Sunday, August 30, 2009

Skeeter Info

I read an interesting article today as I was perusing the weekly local newspaper called the Grand Blanc View. I now know why those skeeters were so aggressive last week.

Seems that mosquitoes come in several species. The last couple of weeks we have been bombarded by Aedes trivittatus who are more aggressive and travel in swarms. They attack not only in the evening but during the day. A. trivittatus is considered the floodwater mosquito. We have had our fair share of rain this summer so that is probably the reason these little buggers are having a field day with our arms and legs.
Aedes Variety

Normally we have more of the Culex variety mosquitoes but this year we seem to have more of the other. The downside of the Culex is that it is also the one that transmits the West Nile Virus.
Culex variety

I noticed today as I worked in the yard that there were fewer skeeters. But then I had on a long sleeve sweatshirt so there was less available skin for the female skeeters to bite.

Grand Blanc township has a mosquito abatement program and normally we rarely see a mosquito and to tell you the truth....I never missed them......not for one single moment.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rain and the Flint Institute of Arts

Fridays are usually a race day or at least a race preparation day but instead it was just rainy. The last couple of days have been rainy on and off and quite cool for this time of year.

It feels like fall and I don't like it one bit. Summer just got started and I have a lot to do yet before winter. So did I get anything accomplished today? No, instead we went to the Flint Institute of Arts. The below photo was taken from their website as I was having a hard time getting the whole building in my view finder.R really likes glass. He once took a glass blowing class and made some mighty fine icicles and a little doggie when he wasn't burning his fingers. So anyways.....FIA is having a Chihuly exhibit featuring his Seaforms pieces and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss it. The FIA also recently purchased a large Chihuly chandelier for their entrance. So since the Chihuly show would only be there until the end of September we figured what better way to spend an afternoon.We were totally shocked. The last time I was at the FIA was when G was a little boy. The FIA has changed changed changed. If you live in the area you must go and see the Chihuly show. At 7 bucks a person it is well worth it. Not only do you get to look at some of the greatest art glass ever made but you can also roam all the other galleries. Saturdays are totally free thanks to Target. I also have to add that I can't believe how many people were at the FIA. I am glad that people are starting to take advantage of this little known Flint treasure.

For those of you who do not know about Dale Chihuly and his glass designs you might be able to catch a program that currently is running on PBS. It covers many of his different lines like Seaforms and Persians. The TV show also shows many of the glass blowers that blow and form his creations.

If you are unfamiliar with Chihuly but watch reruns of Frazier you might remember seeing a large green glass bowl on a pedestal by his fireplace. Well that was a genuine Chihuly actually valued at 30k and locked up after the filming of every episode.

On our way to our vehicle we noticed that the special automobile exhibit at the Sloan Museum is ending in September also. The plan is that on the next rainy day in September we are going to go to the Sloan and The Buick Gallery.

Since I was not able to take any photos inside I took a few outside before it started raining again. Here of course is the obligatory piece of abstract art. Personally I think it looks like a big boat anchor but abstract art is not my thing.The next photo is of the Longway Planetarium.I remember as a teenager going to several laser light shows at the planetarium. I preferred the Led Zeppelin show over the Pink Floyd show. I see from their site that they are still doing the laser light show. How cool is that?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Flint Farmers' Market and Back to the Bricks

Today was a dreary day, much like fall and very cool for August. We decided yesterday to go to the Flint Farmers' Market on Saturday.As we were getting off the expressway we noticed cars parked everywhere in the cultural area (Sloan Museum, Flint Institute of Arts, etc). It then dawned on us that today was the Crim Festival of Races.

The last three weeks have been very busy for downtown Flint. First it was the Back to the Bricks Car Cruise which in just a handful of years is rapidly gaining on the popularity of the Woodard Dream Cruise. In the last 5 years downtown Flint has made a great comeback. I hope it continues.

The Crim Road Race has been around since 1977. Over 15 thousand people run in the 10 mile race with some very important runners participating over the years. My first home in Mott Park was on the 10 mile course. For hours we would watch a solid 4 lanes wide (I lived on a boulevard) of people run by the house.

The Back to the Bricks Cruise is relatively new. The bricks refer to the downtown area which has it's original brick streets. Cars are paramount in my neck of the woods. If you don't own a 'special' car you at least like to look at them and look at them they did. According to the website in 2008 they had 20,000 cars and 120,000 people. I know that this year's attendance blew away last year's.

If you went to the Back to the Brick website you'll notice arches over Saginaw St. I know at least one of them is original and the rest are reproductions of what was in place in the early 1900's even before General Motors was founded by Billy Durant. Flint is called 'The Vehicle City' not the 'Motor City' that is Detroit.

I digress. Today was 'The Crim' as it is called in this part of the woods. I must have seen at least 3 or 4 people at the farmers' market with medals around their necks. I can't imagine running 10 miles. Sometimes I don't even like driving 10 miles. I applaud all those who participated. Maybe if I eat enough raw veggies I'll be able to run in 'The Crim' or at least run to the john after eating all that roughage.

R and I used to go to the market all the time when Gavin was young. We always bought baklava from a Hungarian couple. They only have one person selling baklava now and it is of the Mediterranean variety which we find to be slightly drier.

During the winter we buy a lot of our meat at the market from Knobhill Market. When we lived in Mott Park the original Knobhill Market was just around the corner. R really likes their meat and even 25 years later they still recognize him (could be a Hungarian thing because I think they are Hungarian also).

Today at the market we bought yellow and green string beans, radishes, garlic, cantaloupe, white kernel corn on the cob, huge mushrooms, a book on how to braise food, and pastries. I cannot go to the market without getting a stuffed croissant. Sometimes I get a ham and cheese croissant but today I just had to have a lemon filled AND a apricot/cream cheese filled croissant. R felt the need for a berry/cream cheese and raspberry/cream cheese filled croissants.The market has grown over the years. Not only is it an indoor market......... but it also has an outdoor portion (summer only) ........and now has outside restaurants in addition to Steady Eddie's which is located upstairs.
I know people were wondering why I was taking photographs......maybe they thought I was with the health department......why else would anyone take a photo of the cheese case?The white kernel corn on the cob (sugar and cream) was sweet. The radishes were very radishy. AND the croissants were delish. Here for your viewing enjoyment a apricot and cream cheese filled croissant. I think this photo speaks volumes as to why I can't run in 'The Crim'.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Little of This and a Little of That

Today was a busy day but not one of huge progress on anything in particular.

Probably the biggest good news is B & G's grass seed is already sprouting! Planted Sunday evening and sprouted by Thursday. Could it be the constant 85% humidity or the rain?

I moved more large rocks and transplanted more miniature hostas. I moved the stepping stone and shoveled more of the little stones that were exposed by last night's rain storm. Nothing monumental but it is much easier to move some rocks every day instead of all the rocks in one or two days.

On a sad note.....Mr. Peacock had been missing for two days which is highly unusual for him. R feared the worst and his fears were confirmed today. R found him dead in the ditch across from our neighbors. Apparently he had been hit by a vehicle while crossing the street to grasshopper hunt in the field. Over the years he has been scolded many times for crossing the street but when the lure of a grasshopper meal calls he becomes single minded in his desire for a grasshopper nosh.

Several years ago, R caught Mr. Peacock on several occasions attempting to cross the road. R would yell at him and shoo him into the back yard. R left in his truck to run errands and upon his return saw Mr. Peacock's head pop up out of the weeds in the field across the street. Seems Mr. Peacock recognized the sound of his truck and knowing that he was not suppose to be in the field, he then made a mad dash across the street, across the yard, and hopped up on the fence and assumed a position that said....."what? I've been here all afternoon." And they say birds are dumb.
Mr Peacock

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mosquitoes Slow Our Progress

Progress at 'The Gear' has been slow for several reasons. One being the deck redo at B & G's and the other being the mosquitoes. They are huge. They are everywhere. They swarm. They are persistence. I think I am a pint low in the blood department. I have welts all over my arms and legs. I even have one on my eye lid and cheek. Good thing the township sprays for mosquitoes. LOL

Prior to the mosquitoes running me off, I was able to make some progress on the walkway to the fountain. At one time the walkway was lined with little stones. Over the years grass has grown into the rocks obscuring them from anyone knowing they were there. It was only my attempt to the edge the walkway that I found out that under the grass laid little itty bitty stones EVERYWHERE.

Every spring I rake up piles of little stones. I found that they work great at protecting my miniature hostas. An idea was born. Not only could I protect my hostas but I could return the walkway to the way it was years ago. I used 2 round stepping stones (already had from Torrey Rd house) so that we will not have to step in between the hostas. I also surrounded the small stones with large rocks hoping that they will keep the little stones from straying.

I'll be planting more miniature hostas along the entire length of the walkway. We need to center the cement bench (bench was found in a pile of dirt and brush).
I will be planting Royal Standard hostas around the tree. I like Royal Standard for several reasons. First they have large white flowers. Second they are hardy. Third they are free as I have an abundance of them already.
I will be relocating the second stepping stone. I wasn't sure exactly where it needed to go so I just took a stab at the correct location. Once I started laying down the larger rocks I could see that it needs to be closer to the bench.

Just about the time I took this photo the mosquitoes swarmed and I was slapping and spinning around like a whirling dervish so I stopped and went to B & G's.

Last night I installed temporary steps by the garage entry door because I knew that today I would be removing the steps on the other side of the deck.We decided last week not to reinstall the steps. Instead we will build 6 foot wide steps here. See photo below.The steps will be centered. Barbara's Mom was the one who suggested we move the steps. Barbara had all along wanted places for people to sit. We had an 'ah ha' moment and that is how the 6 foot wide step idea was born.

The mosquitoes heard I was at B & G's and soon after taking these photos I was swarmed yet again. So I went home.....welt covered and itchy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

B & G's Deck/Yard Update

Today was hotter than hot. High humidity and lots of sun makes shoveling and raking dirt nearly unbearable. But we persevered. Here is a 'after before' photo. After a lot of shoveling but before R tilled it. R brought our Troy Bilt rear tine rototiller over to B & G's to loosen up the dirt pile so that the dirt could be leveled. R ran the tiller and we raked, shoveled, and picked out the rocks.

Just look at that level cement slab by the rear entry door. Good job, ladies.
After we raked it smooth B & G laid down some grass seed and 3 bags of the cellulose/seed mixture. G used the back of a leaf rake to break apart the chunks and to get an even layer.
Hopefully we will get some gentle rain to help along the germination.

Last Sunday while I was on my way home from B & G's I noticed the sky. It was just before sunset and there was a storm approaching from the southwest. The sky was red. Not orange, not pink, but red. Occasionally there would be lightening but I was unable to capture any in a photo. The red sky lasted about 5 minutes. The below photo is a true representation of the sky. I did not enhance the color.

Old proverb

Red sky at night
Sailor's delight.
Red sky in morning
Sailor's warning.

A line from Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis'

“Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, Gusts and foul flaws to herd men and to herds.”

From the Bible, Matthew XVI: 2-3

Jesus said, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.”

So it looks like a red sky in the morning is a bad thing and red sky in the evening is good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

While the Men Play....The Women Work All Day

Today was an all female line up for B & G's deck redo because R and G were in Ohio racing.

On board were two regulars.....J (me) and B. Pitch hitting for R was B's Mom.

B got an early start and continued her painting of the spindles and assorted deck parts. I arrived around 1:30PM. I was late because I needed to dig up some 6" X 18" X 4" cement blocks for the back door slab project. B's Mom arrived shortly after me.

While they painted, I unloaded the cement blocks. We then rearranged the 2 X 10's so that they could get on another coat of cream stain. By this time B and her Mom needed a Mocha Frappe break and I needed to go home and get some work shoes since I forgot and left the house with inappropriate shoes to work in and was currently working barefoot.

Break time.

Breaks over. While they painted some more, I started digging under the tilted slab at the back door of their garage. Over the years the rain had washed away the sand and the slab had fallen forward at a steep angle. Obviously this had happened many years ago since the steps to the deck had been built to accommodate the steep slope. You might be able to see in the next photo how steep it was. I forgot to take a before photo.Once I had dug out enough sand we ventured out to the race shop and found a floor jack. We placed the jack under the middle of the front edge of the slab. We held our breath and slowly raised the slab until it was a tad less than level (for drainage). Here's B checking for level side to side. Dead on. Damn we're good.We then placed the cement blocks under the slab and back filled sand back under the slab. Next we raised the level of the surrounding area with dirt from a pile they had brought in last year. We then tamped down the dirt. Here's B putting some muscle into it.While they shoveled, I sanded the exposed joist ends. Remember R cut them off using a reciprocating saw and I needed to smooth out the rough edges. I put a bevel on the edges after I had sanded them smooth.

Ladies....I think we did a great job today.

I think the ladies deserve tomorrow off.....don't you???

Almost forgot.........Gooooo Smoke! Good luck at Michigan International Speedway tomorrow!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

B & G's Deck Update

Work has moved along nicely on B & G's deck. We finished screwing down all the deck boards. Wow.....that was a job. Twenty screws per board X 53 boards = a lot of screws.Next R used a circular saw to cut off the excess length of board. Don't fret.....we won't toss those boards. B and I have a plan to use those pieces.After R finished trimming the boards I sanded the ends and put a slight bevel on them so they looked like the factory edges on the deck boards.Thursday was a day of deck building rest since it was race time for R. Look at B......she can sue your pants off and change your racing tires. Hey B.....I bet you never thought you would be wrenching at the race track?After the races were over, R signed some autographs and B & G ventured off to the carnival to take in some fine carnival cuisine.....elephant ears (funnel cakes) with cream cheese!!!!! Gives me heartburn just typing about it.
Friday was a partial deck day because R had to get the sprint car ready for Saturday's race in Ohio. I mostly sanded the stamp marks off the deck and complained about it being hotter than the hubs of hell.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

B & G's Deck Redo

When Barbara and Gavin (son and daughter in law) purchased their home several years ago the deck was incomplete and in very rough shape. This summer B & G asked for our assistance in revitalizing the deck while still keeping the costs low.

B and I discussed deck details while installing new lights on the front of their house in late spring. Ranee (my sister) and I found these new lights at the Battle Creek Restore. I called B and told her about the lights and she said 'buy them' so we did. They needed 4 large lights and 2 small. Here is a photo of B installing one of the small lights by her front door.
B and I were able to install 1 small and 2 large in 10 hours. LOL Let me add that we had to remove old light, remove old light back trim, lay out template for new vinyl trim, use Dremel to cut siding, install trim, and then wire and install light. What a job that was. We also added 2 large lights on each side of their garage door. B won't be quitting her day job and I will not be leaving retirement soon to start a new career as a light installers.

We also purchased enough lights to have large lights on each side of the patio door and a small light by the garage entry door. The patio lights will require adding an additional box since the patio currently only has 1 light.

After days of calculating B & G decided to replace the deck boards with new wood deck boards using the same type of 5/4 boards. They asked friends and colleagues how they built their decks and were surprised to hear a lot of negative comments about Trex so they decided to stick with wood.

First we removed the one small remaining section of railing and all the deck posts (can't find the before photos). Once that was completed B & G removed all the old deck boards. B's brother will use them to build onto their 4 sons tree house...I mean 'fort'.

B & G made one massive trip to Home Depot and purchased all the decking, new rail posts, square spindles, new 2 X 12 rim joists to cover up the 2 X 6 currently in place, opaque stain, dark transparent stain for the deck boards, joist hangers (because the deck was originally built w/o any), and torx drive deck screws.

B started staining the exposed joist ends and exposed support posts with the opaque cream stain. We decided that an opaque stain the same color of the house would make the deck look like an extension of the house and not an add on. The railing and step stringers will also be the same opaque cream color.

R and I spent a couple hours arranging the deck boards so that we could eliminate as many cracks and knots as possible. We also placed all the deck boards so that the crown was on top to help eliminate cupping as the boards age. But before we started, R cut of the joists that extended beyond the rim joist. Only about 2 inches of the joists will be exposed when we add the 2 X 12 rim joist.The plan is to screw down 10 boards a day. I know that doesn't sound like a lot but let me tell you it takes a good 2-3 hours. There are 52 deck boards so we should have our part done before next weekend when B & G take over and stain the deck boards. Once that is complete R and I will install the painted 2 X 12 rim joist.Here is B helping to hold a deck board in place while her father in law screws it in place. Note the one light box on the right side of patio door. We will add another to the left side so that they will have 2 lights for more light coverage on the deck.The plan is to complete the deck by the end of August. Anyone care to wager whether 2 working professionals and 2 retirees will complete this deck by the end of August? Remember we have to factor in races, rain, heat, age, doctor appointments (we are falling apart), dentist appointments, lack of interest, aches, and pains.

Today R and I will venture down the road to install 10 more boards which will get us near the halfway point. B & G on the other hand have gone sky diving. Actually B is diving and G is watching. Don't worry, Twiggy the cat, will watch our every move while they are gone.
Here a gratuitous photo for all you gear heads. This is B & G inside of G's race shop. R is inspecting his new 410 engine for his sprint car, while it is still on the engine hoist (pick).Here is an up close photo of something interesting. This is a 3 stage oil pump (center of photo), to the left is the oil filter, and to the right is the large oil reservoir. Each stage increases the oil pressure. A normal passenger car has oil pressure between 60 and 80 PSI (pounds per square inch). This engine will have.......oops no one is home for me to ask......well lets just say...a lot. I'll get back to you with the real PSI when I can verify my data.

Added at 6 PM's the scoop....not only does it increase oil pressure but it allows the engine to use large volumes of oil, thus keeping all parts lubricated despite centrifugal force caused by racing on a banked oval track at a high rate of speed (don't ask me how fast because Grandma reads this and she would worry). The large reservoir has a spiral baffle system that allows the oil to rid itself of air bubbles due to the increased oil pressure. Air bubbles displace oil thus less lubricating is taking place. Friction is the enemy when it comes to engine wear. Friction causes wear and friction causes heat which cause parts to swell and when they swell they wear and so the vicious circle goes. That's why it is always important to read your temperature gauge on your instrument panel. It's important to know what your nominal (normal) operating temps and oil pressure are for your vehicle, that way you can tell if you have a problem starting. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot get 250k to 300k miles out of your engine. In this day and age your engine is still new at 100k......that's your engine...not accessories. Accessories like power steering, alternator/generator, and belts can all be replaced by the owner. AC compressors and AC systems should be relegated to trained and certified personnel due to the freon in the system.
Happy Birthday Ranee!!!! I won't tell you how old she is...but she is reaaaaallly old. LOL

Goooooo Smoke!!! Good luck at Watkins Glen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This Year's Buick Open...The Year of the Urinator

Well we survived another Buick Open. As you may know by now, Buick and GM have pulled their sponsorship from this tournament. The purse for 'The Open' is over 5 million which is 5 million that GM desperately needs to run the company.

What is sad is that Buick has sponsored this tournament for 51 years. Also what is sad is that the winner takes home over 900k. I really don't understand why the winner should get 900k. What overhead does the individual golfer have? Clubs...probably free, travel and lodging, caddy, and what else???? There also is very little danger involved. Pulled hamstring? Runaway golf carts? Hearing loss from wearing loud colored pants?

Now compare that to a NASCAR driver. Most races pay the winner between 200 and 300K except for Daytona and The Brickyard. What overhead does a NASCAR driver incur? Race team, multiple race cars, lodging and travel. Danger involved....death resulting from crashes, permanent injury resulting from crashes, and hearing loss from loud race cars. Seems like NASCAR drivers should win more than pro golfers, especially when the driver usually has to split 60/40 with the owner.

I know the local economy will suffer from the loss revenue. The local paper says that the high school athletic program will lose $40,000 that was annually earned from charging for parking in the high school parking lot.

Grand Blanc township could do their job better when it comes to making the week of the golf tournament bearable for the residents that don't make $$$$ from the event.

First off....the noise. We have to listen to loud music, car horns beeping continuously (car alarms being turned on and off), car alarms going off and beeping for long periods of time, air horns, hollering, and squealing tires. The township could also monitor the dB's and issue citations. The most frequent noise makers are car stereos, loud motorcycles, and loud 4 wheel drives trucks.

Second....trespassing. The township is right on the job posting signs that say 'do not park by order of police'. See the township sells permits to homeowners to allow them to charge for parking. The township is only interested in making sure they get their cut and could care less about non parking home owners dealing with trespassing. They could just as easily post signs that say 'no parking and no trespassing by order of police'. They could also put out signs reminding spectators to stay off lawns and walk in designated areas. They could also assign each home owner a lot designation like Lot Z. They do this for the country club but not for individual home owners. Some of the trespassing comes from spectators not knowing where they parked and how to get there. Signs posted at exits indicating which parking lots can be accessed from that exit and an arrow pointing in the direction of the lot would help with trespassers that get lost. Spectator could be given a piece of paper with their parking lot designation letter on it for future reference. Oh wait, that might be a bad idea because all the slips of paper would probably end up in my yard.

Here is a photo of some lost spectators.Here is a photo of the politest trespassers we had all week. They said, "Sorry...where do we need to go to get over there?" R told them and they arguing, no flipping of the bird, and no name calling. I love the excuse...."I paid to park over there and that is where I am going." "Well buddy, I didn't receive a dime of it, so go around." Which is usually where they start calling me a name. And they wonder why I don't like this time of year.

Third....the traffic. We have to modify our driving routes because of traffic. I can't tell you how many times in the last week I have been flipped off or had people honk their horns because I had the audacity of slowing down to pull into my driveway. The township could place an officer at the south end of the golf course on Saginaw Road. Instead all the police presence is around the club house or when the groundskeepers make their daily trek down South Saginaw Road once play has ended for the day on the front nine. When this parade starts it requires a police car or police motorcycle at the front and in the rear. The township could also lower the speed limit from 55 to 35mph from Wednesday through Sunday. And most important...the township should require homeowners to direct traffic leaving their yards. You say...."that is dangerous".....and I say "you had no problem standing there directing people into your yard for 10 bucks." I swear we had several near misses with people turning left out of driveways and almost hitting another car pulling out and turning left across the street. Of course they both horned their horns and flipped the other guy off.

Last but not least.......Signs need to be posted to remind people "No Public Urinating Allowed". Yes people that is right......every time we turned around people were peeing. There were so many people peeing that I felt like I was in a urology office. On Sunday morning, I was taking photos of some flowers in my back yard when I heard a guy holler at his buddy. I looked up just in time to catch this guy peeing along the fence row. R later saw another guy peeing in the same place. Come on got the better plumbing configuration but please could you remember to go before you leave the house!!!! How about cutting back on the Big Gulps from 7-11.

But on Saturday the winner of the day was this guy.R pulled into our driveway just in time to catch this guy in our bushes relieving himself. Here's a photo of R asking 'The Urinator'...."what in the #$%^ do you think you're doing in my bushes? You can't p$%s out in public." To which 'The Urinator' replied "God bless America." Check out all the people walking around.
To thwart anymore public displays of urinating, R spent Sunday watering the hostas out by the road. Here's the Met Life blimp leaving after the end of the tournament. Bye bye and God Bless America.