One-Liner Wednesday – Grocery Shopping

“Warning, they rearranged the store since you’ve been there.”

Stop and Shop

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Last week, I was watching my daughter’s cats while she was on vacation. The day before she was going to return, I thought I would go to the grocery store, so she wouldn’t have to go out and get milk for her coffee. Rather that guess at what she might need (as I have done in the past) I decided to ask her if there was anything she wanted.

The on-liner up there was part of her response.

It was too late. I had already offered. I had to go, but my only thought was:

Seriously? I was almost to the point where I could find the usual suspects. What the heck is wrong with these people?

I get it. They keep moving the stuff to different parts of the store so you have to walk around. They’re hoping that, as you walk around, you’ll see stuff you didn’t come for. And you’ll buy that stuff. I mean why else would you put the cereal where the crackers used to be and the crackers where the prepared food used to be? If you haven’t guessed, I was looking for crackers.

At least they didn’t move that aisle, so I didn’t accidentally end up there. You all know what aisle I’m referring to. The aisle men never visit. God forbid that they ever put the crackers in with those products. Fortunately, as with everything else, those products seem to need an entire aisle for themselves.

One Liner WednesdayThis post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday.

Posted in Family, Humor, One Line Wed | Tagged , , , | 76 Comments

A New Sheriff in Town

Permit

We’re good to go.

We’ve recently started a small home improvement project. The project began, as every home improvement project should begin, with the application for a Building Permit. I’m sure one or two of you are wondering why I bothered getting a permit. I’m sure, because there have been at least one or two people in my daily work-life circles who have asked me that question.

The short answer to “why bother with a permit?” It’s the law. Evidence of the need for such a law is abundant in the rattrap “additions” I’ve seen recently.

Anyway, we have a new Building Inspector. I have pulled so many permits, that I was comfortable with the previous inspector. He was comfortable with me as well. I’d show him my plans. He’d look them over and say: “let me know when you’re ready for me to take a look,” and off I’d go. The permit would arrive in the mail, a few weeks later. The new guy is a bit more formal, like the old guy was 25 years ago. It’s OK. He has a job to do, and I respect that.

It’s been three or four years since I pulled a permit, and the process has changed a bit. Looking at some of the changes, I can see why some people avoid getting permits, but I still say they’re wrong:

Taxes paid? – Today’s Building Permit application has a box indicating that the taxes on the property are current. In fact, I had to take the application to the Tax Collector and get his stamp in that box before the application could be submitted. That’s a good idea in my book. If you have enough money to add on, you should use some to pay your taxes.

Zoning? – Are you allowed to build what you propose? You have to get that answer from the Zoning department before submitting the application. It’s a simple question but I drive by three houses on my way to work that have “additions” where the answer would have been no, had they bothered to ask. We’re putting a little roof to shade/protect the south side of our porch. No zoning issues here.

Fair market value? – This one took me by surprise. All the previous permits I’ve applied for included a base fee of $20 and an incremental fee of $10-per-thousand of the total cost. Total cost, in my case, has always been the cost of material. I could add in the cost of labor, but my wife doesn’t pay very well. She did let me buy that new chop-saw, but… I met with the inspector. We hemmed and hawed and agreed on a reasonable number. Reasonable, I like that.

Form 7A

Yet another form

Workmans’ Comp – There’s a new form that accompanies the Permit Application, where I have to show that all “employees” are covered by Workmans’ Comp insurance or attest to the fact that I am doing all the work myself. I’ve been injured on-the-job, as it were, while doing home-improvement projects. Medical costs, for even minor injuries, can be staggering. We once asked a friend to leave, because his girlfriend was messing around with equipment and material, and we knew that she didn’t have any medical insurance. If she had gotten injured, we would have gotten sued. Who needs that?

People also make fun of me for pulling a permit because: “your taxes will go up.” No they won’t. We’ve already over-improved this house relative to the market. Besides, they do a walk-through assessment every five years…they aren’t going to notice the roof hanging over the stairs? I’m not going to complain about that, well, I will, but not because of having to have a permit. Think about it:

First and foremost, if you build cheap, you’re putting yourself, your family and your guests in danger. I don’t want this roof collapsing under a heavy load of snow. The damage would greatly exceed my “savings” and my homeowners insurance wouldn’t have to pay, if they didn’t want to. The Building Code is there for a reason.

Additionally, if you skirt the assessor and keep your taxes artificially lower than they should be, everybody else’s taxes go up to cover the contribution you’re not making. The Town has to get money somewhere. Similarly, if they day-laborer you snagged in the Home Depot parking lot gets hurt on your job, he’s going to the ER, and our medical insurance costs are going up. Finally, that unsightly-piece-of-crap you put up is making it harder for the guy across the street from you to sell his house. We’re in a community, nobody is special.

Posted in DIY, Home Repair, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 76 Comments

apples, etc.

Dan (the other Dan) entertains those of us who follow him with stories like this and thoughts deep and profound. Well, stories like this, anyway. I always enjoy his writing, but sometimes, I feel like sharing it. I’m going to close comments here. If you feel the need, comment on Dan’s site.

itkindofgotawayfromyou

As far as I know , there is only one type of apple that will grow in most of southern California , in the Los Angeles basin , the Anna’s apple . When ripe it is sort of striped red and green . Most apples need a colder climate than we’ve got in Arcadia and around the area .

So , moving right along , here I am in Poland with a borrowed electric chain saw chopping branches from apple trees . There’s a cherry tree in the yard too , and a pear tree , but the apple trees dominate the property . They cover so much of the yard that I was asked to saw several  branches off to open things up to the sunlight .

How did I get myself into this situation , you might ask . Another fine mess you got me into ? Well…

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Put That Phone Down, Let’s Talk

For the love of beer

The perfect place and beverage to share some casual conversation.

If we were having a beer, you’d be buying…for a change.

“Hey geek-boy. I’m glad you’re here. Cheryl, pour that man a Yuengling.”

“Geek-boy? Let me guess, you’re having problems with your laptop, and it just happens to be in your car.”

“No, no, nothing like that, I need to pick your brain about V2V.”

“Here’s your beer Dan. It’s not too late to get this in a sack to go.”

“Thanks Cheryl. V2V? Should I just start babbling, or is there something in particular?”

“Like you’d have a problem babbling? I heard them talking about it on the radio, I was just curious.”

dashboard

Nothing fancy here, just plain old vehicle-to-driver communication

“It stands for vehicle-to-vehicle, as in communication. It’s part of the whole Internet-of-things thing.”

“Please, don’t work yourself into a geeky froth.”

“I’m not sure this beer is adequate payment.”

“Cheryl, when he’s done with that one, put a refill on my tab. Let’s try to start this conversation, again.”

“In a nutshell, V2V will allow vehicles to communicate safety and mobility information amongst themselves. That could reduce congestion, prevent accidents, who knows? Maybe save a few lives.”

“I’m not sure I want my car talking to other cars. What if my car tells your car something I don’t want you to know?”

“You drive a Jaguar. It probably wouldn’t talk to my Jeep.”

“Good point. You have to stay in the right lane, like in high school.”

“Actually, it’s limited to information related to vehicle control.”

“Removing control from the driver? What if I want to run a red light?”

“Is that really an option worth preserving?”

“It is. Sometimes, you have to break a minor traffic law, in order to avoid an accident.”

“Yes, but if your car is talking to the other cars, you aren’t going to be in those situations.”

“Why not just let the car drive itself? What do you need me for?”

“They’ll get there, soon enough.”

“That’s shortsighted. Studies have shown that driving is good for your mind. This is another case of you snap-heads doing things because you can, without considering if you should.”

“Snap-heads?”

“You didn’t seem to like geek boy, so…”

“OK, let’s not say ‘driverless’ – let’s say you have a guy driving a truck but there are nine driverless trucks following him. That would be efficient. It would be like a train.”

“You and your trains. So nine people forget how to drive?

“People forget how to do a lot of things. Then they learn how to do other stuff. It’s called progress.”

“Speaking of progress, you’re not making any, Dan. Let me pour you that second beer before he takes back his credit card.”

“Thanks Cheryl, but he did ask for the information. I’m not looking forward to any of this, I like driving.”

Chili's

You can still get a waitress, but who knows for how long.

“It’s not just driving. You know what else you can forget? You can forget Cheryl. At Chili’s, they have digital Cheryls. Sign-in, order, pay, tip, complain… all to a box… Is that what you want?”

“Whoa! Stop with the digital Cheryl’s please. You can’t replace this pretty face and delightful banter with a box.”

“You might have a point, Cheryl, but does anyone care? I mean there’s us two relics, but I’ve seen this bar packed with people staring into their cell phones. They’d be fine with Cheryl-in-a-box.”

“Sheesh, keep talking and I’m gonna pour myself a drink.

“Let’s not send Cheryl over the edge. I think you’re overreacting a bit.”

“You think? Remember driving with the window down and mooing at the cows in the fields? When was the last time you mooed at a cow?”

“I love mooing at cows. When Faith was little, I even got a cow to moo back.”

Trinity Farms

Nothing but moo in our milk. These guys belong to Trinity Farms.

“Ha, well consider a little girl in the back of a self-driving car. She’ll see a picture of a cow on a screen. She’ll touch the cow and the car will play the sound a cow makes.”

“You know, you can do that now. It’s like a digital See & Say.”

“You’re missing the point, there’s actually a cow outside the car. An honest to goodness cow, but the car would ‘see’ it, not the girl. I’m telling you, it’s the end of communication as we know it.”

“You’re sure you’re not overreacting?”

“I don’t think so. I think we post photos instead if describing people and things. We post video instead of telling stories. The human race could actually forget how to tell stories!”

“Seriously? Not overreacting, even a little?”

“Nope. In twenty years, if this bar is still here, I’ll bet no one will be talking.”

“You know, there’s a bar in England where the owner offers no WiFi and blocks cell signals. He’s forcing people to talk.”

“Really? That sounds wonderful. Cheryl, they should do that here.”

“We’re halfway there. We’ve never had WiFi, and if you’re on Verizon, there’s no signal here.”

“I am painfully aware of those facts Cheryl. I guess my car won’t be revealing any secrets in your parking lot.”

“As long as your credit card works, I’m good. Thanks for the beers, AND for the conversation. I’m going to drive home while I can still see the cows.”

Posted in Current Events, Humor, If having a beer, Technology | Tagged , , , , | 76 Comments

Thursday Doors – Sad Story

Somersville Mfg

Somersville Mfg (west side).

There are three major mill buildings in the Somersville section of Somers, Connecticut. The Picking House at 49 Maple St. The Somerville Manufacturing Company, across the street from the waterfall, and the much smaller workshop/warehouse behind Somersville Manufacturing Company. That smaller building is the building in which I had my cabinet shop in the mid-80s.

Last week, when I brought you the doors from 49 Maple Street, I was very careful not to include any photos of the other side of the street. That’s where today’s sad story is told.

Somersville Manufacturing was established in 1879 by Rockwell Keeney. The company grew quickly to be a major manufacturer of wool and woolen products. Army blankets by the thousands rolled out of the mill during the World Wars and, at the opposite extreme, high-end women’s fashions were produced during the mill’s 90-year span. After the mill closed in 1969, the property changed hands and cycled through periods marked by the optimism of eager developers and the despair of financial and environmental setbacks.

Ad for wool' suit

Ad for wool suit

The long term plan(s) for the complex was for it to be converted into retail and housing. Straddling Scantic River in Somers, with views looking out over the mill pond, waterfall and the meandering river, the complex could have been a wonderful addition to a quaint little Connecticut community known for horse farms and New England charm.

When I opened my cabinet shop in 1985, the Maple Street level of the main building was occupied by another woodworking shop. The shop made waterbeds, which were sold in an attached retail store. I remember the manager of that shop coming over to welcome me to the neighborhood. He even offered access to their much large capacity machines, if the need ever arose.

The waterbed factory wasn’t going to be in the complex very long. The then new owners were trying to obtain financing for a full retail / residential conversion. My landlord assured me that his building was not part of the plan. That building sits adjacent to the lower level businesses, including State Line Lift, a fork-lift sales and repair outfit run by two comical characters whose periodic company I very much enjoyed. Rent in the large mill complex was far less than what I was paying, but the future was uncertain at best.

The financing plan ultimately fell through, when the EPA ruled that the lower levels could not be converted to residential use, because they were in a flood plain. In addition, the challenges of a true mixed-use space were daunting, as described in this article in the Ellington Patch which was written by a descendent of the original owner. In case you’re wondering about the today’s title, let’s borrow the opening paragraph from the Patch:

With one simple event, over 130 years of modern industrial development and 43 years of struggle to repurpose the complex came to an end. The mill’s demise not only was a crippling blow to Somersville, but also showcased Connecticut’s reluctance to utilize its growing list of abandoned historic structures and their inherit sustainable properties.”

In 2012, a group of twenty-year-olds broke into the abandoned mill, for a late night tour. A carelessly discarded cigarette set the complex on fire. Oil soaked floors fed the flames for hours. Units from local and several surrounding fire departments battled the blaze for hours, to no avail. The heat from the flames caused the structural steel to melt under the weight of the brick walls.

Very little remains of a once proud textile mill and a once promising suburban project. The area might still be attractive. The holding pond, waterfall and natural drop of the Scantic River still can support a small hydro-power project. Portions of the historic building remain and the area along the river is attractive for recreation. The Town of Somers has recently received a $1.8 million Brownfield grant to clean up the property. First, they have to acquire it from the owners, which is likely to happen through a tax sale. Once the Town owns the property, they can start thinking about its future.

Since, once again, there are a lot of photos, I’ve grouped them into sets (before the fire, after the fire, photos from others). Thanks for visiting.

The pictures in the first gallery are from various points in time, but none date back to 1985. Some are from a tour when my English friend, David Pennington visited prior to our attending an event in New York City. Others are from when our daughter Faith was on an Art School photo shoot.The building was in bad shape, but it still had potential.

The photos showing the fire damage are from our recent visit.

I’ve taken the unusual step of including a few photos from other sources. I’ve given credit, when available.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s amazing weekly series – Thursday Doors. Pop on over to Norm’s place, check out his doors, then click the blue button to see all the other doors. You can add a door, too!

Posted in Connecticut, History, Photography, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 72 Comments

When You Get Something Better

“Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer”

I’m sorry if that song is now lodged in your brain, but it was what I was thinking as I drove to work one day last week.

Note: This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series.

Sunrise

From a different day. This it the photo I was hoping for,

As the time of the sunrise changes, my daily commute brings me some interesting opportunities to see a gorgeous sky. On this particular day, I saw the most amazing sky-on-fire red sky, but I saw it from the left lane of Interstate 91 as I was preparing to merge onto I-84, via a left-hand exit. I.E. not a good place to take a picture.

The good place for that photo wasn’t far away though. Just across the river is an exit that I take to get to Great River Park. Near the park entrance is one of my favorite spots to take sunrise photos. I could get near the spot faster if I stayed on the highway, but I wouldn’t be able to pull over. The location is on the wide shoulder of an on-ramp.

In any case, by the time I was at Great River Park, the sun had risen and the color had drained from the sky. Disappointed, I turned into the park, and happily found the rising sun reflecting off one of Hartford’s prettiest buildings, the home of Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (now part of Munich Re). Not only was the sun reflecting brilliantly onto the Connecticut River, but some ducks and a Blue Heron were feeding in the bright sunshine. I had missed the photo I had hope to get, but I got some photos I really like.

In case that song is still stuck in your head, here are three versions, hopefully you will find one that you like. Thanks for visiting.

“Stay” was written by Maurice Williams and performed with his band, The Zodiacs

The original recording of “Stay” remains the shortest single ever to reach the top of the American record charts, at 1 minute 36 seconds in length.

The song was covered by everyone. My favorite version is by Jackson Browne, on his “Running on Empty” album :

Of course – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons also had a good run with this song. I’m not a fan of this version, but many people are, so…

One Liner Wednesday

Posted in Animals, Music, One Line Wed | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 81 Comments

CT Civilian Conservation Corps Museum

DSCN4497A few weeks ago, while traveling the “back way” to the highway, I noticed the sign shown at the right. It wasn’t open the day I drove past, but I knew that I had to visit. After the short hike to Soapstone Mountain, my daughter and I toured the museum.

The CCC operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States, providing jobs and what had to be a life-changing experience for unemployed, unmarried young men. The program was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and it provided manual labor jobs in support of the conservation and development of natural resources on federal, state and local government land.

Young men volunteered and served from six months up to two years. They worked up to 40 hours a week (sometimes more) for which they were paid $30 a month ($22–25 had to be sent home to their family). They also received shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. Eventually, the CCC would employ about 5% of the male population in the U.S.

Some young men actually built the shelter they received. If they were assigned to a new camp, they started out in tents, and gradually built the camp’s housing, administrative buildings and workshops. We are still enjoying the fruits of their hard labor, as we visit and camp in our National Parks and as we travel the many scenic roads and hiking trails that crisscross this enormous country.

Some noteworthy people who were involved with the Corps include:

  • Alvin C. York, (Sgt York) – A project superintendent
  • Raymond Burr – Enrollee, Actor
  • Archie Moore – Enrollee, Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World
  • Robert Mitchum – Enrollee, actor
  • Chuck Yeager – Enrollee, Test pilot
  • Stan Musial – Enrollee, Professional baseball player
  • Walter Matthau – Enrollee, Actor

You can find tons of information about the CCC. If you’re interested, I’ve include a few of the more interesting links I found while researching this post, at the end. Since I have so many pictures to share, I thought I would tell the rest of this story through the captions. I’ve organized the photos into several galleries. Feel free to pick and choose.

The museum – Located in a maintenance area of Connecticut’s Shenipsit State Forest.

Projects of the Corps – In this area, the work included trail-blazing, forest fire prevention and fire-fighting duty and the installation of telephone lines.

Trades and skills – Including carpentry, blacksmithing, tool making and maintenance and road clearing and heavy construction.

Camps in CT – This is the only remaining camp building in the state, but there were many camps like this in Connecticut.

Artwork – Faith pointed out that the agencies of The New Deal, including the CCC, employed artists and photographers to document the success of the program. One famous photographer was Walker Evans, whose experience with the New Deal photography seemed to have influenced his other work.

Life at camp – The men worked hard, learned a lot, but had some leisure time and a few comforts of home. Sadly, the camps also echoed the racial attitudes of the time.

Posted in Connecticut, History, Jupiter Effect, Promotion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments