No More Lola

For about the last five years, I’ve had a cat Lola. Kelli and i got her from a co-worker at Remax. We wanted a second cat besides Alley, preferably a kitten. Kelli asked around and heard about Lola.We were a little dissapointed at first because she was a fully grown cat, but we took her anyway. For a while we joked that she’s not the brightest cat in the universe; she was always skittish, didn’t like to be picked up and was easily startled. Because we still wanted kittens, we eventually got Frankie and Cohen and it was with their arrival that Lola started to shine. Neither Lola nor the kittens got along with Alley, but they took to each other quickly. It is my belief that Frankie and Cohen were taken from their mom too early, but Lola filled in some of the blanks. The three of them generally slept in a big pile and they even “nursed” from her. I put the in quotations because I can’t imagine she was producing any milk. The kittens are full grown cats now, each weigh twice as much as Lola even at her heaviest. A couple weeks ago, she started losing weight. She was always a pretty sedentary cat, so it wasn’t obvious when she started losing strength. Seeing that she’d lost so much weight, I finally took her to the vet this past Wednesday. When the doctor (Dr Casazza at North Portland Veterinary) examined her and did some tests, she found that Lola was very dehydrated and very anemic. The initial theory was kidney failure, didn’t sound good. She was put on IV fluids and after a day of seemingly improving, she took a turn for the worse. In the end, cancer was the only diagnosis that made sense. There were other theories, but none of them had a hopeful prognosis. So finally, yesterday, we had to put her down.
I would add that the Vets at the clinic really rock! In everything that they do, their dedication to the animals that they treat shines through. They are great at explaining what’s happening with my cats, I never feel rushed like when I see a doctor myself. The animals are clearly the first priority. I am grateful they are part of the community that I live in. Lola will be missed Oh, even though Dr Casazza (couldn’t find a link for her) was the doctor with whom I interacted on this the most, it was Dr Fletcher that helped us through the last hour or two. She rocks too.

night stand

So Robie has been asking me for a night stand for ages now. I have one on my side of the bed, but she doesn’t. So I have to hand her the glass of water when she’s thirsty. I have to hand her her phone when it rings (or more commonly, when she uses it as an alarm…. every morning)I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the basement in me woodshop and my most recent project is a bedside table. The first question is what type of wood to use. I was leaning towards cherry when one day I was cleaning up a bit in the yard (there’s a thought) and I was reminded that I still have some wood that I removed from the house when I did the windows project last year. I couple 2×4 from the walls and some trim pieces. I’d been wanting to do something with it other than throw it away. Why not use it for the table? It’ll give it some character and it actually is quite nice wood. Tight and straight grained. My house was built 85 years ago; they used the good stuff back then. The only issue is the paint and the nail holes. So after going over the boards with my metal detector to find the last bits of nail, I ran them through my planer and the wood is quite nice. I cut and glued some of them into a tabletop Next, I got out me bench top chisel motiser and the tenon jig for the saw and built a simple table: One note about a tenon jig. They’re only useful if you KNOW that the wood stock is flat and of the same thickness. This comment makes sense if you’re actually thinking about cutting tenons. But Robie wanted another shelf under the top. So I glued up some more wood and made a shelf. This one didn’t need to be as thick, I didn’t want it to seem overly hefty. I took some more of the wood and cut it down the center to make two boards from one and glued em up. I added some support rails: Here are some pictures in better lighting: It still needs some more sanding and some sort of a finish, but that’s turned into Robie’s job. She has more patience for that kind of work. Notice some of the black marks. That’s where nails used to be. Over the years, they rusted and turned the surrounding wood black.

How to subscribe to a blog

I had lunch with my friend Grady today, catching up and so forth. At some point, I was talking about one of my recent projects and how I have pictures on my blog. He says, he’ll check it out, but it made me ask, “why don’t you just subscribe to it?”He doesn’t know how and suggested I do an entry about it. Here’s a video about subscribing to RSS feeds that seems pretty good: but here’s how I do it: go to your favorite website (like mine) and look for “feed” or “xml” or “rss” and click on the button. Here’s what it looks like on mine: Click on feed, and in firefox, you’ll get something that looks like this: Notice I use the google reader “subscribe to feed using Google”. Hit subscribe and you’ll have two options, the reader and google home. I use the reader Click on the add button and you’ll taken to the google read page, which in my case looks like this Once you’ve subscribed, google will check if there are any articles you haven’t seen yet. One stop shopping for all your news and updates. Other blogs behave a little different. For example, here’s what it looks like on, I blog I like to read They actually give you some options In my case, I chose “all treehugger categories” I also like to read the blog The Oil Drum for them the link is here: you want to click on the three semicircles.

Garden Trellis

I’ve been getting some good use out of the chisel mortiser that I got at the woodshow last year. I’ve been working on a sidetable/nightstand for Robie (post coming soon). Today, I whipped up a pair of trellises (trelli?) for the garden.Turned out pretty nice, I think  

Career thoughts

I’m finishing up my sabbatical. Every 7 years Intel gives ALL fulltime employees an additional 8 weeks of paid vacation. My blog has covered some of the stuff I’ve done during this time, my second sabbatical. The first one was spent in Africa and in Germany.One of the things that I had wanted to do during my time off was look alternative employment. Why? I like my job with Intel; the blessings of working there are many:
  1. I like the stuff I work on.
  2. I like the people I work with.
  3. I like the managers above me
    1. I like them all as people
    2. The two immediately above me have been a joy to work for; they are good managers. The two above them, I sometimes question the wisdom of some of the things they do or don’t do. Pretty standard stuff though.
    3. There are only three people in all 15 years that I would now decline to work for. For one of these it’s because he’s just an incompetent ass. The other two, well, just bad blood. Pretty good for 15 years.
  4. Intel is the reason I spent 2.5 years in Israel, one of the best times of my life/career
    1. Intel Isreal has been my favorite place to work. Israeli problem solving and focus is exhilirating to be a part of
    2. Intel paid for me to learn Hebrew though when the average Israeli learns that I speak the language, the most common question is: Why?
    3. I made many special friendships, including relationships with two wonderful women.
    4. Observing Israeli culture gave me a much deeper appreciation for the value of family
    5. Travel to Israel means free visits to my mom in Germany; flights to Tel Aviv often pass through there.
  5. Intel is the reason I live in Portland. Portland is the most recent of 6 places I’ve lived (Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Boston, Santa Clara, Haifa, and Portland) and I predict it will be my last. I love it here and the life I have.
So why would I want to leave the company that has done so much for me? Well, unlike my outlook in my 20s, I feel that there is more to life than work. I have hobbies, friendships, and family prospects that demand more of my time. As long as I’m constrained to forever working 40+ hours/week and 48 weeks/year, I will be time limited. I’m blessed enough that I earn enough of a salary that I could cut back. I just don’t have the time. So I’m looking for is a way to cut back on my work hours without retiring. Again, I LIKE what I do. I LOVE programming computers. I’m good at it and it’s very rewarding. I don’t want to stop; just cut back. Intel will never be willing or able to provide this for me.
  1. A guy that was already considered the old guy when I starting working for Intel back in 1993 convinced management to allow him to reduce to 4 days/week for a while. Eventually he was forced to switch back to the “normal” work-week
  2. Someone I know in Isreal was working a reduced schedule to enable her to spend more time with her son. She was pressured to return to a normal work-week.
  3. Even the flexibility to work remotely was revoked for several people after they’d successfully done so for many years.
For all the good things that Intel is, progressive and understanding of employee life is not really one of them. But what company is? Intel’s not in the business of making life flexible and fullfilling to it’s employees. It’s in the business of designing and producing semiconductors, mostly microprocessors. Similarly, other companies are in the business of making money. Spending time and resources on employee happiness is only warranted (rightly) if it positively impacts the bottom line. There are rare companies like Google that make employee happiness a competitive advantage, but the attitudes required to pull that off are not really compatible with the traits required to successfully lead a company or organization. So I can’t really fault Intel. Intel is not evil or immoral. The managers are good people doing the best they know how. If it’s important enough to me, I have to make it happen on my own. But if other companies are no better, how can I make it happen? The answer I have to that is to gain the skillset that will enable me to do one of two things:
  1. be valuable to enough companies out there that one of them can be convinced to give me the work flexibility I’m looking for. Just play the numbers. More companies -> more likelyhood of finding one that is willing to do things a little differently
  2. be able to go out on my own as a contract employee/consultant.
The group I’m currently scheduled to join on my return from sabbatical is a step in that direction. I’ll be working on something somewhat different that has more applicability outside Intel. I’m also looking at other options. My managers know this. They know why. They would love to help me. But long term, they acknowledge that I’ll need to go somewhere else.

Bee hi-rise

So last week, Robie and I vacuumed up the bees in our porch column. We locked them inside a hive with a bunch of their honeycomb for a couple days in and effort to reset their sense of home. This morning, I put their hive on top of our existing hive with a double screen board. Since I’m pretty sure the queen from the column didn’t make it, they will want to integrate with the old hive. The purpose of the double screen board is to expose the two hives to each other without letting them massacre each other. After a couple days or a week, we’ll remove the double board and let them merge.Either way, our hive is kinda tall now.

Aborted PCT trip

As part of my sabattical, I planned on hiking a week’s worth of the Wunderland trail around Mt Rainier. when I looked at their website the trail conditions reports says that snow is bad enough that all four parties that had tried aborted by the end of the first day.So I went back to plan A, the Pacific Crest Trail. Robie and I hiked up the Eagle Creek Trail about 5 miles and camped. Very nice hike. Lot’s of day hikers, but not a lot of campers. The next morning, we hiked up to Tunnel falls. (click the picture to make it bigger) At that point Robie headed back to the car and I continued up Eagle Creek trail towards the PCT. Quite a nice hike. Another 7 miles and 3000 feet of elevation gain later, I arrived at Wahtum lake. I continued on to Indian Creek The view wasn’t as nice, but fewer mosquitos. The next day, I continued south on the PCT. The first 5 miles to Bull Mountian was great. Level trail. Shaded. On the West side of the ridge. (Sun does up in the East, remember). As I approached the two peaks Preachers Peak and Devil’s Pulpit, trail ocnditions weren’t as good. Lot’s of snow drifts across the trail but you could generally see where the trail continues. I wouldn’t want to hike this in tennis shoes, but the edges of my boots held pretty well. Drains a lot of energy though.
The real trouble began in the saddle round the two peaks. It took me at least an hour to find the continuation of the trail. In places, I saw trail markers, but mostly it was guessing based on where the trail should be going. I was very happy to find the other end, but worried. I hiked on a bit and came to the junction with Huckleberry trail which goes down to Lost Lake. At this point, the trail was clear of snow and I continued re-assured that I had a way out. Well about .5 mile later, I came across another snow field. I figured that even if I could find the other end, I’m starting to push my luck. This is a solo trip. So I went back to the Huckleberry trail and hiked down to lost lake. I managed to get a text to Robie from my cell phone when I got to a part of the trail that was high and open. Hopefully, it’d make it through and she’d get me. Three miles later (2 miles to the lake, and another to get to the other side) I arrived at their general store. They didn’t have a phone there, but one of the guys was nice enough to drive me up the road when cell phone was workable. I called Robie to find out she’s already on her way. So my trip ended early. 5 days early. That’s a lot of food to carry for nothing. It was a very nice trip anyway.

window fan

Being on sabbatical has given me time to catch up on blogging about my projects. The frequency of posts will surely go back down when I go back to work.While living ast my old house in Beaverton, my bedroom took forever to cool down on hot summer days. The ceiling fan didn’t do the trick as it just moved air around. What I need was to force the hot air out of the house. When I was a kid, we put a fan in the door or window, but thinking back that didn’t seem like it’d be too effective. he fan needs to be sealed into the window. Here’s a picture of the fan I use in my house here in Portland (click for a larger image): It works very well and is essentially the same as a whole house fan, only cheaper and easier to install. Not as pretty though. On the topic of cooling the house, there are two home improvement projects I recommend as the first ones that anyone should consider. The first is an attic fan. I installed it myself and it’s about $150 in parts total. In most homes (vaulted ceilings being a notable exception) you have the ceiling of the top floor, insulation, attic space (even if unfinished) and then the roof. In the summertime, that attic space gets HOT. Even a concrete sidewalk can be hot if it cooks in the sun all day. Temps in the attic of 130 degrees is not unusual. So think about it. right above your ceiling you have this bubble of hot air trying to push it’s way in. When the sun goes down, this bubble doesn’t just go away. Here comes the attic fan to the rescue. The fan in installed on the roof and serves to pull the hot air out of the attic to be replaced with air from the outside. For most places this outside air is somewhere less than 130 degrees. The differential between the air in your bedroom and that in the attic is less and the insulation is better able to do its job. Also in the evening, when the outside air temp drops, you’ll get the benefit of this much quicker. An attic fan is the first upgrade any homeowner should think about. You will see an IMMEDIATE difference. A second upgrade is to add attic insulation. This is something most people can do themselves. In many homes, the attic doesn’t have any insulation at all, this was the case in my friend Kevin’s house. My 14 year old Beaverton house had lots of thin spots where they skimped on insulation. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and in the insulation dept, you’ll find bundles of insulation. Not the fiberglass batts, but the stuff you need a vacuum cleaner type device to install. Most stores will “rent” this device to you for free if you buy a minimum amount. In my own house, I was able to add about 12″ of insulation to my attic for ~$150. Again, I saw an immediate improvement. It’s a two person job. One to work the hose in the attic and the other to feed the bundles into the vacuum. Also, it makes a mess. Nothing good dusting and vacuuming (the normal household kind this time) won’t fix. Also, a good respirator is a must. Two last notes. One: this is not the itchy fiberglass stuff. (though the new fiberglass doesn’t itch anymore either). Two, be careful in the attic. drywall will not hold you up. step only on the wooden 2x4s and 2x6s