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February 28, 2006

handy man budget


A handy man can't just go spending money willy nilley on anything his heart takes a liking to. He has to be frugal and conserve the family finances for important things like college expenses and such. After all, saving money is one of the reasons to be a family handy man.

A handy man needs to follow sound money management principles. A handy man must show some discipline when he contemplates buying essential tools and hardware for his handy man work shop. A handy man needs a budget to follow.

Below is my budget for fiscal year 2006. I tried to be as conservative as possible and still allow for the vital needs of the household.

12 cases of Miller High Life$164.28for when it's Miller time.
6 extra large boxes of band aides$59.70for small owies
Emergency room stitches$5,965.00for big owies
Assorted nails and screws$5.92for the screw can
Sports Illustrated Swim Suite Edition$5.96for Miller time
Deluxe hot tub with beverage holders$5,950.00Miller time of course
1 claw hammer$7.49to open the beer cans
1 #2 Phillips screw driver$6.49in case I need one
1 #2 regular screw driver$5.95to go with the Phillips
Total Budget: $12,754.91

I think that should do it but I might be a tad over. I could adjust the amount for assorted screws and nails. If I left anything out, please let me know in a comment. Us handy men have to stick together!

FOLLOW UP: The wife put the kibosh on the hot tub. I am really bummed out. She told me to change the burned out bulb in the kitchen (that has been out for two weeks) first and then we could talk about a boom box. I wonder if she would go for a 52 inch plasma screen HDTV, Dolby surround sound speaker system, leather Lazy Boy, and a small fridge in the garage?

Posted by roadapples at 07:40 AM | Comments (5)

February 25, 2006

note in a bottle


The tall office buildings in the Milwaukee skyline in the distance were not there in 1895. I am guessing of course but I think it is a pretty good bet. In the late 1800s, the city was primarily a shipping port. Among other things, lumber, beef, corn, wheat, and dairy products went out and coal, finished products and dry goods usually came in.

But in March of 1895, something else came into this port. It was small and almost missed. If it had not been for a certain Mr. Randolph I would not have a story to tell.

The steam freighter, Frontier Star, was lost during a terrific winter storm in late January of 1895. It was last seen 50 miles due east of the port of Milwaukee in 20-foot waves and 60 mile per hour winds.

Two months later, after the ice and snow had melted on the water, Mr. Randolph was walking his sheltie along this stretch of shore and came upon a wine bottle. The opening of the bottle held a cork. Thinking he had found a little refreshment to warm his cold bones on such a frigid day in late winter, he picked it up and popped the cork. It came out much too easily. He looked inside and found a note.

"Engines stopped, ship tearing apart, we don't stand a chance. Tell my wife, Agnes McGuffry, I love her. Ships Engineer, Shamus McGuffry."

The note did not mention the ships name but it was generally assumed to be from the ill-fated freighter, Frontier Star. Trouble was, nobody knew an Agnes or Shamus McGuffry nor could they be located anywhere in Wisconsin or Michigan, where the freighter was home-ported.

Posted by roadapples at 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2006

trust me

A little hand holding...

Let me see if I understand this whole port management thingy. The Brits want to sell their cash cow to the Arabs for about what the oil rich emirs in UAE spend on luxury cars every year - 6 billion and change. King George is for it and everybody else in the country (Republican and Democrat alike) is ag'in it.

Well ok, I am a man of reason. I am willing to listen to George's reason for outsourcing our biggest ports to billionaire sheiks who don't have our interest at heart. What is his argument? Simple, we are to trust his judgment.

Would this be the same judgment he used when he said there were WMDs in Iraq and we should spend billions of dollars and spill American blood there? How about his judgment when he sat at his ranch "clearing brush" while New Orleans drowned.

Now I am a man who forgives and forgets - normally. But my patience is wearing thin.

Posted by roadapples at 12:31 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2006

energy r us

Click to enlarge.

Poor Dick Cheney don't get no respect. It would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon with every late night comedian on the planet and kick the VP while he's down but it would not be sportin' of me. Besides I am not clever enough to come with any thing original and fresh.

The President is coming to Milwaukee to speak about alternative energy. He is all for it now - six years late however. I really really want to believe he is sincere but something tells me he is just doing some good ole fashion politicking.

I am little suspicious about his motives to say the least. Has his buddies in big oil managed to get a clue and invested in alternative energy? Who is pulling his strings this time? His only agenda for the last six years has been to reduce or even eliminate the taxes of his wealthy friends.

I look forward to hearing his speech at the Allen-Bradley Company, makers of high tech batteries. Stay tuned.

Posted by roadapples at 01:44 PM | Comments (2)

water baby

Her kayak glided silently through the Wisconsin back water stream. The only sound was the occasional gurgle of water when she dipped and pulled her paddle through the clear emerald tinted liquid.

I wondered to myself what her thoughts might be - a special boy perhaps, or maybe an upcoming event with her girl friends.

Maybe she was focusing on the faint sound of knocking by some Red Bellied Woodpecker far away downstream searching for yummy beetles in the bark of silver maple trees. Or could she be anticipating the view of the beaver lodge under the huge willow that she knew lay up ahead and around the bend.

I could not resist capturing the moment and the click of my camera broke her thoughts. She turned around and rewarded me with a look of extreme annoyance and disaproval.

To gain her forgiveness, I had to promise to put the camera away and not snap another photo of her for the rest of the trip.


Posted by roadapples at 11:32 AM | Comments (3)

February 19, 2006

tugs in a row


15:18 Hours:
A call comes in on the marine radio at the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Station. The freighter, Lake Trader, was spotted by fishermen from shore listing to the port side in high winds and six foot waves up near the treacherous Porte Des Morts passage. All hands on duty are alerted and the station UTB is dispatched to investigate.

The waters surrounding Door County, Wisconsin in winter can be very hazardous especially the passage way between Washington Island and the peninsula. But Second Class Boatswain's Mate Sally Bluestone has navigated these waters for three winters now and knows where the dangers are hidden. The boat is safe with the helm in her hands.

The late January daylight is quickly fading by the time the UTB reaches the passageway. The Captain, Lt. Jg Carl Ferguson, orders Bluestone to come around to the port side. The freighter looks dark and no navigation lights are operating. Hanging down the side from the top side deck about mid ships is a cargo net.

16:47 Hours:
The Captain orders Bluestone and Seaman Terrance Hanson to take the skiff and board the ship. They take only their side arms and bullet proof vests for protection.

After boarding the damaged vessel, Bluestone and Hanson head straight for the Captain’s Quarters. It is dark and the two have only their flashlights to guide them.

“Look in the Captain’s desk draw, Terry, and see if you can find the ship’s log. I will see if I can find anything under the Captain’s bunk”, Sally says as she lights an emergency candle and places it on the desk. She moves over and stands next to the bed.

Terry follows her and slips his big Irish hands around her waist from behind. He kisses her neck as Sally arches her head back onto his shoulder.

“You know they are going to talk if we take to long”, Sally says.

“Don’t worry, we won’t.”

In one motion, Terry pivots around and falls backwards on top of the bunk taking Sally with him. Sally tightens up her fist and swings her elbow back into Terry’s stomach.

“Oooohhhh shit! You playing a little rough aren’t you?”, asks Terry.

“You know I don’t go for this when I am working. We don’t need anybody finding out about us. Now get your ass up and let’s finish looking around. There will be plenty of time for this later.”

17:45 Hours:
Petty Officer Bluestone and Seaman Hanson report back to the Captain on the UTB.

“We found no one on the ship sir. It appears to be deserted. But we did find the ship’s log,” says Bluestone.

“Very curious - a freighter deserted and damaged and no reports filed by anybody?”, replied the Captain. He reads the last entry in the log. “Weather turning bad, engines stopped, ship taking on water. We will have to abandon ship soon. Nothing but bad luck. I hope they find us.”

Posted by roadapples at 08:04 AM

February 18, 2006

rummage sale

Summer time can't come soon enough for me. Every summer we supplement our income with rummage sales. My wife snapped this photo of me during one of our rummage sales just at the peak of customer traffic. As you can see, I was working my little behind off.

Click to enlarge.

At noon, my 82 year-old Mother came over with some things she wanted to sell. In the other photo to the left you can see a snap of her demonstrating the exceptional quality of a twin bed to a customer. Unfornately, the customer left 15 minutes before I took the photo.

At five o'clock she rolled a little too close to the edge and I had to roll her back. At six o'clock, she was sleeping on her back and I had to shoo some flies away from her open mouth. At dusk, she was still sleeping and it was starting to sprinkle so we carried her and the bed into the garage. We left some cookies on a table beside her bed in case she woke up in the night and wanted a snack. At midnight, I went to check on her and she was snoring. I did not have the heart to wake her.

At daybreak, I found her and the cookies gone.

Posted by roadapples at 02:33 PM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2006

old couch

Click to enlarge

Nothing defines the boundaries of a life like old furniture. Time and memories seem to cling to the fabric like the stains that never seem to go away.

If you looked closely at the left arm about two inches down on the inside you would see a champagne stain from 1977 when a young son was born. On the other side along the lower back was a grape juice stain that another young son left when he did a front somersault. One of the legs was broken - victim of a wrestling match between teenagers.

But sadly, like me, the old couch sagged in the middle and could no longer withstand the rigors of a good tumble with the boys. There was a spring or two that poked everyone at the most inopportune times and, after twenty years, the smell of old food, beverage and fungus finally became unbearable.

My son and I gently laid the old couch by the dumpster and posed while my wife snapped this goodbye photo. Not ten minutes later, someone else hauled it away.

Posted by roadapples at 09:12 PM | Comments (10)

February 12, 2006

math whiz


I only have 81 days, 7 hours, 42 minutes, and 19 seconds to wait for summer vacation. I am not complaining but a teacher's life consists of long hours of grading papers, and reminding students to sit down, be quiet, no swearing, no hitting, no spitting, no head phones, no cell phones, pull their shirts down, pull their pants up, and, most importantly, don't give the teacher a headache.

But on the positive side, every semester there is at least one unforgettable event that reminds me why I keep doing what I do. Did I mention I have my summers off?

Joe has many strikes against him. He is a poor young Hispanic lad of 18 with a troubled past and a baby on the way. He has no job, no prospects, and neither does his girlfriend. But then if he was on the road to sure success in life, he wouldn't be in my school.

Joe does have one thing going for him which just might be his salvation. He is a very bright kid who loves math.

I have been helping Joe learn trigonometry since the beginning of the school year. I see him about once a week because he is not really one of my students. His teacher is not strong in math, so she asked me to work with Joe. I never say no when it comes to teaching math. Besides, there are so few students in our school with the ability, let alone the desire to do math and it is a real treat to find some one like Joe.

"Ok Joe, now let's review. If you know that one of the acute ngles in a right triangle, what else do you know or can find out if you have a trig table or a calculator with trig functions?"

Joe hesitates. He is deep in thought. He wants to please me. He wants his A. He wants to understand. Slowly he answers, "I know from the tables... the ratio of the opposite side to the... hypotenuse and this is the... sine of the acute angle."

"Excellent Joe - what else?" I sit forward in my chair in anticipation. He is so close. I am waiting to hear eight more words. Again, he hesitates. I wonder if he is doing this just to tease me.

"I know the ratio of the adjacent side to the hypotenuse. This is the cosine of the acute angle."

"That's it Joe!" I am ready to hug him but decorum prevents it. "No matter how big or small the right triangle, you can go anywhere in the galaxy or universe and this math fact will be exactly the same. "

"WOW - I can make some money with this stuff", Joe replies as a smile creeps across his face.

That was one grand and glorious moment.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some papers to grade before I can watch some of the Olympic games. I can't wait to hear what Bode will say next.

Posted by roadapples at 09:26 AM | Comments (4)

February 05, 2006

handy man meatloaf


Real handy men aren't just handy in the garage, bathroom, or the basement. They can do more than change a light bulb or glue the occasional broken knick knack for the misses. Real handy men are also handy in the kitchen. But don't expect them to cook or even use kitchen utensils the same as the women in the house.

I am sometimes called upon to lend a hand at weekly meal times and special occasions like Superbowl Sunday. Now usually SB Sunday calls for a big heaping two gallon pot of chili with cheese and onions left simmering on the stove buffet style. But this year, I thought I would make my handy man meatloaf. The usual ingredients are as follows: (I say usual because I never make it exactly the same way twice)

one litre bottle of Bacardi's LIght
two cans of Coke
two to three pounds of ground chuck (ground pork can be added if your are feeling adventurous and don't mind the added grease)
four large eggs
two to three palms of saltines crushed knuckle deep
one green pepper ripped in half and cut up into chunks (seeds are optional)
one puny little yellow onion diced with a dull pocket knife (rust stains on knife are optional)
one bottle of thick barbecue sauce or a half bottle of thin
about five shakes of salt and three shakes of pepper
five to eight shakes of cinnamon sugar
one or two shakes of nutmeg
four to five hand fulls of shredded cheddar cheese (mild or strong - you decide)
one can of mushrooms - strained (small or large can - again, you decide)

Set aside the rum and coke and hand mix everything up in a very large mixing bowl and form into a loaf in a rectangular baking dish. Make sure it is big enough to fit with out any mixture spilling over the edge. For a garnish, place triangular pieces of Kraft processed cheese on top.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. But to be honest, I never worry about preheating anything. Place the concoction in the oven and wait for about an hour. Mix up two or three rum and cokes while you wait then get ready to enjoy the best meat loaf you have ever tasted.

For some reason, not very many people will eat this gourmet delight so I have plenty of left over meatloaf. I can then treat myself to meatloaf sandwiches topped with onion slices and Miracle Whip every night at supper time for a week. Uuummmboy now that is good eatin'!

Note: You can subsitute for the Bacardi's if you like. It shouldn't make much difference in the taste - the meat loaf not the rum.

Posted by roadapples at 10:47 AM | Comments (11)