Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vacation Looming

An immutable law for the week before your vacation is that it will be one of the most stressful, grinding work weeks of the year.

It looks like I am in full compliance! My department lost one inspector, another one is off and today will be my second consecutive trip to a customer's plant for problem review and resolution. (The 103 degree heat index makes working in a factory extra charming this time of year, by the way!)

My wife has been stressing over getting all the trip arrangements in line. Remember, now, that she's stuck at home wit the kid and no car. Mariel is keyed-up in anticipation of traveling to see all her cousins and grand parents, too.

Our pastor has a year-long initiative for our church body to spend thirty minutes a day in prayer. That has been no problem for yours truly. It has really helped with my anxiety levels to keep God in the loop.

Days continue to be filled with problems, but that's the nature of life on this planet, I guess.

Once I pick up that rental car on Friday, I'll breathe a sigh of relief.

Will there be reports from the road? Maybe. Maybe not.

If you don't hear from me, it's because I'm...


Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Little Side Project

I finished up a little project a couple weeks back.

I received an old reel of 1/4" audio tape from Jim, one of my friends at church. It contained a recording of his father's funeral service from 1963.

Could I possibly transfer the tape to a CD-R?

"I can give it a try," was my response. "I'll just have to find the time to do it."

It took until the July 4th holiday weekend to open that window of opportunity.

(I usually like to do some sort of nerdy project on a holiday weekend. On Memorial Day I transferred a bunch of cartoons from VHS tape to DVD-R. That's how I roll!)

I opened the tape box and there was a 7" reel of tape inside a plastic bag.

I opened the plastic bag.

Whew! I was greeted with a strong vinegar odor.

I peeled off the first few feet of tape from the reel. It was all curled and warped, kind of like ribbons on a festively wrapped birthday present.

"This ought to be interesting," I mused.

I gingerly threaded the tape across the head of the ancient SONY tape recorder. Amazingly, it played and the sound of a spooky, echo-laden church organ could be heard!

Recuing the tape, I put my computer's audio application into the "record" mode and let 'er rip.

After a couple of hymns had played I noticed a new problem: the tape was so warped that it wound onto the take-up reel really sloppy. After a few minutes, tape was flopping over the side of the take-up reel and I had to hit the stop button.

What to do?

Then I remembered an old studio trick. I set a container next to the tape deck and let the tape slop over into it as it played.

In this way, I was able to continue recording the service right through the Bible readings and the eulogy.

After a quick bit of digital audio editing and normalization, I started to burn the CD-Rs.

While this was going on, I rewound the tape from the box onto the original 7" reel. The next development was that the warped tape would now not fit onto the reel. I ended up breaking off the last bit of tape and sticking it onto an old partially-filled 5" reel I had lying around (see photo, above.)

When Jim called to thank me for the CD-Rs, I got the rest of the story.

When his father passed away, Jim's sister was in Helsinki and could not attend the funeral and someone at the church taped it for her.

Here's the catch, though. No one in the family ever had a reel-to-reel tape recorder!

The first and only time the tape was played was 45 years later when I did the CD-R transfer!

Jim assured me that he would be sending a copy of the disc to his sister.

About time...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Playhouse

Back in the early 'sixties, my Dad worked at the Awnair company. They manufactured and installed their own specially-designed awnings. They had a proprietary configuration that incorporated tubular white loops as part of the bottom edge trim that made them distinctive.

Dad also installed aluminum storm doors. After putting in the new doors, he'd take away the old ones. I think he said he got $5 a door.

They also handled aluminum storm windows.

One day there were some old, small "sample windows" that were being thrown out in favor of the new model samples. My Dad saw that the old ones were being discarded and a plan emerged.
Why not build a small house around these small windows?

He glommed onto the windows and a pile of discarded storm doors and brought them home in his truck.

He built a small plywood floor in the corner of our back yard.

He then screwed the old storm doors together into panels that he used to frame in the walls.

I think he made the roof out of storm doors, too. I'll have to ask.

With the tiny windows in place, he bought a "square" of brown aluminum siding and slapped that up on the frame.

One more discarded screen door was installed as the actual door and, voila, we had a play house!

In the picture on the left, you can see one of the tiny windows on the left side of the house. (Click to enlarge. That's Sheila Flanagan, neighborhood kid, in the photo.)

The photo on the right shows me and my brother, Scott, by the main entrance. That's probably my Dad's reflection in the upper pane of glass.

We moved at the end of September, 1964 and the playhouse was left behind. I think the next owners used it as a tool shed before replacing it with a bigger, commercial shed. The fools!

We kids had a pretty neat club house for a while there, though, courtesy of my Father's imagination and resourcefulness.

Thanks, Dad!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Grand Caravan, Vibe, Sedona

See that?

It's a Pontiac Vibe.

I'm gonna be driving one of these for a couple of days later this month when we drive up to Buffalo, NY.


Because our 1996 Grand Caravan has become the expensive repair Death Star and must be put down. The latest prognosis contained the phrase "catalytic converter." That was our trigger to pull the plug.

Forget about cruising the Interstate. This heap didn't even make it home from the last round of repairs! I called AVIS and rented the Vibe for the two-day trip. Even with gas prices factored in, this is the most cost-effective plan we could conjure.

My Dad (bless his heart) has been insisting that we take his 2003 KIA Sedona. This was even before we knew the Grand Caravan had gone malignant.

So, we will drive to Buffalo, turn in the rental and then take delivery of the Sedona.

Sounds like a plan.

What could possibly go wrong, I ask you?

I'm sure I'll find out...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

NC to NY

Yep. I've been thinking about our upcoming trip from Fayetteville, NC to Buffalo, NY at the end of this month.

According to, this is a 730 mile trip that should take 12 hours and 16 minutes.

730 miles x $4/gallon x 20 miles/gallon = $116.80 in gas, each way.

I hear gasoline is going for about $4.20/gallon in Buffalo, so maybe I should figure on $122.64, each way. Let's make that $250, round trip. Could be worse.

If the trip truly takes "only" 12 hours and 16 minutes, maybe we don't need to break it up into a two day journey, each way, with a stop-over at a motel.

Could be done, I suppose. That'd free up two days and some vacation cash.

But let's be realistic.

That 12 hour figure could not possibly take into account bathroom breaks and stopping to eat.

There's no way that the inevitable road work and attendant detours have been included in that etimate.

How about all the time we'll spend getting lost? Huh? How about that Mr. Smarty-Pants-MapQuest?

Nah, it looks like it's going to be a two-day trip, both ways.