A fine visit to the DMV

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The Department of Motor Vehicles, in most places, has a bad reputation. Long lines, grumpy people working there, uncomfortable seating, crazy wait times. All the stuff that makes people unhappy when trying to take care of something routine that should be easy and quick. But here, that just has not been my experience. The Vermont DMV is easy and quick.

My driver’s license was about to expire. I was going to a conference and was flying to get there. So at some point I realized I could not wait until the last day. I had a window of a couple of hours the other day, so I left work and headed to the DMV. I grabbed a renewal form when I arrived and was only half finished completing it when I got to the head of the line. The woman there cheerily handed me a clipboard and told me to come back over when I was finished. A couple minutes later we met again. I handed her the form, got a number and sat down to wait.

After about ten minutes my number was called. I went to booth 19, cleverly marked with a Vermont license plate, and was greeted, again cheerily, by a smiling man. This guy told me, after I asked him how his morning was going, that it had been expensive. His dog needed surgery so he had brought it into the vet. I suggested that it seemed expensive and stressful, but he assured me with a smile that he would only be stressed if things didn’t work out with the surgery. I mean, I gave the guy a reason to complain and he didn’t complain.

Our visit only lasted a few minutes and, after the four-year renewal was processed, we walked to the photo area and he snapped my photo. I was looking forward to getting a new license since my current one had a terrible photo. Now, I know everyone gripes about their driver’s license photo, but I had never really had a bad one until this one. After another few minutes the woman who originally helped me called my name to hand me my new license. It was really quick. And it was easy.

I was out of there in under 30 minutes. Unfortunately, my new license has an even terribler photo. But at least getting it was a pleasant experience. I don’t mind going to the DMV at all. I might even say I enjoy it. Despite their lack of poor photographers. Something for them to work on, amiright?

Daylight Savings. Ugh.

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I don’t really like to complain. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse, in fact. It is petty and a waste of time. Who doesn’t know this? But we all do it anyway. No matter how privileged or lucky we are, we all have something worthy of our complaining. My most recent beef is with daylight savings time.

Twice each year it makes me grumpy. Frankly, I don’t see the point. Over a decade ago the dates were pushed around, the idea being to save more energy by introducing more daylight into the workday. That didn’t work out so well. No one later demonstrated that any energy was really saved. I’ve heard the other reasons as well. Farmers benefit from more light early in the morning, or later in the morning. It isn’t as dark in the morning when children wait for the bus. But really?

Here is what happens for me in the spring. The days slowly get a little longer starting in December. I wait until March for the light to finally drop over the mountains at a reasonable hour. I can get up and go for a run at 6:00 a.m. and not need a headlamp or a reflector vest. I can rise before work and see the day. I go outside in the light before I get ready to head to work. It is a fine thing. And then daylight savings comes along and throws that all off. I hate that crap.

Now, I have to wait many days before the day is light enough at 6:00 am to go for a run. And for what? I just don’t get it. Why can’t we just pick one way for the clocks to be and stick to it? This is the 21st century. Artificial light has made daylight savings obsolete. It is bogus.

Here is something else, from today. I went in early to work with a group of high school students. At this particular school I don’t usually get there until 8:00 at the earliest. I am lucky to have that flexibility. But today I agreed to work with a first period class. So imagine working with a group of teenagers starting at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday. They are sleepy and not at their best. They are sluggish and mentally less sharp than later in the day or later in the week. And then imagine you are starting at 6:30 instead of 7:30. I tried to be lively, but the day was off to a slow start.

I will get used to it. Complaining does not help. I need to adjust. There are many things worse in the world right now (Um, “microwaves that turn into cameras?” Who knew?) I know all that crap. I still hate it. And I will get used to it. I will get used to it and then the clocks will need to be turned back again in the fall. And I will hate it all over again.

Underestimating

So I got started early on this painting project. My idea was to get things sanded and primed, then maybe tomorrow morning I could paint. I would have time this afternoon to get enough paint to make it happen. I had the primer so I just had to crank. But it weren’t happening.

I had to fix a few boards, take off the stairs (they were starting to rot), and prune the landscaping all around the deck since it was rubbing and scraping. Then I could start sanding. And I did sand. It just took way longer than I anticipated. I had to stop and scrape at times, and change the paper on the sander. I stopped for lunch, and stopped when the sander busted. I thought the pad was simply loose, but it was, in fact, too worn to keep using. And I was missing a screw.

My wife and kids were off to the farm to collect our share of vegetables for the week, so I headed to the hardware store to get some stuff. I got a pad, and some new sanding paper disks, and some new safety goggles to replace my scratched ones, and some batteries while I was at it. But I could not get a screw. It was not to be had in that establishment. I headed home, knowing I would not finish today.

I went from painting tomorrow morning, to maybe just priming tomorrow morning, to finishing the sanding tomorrow, to nothin’. I didn’t even get the sanding done. The wood is just way too far gone. It would probably be easier to just replace all the dang decking, but apparently I like to make things hard on myself. I had the idea to at least replace the stairs today, but I had the little car, and I need a ten foot board–couldn’t carry it with that rig.

Everything is put away now. The majority of the deck is sanded, and all the wall next to it is sanded. I will finish another day. I am hoping I can order a couple screws and pick them up later this week. I won’t be able to get them for a couple of days anyway. This project will get completed. It is just taking longer than I would like. I hope the rest of the house doesn’t take longer than planned. Summer only lasts so long.

A Little Contrast

Perry Schmidt, 1918

Perry Schmidt, 1918

This is a photo of my grandfather when he was three years old.  My grandmother gave this to me a while back when she moved out of her place into an assisted living facility.  He would have been 94 this year, were he still alive.  This photograph was taken in Connecticut.  It is a great photograph in terms of composition, especially considering how expensive such pictures were at the time, and how few might have been taken to get this shot.

I am sure they did not have many photographs.  Some may be hanging around somewhere and some may have been lost over time but, nonetheless, the family’s collection was likely small.  When I managed to migrate all the photographs from our old computer to this new one, there were over 8,000 to move.  I knew we had a lot, but I was still mighty surprised to see that number.  We have hundreds of photographs of our children.

There is a great contrast here in terms of what the world was like for my grandfather and what it is like for my children. I give my daughter the camera and she takes 50 photos.  Half of those might be good enough to consider keeping, and maybe ten we might call good.  There is little extra cost to taking all those pics.  Even when I was a kid one had to load film and then develop it just to see what came out.  That could happen the same day but not instantly, and it cost.  I am sure no one would have given my young grandfather the camera to take pictures of the chickens.

Moreover, I pulled out this photo from its clear envelope, scanned it, and now can send it around the world to thousands of people if I want.  I can print copies at home.  It really is such a different world than the world of that three year old boy.

The other thing to note is the chickens.  When this photograph was taken, if a family wanted to eat chicken, someone went outside and caught one, then killed it, plucked it, took out its innards and cleaned it before cooking it.  I think of how connected my grandfather’s family was to their food.  That many people are choosing to have gardens these days, or to raise chickens, is news, but then it was how people ate.

The interesting thing here, or I should say the really interesting thing, is that we are much more connected our photographs than our food.  We take photographs with our telephones but have no idea where our food comes from.  We can manipulate colors and edit out the goofy guy in the background, right at home after dinner, but most of us have no idea how to pluck a chicken, or even what it ate when it lived its confined life, or that it had a confined life, and most of us don’t want to know.  We seem to want to be distanced from our food.

Imagine this brief conversation:

Hey where’d that photo of Sam in Pete’s Mustang come from?

Oh, Jill sent it to me from her Blackberry.

Hey, where did those blackberries come from?  I mean really come from?

I don’t know.  Argentina?  Chile?  Somewhere far away.

My grandfather and his family would have been a tad confused back when those chickens were prancing about.

Painting All Day and a Full Moon

The plan was to get started as soon as I could.  I needed to sand some more, so I figured I needed to wait until everyone was awake, at least.  But I didn’t wake up until late myself.  It was 8:00 before I was really moving about the house.  And I was the first one up.  Coffee, breakfast, water, making plans, all that happened before I got out there.  I sanded with the disc sander, then with the corner sander.  Then I taped.  Then I had to decide what to do with the windows.  Tape them or scrape them?  I decided to try a third method and scrape/wipe as I go.  And I realized I didn’t have a small paintbrush, as I had thought.

After a trip to the hardware store I began the actual painting–meaning dipping the brush into the primer and spreading the white stuff on the trim–at 11:30.  We have a small extension of the house in front of the deck.  It has an additional small piece of roof.  I decided to just do the trim on this section, not including the upper windows above this small roof or the windows off to the side on the same side of the house or the soffit along the roof proper, and I am glad I limited my ambitions.  After two hours of slapping on primer I was maybe a third finished.  I took a break for lunch and kept going.

I painted and painted.  I was not looking forward to the cross pieces on the windows.  They would require the most time and the most care.  The thing is, I don’t even like those things.  They are not necessary to the structure of the windows–one pane would do fine–and the house isn’t so old that that all those panes were the only option.  Plus, they block the view.  I have to bob and weave to see the sunset or to follow the harrier hovering over the field.  I wish they weren’t there and now I have to paint them with care.  I saved those for last.

These are tall windows I am painting at this point, the size of doors.  I decided to leave the two actual doors for later since I need to take them off to really paint them.  I’ll get to those when I paint the upper windows.  Still, that means four full length windows with ten panes each.  Painting those would be a bear I imagined.  I painted one, ten panes total, and it was late.  My family had already eaten dinner.  I wanted to keep plugging away.  I didn’t want to leave it for tomorrow since the oil-based paint needs a day to dry.  But since the remaining window panes had been covered by storm windows (which I removed before starting) they didn’t need primer.  I painted the bottoms where some water had leaked through over the past few years and I was done for now.

I was at it for eight hours.  That is a good day’s work.  The problem is that I still need to put the final coat on, the actual paint.  That will take me another day.  The other problem is that I still have most of the house to paint.  The other problem is that I am just working on the trim.  The siding will need to be painted as well, it just didn’t need it so badly this summer, or so I thought until I spent a bunch of time right next to it while painting the trim.  I have many many hours of work left to get this all done.  I understand why other people hire someone to paint their houses.  A team of people with the right tools who know what they are doing and have the time to just hammer it out?  That would get it done way faster and way better than me.  It just happens to cost thousands of dollars.  I’ll do it myself, at least this time.

I can’t quite figure out why one would use paint instead of stain these days.  Stain seems better for the wood and requires far less work to maintain.  Our last house was stained and (granted is was a little smaller) took me only a few days to refinish.  That was easy.  This is not.  Scrape it all off and stain it next time?  Sounds just as hairy.  Maybe next time I have to get this done, however, I will be better equipped.  I will know what I am doing and will have the tools and equipment.  I might be faster.  Or I could just pay someone to do it.  I hate to succumb to that but whew, this project is a beast.

Anyway, night has fallen and the air is cool and I have some peach ice cream under my belt, and I mean that last one literally.  I am not sure how much I will get done tomorrow.  We plan to head to the Addison County Field Days.  All this playing certainly gets in the way of painting.  One can’t do everything, however, and I, humble homeowner that I am, am simply doing what I can.  At the moment I plan to just enjoy watching the full moon peek out from behind the clouds.  That is enough for the time being.

Last Day of Work

I have the good fortune of a ten-month contract, which means I get a couple months off during the summer.  My spouse has the same good fortune.  So we are double fortunate.  Last summer was my first no tworking since I was a pretty young.  I even had a paper route before I was a teenager.  Since my wife did some tutoring last summer, this will be our first where we both don’t have to work.  Today was my last day of work.

Really, it was an easy day.  I was on call to take phone calls.  I never got any.  I did need to wrap up a few things but overall it was cake.  I had to run some errands–post office, motor vehicle department, garden supply store–and I got a few things done to boot.  It was  a busy day in toto.  I even busted out the weedwhacker and finished just before the thunderstorm hit.  Not bad.

So now I have lots to tend to.  I hope to do some exterior painting and take care of lots of odds and ends.  If I can get cracking, I will feel good about getting some things done before I can relax and play.  We have a couple of trips planned–not too far but far enough–but mostly just hope to take advantage of what comes our way.

Summer.  You can’t beat it.  I look forward to a bunch of days with my family, with time to take care of projects, time to read, time to eat creemies.  Time to do whatever.  Mostly I look forward to having no schedule, to taking the days as they come.  I look forward to enjoying where I live.  People come here for vacations, after all.  I plan to get some work done but, let’s face it, I need to take some vacation time as well.

Holiday Cards Again

We got our holiday cards in the mail early this year–so early, in fact, that many people who received them have commented that ours was the first they received.  Huzzah for our gang.  But we have received few.  I have been curious about this so here are my theories why we are not getting those cheery holiday greetings in the numbers we once did:

Theory 1:  Our cards suck as badly as my wife suggested-without-saying-out-loud they do.  She did not get a chance to approve the final version before I ordered them, so maybe my eye for the appropriateness of our photos or layout is truly poor.  Those who received them, even if they had considered sending us one, were offended by the contrast of the red background against the color of the beach foam in photo #2, and opted to put us on their naughty list.  Hence, no card.

Theory 2:  OK our cards don’t suck so badly; I was just reading into my wife’s initial reaction because of my deepest fears of being accepted by her, still, after all these years.  However, red is a color that makes people angry.  So everyone who received a card from us is angry that we got ours out so early and they did not.  “Why do those people have all that time on their hands that they can deal with holiday cards in frikkin November?” they ask and there we are, off their list.

Theory 3:  People hate us.  After all those years of pretending, they finally have had enough.  Obama got elected.  Gas prices are down.  Ben and Jerry’s is offering a peach flavored ice cream in December, for cripes sake.  With all the good news, why keep up the charade any longer?

Theory 4:  People love us.  They love us so much that they understand the turmoil we face when receiving holiday cards.  Should we hang the cards on the wall?  Should we spread them across the desk?  Should be put them in a festive basket to flip through in idle moments?  And what do we do with them after the holidays?  Should we recycle them?  Can we recycle those photo cards?  And what will people think if they find out we kept someone else’s and not theirs?  “They don’t need that extra stress,” our friends think, “so I just won’t send them a card this year.”

Theory 5:  People are finally catching on to our wasteful society.  We print the cards, send them great distances using gads of fossil fuels, then enjoy them for only a short time.  And it isn’t just holiday cards.  In their new-found awareness of our throwaway culture, our family and friends are cancelling magazine subscriptions, calling to get off catalog mailing lists, and threatening the Geico gecko with snakes and dogs if he sends any more unsolicited mail.  It isn’t personal.  It’s just wasteful.

Theory 6:  It’s the economy.  I know gas prices are down but the stock market is, too.  Since most people depend on the value of equities for their daily income, they suddenly have half what they did last year at this time.  With General Motors on the verge of collapse and Toyota facing its first loss in 70 years, who can afford $1.95 for a holiday card to some schmucks they haven’t seen in how long?  Plus there’s that 42 cent stamp to slap on the envelope.  Come on people. Be a little sensitive here.

Theory 7:  While we were not paying attention, all of our friends and family became the top players at Goldman Sachs.  About 50 people each earned $20 million dollars there in 2006.  We sent about 5o holiday cards.  If all of our cards went to those people, then they are not earning those same salaries any longer.  So, duh, they can’t afford to send us cards this year.  I feel bad for them, but I guess I understand.  Only, why don’t you tell somebody when you start making that much dough?  Or when you stop making that much dough?

Theory 8, the Reality Theory:  People are just busy.  I get it that sending cards is easy to put off.  I get it that the holidays sneak up.  I get it that the kids keep asking for another snack when, for gods’ sake, they just had a snack.  Life keeps going, even with people like us demanding those once-a-year updates.  Why do you think I made sure to get them out so early?  If I had waited, the arguments about why you can’t have another candy cane or just one more of those foiled wrapped balls even though that weird chewy christmas tree shaped gummi thing really was kind of small would be too distracting for me to even think about that crap.

At this point I have yet to test any of these theories.  Once I get around to employing the scientific method and figuring out which one, if any, is the right one, I will report back.  But I am guessing I won’t get to that until after the holidays.