Tin lizzies

Sep. 7th, 2017 02:37 pm
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Today, many 100+ year old cars have been going by. Steve knows one of the people in this group, and she stopped to say hi. We got to look at her car. It is a Renault. I can't recall what year, but pre-WW1 certainly. It is a two-seater, open. The engine has valves on the outside, and total loss oiling. The headlights are acetylene, and would have been an accessory installed by the dealer back in 1910 or whenever. The steering wheel is on the right. Hand crank to start, and rather challenging to do; it took her a while to get it started again to go on her way.

Their car club does this run every year. They trailer their cars to a meetup point in Dearborn. They then drive to Lansing, on a route chosen for cars that may only be able to go 25mph, so, basically the route is over the same backroads that are also popular with bicyclists. It takes them all day to get to Lansing. They spend the night there, and will return to Dearborn tomorrow. They have at least two pickups with flatbed trailers traveling with them, and there has already been some attrition, some cars always fail to make it. All part of the adventure. Dearborn to Lansing is what, 100 miles? Probably more with their backroads routing, dunno how much more. But that's a long trek for some of these machines. It takes all day.

Our visitors are involved in organizing the event, and they suggested they they and others might like to stop here tomorrow. We'd love that. But I also pointed out that the library across the street, controls a nice flat parking lot and the director would probably be thrilled to host a planned stop in future. I think it would be awesome to get the whole crew to stop there next year. I am going to keep campaigning for it. :-)
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Back in June I wrote about the leak in our shower floor. Well, the new tile guy came and worked on it. They ended up taking up the entire floor and redoing it. I was impressed by tile guy #2; he predicted what would be found and he was right. There are supposed to be weep holes on the side of the drain, to take in water that has soaked through the tiles and into the concrete beneath. Because tile is not actually waterproof and neither is concrete; the waterproof is due to the rubber membrane under the concrete. So the weep holes let water come in the sides, from the concrete above the rubber membrane. He said there were no weep holes and this causes the concrete to become waterlogged. And the rubber membrane is supposed to slope towards the drain, at a rate of 1/2" per foot, and probably doesn't. So when it can't drain, it overflows at the outside edges.

So when they took up the tile and concrete, that is exactly what they found. The drain hardware had those holes predrilled, but the first tile guy had caulked them closed! The rubber membrane was installed flat with turned up edge, like a shallow flat pan. And the spot that was leaking was the lowest point on the edge. The first "fix" was in this area, but was revealed to be just more silicone caulk, which doesn't adhere to the rubber membrane, so it still leaked.

He used the cement to sculpt the floor under the membrane to have the correct slope. Then put in a new membrane that, in the spot where it had to go to three planes, he used a vulcanized patch to get around that geometric difficulty. Then, more cement on top of the membrane, bringing it back closer to flat, for walking on. And tile over it. It looks good and matches well at the edge.

We waited a couple weeks to make sure, and it hasn't leaked.

Then a plasterer came and patched the ceiling, as well as taking care of "nail pops" here and there. And today the painters came. They painted the patched spots as well as touching up a few other things they spotted. They are just cleaning up now.

So, we have our house reassembled and will soon have it to ourselves again!
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A couple weeks ago, Steve went to the Secretary of State (Michigan has a weird name for the DMV). He wanted to get a historic plate for his 1952 BMW motorcycle. There's a thing where, if you can acquire a vintage plate with the right year (like, at a swap meet) you can get it made legal for your historic vehicle. So, he had found a plate and wanted it registered for this bike. This threw the people at the branch office into a tizzy. But they eventually tracked down the right form, helped him fill it out, collected all the required paperwork from him, and said he'd get his registration in the mail.

Historic vehicles get a huge discount on insurance, but my insurance company won't believe it's historic just based on age - you have to send them a copy of the historic registration. But you can't register it without insurance, so you have to pay the higher price for the insurance, to get the registration, and then when you get the registration you send it in for the refund. So we have been watching for that paperwork. The check had not been cashed and he was talking about going over there to check on it.

Well, today a fat envelope arrived. It was not addressed to us, but the return address was us. It came here with a big red rubberstamp from the post office, saying it was returned for postage. It had no stamps on it.

It was all the paperwork he had given the Secretary of State, and his check (dated August 14), and his forms. Apparently the local office just bundled it up, put it in an envelope, and mailed it. With no stamps, and our return address.

So much for doing the paperwork in person. Shoulda just mailed it himself - at least he would have put postage on it!

FWIW, after lot of searching I finally located that form on the SoS website. It says the branch offices cannot do this, and to mail it in. http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1585_1595_52364-205688--,00.html

Anyways, if you are registering a historic vehicle, don't bother going in. Print the form and mail it. Don't forget the stamps.


Aug. 23rd, 2017 08:44 am
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Monday morning I watched from my desk as the library set up an EZ-Up outside the front door, put up barrels and tape along the street, and put a long row of chairs along the front wall. What's up? I went to their website to see. They were having a program for the eclipse. Starting at 1pm they would be live streaming it in the big meeting room downstairs, and giving away eclipse glasses, limited quantities, one pair per family.

Well before noon, people started to arrive. They brought their chairs and umbrellas and coolers, and lined up along the side of the building. By 12:30 the queue was snaking out through the parking lot. It was like people lining up for concert tickets. The neighborhood was parked up for as far as I could see from my second floor window. Streams of cars rolled by, dropping off kids.

Steve went down there and talked to some of the people. They were queuing for the limited pairs of eclipse glasses. At 1pm the line started to move and within a half hour or so they all got through it. The crowds just milled about. Families had spread blankets on the grass by the sidewalk and set up their lawn chairs. It was like a festival. They estimate they got about 1000 people. I don't know if they had many come in to look at the live stream - I thought that sounded kinda dumb, I mean, we have all seen photos of eclipses and even a live stream is just more screen time. The action was outside!

Steve coaxed me to leave my desk and come out. We took some lawn chairs out and sat with the crowd. There was no shortage of glasses; Steve already had a pair and he went to the desk and got me my own pair. We sat and watched the partial eclipse. Not sure what the percentage was, but the sun got down to a thin crescent. There were a few clouds obscuring it, off and on, but for the most part we could see it. At the peak, the light did get kind of eerie; the shadows were very sharp yet it was not exactly dim, but less bright than you would expect when the shadows are so sharp. I thought it was almost more interesting to look around me, than to look through the glasses at the sun.

About five minutes after the peak, heavy storm clouds rolled in front of the sun, and five minutes after that it was raining, and the festival evaporated in minutes.
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Last weekend was Dexter Days.

I took Friday as vacation and we enjoyed a people-watching lunch on the sidewalk at Aubrees, then a brief wander through the fair.

Steve's sidecar rig is still torn down so he rode as passenger in mine, for the parade. Our friend George brought his sidecar rig, and his granddaughter as passenger, so we still had two. But no picking up of random passengers, this year.

Supper was a bbq with friends and neighbors, and afterward we had a great spot for the fireworks.

Still loving this neighborhood. :-)

Low bridge

Aug. 10th, 2017 09:19 am
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I cannot see this from my office window; the library is in the way. But around the corner from me there is a bridge where the train tracks go over the main road into town. It's a historic arched stone bridge, low and narrow enough that people driving stupidly large SUVs have to take turns going through.

Steve just returned from walking to the bakery and he reports that there's a big panel truck stuck under the bridge this morning. From my desk I could hear sounds like heavy equipment and also some alarms, and apparently this is why.

Dexter is already a choke point for commuter traffic heading into Ann Arbor from the hobby farms and large lot subdivisions out north of town. There is no convenient detour. I bet the traffic is backed up for miles, on the other side of the bridge.
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Is anyone else having bizarre interactions with DTE?

For the last six or eight months, they don't seem to know what our bills are or when they are due. We are in their electronic billing program. Sometimes their site works and we can see what looks like normal data out there. Other times, we can't log in, or we see things that are completely different from the day before. They send bills, and other bills, and notices that we haven't paid bills we have paid, and apologies for the incorrect bill they sent last time.

We'll get an emailed form letter saying that our bill is past due as of some date that is weeks in the future and if we don't pay it we will get a shutoff notice. But when we log on to the site our current bill is already paid. Then the next day, we got another emailed form letter saying they apologize for the confusion and to disregard the previous day's message.

It seems like every couple days, some other weird thing happens.

Anyone else seeing this? Anyone know any gossip about what is going on? Did they get a new computer system and if so are they suing the vendor yet?

I would like to see our DTE bill settle down so we can actually figure out how efficient the new house is.


Aug. 4th, 2017 04:51 pm
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Facilities management at my work just sent an email blast to all employees letting us know that alligators have been spotted in the creek outside the office, and not to try to catch them.

I am 800 miles from the office but this makes my day. Also, this thread is worthless without pics!

The office is in the Boston suburbs so I think the alligators will disappear next winter if they just ignore them. But I think they'll be doing stuff anyway.
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About two weeks ago, I saw a Washtenaw County truck pull up out front. I was on the phone and couldn't catch them. But we think it was the soil erosion permit inspector. We have heard nothing so today Steve called. They said they mailed us a letter last week and as soon as we pay the last inspection fee it will be closed. The letter isn't here yet but Steve is driving over and will pay in person before they close today. The office is ten minutes from our house and the fee is small, like 23 dollars. Then it will be done, yay!

We continue to watch news of flash flooding an hour north of here or half an hour south of here, while getting almost no rain. But the grass seems to be established enough that it's just normal late summer brown, instead of disappearing.

The hydrangeas need water every day or they collapse. Neighbors have the same Annabelle variant and they're not doing this, so I think ours are still establishing. And that's not nearly as much watering as we needed for the grass.

I think our days of giant water bills are done.
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A couple years ago Steve bought this 1957 Ariel Square Four with a Steib sidecar. It belonged to a guy we knew, Bill, who had bought it back in the 90s, at one of the vintage bike meets. The person who sold it to Bill had done a complete restoration on it and set it up with the sidecar.

Bill is a big guy and he found that he was not very comfortable riding it. He struggled to kick start it since he has big feet and the starter is on the sidecar side, not much room for big feet down in there. Also, I think the sidecar handling made him more nervous than he expected. So he barely rode it, and ended up just storing it for 20 years. He still liked just owning it and it took some persuading for him to give it up, but Steve eventually persuaded him to sell.

One funny side note here, is that Steve was going through a box of old pictures, from the days before digital cameras. And he found photographs of this exact bike! Perhaps he photographed it at the same show where Bill bought it. And now he owns it himself.

This summer, the bike started to break spokes in the rear wheel. A few weeks ago Steve managed to finish the Triumph he had been working on, and it was the Ariel's turn. He took the sidecar off and put the bike on the workstand, and took the wheel off and fixed it. He put on some new tires. Then he turned attention to the engine. He went in to adjust the valves and found one was completely dry and rust in that whole corner, flakes falling down from there. Ruh-roh.

So for the past week he has been doing a complete tear down. The engine is now out of the bike and its guts are spread out in a splendid array. Last night I went out there and he was just pulling the pistons out of the ultrasonic cleaner. He found some bearings that have overheated and have melty galled spots; they will need to be pressed out and replaced. He's determine that it has non-stock gearing and instead of it being lower gearing for the sidecar, it is higher gearing! He might change it, he says he has other gears. He has found various things worn below spec. He has got the oil passages cleaned out.

One of the big hurdles was getting the head off. It was held with some huge number of bolts, but even when they were all out, it wouldn't budge. He didn't want to break any fins, obviously, and there's precious little to get ahold of. He made a jig with steel bars bolted to it, and even with leverage he still couldn't budge it. The thing that finally worked, was to remove the one way valve from a compression tester and push the head loose with lots of compressed air. Once it was broken loose he was able to wiggle it the rest of the way off.

He says overall it isn't as bad as he feared when he saw that rust. He has done this before with his other Ariel, and having some past experience and a really good workshop to do it in, makes it a joy to dig in like this. I am impressed; I have done some wrenching but never this deep into a motor. I don't even know what half these pieces are.

I guess it is almost time to order parts.

The paint job done by that restoring guy, back in the 90s, has suffered some since then. Bill dropped something on it and dinged the sidecar trunk lid, and Steve dropped the bike on its side in the driveway shortly after taking the sidecar off. And it just looks a little dulled, from age I guess. It's funny how factory paint is less harmed by scuffs and fading, than aftermarket paint is. I suppose an upcoming project will be to fix the paint. But for now it's getting the engine put into tip top shape.
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I never realized how chatty bicyclists are until I lived in this neighborhood - even though I was a bicyclist! (Please don't leave a comment that you hate bicyclists. This is my space and I am tired of hearing it.)

Hundreds of bicycles go by here every day. It's a quiet side street so I hear snatches of their conversation drifting up on the breeze. I swear the guy that just rode by was saying something about his brother and a spider in Minnesota. That's about as much as I ever hear before they are gone. One or two phrases, often mysterious. It's a fun game, to weave stories around this stuff. Does his brother have a Can-Am Spyder? Was he bitten by a spider? What kind of spiders do they have in Minnesota?

I remember chatting with the other bicyclists, and it never occurred to me that people could hear us. You get enough wind in your ears, that you automatically raise your voice, but other bicyclists are still not always easy to hear; you end up repeating yourselves. It doesn't feel like your voice would carry that much.

I would say they still have a similar level of privacy, to what they think they have - the Minnesota spider thing is about as much as I ever catch; I'm not overhearing enough to make it juicy gossip. The voices are often gone before I quite realize what they are.

I love it that we get all these bicyclists. They're like colorful birds swooping by.


Jul. 19th, 2017 06:36 pm
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The library seems to be handing out whistles, this week. I keep hearing kids in the parking lot, tootling away.

It's not loud enough at this distance to bother me. I am more bemused than anything. But I can't imagine this is popular with parents.

Edited to add:
The whistling has continued, and finally I stopped by to ask: What's going on? Turns out the whistles are the prize for a summer reading program. The woman at the front desk thinks it's an odd choice too. I could tell it wasn't her program decision. :-)
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Every Friday night, Dexter has live music in the gazebo. This gazebo is in a little triangular park, right in the center of town. It's a nice space with lots of big shady trees. Across the street from the park, there is a Dairy Queen, the old school kind with a walk up window, no inside seating. There is also a large restaurant (Aubrees) with sidewalk tables, and on the other side a tiny BBQ with patio seating. It's about two blocks from our house. So on a warm summer night it is fun to wander down there, get a sidewalk table, and enjoy the music and people watching.

Last Friday was a surf rock band. Intense guitar licks, no vocals. We eventually got our table and settled in. Just as we were seated, it started raining. The kind of rain where you get a few enormous raindrops but it stops before everything is even wet. We had an umbrella on our table and we were sure the rain would pass, so we didn't budge. There wasn't even any wind. The rain was intermittent while we ordered and our food arrived. I suppose there was thunder but with the surf band we couldn't hear it. We were entertained by the table next to us, which had a half dozen kids under ten, who were very excited. They pressed together under their umbrella and shrieked charmingly whenever the rain picked up enough for someone to feel drops hitting them.

The rain picked up, and then the wind did too. We still thought it would pass. But then the wind gusted so hard it started lifting the umbrellas and knocking over the tables, and the rain become a torrent. The kids ran for the building and the restaurant employees came and chivvied us all inside. It started hailing and the sidewalk turned into a rushing stream bed; my shoes filled with water on the way to the door. The kids were shrieking. The music stopped and we saw the audience was crowding into the gazebo with the band.

The restaurant had no empty tables inside to put all these people, so we sat with our plates of food on our laps, in chairs in the aisles and corridors. The waitstaff handed out piles of napkins for people to dry themselves. You could see the aftermath of the adrenalin, everyone looked a bit too animated for their own good. Our server kept apologizing. But I thought it was a fun adventure. :-) The hail was exciting but not large enough to hurt anything.

By the time we finished eating, the sun was out and the sidewalks were almost dry.

Our drought seems to have broken. It's raining hard right now.


Jul. 6th, 2017 06:05 pm
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After several extremely soggy weeks, it stopped raining long enough for us to get our topsoil delivered. And long enough for the grass to grow in the swales without washing away. But it has stayed dry ever since, so dry that all our new grass is drying up. I wouldn't care if it were established enough to survive going dormant, but we are still trying to establish it, so we are having to water it. I am dreading the water bill. And the city is starting up water restrictions. In our neighborhood of older houses, watering isn't as common as it is in the new subs with their golf course lawns. No one in our neighborhood has a sprinkler system. It seems weird to be doing this here. But the soil erosion inspector is due for their bi-monthly visit, very soon. I hope we can keep the grass from drying up and blowing away, until they sign off on us. If so I expect we will pass; we no longer have any bare dirt or eroding patches.

We are also having to water our new tree like mad. It is droopy and some leaves are turning brown.

The rest of the landscaping is turning out well. We have planted more lilacs, roses of sharon, hydrangeas, and a climbing rose. Also, wintergeen, astilbe, iris, primrose, and toad lily. A few areas that are getting more sun due to the trees we took out, are awash in orange day lilies, the kind that grow wild here. We discovered a couple honeysuckles overgrown in the jungle, cut back their competition, and they bloomed. The flowerbed areas are mostly shady and we have them heavily mulched, so they don't suffer like the front lawn and the poor new tree. For all it's been dry, we haven't had sustained hot days, so far, and that helps the shady areas too.

It's looking much less bare these days. I still want to put in some redbud trees but other than that I think we are over the biggest hurdles. From here on out we are fine tuning an existing garden, instead of starting from nothing.
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The new tree was installed this morning on the city owned land in front of the house. It's a maple. The tree guy says that it's bigger than what was ordered; the city got a bargain. The city ordered a three inch tree but he had this five inch one that was reaching its sell-by date so they upgraded us. It looks a little bit limp but we can only hope it will perk up now that its roots are in the ground. He wasn't terribly informative about how it should be cared for; he just said that if the temps are above 90, we should water it every week. I thought new trees needed more watering than just that?

We plan to get more trees but the others will be smaller.

Also this week we had a tree service come and take out the worst trees from the group along the border with the neighbor, and trim the rest. They took out the box elders and choke cherries, left the maples and locusts. We didn't lose very much shade, and it should reduce the amount of sticky stuff and limbs that are dropped, and allow those maples to grow into nicer shapes. They did the cutting/trimming on Tuesday and yesterday they ground the stumps. Within a couple hours of the stump crew leaving, the wind picked up, and a large branch, about 4" in diameter, fell out of one of the maples they just trimmed! The neighbor called us in a complete panic - she was outside and saw it happen. She says it came down with a huge crashing sound, and missed the car she parks underneath the tree on her side, by inches. Steve went over and soothed her, and dragged the debris to the curb. The city chipper truck comes on Wednesdays and will take it away. I suppose we should call the tree service and complain that they missed this weak branch.

The soil erosion permit inspector came by about an hour ago. We still don't have enough grass to close the permit. They want us to put down more straw. Also the muddy scar from when they planted the tree, two hours earlier, was sadly visible in the front lawn and had no straw on it yet. They'll be back to check us again in another 60 days.


May. 14th, 2017 12:57 pm
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After two weeks of delay due to wet weather and equipment troubles, the topsoil we ordered finally arrived on Friday, and we could finish assembling flower beds. Yesterday, our friend Margaret came over and brought us a carload of plants, which we duly installed in the yard. Holy instant garden, batman! Lilac, forsythia, hostas, coral bells, ferns, etc. It looks great out there. Other friends have promised us even more plants, and I have ordered some additional plants from garden catalogs.

The city is due to bring us the new tree any day now, so we are holding off on doing anything in that part of the yard until we see where they end up putting it. But the rest of the place is coming together well.


May. 9th, 2017 12:26 pm
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Last Sunday I fell again. Not as bad as the fall I took last August; I don't feel crippled and I didn't have too much struggle getting up. But I hit the back of my head pretty hard and had quite a goose egg, and it's still sore. It feels like when you put your hair up and it makes your scalp hurt. I don't think I need to go to the doctor. But I am taking it easy. Yesterday in yoga I was not liking to change the orientation of my head so I stopped early.

In other news:

They ground our stump last week and they say the new tree will be installed next week. We are contributing to the cost, to upgrade to a nicer tree than what the city would normally pay for.

Steve has completed the "garage bypass". It is a woodchip walkway from the driveway, to the kitchen door, which allows people to come to that door even when the garage is closed, without having to walk through the mud and clamber up a too-high step onto the concrete of the breezeway.

Our grass is sprouting. So are some tulips - the deer must have found something else to eat this year and didn't munch them.
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On Monday, after the accident, the tree crew left behind the three foot tall stump, and a log the size of a small car. Today they are back. The job that was being done by the young man who hurt himself on Monday, is now being done by the owner of the company. Who is wearing chaps. That stump was left halfway sliced off and now he is finishing it. The second chainsaw guy who was here on Monday, is here again doing his bit; he has started cutting off pieces of the enormous log. Just getting that log carved into pieces they can move with their equipment, is a big challenge. It is a section of the tree trunk about 15 feet long, that is the part where all the largest branches split out. So it's not just a cylinder - it is a lumpy mass of stumps. It is so heavy that with the rain this week it has been sinking into our barely sprouted lawn. We were just getting past the mud pit stage out there and these guys have churned it back up.

We also have carpenters here working on the house trim. One of them makes art furniture and was wishing he had a way to take that huge log. If he could just move it to his workshop, he could make so many cool things out of it. But you'd need a crane. A big crane. And a semi truck to haul it away. It will have to be cut up on site, just to be able to move it with their equipment. So it will go for firewood. Really challenging firewood.

Update 10:30am:
I don't think the owner is as good at this job, as the guy who was hurt. Even if he does wear his chaps. He is trying to take awkward shortcuts. He's tearing up the ground a LOT, circling around on his log moving machine, trying to pick up too-large logs, from different angles, instead of just getting his chainsaw and slicing again. He did finally cut one piece in half, and even then his machine could barely lift the halves. There is a small stump in his direct path to the trailer, from a smaller tree cut down last year, and he keeps trying to run over it and getting stuck. He looks frustrated and tired. And now the guy with the trailer looks like he's saying it's overloaded, and they are struggling to move the logs that are already loaded. I think they will need to make another trip.

The hurt guy was graceful and clever. I suspect they all miss him a lot.
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We got word that the young man from the tree service is going to be OK. He had 14 stitches but they expect him to have no lasting effects besides a scar and a story.


Apr. 18th, 2017 12:36 pm
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Everyone in town seems to think we CHOSE to have this tree chopped down. People keep asking us why we did it. I am tempted to put up a sign saying "Sorry! Not our fault, not our choice!"

I suppose in time we'll all get used to the shorn look of the front yard. We'll plant other trees, and with more sun we can plant lilacs. But I wish we could have kept our tree.
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