A Word on Gifts

There is something about the giving of a gift that seems to (or should) denote more than just someone perceiving what someone else had their eye on and the other person merely getting some object that they wanted. I've never been much of a habitual gift giver, but on occasion if something strikes me as being perfect for someone or the occasion requires I've been known to act. It's not such an odd subject to ponder on this time of year, but this year I've had some fun and meaningful gift exchanges.

Near the beginning of the month I was up in Elko for a cousin's homecoming from Argentina. This cousin's father, my uncle, married into the family when I was pretty young. Judging by the cleanliness of his cars and the impeccable state of repair of all his machines it was clear early on that we shared some similar interests. Thankfully he was willing to sit at family gatherings and patiently discuss cars and all things relating to machinery with a pretty young kid who was more interested in learning then he was actually knowledgeable at that time. Over the years we've shared a lot of fun conversations and have even worked on a few projects together. They day we were getting ready to leave my uncle came up from his garage and presented with this old Snap-On ratchet of his. 
He said there weren't too many people in the family who enjoyed working on and discussing cars as much we two did and he wanted me to have this ratchet of his. Needless to say I was pretty taken aback as these are really great ratchets and really there is nothing I love more than a good tool. I know my tools really well and as cheap or worn as some of them are I value them pretty highly. So my uncle's gesture was really meaningful. I mean what can I say? I've got a great family.

One of the fun gift exchanges I participated in this year was with my friend that I share a shop with. After Christmas last year we were down at the shop talking about how neither of us would probably ever get a car for Christmas and we decided for next year we would give ourselves a budget and each purchase a car for the other. The budget was $500, the cars had to run and be usable, and........ well really that was about it.
After searching around I happened upon a 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible and since my friend is a huge Seinfeld fan I knew this car would be perfect. He got me a Suzuki Samurai that had been on it's top a couple of times by the look of it, but honestly both cars run pretty well. He refuses to put the top up and has been driving around in the snow and even took his family of 7 around caroling. I've had the Samurai on two wheels at least once and nearly stuck a couple more times, but it's perfect for the snow (I can't say the same for the convertible, but that doesn't seem to be bothering my friend much). I really had a great time with this.

We don't do much in the way of employee Christmas festivities down at the laundromat, but my employees always make a point of buying little things and gifts and exchanging them with eachother and bringing more Christmas treats down then can feasibly be eaten by all of us. They even fill up a stocking with things for me, nothing grandiose but they are always really thoughtful items. Each year they seem to be spending about the equivalent of what I give them as a Christmas bonus sharing gifts and treats with each other and it always makes me realize what great people I have as employees.


Look Ma! I'm a librarian (sort of).

I grabbed my cart of books and headed towards the stacks as I do most Tuesday afternoons. I usually start with fiction as they are the farthest away from the front desk. Then I proceed with the mystery novels, western, non-fiction and eventually work my around to the juvenile fiction and childrens books. The book carts were particularly full this day so it took me awhile to get around to the end of my route. In the childrens section there was a young kid who looked about middle school age (might of been high school, but I'm rarely successful at determining someone's age) who was sitting sadly in a pile of books with a spray bottle and rag and was very slowly wiping the cover of one book after another. The library from time to time gets kids who have been remanded to some kind of community service by the court for some youthful act of indiscretion. They usually come in a for a day or two, work off their court ordered penance and are gone. They rarely speak and heaven knows I never speak to them. This particular offender of the law was more outgoing than most I'd encountered. He'd been watching me going around shelving books I guess and as I got into the childrens section he started to make fidgety small talk and couldn't seem to wait to ask me something.

     "Hey, how's it going?", he asked.
     "Fine. How's it going with you?"
     "Awful! I've had to clean hundreds of these books, but it doesn't look
        like I've made it very far."
     "Well, you'll have that I guess...."
     "Hey, can I ask you something?"
     "I supposed."
     "How long have you been here?"
     "Oh, I don't know, maybe 5-6 years now."

Honestly, I was doing my best to ignore the kid and so I really didn't immediately pick up on the context of his last question. As I recall I had spent the earlier part of the day out doing some job site visit and was pretty dirty that afternoon stomping around in some dusty work boots and my bright orange high visibility shirt. Not to mention the fact that one doesn't usually see a younger guy shelving books in a rural library so I guess I can understand the question in light of what this kid was seeing. Upon hearing my answer this poor kid's face just dropped. I continued shelving and when it finally dawned on me what he was thinking I had to chuckle. I told him that I was a volunteer and that I wasn't there working off any court ordered community service. He seemed very relieved after hearing that, but after thinking about it for a minute he had to ask, "so why do you volunteer at the library?"

Some of you will recall this post about my library escapades and I'm sure you'll be happy to know that my biblio-tendencies followed me to rural Nevada. However, whereas the staff in Provo had no idea what to do with me, in Ely they pretty much let me do whatever I'm willing to try. I mostly come in and shelve for an hour or two. Occasionally I end up helping an elderly person access their e-mail or I'll check some books out for someone (my nieces, nephews and younger relatives get a big kick out of that one). It's fun when I get asked by someone for a book recommendation. Now and then someone will ask for help finding something and in some rare instances I'm actually helpful in finding it for them. Probably the best perk of volunteering is that I get to peruse a lot of books and add them to my list of things I'd like to read so I'm never at a loss of what to read next. I also check my own books out (and subsequently waive the inevitable late fees). Shushing rowdy kids is kind of fun too. Mostly it's nice to be able to take a little time out of my work routine to just be in a quiet place and hit auto pilot for a while. About a year or so ago they had a vacancy on the library board and they asked me to apply. I declined but for some reason thought it would be something good for my mom to apply for since she's on the verge of being an empty nest-er. After more cajoling than seemed reasonable to me at the time she agreed. She never sounds very excited about it, but I think she secretly enjoys her monthly meetings. I'm well aware that I'm far from being an essential cog at the library, but nonetheless I feel I should be supporting things I value. In Nevada we don't have any Carnegie Libraries or much in the way of grand elaborate public institution dating back from the 1800's, but in almost any town that I pass through across my state - no matter how small - there is always a library. I find it interesting that these libraries are usually the nicest buildings in those towns and that they are almost exclusively in existence due to the sacrifice and dedication of the people who live there. And least you think that the library has outlived its usefulness as an institution I will tell you that the library I volunteer at sees more people in a given day then almost any other public building in town. There is something, and I think there will always be something, about a good book.


A Crowd of Introverts

I had an interaction over the weekend with someone I'd only recently met. As our conversation progressed this person made the observation that I seemed to be an introvert (and it should be noted that this person seemed to be a raging extrovert). While this was not the issue we had gotten together to talk about  - and it really only came up as a passing observation it got me thinking. This person probably made this observation based on the fact that I seemed to be very uncomfortable and in truth I was. Not really because of anything this person was doing, but we were sitting in a packed In-N-Out Burger (you all know my feelings on that place anyway) and here I was talking with this person I didn't really know. Crowds, mediocre burgers, and personal conversations with people I don't know well are all things that I don't usually find to be enjoyable but why should that be the case? And is it really a problem?

Now anyone who knows my family, both immediate and extended, will be well aware that we are by-in-large a group of pretty private people. I vividly recall instances of being in the check-out line with my Aunt who when the checker would ask for her zip code would respond with a dialog that would proceed something like this: 

"Why would you need that?"
"That's none of your business."
"You don't need my life history just so I can buy eggs."
"I'm not giving you my zip code so you can either take my money or I can talk to your manager."

That being said it's not like my family and I are a quiet group of people who just sit around hoping no one talks to us (obviously). We are a loud group and when we get together we mostly just talk. We love talking actually (much to any of the in-laws consternation), but we don't tend to do that with people we don't know. We are certainly not a shy bunch. Amongst the family are teachers, public officials, health care professionals, and most of us have dabbled in public performance of some kind or another (some have also managed to do some pretty embarrassing things publicly and lived to tell about it [you know who you are]). I think this quote I found online pretty much sums us up:

One thing we are, even with each other, is guarded. We are unwilling to let others (sometimes even ourselves) see our weakness or our fears or our despairs. (I know my family is probably sick of me talking about vulnerability by now, but I am right and we all know it!) We certainly aren't reserved about expressing our anger, annoyance, or inconvenience, and that is just us. We have loads of personality and personally I find us hilarious. That being said, you can see how these traits can make it difficult to meet and connect with people (I mean what self respecting introvert would want to do that anyway, am I right? Anyone?), but seriously being an introvert shouldn't be an excuse for not doing those things. So I (not speaking for the rest of my family, but they probably get the subtext here) should endeavor to be a little more open with people, and while not trying to make myself into an extrovert (as that will never happen) need to work on being less guarded. So in summation:

Yes, I am an introvert. No, I am not shy.  

 (Funny cartoon, but really, we do have personal space issues. Hug us anyway.)   


A Word On Creativity

I have never considered myself a creative person. That being the case during the past week I got a visit from the Rude Awakening Caucus. In my mind my principle strengths as they related to creativity were collaborative only. I could appreciate other's creativity. I feel interjecting thoughts and ideas was in my wheelhouse. I feel like I could recognize creative brilliance in things like when I was working on historic structures or vintage machines or looking at art or listening to music, etc... You know, a lot like that creepy guy Salieri in Amadeus (minus the creepiness,... I hope). This thought process kind of began a couple of weeks ago when I found myself  re-reading a lot of the things I've written over the past 10 years or so. In my chronological reading as I got to the most recent couple years I noticed that my writing became increasingly dull and formulaic, in a word - uninspired. It wasn't interesting, funny or even really anything more than some loose lists of facts and/or happenings. Naturally, I got a little panicky so I got in touch with a friend of mine who does a ton more writing than I have done or will ever do and had a long conversation with her trying to get do the bottom of what's gone on here. Was my writing voice just gone? Did I ever have one? Was there a block in my mind on how I communicate through writing where after years of writing change orders and reviewing construction contracts and spec books I had lost the ability to communicate funny and nuanced thoughts? Who really knows but the conclusion I came to was that I don't and haven't felt creative, really and truly creatively inspired. So how did that happen? Well as I started working backwards from that conclusion I came to realize a few things.

1) I haven't been giving myself space to be creative. Between two jobs, owning a business, church responsibilities, community commitments, home renovations, a rental house, and everything else I've just let myself become too bogged down in getting my lists of "to-do's" completed.

2) I haven't surrounded myself with many or any creative people on a regular basis. While I do have great people around me the creative people and family that I used to spend more time with - because we lived closer - aren't in my life the way they used to be.

3) My work demands less creativity in my immediate responsibilities. All through high school and college my jobs were mainly repair jobs. They demanded fixes quickly and quite often with limited materials and tools. What did that require? You guessed it, creative thinking. These days I'm usually making sure documents are signed and that materials and workmanship meet the standard and specification of someone else's creative efforts.

So apparently a "non-creative" person not only had some creativity in his life at one point, but has subsequently found out that he was now truly lacking in creativity. (I'll pause for a collective gasp from all those who don't consider themselves creative) How much could some creativity help me at this point in my life? (besides making my horribly boring blog posts less vapid and un-interesting) To be quite honest I've had to admit some things to myself in the past weeks and have made the decision to confront and deal with them and that is really going to require some outside of the box thinking on my part to deal with and reconcile. Furthermore, to be creative takes some courage and some willingness to be vulnerable and certainly necessitates you being seen and present in your life. Not exercising your creativity means you're also not exercising your ability to be courageous or your ability to be open with those around you. Clearly someone who owns his own business needs to be creative or that business will never make it (at least that's what all those insufferable entrepreneurs at BYU told me). Looking back over the last couple years I can see how the lack of creative thinking has diminished the quality of my work and observed how that has shown up in projects I've worked on. So what's to be done? Obviously 1) Give myself time to be creative 2) Find some creative people to connect with or re-connect with as the case may be 3) Be courageous and bring creativity to bear on my work, personal life and hobbies.

Getting this engine disassembled was last night's project. Somewhat mindless work that certainly could have used some creative thinking as I ended the night having giving up due to my lack of an oil pump puller. But to paraphrase James May, all the best ideas in the world have been born in garages so I think there's hope.


Wrap it up!

Fall decided it was over on Monday and so I got to spend Tuesday shoveling about 12" of snow this week. It's still not real warm (read still well below freezing at mid-day), but at least the sun is shinning and I'm not shoveling.

The last few months have been occupied with either getting ready for winter or trying to get things done before winter.

At the TV District that has included getting some small repair and maintenance items done out on mountain tops before it snowed -
(this is our transmission site on Cave Mountain)

- and of course getting equipment serviced and ready for use. Last weekend I spend a few hours, 15 quarts of oil, and three filters servicing the snow cat. 
I'm hoping El Nino comes through and I actually get to use it sometime this year. So far the forecast is looking good.

Earlier this fall I took a trip back to Virginia to see some family get put in a bishopric. It was a quick trip but a fun one. (sorry, no pictures) They live right outside Shenandoah National Park. It was some great country I hadn't seen before. On the way back to Baltimore to catch our flight I insisted we drive though Washington DC so I could get a quick look-see. I was pretty disappointed. Nothing really great to see from the street in DC. I'll have to go back when I have more time.

At the railroad I've been taking contractors around to look at our big spring time project which is a track maintenance and tunnel repair job. It's interesting between my different jobs being on different sides of the construction process multiple times a day. As we are putting this track project out to bid at a couple of junctures I've thought,"if I were trying to bid on this I'd be really annoyed by what I've done in these bid documents here." However I usually follow that thought up with,"well I'm glad that it's not my problem!" Minus the fact that I then have to answer the contractors' complaints and questions. Oh well.
(Look Ma! No hands!)
I'm afraid I appear much less than competent when trying to put the Hy-rail truck on the track. I'm getting better though.

I'm really looking forward to hosting Thanksgiving this year (a tune that will most definitely change at some point). All my siblings are coming and I'm excited to see my nieces and nephews. Their visits are always fun.
I mean when your uncle is cool enough to let you ring the bell and blow the whistle on a train what kid could possibly be having more fun.

Also, at some point this fall that I don't quite recall I purchased another car. I had looked at this car back in January some time, but he wanted too much and I wasn't really sold on it. I guess nobody else was interested though (which now that I'm saying that probably should have been a sign) and he had drastically dropped the price by the time I stumbled back onto his internet ad.
I'm still prepping for the big car exchange this Christmas with my garage mate. We gave each other a budget of $500 (along with some other rules) last January and each bought a car for the other one. It's going to be a real hoot. (I'm just saying, he's going to have a hard time topping the car I got for him)


Fall !

Where has the time gone!? Summer in the construction industry is usually pretty packed. Paving can only take place under certain weather conditions (which are only present for a few months in the high desert of Nevada). As such, one needs to make hay while the sun shines (as it were). So the summer has been busy,..........................anyway. The bug was ready (mostly) and got put in the 4th of July Parade to advertise the laundromat. I mean really, what is more patriotic than some shameless self promotion and capitalism. My nieces came with and threw candy from the back seat. My brother-in-law rode along to chaperon the nieces.
As I've taken over the historic vehicle department at the museum last year I also needed to get our 1931 Mail Truck in the parade and as such I needed a driver. My brother Tyler was willing and after a quick lesson in double clutching driving around the old football field he was ready and did fine. The truck was a big hit.
This truck was one of two mail trucks ordered by the post office in California and in 1931 they were shipped by boat around the Cape and unloaded in San Francisco and then driven to Lake Elsinor, California where it was run in mail service until its retirement. The Model A club in Las Vegas donated this nicely restored truck to the Railroad Museum a couple of years ago.

The other thing that happened in July was that I sold my rental house (you'll recall the pink, one bedroom, stop sign adjacent home I purchased a few years ago). The guy who was renting it decided he wanted to buy it and since he'd kind of let the yard go and I was tired worrying about things that landlords worry about so we did the deal. As an added plus that means the money I had tied up in the rental house can go to finishing my house on the Terrace. The current plan is to be done before Thanksgiving as I'm hosting the fam for the big dinner. Wish me luck!



There is nothing quite like the anticipation of a freshly rebuilt and re-installed engine.


Beach Theft

The weather here has continued to be unseasonably warm and dry. While I can't complain about not shoveling snow, some rain or something would be nice. The grass is begging for water and care almost 2 months sooner than I usually have to face that chore. Oh well. Pick your poison I guess. Work has been busy with the nice weather and that's been good.

For Easter this year (you remember, the holiday my family doesn't quite know what to do with) we rented a house on the beach in Oxnard California. My sister's in-laws came along so we had some veteran people celebrating Easter. We did an obligatory egg hunt for the nieces and nephews and ate ham for dinner (that's easter-y, right?). I actually hadn't had just a relaxing vacation for awhile so I took the opportunity and headed over to San Francisco the Friday before Easter to visit with friends and eat. While eating I left the car I was driving parked outside of a Costco in the SoMo neighborhood and came back to something that looked like this:
It was actually the back passenger window, and my laptop and mission bag were gone. I'm usually pretty diligent about not leaving things in the car, but it was a busy area in the middle of the afternoon and I reasoned that I wasn't going to be gone that long, but I guess the homeless in the area are a little more restless here then other places. The cop I spoke with on the phone (because they couldn't be bothered to come out) said they have windows broken out for a hooded sweatshirt in that neighborhood. Live and learn I guess. At any rate, it was about 5pm on Friday and I really didn't want to spend the rest of the week with a taped up window. That's when my friend noticed an auto glass place just half a block away so we ran over to check and they just so happened to have the piece of glass I needed in stock and even though they were getting ready to close they offered to stay and replace the glass if I had 30 minutes to wait. DID I EVER! It was a lot like getting kicked in the crotch right in front of an ice machine.
These guys were life savers. It was great not to have to worry about that window for the rest of my trip. So, the food was good in S.F. The weather was beautiful. The company was fun. The next day I set off for Oxnard by way of the Pacific Coast Highway. I had all day to make the trip and general conference was on the satellite radio so I was alright with the 50mph CA1.

It was a clear day and the views were great. Traffic wasn't bad and for a change I was awake for all 3 Saturday sessions of conference. I got to watch the moonrise on the Ventura Hwy and got to the beach house about 9pm. My mom and sister did a great job finding this place. It was right on the sand and was plenty big for everybody.
The weather was a little cooler than expected, but I still spent plenty of time in the sand and sun. I caught up on some much needed sleep and did mostly nothing. People kept referencing the crabs on the beach but I never saw one. My brother-in-law and his family did some fishing and I did go on a whale watching trip with a bunch of orthodox Jews who were very sea-sick (tip: the whales look better on the discovery channel). The boat ride was kind of interesting though as it took us out by the Channel Islands off the coast. We even got a trip to the temple in. There was WAY too much food as per usual with this crew. I think I mostly ate pie for breakfast for a week. Not a diet that I'd recommend for long.
I got back to find my work was still there and everything was fine. I picked up a new laptop on my way home and it has turned out to be just as frustrating as my old one. The week I got back I was honored as the Volunteer of the Year for the White Pine Public Museum at the community's annual volunteer appreciation dinner. It was nice and uncomfortable. My laundromat was also featured in the business highlight section of the local newspaper this past week. I've been getting razed about the picture from everybody. In the evenings when I have a little time I've been working on the yellow bug trying to rehab the oxidized paint. It is going really well. I'm not sure if this picture really captures the great results we're getting, but the paint and finish is looking really good.
Can't wait to have this out for the summer. Everything else is going well. Looking forward to more travels and adventures! (and work,......I guess)


A Classic Arts Showcase Problem

For those of you not in the know, the Classic Arts Showcase channel is like a public service channel that shows an eclectic collection of musical performances, visual art things, and other what-nots (no commercials) and I'm completely addicted. Some of the things they show are so odd and yet so captivating. One of the things I recently saw was a film from 1943 of random streets, buildings, and parks in New York City with some airy piano music playing over the top. It's in color and just watching the candid nature of people from 70+ years ago going about their lives is fascinating. The film is beautifully shot and on occasion you see a subtle reminder that their is a world war going on. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I've been able to watch this a ton of times.



Happening Things

As a follow up to the last post, the fine fall weather has turned into a warm and sub-par winter. While I cannot and will not complain about enjoying balmy 50+ degree sunny weather in January it certainly won't bode well for us this summer if winter decides not to show up. At any rate I LOVE not having to shovel snow around.

Christmas was spent with what seemed like 500 little girls under the age of 4, but it was just 3 of my nieces. We had a good time despite the screaming, crying, shrieking, pooping, etc..... My sisters, who are great mothers, had provided a magical Christmas morning for their girls with all the presents and magic that motherly love can provide. However all of that candy, late nights, and company means that by Christmas morning the sensory overload is just too much and there are a lot of tears.

But we all at least had fun laughing about it.

After surviving Christmas and even a family photo session we went home and had a boring (quiet) New Years.

 In other news:

Cats live at work and I'm trying to deal with that.

I got to go the Scottsdale Car Auctions again this year, but this time I got to go as part of work! Pretty crazy. I had to go down for the paving company to help with some equipment purchase, and I had to go for the railroad to meet with some restorers for this project:

I know! A station wagon! Isn't it great! The railroad had one of these in the '50's and now we are having one restored. This is definitely one of my favorite projects. 

As I may have mentioned on here, my rental house's basement and garage is filled with A LOT of old encyclopedias. With the nice weather I decided to clear some of these out, but it meant making trips to the dump like this.

Honestly, I felt like a Nazi book burner, but who needs an out-of-date set of encyclopedias let alone 30 sets of them. What do you do?

To wrap things up (a list of odd details): This week I graduated from the YSA branch and we'll be returning to the family ward this Sunday. On the insistence of my cousin who teaches culinary arts we started a food blog. www.halfcupofsnark.com   A website for restaurant and recipe reviews. Read at your own risk and be kind. I was also asked to run for election for mayor for the City of Ely, but thought better of it. I began my service as a member of the White Pine TV District board of directors. I'm looking forward to driving the sno-cat. Due to the progressing calendar I had to renew my drivers license this week and had to change my listed height from 5'10" to 5' 8", a very rude awakening I was made to have during a doctors visit last year. At 16, when I got my license, I figured I was an average height and felt 5'10" was an average height. I honestly don't ever remember having my height measured until the recent doctors office visit when I was informed I was over-reaching on my estimate. I sold the Blazer and Ginger the Wincher now lives out in rural White Pine County serving snow plow duty (that is if we ever get any). I hope your 2015 is going great!