Sunday, April 26, 2015

Improvements, both voluntary and compulsory

This past month has, on occasion, felt like one, big butt-kicking.  We've been hit with sickness (luckily, just variations on the standard kid stuff) plumbing and mice.  Professionally, I've been wrung-out preparing for a giant Summit and Advocacy Day we put on each year.  And in my semi-pro world, we've been preparing for our upcoming archery booth at the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games Festival.

In addition, throw in one or two t-ball games per week for the four-year old and an appearance dancing at a Sacramento Kings basketball game for the 8-year old's dance troupe, and you've got the recipe for our soup of chaos.

The big news was the plumbing.  We've had bad plumbing ever since we bought the house from the bank.  The lines were a combination of cast iron, plastic, and orangeburg line, which is basically tar paper, and we didn't help things by buying the absolutely cheapest toilet we could find.  Every year or so, we've had to call out a plumber to clear the line, and this year was no different.

Well, actually, this year was quite a bit different.

The plumber we called out took a wrong turn with the auger (the big, steel-cabled thing that spins), and broke off the end of it (called a "claw") just under the toilet (he was supposed to clean out the opposite direction -- oops).  A fifteen-minute job turned into three hours on Easter night, followed by a day-and-a-half of back-and-forth.  We finally bid him and his company a "fond" farewell, and decided that we should get quotes on just fixing the whole shebang.  We got quotes, picked one (the guy who was cheapest, but also from the company we've trusted the most over the years -- and he said he'd work a couple of hours free to get that claw out of our line), and three days later, we had new lines.

It did take him over an hour to get the claw out of the line.  At first, he shoved a camera down the pipe (I got to see the new line, too!), found the claw, and decided to come in via the toilet line.  We took out the old toilet (catharsis) and set it out in the back yard (confronting, yet again, the sorrows of not owning a pickup truck or trailer).  The plumber then shoved a "blow bag" down the line.  This is basically a rubber oblong ball with a tiny hole in the front.  You attach it to the end of a garden hose, shove it into the line, and turn on the hose, full-blast.  The force of the water is supposed to build up in the blow bag until it reaches a certain point, and then it "blows" the water, preferably out the front hole.  In our case, it blew the blow bag apart on either side.  Regardless, it successfully shot the claw completely out of our line, never to be seen by us again.  Perhaps a wayward crocodile will make use of it in the sewers, or one of the turtles can fashion it into a kama or a couple throwing stars.

Next, we upgraded the toilet to one that, according to its marketing, can flush 12 golf balls in one go.  We haven't mentioned this to my son, so don't tell him if you see him -- I don't need to come home to any experiments.

As for leather work: I've been too slammed at home and in preparation for my work events and haven't had a chance to put anything into the stitching pony (sorry, Tom).  However, I did get to go to the Tandy Leather Open House sale, where I got a free tote and bought a few tools and a double shoulder of milled vegetable-tanned leather.  Milled leather is soft and pliable -- not suede, as it still has a slick side, and so is able to be tooled and stamped. I'm excited to get to build soft-sided bags with it, and if I get adventurous, perhaps a pair of gloves.

I also bought a tool that makes me feel like a professional -- a round, or head knife.  It is pretty and effective -- a knife that can cut corners and smooth curves very well, as well as effectively and quickly skive! (Skiving is shaving down the thickness of the leather on the back side).  It takes a bit of practice, but apparently not a ton, as I've already used it to make a leather arm guard.

As of this post, I'm halfway through manning our booth at the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival. It is great fun, and our archery booth did pretty well yesterday.  If you are in the neighborhood (it's in Woodland at the fair grounds), I highly recommend coming to experience this great event.  From caber tossing to fiddles and pipe-and-drum-corps to archery (that's us!), there's quite a bit to see and do.

That's Paul, my kilted brother in-law, arming and training children.  Come on out and get your child the training she needs!

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