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Happy Easter

Yes – I still exist, despite my disappearance from my blog! Life has been… busy, very busy, and I simply have not found a way to make time for writing. That’s especially true as the weather improves. It is currently 10:30 on a Sunday night and I am at least making an effort to get a post up (although it likely won’t be tonight).

I will begin with a brief (hopefully) commentary on “the slap”; that now infamous Academy Award moment between Will Smith and Chris Rock. As you may well assume, I have some strong opinions on this and in no particular order, here they are.

It has been waaaaay too overblown – it is on every venue I see and multiple times at that. Memes notwithstanding – enough. It was a moment, it happened, and the world gasped – then they all dropped their infectious disease degrees and science expert status to become sociologists and psychologists, in most cases all without ever having spoken a single word to either person on that stage. Amazing!

I cut my teeth on James Bond, Clint Eastwood, James West, and a host of similar men’s men; strong desperately male characters – tough guys. Guys who slapped other guys when warranted. Men slap; they also punch but Will Smith slapped and that is extremely telling. A punch is assault – a slap is a man straightening out the other guy. Yes – violence is bad: men should never hit women or children…but other men is (to me) fitting and appropriate for a real man. Recall that a slap with a glove marked a perceived dishonor between gentlemen not so long ago. And I applaud Will Smith for being a man.

It was prompted by a joke about Will’s wife; regardless of the state of their marriage, you don’t speak poorly of another man’s woman. If you do, expect a reaction. Because real men defend their women, as Will did. His timing was perhaps not the best, in front of thousands in person and millions live on TV. But Chris played the card and Will called it. And Chris handled the moment beautifully – he accepted the slap with poise and dignity and a touch of humility because I suspect he knew he went where he shouldn’t have with that joke.

The comedians of the world are united in their outcry and their immunity from criticism: “free speech” they say, “humor” they say, “all’s fair game for comedians” they say. But is it? Do they make racial jokes about blacks or Asians? Do they make jokes about Jews? How about poking fun at people with Down’s or MS or other issues? How about kids with cancer? We already know there is a line, but with today’s snowflakes reacting to absolutely everything that offends them, the line is so fast-moving that it is seriously blurred.

Should we expect Chris to be making Bruce Willis jokes now???? To be honest, if he had been poking fun at Bruce’s wife’s condition, I would expect the same reaction; probably the same from Liam Nelson, Sly Stallone, Van Damme, and Vin Diesel to name just a few. But now consider this: would this be such a “thing”  if it was Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise? Or Clint Eastwood and Don Rickles? Think about it.

Enough on that.

If you have Facebook then you know that you receive messages when friends have a birthday so you can wish them well. But at my current age I now find myself doing a quick obit search as well as a scan of their FB page before I send a message with birthday wishes. I do this after having wished a happy birthday to two people who, it turned out, had passed away – unbeknownst to me. So I now do all I can to ensure that they are actually still on the green side of the earth’s surface first! The joys of aging!

Picking up from where I left off a couple of weeks ago, abashedly, today is Easter and I wish you all a Happy Easter day!

Life remains extremely busy and the more you do, the less time there is for other things. When I retired I wondered how I would fill my days, and there were times I did stuff just to do something. But as life has quickened and filled with obligations, less time is left for whatever.

For example: my son bought me forge so I could try forging a knife – I still haven’t fired it off yet, although I am finally close to doing so. You all know how I enjoy hiking yet I’ve only gotten out once this calendar year (so far – that is going to change).

We’ve had a huge oak tree in the front part of the yard that has been leaning since we bought the house. There has been increasing concern over the years that the angle of lean was increasing so I began measuring it with an angle finder several times a year; granted a difficult task to perform precisely given the extreme unevenness of the bark of a tree, but it at least gave me some idea on whether it was getting worse.

Of late, the angle seemed to be changing a bit, but more troubling was that the ground on the obtuse side was showing new signs of rising/bulging – a sure sign of roots uplifting from the leaning mass.

I also spent a great deal of time through the years trying to decide where the tree would land, should it go over. And that can be a really difficult thing to do; without “directing” the fall of a tree with cuts while felling it, the geometry of upper mass and the makeup of internal grain can lead to unexpected fall trajectories. In this case, there was a possibility it would just miss the house and only graze the roof with upper branches. But there was a strong probability that it would squarely hit the house. And while you never want your house to get hit by a tree, the strike zone is right atop the bedrooms used by two of my grandchildren when they are here. And that, would be horrific.

Dropping this tree was 100% out of my ability. One large branch on the obtuse side hangs out over the power lines while on the acute side the we have two big pine trees, the drainfield for the septic system, and of course the house. So began the hunt for someone to take it down – a hunt that took a year (on and off). A lot of folks wouldn’t touch it – difficult to access, a lot of obstacles, and a lot of risk. I found one guy willing to do it but he wanted to set up a crane – in my neighbor’s driveway – blocking off the driveway and access to the back parking – for several hours, so nope to that one. I found another who had a machine that would grab the tree, cut it while holding it, and then pick it up and over the house to lower it to the ground. It was quite expensive and too risky for me (he almost guaranteed me that he’d end up taking out one of my 50-year-old rhododendrons) so I passed on him as well.

I found a name on the internet that included some good reviews, so I called requesting a quote. He called me back within an hour and asked if he could stop by to see it that day. He showed up and long story short, quoted a fair price and offered to do it right now.

Within ten minutes he was up in the bucket truck trimming back the limbs, piece by piece. Within an hour, the tree was down on the ground in pieces ranging from two-foot to six-foot sections.

Once it was down, we spotted a hole in the stump about two-inches in diameter that when probed, went down into the ground almost a foot: rot. The tree was indeed afflicted with internal disease and definitely would have fallen someday due to it. So as much as loathe killing a living tree – especially one as old as this one was – it was the correct decision.

As I always do when I have a tree dropped, I requested they leave me the wood – not the scraggly upper branches, but anything around 6-inches diameter or more. And so once they left, I was left with a massive pile of oak pieces, almost all of which were too big to even move without a pry bar. The largest, the piece immediately next to the stump, was over six-feet long and measured around 40” at its widest point. This one piece alone estimates out to over 4,000-pounds,

I bent a 1” black iron pipe trying to roll it! My saw has an 18” bar, several of inches of which are not actually used for cutting, leaving me far less cutting depth than I need to fully cut a piece that large, even assuming I cut it all the way around.

So the clean-up of this bemouth has been high on my list of things I needed to get done over the last week or so. I bought a new chain to give myself a good start and I began cutting all the stuff I could get though in one cut first, then moving on to the pieces I needed to cut from one side to another. Then I had to load them into the wheelbarrow and haul them down to the back for splitting this summer.

Between Friday and yesterday I managed to get through all the biggest stuff but not without an incredible amount of effort. Trying to cut through something as big around as the main trunk with a bar that only goes through 40% of the way in some places is really hard.

Even the areas where I could actually cut through to the halfway point were challenging, mostly because I could not get to the bottom third or so; I was unable to roll it over as it was just too dang heavy.

Another factor that impacted the cutting was me; my lack of adequate chain sharpening ability to be precise. I sharpen my chains on the saw several times through their span on the saw, until I replace with a new chain. I’ve built up a pile of five or six used chains, which I had planned to take to a sharpening service. What was happening with the big trunk piece in my attempts to cut through it was that the cuts were running off vertical, curving to the right. So when trying to complete a halfway (or less) cut made from the other side, curving cuts make it impossible to meet in the middle.

A little Google search revealed that the number one reason for a curving cut was an improperly sharpened chain. As it turns out, most people sharpening a chain tend to favor their strong, or dominant, side. Being right-handed, I sharpened one half the links far more so than the opposite side, resulting in a curving cut. It’s not such a big deal in a 12” diameter log, but over 24” or so, it becomes more problematic. And at nearly 40”, it becomes a show stopper.

So rather than buy another new chain, or leaving my used ones at a sharpener for several days, I bought a small electric bench-mounted sharpener. After a little time for initial set-up, I sharpened all of my chains in less than a half-hour. I am sure they are not was sharp as brand-new from the factory, but far better than I could ever do with a hand file. The results were good kerfs, lots of good chips, and straight cuts.

To complete the sectioning of the biggest piece, I cut through as far as I could around as much of the circumference as I could and then combined wedges with rocking it using the pipe until it finally cracked and broke in half. Once in half I was able to then roll the halves completely over, thus allowing 360⁰ access with the saw. Although I was able to then get from one huge piece to six smaller ones, the small pieces were still far too big to pick up. While I was initially skeptical that it would work, I tried splitting the pieces.

Splitting fresh cut living wood, especially oak, is something I’ve never tried. But given the option of leaving it on my lawn for six months to season, or the option of quartering (or more) the pieces with the saw, I decided to try splitting. And it worked – not easily – but it worked.

So even a 36” piece of live oak one-foot-long weighs close to 600lbs. Cut that into quarters and you still have 150lb pieces to wrestle and wrangle with; every piece I picked up and into the wheelbarrow over the last couple of days was between 100 and 150lbs, and in some cases even a little heavier. Needless to say I am tired today! I still have the two biggest pieces left in the yard, the two from closest to the stump. They are both around 12”-16” by 36”-40” in diameter and therefore, may require splitting into more than quarters, but probably not today.

In other news, we had our sort of annual Easter Egg hunt yesterday. I was expecting ten kids, so I bought a ton of candy and plastic eggs and “golden egg” prizes. But because it was very much last minute, I ended up with just five kids for the hunt. I placed 191 eggs throughout the yard, with ten eggs marked with a letter or number meant to represent a “special prize” egg. It was great fun and they did a great job of finding almost every egg. I did a search afterwards and I think I only found a few eggs that they had missed.

On Friday, we took the three oldest grandkids to the movies. I have not been in a movie theater since around Christmas of 2019. The pandemic became troublesome around February of 2020 and of course, became a beast to all our lives that March. There were several times over the last year or so when I felt “safe” enough to go to the movies and feel comfortable, but my wife didn’t share the same level of security in going, so we stayed away. But after almost all my son’s family had COVID and we were all exposed, but fully vaccinated/boosted, her comfort level has reached a point where she was ready to go and so we did.

Although it had been a little over two years, it felt like decades to me when we got there. I’ve always loved going to the movies – I always get a giant shot of excitement walking in and getting to my seat. This visit was much the same only amplified tenfold. But… when we got into the theater itself I was blown away – they had ripped out all the old seating and installed all new seats. Instead of the dozens of seat in each row, there are now only ten per row. And the seats are these crazy big leather-like oversized seats with a mini tabletop for food and drinks. But wait – there’s more! The seats are electronically controlled recliners!! I was in dog-day heaven!! So comfortable that whatever I was watching became secondary. (It was Sonic 2.) Just an awesome experience!!

I just got back from Easter breakfast with my kids and grandkids, just a fantastic way to celebrate Easter with my loved ones. I truly hope all of you have family near you and that you get to spend some time with your loved ones today. Happy Easter and stay well dear reader!!

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