Sunday, March 30, 2008

What the Heck?

has been keeping me busy?

Part One
What are these little 'signs' for? These signs are located intermittently along Rte. 128 (a state highway). We have seen them nowhere else, yet. They are not evenly spaced along the highway nor do they seem to be placed in any intentionally useful regard. There may be several within mere feet of each other, or next to each other, or none for miles. Although all the ones in the pictures are mounted on other signs, there are many mounted on the guardrails, some on sections of granite ledge amid the brush along side the road, some on chainlink fences and on bridge abutments. Personally, I find the ones on the granite to be the most confusing. There are only three color types: plain brown, plain blue, or a vertically divided half brown-half blue. Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures. The signs are about 5 inches square. You try getting a good picture of something that size while being driven along at 55 mph! My mom thinks I worry too much about little things. That I might be a tad too curious. I'm not worried in the least about them. Curious, of course. They now bug me.

So now every time I drive down 128, which is at least once a week, I wonder. I've got Amanda wondering, too.

Part Two
Today was nice enough that Amanda and I went out for a walk in the woods. Once again, the easy trip down to Loop Pond and back around through the town tree farm. This time we decided to climb around on the 'ridge' at the edge of the pond. It was good exercise and something that will be totally impossible once Spring has sprung with brambles, tall grass, and saplings. I think the next time we woods-walk I'm going to first drive to the top of Summit Ave. and park near the stone mounds (remember those elephant graves?) and explore from there. Here's a picture from today that struck me for some reason.

Part Three
Another thing that has been occupying some time is getting all the stuff ready for the Arts & Crafts shows. I've had a week of tunings and estimates and calls about key work coming in, but nothing in the shop (other than the reed organ that I'm still working on). I've been using the time finishing up the easel minis, making props and writing an 'About the Artist' placard that will rest on a small table easel. I've decided that I have enough inventory for the start-up with all the 5 X 7's that you see in the sidebar and 13 easel minis. Today, I took this picture of the minis and the collapsible display shelf for four of them. Oh yeah, I am making all the display rigs collapsible for ease of packing and transport. The easel minis are about 2.25 X 3.25 inches (I make the easels, too, and they fold flat like a real easel).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In English, Please

News item online today. This gives me some hope! Just a little, but I'll take any bit of hope I can find!

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - A judge known for creative sentencing has ordered three Spanish-speaking men to learn English or go to jail.

The men, who faced prison for criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, can remain on parole if they learn to read and write English, earn their GEDs and get full-time jobs, Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said.

The men, Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez and Rafael Guzman-Mateo, plus a fourth defendant, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario, all needed translators when they pleaded guilty Tuesday.

"Do you think we are going to supply you with a translator all of your life?" the judge asked them.

The four, ranging in age from 17 to 22, were in a group that police said accosted two men on a street in May. The two said they were asked if they had marijuana, told to empty their pockets, struck on the head, threatened with a gun and told to stay off the block.

Attorneys for the men said they were studying the legality of the ruling and had not decided whether to appeal. One of the attorneys, Ferris Webby, suggested that the ruling was good for his client, Guzman-Mateo.

"My client is happy," Webby said. "I think it's going to help him."

The judge sentenced the four men to jail terms of four to 24 months. But he gave the three men, who already had served at least four months, immediate parole. Reyes-Rosario remains imprisoned on an unrelated drug charge.

Olszewski ordered the three to return with their parole officers in a year and take an English test. "If they don't pass, they're going in for the 24 (months)," he said.

Olszewski is known for outside-the-box sentencing.

He has ordered young defendants who are school dropouts to finish school. He often orders defendants to get full-time employment. But he also has his staff coordinate with an employment agency to help them find the jobs.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who's Out There?

You just never know who may be reading. Sometimes it is amazing to hear from someone who's life has become, in a weird and detached way, part of your own life saga. This happened to me last week. Of course it was during a full moon. Isn't that when that kind of stuff happens?

Anyway, this is the tale. And Paul, this is for you if you are still out there.

On the night of the full moon I checked my email late. I couldn't believe my eyes. There on the screen was an email from an unknown address with the subject matter: Minoan. Paul had found me to tell me that he had purchased the 36 foot, ferro-cement sailboat that my father had built over 30 years ago. He was hoping for some pictures and also the construction dates. Some of the information that Paul gave about himself and the circumstances of his purchase made me suspicious (sorry Paul, the reasons are a very long story that are only barely touched upon in the archives of this blog). I took some time to check out his story. So far so good, therefore I am posting here.

The Internet certainly has a way of making a very small world. Consider the odds of Paul, from England, buying a 30 year old sailboat, in the states, built by my dad, ever being able to find me before the Internet. Not likely.

So for Paul, I would never be able to post (or email) all the photographs that we have of the construction of the Minoan. I'll post a few here with brief descriptions. If you want to see them all, you may get in touch when you arrive at the Minoan in May.

I'll start with the finish! Here's the Minoan sailing out of Rockport Harbor. And now for the start.......

In our backyard the wood lathe mold took shape.
The mold covered with a layer of polyethylene film, four layers of sparrow mesh, a grid of quarter inch steel rod, and another four layers of sparrow mesh. All stitched together with very long basting of wire to be less than 7/8ths of an inch in thickness. The area that would serve as the support for the rudder post included a welded steel channel structure. My dad was a firm believer in over-engineering.
Cementing day it was 90°F, the specialized mixture is completely forced through all the layers to stop at the polyethylene film barrier. It took over 12 hours and many hands - neighbors, friends, relatives, my dad's engineers, strangers. A reporter and photographer from LIFE magazine spent the day and we were featured in the September 1970 issue. They took over two hundred photos that day and presented us with a large (photos too large for my scanner) photo album. In the above photograph, all of the hull and deck have been cemented and the finish surface is being worked on. It 'cured' for 30 days, being kept damp with a perforated hose atop a complete cover of burlap bags under polyethylene. Then all the wood lathe mold was stripped out. Dragon Cement Co. (part of Martin Marietta Corp) came to do an interview and take photos for their company publication.
Time to roll it over! Here's the roll over crew. This was a nerve-racking day. There were some tense moments considering that the hull weighed approximately 5 tons! It was rolled over with a combination of twin wheels, railroad jacks (used to right derailments) and railroad come-alongs traveling through our cellar windows and attached to the support columns of the house.

So, for now, that's a hint at the construction of the Minoan. It was still several years from completion with all the cabin to build and all the essentials of engine, steerage, electrical, plumbing, standing and running rigging, ballast, sail design, and hundreds of details. Upon completion she weighed approximately 10 tons, had a full galley, head, and could sleep five very comfortably.

And how, you ask, does 10 tons of cement float?
Like a teacup..............displacement.

Maybe some more another time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What a Pain Day

Today was designated to be clean the house day. Mostly that happened with a large amount of Spring cleaning all morning. It feels good to get things straightened and cleaned, freshened. Especially when I've got collections that tend to gather dust and are too much bother to seriously clean regularly. Well, all the Art Deco chromeware is cleaned, the shelves washed down, Statue of Liberties thoroughly dusted and all the weekly vacuuming and dusting finished. I even washed the floors!

I sent out another set of keys yesterday and more will be arriving next week. I also scheduled some tunings and an evaluation for next week. The High School had me in to do an estimate for necessary work on their six pianos. Things were going just swell.

You know that can't last!

I was doing a very professional booklet presentation for the High School when on the last page printing, my black ink crapped out. No big deal, I thought, I'll just pop in a new cartridge. I still had the cover page to write and print. The little tape-y covering on the cartridge was very sticky but it did peel off. I put the new cartridge in and went through the rigamarole (is that how it's spelled and is it a real word?) and it won't print correctly. Drat. I've tried everything imaginable to make it print right. I've cleaned it both with the printer program and literally per Dell's 'if that didn't work do this' directions. Nothing except using up 2 hours of the afternoon. Looks just like the old one with barely perceptible script. I'm clueless for what to do now other than buy another cartridge and try again. In the meantime, I'm converting everything I need to print to a color. Any color other than black and I'm fine. Problem is I don't want the cover page 'in living color'. I guess I'll print it in dark blue and then take it to be photocopied in black. What a pain.

Other annoying things. I was working on a frame for one of the 5 X 7 oils and cut one side too short.

I did succeed in taking a little picture of some of the easel minis.

Some other interesting things are going on but I'll have to keep you in suspense for a bit.

You do know it's a full moon?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sleep Starved Saturday

It began very late Friday evening. I had checked my email and then relaxed in bed with a book. I was trying to read and watch a little television at the same time. My eyes ached to close and finally, at 11 p.m., I gave up and turned in for a good night's sleep.

But I didn't. Sleep, that is. Thoughts kept rolling around in my brain about how on earth I was ever going to get everything accomplished that I needed to. My own stuff is pushed further and further back as Amanda and Mom add more to THE list. Vacations loom for Florida in May and NYC in June. Amanda wants the Florida trip and mom wants NYC. Neither will do the actual planning to make either happen. Then there's the PT job search and how will I work a new job in with the other's vacation time. An enormous yard sale and the minimally monthly arts and craft fairs. And on and on to the point that it was just about 12:30 a.m. when I started to get that warm and cozy dozing off feeling.

Until I was awoken abruptly by Amanda calling me. She was sick and needed some medicine. She didn't know where it was. I couldn't get back to sleep and the rest of the night became a drawn out ordeal of nearly dozing and being startled back to consciousness hearing Amanda up and down all night. At 6 on Saturday morning I looked at the clock. The sun would be coming up soon. Wham! I awoke at 7:30. That would be all the sleep I would get. An hour and a half.

Amanda has been sick all day and called in to work. She spent her day between reclining in bed and the bathroom. I've tried to keep going, albeit slowly. I worked a little on the reed organ and painting. I ran errands to the library and the grocery store. I got mom started with reupholstering the padded lid to her hamper. Mostly I worked on display set-ups for the fairs. I decided to try out the displays while taking a photo of all the paintings so far. Mom and I spent 10 minutes or more arranging so every painting would show in the photograph. It was late in the day and I was tired. One painting got left out and I didn't notice until I had put them all back in their storage/transport box. I'm temporarily switching from painting 5 X 7 to painting miniatures displayed on their own easels. There is one example in this photo on this post. It's been a long time since I have 'done art' to sell rather than just 'done art'. I'm hoping to have a dozen or so easel minis ready for May.

After a lackluster dinner of grilled cheese and french fries, I propped myself on the sofa with my book and a PBS program on Doo Wop, then a couple of house flip shows. When I finish this post, I'll check my email and go back to reading. Then it's bedtime for me and I so hope a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spam Anyone?

The Piano Technician's Journal classifieds have been taken! By whom? The spammers, of course. For those of you scratching your heads, "Huh?"

I advertise my key work business in the classified section of the (in print) Piano Technician's Journal. Most of the ads are available for viewing online. Those little scoundrels who look for unsuspecting victims to scam have evidently gotten desperate and are trying contacting advertisers with email addresses posted in their ads.

Problem is that they haven't got English perfected nor do they have any idea what kind of 'product' they are asking about 'purchasing'. On the flip side, it is amazing how many business people fall for these spams/scams. Here are the text portions of two emails I received within the last week. Both went to my business email address.

1)is this item still available for sale??
2)where are you located?
3)may i know why, you want to sell it?
4)Has this item involved in any damage before?
5)can i see more picx??
6)do i need to repair?
7)what year is this item manufactured?
8)what is the final price?
9)can you help me determine the weigth?
10)i will like to know if you do accept a
certified cashiers check or money order as mode of
11)i have a freight company on my own will be
available for them? because the operate 7:00am
to7:00pm mon-saturday i will be glad to read from you


To whom it may concerns: I am erron.i am interested in purchasing your Item wish you list as classified,pls kindly let me have the full details like present condition and pictures and least price,As soon as i have get all those information i will be happy to proceed with the transaction


Uh huh.

On another note, there are some changes in the sidebar. More art as it is finished. I believe one painting has been sold. Yay! You've seen "Schuyler's Monster" occupying the Recent Reads for a few weeks. Rob's book is all that I expected. Honest, comfortable, a best friend. It's not some high end example of superior literature, it's a 'real person book'. Do pick up a copy. Another addition to the sidebar is a link to one of my favorite blogs. Visible Woman hooked me the first time I read one of Linda's posts. The more I read the more "yep I know exactly" moments I have. Although our lives have been radically different, in many ways our hopes, inspirations, and some quirky understandings of life have kept me visiting and wanting to read more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


There is almost nothing worse than waiting. Right this moment I'm waiting. I'm waiting for glue to dry, paint to dry, and wood patch to set up. The glue is on the workings of the reed organ, paint on the painting I'm working on, and patch on the reed organ. Having three processes going at once was supposed to relieve me of empty waiting. I'm also waiting for two sets of keys to arrive. One from Florida and one from California. I hate when people say they are sending work and then they take their time about it. Wait, wait, wait. Never quite sure whether they've changed their minds or what. Could arrive any minute...........or never.

I'm waiting for summer. That one's going to take a while, I'm afraid.

One thing I'm not waiting for is my mom's prescription plan to kick in. Timothy worked miracles and she received her acceptance letter from Humana. Now we do wait for the actual card. And claim forms from her old plan to submit her bills.

Today, while I'm waiting, I could clean the house (nah), go for a walk (maybe), waste more time on the computer (a good possibility), or work on some other little projects in the cellar (most likely). I did make the mistake of going through some old photos. Here I am waiting as my picture is taken at an abandoned sugar mill on St. John, USVI! Yikes, how depressing, I just figured out that this picture was taken 26 years ago.

I think I'll go check that glue.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Monday, Monday and Ignorance Has Been Bliss

It's about time I sat down and caught up. Monday is my absolute favorite day of the week. A new start, endless possibilities and hopes.

Monday morning found me heading back to a tuning customer from last week. Mrs. M. is delightfully youthful yet is most likely in her late seventies. She is very involved in the arts, creates her own line of notecards, attends tai chi classes, belongs to a monthly book club at the local library, and more that I'm sure I haven't heard about. She had called on Friday to let me know that one of the problem keys was sticking once again. It was a beautiful morning to head out on the shore side drive to her home. When I walked in to the room where the piano lives, I noticed that 'the D' was half way down. I barely touched it and it came back up to rest position. I played it a few problem. I played it verrrrryyyy sloooooowly and lightly. It stayed part way down. AHA! Mrs. M. most be a soft player. I removed the necessary case parts and 'eased' the key very slightly at the balance rail button to 'iron out' a slight depression in the cloth that was the hang-up spot. 10 minute turnaround time and I was on the road again. Before I had started out for Mrs. M's, I had loaded up two sets of keys for return shipping and would stop on my way back home to send them off.

The folks at ESP shipping were in their usual great spirits, joking around and picking on each other. I always double check the computer generated shipping labels as they are put on boxes of keys. In over 5 years there has never been an error.

Can you imagine the look on the face of Mr. X, living in Texas, when he opens the box that has been delivered to his door and finds a set of piano keys?

Especially when they don't belong to him.

Maybe he doesn't even own a piano. Or, maybe there is an old one in his cellar and puzzled, he goes to look to see if it still has all it's parts. Who knows? He looks at the box again and checks the shipping label. Yep, it's addressed to him. What would he do with it?

You guessed it. A totally wrong label. Should have been going to Illinois, not Texas. Oops. They did the correct address and, hooray, the price went down!

Business has been a bit off, whacky, with the economy in R. Here in the States we are not allowed to acknowledge the whole R word, but I think you probably know what I'm talking about. Maybe they think that if the R word is accepted, it will be a short and swift slide to D so we're supposed to ignore everything and continue merrily along. Anyway, I can never tell whether it will be a heavy tuning week or loads of keywork or nothing. Lately, it's been a moderate amount of both including an advance tuning booking for May 31. Amidst it all my hunt for a part time summer job is not going far. I'm still looking but without much time to devote to it. I have been making progress with getting all the income tax forms finished. Amanda's are done and she gets money back from both the Feds and the State. My mom's are finished, too, and she gets a lot back from both. Mine are half done and I'll be paying out! I hope to get that chore done by the start of next week.

And it's been nice not to be spending hours on the phone with Medicare et. al. Wonderful, in fact, thinking that all is well and that it's just a matter of waiting for the insurance card to come through the mail.

It's been a week and it hasn't yet. I guess I'll be on the phone tomorrow. Please, oh please may this be all done!

And finally, after a long winter's absence. He's back!!!!!! For two mornings in a row Squirt has come to the sliding glass door for a peanut.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Bears

Oh my.

Just a lion. But a big one at that.

This picture is for Claire. We visited the 'motherland' in June - July of 1966.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In the Thick of It and Sick of It

or...the nasty side of insurance, Medicare, and a tale of stolen money.

Oh yes, here we go...

This is not as much griping as it is relating a series of events. Y'all already know how annoyed I am!

So let me begin the second week of January. This is at a time when I didn't write down names, dates, or number of calls actually made. This is when we first found out that there was a screw-up 'somewhere' in the system that resulted in my mom's prescription drug coverage being denied. At that point, I thought it could be solved with a few phone calls. I was naive.

From that first call to her new drug insurance company to ask, "What's up with this?", here is the list of idiots (I'm sorry, is that too rude? Naw.) that I have spoken to, through Wednesday, February 27th.

At Alcatel-Lucent, the company that my dad retired from and which controlled the benefit plan, I have spoken to Vashawn 6 times. Oh, Vashawn, you never should have been so demeaning. You shouldn't have implied that I was lying. You shouldn't have spewed out the canned response, "I understand your frustration, ma'am", a half dozen times in a row. In response to your poor public relations attitude your boss will be receiving a letter from me as soon as this matter is settled. Trust me, it won't be good for you.

At Humana, the company my mom enrolled in, I've spoken to Jason and to Tina. They have tried their best but their hands are tied by Medicare.

At Medco, the company that will not appropriately disenroll my mom, I've spoken to Debra, Linon, Nosa, and Marquanei. They are very talented at passing the buck. I get a different story each time I call Medco. It's beginning to seem like the company enrolled my mother without authorization. Now they tell Medicare that they have resolved the issue with my mom. Problem, folks. THEY HAVEN'T!

And finally, Medicare. The government agency that is so screwed up they will believe anybody but the Medicare recipient. At Medicare I have spoken to Dwayne, Karen, Jessica, David, Jacqueline, Marcus, Alana, Kim, Pammy, and Timothy. Nearly every one of these individuals has told me that they have taken care of the problem and that within 48 hours I will receive a confirmation call. Hasn't happened. Three filed complaints, Pammy disconnected me and I shall never forgive her for having to redial and wait an extra 15 minutes for an available representative. Which brings me to the last, Timothy, who had the audacity to suggest that my mother try to reinstate Medco (who finally, incorrectly agreed to terminate her coverage 2/29/08, rather than retro-actively) and pay their premium for an additional year. Yes, the company that has been unbelievably incompetent.

I think not. And I told Timothy a definite NO. Timothy has now re-enrolled my mother in the Humana plan, effective today, March 1. I asked what would happen about the prescriptions paid through the temporary coverage of two weeks that Humana had provided assuming that all would be made retro-active. Timothy didn't know. I asked who should pay for the medicines that my mother had paid full price for in Feb. He said Medco. But, she didn't make any monthly insurance premium payments to them. He didn't know what would happen.

Strange that Medco would insist that they were her insurance plan yet they never billed her for the coverage. Strange that they would say that she enrolled on 12/12/07 when she was already on that plan. (She requested termination effective 12/31/07). Why would anyone enroll in a plan that they already belonged to?

This is more than screw-y. Next, we get to wait and see if she does indeed get the letter of acceptance and the membership card from Humana.

Now for me. I try very hard to give the benefit of the doubt. I also try very hard not to exactly identify, in public, individuals with whom I have a gripe. I'm very close to making an exception. I won't, but a few of you may know of whom I write.

At the close of November 2007, I phoned an order to a small company that I have done business with for probably 10 years. Obviously, I'd never had a problem. After the first few orders which the total costs were charged to my credit card, I changed to being billed upon shipment and I would pay immediately by check. When I say immediately, I mean the check is in the mail the next day. Really. So when I received the shipment I knew the bill would be enclosed. When I opened the box and examined the merchandise, I was astounded to find that it was defective. I put the merchandise back in it's original box along with the bill, wrote a note explaining why I had returned it, and shipped it back. A couple days later the company owner called me to apologize for the defective cloth (pinholes in a bellows cloth that should be airtight). He had no other stock to send as a replacement. I thought that was the end of the tale.

Until I looked at my credit card bill that arrived two weeks later! He had charged the amount for the cloth to my credit card without my permission! (Had the cloth been usable I would have sent payment...I would have double paid.) Since it is hard to actually catch him 'in', I decided to send an email stating that I was dismayed that he charged my card without permission, and since the merchandise had been returned, to please remove the charge from my card. I heard nothing back. I waited. My January credit card bill arrived and the amount had not been removed. I called the credit card company.

Yeah, more phone calling. Their representative said to give the supplier a call and ask one more time. I called and got voice mail. I left a detailed message. I never heard back. A few days before my February bill was due to arrive, I called the credit card company to see if the charge had been removed.

Nope. So, the credit card company has temporarily removed the charge and filed a dispute with the company. They give them up to 65 days to respond. In the meantime, I have heard that another piano tech has been unable to reach this guy. I wonder how much money he's holding on to that isn't his?

And now for the good news...
I've almost finished doing all our income tax returns. A total of 21 pages!