Friday, April 30, 2010

Are Trees Flowers?

I first started noticing flowering trees when I lived in Georgia, circa 1997.  Every Spring, or every whatever time of year passes for Spring in Georgia's climate, all the dogwood trees would flower overnight.  Might not have been dogwoods but let's call them that.  For about a week, these medium-sized trees would be covered in white blossoms so thick you couldn't see any leaves, reminiscent of giant cotton balls.

I bought my house two years ago in Summer, so I thought nothing of the tree in my front yard.  Last Spring, surprisingly, it erupted in beautiful pink blossoms.  This year, I took pictures.

Here's a chronology of a bloom fortnight in my neighborhood.

April 16.  Red buds cover the tree, but it still looks pretty bare.

April 18.  Starting to flower.  I decided to take pictures around 8:00 AM, when the sun is behind the camera.

April 19.  Very pretty.

April 20.  Very few leaves visible.  Neighbor's garbage can included in background at no extra charge.

April 21.  Filling out nicely.

April 22.  Earth Day.  I mean Goldwing Day.

April 23.  About the same as yesterday, which is to say, very nice.

April 26.  It rained on April 24 & 35, so no pictures from those days.  Petals are starting to drop.

April 27.  Leaves are becoming much more visible. My neighbor's garbage can and recycling bin makes another cameo appearance.  Neighbor recycles mostly bottles, if you get my drift.

April 29.  The fun is almost over.

April 30.  Still some pink there but the leaves really want to take over.  Where did all the petals go?

There they are.  It looks like a hail storm but no, those are petals.

So Close

Last Fall, I put both of my two-wheeled vehicles in storage for the off-season.  I thought about hanging the motorcycle from the ceiling but later opted to park it on the floor and hang the bicycle.  Less fun but more practical.

Not wanting the two vehicles to interfere with other, I measured carefully and drilled hooks into the ceiling for the bike.  I parked the cycle and then hung the bike on the hooks.

While I measured carefully, I didn't take into consideration the motorcycle's cover.  Let's see how close I got.

Ouch.  While the bike's handlebars are still inches away from the motorcycle, with the cover in the mix, we're calling that zero clearance.  Very tight.  With my track record, I'm very happy to not be reporting major negative clearance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day? No, Happy Goldwing Day

I brought home my Goldwing on his date in 2004.  I remember quite clearly the first song to eminate from the radio - "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" by The Eagles.  Whether you believe in omens or not, that was a good sign.  On my way to work this morning, it hit 19,000 miles.

I've been avoiding driving my truck this week, for reasons that may be explained in a later post, and Monday-Tuesday were lovely days.  Because they were lovely, and Wednesday morning was sunny, I didn't look at the thermometer before I left for work.  Wow: 43°.  That's a bit chilly when riding a machine that makes its own windchill.  My lower limit for cycling to work has usually been 55°.  A new and somewhat brisk low, and short-lived.  My commute is less than two miles.

I looked at the thermometer before I left this morning: 39°.  A second new low in as many days. Should be closer to 50° than 40° Friday morning.  I hope it's warm for the weekend, so I can see about fixing my truck.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Denny Hecker is a prominent Twin Cities car dealer.  Or maybe I should use the past tense.  He's currently awaiting trial for fraud and is in the middle of both bankruptcy and divorce.  For all the salacious details, feel free to Google him.

I don't know if he's a con man or just an incompetent business person as he claims, but when he turned himself in for a few days in jail for contempt in the bankruptcy proceedings, he had $4000 in cash in his pocket.  You know, if you're on your way to serve a contempt sentence for hiding assets, you might want to leave your wallet at home if it contains some of the assets you've been hiding.  Ballsy and/or stupid.

For the last decade, the headquarters of Hecker's empire has been on my drive to work.  Four or five years ago, I noticed that he opened a mortgage lending office.  It makes sense, as car loans and home loans aren't all that different, and it was at the peak of the housing bubble.

I draw your attention to the signs on the building.

Let's see those signs in close-up.

In 1775, Samuel Johnson said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."  Naming your business "Freedom First Financial" and putting up red, white & blue signs, including one reminiscent of a waving flag, is definitely invoking patriotic imagery.  Denny Hecker is demonstrably a scoundrel, so there has to be a lesson in there somewhere.  I would even believe that "Freedom First Financial" wasn't the last choice of names; probably the first.

Minnesota Governor Timothy Pawlenty created a political action committee to raise money for his presidential bid.  The name of Pawlenty's political action committee?

Freedom First PAC.

Gotta be a lesson in there, as well.

Friday, April 9, 2010


When travelling the highways and byways of Minnesota, you will often see cars with little green bumper stickers that say "Wellstone!"  It's not at all uncommon to see cars with bumper stickers from elections past.

Paul Wellstone was a US Senator from 1991-2002 and a progressive icon.  He was a small man with fierce determination and proudly wore the "Liberal" label.  He died in October 2002, days before an election he would easily have won.  

Yesterday, while driving down my local freeway, I saw a car with a Wellstone! bumper sticker.  A 2009 Ford Focus.  A car manufactured a good seven years after Paul Wellstone left the mortal coil.

Seven years and Minnesotans are still claiming Wellstone, one bumper sticker at a time.

Kind of says it all.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cold as Ice, and Loud as a Foreigner Concert, Too

My refrigerator has been making noise lately, noise that indicates that it is not performing adequately. The bad kind of not adequately. After work today, while getting ready to watch a DVD in peace and quiet, I realized that the quiet wasn't quite peaceful enough, and I decided to forego seeing the lovely (and brown-eyed) Kate Beckinsale as Jane Austen's Emma long enough to fix the fridge.

Gathering the necessary tools took longer than taking off the back of the fridge. Once I had it opened, ironically, it stopped cycling but when it started up again, I could immediately see and hear the problem. The fan, a little 6- or 7-inch baby, was rubbing on its shroud. A little nosing around and I deduced that the bearing holding up the fan's output shaft was made of rubber or plastic and had worn over time. The shaft had dropped about 1/16”, which caused the blades to rub against the shroud and make an unpleasant racket.

A bearing made out of a material that wears out? That's lousy design, almost as if the manufacturer had planned a little obsolescence, something minor that would necessitate a visit by a repair person and quick replacement with a high-markup part. I wonder if there is a name for obsolescence that is planned? If not, there should be.

This little bearing that wore out looks like it should last about 10 years. The date of manufacture of my refrigerator was 2/19/2000. It started making noise about six weeks ago today, on Friday, Febuary 19, 2010. Something like that. Truth be told, it's been making noise for the last year, but until Friday, Febuary 19, only the kind that goes away when you whack the side of the fridge.

To fix my fridge, I didn't replace the bearing or the fan assembly. Instead, I attacked the next-most wearable surface, and used a utility knife to cut 1/8” off the end of each of the fan blades. When I plugged the unit back in, the blades spun free & clear and that should be the end of that problem until the bearing wears out another 1/16”.

Which brings us to the fun part. When I bought my garden-variety townhouse in the poor section of Minnesota's wealthiest city, I decided to get a few toys, namely an air compressor and a shop vac.

While I had the back of the refrigerator off, I used compressed air to clean off the coils and magic cooling parts underneath the unit. I had vacuumed them once, but 90 PSI makes quite a breeze and was a little more effective. I dislodged and redistributed all kinds of dust bunnies the size of, well, small rabbits. They created a debris field in my living room reminiscent of the Titanic's, as if rendered in dust.

Cleaning up these dust bunnies the size of small rabbits fell to my shop vac. It did the job so quickly and thoroughly, that there is no trace of dust in my kitchen or living room. Except on the dust mask I was wearing. It turned dark gray, just short of black. That's a lot of dust that didn't end up in my lungs. Good idea, wearing a dust mask.

If I'd known that I would use my shop vac toy as often as I do, I would have gotten the next size up. And a little unsolicited advice for you: if you use your shop vac in the house, like I have for several projects, using a HEPA-quality filter is mandatory. In fact, after my quick cleanup today, I can honestly say that the $30 HEPA filter would be cheap at twice the price.

Thus ends my refrigerator story, for now. When it started making noise, I thought I might need to get a new one, but not yet, it seems. As fun as getting a shiny new toy - with ice maker, of course - would be, I'll keep the cash in pocket a little longer. Maybe until the next part that is designed to fail fails. Has anyone come up with a name for obsolescence that is planned yet?