they’re doing, and a lot of them are really good at it.” — George Carlin

Greetings from the North Woods. Since a new – late spring – overnight frost hit these parts the resultant fog is roiling over the water. This makes it appear as if I’m watching a Creature from the Lagoon “B” Movie. What a great way to wake up, watching nature at its finest while sipping a freshly brewed black coffee.

Marcia and I experienced a lot of ‘new’ this week. No clue, but certainly willing to learn fast.

For example, Marcia in the kitchen; “Dirk, could you come here a moment and help get rid of the squirrel?” The minute the little guy spotted me with broom in hand he started performing his best tricks. My favorite was the climbing of the blinds and running across the slats.

Seeing me zag with broom in hand, he ziigged. Not to be outsmarted by a squirrel I performed the old double zag with a slight ‘stutter’ thrown in for good measure. I believe I did see a lightning fast shadow flash by me heading for our bedroom.

My body, having long ago giving up any semblance of limberness, started rolling about the bedroom floor trying to spot the little fellow. More “new”, this time in the closet. As winter left, its parting gift was frost heaving the electric system’s grounding rod. The rod, located under the cabin, was now sticking up 3 inches through the punctured flooring—a perfect squirrel door.

Moments ago I happened to look up at the still passing fogs. There, staring at me from his perch on top of our grill was the friendly little red squirrel. “No, I am not playing today!”

The other ‘new’ I learned deals with laws of physics. I learned that running water requires that air is purged from the pipes. Trying to perform this feat through an access point in the pump which is located lower than the point where air pockets collect results in gallons of water on the floor of the pump room and little water in the lines.

You’d think that Marcia would find something cute in all the exerted effort, but NOOO. As the “purging virgin” on the lake, my brothers in law showed me the ropes.

It turned out that the solution was a remarkably simple one. First requirement was a trip to the hardware store—manly men MUST start any project with a trip to the hardware store. Now armed with $45 worth of connectors, flanges, ball cock, clamps, and Teflon tape I promptly established a purge point above the air pocket. Rapidly water flowed throughout the little cabin’s system. At least it did till the Pressure Switch broke.

Even though the weather has been “lacking” we’re having a wonderful time. Every day an improvement project seems to get done. Great strides have been made transforming the shed into a proper “Bunkie.” The dock has somehow managed to jut out from the shore. This only took 40-minutes of standing in 40 – 50 degree water tugging at the thing, but hey, I look great in bright red legs.

Our breeding pair of Loons is still with us. Especially at night, these amazing birds start their choral group. The resultant melancholy song can be heard all over the cove. Couple the Loon’s song with the echoing whoop of the owls and other nighttime noises, and you have a true festival of sound.

Did you know that Loons return to the same lake every spring? That their bones, unlike those of other birds, are solid? That they regularly dive over 100 feet deep? And that they require as much as 1/3 of a mile running start to get airborne? I told you they are amazing birds.

And, on the one absolutely perfect day, all of us explored surrounding trails on our ATVs. For more than two hours we climbed the nearby ridge, followed muddy old logging trails, and went deep into the woods. Wearing mosquito nets, gloves, and long pants we were secure from bugs and the like. The only casualty was Marcia who forgot that part of the novelty of wearing Crocs on her feet is a series of cleverly arranged air holes—perfect entry points for moldy smelling trail muck.

Make it a great week. Monday we head home. This week plus a few days has gone by way too fast.

Cheers,

Dirk



05 24th, 2009

Good morning all:

Wisdom Of The Week:

“Bright early morning sunshine does not necessarily bode that smooth sailing lies ahead.” — Dirk Pastoor

Greetings. Morning two at the cabin and unlike yesterday, the coffee tastes great (yesterday we discovered “foreign objects” floating in the coffee maker reservoir—this after the coffee was made).

This morning Marcia and I were elbowing each other out of the way trying to get to the Ibuprofen first. Ibuprofen inadvertently was one of those forgotten items and so the first-aid kit had to be pillaged for its meager supply. Since I lost I decided that I’d start my morning by assembling an Ikea “Lernberg” shelf. It was 6:30 AM.

Marcia woke up first and started exuding about the warmth of the comforter. The heat was not on in the cabin so the temperature was about 50 degrees. I looked over at her and casually mentioned that going to bed with long-johns and a fleece jacket does not count. Just now, Marcia is watching morning cartoons (in French) on her postcard-sized portable TV. These are desperate times. Let me explain.

Friday morning at 3:00 AM (after about 3 hours of sleep) we hooked up the trailer and loaded last minute food stuffs and started heading north. The previous evening Tevita and I worked for several hours, but failed to get the running lights on the trailer to work. Since all the other lights did work I drove till daybreak with the 4-way flasher going. This was no problem except for the incessant noise from the clicker. At some point Marcia and I stopped talking to each other.

Twelve hours later we were at the cabin. Thankfully, Marlene at her cabin, had dinner waiting for us.

A winter of frozen hibernation had our little cabin remarkably free of smells, dust, wildlife critters and so the move in was quite easy. Or so we thought.

Opening a cabin has an array of chores which have to be done. First on the list (after assembling the new Ikea drop-leaf “Norberg” dining table) is hooking up the pump and water line. Once complete the system simply needs to be purged of any air and voila – faucets work and hot water is readily available. It was actually easier to first install the new pressure tank into the system, especially since I had made a last minute Home Depot run to get the thing.

The effort went into lunch. Then the effort to get water impacted on our Happy Hour. Right after dinner, Donn my Mechanical Engineer brother-in-law came over to assess matters. Around 10 PM we both agreed to “sleep” on it. Now that I am awake I am no closer to a solution than I was at 10 last night.

Right after getting up I heard Marcia slosh a bucket of water into the toilet. I am becoming quite proficient jumping from stone to stone to then dip and fill the bucked with lake water.

Of course this all competes with me playing with my toys. The really important stuff is just not happening. My folding kayak assembly is not taking place. Clean-up and launching the pontoon is a project that is not even on the horizon since the dock must first be put in the water—after I get the water running. Then, any racing about on the ATV has had the kibosh put on by Marcia – this also has had to do with the water situation.

Make it a great week. My disposition should improve dramatically once the local plumber answers his phone.

Cheers,

Dirk