Monday, July 27, 2009

Stump Grinding

Brain & Brawn Stump Grinding paid a visit and took care of our huge white pine stump...pulverizing it into a large pile of shavings and mulch. Tomorrow's task involves redistributing the mulch and then spreading a delivery of topsoil to enhance the house's curb appeal.

I find that manual labor offers a much needed break from editing and revising a manuscript. There are parts of the second book I felt tempted to slip into the cracks of the stump. In hindsight I'm glad I didn't do it.

On Friday, I'll meet with my agent and we'll discuss the finishing touches on the submission of book number one. It's been a two-year ride with the manuscript but it finally feels ready. We'll see if any publishing houses agree. We have a web site, blog, book trailer, interview, marketing plan, candid pics of the author, etc. We'll see.

I also need to increase the number of members following this blog.

Difficult to do, I suppose, when you are writing about stumps.

Kind of a catch-22, eh?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sea Glass: Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

While waiting for the thermal fuse to arrive at the local appliance store, the family prepared to jump in the car and go to the beach. Harkness in Waterford is our favorite haunt. My wife, Beth, made delicious tuna fish sandwiches and my son, Adam, grabbed a box of frozen Capri Sun lemonades.

Upon arrival, we grabbed our chairs, books, towels and trusty beach umbrella and trekked down to the sand. The wind clipped past my ears at a good rate. The usual calm waters of the Sound were peaked with white caps.

One thing I've noticed whenever we go the beach is that we, as a family, generally follow the same routine. I set up the chairs and attempt to drill the umbrella into the sand (which is nearly impossible because the little plastic pointy thing at the end is long gone). Beth and Adam head for the edge of the beach to hunt for sea glass. Beth is really good at finding it. Sometimes I join her and trail along and I may find a few pieces here and there (mostly brown from discarded beer bottles) but she consistently hands me piece after piece to fill my pocket. Yes, it's safe to say that Beth is the Indiana Jones of sea glass hunters.

Sea glass hunting is very popular. There's even an organization with a code of ethics for sea glass hunters. Some glass is even considered valuable. Since littering is now discouraged, it's a bit more difficult to come by. Certain colors come from different sources, some dating back as early as the 1800's. Brown, kelly green, and white are the most common. Some rare ones include purple, gray, teal, black, yellow, red, and orange. Interesting, no?

So, off they went to treasure hunt and I plopped down to read some Douglas Adams.

That's when I noticed the twenty-something couple to my right.

The man stood ankle deep in the water scooping sand and pebbles with a plastic sifter. He then marched over to his female companion and she leaned in to pick through the contents.

I didn't think too much of it at the time. I returned to my book, following Zaphod Beeblebrox into the Total Perspective Vortex. Occasionally the couple would get excited and I would hear little gasps of "oh, that's a nice one" and "go scoop some more."

Beth and Adam continued their quest up and down the beach. On their return trip, they paused a few moments to speak to the sand-sifting couple. The man, checking left, then right, continued stuffing pieces of something into the pocket of his shorts.

As Beth briefly listened to the woman, I could see her face change. Something was wrong. She seemed a bit upset. Beth grabbed Adam's hand and walked crisply to my side.

"You know what they're doing?" she whispered.

"No, what?"

"Sifting for beach glass! The woman said they found over fifty pieces! Look at that guy, he's stuffing his pockets like he's hording gold or something."

"Sifting?" I asked incredulously. "That's cheating. Like steroids in baseball. Or strip mining. Like reading Spark Notes for Gatsby. It's a syndicate. It's the assembly line mentality reaching down and stripping away the last bastion for honest sea glass hunters!"

"Huntresses," Beth corrected.

"Yeah, huntresses."

"I know."

I held my wife close. The wind carrying my words of invective away from the couple.

"Should I say something to them. Do something about it. Break his sifter?"

"No, let's go."

We packed everything and left the beach, defeated, with our meager twelve pieces of sea glass.

But at least it was honest glass.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thermal Fuse or Bust

The morning started out rather well. I made a to-do list with the intention of tackling as many items as humanly possible given my lack of sleep the night before. First on the list: Fold the wash.

As I bounded downstairs I immediately noticed that the dryer was still running from the night before.

How odd, I thought, as I opened the dryer door and reached for an armful of laundry.

How wet.

How cold.

A dryer without heat is like a car without wheels, a martini minus the vodka, or Kurt Vonnegut without a cigarette dangling from his weathered lips.

Not sure those similes work, but I was tired and our dryer is broken.

The last time the dryer broke I called the repairman and it cost me $79 for him to tell me I had a bad circuit breaker (one of the legs in the outlet was not getting power). I remember avoiding his gaze and choking on the knot of embarrassment rising in my throat. I wrote the check mumbling something like oh, yeah, I should've checked that I suppose. I swear I heard him laughing on his way out the door.

This time would be different. No patronizing repairman. No chance of embarrassment. I'll fix it all by myself. My wife will think I'm a hero. My ten-year-old son will see me as a fix-it god.

Where to start?

I drove to the local hardware store and purchased a device to test the outlet. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... my thoughts were interrupted by the salesman eyeing me over his glasses, "You know how to use that thing, right? Make sure you plug one prong into ground, the other into positive. Don't cross 'em." The only thing missing was the pat on my head on the way out.

Don't cross the streams. I felt like Ray in the Ghostbusters.

I stood in front of the outlet, device in hand. Am I nervous? No, hell, I know what I'm doing. I'm not an idiot. I slowly inserted one end into ground, the other into positive. No little light. I tested the other. Still no light. But the dryer runs, just no heat. Then it dawned on me. The metal probes on the end of the device were too short to reach inside the outlet. I took off the cover and carefully pulled the outlet from the box. I tested it again. Power to both legs.
The problem was in the dryer.

I needed more confidence. I needed moral support. So, I did the only thing a guy can do when he needs an answer. I Googled, of course.

I Googled: Amana dryer no heat. Behold! The answers poured forth from the Internet gods. It was information overload.

I rummaged for half-an-hour to find the necessaey tools (also noting that I needed to add clean garage and carriage shed on my to-do list).

I plugged in the droplight and clicked it alive. The filament blazed and immediately popped. Dead.

I needed to find a bulb.

Fifteen minutes later, new bulb screwed into the droplight, I crouched low and began disassembling the shell of the dryer. I checked the vent. Clear.

I tested the thermostat and dryer element. Then I tested the Thermal Fuse. No continuity. Could this be the culprit?

Back to Google.

Yep, that's it. I felt so confident that I made my solution public to both my wife and son.

"Great, Dad!" his eyes beaming adoringly skyward.

"Honey, I'm so proud of you." Was that a wink?

I left for the appliance store head held high.

Within an hour, I thought, problem solved.

But within ten minutes, I stood back outside the store defeated.

This particular thermal fuse was out of stock.

The rest of this tale is apparently on back order...