Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, Emergency, General Musings, Health, New Horizons, Science, Survival, tech | Tags: atherosclerosis, birthday, blogging, echocardiography, electrocardiography, health, heart attack, jim downey, luck, masculinity, miracles, myocardial infarction, science, Science Fiction, stent, technology, Wikipedia
A year ago yesterday, I met my cardiologist for the first time. After looking over the results of my stress echo-cardiogram and discussing what it possibly meant with me, he said that I needed to have a cardiac cath procedure sooner rather than later. Since he’s one of the premier heart surgeons in the mid-west, and always in demand, I expected that this meant I’d get put on a waiting list and have it done sometime in the next month or so when there was an opening in his schedule.
I nodded. “OK, when?”
He looked down at my chart, then back at me. “What are you doing tomorrow?”
Good thing I don’t panic easily.
* * *
Well, as I recounted a few days later, the procedure went smoothly, though longer than usual, with the end result that I had a couple of stents placed to correct a congenital heart defect. It took a while for all the ramifications of what I had lived with, and what it meant to have it corrected, to really sink in. Part of that was coming to full understanding of just how close to death I had come, because even the slightest amount of atherosclerosis, even the tiniest little blood clot, would have triggered a massive heart attack.
But now it’s been a year. I saw the cardiologist several times over that year, most recently a few weeks ago. And, basically, I’m now past it all. I’m no longer taking any blood thinners, I don’t need to take any real precautions, I only need to check in with the cardiologist once a year or if I notice a problem. If I’m smart, I’ll continue to get regular exercise (I now walk three miles each morning, and get in plenty of additional exercise doing yard work and such) and be a little careful about my diet, but those are things which any man my age should probably do.
So, basically, today’s the first anniversary of my rebirth.
And it feels good.
Filed under: Book Conservation, General Musings, Humor | Tags: blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, cannabis, humor, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, Wikipedia
I find all kinds of things in family bibles and similar heirloom books & albums. Photographs. Locks of hair. Newspaper clippings. Flowers. It’s all stuff someone wanted to keep safe, so when I come across it, I set it aside and give it to the client, recommend that if they want to keep it, to do so somewhere other than stuck in the book (because it causes problems for both the binding and the paper).
I’ve seen all kinds of stuff over the years. But this was a new one today:
I checked with the client, who was quite surprised to hear that it was in there. They decided that they didn’t need to keep it as part of the family history.
Does make you wonder, though, what the story is behind it. Hmm.
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Humor, Mark Twain | Tags: architecture, art, cats, Greystoke, humor, jim downey, Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, Wikipedia
“A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?”
― Mark Twain,
So, a couple weeks ago I had an idea … which, if you know me or have followed this blog for a while, can sometimes get me, well, not exactly into trouble, but can lead to things not entirely intended. Anyway, the idea was to build a climbing tree for our cats, which might take advantage of the 12′ ceilings we have in our historic home (ours is the next-to-last in that article).
Here’s the (probably) final result:
Now, for those who may be curious about the process of making this cat tree, there’s more below.
We have a huge slump of an ancient catalpa out in front of the house, near the road. Here it is:
It’s been a favorite of photographers and children for generations, and overall is doing pretty well. But one large part of it died a couple of years ago, and we’ve delayed removing it. That part is the pair of major mostly horizontal limbs which come out from the tree towards the viewer in that image.
After some discussion, my wife and I decided that the lower limb could serve as the basic structure for our cat tree. So I cut it off, and then trimmed it and started removing the bark, as seen here:
It’s a little hard to tell scale in that pic, but that limb is about 12′ from base to either tip, and about 12′ from tip to tip.
After removing most of the bark, we somehow managed to get the thing in through the front door and then into our living room. Without breaking any windows. Or bones. This was trickier than it might sound. And did require a bit of additional editing with a chainsaw on some of the various extensions. Of the tree, I mean.
So, we got it into approximate position, then braced it with a couple of chairs. Here it is, with Greystoke (our younger cat — he’s not quite two) investigating:
Next, we got it mounted to the wall securely. This required some stacked-lumber spacers in order to make sure that the branches cleared the windows and curtains safely. The way I mounted it was to mount the lumber to the wall, then I added heavy hook brackets to the lumber, and cinched the tree down with rope. That way, if it was ever necessary, we could detach the tree fairly easily. Here it is mounted, with a 12″ cardboard concrete tube I intended to use for part of the ‘furniture’:
Almost as soon as it was secured, Greystoke was wanting to explore:
I started adding elements to the tree: a couple of simple platforms, and a horizontal bridge which would support a carpeted tube. These (and all the subsequent elements) were mounted using a combination of metal shelf brackets and rope.
At this point I also started wrapping cotton rope around the branches, to make them more cat-claw friendly/safe:
The branch on the left was at enough of an angle to let the cats climb it easily. On the right, I decided to put in steps similar to a ladder, but spiraling as they went up to make it easier for the cats to climb:
Next I settled on a final design for the tube:
Then it was time to carpet it, as well as add carpet to the ladder steps and the platforms:
Covering the steps and platforms just required a rectangle of carpet the correct size and some double-sided carpet tape. To do the tube was a PITA using a combination of carpet tape, construction adhesive, and hot glue. I recommend checking YouTube for instructions. And gloves. Definitely you want gloves.
Here’s the semi-finished tree, before I added a final platform on the upper right, or some ‘interactive’ toys/elements:
The (probably) finished final result again:
Complete with a suspended ‘bird’, a dangling rope, and a couple of simple wood spinners. Note that Greystoke, instead of being on the tree, is snoozing in his favorite chair below. Typical.
But he has already started climbing on it, playing with things, looking out the windows, climbing *into* the windows …
Silly cat. But that’s why we built it.
So, all of the wood and most of the hardware used in making the tree was stuff which I already had leftover/recovered from other projects. The tree as shown in the final version (which may get tweaked a bit over time as we see how the cats use it) has about 800′ of rope on it, and that was the biggest expense. All together, had I had to buy both rope and all the wood & hardware, the out of pocket costs would have been about $200 (I actually spent about half that). And it took me a total of about 30 hours labor, in 2-3 hour sessions over the last couple of weeks.
Fun project. I was a little concerned that wrapping it with so much rope would detract from it feeling like a ‘tree’, but it has maintained that organic feeling, even with the other elements I added. I’m pretty happy with the final product.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Publishing, tech, University of Missouri | Tags: 1493, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Germany, jim downey, Kozo, leather, Legacy Bookbindery, Liber chronicarum, marbled paper, Nuremberg Chronicle, technology, University of Missouri, Wikipedia
I’ve had the pleasure to work on a number of very significant items from public and private collections. Here’s the most recent one:
That’s the Liber chronicarum, also known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the most significant books in the history of printing. There’s a good basic description of why the book is important in the Wikipedia article, but suffice it to say that it was one of the first really successful integrations of both illustrations and type, and so a big step in printing technology. Here’s a good idea of what the illustrations look like:
This copy of the Liber chronicarum belongs to the University of Missouri system, and needed a little help, as you can see in these images:
Basically, the current binding, as nice as it is, was breaking along the hinge of the front cover. The rear cover was also showing signs of similar aging. This is a very common problem, particularly in large & heavy books. And my estimate is that the binding was probably 100+ years old, so showing a bit of age is understandable.
Typically, there are two basic repair options for dealing with such a problem. The first is to reinforce the hinge inside and out with Kozo dyed to match the leather. This is minimally invasive to the original binding. It’s a good repair for smaller books, but it doesn’t have a great deal of strength, and if a book is very heavy or is going to get a lot of use, doesn’t hold up as well as you would like. And to do it properly on this binding, it would have covered over a significant amount of the nice gold tooling.
The second common repair strategy is to “reback” the book in new leather. This includes removing the original spine, completely rebuilding the liners & hinges, putting new leather on the spine and then remounting the original spine onto the new structure. It’s a strong repair and works well, but tends to be much more time consuming and apparent than the Kozo repair, changing the visual character of the book more.
After discussing the matter with the folks at MU Special Collections, we decided that I would attempt to do a Kozo repair, but one which had elements of the how the leather rebacking is normally done. This was something of an experiment, as is often the case in doing conservation work; you almost always have to blend techniques to meet the specific problems and needs of the item being treated.
I selected a very heavy Kozo paper and dyed it to match the leather. Then I carefully lifted up the leather along the spine, just enough to insert about a half inch of Kozo. Here’s how that looked:
Note that the pieces of Kozo are only between the heavy bands — those bands are part of the sewing structure, and I didn’t want to impinge on how it worked mechanically.
Then I lifted up the leather along the edge of the front cover, pasted out the length of the exposed interior, and brought the two together, inserting the Kozo tabs under the leather. Once that was all positioned, I wrapped it in wide elastic bands and added weight all along the joint:
Then I left it alone overnight to allow the adhesive to set properly. Leaving it alone is always the hardest part of this process, but you have to trust that you did it right, because if you try and look before the adhesive sets, it’s probable that you’ll cause the joint to be out of position.
Here’s what I found the next day:
That’s a nearly perfect joint. I was very pleased.
But I wasn’t finished yet. Now that the cover was properly aligned and partially attached, I needed to strengthen the joint from the inside of the cover.
I opened the book and removed the detached marbled endpaper:
Previously I had carefully used lifting knives to get under the cloth joint cover and lift up the marbled paste-down:
Now I peeled further back the marbled paste-down on the front cover, and applied a wide band of heavy undyed Kozo to function as an internal hinge:
Then I put fresh adhesive on the exposed paste-down marbled paper and put it back into position, thereby securing the joint:
Then I remounted the marbled endpaper with a narrow strip of Kozo on the back:
Lastly, I put down a narrow strip of dyed Kozo on the outside of the cover to mask the broken joint and protect it. This was largely cosmetic, but helped to give the book a finished appearance. After an application of leather preservative and a bit of buffing, the book was finished:
It’s a good repair. Eventually, the book will need to be rebacked in leather properly, but for now we’ve been able to stabilize the book and again make it available for classes and researchers at the University of Missouri.
What a fun project. I really do love doing what I do for a living, and I realize just how lucky I am to be able to say that.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Book Conservation, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Emergency, General Musings, George Orwell, Government, Heinlein, Paleo-Future, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: 1984, Alzheimer's, America, blogging, care-giving, civil liberties, Civil War, civilization, Communion of Dreams, Crazy Years, dementia, Donald Trump, election, Heinlein, Her Final Year, Hilary Clinton, jim downey, luck, Nazi, NPR, politics, predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, survival, technology, theocracy, Wikipedia, writing
The eighty-something man fumbled with the pocket knife he had carried his whole life. His hands trembled with age, rage, and fear, but if the hulking stranger refused to leave his house, well, then by God he’d force the man to leave!
The stranger easily took away the knife, and told the man to go back upstairs. Then he sat down on the mechanic’s stool next to his motorcycle and began to weep.
I was about 14, and had just witnessed age-related dementia for the first time.
The hulking stranger was my uncle, whom I had come to live with. The elderly man was his grandfather. We were at his grandparent’s home, using the garage under the house as a warm place to get a little work done on his bike. He and his grandparents were close, always had been. He had lived with them for a while when he was young.
* * *
President Trump is certain that he was cheated out of a popular election mandate due to voter fraud. Almost no one else agrees, and even members of his own party who are responsible for elections at the state and local level have said that there is virtually no evidence of actual fraud.
The President has also claimed that his inauguration had more people in attendance and watching around the world than any previous. The best evidence and estimates available from multiple sources do not support this claim.
I could go on.
* * *
I remember Martha Sr getting fixated on things which were weird, unpredictable. Fixated in such a way that no matter what we tried to say or do, she was certain that we were wrong. Or just lying to her. Or something.
It was almost always some strange idea or memory or object which would catch her attention seemingly out of the blue and often at the most inconvenient times. The idea that the strawberry seeds in her yogurt were necessary for completing a crossword puzzle, so she had to pick them out and keep them. Or that she was going on a train trip, and had to make sure to go get her tickets right now. It drove us completely nuts, and was one of the more difficult challenges of being care-givers. We’d try to distract her with other things, or explain that we already had her tickets and she didn’t need to worry. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes she’d go on and on and on about whatever it was which had captured her attention, returning to it for days on end.
* * *
In the aftermath of the presidential election, many people who had supported Secretary Clinton were shocked, stunned, at the outcome.
Some started looking for ways to challenge the results. First there was an effort to get the Electoral College to not affirm Donald Trump as the winner, on the basis that Russia had influenced the election. Then there was a hope that the House of Representatives would not confirm the results of the Electoral College vote. Then there were challenges made to whether President Trump could hold the office, since he was in violation of the Constitution.
I could go on.
* * *
It seems like the long-respected norms of civic behavior are finally starting to break down. They’ve been stressed for a very long time, like a marriage which has gone badly wrong, but is held together out of fear for what would actually happen if one partner were to confront the other over perceived slights or suspected betrayal.
But now someone has had enough, and said words which cannot be taken back.
The shouting, the screaming, the breaking of china in anger and frustration has begun.
Young children stand in the doorway to the kitchen, tears streaming down their face, unsure what this means or what will happen next.
* * *
Someone punched a neo-Nazi. Plenty of people cheered. It’s hard not to cheer when Nazis get punched.
The day after the inauguration, millions of people marched in protest of the new president and his administration. Plenty of people cheered. It’s hard not to cheer the affirmation of civil rights and political empowerment.
The day after that, a top-level presidential advisor ill-advisedly used the term “alternative facts” when disagreeing about the turnout at the inauguration. Plenty of people jeered at her for doing so. It’s hard not to mock something straight out of 1984.
The day after that saw the start of a number of Executive Orders and memoranda signed by President Trump, putting into motion the changes which he and other members of his party had promised. Plenty of people cheered to see the change they wanted starting. Plenty of people jeered both the spirit and the letter of the changes.
* * *
I’m not saying that President Trump has age-related dementia. Not even the first signs of it. I’m a bookbinder, not a doctor, and am in no way qualified to make such an assessment.
And I’m not saying that the rhetoric and actions from those who oppose the new administration are equivalent to the rhetoric and actions of those who have supported it.
I am saying that things have changed. I think that we are on the precipice of something akin to Heinlein’s “The Crazy Years”. Things have changed so much, and so quickly, that I have had to go back and make substantial revisions to St Cybi’s Well. Because what before was a challenge to the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’ has been completely superseded by our reality. It’s not the president who is showing signs of dementia — it’s our society.
And I am saying that when you accept and embrace the use of violence against a political opponent, you open yourself up to the use of violence against you by your political opponents. Because there are always justifications and rationalizations for such use, and human history is filled with the resultant wars civil and decidedly uncivil. Be very careful what you wish for.
Filed under: ACLU, Amazon, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Fireworks, George Orwell, Government, Humor, movies, NPR, Paleo-Future, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, Science Fiction, Society, Violence | Tags: 1984, ACLU, George Orwell, Guy Fawkes, humor, investments, jim downey, literature, money, movies, NPR, police, politics, predictions, protest, Science Fiction, Wikipedia, women's march
Even better, we can set up an investment fund which holds stock in companies which make yarn, knitting needles, Maalox, poster board, magic markers, etc. Just to hedge our bets, it should also look at firms which deal in security consultation, drones, police & military equipment, private prisons, and so forth. Pity there’s no way to own stock in the ACLU.
Oh, and I wish I held the copyright on 1984 …
Filed under: Bipolar, Brave New World, Connections, Depression, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Survival | Tags: atherosclerosis, bipolar, blogging, brick walk, cardiac stent, construction, creative process, darkness, depression, exercise, genetics, health, jim downey, luck, medicine, mental health, predictions, privilege, society, stent, technology, Wikipedia, writing
As I’ve noted previously, I’m mildly bipolar, with my ‘natural’ bipolar cycle running about 18 months. I had noticed the start of a psychological downturn three or four months ago, following the intense boost that came with the discovery and correction of my cardiac artery blockage and subsequent recovery. Since I don’t usually realize that I have taken a downturn until it has gone on for a while, I’m guessing that I’m approaching the bottom of the cycle.
* * * * * * *
Some 50 years ago, my father-in-law (who I never met — he passed away before my wife and I knew each other) put in a simple brick walkway around two sides of his garden. OK, that doesn’t sound like too big a deal. But his garden was almost a full acre in size, and the walkway more than 100 yards in length. Yeah, it really is that long.
After his death, the garden was reverted back to lawn. And slowly the brick walkway was reclaimed by that lawn.
But since the house remained in the family, memory of the walkway wasn’t lost. Some time back the walk was uncovered, and for the last decade or so we did a pretty good job of keeping it clear and used. Here’s a pic of some of it:
Note the box turtle in the patch of sunlight in the upper part of the pic.
* * * * * * *
I sent this in a message to a friend this morning who had asked if I was feeling more healthy these days:
I do feel a lot stronger and more … vital. But I really don’t want to be one of those ’50-something year old guys who discover the power of exercise!’ At best, it’s annoying to most people. At worst, it’s obnoxious able-ism. My situation, both my peculiar genetic problem and my lifestyle permitting me to get a LOT of exercise time in, is extremely unusual, and not something I can claim as being due to my own effort.
Yeah, I think a lot about this.
* * * * * * *
For a couple of years we’ve talked about rebuilding the brick walkway, because while we’ve been able to keep it uncovered, it is nonetheless ‘sunk’ relative to the surrounding lawn. Meaning that it collected grass clippings and mud, tended to puddle, and retained ice and snow for a prolonged period. Plus there were sections which had been damaged by construction and heavy trucks which came into the yard to do utility and tree work.
But redoing a 300’+ length of brick walkway is no small task. To do it correctly would require a lot of work and a fair amount of expense for proper landscape edging, landscape fabric, gravel/chat, and sand. And if we were going to go to the trouble of redoing it, we wanted to do it correctly and expand it a bit.
About two weeks ago we ordered the first four cubic yards of chat, got some of the other materials, and got started. Since the edging material we’re using comes in 60′ lengths, we decided to use that as the operative size of each ‘section’ of the walkway. The first step was to remove the old brick walk:
Then expand the bed, take it down, and level it out:
Then put down the base layer of chat on top of the landscape fabric:
And then start putting down brick. Here’s how far we’ve gotten as of yesterday afternoon:
With luck, we’ll finish getting the rest of the bricks laid in this ‘section’ today or tomorrow. Then we’ll be about one-fifth through the whole project.
* * * * * * *
As I’ve noted previously, I’m mildly bipolar, with my ‘natural’ bipolar cycle running about 18 months. I had noted the start of a psychological downturn three or four months ago, following the intense boost that came with the discovery and correction of my cardiac artery blockage and subsequent recovery. Since I don’t usually realize that I have taken a downturn until it has gone on for a while, I’m guessing that I’m approaching the bottom of the cycle.
One of the things I learned long ago is that doing something constructive helps me cope with the depressive part of my bipolar cycle. By focusing on something in discrete chunks, I can slowly ‘walk’ out of my depression, since I can see tangible progress happening on something.
We probably won’t be able to finish the full 300’+ of the brick walkway before winter sets in. But that’s OK. Being able to spend a couple of hours working on the walk each day (when the weather permits) helps. It’s good exercise for my body. And it helps to keep my mind from falling too far into the darkness.