Electrified Thoughts

Recently, my friend Terry Greene posted this evocative photo work on Facebook.   This piece grabbed hold of my very core,  and brought memories flooding forth.   For me,  this  is a completely natural response. The raw power of electricity is as  much a part of my upbringing as huckleberry pancakes and bread rising in a sunny window.

Photo work of Terry L Greene

My dad, Harvey McGuire, began his work at Pacific County Public Utility District  in 1938, and retired from his work there in 1978.  For the most of those 40 years he was the “meterman”, responsible for testing, repair, and calibration of the thousands of meters of the PUD.    But Pacific County PUD was a small operation, and Dad was also a radio technician and a transformer rebuilder.  During storm emergencies, he  worked along side the line crew for whom he had the deepest respect.   I came to know at an early age that linemen were brave,  robust, and knowledgeable workers.  I also knew that they were among the friendliest people on earth, because any day could be “bring your kid to work day” at the PUD of that era. The photo below is from Pacific County PUD of the 1960s.  I  believe that pictured here among the 13 kilo-volt lines are Wayne Patrick and Shorty Remington.  There were no overweight linemen!

Linemen of Pacific County PUD 1960s

The meter room of  the PUD, was a natural gathering place for the friendly folks who worked there, and I enjoyed being a part of the place.   Arriving there at 4:15 was a good thing, and I could score a ride home with Dad at the 4:30 quitting time.   At that time of day the line crew was coming in, and I could  listen in to the events of their day, and enjoy the status of visiting kid.

This photo may not evoke a smell memory for you, so use your imagination.  It is a rich mixture  of tobacco, solder rosin, transformer oil,  and ozone.  Enjoy it.

Harvey McGuire tells a joke to an unidentified friend in the meter room of Pacific County PUD

Given all this exposure to electro-magnetic radiation I was drawn to it like an iron spike is drawn to a magnet. It’s little wonder that I’d become a ham radio operator in my late high school years. This photo of 1971 shows Dad and me in the bucket truck of the PUD. As the photo was snapped, we had just completed installing a cubical quad antenna for the 20 meter ham band on a small tower atop the garage at home. It was another electrifying experience. Obviously, at the time, Pacific County PUD wasn’t just a “bring your kid to work” company. Sometimes it was a “bring a truck home to install an antenna” kind of company.

Duane and Harvey McGuire installing an antenna – 1971

Nine years later would find me employed as an “energy conservation specialist” at Grant County PUD, as I began a 10 year career there. As it worked out, Harvey Guy McGuire and Duane Harvey McGuire spent 50 years fully charged in the electric utility industry.

I left Grant County PUD in 1990, but when electricity flows in your veins, it doesn’t seem to leave. It’s only natural that when photo-electric generation became cost effective, I’d have my own generating station. This is the 8.3 kilo-watt installation on my shop building at home in Clinton, Utah.

Solar array on the shop in Clinton Utah 2018

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Daffodils

It is spring. Daffodils should be here.  But I am waiting and watching, as my daffodils are moving slowly (like me).   It’s not every spring that I wait and watch as I do this year, but … well … I must admit … I planted some daffodils last fall in a wildly optimistic moment.  And I love daffodils.

The act of planting daffodils is uncharacteristic for me.  That is perhaps mostly attributable to the good and reasonably predictable patterns of a long marriage.   Terri loves her hours in the garden, and I have an easy out.  But out front, there was this ugly bush bordering our neighbor’s place.  I thought I could do some good in the earth, and while Terri takes care of a third-acre, I could take care of ten square feet.   Plus, I didn’t like that bush, Terri didn’t like that bush, and the new neighbors didn’t like that bush.

That last part was inferred from a conversation:

“Is this bush on your property or on ours?”
“Oh, I think it’s kind of on both, but looking at the fence line, I’d say it’s mostly on our side.”
“Oh.  I was thinking maybe I should pull it out. ”
“Oh.”

I’m pretty good at inferences, aren’t I?  So last fall, armed with pruners, shovels, and picks I went to work on that bush.  I sweat a lot, cussed a little, and generally lived in the moment.   But the last of that bush was not budging.   Fortunately my neighbor, Ben, came over with all of his wonderful, youthful, brute strength. While I was in the shop looking for a longer lever, he whispered to that bush and yanked out the last of it.

I had a plan, and desperately wanted to act before time, weeds, or thoughts of landscaping cloth intervened.   I turned the plan into action, and returned from Lowes with pounds of bulbs:  daffodils, tulips, and crocuses.  Within a few days all were planted to their prescribed depth and the new bed was covered with a thick mulch of grass clippings.   And so I wait.  But not much longer.  Today, gratification is arriving:

I come by this love of daffodils honestly.  During my youth in Western Washington, daffodils were everywhere.  In lawns until the first mowing, along roadsides, and even in flowerbeds!  Among my favorites were those that popped up at the base of the family tree (that is to say the phenomenal cherry tree in the east yard of 933 Crescent Street).   This picture from 1963 is a little late for daffodils,  but if you squint, you may see the leaves.

Daffodils are my quintessential image of Spring. Of rebirth, and of Easter. I lay claim to a rich Christian heritage whose foundation was centered at Raymond Washington’s First Methodist Church. For one who was (and is) a Doubting Thomas, my richest experience of Easter  is of daffodils.  In the 1960s Raymond’s MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), with major support from Bill Morgan and parents, gathered thousands of daffodils in the week before Easter, so that on Easter morning we could display our symbol of the Resurrection outside the church. It was an amazing symbol, and an equally amazing  experience.

Easter 1964: Raymond First Methodist cross of thousands of daffodils

 

I do love daffodils!  Easter was early this year, and that would have been good for the traditional Easter cross of daffodils.   There would have been lots of daffodils for harvesting in yards, along roadsides, and under cherry trees.   Though the tradition of this cross is past, I’m certain that the daffodils brought joy wherever they popped up.

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Barbershop

I haven’t shaved in a week. It’s bugging me, and it will bug me more tomorrow.  And I don’t want to shave! So I was thinking about finding a barbershop.  I could lay back in that chair with a warm, steaming towel wrapped around my face. I could anticipate warm lather on my old face while listening to my barber strop the straight razor on the leather strop attached to his well-worn chair.  All the while he would continue to tell stories of his latest steelhead catch. Oops. Return to present. They don’t offer that service at Great Clips.

Mike McCartney, at 3rd and Duryea in Raymond Washington, was my barber from 1959, thereabouts to 1974. I’m sure of the 1974, because he cut my hair the day before I was married. And by the way, I can report as fact that Mr. McCartney adapted well to the hairstyles of the 70’s because when I got home, my Mom said, “It doesn’t look like he cut much off!”  Whatever … I got what I paid for.


Evidence of Mom’s assertion

 

But back to the barbershop.   The shop was right next door to Orville Ekman’s shoe repair shop. It was  somewhat smaller than your average Great Clips, and the configuration was much different.  Mr. McCartney’s “workstation”, the barber chair, was situated in the shop window by the entry door, where he could greet customers by name as they came in, rather than rushing off and yelling “welcome to Great Clips … did you check in online? ”  No one checked in online.  No discount coupons were offered, only folks from out-of-town left tips, and only cash was accepted.

On alternate Saturday mornings, Mom would drop me off at the barbershop.  Those were busy days at the barbershop, and you could certainly count on six to ten men and boys to be ahead of you.  If I was done by the time Mom was done with shopping, I’d have a ride home.  Otherwise, “I could walk”.    The time spent in the barbershop really wasn’t a problem though.  It was part of my education.  There was a fair assortment of well-worn comic books, and an excellent collection of magazines, for instance, “Argosy”, and “Field and Stream”.  So one could read.   Or one could pretend to read while listening to the more adult conversation.  It was pretty basic stuff, like hunting and fishing, where I learned about gun safety.  No.  Actually at the time it was called hunting safety.  Guns were just a part of hunting. Of course other topics did include road repair, recent floods, and the city council (if none of those men were in the shop at the time).  Fast cars, high school football,  bad reffing, and recent brawls were also fair game.  Once in a while the conversation did migrate to more bawdy topics, where Mr. McCartney might become the referee, and say, “Umm, little ears are present”.  So I didn’t learn much on those topics, but nonetheless it was a significant portion of sex education in the 1960s.

A fair representation of Mr. McCartney’s chair

At about age 12, or when the first pimples appeared, I got Mike McCartney’s upgraded, adult service. The razor was stropped, the hot lather was dispensed, and Mr. McCartney shaved my neck and sideburns with care and a flourish. I must say, I valued every time. In the subsequent dozen years, he only nicked me once, and it was worth it!

As you might infer, I rather miss the barbershop. So as I was sitting here on this Sunday and considering an option to Great Clips, I did a little Googling, and found that right here in suburbia is “Archie’s Barbershop”, with service available tomorrow. Wow. And Archie offers full-shave straight razor service for $20. I was surprised and impressed. Scrolling down a bit further, I found the picture showing Archie as young, Asian, and female. Was I expecting Archie Bunker? I don’t think I’ll find a copy of “Field and Stream” in the shop, do you? But I think I’m ready for a nice, close shave. Hello, Archie.

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Awkward Senior Moment Averted

My doctor encouraged me to join a gym.  Our discussion about my  fitness revealed that I bicycle many miles in good weather, but become a couch potato in the winter.   He told me that with my summer program, I was cycling more than necessary, but hibernating was defeating the summer program!  He also informed me that cost was NO OBJECT.   The “silver sneakers” program of Medicare would pay for it.  Well, I’ll be!  I had no idea.

Then Vasa Fitness sent me a beautiful, oversized postcard announcing their new gym nearing completion a couple miles from home.  I’m not a gym guy, so I could have ignored it.   But the postcard had a picture of their 25 meter lap pool, and I was all in!

Two weeks later (no sense rushing into this) I’d collected new gym shoes, shorts, new swim trunks, a gym bag, and a nifty combination lock for the locker at the gym.   I was ready.   So today I got courageous (helped by some hand-holding with Terri) and went to the gym.   I was set to enjoy that lap pool!

Being conscientious, after getting the swim trunks on, I trudged off to the showers for the required pre-swim shower.   I stepped in and realized I still had my glasses on!   Really!  Who swims with glasses.  I’d need to go back and stow them in the locker.  No kidding.  What a gym newbie, dunce I had been.  And then … I had a superior senior thought!   If I stow those glasses,   I won’t be able to read the dial on that combination lock!    I could see the scene before me:   “Excuse me, young man!   Could you open my locker for me?   I could tell you the combination!”

What a great brain!  Awkward Senior Moment Averted!

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Smoke Detectors for the Shop

This morning I installed smoke detectors in the shop, which are interconnected with detectors in the house. Years of procrastination preceded this action, and the procrastination was coupled with a lack of product knowledge.

The house is modern, and has wired, battery-backup interconnected detectors. If one alarm goes off, they all do. For the shop, I wanted the same. It wouldn’t do any good to have a smoke detector going off in the shop while I was sleeping in the house! I had thought that interconnection would be challenging, as I knew a that all the house detectors were on a single circuit, with a common communication conductor.

After doing the research, though,  I found that it is not complicated. I found battery operated detectors for the shop that can communicate via radio frequency with the detectors in the house. Thus they all become one interconnected system.

I ordered two Kidde RF-SM-DC detectors and one Kidde RF-SM-ACDC detector.  I installed the  RF-SM-ACDC  unit in the house, replacing one of the original interconnected detectors there.   For all three detectors, I simply set them up to communicate on the same radio channel.   The two RF-SM-DC units were mounted in the shop.   The new house unit connects the remote battery operated smoke detectors with the existing house system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After years of procrastination, the issue was remedied in less than an hour with a screw driver and a set of instructions.   I’m impressed, and will sleep well tonight.

 

 

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Solace

Yesterday morning I got up too early. To get some more rest, I went out and spent a half hour in the hot tub. In that short time, I saw two bright, shooting stars. I marveled at their beauty, and went on about my normal day.

As I moved into my day, I knew that it was going to be exceptional. It was my day to tune the Schimmel, a piano I’ve been tuning each fall for years. Made in Germany about 15 years ago, it’s the very best upright piano among my clients. The string scaling of the piano delivers a wonderful rich bass, and the transition from bass to tenor is smooth as silk. I’ve been caring for that piano each fall for the past five years, and I love it!

That particular piano, gained poignant significance to me three years ago. On that day as I got to about C5 in the tuning I got the phone call where I learned of the tragic death of my grand-daughter, Jenna. A few moments later, among my tears, I explained to my very kind, warm client that I couldn’t finish the tuning, but that I would return in a week or so.

Each fall, as I return to that lovely piano, I relive the emotions. When I get to C5, the tears start to flow. I catch the tears, so they won’t land on the key bushings to create havoc, but otherwise I let them do their work. I didn’t know yesterday that it would be the same, but it was. It was, and it was fitting, and it was good.

As I wrote the invoice for yesterday’s tuning, I penned “10/26/2017”. I looked at that and marveled, because I realized it was the 101st birthday of my mother who passed away at 97 just a few weeks before Jenna joined her at 14.

My two, bright, shining stars. And what is it about that piano?

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Time Keeping Automation with TOGGL

For my piano rebuilding business, I do not work by the hour!  I am working on spec projects, or on generally fixed quotes for customer projects.  But it’s nice to know how long a job takes.  On again and off again for the past several years, I’ve used the web service, TOGGL (toggl without an “e”) for the time keeping I’ve done.   On again and off again is a very appropriate description.

When going out to the shop, I’d forget to start the TOGGL task until I was well into it – or not at all.   Coming in from the shop, I’d forget to stop the timer, and then I’d have bad data.    While in the shop, I could generally remember to switch tasks, if I had, in fact, started one.

With a bit of creativity, I automated the starting and stopping of my work timekeeping.   The automation will start a “General Shop Work” time entry when I enter the shop, and stop the current time entry when leaving the shop.   This bit of magic occurs by knowing how many watts of electricity the shop is using.  In other words, my new app senses when I turn the lights on (or off).

This modality was available because I have minute-to-minute consumption data available on a raspberry pi server that collects and reports energy consumption.  So the application was very straightforward and the task was attached to the once-a-minute data collection process.   With a bit more work, I could learn how to query the home automation status, and get the lights on/off status more directly than the energy proxy I am using.

Here’s the python code I wrote:

 

#!/usr/bin/env python
import sqlite3
import requests
import json

DATABASE = ...
GENERAL_SHOP_WORK = ...
TOGGL_API_TOKEN = ...

sql = """
		SELECT
			shopwatts
		FROM
			consumption
		order by ts desc limit 2

	"""
conn = sqlite3.connect(DATABASE)
c = conn.cursor()
c.execute(sql)
now = c.fetchone()[0]
before = c.fetchone()[0]

# Check for transition from <200 watts to >200 watts
if now > 200 and before < 200:
	# Start General Shop Work, because the shop lights went on. 
	payload = {'time_entry': {'pid': GENERAL_SHOP_WORK, 'created_with': 'energyToggle'}}
	r = requests.post('https://www.toggl.com/api/v8/time_entries/start',auth=(TOGGL_API_TOKEN,'api_token'),data=json.dumps(payload))


if now < 200 and before > 200:
	# Stop the current task, because the shop lights went out. 
	# Get current 
	r = requests.get('https://www.toggl.com/api/v8/time_entries/current',auth=(TOGGL_API_TOKEN,'api_token'))
	if (r.status_code == 200 and r.json()['data'] != None):
		#Stop Current
		url = 'https://www.toggl.com/api/v8/time_entries/' + str(r.json()['data']['id']) + '/stop'
		r = requests.put(url,auth=(TOGGL_API_TOKEN,'api_token'))
	else:
		print 'no current entry'

 

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Willapa Hills Trail

Willapa Hills Trail is the former Northern Pacific spur line from Chehalis Washington to South Bend Washington.   The right-of-way has been acquired by Washington State Parks, and now serves as a biking and hiking trail.

Chehalis River along the Willapa Hills Trail east of Pe Ell

I’m happy to say that the photo above is not a stock photo, but my picture of yesterday morning!  We are enjoying a Washington trip to see friends, family, and to enjoy the Willapa Hills Trail for the first time.  It was my intent to ride the trail from Chehalis to Raymond (my hometown).  A bit of 65-year-old realism caught up with me.  That realism has been expressed in “pre-arthritic” knees!    So it has become a ride from Chehalis to Pe Ell along the trail.

My daughter Erin came up from Portland to join me on the first leg of the ride.   We rode from Logan Street in Centralia to Rainbow Falls State Park.   I chose to ride from Centralia rather than starting in Chehalis at the trailhead, because Logan Street was the home place of my Grandpa and Grandma Henkel.   Erin and I rode the paved streets of Centralia and Chehalis about 6 miles to the trailhead.  Then we rode the trail from Chehalis to Rainbow Falls.  The trail was a joy.   To see this area, away from the traffic (modest though it may be on highway 6), and at a slow pace, is an experience I’ll always remember, and I’m so grateful that Erin chose to accompany me!

The required selfie as we started out on the trail

The trail from Chehalis to Rainbow Falls is about 15 miles, a distance I often cover at home on morning rides.  But those rides are on paved trails and start at mile zero, not at mile six.   The first five miles of the trail are paved, and the rest of the trail to Rainbow Falls is gravel.   My sixty-five year old knees learned that its not the miles but the total pedal rotations that count to determine endurance.   But we had a marvelous time!

Erin kickin’ it up on a railroad bridge east of Adna

After Erin returned to Portland, the next day I returned to the trail and rode to Pe Ell, where my wife, Terri, met me.  The knees told me I’d rode enough.  My mind tells me I had a wonderful time, despite riding half as far as I had intended.   Perhaps next spring there will be another adventure.

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Artic, Washington

While visiting family in Grays Harbor, we stayed at Artic RV Park. It turned out to be a beautiful place. I suppose that Good Sam Club would give it less than 5 stars, but I’d give it 6. Nestled in the trees, along Highway 101 about 18 miles north of Raymond, Washington, it was a surprising delight. We were greeted warmly by the owners and offered veggies from their garden! Certainly having grown up in Raymond, I never thought that I’d ever spend a night in Artic, but there we were.

This scene makes me think of my Mom, who often told the story of her “dream cabin” just a few miles down the road at Elk Horn.   As she would tell it, she was on a road trip with her parents and her boyfriend (also known as my Dad!).  When stopped at the Elk Horn, she snuggled up to her boyfriend, and said, “Oh wouldn’t that little cabin be a wonderful place to live?”  Not long after, she was living in that cabin, and making a lifelong friend with the owner, Maggie Thornton.   Of course she also said she was very happy to move out, because when the wind blew, the thought of trees crashing into that little cabin scared her to death!   And as the telling goes, a few years later a giant fir destroyed that little cabin.

Some tree hugging with a centuries old spruce tree, and a photo of my intrepid explorer, Terri!

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Occasional observations of Duane McGuire