Sunday, June 18, 2017

Scenes From Seattle (Part 1)

I haven't been blogging lately because we've been on vacation. There are a lot of photos and memories to sort out, but I thought I'd share a few shots from the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Their Star Trek exhibit is a trip.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Look Out Below!

Pool pictures provided by Kim, whose phone takes better pictures than my camera...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

"How We Spent Our Summer" by Brent and Maggie (An Email Reprint)

(This is from August, 2010)

I can sum up how I spent a majority of my summer in two words: "truck ride".

After a long summer training run, it would usually be so hot that if I was to shower right away I'd just be sweating again as soon as I stepped out of the stall, and I hate that. So instead, I'd cool off first by taking our dog Maggie for a quick drive around Saylorville Lake.

I don't know how it is at your house, but every saying we have for our pets gets shortened down to the bare minimum over time. Instead of hunting down Maggie and asking her, "Hey big girl! Do you want to come along and go for a ride in the truck with me?" I now just yell, "Truck ride!" from the garage. It's not like word choice matters, you put those two words anywhere near each other in a sentence and you'll be soon tackled by an overexcited, 95 pound, four-legged hitchhiker.

Although it's not the safest picture to take, I wanted to show you what I see in the passenger door mirror when I'm driving Maggie around:

Since my shedding passenger doesn't care about conversation or music quality, I'll pass the drive time with a random sampler or library CD. (Really, is there a better place to listen to music than in the car?)  Amongst the audio junk, I'll usually find some cool song - proving my theory that most records have at least one interesting track. Let's say these songs come from my "Dog Days of Summer Soundtrack".

Here's one Maggie and I listened to a lot while cruising through the Saylorville campgrounds:

Link: Chasing You Around

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Who's a Big Girl?

Maggie is, that's who. In fact, she turned 10 years old on Saturday!

She celebrated at the Downtown Farmers' Market. There were all types of treats to eat. Some were found on the ground; some were purchased by Mom or Dad.

She got a lot of attention from strangers, too.

Speaking of years passing, it is hard to for me to believe that my dad has been gone for almost nine years.

 He did not get to meet Charlotte, but I am sure Grandpa Barry would have thought she was a hoot.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

25 down, __ to Go

I'm finishing my 25th year at Urbandale High School this month. I suppose I could make some grand statement about investing a quarter of a century of my life to this career and this high school, but I'll save that speech for my retirement.

You're welcome.

Retirement. What a strange concept. If the rule of 88 is still the rule of thumb, then I can retire in eight years when Charlotte finishes ninth grade. Considering how fast her first grade year went, ninth grade is right around the corner. Parenting creates a duality in time. That's how her school year went faster than mine.

Daphne will still have several years of teaching ahead of her when I reach the rule of 88, so I doubt we will buy a RV and ride off into the highway's sunset. If I'm done with teaching in 2025, then I'd have to get another job. I have no idea what that would be. In a general sense, I'd like a job where I can work with my hands. Unfortunately, the robots will probably take those jobs.

Okay, enough rambling about what might happen. I want to talk about what did happen. Since I'm talking about 25 years of school, let's do some math.

Average number of times someone has asked me if they can go to the bathroom during one class period: 4 - that is a conservative estimate.
Number of class periods with students in the room per day: 7.
Number of times I was asked, "Can I go to the bathroom?" per day: 28.
Number of days in a school year: 180.
Number of times I was asked, "Can I go to the bathroom?" in a school year: 5,040.
Number of times I was asked, "Can I go to the bathroom?" in 25 years: 126,000.
Number of times the inquiring student actually had to go to the bathroom: 7.

Actually, I want my next job to be one where I'm not lied to so often.

Friday, May 26, 2017

0 Days to Go!

"Z" is for "Zippity-Do-Da Day!"

What a great way to end the school year. P.E. and Music day is her favorite day of week!

 I'm not quite sure what is happening at 2:30, though.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sticky Situations

I have no idea how a pinball machine from Europe ended up in Cascade, Iowa, and I will probably never know. The previous owner was a gentleman in his 80's, and his son-in-law was the person who handled the deal through eBay and email.

I was told the machine was in the owner's basement, so I brought a dolly and some straps, but it was waiting for me in the seller’s snow covered driveway. Also waiting in the driveway were six family members - sons and grandsons, I presume. Inside the house, others were peeking through windows. It was uncomfortable having all those people staring at me, so I didn’t spend much time looking at the Criterium. 

I tried asking Grandpa some questions about the Criterium, but he snarled, "What you see is what you get!" What I got was a sense that he was angry at me for buying his pinball machine. I had already agreed to buy the machine for $50, so I handed him the money. With some help from the teenagers, I began loading it into the car. Grandma opened the door to the house to yell, "Make him move that heavy piece! That's the dangerous part!" The young guys helped me, anyway. Grandma sneered at them. Grandpa left to get the mail.

I thanked everyone for their hospitality, and walked to my car. Before I climbed in, Grandpa returned and looked me in the eye, "If you get it running, send a video to him." He pointed at his son-in-law with his thumb, and then curtly walked away. I replied to his back, "I will." 

Buyer's remorse sunk in at the first rest stop. The backglass was in great shape, but to say that the playfield’s top mylar layer had delaminated was an understatement. In some places the plastic had warped over roll-over switches and entire light bulbs! As it sat, the playfield was useless. I did not take any pictures of the machine at that time, I was too bummed. 

Here is an example of how badly the plastic had lifted off the playing surface. You can see that it had covered that lightbulb in the middle of the picture. How is a pinball going to roll on that?

I have read about people using a freeze spray to get old mylar off playfields, so I kept the Criterium’s bottom cabinet in the garage, and on a cold, January night I was able to take advantage of the low temperature and break/ tear/ rip the warped plastic off the playfield. It was so brittle. I lost about 15% of the artwork, but I can live with that. Kids, they call these "player's machines."

I was able to get the Criterium to come alive, and that is a testament to the people who designed and built these machines. My work is not done, though. About 65% of the playfield is covered with a layer of sticky adhesive. Like these machines, the adhesive is really tough. In some spots the pinball will actually come to a stop because the surface is so gummy.

I found this advice online:
"After you get the Mylar off, pat down the residue glue with white baking flour. Really press it into the glue, and let it sit a few minutes. Next, wet the flour with 91% or higher isopropyl alcohol, and allow it to sit until most of the alcohol has evaporated. Starting at the edge rub all the glue into little crumbs with your thumb."
Who discovered that you can remove glue with baking flour and alcohol? It amazes me what people come up with. I can tell you that this idea works, but it is really slow going. 
I sprinkle the flour over a patch of adhesive that is the size of a quarter. After a minute, I pour some alcohol from a spoon over the flour, and I wait 5 - 7 minutes. I then scrape off the mess with a plastic razor blade.  I have to do this three or four more times to get the paint completely free of the glue. 
This isn't hard work, but it does get tedious. I quit after an hour or so. I then "wax" the spot with Novus 2, and I play the machine for awhile. The ball moves through the newly cleaned area much better, and it is cool to see how that changes game play. That helps me stay excited about this project.

Once the glue is gone, I still have paint to touch up, game gliches to fix, and about 20 light bulbs that won't come on. It's a good thing that my time is free.
I hope to be able to call the son-in-law sometime in June and tell him there's a video of Grandpa's pinball machine on my blog. That would be pretty cool.

PS: Charlotte, a $50 machine is never a $50 machine. So far, I've spent $173.36 $194.39 on a sticky mess. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Dance Recital Post for Grandma Betty

Grandma Betty couldn't come to the Char's recital on Saturday, so this post is for her.

It was a cold and stormy morning, but Charlotte really wanted to go down to the Farmers' Market. She assured us that we would be just fine. It was cold, but we had fun. We didn't have to wait in any lines, that's for sure.

Charlotte's Recital was at 3:30. She smiled while she danced, and she looked like she was having fun. We went to Orange Leaf with Uncle Chris and Aunt Phaedra afterwards.

You cannot take any pictures or video during the actual performance, so these are from Friday night's dress rehearsal. 



Char missed you! "Get well, Grandma Betty!"

Friday, May 19, 2017

5 Days to Go

"U is for Reading Under the Desk Day."

I think Captain Underpants is perfect for "U Day."