Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 1, BM

We woke up this morning at 5:30 to the sound of Annaliese calling from her bed, "Daddy, are you gone?"  After I said no, she came pattering in and crawled into bed with us.  Caspian followed a few minutes later, and we had a long family snuggle, before everyone got busy bathing/dressing/packing/heading out for the day.

I hit the road around 7:30, stopping to grab the rebar stakes I had made and painted orange the day before, and left to dry in my workshop above the store.  Alexe and I had another round of goodbyes, and as I headed out the door, Mr. Sartain, owner of Sartain's Hardware Store, who has been working on Main Street for 40+ years, gave me the biggest smile from his perch in a BTC booth and wished me a safe trip and said he couldn't wait to hear how it all went.  

Out of Mississippi, a short jump across the south-west corner of Tennessee, and the trip got underway as I crossed the Mississippi into Arkansas.  It was pouring rain, and continued to rain until I hit Texas much later in the day.

Nothing in Arkansas caught my attention.  That might have been because I was still waking up...

Driving through the reservations in Oklahoma makes for unpleasant reflections on what humans so often do to each other.

This seemed to be pure whim/art.  Pretty cool for a random small bridge over the interstate.

A glass house made for a mostly indoor water park.  Attached to a small hotel/motel. 

I hadn't seen such small, well defined rain storms at a distance since hiking in Alaska, and watching the clouds move through the valleys.

It was still raining as I entered Texas, and up ahead it looked like night was falling.  

I drove through what could have been late night driving for a time, and then the wall of darkness opened up.  It was like the sun was rising ahead of me in the West.

 And then it was a new day, with bright skies and fluffy clouds.

This water tower could use a little help.  

The church looked like it was still under construction.

After so many hours of dark skies and blinding rain, I took a bunch of pictures of the beautiful, fluffy sky.

Still trucking.  At this point we're at a little over 800 miles for the day.

With plans to push through to Albuquerque, (which I spelled correctly just then,) I stopped at the first food/fuel stop right over the New Mexico line.  I filled the truck, then headed inside to take care of me, and found this:

The second one of these I've seen this summer. 

This made me smile and think of Alexe.  The small car collection was lovely, though it's a bit sad to see them locked up in here.

And here I sit, finishing up a ribeye and drinking a coke to see me through the next 200 miles.

The send off.

Knowing Alexe is going to have a rough time of it while I am away, what with balancing the kids and the store, I waited until the last possible moment to leave.  This meant Saturday morning, to get Alexe through her always long Friday, and leave her with happy, clean kids in a happy, clean house.

That gave me a morning alone with Caspian, while Annaliese was at school, and a long afternoon/evening with both of them before Alexe came home from the store.

Caspian and I made ginger cookies and shortbread in the morning:

We stopped at the building to deliver cookies to the BTC ladies and do some land-lord stuff, (changing out air filters in the upstairs units, something I've been meaning to do, and a new tenant is moving in right now...)

Annaliese bathed and changed as soon as we picked her up and came home from school.  After dressing up and being rebuffed by her brother, she came to me to ask if we could get married, for pretend.  (This day getting married meant dancing together, not just spinning in a circle.)

We got married, for pretend, a few times.

Mixed in was laundry, house cleaning, making a beef stew to get Alexe through the next day or so, and packing the truck for the 26 hour drive out to Vegas, where Nicholas and I are meeting up, and heading another 8 hours North.

The kids weren't perfect: Annaliese did a fair amount of stealing at the store, and Caspian gorged on cookies and nectarines, then threw them up all over the house, but overall it was a nice amount of child-time before heading out for a couple weeks.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Caspian has been acting decidedly three recently.  He fluctuates between affectionate, sweet child, to contrary, mouthy little butt. 

Alexe was the recipient of one of his sunshine moments:

Eating at the BTC.  Seems a waste of effort to write how delicious this was.  Just look at it.  

Annaliese is growing like a weed. (I noticed her foot the other day, it's huge!) The kids have recently taken to hiding in our closet, it's a multi-level fort now, and part of the game is playing dress up.

I had a night out with the boys: ping pong, pool, beer and pizza.  It was a hoot.

The other day Caspian declared he needed to build something with his blocks, and marched off.

He's been my shadow as we go about the errands in town, finalize various things for my upcoming trip, and visit/help Alexe at the store.

According to my maths, these should cover the dome.  I didn't want to do a dry run here, and have to re-fold all these tarps before leaving.  Nicholas and I will just get to figure it out onsite.

Too cool.

Dinner last night.  Prosciutto, mozzarella, pizza crust from the BTC, basil from the garden, sauce from Micucci's in Portland.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Geodesic Dome, or the Burning Man house.

My best friend and I are going to the Burning Man festival this year.

With the summer spent in the North with the kids, I haven't had much time to think about and plan for this week long festival in the desert, and Nicholas has been equally preoccupied with his work/life/pie business.  

Last week, after the unpacking and settling in, the pending adventure started sinking in.  

We decided to do something a little more fun than sleep in a tent for a week, and I got cracking on a geodesic dome.

I went with a 2V design, one of the more basic options, with only two different component lengths, resulting in 6 pentagons that make up the half-sphere.

35 pieces of 10 ft. 3/4 inch EMT conduit.  Available anywhere, around $4 a stick, total cost was a hair under $150.  You can play with the measurements on a 2V dome to get any radius you want, but to minimize wasted material, I went with the proportions that would allow me to cut the 10 ft pieces once and have my two different lengths.  That ratio is roughly 4.7 ft and 5.3 ft.

Done in the yard with a 4.5 inch angle grinder with a metal cut off wheel.  Used one wheel ($2) and took maybe 20 minutes to mark and cut them all.  

The next step is flattening the ends of each piece, where the bolts will go through up to six pieces at a junction.  Some folks do this by hand with a hammer, which for 65 pieces, on both ends, is a ton of hammer-time.  (I hope that's not the only time in my life I get a legitimate opportunity to write that.)  Others track down a hydraulic pipe press.  I am lucky enough to have a friend in town with a sheet-metal shop, and borrowed his big press for an hour.  It did an amazing job.

Notice the big press put an angle on the flattened ends.  These ends need to be angled, but with specific angles for each size, and after the drilling step, so I had to straighten these pieces before moving on.

These six moderate bundles of pipes, and a bag of nuts and bolts, is the whole dome.  Nice and compact for travel.

I straightened the angled ends with a simple vise set to the width of the squished end, stuck each piece in and bent it straight.  Maybe 15 minutes to do them all.

Drilling.  The pieces will be bolted together with 5/16 bolts, so the pieces needed to be drilled on both ends with  a 3/8 drill bit to make getting the bolts through a none-issue during assembly.  This could have been a lot easier if I had taken these to my shop and used a jig on the drill press, but to allow me to work on this during the kids' nap time, I went a less organized route.  Simple wooden block with a 3/4 in mark back from one end, I lined each piece up on that block and drilled through with the cordless drill.  (If this was being done without a drill press, I would recommend a corded drill to anyone working with an 18 volt or smaller cordless drill.  Or go out and buy one of these new 20 volt lithium deals, they're amazing.)

This was the step for the first hole in each piece.  It takes a good drill bit to cut through the double-walled ends of 65 pieces; I went through three new ones at a cost of about $7 per bit.

The second hole in each piece needs to be exactly the same distance from the first on all pieces.  Again, a jig on a drill press would be easiest, but working in the yard, I made a simple jig with a screw at the bottom of this post, which the first hole could go over, and a line at the exact distance for the second hole at the top, with a bracing screw.  This also put the drill at a comfortable height to lean into it and punch through more easily.

Total time to drill each piece twice, around 2 hours.

The last step was re-angling the ends of the pieces, 18 degree angles on the ends of the longer pieces, 16 degree angles on the shorter.  Same deal with the vise, a stop block at the appropriate angle, and 15 minutes to put the angle on each piece. (This doesn't have to be super-exact; these angles will be finalized when the whole thing is loosely assembled, and all the bolts are tightened.)

Nuts and bolts:  Each junction needs a bolt, two washers, and a nut.  The bolts need to be 2 inches long for the junctions where six pieces come together, and I suppose you could use shorter bolts for other junctions, but keeping track of different sizes during assembly would be a nuisance, so I went with the single size.  For this reason the bolts need to be threaded all the way up the shaft, which is surprisingly difficult to find in your average hardware store.  Most bolts are threaded for the last (first?) inch only.  I ended up ordering these online, nuts bolts and washers, for $25.01. (Can you guess what the minimum order for free shipping was?)  This gave me all the bolts/nuts/washers I will need for this, and a few other projects.

Assembly:  I suppose this can be done in many different ways.  I decided to assemble the pentagons first, and then fit those 6 sections together.  This was not the easiest thing to do by myself, and on my pretty wood floor in my office, but I still think it is the quickest way to go about doing this, and will be easier on sand.

The first pentagon, ie. the roof.

Five more.

Attaching a pentagon to each point of the top pentagon, and connecting them around the sides to each other.  Our friend and tenant Polly came over from her office and lent a hand.

Using this method of assembly, the thing has no strength or shape of it's own until the final pentagon is tied in.  It makes for a wobbly, aggravating pain in the butt. A big part of this has to do with how loosely the pentagons were assembled; I barely finger-tightened the junctions of the pentagons as many of them need to be unthreaded when they are being connected during the larger assembly.

However, once all the pipes are connected, the thing is surprisingly strong.

Even more so once you go back and tighten all the junctions with a ratchet.  I can easily hang and swing from the top of this, and have no worries about us stringing hammocks from this for sleeping.

I was tickled.  I still need to figure out the covering for it, I'm thinking overlapping tarps given the time constraints, but it didn't stop me from dragging friends from their lunches at the BTC to come upstairs and look.  One of those friends took this picture.

After the covering is figured out, it's disassemble and pack it into the truck for the drive out to Nevada.  When I get back, I'm thinking it might make a neat greenhouse.  Or with some modification, a pig pen?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kamikazee Pecan tree.

Sitting on the porch, a cool afternoon with a pleasant breeze, and trees hurling themselves at the chickens in the back yard.

Gearing up for the Fall.

Annaliese starts preschool on Monday.  The school supplies have been purchased and delivered to her cubby hole at the new school, she has a dozen or more new outfits after the family doting/spoiling of this summer, and after the shots episode, she's all set on the medical front.  

We went to an open house at the new school on Thursday evening.  The couple in the top left, with their daughter on the far end of the couch, live across the street.  Chloe and Leah, the other two little girls, are the adorable children of good friends a few blocks over.  

Which is all to say, there isn't much adjusting that any of these kids have to do when they start a new activity.  Everywhere they go, they know everyone.

The preschool is offered by the local dominant, (read huge, center of town, largest congregation in town, supporters of the current mayor, etc.) Baptist church.  We had mixed thoughts on this, but the school is 8 to 11 each day, for $60 a month, and the kids all know each other.  I'm not so worried about them picking up something like intolerance, my biggest concern when it comes to the more evangelical Christian sects, in this environment.

Caspian and his mama.  Alexe took on the challenge of consoling this little guy every time he remembered the new school was for Annaliese, and he couldn't go with her until he turns four.

Their classroom doesn't have any windows. However, it opens into an indoor gymnasium, a nice one, and there is a playground outside that they will use every day, according to the schedule.

Annaliese was a bit serious during the visit.  Since then she's been asking every day if her first day of school is tomorrow.


I'm spending my non-children-focused time planning for Burning Man.  In my spare moments this week I fabricated the parts for a geodesic dome, (I'll put something up dedicated to that project,) and did this little project to put together a pair of prescription sunglasses.  The last few pairs of expensive RX sunglasses I had were lost/broken very quickly, and I've lost my desire to try that again.  

The kids and I picked out a cheap pair of sporty-looking sunglasses, dug out an old pair of prescription glasses, and put them together with a little Sugru.

Voila.  I wore them while mowing the lawn this morning, and they were great.  I can just feel the inside lenses with my eyelashes, but after a few minutes I stopped noticing.

Nap time. They both need these every day.  I don't see any signs of them growing out of this.

The figs are coming in.  I was never a big fan of figs until I had them straight off the bush.  

Last night after Alexe got off from her long Friday shift, we went for snow cones and seafood at the local Crawdad Hole. 

This is in an old service station, and they just repurposed one of the old work bays as inside dining.  

This morning we had to scoot into town to get the Farmer's Market sign up before 8.  (The Main Street Manager called me last night from Florida and asked me to cover for him.)  Since we were up, we marched over to the BTC for a pancake breakfast.  We got there before the official opening time of 8, but another booth was already full of hungry patrons.

After breakfast we headed out to the athletic park to sign the kids up for Fall soccer, and walk off a few of the pancakes.  Caspian was excited: this is the first organized sport he's been old enough to participate in.

Annaliese's legs are still a little stiff from the shots, at least when she remembers they should be.

They wanted to watch the baseball field.  I explained that the person hitting balls in the batting cage on the other side of the field was not a baseball game.  

To round out the morning, and in the interest of making sure the kids' education is as robust as possible, we crossed the street to attend a storage unit foreclosure sale.  

Two units were auctioned off, both won by the local junk shop man, Deedee.  Listening to the crowd talk about who the units belonged to, what they were up to, what their mother's thought, and whether their no-good girlfriend's crap would be in the unit: awesome.