June 2012


I replaced my back fence a couple of years ago but I didn’t replace all the fenceposts; most of them were still there and seemed OK. Only a very few were rotted off at the ground. Since that time, a couple more have broken as well as one section that had come loose during a storm. This reminded me of all the little things you learn when you actually do something that are never covered in the books that describe how to do things. It doesn’t matter how much detail a book goes into; that only gets you so far so here are all the things that I learned:

1) You will eventually drop the drill bit you are using. It will vanish into the grass never to be seen again. Since you were just using it, it follows that you will need it again and since it is now missing, you will have to go buy another one.
2) Your drill battery will die mid-way through the job. Plan on this so you can take a break and perhaps go to the hardware store and buy a new drill bit.
3) It’s not so much the air temperature as the sun beating down on you that kills you. Shade is wonderful.
4) When you are cutting wood at eye level or above your head, the breeze will blow just so that the sawdust will drift into your face and eyes. Later when you go inside to shower, you will find sawdust in the bottoms of your pants pockets.
5) Firemen are busy people. There is a fire/ambulance station near my house and as I stood outside for about six hours, I heard a siren at least four times.

This job was fairly straightforward but that doesn’t mean that it will go easily or quickly. In particular, when a fence post has rotted away, you have to either dig out the old concrete lump or just move over a foot or so and dig a new post hole. Having done both at one time or another, I recommend the latter. However you will then be in a position (so to speak) where your rails will meet up at the wrong place. You will therefore have to patch them together with something. That part is easy if you have any wood around at all so I will gloss over that.

I started digging a post hole but not until I had cleared away a lot of vines and stuff from the other side of the fence. A great many people will move into a house and plant stuff right up next to the fence so that when you need to replace the fence or get to it for any reason, you have to fight with a lot of random plant material which has built up because things were planted so close to the fence that nobody could ever get back there to clear things away. That also contributes to rotting. All up and down the fenceline I saw bushes planted no more than two inches away from the fence that were now pushing on it and providing a place for debris to collect rot-inducing moisture.

By this time I was pretty tired from patching another section as well as the ‘gardening’. About eight inches down I hit a layer of what people around here call “hard pan”; a layer of tightly packed clay that is just slightly less hard than sandstone. It does not “clang” when the post-hole digger hits it but otherwise feels just like hitting rock when the shock is transmitted through the handles to your arms. I dug away at it with whatever I could lay my hands on; first a crowbar which was no good. I also tried sharpening the post-hole digger blades with an angle grinder. That is always fun since it generates a shower of sparks but although that helped, it was not enough.

I sat down in the shade to drink some water and think about the problem. As I did I felt a pain in my leg from where my knife had opened up in my pocket and was now stabbing me. I guess I’m glad that I never sharpen that particular knife. It is one of those “assisted opening” type so that you can use it with one hand when the other hand is occupied. Not a switchblade since you have to exert some force to open it – just assisted. It has a safety lock which I had put on but somehow the safety had been turned off and the latch pressed in my pocket by the car keys. Note to self: you don’t need car keys to work in the yard.

It then hit me that I had recently bought a nice set of auger bits. I therefore had my old ones lying around with nothing to do – I had tried to sharpen them before (and had succeeded with some of them) but they were an odd collection of sizes so I had bought new ones. One of them was about an inch in diameter and I could never get it sharp so it hit me that it would still probably bore through clay. It had the old tapered shank but I got it into my drill chuck enough so that it would turn and started boring. It actually worked pretty well; I drilled a series of holes in the hard pan until it was deep enough that I couldn’t get the drill any further. I could then use the post-hole digger to get the loose dirt out. The auger which had previously been blackened by age was now shiny.

It still wasn’t deep enough but that’s all I had. I needed to get it about another four inches deeper but did not have the energy or the tooling to do that so I gave up and put a post into it and concreted it in. I’m a scientist by trade so I’m pretty out of shape – I can only do so much of this so I went in and that was that. I got up Sunday morning and hung the panels back up.

During all this, I discovered that the post next to this one is rotted too. So now I have to do this all over again.
I did have an opportunity to use only my recently acquired-or-refurbished hand tools. Except for the cordless drill that is – I’m never giving that up. I was out early to beat the heat and my wife rightly would like me to avoid waking the neighbors with a power saw so I used my hand saw to cut all the wood that needed to be cut. This worked out great – it’s slower than using a circular saw but not that much slower and the cuts are not much rougher (now that the saw is sharp and properly set) and it was pretty fun. Also quieter which is a big plus in my mind – I’ve never liked loud noises. It’s nice to be able to listen to the sounds all around and there is a lot to listen to besides barking dogs. I heard something that sounded like a duck quacking which I could never identify; other than that, I enjoyed the sounds of nature without having to don ear protection.

Now my upper body is sore – particularly my hands. Time to recover and go at it again since my final lesson learned is that I (and probably everybody else in the world) really need to get outside and be more active. It is silly that digging one post hole would make me so tired. I need to get outside regularly and do something – perhaps set about amending the soil and planting some things that might eventually break up that hard pan.

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Last Tuesday I went into the ophthalmologists office for a YAG Laser Capsulotomy.  That’s the thing where, after cataract surgery, you develop another cataract on the rear surface of the lens capsule.  This happens about 80% of the time; I have no idea why proteins would decide to condense on a surface where they never did before but that’s what happens.  The YAG laser just burns a hole in the capsule so you can see through it.  This was quick and painless although I did have to actually go to the hospital to have it done.
The doctor told me earlier in the year that they had a laser in his office and would do this procedure there but apparently in the intervening months they were told that in order to work with Medicare, they had to do every procedure in a “real” hospital so I had to go there.  I don’t think the total experience was any different.  It literally took 30 seconds.  I could see better by the next day.
My follow-up was yesterday and I was told that although I had a slight astigmatism in my right eye, it was not really worth doing more surgery on.  All necessary procedures are included in the price that I’ve already paid so I can legitimately insist on it but my vision tests out at 20/20 and I’m not sure it’s worth it.  He is totally willing to go ahead with it but I’m going to let it ride for awhile and see what I think in six months when I have another follow-up.
So I guess that’s all over.  For awhile there, my vision was seemingly getting a bit worse but about a month before my last follow-up, I began to see noticeably better and that has remained.  After the YAG laser, I can see noticeably better still. I still don’t think it’s as good as I used to be able to see with glasses. Maybe it’s because I can only focus at two places – the doc says that this should improve with time.  Somehow (perhaps wishful thinking) I had the idea that my brain would figure out how to focus at all distances in about two weeks but the doc says it can take a long time.  As in a year or more.  Still, that makes me hopeful.  Last week while looking at displays in a museum I had to either get right up on a placard to read it or stand 10 feet away or so.  But I’m pretty much back in the saddle, optically speaking.

Erin chose to do a study abroad this year.  She chose the “10 Days in Italy” option.  I’m not sure how much credit she gets for that nor what sort of materials she has to submit as an assignment but she got back recently and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

She knew one other girl well and so had a buddy.  We heard very little from her since we had told her to put her phone on airplane mode and keep it there to avoid expensive overseas data rates.  Occasionally she would hit a WiFi hotspot and put a notice on Facebook.  On the day she was to return, their flight from DC to Tulsa got delayed by a variety of things and so they didn’t come rolling in until 3:00 am.  By that time, plan changes had been made and she brought her friend McCall home with her.  McCall spent the night but was up very early at 7:00 am or so and her Dad drove over from Edmond to pick her up promptly at 9:00am and that was that – we didn’t learn anything more until Erin woke up that afternoon.  It took days for her to get back onto a more American schedule but I enjoyed that since it meant that she was up early and could talk about the trip.  She finally got all her good photos uploaded to Facebook and then we all got to enjoy them.

She had lost her camera right before leaving and only used her iPhone to make photos but the iPhone 4 makes good pictures.  Good to know.

It was such a whirlwind trip for her that she didn’t have much in-depth knowledge of anything and is already starting to forget what some of the things are that she took photos of.  Good thing she kept a journal.  She turned that in to the professor that was along for the trip and hopefully she will get that back and connect the dots soon.

We recently moved all of Erin’s stuff into her apartment in Stillwater.  She’s taking two classes this summer and has a job working in the honors college doing something – I’m not sure what.

This is the second time in recent memory that I’ve rented a truck from Budget and each time, I rented the littlest one they have and both times, they have upgraded the size on me to a 16 footer.  While I should be happy with getting more for my money, I am not a professional truck driver and when I know that I’m going to have to back this thing into my own driveway as well as the cramped parking lot of an apartment complex, I really don’t want anything larger than the smallest truck they have.  I was pretty irritated.  I took Evan with me to give me somebody to talk to on the drive.

Things went OK.  When we got there, the parking lot was almost empty which made things easy.  Her roommate’s parents were there too; they are ranchers from the southern part of the state so they had a long stock trailer with all her stuff in it.  He and his wife were experts at helping people back up with large vehicles so I actually had no trouble.  I had more trouble taking it back to Budget because it started raining torrentially.

We got her all unpacked and sorted out – at least for the most part.  They seemed happy to be there.  We left her there and have only heard good reports via text message since then.

After Evan’s graduation he and Cassie went on the wedding tour wherein most of his friends got married. Then he went to stay with Cassie and her family for about a week. That seemed like a little long to us but he had a good time. Finally we called and said “hey come spend some time with us” so he drove home, checked in briefly at his apartment in Fort Smith, and then drove over to broken arrow.

We spent a week sort of getting him ready to move away permanently. You know: sending him to the optometrist for one last visit, buying things he needed, getting him a haircut, stuff like that.

Then it was time to move Erin to Stillwater which he helped with.

Then it was time to drive to Fort Smith with him. His new employer had already paid to move all of his stuff there. But he did need to go buy some furniture for his apartment. So we drove around Fort Smith looking for furniture. We found a bargain at one place or not so much a bargain as it was just an instant living room. It had the sofa, love seat, two end tables, 2 lamps, and some accessories so it was a way of instantly decorating his living room. He needed something to sit on to watch television.

And now he starts work. It’s a big day. He’s well and truly out on his own now. Makes me sad but that’s the way things are supposed to go I guess.

Wow, blogging has fallen out of favor as facebook and twitter have taken over.  And my family history documentation has suffered as a result. Well, here is a run-through of all that’s happened since Disney World.

Erin finished her first year of college with a 4.0 GPA.  She’s going to take classes in the summer and has found a job in the honors college to help pay the rent.  And she’s moved into her first apartment with a friend (also an aero major) and is really excited.

Evan graduated on the May 12 with his degree in Industrial Engineering and starts work at ABF in Ft. Smith this monday.  He has an apartment there which we went to see yesterday.  He had been home for the brief period between graduation and work just to visit and I wanted to see his place.  He also wanted  help buying some furniture for it so we went shopping.

That does not do it justice by any means – much more has happened and someday soon I hope to catch up on it.  As it is now, I feel the passage of time very keenly.  He’s gone now – and for good.  Really.  This time, it’s permanent – he’s grown up.