Friday, January 6, 2017

A whole new level

This trip to the East Pole so far has been one to tax the problem-solving capabilities. Nothing seem to work on the first try. So far I haven't gotten all the way to Plan D or further as I mentioned in a post a year or so ago, where as you try Plan B you should already be thinking about Plan C and so on.
      It started with the new snowmachine which to my mind broke down and proved unusable for almost a whole week. Though I am not a mechanic, I confess to falling victim to the mechanic's mentality in that when something goes wrong I immediately assume it is the worst possible failure. I mentally went through tearing apart the whole clutch assembly and drive chain looking for the failure. What it turned out to be was much simpler, in fact it was so simple I am saying it happened but not what it was. Sufficient to say everything's running smoothly now.
     With the snowmachine running, other projects looked more doable. The first was to put a couple of shelves up in the kitchen to hold spices and other stuff that would clear some counter space. Now, I have written before about the lists of tools I made before I went off on this adventure. I built this cabin pretty much by myself. I have been coming here for the past 30 years and almost every time performed some sort of carpentry task. Given that history you can imagine my surprise when I searched the house and could not find a level to put up those shelves. There wasn't one anywhere in this cabin. How could that happen? I mean a level is the third thing on the list after a hammer and a saw. But I didn't have one. It does explain a lot of things, like why the gravy always flows into my green beans and why I often have to chase a rolling pen across the desk.
     Shortly after I built the cabin I mentioned to a friend that I had some difficulties with square and level. He said he had built his house 30 years earlier and there was nothing square or level in it. Now that I am at the 30-year point (I moved in Feb. 6, 1987) I guess I have reached some sort of notable milestone. I know that place of my friend's is still standing so that's 60 years out of square and level. Not bad. So that explains the title and the picture.

This is the upper half of the 
cut. It is upside down. You 
can see the angled wedge cut 
and the horizontal back 
cut on the right. That thin, 
ragged ridge between them
 is the thread that was 
holding the tree together.
     The next one was bigger than the other two and more threatening and may have been resolved by divine intervention. This is firewood season and I went down the hill to begin cutting. I approached another large birch that has been interfering with my Denali view for years. I did what I always do. You figure which way you want the tree to fall and you cut a wedge out of that side of the trunk. I had chosen the direction by the way the tree seemed to be learning. Once you cut out the wedge you go to the other side of the trunk and make a horizontal cut above the wedge cut. In variably the tree falls away from you in the direction the wedge has indicated. Only this time it didn't. As I was making the back cut all of a sudden the saw stalled, stuck by pressure in the tree. What had happened was instead of falling in the direction it was supposed to, the tree came back and clamped down on the saw, squeezing the bar and chain tightly under maybe a ton of pressure. As  you can imagine, this is a very dangerous, unstable situation. Now I had a tree cut nearly through leaning in the wrong direction and who knows where it could fall.
     After some consideration, and assured the saw was embedded deep enough to allow this, I drove a wedge into the cut. After a few sharp blows, the tree gave a little and I was able to pull the saw out of the cut – one problem solved but there was still this huge tree sawed almost through and hanging on by the proverbial thread.
     I hiked up the hill, collected a come-along and a length of rope. I attached the rope to a nearby tree and the come-along cable around the trunk of the tree that was ready to fall and started cranking. I will tell you that assembly came up tight. I kept cranking, the pulls more difficult with each yank. It reached a point where it was so tight you could have played a tune on it. When things get that tight, you begin to wonder what's going to give way first, the tree? the rope? the come-along? I had a vision of that metal hook on the cable flying at my head fast enough to take it clean off.

     As it was getting late and dark anyway and tired, I decided to give it up for the night and try the next day. Keep in mind through all this I kept a wary eye and ear tuned to the tree in case it started going and before I did anything I analyzed potential escape routes depending on which way it decided to go. With that in mind, I took one more crank on the come-along and heard wood crack. I took a step back, but the tree wasn't moving. Tired, I decided to leave it and try the next day; in the back of my mind the hope it might fall during the night was entertaining if nothing else.
     That's where the divine intervention came in. When I went back down the hill next day, my mind entertaining plans D and E, the tree had fallen, and not only that, it had fallen exactly where I had intended it to – divine intervention indeed. Some of it is now already under the house ready to split. Some days the medicine DOES work.

Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to see the spirit of a situation, rather than the nails and the 2x4s. My friend Joe May does that better than I do. This was his comment:

Joe May Old cabins have a soul, and each its own character. With age they settle into the earth from whence they came. With temperature changes they creak and groan and shift,
seeking comfort, like duffers in rocking chairs.
Rehabilitation is a study in patience, frustration, and eventually...satisfaction. 

Crooked windows, crooked doors,
crooked walls and slanted floors.
Original builder unaware,
of plumb-bob and levels,
and framing square.

1 comment:

  1. The suspense was killing me! Glad the tree (and you) had a happy ending!

    My house is also handmade and completely out of level. The guy who made it bent all the redwood himself to make its Quonset hut shape. It is about 50 years old and so far, so good! Our houses have character!


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve