Category Archives: Family

My "Daughter's" Project

My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.

As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.

I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.

I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.

At any rate, here are some photos.

Here, the guillotine is mostly finished and assembled. You can see I was making a set of stairs, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but my daughter insisted was necessary.
I made the blade out of plastic, so it’s incapable of cutting, the spacer out of some Oak I had to purchase to get the 1/4″ thickness I needed for a few pieces, and I made the counterweight out of a piece of 2×4 that’s probably been sitting in our garage for the last two decades.
If you compare the stairs to what I started with and have depicted in the first photo, above, you’ll note I ultimately ended with four steps. I think it was because I realized I’d made them too tall to begin with and had to scale them down. The steps and the table/platform are made of Oak and here the whole thing has been treated with Watco Danish oil.
Getting the blade to actually drop was a bit of a challenge because cutting the channels on the two uprights so the blade assembly would be able to slide smoothly up and drop fairly quickly down was challenging, and they weren’t quite as smooth as I would have liked them to be. Nevertheless, I got it done after a bit of trial and error.
We have a little squeeze toy I picked up at a conference a long time ago from Hitachi. It’s a Sumo wrestler and, unfortunately, his head has managed to depart his body, though we keep him around (why, I don’t know). My wife thought he fit rather nicely with the device, so here ’tis. Next photo is from the other side.
That’s All, Folks.

WTF Happened?

I just introduced #WTFWednesday, as in WTF happened, on Facebook. Here is the photograph I presented to my friends that I just discovered in my seemingly never-ending caches of paperwork, photos, etc., that keep popping up. I believe this is my 1st grade class at Chase St. Elementary School, in Panorama City, California. After WWII, Panorama City advertised itself as the “Heart of the Valley,” the San Fernando Valley, that is . . . like totally.

I only know what happened to one of the kids in this photo; the one in the Hopalong Cassidy shirt, third from the right, third row up. The kid with the large, goofy ears. Last I heard, he was still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.


The Farmdale Boyz

This pic was taken in about 1972 or 1973. I lived for about two or three years with these guys in two three-bedroom homes, side-by-side in North Hollywood, CA. Two sets of brothers and two close friends. In the background, at one time or another, those two tanks held a couple of snakes. One of them was named “Ellis A. Piary” (because that’s where he/she was rudely captured by one of our number) and the other, naturally, was named “Lefty.” Two of the people in this photo are not on Facebook, but everyone’s still alive!! — with Rick London, Loren Goetz, Stephen Ladd, Tom Shannon and Mark London.

Sometime after this picture was taken, I traveled to Cuba with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade and, shortly after my return in the Summer of ’73, I began attending law school. There have been some changes over the years, and a couple of us don’t talk much with each other, but for the most part we’ve all remained friends.


Back At It!

Welp . . . after a Summer vacation punctuated by a month of Summer School, the new school year began yesterday. As it now stands, I have another three years of taking my youngest to High School and picking her up. That means I will have just celebrated my 75th birthday when she graduates, unless I can afford to buy her a car before then.

Problem is, She has so many issues I’m worried she will be a real danger behind the wheel, not so much to the world, but to herself. I should be able to afford driving lessons for her pretty soon, then we’ll find out how well she’s going to do.

I have to admit I’m reaching the point where I really miss being a grown-up, solely a grown-up. If I live to be 90 I’ll have plenty of time to enjoy my children as adults, and plenty of time to once again enjoy being an adult. Since I’m already close to 13 years older than my father was when he died, I’m not sure I’ll make it that far. Which, basically, leads me to believe I need to just appreciate what I have now and stop worrying about the future. I’m normally pretty good at that, but it seems the beginning of school has jarred my psyche somewhat.


First Ninja Foodi Chicken

Resting Chick Face

Purchased a Ninja Foodi about three weeks ago and, so far, I’ve cooked bacon and a pork chop, rice, and broccoli dinner with it, though the latter did not come out as expected. Probably because I used the timing for steak, which I’m pretty sure is a bit less dense than pork. The recipe called for the meat to start out as frozen and, when it was done, it wasn’t actually done. Also, it called for a cup of rice and a cup of water to be placed in the bottom, which I did, but the rice came out dried and stuck together (big time), which tells me I needed more water. Actually, the recipe called for chicken stock, but I didn’t have any, so there’s that. I can’t remember what else I cooked.

This recipe called for a mixture of equal parts honey, lemon juice, and hot water, along with two Tbsp of salt to be put in the bottom of the pot. I then added a half dozen sprigs of thyme, six crushed garlic cloves, and a Tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns. Pressure cooked it for 25 minutes (a few more than called for, to ensure doneness), then brushed it with oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, after which I air fried it for 10 minutes.

The girls loved it. It was tasty, moist, and tender. Will definitely do this again. I still want to figure out how to cook a three course meal in it at once, or almost at once. Think I’ll try it again soon.

PS – This was an organic, free-range chicken from Trader Joe’s. They swear it was raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. I hope that’s true, cause it was expensive, and I’d hate to think I spent that money for nothing.


I Feel Much Better Now

I think I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago. Shortly after my oldest participated in her final dance recital at Santa Susana High School, I was hit by the realization my baby is now an emancipated adult. She just got notification of her registration to vote yesterday. I was a little beside myself but, as you can tell, it passed fairly quickly, in large part due to numerous friends who were willing to listen and allow me to vent, which helped me understand what I was feeling.
Aimee Grajeeatin’

As many of you know, the impending graduation and emancipation of my oldest has hit me kind of hard with a case of “empty nest” syndrome. I know my grief is unwarranted, especially since she’s not leaving the house for the foreseeable future, and I know I’ll get over it; already am. Please don’t worry about me. Two things (among many) I’ve learned so far:

1. My greatest sense of loss involves time and it’s having passed. “Did I do the right things?” “did I help her enough?”; “did I neglect her by paying too much attention to her younger sister, who desperately needed it (still does)?”

2. Merely talking to Aimee helps for two reasons. The first is she reassures me I have been a good father and she feels no lack of love or attention. That feels good. The second is related, because talking to just about any teen with tude is often enough to make you want to cut yourself. Doesn’t feel as good, but I’m real familiar with it.

I really appreciate everyone who has reacted to, or commented on, my cries of agony. Special thanks to those whose shoulders I cried on, both figuratively and literally. Y’all are wonderful therapists.


He Found a Clam!

I don’t make it a habit to post much from Twitter or Facebook here, but I couldn’t resist sharing this one. Our dog, Angel, paws her tennis balls while holding a rope or another ball in her mouth, but she’s nowhere near as animated as this bad boy.


What Would We Do Without Our Fur Babies?

I’ve always loved dogs (and cats), but I hadn’t had a dog in my life for something like 40 years after I had to put my beloved Heinse down when he developed an inoperable lesion on his spine, which paralyzed him. I suppose I could have developed some kind of wheelchair for him, but I didn’t have much money and I’ve never been terribly handy.

During the interim, I’ve had lots of cats; they’re easier to take care of and deal with, IMO. However, about two and a half years ago, Linda (my wife) came across this little sweetheart and she entered our lives. I’m very pleased.

I learned something interesting in the last few weeks. I was going through a bit of “empty nest” syndrome issues following my oldest daughter’s final dance recital in High School. The reality of her growing up and leaving really caught up with me, but the part that hit me the hardest was my sudden fear I’d screwed up; I hadn’t done the right things or I’d done some of the wrong things and I would never be able to make up for it! It was debilitating for a while. I’m better now, thank you very much.

Before this all happened, though, I was lamenting the reality that I could no longer hug and kiss my little girl, as she was a teenager (and had been for some time) and wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing, though she will let me kiss her goodbye . . . sometimes. What I realized was that I was able to get some of the closeness and the satisfaction of showering affection on Angel, our dog. Harder to do with a cat, but dogs can be super affectionate. This has got to explain why we have so many pets in this country. We can shower affection on our fur babies for their entire lives. They never lock themselves in their bedroom for days, ignoring those who labored mightily that they may have a good life.

So . . . let’s hear it for fur babies.


An Old Poem

My oldest is almost 18 and, as a result, one of the things we need to do is transfer ownership of several documents to her. This is turning out to be a bit more problematic than I had hoped. I can’t seem to find a couple of documents I thought I knew the location of. I have some serious searching to do or we need certified copies of a few things. I’ll have more to say about this but, while I was searching I found an old, fairly silly poem I wrote about 30 – 35 years ago and I thought I’d post it here so I can throw away the paper on which it’s written. So . . . here goes:

I can write a poem
I can pen some verse
I can make it florid
I can do it terse
I can be profane
I can wax profound
Or lay it on real thick
And sling it by the pound

I know. Makes no sense; means even less, but I wrote it and it’s my poem . . . and I’m stickin’ to it. So there!!


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


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