Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stopping Point

For the last couple months, I've been working on scanning in every photo we've ever taken prior to switching to digital in January of 2003. At some point, I had started to get all our prints and negatives organized using a Light Impressions archive system. It looked like I was making good progress, then everything came to grief at some point in the mid-1990's. Today, I completed the organized stuff. That was 3,245 individual photos, covering October 1977 through October 1994, scanned in and organized into 223 folders. What a difference between film and digital. On our cruise-tour in 2008, we shot 2,112 photos over 12 days. After a little break, I get to start on the hard part; I have at least as many photos still in the envelopes the developer put them in, most of them without dates. Then I have several large boxes of undated loose photos when I get done with those. Fun stuff. I have a feeling that a large percentage of the scans from here on out will end up in a folder named Miscellaneous Undated.

A bit of dark humor from Yahoo News about how Americans when forced to choose between eating and digital masturbation on a smartphone are choosing digital masturbation:

Looking over the family budget on Sunday night, Mr. Boedie said, his wife marveled at how much of it was going to the phone company.

"It stinks," Mr. Boedie said. "I guess it's the cost of modern-day America now."

Apologies to Irving Berlin, but I can't figure out why any god in his right mind would bless America.

On a... ahem... lighter note, the sun threw a bit of a hissy fit on August 31:

 Just for some perspective:

  Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun with Earth to Scale

And off to bed before I throw frackin' Blogger out the window. These idiots who just can't leave anything unbroken have just made the editor nearly impossible to use. Nice job Google. No wonder Apple told you to piss off.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short Update

This will be quick because there just isn't a great deal going on right now. We're sort of on hold for the next month or so because of the Michigan road trip. I'll be driving up in a Penske the last week of October, dropping debris along the way, then coming back down with my parents, helping them out with the driving. In the meantime, I'm making a list of what I'm taking up and what I'm bringing back. (Koegel's!!! Serve the curve, baby!) Otherwise, it's more or less keeping busy puttering around with small jobs like cleaning out the gutters and trying to figure out why half of our electric is screwed up. I dug into the box over the weekend and did some fixin', but we're still having issues with running the laser printer and, oddly enough, the crock pot. The laser printer I (sort of) get as it's a high-draw appliance, but a crock pot? I'll be making a quick trip into town this afternoon for other stuff, so I'll pick up some fiddly bits from Lowes and see if the situation can be improved. If that doesn't work, we'll need an electrician dude to come out and tear into the power pole. That's supposed to be the park's job, but they flat out refuse to take care of it, so, as I'm not interested in being immolated in my sleep, we'll be paying to get things fixed.

Our only new news is that next week, we have contractors showing up to beef up our roof and add a 10'x20' covered deck to the front of our place. The roof should be done in a day; the deck will take two or three days to finish up. So in a week or so, our little place will have a rather different look. We were only going to redo the existing roof and extend it out the front, then worry about building a deck under the extension at some future date. But the price we got on the roof was far less than we expected, and we couldn't buy the deck materials for what they wanted to extend the trailer roof and build the deck. So it all gets done in one big bang, then we sit here broke for the next year or so until we can do the next thing. But at least we'll have a roof that doesn't leak, more insulation so our electric bill won't be in the stratosphere, and a shady spot to sit outside.

And that's pretty much it. I'll post some pictures as the work progresses next week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Another Week Slips By....

First, some good news: We got "our" new fence and it looks pretty good, especially compared to what was there before.

The "however" is that it likely won't stay good looking for long. It's the cheapest grade of fencing you can get and there are no plans to attempt to preserve it in any way. I give it five years max before it starts looking as crappy as what was here to start with. Florida is tough on wood, even when it's well-cared-for. If history is any guide, this won't be. On the other hand, who knows what part of the world we'll be living in five years from now.

Rainy season continues. The first couple years we were in Florida, the rain started to taper off in September, but this year it's still going full bore halfway through the month. I don't know if moving across state is the reason or if things are getting back to normal after several years of "drought". (Most places in the US would start building arks if they received the amount of rain Florida gets in a drought year, hence the scare quotes.) Our recent yard work is hold up well to the onslaught, although the bare areas haven't started filling in like I had hoped. No matter; this is Florida. Something green will take over in no time.

We went through the last pile of bins over the weekend. It's all Christmas stuff that we've been carting around for 20+ years, most of which has never seen the light of day. It was a little depressing; after most of a day's of work, we still had the same pile of bins in our living space. We did get the stuff sorted into bins-we're-keeping vs. bins-for-yard-sale, but because the shed is already packed right to the door, we have to leave it all in the Florida room for now.

Which brings me to more news. I'll be driving a moving van full of left-overs to Michigan sometime between now and the end of October, unless a last-minute buyer jumps up on Craigslist. I seriously doubt that will happen given that everything has been listed for over a month and we haven't gotten a single inquiry on any of it. As of right now we have for-sure takers for everything but the dining room table and chairs. I'm pretty sure I know where that's going, but if the person backs out, I have two or three alternatives. In any case, it all will be gone in a month or so. Then we can finally start to figure out how we're going to live in this place. The last month has felt like we're living in a storage unit.

We are also going to start working on the biggest project so far: a full roof-over of the trailer and Florida room. That will probably put a serious dent in our savings account, so we won't be doing much else for a very long time. But it's the one improvement that will save us major money on utilities by beefing up the insulation in our roof, plus giving us over-hangs that will keep a lot of sun off the walls. Our electric bill for August just came; $122.33. That's the highest we've ever had anywhere we've lived. My goal is to cut that in half next year. The positive news is that this place is built and insulated so poorly (like nearly everything in Florida), we can easily make huge improvements.

So off to start making phone calls and stimulatin' the local economy!!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Far, Far Away

Americans are often accused of being "extravagantly wasteful" or promoting a "throw away culture". I'm hardly going to argue with that given that several families were able to make a living digging empty beer cans out of the dumpsters behind our former apartment. But a couple of things over the last few days have made me realize that it isn't just a party-like-it's-1999 attitude, like some drunk trust fund baby in a bar setting $20 bills on fire simply because he thinks he has an unlimited supply of them. Rather it's more like a kid's belief in unicorns; that there really is a land of Far, Far Away. Only instead of a place of handsome princes and beautiful princesses (or in the modern version, a couple friendly ogres and a talking donkey having sex with a dragon), our Far, Far Away is a place where we send anything that we are unwilling to deal with ourselves. Something breaks? Throw it Far, Far Away. Something stinks? Flush it Far, Far Away. Get bored with some trinket after you realize that it isn't the key to eternal youth and endless sex like the advertisement promised? Throw it Far, Far Away.

Then we have the once-removed's like recycling. Not to pan on recycling as a concept; everything gets recycled whether it's us doing it or Mama Gaia (who catches everything no matter how Far, Far Away we throw it). I'm talking about Recycling American Style where you mindlessly set some of your trash to the curb in a blue tub, it goes Far, Far Away, and you get to pat yourself on the back for being so green. If you want to see the ultimate blank stare, ask your neighbor next trash day what happens to the stuff in the blue tub. I got one of those yesterday from one of the park maintenance guys. We're looking for topsoil to build some raised beds and wondered if the township or county ran a municipal compost pile. Most of those allow locals to haul away the finished compost for free or cheap. I ask him if the yard waste we set out went to a compost pile. "No, we just toss it in a roll-off." Yes, I understand that. My question is, when the big truck comes and picks up the roll-off it goes...? Blank stare.

I have no idea myself where that roll-off ends up, but I do know that in Flint, Michigan, yard waste was going to the same landfill as the rest of the trash for years after residents were required to set yard waste out in separate bags. That is also the fate of most blue-bin trash as the market for such things as old newspaper and plastic have been completely saturated since the 1970's. My school used to have an annual paper drive where everyone would bundle up their old newspapers and pile them in a rented semi trailer next to the school. When the trailer was full, it would get picked up and hauled to a paper recycler and the school would get a wad of cash. At least, that's how it worked until the last paper drive sometime in the mid-1970's; when we showed up with our semi load of newspapers, the recycler told us he had all the newspaper he needed for all eternity. Because he felt sorry that our fundraiser was already going to cost us money, he was willing to take our newspapers without charging us a dumping fee. Not much has changed in the 40 years since. In fact, about the only thing in all the millions of blue bins that nets income in curbside recycling is the aluminum. Glass and steel are about break-even with paper and plastic being a dead loss. That's not just in terms of money, either. Every study of curbside recycling has come to the same conclusion: it takes more energy and resources on net to run the recycling program than the program saves.

The problem is another fantasy that Americans have; that we can keep doing everything we've been doing for the last 70 years only more of it, year after year without consequence if we'll only do just a little itty bitty bit. Like throw our plastic water bottles into a blue bin instead of a trash bag, or change out all the incandescent light bulbs in the McMansion for compact florescents. Remember the green mantra from the 1970's? Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. The order isn't random. First step is to reduce. Everything. Buy less crap. Not buy even more crap, then think you're making it all OK by throwing 2% of it in a blue bin. Recycling is the last resort, not the magic cure-all that's going to let us keep our 5,000 square foot "starter homes" and 6,000 pound SUV's that you have to park in the driveway because the 4-car garage is stuffed with quad runners and jet skis and bins full of clothes that no one has ever worn and kitchen gadgets still in their blister packs. Of course, any suggestion that maybe it would be a good idea to cut back on the amount of crap we buy and hoard, and the best you can hope for is a blank stare. More likely, you'll get a punch to the head.

(And yes, we're as guilty as the next guy. In spite of a concerted effort over the last six or seven years to cut the crap pile down to a reasonable size, our home still looks like something off one of those hoarders TV shows, with plastic bins stacked literally to the ceiling and little narrow passageways to navigate through the stacks. And while our sissy SUV is way smaller than most of the monster trucks running around here, it's till way more vehicle than we need to haul our butts around, while simultaneously being too small to do anything useful, like moving building materials. We're going in the right direction, but the going is slow and we frequently backslide.)

So what brought up all this tree-hugging crap? This:

Ya know how they say that when the tide goes out, everyone knows who's swimming naked? Well, yesterday the park began tearing down the old, dilapidated board fence that runs between the park and the woods behind us, and there was a multitude of naked people. Nearly everyone who lives along the back fence tosses their leaves over the fence instead of bagging them up like they're supposed to. I'm not sure in what universe that it's easier to heave piles of leaves over a 7-foot fence instead of stuffing them in a leaf bag, but no one has ever accused humans of being overly logical. But the section of fence behind us is extra special. Not just leaves and branches, but plastic bags, aluminum foil, candy wrappers, flower pots, bottles, cans. It's all in there. The pièce de résistance was the 10 yards or so of dirt that had been tossed over the fence. That must have been done over a period of years, because digging through the dirt pile was like working a kitchen midden at an archaeological dig, only instead of animal bones and pot shards I was digging up Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers and broken pieces of plastic flower pots. The irony of the whole thing is after all the effort that was put into tossing all that dirt over the fence, I plan to bring back as much as possible before the guys get here to put up the new fence, in order to level up some low places and stabilize the wobbly patio stones that have been undercut by run-off.

Anyway, the point is, Far, Far Away can be as much psychological as physical. In this case, literally out of sight, out of mind. If I toss my candy bar wrapper or a broken flower pot over this fence so I can't see it, that object must cease to exist and there are no possible consequences because it is now in the magical land of Far, Far Away. Of course, one person's Far, Far Away is someone else's property. I wonder how loudly the former residents would have screamed if the owner of the adjacent property had started throwing leaves, dirt and garbage in the other direction?

Anyway, not much of a point other than maybe we should start thinking about whose back yard all the stuff we throw Far, Far Away lands in and maybe throwing a great deal less of it.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Florida is giving us a last hurrah (or giant middle finger; take your pick) with 90 degree heat and matching humidity. Everything from Isaac has blown out and now we don't even get the couple hours of relief we were getting from the afternoon thunderstorms. I try to get outside every day and do a little puttering around the outside of the trailer, but there is only about a two-hour window between sunrise and when being outside is just too brutal to think about. So I sit inside scanning old photos.

That process has changed somewhat. I was originally scanning the negatives, mainly because 3x5 or 4x6 prints have a different aspect ratio than the 35mm negative, so something has to get cut off. Prints also seem to have more issues with color balance, and even though a print is many times larger than a negative, the scans didn't seem any better in terms of graininess. But the scanner software seems to want to fight me every step of the way. Yesterday, I had just finished up 500 or so photos that we had no negatives for (or they were something other than 35mm), and started back in on the 35mm stuff. The very first strip of negatives I grabbed came up in the software as color positive film. I was done with that. So now I scan the prints and screw the negatives. It involves more trips to the scanner as I can only do two or three photos at a time instead of an entire strip of negatives in one go, but the process is actually faster overall.

Yesterday, we had our first block party since we moved here. Our neighbors at the end of the street hosted an ol' fashioned potluck, so we showed up with our signature baked beans, which got a lot of comments. I'm hoping that we're not stuck bringing the things to every potluck forever; we have a lot of other things we like to make besides baked beans. In any case, we all ate too much and sat around for several hours acting like hooligans. We had fun and finally had a chance to meet a few of our neighbors. Nice change of pace from... well... pretty much every other place we've ever lived.

The Republican National Convention has finally ended. We avoided even looking in the direction of Tampa while the circus was in town, and of course there was no way we would waste our time watching any of it on TV. Personally, I'd rather scratch my eyes out with rusty nails. I heard a lot of yapping about this or that speech and something about Clint Eastwood playing the part of a stroke victim while talking to an empty chair. Why anyone pays the least bit of attention is beyond me. Whatever is said or done at the convention has absolutely nothing to do with what the Liar in Chief actually does while in office. The worst of it is that as soon as the holiday weekend is over, we get to start the circus all over again for the Democrats. At least that one is far enough away that we don't have to be concerned with road closures, blockades, protesters, riot cops, etc.

And I should get back to scanning.