All posts by Ken

My Dad’s Dad

I never got to meet my dad’s dad – that would be my Grandpa Deboy. He died long before I was born, to tell the truth I’m not even sure what year. Looking back at family history though I can kind of guess… I think he was 54 when he died, and my dad was 20. Since my dad was born in 1934, my grandpa would have died in 1954 or early 1955, meaning he would have been born in 1900 or 1901.

I do know some things about him… he came to the United States from Germany. I don’t know the date he was processed through Ellis Island, but his ship left Germany on May 23, 1922. I have a copy of the page from the ship’s passenger list with my grandpa’s name on it. I guess he came here because he wanted to be an American. My dad said as early as he can remember, no German was spoken at home, only English. Some time after arriving, he married Thelma, my Grandma – for some reason we always called her “Murphys Grandma” instead of Grandma Deboy. She passed away when I was 4 or 5. I loved her dearly, but I’ll write about her later. This is about her husband, my dad’s dad, Albert Deboy.

At some point, my grandpa got a job with a dairy. He was good at his job, so good that he eventually he was in charge of taking the dairy’s “show string” to all the big fairs in California (including the State Fair) to show them. In those days, that was a big deal. Then he gave it all up and quit to become a caretaker at a sanatorium in the little town of Murphys, California.

If you’ve ever been to the Central Valley in California, you may know how hard it can be in kids with asthma or allergies. Lots of heat, lots of pollen, hell on allergies and asthma – and hell on my dad, who suffered from both. The family decided to send my dad to a sanatorium in Murphys for a better climate and treatment for his allergies and asthma.

It didn’t work out so well I guess… my dad missed my grandparents and they missed my dad, so they moved him back home and told him to just deal with the allergies and asthma… NOT. My grandpa gave up his prestigious job with one of the top dairies in California and moved the family to Murphys so the whole family – my dad included – could be together. My grandpa was unemployed for awhile, but eventually he was able to get a job as caretaker at the sanatorium that was treating my dad.

When I look at the little I know about my grandpa, I wish I could be more like him – selfless instead of selfish, willing to sacrifice my own ambitions for the sake of my family. Unfortunately I still have a long ways to go…

We’re Back…

we-be-backSo much for not paying attention… my web hosting expired (I knew it was coming so no excuses) so my several domains stop working last Friday. Luckily I’d backed up the databases for the important ones, but did nothing else. It took me awhile to get the domains transferred and I’m still trying to figure out the new account interface (cpanel) and domain user scheme. But anyway, we’re back.

As for the garden, we had mixed results but it wasn’t a total failure. We got lots of summer squash throughout the summer and a so-so crop of cherry tomatoes. We also got 8 or 9 butternut squash and 7 pumpkins, but the pumpkins didn’t get ripe before the first heavy frost killed the vines early last week. My salsify experiment was a failure and my wife’s asian bean plants grew into some beautiful and healthy looking vines with lots of blossoms, but no beans. Anyway, hoping next year is better. We got a late start this year, but I have six new planting beds for next summer. I’m going to spend the winter trying to make good soil for them.

Fall is here and I love it…

I didn’t realize it when I woke up this morning, but today is the first day of fall and I’m loving it. We’ll have more hot days yet this year, but today was cool, cloudy, it even rained – well, sprinkled – a little bit. Work is going well, and I have a new rifle on the way – a Savage Axis II in 223. Also parts to convert it to 277 Wolverine in the future…

My older son is taking a ceramics class at community college and my younger son just got glasses today. I’m kind of sad he needs glasses at only 11 years old but happy he can see really good now and he’s excited about getting them, so I guess it’s all good.

We got half of the duplex that our ex-tenants trashed finished (finally!!!) and a new tenant in place, the other side should be done by the end of the month and we have a tenant lined up for that side too.

The best news is my wife is buying a new car this month, so that’s wiping out most of the money we’d saved up for the down payment on another rental house. YIPEE!!! I _SO_ need a break from working on houses…

So next 3 or 4 weeks will be really busy finishing up the duplex and getting my wife a new car. After that, well… I’ve got some vacation time saved up at work, hunting season starts at the end of October, and I’m getting back into a hobby that I used to love but haven’t had time for in many years. I take back a previous statement. It’s not all good. It’s fantastic. Have a wonderful autumn:)

Bishop – twice in two weeks – week two

The first trip was going to be the only trip, but after packing and cleaning for two days mom decided we needed to make one more trip before the estate sale. This trip was better and worse. The first time she griped about the way I drove, so this time I followed her down, and she stayed when I came back to Reno so I could set my own pace coming back. This time we left on a Saturday and I came back on Monday. Since the Monday was Robert’s first day back at school after Easter break, the kids stayed home this time. That was good and bad – since Mom was content to hang out at the motel (I guess she gets sad hanging at the house and getting ready to hand the keys over to someone else) I got to have a lot of alone time that I needed. OTOH, I missed the kids, and Robert got really upset Sunday morning when his mom was late getting home due to working 4 hours of overtime on her shift.

Unlike the first trip, I got to spend some time over at the lot. Very depressing looking at the two dry creeks. They ran continuously from at least 1975 when my parents bought the lot all the way through 2012. I’ve caught many fish in them, and since they had the bigger creek dug out it’s deep and wide enough to float in – if it had water. Now it’s just dry, with mud at the bottom every time it rains or DWP decides to let a little water down. Depressing.

Mom found some more things she wants to bring to Reno that wouldn’t fit in the back of my truck so in a few weeks I’ll be renting a U-Haul and making another trip. I also decided to get as many of Dad’s lave rocks while I’m there since I’ll have a big, almost empty truck.

I took my camera this time but didn’t bother to take any pictures. In some ways Bishop is the same as it’s always been, but in other ways it’s changed and for the worse in my opinion. Lots of areas I used to hunt, fish, fly rockets, ride my BMX bike, etc. are now fenced and posted “No Trespassing” even though the land is still empty. Hardly any local businesses left but more people. Down town is dead at night. It’s hard to believe that the year I graduated from high school, Bishop could support an 18 lane bowling alley, FOUR grocery stores, three hardware stores, Radio Shack, four or five sporting goods stores, a Baskin Robbins, four or five liquor stores, three bars, and lots of other small businesses. Now the bowling ally is closed and used as a warehouse, there are NO liquor stores, Basking Robbins is gone, no more hardware stores, no Radio Shack, only one bar, two grocery stores, and lots of the little gift shops and whatnot are closed. The ironic thing is the population is 10 or 15% higher than it was when I lived there – more people supporting fewer local business.

I hope the next trip is a little happier.

Bishop – Twice in two weeks – week one

I was lucky enough to go to Bishop twice in two weeks. Both were quick trips though and bittersweet. The first trip was to help my mom get ready for her estate sale. Drove down on a Saturday and back on Monday, me and my two kids in my truck and mom in her car. We didn’t have time to do much except pack and clean. Staying in a motel in my own town sucks, but at least they had a good breakfast bar. I feel sorry for my mom. She used to be so… I don’t want to say “smart” because she’s still smart, but now she gets confused easily, “remembers” things that were not the way she remembers them, says something then forgets she said it, and she takes EVERYTHING so seriously now. Like a joking comment by me on my need to lose a few points getting a half hour dissertation on the importance of proper nutrition, what I “really to do,” etc. Since I didn’t like hanging out at the motel I spent as much time as I could at the house. It was kind of sad, realizing it’s probably one of the last times I’ll get to be there.

On the plus side, I think my 10 year old really enjoyed being there. His older brother is finally getting over his need to constantly be present so me and Robert got to spend some time alone together. He has a pretty funny sense of humor – when I said one of the nice things about Bishop is there are no bad guys, right away he piped up with “So what do they do, pay the police to sit around and do nothing?” then spent the next half hour making up jokes about cops in a practically crime-free town. I got a kick out of it.

Like I said though, it was a very bittersweet experience. The creeks at the lot still don’t have water for the third or forth year in a row. Almost all the stuff mom is keeping is already in Reno, everything left in Bishop will be sold at the estate sale and what doesn’t sell will be donated to a local charity. Dad’s beautiful grape arbor will stay in the back yard.

I wish there was a way I could find a job and move to Bishop. I love it there – the slow pace of life, the wide open spaces, friendly people (but not “fake friendly” like in a big, liberal city), and the way you can get just about anywhere in 10 minutes or less. Oh, and the lack of bad guys…

Porter Cable PCE141 – First Impressions


I bought my Porter Cable PCE141 based on two things: low price and a large number of positive reviews. My main concern was – how can such a cheap drill offer “hammer” capability and be even somewhat reliable? The positive online reviews (and very few negative reviews, 3 year warranty, etc) kind of eased my worries so I decided to give it a chance. Besides, I wasn’t even buying it to drill holes with… I needed something that would spin a wire brush fast enough to clean the rust from cast iron frying pans without wasting a lot of time. To do that I wanted at least 2500 rpm and a side grip. It turns out the PCE141 is the only affordable drill I could find that meets those specs.

First impressions are that it seems light, balances really nice, and is easy to hold. PC calls it single speed, but I guess that refers to the hammer function because drilling speed is definitely variable – the more you pull the trigger, the faster the motor spins. I like the keyed chuck since it gives way better holding power than any keyless chuck, and the side handle is easy to adjust and gives a lot of stability. I just wish it wasn’t made out of plastic.

On the down side, the chuck has noticeable runout when spinning, the electrical cord has a 2-prong plug instead of a properly grounded 3-prong plug, and the motor is freakin’ LOUD – not exactly confidence inspiring. It does have a 3 year warranty though, so we’ll see…

Making lemonade

There is a saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonaid. So today, life gave me lemons so I’m making lemonade.

I’m taking vacation this week, and I had big plans… lots of stuff I want to do around the house and more important I wanted to get our rental property ready to go after a bad tenant trashed it and skipped out owing us two months rent. So, today I wake up to a foot of snow on the ground. Yesterday the high was 67. Go figure. On top of that, the property manager we had an appointment with this morning didn’t show up, I guess because of the snow. Go figure, more lemons I guess.

So… no yard work because the yard is covered in snow. No work on the rental because the heat is turned off and it’s fricken COLD. No clean up in my garage because, well, it’s fricken cold. Heck, I can’t even drive out in the desert and spend a few relaxing hours looking for cool stuff – because all the cool stuff is covered with snow.

Then I remembered – I have 4 old cast iron frying pans that are covered in rust and gunk. I vaguely remember reading about how to restore cast iron pans using the self cleaning cycle on a gas oven. A quick Google search and I find a web site that explains how to do it. Verify that my oven does indeed have the self cleaning feature, put in two pans, close the door, press the write button, and… I’m making lemonade.

In a few hours I should have a couple of (mostly) rust free cast iron frying pans. A little clean up work and some seasoning and they’ll be ready to use. The lemonade part is that it’s cold, so running the self cleaning cycle on the oven is making the house nice and warm. All in all, what could have been a wasted day is turning out to be a pretty good day.

Moral of the story is, when life gives you lemons, don’t waste your time and energy complaining, use your time and energy for making lemonade.

My new Bosch 4100-09 table saw

bosch 4100-09 table sawI love tools – the right one can make an impossible job possible and any job easier than it would be without the right tool. Never mind that they’re just plain cool – like my new Bosch 4100-09 …

I’m doing a couple very small areas of laminate flooring and it’s a PITA to use a circular saw to trim the laminate on the long edge so I suggested to my wife that we get something to make it easier – like a table saw. She shocked me by agreeing right away. OK, so now which one to get? This isn’t a review of any table saw, just a tracing of my thought process in deciding what table saw to buy.

My first choice was a portable unit and two stood out right away (based on reviews on Amazon and reputable woodworking sites) – either the  DeWalt DW745 or the Bosch GTS1031. Both had really good reviews, but both had things I didn’t like – some that mattered and some that didn’t. Since I didn’t know squat about table saws, well…

The DeWalt got great marks for accurate cutting, but it’s a direct drive motor with no soft start (hint: doesn’t matter). Also it won’t accept a dado blade (whatever the hell that is – also doesn’t matter), and some say you can’t store it on its side because of various, mysterious “factors.” Whatever… I decided the DW745 wasn’t the saw for me…

The Bosch got huge amounts of praise for its durability, ergonomics, and most important its frame design which supposedly lets you store it in any position you like with no worries about parts falling off, damaging the power cord, etc. The only problem… more than a few people complaining about blade wobble. Even I could see that is not a good thing, so I also decided against the GTS1031.

Since I’d eliminated both first choices, I looked at the next in line for Bosch and DeWalt – the DeWalt DWE7480XA and the Bosch 4100-09 table saw. Both have good reviews and neither had the negative comments that the smaller saws had. Since I liked the stand that came with the 4100-09 better I decided on the Bosch. Brought it home, unpacked it, put it together, and it works great. I LOVE this saw. Then I started reading…

The reason I bought the saw was to trim laminate flooring and possibly use for other house rehab tasks. I got sucked into the idea of a table saw that could “do it all.” Both the DWE7480 and the 4100-09 are more capable than the smaller saws from their makers, but neither is really a “do it all” saw, and either the DW745 or the GTS1031 would have been better for the jobs I wanted a table saw for in the first place.

In retrospect, I should have bought the DW745 for my flooring and rehab work and started saving up for a hybrid saw (maybe a Delta 36-725 oops, no longer stocked by Lowes 5000 Series) or maybe save a little more and get a cabinet saw.

Whatever, I already paid for the 4100 and it DOES work great. Hope to have a full review soon. Oh, and I just got a router – after rethinking my saw purchase though I did the right thing and got the router I need now, not the one I might need some day. More to come on that too…

More like my Dad…

I wish I could be more like my Dad. It’s been almost 2 years since his passing and sometimes I miss him so much I cry. Still. After 2 years…

We didn’t always agree on things, but he was always supportive and never got angry even when I was <ahem> vehement on my position. Unlike me…

He was a busy man, but he always made time for family and put family first. In particular, no matter what he was doing or how important it was, he’d stop and make time to talk to me when I needed to talk. Unlike the way I am with my two sons…

He had a strong faith. He didn’t just talk about it, he lived it. Unlike me…

He was a quiet, modest man, but he would speak out – strongly – when he felt he saw some injustice or unfairness that he needed to speak out about. Unlike me…

He was tough but fair, and always calm. No matter how badly I screwed up he would always talk to me about it – no yelling, no swearing, no etc. Unlike me…

So now I just got an interruption and I’ll have to finish this post later. Not handling it well. Unlike how my Dad would have handled it…

I wish I could be more like my Dad…