Saturday, February 27, 2010

Perfect execution, less than optimal time and place

Between degrees at the university, I took some time off to do a little skiing and a lot of minimum-wage drudgery at a fancy ski resort.

One night, the suits rounded up all the warm bodies they could find to help with an emergency: An overhead fire sprinkler pipe had burst and flooded the ballroom and a gala new year's eve party was scheduled (and sold-out) for that room.

We had about 30-40 people to tackle the problem. First, we used wet vacs to suck-up water that had pooled on top of the carpet. The next step was to pull up the carpet. This was complicated by the fact that the carpeting was in strips about 12 feet wide and as long as the room. The system we used was to have 3-5 guys start from one end of a strip and crawl under it. Then we would stand-up, lifting the carpet and teams on either side would feed us chairs which we would arrange behind us as we progressed forward.

This process is probably the most dangerous work I have ever done: The linoleum floor was wet and slick, the carpet was heavy wool and blocked-out most of the light. The chairs provided ample tripping opportunities and were appearing from seemingly random directions and velocities. In spite of all this and the fact that this effort was happening around 3 AM, I don't remember anybody getting hurt.

The chairs we used were the kind that are made of plastic and metal and can be stacked onto carts to about 8 feet high. These ones stacked such that the seat back and the seat were each angled at about 45 Degrees. The bare parts of the floor, as I had mentioned above, was very slick. I had even gotten into the habit of taking a little sprint before the bare parts and then crossing that area by sliding. Naturally, I had an impulse to put these two things together and we were on a break anyway...

Running at top speed toward a 7-foot tall stack of chairs I slid the final 15-20 feet. Then took a jump upwards, using my hands leap-frog style as an assist I rotated backwards and stuck the landing in the chair at the top of the stack.

I was delighted for about 2 seconds: Then a serious-looking man wearing jeans and a sweatshirt walked up to me and said something to the effect, "If you do that again and don't break your leg, then I will break your leg". Being young and self-righteous, I retorted that my bones--broken or whole--are really only my business. He walked away, shaking his head exasperatedly. A couple of seconds later, a coworker sidled up to me and let me know that I had just told-off the CEO! I could feel the blood drain from my head.

I didn't get fired, in fact; every worker that night got (in addition to time-and-a-half) comped a dinner for two at any restaurant on the property. In retrospect, the trick I did was really risky: If I had slipped while making the initial jump then a crash into the stack of chairs would have been the result. Slipping would be a high probability since the floor was slick, the jump was taken while in motion--which means the timing of when to jump comes into play and the jump must be forceful since a fair amount of height had to be obtained. The landing was equally tricky and risky--falling from 7 feet onto hard, slick floor with a stack of heavy chairs most likely also falling, seems like the sort of thing one does not emerge from unscathed. So, the CEO had a point. I think I had just gotten so used to risk from the carpet-lifting work, that the trick seemed like nothing.

In all it was a good night: Got paid and rewarded but could have gotten fired and/or crippled.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dried-on bugs

I'm not sure if this will be a reoccurring series, but in case does become so, I want to give credit where it is due: One aspect is right from this guy's series called Remembrance of things Pabst. and the other is from a writing assignment from this nice lady.

I now live in the Boston area, but grew up and lived in the Pacific Northwest until shortly after getting married. Every place has bugs in the Summer and they tend to make a mess on your car windows, especially on long highway trips. In my experience this is much worse in the inter mountain West (between the Cascades and the Rockies). I would guess that it is a combination of very arid conditions, so the bugs desiccate and harden-onto the windshield very quickly and something about the climate such that all the bugs hatch at the same time. I have seen swarms of gnats so thick it looks like it is foggy out.

It can get difficult to see, to the point that you need to clean the window but they don't clean easily. The wiper-washer combination makes a dent, but you go through the fluid pretty quickly. Most gas stations have window washers, but even these just will not cut through a really thick layer of bugs. I eventually, through a lot of trial-and-error, found a really good solution:

All you need is one of those flat, one gallon plastic containers like the ones that anti-freeze always comes in. Most rest areas have a faucet so that you can re-fill the container but you can start a trip with it already full so that you can use this method any place you care to pull-over. All you do is turn-on the windshield wipers and then get out of the car. Open your Prestone bottle and lay it on the roof of your car so that it can drain onto the windshield. Between the flood of water and the wipers, it just clears the bugs away like magic.

I think the way it works is that the wipers clear away the bugs parts as they re-hydrate. With the small volume of the windshield washers, the bug parts just form a viscous solution with the wiper fluid. You need the large volume provided by this technique in order to clear away bugs.

Once I discovered this method, I almost hoped for bug swarms. My car may have been a piece of crap, but it would be the only one with a clean windshield.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The furniture re-arrangement chain-reaction

The Pappasan chair in our new home office never really fit in the space we had chosen for it. My wife had the idea that if one of the file cabinets could be moved, that this would help.

She spent a couple of hours moving all the stuff out of the file cabinet and I lugged it up to Dahlia's room, where it was re purposed into a toy box.

It didn't really help the Pappasan situation though, so we moved it to the living room where she had always thought we needed a bit more seating room anyway. So the living room had to be rearranged to accommodate this addition. This left us with no couch in the home office though.

We have two futons in the house. The downstairs one in the family room is the kind where the width of the couch form is the length of the bed conformation and so it was too big for the office. We have one which is used as Jemma's bed frame (she has a regular mattress on it) and it is the kind which folds out into three sections and so is love-seat sized when in couch format.

This upstairs futon was taken apart, hauled down and reassembled in the office. The cushion from the downstairs futon wouldn't fit on it though, since it is too plush. So the original thin futon mattress was hauled down from its place under Surenna's bed and installed on the office futon. The thicker mattress was too thick to slide under Surenna's bed, but we managed to get it under by lifting up on it until the futon mattress cleared the foot board.

The family room futon needed to go to Jemma's room and be used as a bed frame, but it is a really complicated design so we tried to bring it up without taking it apart first. We ended up taking it apart at the top of the stairs, where it was solidly stuck.

Every thing is put back together now, but let me tell you about my aching back...

Today's route