Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Must Take All

In the home where we have been staying, the phone line and internet connection has been essentially disabled for the past week.  There is such severe interference on the line that voice communication is almost impossible.  The response from a service desk personnel to one of my calls for repair could have been amusing if it hadn't been so frustrating:

"I can hear someone is there but I can't understand what you're saying!"

The phone line needs repair, you goof.

Unfortunately, Alaska Communications Systems, the provider for both our phone line and internet, has a Policy that the account holder, and only the account holder, can order repair work before they can issue a service ticket.

Unfortunately, the account holder is on a boat anchored outside of Puerto Williams, a small isolated city of roughly 2000 people on the Beagle Canal in the far southern tip of Chile.

Unfortunately, the satellite phone the account holder carries for emergency communication ends up dropping the call before the interminable maze of routing messages and holds can be navigated in reaching the ACS service desk.

Unfortunately, the email capability the account holder has through their single sideband radio on their boat isn't acceptable to ACS because it doesn't originate from one of the two email accounts they have on file for the account holder, even though it clearly states and identifies the account holder and that they wish to have the phone line fixed.

It's one of those policies with a huge, bold, capital "P."

To be fair, I suspect the competent folk at the ACS service desk are aware of that.  In my last conversation with them they were actually quite apologetic and conciliatory - he kept answering my questions with the disclaimer: "What I have been told by our business office is..."

In other words, please don't shoot the messenger.

Days like these aren't easy nor fun.  But life's like that.  One day you might find a great treasure at a garage sale, then the next day all you can do is build the box that will help you hold and remember it.

And you must take all.

Western Red Cedar, Tung oil finish

Friday, May 13, 2011


Theresa has been starting to ride her bicycle daily to work which I think is quite an accomplishment.  It's a 25 mile round trip, and the benefits she gains with the drop of elevation in the morning is paid dearly on her uphill climb home.  It's a testament to her endurance and inner strength that she continues to leave each morning, pushing her bike out of the garage with panniers stuffed with her lunch, change of clothes, and books.

Bikes are modes of transportation that have been around for quite some time.  About.com records the earliest form of two wheeled transportation to be

"in 1790 by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France. Called a celerifere, it was a wooden scooter-like device with no pedals or steering."

From there we gained the velocipede, the penny farthing, and pneumatic tires by 1888.  Today bicycles have advanced to include all kinds of exotic components and carbon fiber.  Take a tour of your local bike shop - the sticker shock will reveal just how far this technology has come.

But our bikes are old.  We love them, and they have seen a lot of miles.  Both are Gary Fishers of mid 90's vintage that, along with all of the local use, have taken us on two self supported tours through the southern mountains of British Columbia; a road tour of Highway 1 between Calgary and Vancouver, followed two years later by the abandoned and scenic Kettle Valley Railway between Castlegar and Hope.  

And they've been abused.  For the last eight years they've seen a lot of their life strapped to the lifelines of our sailboat.  They've hauled propane, groceries and kids with the help of a Chariot double trailer and navigated the trails and loops of Unalaska Island in the Aleutians.

It's not surprising they're showing wear and tear.  It was high time for some sorely needed attention.

I began by digging through my toolbox and locating my bicycle toolkit.  Bicycle maintenance is an interesting diversion from the standard fasteners, with toothed sockets and slim metric wrenches becoming the requirement.  Stripping them down revealed a few dry bearings and pitted races in the drivetrain.  New pedals, chain, and a bottom bracket cartridge soon had the wheels spinning again like new.

But the hills still hurt.  Too bad our old muscles and bones can't be resurrected as easily as our bikes.  But with the gas prices climbing ever higher and higher, that too may be overcome by the end of summer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Patience and Preserverance

For the last few weeks I've been watching the neighbors next door to see who they were.  I'd just catch occasional, fleeting glimpses of them through the window or hear them calling to each other when I'd be out in the yard, but never well enough to identify them or find out what they were doing here.

The big breakthrough came the other day when I noticed what appeared to be a new building site not far from the house - a few feet up in a newly splintered tree that must have blown down in one of our winter wind storms.  Sure enough, they were obsessed with it.  I could see them flitting around, coming and going.  But try as I might, I just couldn't get close enough to really see what was going on.  The moment I'd get near, they'd vanish.  Then later I would see they would be back, flitting and fluttering around thier particular tree.

But having found their location allowed me to strategize a plan.  Lots of brush nearby; I had an old gray blanket in the car.  Armed with my trusty Nikon equipped with a 70-300 zoom,  the blanket over my head, I attempted this morning to get a few shots.

Turns out the camouflage was a great success.  They didn't seem bothered at all.  And I was able to photograph, identify, and watch with amusement as they continued to build their home one beak-full at a time.

I'm no experienced birder, and the species ended up being a Poecile atricapilla, or common black capped chickadee.  They are frequently found almost everywhere throughout North America.  But they're a neat bird - clear, trilling calls, with legs and feet strong enough to allow them to forage while hanging upside down.

It was a rewarding experience as it was another lesson in the wonderful ways of the world around me.

Plus it's always pleasant to find out that the new neighbors moving in are fellow woodworkers.