Recharge the batteries

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We’re spending a few days on the beach.  We haven’t been on a vacation since last May, so it was time to load up the new SUV and strike out for someplace we’ve never been.  That’s usually how vacations work for us, we try to find a place that we’re both interested in going to, and preferably someplace new.  Find a house to rent, or a suitable hotel with the right amenities (not a Super 8 or Motel 6) and use it as ‘home base’ while we explore the countryside or museums or whatnot.  We’re both interested in the history of the US Civil War (not the current one, the 19th-century version) and have been to Gettysburg and Antietam in this decade.  

‘Christabel’ had been to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware when she was a child.  Me, I’d never even been to the state of Delaware.  Passed it more than a few times driving to NC or VA, but never been through it.   Consequently, it seemed like the right place to go, it was past Labor Day so we’d get a financial break on the room, there’d be fewer people in the area, and most of the local restaurants would still be open.  Granted a lot of the tourist’y’ businesses on the boardwalk would more than likely be closed for the season, but since we’re not big aficionados of Skee-ball, it wouldn’t be a huge disappointment.  And neither of us are in the market for a tattoo.

Getting here was a bit of a pain since I was driving a  new vehicle that I wasn’t completely comfortable with how it all worked.  It has a navigation system, but of course, the default was set to ‘Economy’ not ‘Fastest Route’ so when it came time to get us somewhere, it kept sending us on unfamiliar local routes, that were away from the major highways and byways.  And that takes time, so we spent about 6 hours in Pennsylvania when at most it should have been 4.  Once I finally got the nav system to behave, it got us on the PA Turnpike and that saved a good deal of time and angst.  70 mph will get you where you’re going much faster than two lanes that have 25 & 35 mph zones every time you hit a hamlet.  

When we got to Delaware, we stopped at one of the DOT’s rest stops and had a nice walk through the area before getting back on the road.  While we were there, we called the hotel we booked to be sure they knew we were coming, and not to give our room away.  We didn’t actually hit town until after dark, so it was a little bit of a problem getting to the place, as again the nav system wasn’t well suited for where we were.  But between it, Google Maps and a little cursing, we managed to get to the hotel.  

It’s been a whirlwind several days.  Some ups and downs, and a few headaches along the way, but that’s traveling for you.  Yesterday I was feeling a little homesick, and missing my cat, but I know he’s at the spa and probably having a good time with all the other kitties and puppies there.  At any rate, we’re headed back to New York tomorrow, and we’ll collect him on Saturday.  So we have a little more time here on the coast.  Then it’s back to reality.

Arts & Crafts

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I don’t watch a good deal of commercial television anymore. We do have a cable connection through Spectrum (the old Time Warner) on one of the boxes in the house, but the 42″ in the den isn’t connected to the system. On that television, I have a ROKU stick and use it to connect through YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and a host of other services that cater to that particular streaming option. Since we do still have the Spectrum account, I can even use the logon for the online service to connect to commercial stations like FoxSports, ESPN and even MLB to watch baseball occasionally. So I don’t need to spend the extra $60/month for another cable box.

Lately, I’ve been watching YouTube more than anything else, and my videos have been a collection of wrestling recaps (I may not be watching the WWE in Mondays & Tuesdays anymore, but I’m still keeping up with the gossip and random inanity they generate), how-to videos, and other accumulated pap just to keep myself entertained after working all day. About two weeks ago, I happened upon a video where this fellow from Utah was making a wallet from scratch, from leather. It was pretty fascinating. And intriguing. And I’ll admit, it looked pretty simple the way he was doing it. The caveat is that he’s been doing it for about 8 years now, so his movements are fairly practiced, still precise and he makes it look easy, although something of that quality rarely is. If I were standing next to him at his drafting table, making one right alongside (without coaching or tips) I can imagine my wallet would look very different from his. After watching the first video, I watched another. And then another. I didn’t subscribe to his channel, but I did start looking at other crafters videos, trying to get a handle on my interest. Was it just fleeting, or might there be something here for me? I’ve been looking for something to bring in a little extra money, and a bespoke business, even if it just sells a few somethings might be an interesting side gig. Of course, the initial outlay would be a slight impediment, since leather is a pricey commodity to be working in. The tools, for the most part, aren’t extremely expensive, but if you choose to do your stitching with a machine rather than using needles, nylon thread, and a saddle stitch, then you’re talking something in the thousands of dollars. Certainly way out of the budget of a hobbyist or sometimes crafter.

Unless you already have something on hand that would do the work in the meantime.

As it just so happened, my mother-in-law owned a Singer sewing machine.  As did my own mother, but hers is a 221 Featherweight, which I still have.  It’s definitely not designed for leather work, just mending, or making clothes.   In fabric.  It has a belt drive and the motor is very under-powered, on purpose, because of what it is, and what it was designed for.

My mother-in-law’s on the other hand, is a larger machine, with what’s called a a gear drive.  The wheel on the right side is turned by a gear on the inside, and it’s directly driven by the motor that’s attached (people have coined it the ‘potted motor’ because the housing on the motor looks like a small pot) giving it more torque and the ability to sew through heavier materials like denim, canvas or leather.  It took me a little time to figure out what model it was, as there was nothing on the machine that told me that directly.  Fortunately it still had the serial number plate, and with that I determined that the machine is a Singer 15-91 made in 1941.

Quizzing my wife about the machine, she informed me that her mother bought it new, and used it for all sorts of repairs on clothes, much as anyone that had purchased that model would have done.  It was colloquially referred to as the ‘Farmer’s Wife’ in that it was essentially ‘over-built’ in that it could do just about any repairs or duties that a rural wife would need done on a farm.  No Wal-Marts in those days.

It’s enclosed in what Singer called a #40 cabinet, where it would be attached to a plate and could be dropped down and the work surface folded up and over, making it into a small cabinet when it wasn’t being used.  My mother had one like it for her Singers, but her main ‘go-to’ machine when I was growing up was a little bigger than the 221, and it was partially computerized, in that it had stitches in memory, that could be produced on demand.  Even so, my Mom never got rid of her Featherweight, she’d had it since she had gone to college, and I was glad she kept it, as she taught me how to sew with it, and I still remember her lessons.

Getting back to the 15-91, my wife informed me that her mother kept it in good condition, but it really hasn’t seen any action in the last 30 years.  I’d actually completely forgotten that we had it, since it’s been in its ‘storage’ mode ever since we’ve been in this house.  Over the ensuing years, we’ve used the top of the cabinet for that purpose, and a lot of stuff had been piled on and the contents underneath left to the spiders.  It was pretty cobwebby when I finally pulled it up a couple weeks ago.  Even so, 30 years of inactivity hasn’t been unkind to the old girl.  I wiped it down, and did a little inspection on what it might need to be workable again.  Asking my wife again, she informed me that we apparently didn’t move her mothers’ sewing supplies, so all of that was lost to the auction when her parent’s house was sold back around 1999.  A loss to be sure, but not a completely insurmountable one.  The manual I found online, and there are a wealth of websites and videos that talk about this model, and since it is a rather popular model, there are a lot of places where one can get original as well as quality replacement parts.  Even motors, if it came to that.

My initial investigation and inspection informed me that it’s in pretty good shape for being set aside for as long as it’s been.  Its lacking in oil for lubrication and in order to do leather sewing it’s going to require a little assistance in moving the material.  An industrial specific machine would employ what’s colloquially known as a ‘walking foot‘ mechanism, but Singer never made such a thing for their domestic machines.  Fortunately, there’s an aftermarket walking foot available for about $20, and I found a website that caters to the 15-91 (as well as other models) and I can get not only that but the thread spindle that’s missing from the top of the machine.  While I’m at it I went ahead and got some leather specific needles, just to have on hand.

In the intervening week since I started this entry I received the items I ordered, installed the new presser foot, put in the thread spindle and was able to successfully wind a bobbin and thread the machine.  I even put in a leather specific needle and tried sewing on a scrap of old leather from an old restraint that I had laying about.  It worked pretty well overall.  About five minutes into my test the machine started to squeal a bit under load, so it definitely needs a shot of oil in certain spots.  But it was able to sew the leather adequately, and it didn’t shirk when asked to do so, even though I was using cotton thread instead of the nylon that’s recommended for leather work.  I made a side trip to Joann Fabrics last weekend and was able to get the specific oil for Singer machines and will be making use of it in the near future.

Needless to say, unless I lost interest in the near future, I might have something to keep me busy in the interim.

What a nice surprise!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Came home from work today and was feeling a little blah. To perk me up a bit, I made some mac & cheese from a box, and while the macaroni was cooking, I came into the addition here and figured ‘what the heck’ and turned on my desktop. It’s been sitting for several weeks silent and unused since for some strange reason it wouldn’t boot way back when. In the interim, I’ve been using my old Thinkpad laptop, but have been missing the large 27″ monitor as well as my preferred Dell keyboard and the other peripherals that I’ve become accustomed to. After a little black screen, it booted. Holy crap, it booted!

Of course, I was fully expecting it to shut down after a few minutes, but even so, I grabbed a thumb drive intending to at least try to get a few files that I’ve been needing off the main drive before it powered off. At that point, I wasn’t even interested in getting into my email program to download three weeks of mail that has been sitting on various servers. First things first. Damage control. Triage. Jumping into the password program, I determined where the password file was located and went to the corresponding subdirectory. Of course, it wasn’t so simple, the thumb drive I chose was write-protected. Bugger! Thinking fast, I switched gears and uploaded the file to my Dropbox, so I could access it even if/when the computer were to fail. Once that was completed, I breathed a bit of relief.

On to other things, while my luck was holding out. My Jetpack had gone squirrely on this blog about a month ago, and I’ve been unable to access the server to remove the subdirectory in order to re-install it. Firing up my FTP program, I went to download the files in order to delete them later. Only, I ran into a snag. A couple of months ago, I added a level of security to the FTP connection and forgot the password. And naturally, stupid me, I didn’t add it into my password vault program to be reminded. I had to circumvent that oversight but was able to accomplish my goal with a minimum of angst or hair-pulling.

Finally, I started my email program and crossed my fingers. Several of the email accounts haven’t been cleared in about a month, so I was fully expecting there to be at least two to three thousand emails on at least one of them that needed to be moved off the server and deleted. With fingers crossed, I set Thunderbird to work and I can report that everything was successfully pulled from ALL of my accounts. During the largest pull, my backup program started. And was able to do a successful backup, even though the computer has not been used for over a month. I bought a 6 TB drive several months ago with the intention that it be my storage bay for computer backups, and it has been. Though I’ve been rather remiss as well as hesitant to junk the computer and get a new motherboard, chipset and all, due to the cost and pain in the arse that building a new computer entails. I figured at minimum a new system was going to cost me in the neighborhood of $600-700, and that’s without buying any storage. Just a case, memory, new chipset and a motherboard, as well as a new copy of Windows 10. If you have a new motherboard and chip, you have to get a new copy of the operating system. I’ve tried going the route of Linux before, but caveman that I am, I just prefer how Windows does things. And Apples are just too expensive. And next to impossible to repair.

Now that I have it running, I’m hesitant to shut it down. But I know I have to, if for not other reason than it has to update the software in several ways. Before I do though, there are some housekeeping things I need to accomplish in case it all goes down in flames. But at least for now, it works!

Hello, 54.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Another birthday, another year older.

My birthdays anymore are either ones when I work, or I have the day off and I don’t necessarily do much of anything. Certainly nothing like a party here at Casa Leathers, or any sort of organized celebration. Another milestone achieved really. I may get a present, I may not, it depends a lot on whether I mention there’s something I’ve desired, and just haven’t gotten around to purchasing for myself, and the wife gets it for me (except for a motorcycle….not going to get one of those. At least life-sized).

This year, we’ve been needing a new wheelbarrow and we’ve been off and on shopping for it both online and locally. It has needed to have certain aspects to make it good for both of us (not too big, not too small, dual wheels and so on) and not cost $500. Believe it or not, we’ve spent over two weeks looking at prospects and dismissing most of them as either being too expensive, too cheaply made too many bad reviews, or a combination of those. Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon, all have nice offerings, but none have really checked off all the correct aspects.

The wife suggested the local Tractor Supply as an option. I went there after work one day and scoured the store, but didn’t find any! How odd. I left without checking with a salesperson (should have known better) and came home to report my findings. Going to the online store presence, I discovered apparently in their ‘stock’ it was listed they had several. So we decided to go back on the ‘day’ of my birthday, to check it out further, instead of ordering one online and having it shipped specially to the store.

Parking outside, we headed towards the door, but my wife stopped us to look at something on the wall, and sure enough, there was the beastie that had eluded me so successfully yet days before. But it was HUUUUGE! Way too big for our purposes. Heading inside, I made my way to the Customer Service counter and spoke to the employee there, informing her that we were in the market, but the one she had outside was too big, and did they having anything similar, but slightly smaller? Looking through her computer terminal, she determined that indeed she did, and someone was in the back assembling them.

Horrors! An assembled ‘barrow won’t fit in the new Murano. Would be way too big. Is it possible to get one unassembled? Sure enough, it was. Although admittedly it surprised her that I asked, most of her customers wanted theirs in one piece, not forty. Up stepped the wife (once I corralled her from the far side of the store) and paid for my present. Transported it out to the vehicle, loaded it up and headed for the ice cream stand/greenhouse to celebrate our victory!

I managed a birthday present and ice cream on the same day! I’d say that was a pretty good score. And I had a project to complete when I got home. Which I did. The wheelbarrow is all together, and sitting in the backyard now…with no pieces missing!

I done good. Happy 54th, Leathers.

Not the anniversary I was aiming for

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Well, it has been a year since I last saw her. Around 10-10:30am last year on this day, she got in her Explorer, I got in my Edge and she headed south, and I made my way back north. Tears were shed on both sides, as more than anything else I wanted to pile her into my vehicle and drive her home with me. But that wasn’t the reality, and even though I let her have my gray museum cap as a reminder, I fully expected to see her again in a few months, and she was going to bring it back to me.

I was going to hash it out all over again, but I’ve already written about this too much. This is not the anniversary I wanted to be having today.

Investing for the future

Reading Time: 5 minutes

My slave and I had a small conversation this afternoon, that sort of started when I arrived home from running errands with my wife.  It was a continuation of a conversation (after a fashion) she and I had been having over the last few days.  

She’s been having trouble getting used to using Spotify without the fancy doodads that are included with a paid membership.  I’ve been paying for her membership for the most part over the last year.  It ran out sometime in the last week or so, and the lack of the ability to fast forward as well as other expectations were getting to be a little much for her.  There was a veiled mention of the fact this week is National Nurse’s Aide Week, and generally, on those sorts of weeks, the professional or worker in question gets a gift.  Usually from their employer or a spouse, in recognition of the work that the person does and doesn’t necessarily get noticed or rewarded. 

I looked it up and yes it certainly is that particular week, and since none of her family were likely to be moved to give her anything, much less her employer (the CEO sent out a blanket statement to the workforce, thanking them for their hard work, their dedication and so on, basic boilerplate in lieu of anything more substantial, like money for instance) I was intending to extend her Spotify membership anyway, as a reward for all of her hard work and dedication and because sometimes its the right thing to do.  

Of course, I hadn’t done it right away, so there was a text message this afternoon for all intents and purposes pleading with me to re-up ASAP since she was really having a hard time without it.  My response in this instance was typically me “Oy”.   I also made reference to a saying that I have whenever someone says something is driving them crazy.  I would have thought after 3-4 years of knowing me, she would have known about it, and I even suggested she could earn brownie points for it, but no, she didn’t.  I had to clue her in about it.  Again.

Person #1:  I can’t stand it anymore, it’s driving me crazy!

Person #2: Y’know, it’s not so much a long drive, as a short putt.

Yes, I think it’s funny.  Honestly, I don’t care if you don’t.  If you do, woo woo and a ^5.

At this point, I made an off-hand comment about needing to make an Amazon shopping list, since there were several other things I knew she was out of, and with money being tight, unlikely she was going to be getting them anytime soon.  Naturally, once I put one thing in the cart (sunscreen) others started popping to mind that she was going to need in the near future.    At some point, I asked a question I hadn’t inquired about for many months.  Whether or not she had a decent pair of shoes for work.  As expected, the answer was no, she was still wearing ones she got from the dollar store, of all places.  So back to Amazon to seek out a sturdy pair of nurse’s shoes, that will last longer than however long dollar store shoes last.  Five minutes would be my off-handed guess on that one.  

Naturally, I found several possibles, but the designs on them were fairly hideous.  Does no one make shoes in plain white, or black anymore?  After more time than I thought I would spend on this mission, I finally came across a pair of Skechers that would do well.  Made certain of the sizing, and put them in the cart.  

Lastly, I asked about her medications.  In for a penny, in for a pound, right?  After some banter, and back and forth, she admitted that she was out of two important ones that are OTC, and could be ordered from Amazon.  Popped them into the cart, along with some generic Aleve and I was pretty much done.  I added in the Spotify gift card and called it complete.  During the final part of the conversation, we covered the one thing we always do, when she tells me “You don’t have to do this.”   Believe me, slave, I know I don’t have to.  But I also know no one else is going to help out.  You may not be blood, but in a very important manner, you’re my responsibility.   So I do what I can when I can.  If positions were reversed, you’d be doing this as well.  We’ve had that particular conversation more times than I can count.

I closed out the cart and put the shipping information in, my CC info and pressed the ‘Place the Order’ button.  It’s on its way to her and should arrive by Saturday.  I know she’s grateful, I know she’s also a bit melancholy that I had to bail her out again.  Should be a trifecta when she reads this and sees I posted about it.  

In for a penny, in for a pound.  I’m investing in our future.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Inhibitions

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As I started my college career in the fall of 1983, the drinking age was still 18. I remember vividly the drunken parties in the dorm that I was in, the freshman football players that managed to destroy a wall between two rooms in order to make a ‘double’ room (and their parents eventually being charged for the damage) while having a ‘load on’ and so on. Beer, being cheaper was usually the alcoholic beverage of choice and it flowed pretty freely at the college. Two years later when the drinking age was raised to 21 (still get a little steamed about that, since it was one day I was able to drink if I wished, the next I had to wait another 17 months) and things changed accordingly. There was still what became ‘illegal’ drinking, but for the most part (unless it was inescapably obvious) the college looked the other way and didn’t overly police the practice.

Naturally, that has almost nothing to do with the topic above. Just laying a little groundwork and background, if you will. I was talking to my slave the other night on the phone before bed, and during the course of the evening, she’d been drinking some wine, a little too much apparently. It managed to loosen her tongue and brain a bit and she became very talkative about a great many things. And of course, as I expected, come the morning and the next time I spoke to her, she didn’t have a recollection of what she said. But I do. Now, I know it was probably ‘the liquor talking‘ for the most part, but when one’s inhibitions are let down, or tamped down either by some force or another, what is said or expressed can sometimes be the whole truth, and it can give a pretty good idea of what that person is thinking and feeling under the surface, or under normal circumstances they would keep to themselves.

Of course, I’m not saying all of this to shame her, as evidenced by the fact that I’m not letting on what she said. That’s exclusively between her and me, and there’s no force on this planet (or any other) that will change it, so don’t ask. I’m merely making an observation here, and relating it for my own recollection, as well as it was interesting to me. Interesting, so I write about it.

And as a caveat. Be careful when you drink. What you say, may very well be to someone who is listening. And remembering.