apologies for the annoying screen garbage

somehow that single errant ">" seems to keep making its way back into my HTML. begone!


terrible weekend

worst in a long time. frustrated and annoyed in equal measures. that means tomorrow's better, right? bring it.

short dream

i was in my living room. Loren was sitting on the couch, doing something with his laptop. there was a young brunette girl present, maybe 10 years old, who seemed to belong, as if we were familiar with each other. since i can't place her, i assume she was imaginary. she was trying to set up a computer in my den, an old one i had lying around that i'd given her. she needed assistance, so i started helping her.

soon she needed some information from a CD, which she retrieved from Loren in the living room, but she was unable to get the computer to read the data from it. i took the CD and checked it out. it was a typical silver-faced writable CD, and the (non-factory) markings on it were in pencil, which is unusual. the pencil markings had worn off to a large degree, and some were obscured, scratched out with more pencil marks. i could make out fragments of writing, presumably telling what was supposed to be on the CD, and though i recognized my own handwriting (all capital letters, in this case), i couldn't make heads or tails of it, and i don't remember what those fragments were now. so i tried to read from the disc.

the contents were corrupted so i tried some more things, eventually discovering that the disc contained the fragmented remains of image files. a little more tinkering and i was able to start displaying them. rather than loading the whole image before displaying, the pictures were painted progressively, much as they are on progressively-encoded images downloaded through slower internet connections. strangely, rather than rendering full rows of pixels from the top down, the images were rendered in a progressively larger block which grew from the top left corner toward the bottom right.

as i watched the display of the first image progress, the first thing i could make out were the backs of two people's heads, in greyscale. on the right was a woman's, the left a man's. the woman's head was inclined affectionately toward and touching the man's. she had long, light-colored hair, drawn back in a pony tail; he had short dark hair, disheveled in a way that's somewhat common among male models. as the visible area of the image progressed, i could see, further to the right, the back of another man's head, similar to the first, and that both men were wearing shirts, and that the woman was shirtless, her back bare. the second man was leaned in affectionately toward the woman, and both men had the arm closest to her around her waist. at this point the image reminded me of an old Calvin Klein or Jordache jeans ad, depicting a calm, basically benign (as opposed to pornographic) but obviously suggestively amorous scene involving three people.

as the bottom of the image kept expanding, i could make out two more figures, these closer to the camera, another man and woman. the man was mostly obscured, as he was bent over at the woman's waist, removing the woman's jeans, which were part way down her thighs. the woman was (again) viewed from behind, and she was leaning on the man, steadying herself while he undressed her. the woman's back and buttocks were bare, and her backside was hideously skinny, resembling that of a concentration camp prisoner or some other victim of starvation, to the point where bones were visible beneath her skin.

the display of the image reached the bottom before it reached the right edge, and the remainder of the picture continued to fill in with vertical columns of pixels proceeding from the left. first revealed here was another man, farther from the camera than any of the others, dressed in similar fashion to the rest, reaching out, toward...another woman, this one fully clothed, the only figure represented facing the camera. she was recoiling from his grasp, with a terrified look on her face, as if the picture was snapped just as she turned to flee.

having finished painting this image to the screen the computer moved on to the next. slowly revealed, in the normal manner, with successive rows of pixels added from the top down, was an alien beach, at night. the sky was completely black, and the water (which seemed like an ocean) was also black, fading into sky at the horizon, each indistinguishable from the other except close to shore. the sand on the beach was a deep maroon, or a dark purple, like garnet sand, and on the beach stood an abstract sculpture, about the size of a man, which i might best describe as resembling an extrusion of some shiny, yellow metal, originally about 1' square in cross-section, about 6' in length, placed upright in the sand, and squished, or bent, or twisted in different places, to remove any regularity the shape once held, much as if it was putty formed by hand. all the contours were rounded widely, its cavities enshadowed, its curves gleaming in light from an unseen source...truly abstract.

looking at this scene, i became aware i was no longer viewing the picture on a monitor, but actually there, and though my point of view seemed to be from the beach itself, i was hearing the scene described by an unseen narrator, which drew my attention as i listened.

the narrator described a noble bird: a large, dark-feathered bird of prey, and as the voice spoke i became aware of the bird approaching the sculpture before me. the narrator described how the bird traveled space, between worlds, on some great, eternal mission i cannot now remember. the bird seemed to be judging something about the inhabitants of this alien world, and approached the sculpture. though the bird gave no outward indication of such, the narrator indicated that the bird found the inhabitants lacking. in the good-natured, optimistic tone often present in narration of nature programs, the narrator suggested that a resolution to their problem might yet exist for these alien people, to be found in the future.

then the narrator intoned that even this great bird needed sustenance, and as i watched, the bird moved away from the sculpture, on foot down the shore. i followed it off to the right, watching as it eventually picked up a small, perfectly spherical stone in its beak. the stone was the exact color of the beach sand. the narrator had fallen silent, allowing the 'audience' to take the scene in on its own. the bird, taking a few steps toward the water, dropped its chin and flung the stone in, and it skipped on the surface a couple times before sinking. another small, black bird, much smaller than the first, emerged from under the water with its prize, walking out of the surf onto the beach, dropping the stone in the sand, calmly settling down on the beach over it, as if the stone were food and it was preparing to eat it. the narrator's voice returned, explaining again in words what i watched unfold: the first bird slowly walked to the second, and bent to deliver (what the narrator explained was) a precisely placed, painless, mortal wound (which involved smoothly removing, with its beak, a good-sized chunk of the smaller bird, at the join between wing and back) that would allow the smaller bird to die peacefully before being consumed, its attention focused all the while on its small stone prize, as its life ebbed away, and the larger bird waited patiently.


more dreams

had a dream as close to a nightmare as i ever have last night. it actually woke me up at 4:30 AM, something dreams almost never do.

i was hangin' out with Loren, and we got into some long, involved discussion about something. before i knew it, we'd spent all night talking and it was 6 AM- on a school day. i felt really bad for being irresponsible enough to keep him up all night, and sorry for setting him up for a hard day at school, but i still wanted him to go. at first he seemed game, but kept finding ways to wriggle around getting ready, while time ticked away. i tried to keep refocusing him on it, but he kept deflecting it somehow; sometimes he managed to distract me, sometimes made himself scarce but screwed around instead of getting ready...i couldn't seem to get him moving.

i was getting angry with him, but i also knew that i'd presented him with the problem by keeping him up all night, and he was probably really tired. i figured he really wanted to skip school and get some sleep, but didn't want to come out and contradict me. it was only natural that he didn't want to go to school, and i didn't want to really lay into him. i knew he was in for a hard day already, and i didn't want to make it worse right off the bat, especially not immediately following all the time we'd just enjoyed. (i find it interesting how easily i compartmentalized the school day and the time that passed before, as if we'd crossed some arbitrary line, like a border into a new place with different governing rules.)

i tried reasoning with him, telling him he was at the very limit of absences before he started losing credit for classes (which was true in the dream and has often been true in reality, which is both frustrating and mostly beyond my control) and also why, in the dream, i felt so strongly about him going in the first place. i apologized for keeping him up all night, but explained that it didn't change anything. i tried telling him how little time we had left before we had to go. nothing was getting us any closer to leaving. finally i confronted him in his room and bluntly ordered him into the shower, immediately. the direct approach brought on an argument. (i should mention that Loren's developed some pretty respectable debating skills, and he can be surprisingly effective when his objective is to obfuscate an issue, or keep a subject on the table, or avoid complying with instructions.) by now it was 8 AM, and he was already half an hour late for school. i managed to coerce him into the bathroom, but i couldn't get him into the shower.

it finally boiled down to having to physically impose my will on him to enforce my authority. but how do you force a 16 year old to take a shower? in the dream, my answer was to punch him in the chest, hard enough to hurt but not hard enough to do any real damage. it didn't work. a couple more equally-half-hearted attempts at manhandling him didn't work either. by this time i was getting angry. Loren was digging in his heels, prepared for a war. the next thing i knew, i had both hands on his face and i was digging my fingers into his cheeks, distorting his face into a disturbing shape, while he did nothing to resist, and his eyes displayed a completely flat aspect. he gave no ground, no reaction...completely passive resistance. and i snapped awake.

i looked at the clock, rolled over, and went back to sleep, and had a completely different dream, which was more oblique and less unsettling.

this time i was watching some movie footage with Loren, in a living room with the exact same configuration as mine, but larger. it was basically a war movie, something we were both enjoying. i've seen it before, and it seemed like Loren may have, too. while i was giving Loren some background about how it was made, my parents wandered in and settled in the room, listening to me, so i included them in the conversation. i backed the film up so they could see the particular scene i was talking about. the set for the scene was a monumental undertaking of earth work, a huge battlefield with tons of period-specific heavy machinery and hundreds of soldiers, complete with a long, winding river running through it, various plumes of smoke rising from the hills all around, etc. the action of battle was over, and troops were on the move. all of this was recreated in exacting detail on a sound stage, and i was explaining the logistics of this to everyone. (this is interesting, from a real-world perspective, because large groups of soldiers and the presence of bodies of water are recurring themes in my dreams, and in this dream, though they weren't represented in first-person terms they appeared on a TV screen, and the dream events transpired in such a way as to allow me to back this part up and replay it.)

eventually the dream scene changed, and the movie gave way to footage of Joe Satriani playing music, live. (this is probably a dream reference to some youtube footage i was watching before i went to bed last night.) in the dream, my father was standing on the stairs, impressed by a particular song. i was surprised at this, since it's out of character for my dad to enjoy that particular type of music. while i was talking with him about it, my mom came in and asked me to move my truck (as opposed to my SUV, which is only interesting because the truck's actually dead with battery issues in my driveway at the moment) as rearranging the cars in their driveway would allow both her and my father to get out later, without having to jockey the cars around.

then the alarm went off and i was up, to see a rather chilly but gloriously sunny morning :)

add a little coffee and it's a reasonably pleasant start to some job hunting.


cable coiler

so i spent the majority of the last couple weeks fabricating a cable coiler for Hollywood Lights, with Jason. HL strings out miles and miles of heavy gauge cable to power trade shows, festivals, concerts, etc. all over the place, and when the show's over, coiling it all back up is extremely labor intensive, strong back work. they use some pretty big cable in up to 100' lengths. often they'll put down literally miles of cable as heavy gauge as 4/0 (huge single-conductor cable, a little over an inch in diameter, weighing close to 100 lbs per cable at 100') and 2/5 or 4/5 multi-conductor (with 100-amp hubbell connectors, commonly called Hubbell cable, which is about 2.5" in diameter and weighs about the 85 lbs per cable in 50' lengths).

removing that cable from job sites requires pulling its entire length along the ground, and coiling it up to about 16-24" or so in diameter, and doing that requires rotating the entire length of cable once per coil. sounds rough, right? well, once you've done it for a while, you get the hang of it- but it's definitely hard work.

so, after decades of doing it the old-fashioned way, they decided to build a portable coiler, something they could take to job sites, and tow behind the flat-bed golf-style carts they use on bigger jobs, and cut down on the labor- by which i mean both effort and man-hours. Hollywood Lights' Portland branch recently built one of their own, and experienced 20% labor savings on 'outs' (removing the cable from the field).

with the usual healthy dose of Portland/Seattle rivalry, we wanted to make a cooler one. i think we succeeded.

Jason had it basically drawn up as much as possible, with some rough measurements, and the rest we winged. i did most of the structural work, and all the welding; Jason had some steel pieces cut and formed to extend the arms on the (purchased) fully-collapsible reel. the reel collapsing in the center makes the cable easier to remove (and it's really easy, it just slides off, no problem); that's one of the improvements over Portland's coiler. now that i think about it, i should've taken a picture of the reel collapsed, too...maybe i'll get Jason to take that one, and edit this post later. the extensions we added allow the reel to take up all their feeder cable except 100' hubbell (which is just huge, and they only own 5 pieces that long).

Jason also cut and fit the diamondplate, and bolted up everything that was mechanically fastened.

so, here's what the thing looks like.

motor side:
motor side

3/4 view:
3/4 view

coiling side:
coiling side

the little struts between the wheels and the front legs (they're pointed up in the pictures) are for loading it on liftgates of trucks. the whole thing's light enough to be lifted by hand, so the struts are a little taller than the clearance to the ground, which cocks the whole machine back slightly and makes it less tippy with the trailer-hitch end (and the front legs) not on the gate.

closeup of the reel & rollers:
reel and rollers

the cable runs from the ground up through the rollers, and onto the reel. the rollers are 2.5" in diameter (bought through Grainger), and the spindle for them is spring-mounted, so they could be mounted in a solid structure and still removed if they ever need to be replaced. another consideration for the structure for the rollers was that we wanted to be able to tip the whole machine upright to save space in trucks, and since the rollers needed to be on the back, we had to figure out a way to stand the thing upright and drag it around without damaging them. another consideration was that whomever's using the machine needs to feed the cable back and forth across the rollers, so the cable feeds evenly onto the reel. since this means someone's hand is in the area of moving parts, everything needed to be made as user-friendly as possible. the machine coils up to 250' per minute (variable speed, controlled by the orange foot pedal in the pictures), which means it's moving by the rollers pretty quickly, and jamming your hand into something sharp would not be good. everything's rounded off, especially the mounts that hold the rollers- don't want to score up that expensive cable, either. the mounts for the horizontal roller double as feet for when it's stood upright. most of the non-threatening welds on the thing were left alone in the interest of saving time, and i think it gives it a cool rough look. Jason's going to clear-coat the whole thing (except the diamondplate, which is the only aluminum part), and leave all the markings written on the steel when we bought it...sort of a Joe Sixpack fashion statement that totally fits the Hollywood Lights crew.

closeup of the roller assembly- this part was fun to work out and build:
roller closeup

the wheels were scavenged from an old electric tricycle the company had lying around. they have pneumatic tires, so as long as the rims don't get damaged they can theoretically be replaced.

wheel closeup:
wheel closeup

we needed to find something steel that fit the bearings in those wheels, and didn't want to spend money, so Jason hit on using a ground rod, 8' x 5/8" galvanized, which is particularly fitting since Hollywood Lights uses them all the time, to ground generators. since the (replaceable) wheel bearings do the rotating, we decided to cap the square tube the axle runs through on both ends, and i welded the axle in permanently. now we needed something to hold the wheels on with- and what better than an acorn? acorn clamps are what get used to secure the bare copper ground wire that runs from the generators to the ground rods. since it's made for the rods, all he had to do was drill it out, add a cotter pin, and it's perfect.

axle closeup:
axle closeup

the motor didn't need to be reversible, so they didn't spring for one. the variable control is all in the foot pedal, and you need to be on the other side of the machine to coil cable, so there's no variable control on the motor itself.

motor closeup:
motor closeup

we needed something to secure the end of the cable with, to get the coil started on the reel, and Chuck came up with using a piece of chain-link fence hardware, which Jason made a little backing plate for, and we mounted to the reel:

reel closeup:
reel closeup

and voila, a cable coiler.

i feel compelled to mention that Jason gets the John Henry award, for racing the machine today and coiling up a 100' piece of 4/0 faster than the machine did. he was moving fast. i personally doubt anyone's going to outwork the thing over the course of an entire day. there's also, as with all machines, a learning curve to operating it, so it's going to take a while to really compare coiling speeds.

another question that remains is whether it costs time uncoiling the cable after using it; that is, if not twisting the length of cable around 360-degrees for every coil loop makes it harder to uncoil the cable and get it to lie down straight. time will tell. in the meantime, it's going to save a lot of back strain on outs.

well, there you have it, finished today. back to the job hunt tomorrow. one thing's for sure: whatever job i have next, i'm gonna miss hangin' out with all the guys at Hollywood Lights, i've known them all a long time, and they're great guys. and i'm especially gonna miss hangin' out every day with my buddy, Jason's dog Dozer- the hardest working dog in show business.

quitting time:


another uneventful weekend

it may be a curse to live in interesting times, but on the other hand, a little excitement never killed anyone either. feeling more than a little stir crazy lately, possibly more so since i actually spent the last couple weeks working.

probably one more day of work left at Hollywood Lights, in which i need to put the final touches on their cable coiler (pics to follow, if i can remember my camera), and weld back together a couple of switch mountings Jason cut down to truck-loading size. after that, it's back to finding a more permanent means of recapitalization. 20,000 people in Washington state lost their jobs again last month, and we now have the 4th highest unemployment of all states at 9.2%, behind Oregon's 12-ish, California's (unbelievably high) 14-ish and another state's (which i'm too lazy to look up at the moment). inconveniently and dispropotionately represented among those ranks are machining jobs supported by the aerospace industry. this complicates my task somewhat, since large portions of my work history and experience are in machining fields, which are predominantly comprised of aerospace jobs. still, running some machine for another mom-and-pop company at grunt wages is not high on my list of career moves, and i've been applying for positions at all kinds of jobs outside of machining & production. i'm once again even weighing my options about going back to school...though i have no idea what i'd like to learn that would actually help me get a job somewhere.

as always, despite my share of adversity, i remain reasonably upbeat and resolute. nothing gets me down for long, and i have high hopes of seeing changes for the better in the near future.

the weather around these parts has taken a predominantly pleasant turn, and while a full week of sunshine still remains to be seen, the temperatures seem to be rising at a fair clip and the Orb of Life and Warmth has been seen shrugging off its thick blanket occasionally. i'm not the only one around here who's feeling fully overdue for a little solar vitamin D. sunshine charges my batteries...it's amazing how much better i feel when i get some regular sunshine. my sorry excuse for a back yard needs a lot of work (still) and Chowder's more than ready to get the rest of his space back. with any luck, i won't be in such a time-devouring job this summer, and i'll have enough motivation and $ and down time to actually finish some of the in-process projects i've started around here.

today i spent most of what started out a sunny morning but turned into a basically overcast day (at least here) screwing around online, doing chores, waiting to see if Loren would show up (he didn't), and listening to music. it's been basically Pink Floyd Day today, which sometimes seems like a quarterly holiday for me.

my Dad recently finished his last chemo treatment. he posted a few pics of before/after and it's a startling difference- not that none of us noticed without the pictures. wouldn't wish colon cancer on anyone. all in all, he's been as lucky as someone who's had to endure life-saving surgery and treatment can be. we're all crossing our fingers around here, and i'm sure i'm not the only one who's not going to be able to relax about all this without a few "negative" monthly follow-up screenings.

we're all looking forward to a little R&R in Old Forge, NY, with family, again this summer. couldn't come at a better time for my Dad, i think. i wasn't going to make it, but he talked me into it. who knows? things look pretty good right now, but it's always possible this could be the last time we get to all spend this time together...and i don't want to be the one who was conspicuously absent from the party if that turns out to be true. you just never know, and there's a part of me that believes, other concerns notwithstanding, it's just smart to take advantage of opportunities- especially rare ones, like spending time with family both close and far flung- while you have them (the opportunities and the family, i mean).

so, this is what a 'personal' blog post looks like when there's not much going on. it's not much, but it's all i got for the moment. time to cook some food and move away from the keyboard. PEACE

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