Saturday, April 04, 2015

New fence: Finished!!

The fence is done! My brother John helped me install the final boards this morning.

It's a relief. Two photos from my neighbor's side below. More photos from my side coming later.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New fence project, work day III (evening only)

Tuesday night, finally, a stretch of work that went quickly! Fence boards going up. Bad Lowes math on the lumber order. Somehow "48 feet" of board went only about 40 feet.

Still, it's getting close. From my side:

From the neighbor's side, the master fence builder and his work:

Monday, March 30, 2015

New fence project, work day II

The second major work day arrived today to build the new fence at the rear of my property in the Avenues of Salt Lake City.

I took the day off work and wrangled some friends to help. Bryan, aka Cujo, is the engineer/designer of this fence. We began by setting the five middle posts in concrete. To the left in the photo below is Bryan2 (from my gym) and Jeff (leaning down). That's me on the right tipping the concrete.

The posts were set, and due to Bryan's commitment to precision, the line of seven 10-feet tall cedar posts was straight and square (7.5 feet of the posts are above ground).

The entire fence is made of quality cedar. There are six cedar 2 x 4's supporting each of the six sections. 

The fence is a monster. It stands 8 plus feet high from my side. On the uphill/neighbor's side it's six feet above the level of their back yard/parking lot. Bryan, below, is installing the 36th and final supporting 2 x 4. 
We began to get the fence boards up. It was getting late, we were getting tired, and Bryan struck blood, his blood, in a minor accident which made us call it a wrap. I was bummed at first (to be stopping) but I was tired too, so all was good. 

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, we hope to keep putting the boards up. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fence project, removing the old

The fence at the rear of my property in Salt Lake City's Avenues was old and decrepit. When I bought my house I propped part of it up with two new 4x4's. I also installed a "temporary" wire fence in front of the old fence to keep my dog in the yard.

This was an OK short term solution. Even after doing this, on windy days, the panels kept flopping over. With some rope attached, I got them to stay up for a couple of years now, enhancing the privacy of my yard. On the other end of the fence, one of the three panels was permanently down and had been for some years.

Both of these next two photos (as well as the previous one) were taken this past week, before I removed the old fence. The three panels below, behind the tree and to it's right, are only standing because of the temporary 4x4's I installed. Only one of the original four fence posts for these panels provided any support. 

Below is the scene after the removal of the old fence. My yard, already large for the neighborhood, is suddenly much bigger! (I wish). Note that I've already had to mow, in March! I was robbed last year (two bikes) and I am 90% certain the thieves accessed my backyard from the rear of the neighbor's lot to the north and through the fallen down fence. My temporary wire fence (visible below, at least if you click on the photo and look at the larger version) was smashed down, something I noticed as soon as the bikes were stolen. 

Here are two of three piles of wood from the old fence. I wasn't sure how I would get rid of it but I posted it on KSL (Utah's version of Craigslist) and people were practically fighting to come and get it. It was gone within two hours of being posted--rusty nails, broken bits of wood, and all. Crazy. 

After the Demolition

New construction is underway. Digging these holes was a bitch. Even after renting and using an auger, they required a lot of hand digging. We got them done, however, we ran out of daylight after setting only the first two (of seven) posts. The remainder of the project will have to wait for another eight days due to being so busy at work. 

This is my friend Bryan helping me out (I did my fair share of digging too). He's a retired fighter pilot and his meticulous nature and engineering sensibilities are going to make the new fence stronger and better than I could have done alone. I moved the new fence in to my lot a bit (12-18 inches). Initially I wanted to move it so the tenants didn't bump it with their cars (on the neighbor's side it's a parking lot), but they have plenty of space. This became the best line to set the fence. The whole project is on a slope which made working there difficult as we fought gravity while stumbling over rocks and a multitude of little metal poles. Well, at least I was stumbling, Bryan is a lot more coordinated than me. 

March 30 is the next scheduled work day! Can't wait to see it finished. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend on the Coast

Travelogue post

I caught a cheap flight to California this past weekend, giving me a break from the routine.

My friends of 18 years, here known as Lady Kylie and Captain Thunderbolt, famous West Coast steampunkers, helped me get duded up for a night out in Pleasanton--a charming and pleasant little town in the East [SF] Bay area.  

Posing after our party with flowers found on the street. 

Stopped at the California Academy of Science, a natural history museum with a major emphasis on sustainability. It's something of a zoo in that it features a wide variety of live plants and animals. This includes jellyfish, brilliantly lit for effect . . .

Thunderbolt and Kylie generously loaned me their very cool Mini Cooper convertible. I'm cruising across the Golden Gate here, one of my favorite American landmarks. A friend took the next two photos. 

A sick friend, who I was unable to see, reminded me of the privilege of being healthy. 

Monday, September 01, 2014

Pondering and pausing my Facebook time

I am taking a break from Facebook.

There is much I like about Facebook. Being connected with friends and family from all aspects of my life. These are individuals and groups of individuals from my past and present. It's remarkable. The ease in which I can share moments of joy or exuberance, sometime sadness, or accomplishment, and the efficiency of the distribution of those messages is simply remarkable. Staying up to date on the lives of my friends is equally if not more rewarding. I've evolved into being primarily a poster of photos. To me those photos are a way to tell my story and share it with people I care about. Of course that's what Facebook does.

I don't view Facebook as inherently bad or evil. But there are issues, and those issues have become a problem for me.

This year I've had some personal travails, nothing uncommon or too personally burdensome. Real first world stuff. A relationship ended. Challenges at work. Challenges with myself, and my bad habits. (I have good habits too). And last month, the deaths of two old friends--one whose time had come, the other one tragic and premature.

One of my bad habits has become checking out of reality via Facebook. (Despite the choice to take this Facebook break, I am aware that positive endeavors and pursuits are my best path forward—not prohibitions.)

Facebook gives many of us a tendency to fan the flames of self aggrandizement. I don't post anything inaccurate, but the highlights of my life aren't my whole life. Of course, people really don't want to hear about your problems--although the sympathy post is big for many, it's something I avoid.

It can be insidious, giving you a little reward when someone likes or comments on a post. Sometimes I find myself hanging out—online—to see who else is going to chime in. And who doesn't. It's pathetic, although the people who do weigh in are people I care about, which makes the hook it can have on me so compelling. It's designed to be addictive. And it is.

I've found myself wasting time, especially at night, and sometimes in the early morning. While I tend to sleep soundly, this little habit of perusing Facebook endlessly has cut in to my sleep. And frankly, it's become annoying. 

I read a post this morning that discussed a study showing that introverted people are more likely to become addicted to Facebook. I am an introvert. It spoke of how introverts can find online interactions safer and more comfortable than real world ones. 

This free service has become one of the top destinations on the Internet with well over a billion, yes a billion, monthly users. I find it to be more insular than Twitter, where I am more likely to connect with new people and ideas. Yet I have met new people on Facebook too, usually friends of friends.

My day yesterday is an example: brunch with friends from a Facebook invite, then hiking with a group of guys (including some from brunch).

This was possible because someone I knew, three years ago, joined a group hike on Facebook. I saw this in the little Facebook ticker. I noticed that anyone could sign up for the hike. I did, and I went.

I've been on many hikes with this group since then, and yesterday, going on the hike got me invited to what turned out to be a fun party where I met some memorable new people. It was a long day of interactions with real people, made possible by Facebook. So no, it's not all evil.

But is has become something I spend too much time doing. 

This isn't my first Facebook break and I plan to return. My goal is to be off of it—personally—for the month of September 2014.

Rules of disengagement

Part of my role as marketing director at the Natural History Museum of Utah includes being the content creator and Facebook strategist. I've taken the NHMU Facebook page from just under 10,000 likes a year ago, to more than 22,000 today and increased engagement dramatically. Before coming to the Museum I served as the social media strategist for a number of other organizations as part of my job as Editorial Director at RIESTER, a regional advertising agency. My Facebook break does not extend over to the NHMU page.

How do I continue to serve as the admin of the NHMU Facebook page and disengage from Facebook personally?

Solution: I created a new Facebook account for the sole purpose of administering the page. This is not a completely original move. I know people who have professional Facebook pages and personal ones, and they keep the two very separate. That's never been my style, but for the purposes of this current Facebook break, I now have a new account solely to give me access to the page I manage. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

In the presence of a legend--Paul McCartney, Salt Lake City 2014

Paul McCartney at the former Delta Center, Salt Lake City, August 7, 2014.
How old is he?

Who knows? Who cares?

Tonight Paul McCartney could have been 25, or 35. The man has it. Damn does he have it. 

What an honor to hear him in Salt Lake City. He was huge before I was born and is still going strong, so damn strong, 57 years into his career.

From Beatles classics, to his Wings songs, to songs he’s written in the last couple of years, his musical talent is epic. He’s still got his voice. He can play . . . many instruments. And he can entertain. He clearly loves it. 

He’s got his head-bob, his smile, and he can rock a stadium. 

McCartney is 72 years old. Sir Paul played for almost three hours. Yes, three hours! The sound was great, much better than I expected. My “cheap seats” ($70 each) had us perched right over the stage. We could clearly see him the whole night, and the jumbotron was well-placed in front of us bringing him even closer. 

Here’s a partial playlist from the night: 

8 Days a week
Long and winding road
Lovely Rita meter maid
Here Today (written for Lennon after he died)
All my lovin’
Paperback writer
Maybe I’m Amazed (written for his late wife Linda)
All the lonely people (Eleanor Rigby)
Benefit for mr kite...
Something [in the way she moves] (George Harrison song, Paul started on a ukulele)
Life goes on (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da)
Wings--Band on the run
Back in the USSR
Let it be
Hey Jude
Live and let die
Day tripper
Get back (jojo)
Once there was a way (Golden Slumbers)
Helter skelter
Yesterday. All my troubles seemed so far away . . . 

And so many more (37 songs total per SL Tribune).

Thank you Paul, for your musical genius, for sharing your longevity, your zest, your lyricism.

Thanks for coming to Salt Lake City again. This was my first time seeing you. 

And thanks Pippa for joining me. 

Fun, fun. A pure thrill.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chocolate at Harmons!

Thank you Harmons Neighborhood Grocer for being a supporting partner of Chocolate: The Exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Utah | Rio Tinto Center.

These images are from chocolate exhibits at three Harmons stores in the Salt Lake Valley.

Harmons--Emigration Market

Harmons--Bangerter Crossing

Harmons--Bangerter Crossing

Harmons -- The District
Harmons--The District
Harmons--The District

BVG Cabin

High in Utah's Wasatch Mountains:

The Ansel Adams treatment.

Snow diamonds.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sundance 2014, The Sleepwalker

Set in Massachusetts, Mona Fastwold's directorial debut is dreadful.

This was my first Sundance 2014 film. If I hadn't been stuck in the middle of the theater I would have walked out.

Starring Gitte Witt, Christopher Abbott, Stephanie Ellis, and Brady Corbet, the film does succeed in being dark. Ellis's character Christine, a psychotic young woman shows up unannounced in the middle of the night upsetting the renovation of the family home by her sister and her sister's boyfriend.

Uninteresting characters, dull story line, strange tension throughout, this film is a must miss.

Redeeming features include the stylish house that's being renovated and some artful cinematography.

Ellis and Witt play half sisters in 'The Sleepwalker' at Sundance 2014.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jake at 9

Two days shy of his ninth birthday, Jacob Kanab Powell tonight in Salt Lake City. City Creek Canyon is behind him.

Happy birthday bud!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Wild West Long... Drive... Home

I like to get in a car and go. Just go. It is a somewhat infamous trait of mine among people who have known me long.

This habit began the first time I had the opportunity. I was 22, just out of college, with a little extra money and a good used Subaru (thanks MJ). I suppose it was a latent though burning inner wanderlust that was simply waiting for the tools. So I toured America. Who wouldn't want to do this? From Ohio I went north to Minneapolis, then followed the Mississippi south to Memphis before cutting over to south central Alabama. East to Tampa, Florida. North to Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C. and from there? Why San Francisco of course! On that D.C. to SF leg in the summer of 1988 was the first time I drove across Highway 50 in Utah and Nevada, America’s loneliest highway. Bernard and I retraced a short segment of that route two days earlier.

Now, 25 years later, about to depart Great Basin National Park, my traveling companion was full of surprises. Bernard had previously crucified me for taking unnecessary or “illogical” road trips—traveling too far for too little time he said. My retort “it was all the time I had,” referring to one of the many roadtrips I took when I met him two years ago.  Here we were, in sync regarding how to drive home. We agreed to take the long way and explore some very remote locales.

As we left the park we took one last look at the “road art” built into the barbed-wire fences bordering each side of the highway. These are humorous and quirky displays, including Bob and Barb Wire, an alien in a wheelchair, and my favorite: “Grate Basin.” At the Border Inn, situated one yard over the border on the Nevada side—where laws are more liberal for gambling and alcohol—we filled up on fuel before heading out into no man’s country.

Road art. 
The route was along the dirt Gandy Road, running north on the Utah side, parallel and within miles of the Nevada border. Our next stop would be Gandy Warm Springs, but before we got there we passed Eskdale. We wouldn’t have known about this Old Testament commune if it hadn’t been for our stop at the Airstream two days earlier. Airstreamers always have the best info.

A Mormon convert who was quickly excommunicated for having his own conversations with God, Maurice Glendenning (born 1891) founded the Aaronic Order in 1942. We saw the Aaronic settlement, Eskdale, off to the east. The little Old Testament-loving town is a long-surviving commune, something that is rare since most experiments in communal living don’t survive long. Glendenning died in 1969 but his religious order continues, and apparently the community is as strong as ever, nearly 50 years later. Somewhere between 200 and 400 people live in this commune, and there are approximately 1,000 active Aaronites.

We arrived at our magical warm springs located at the base of a rocky outcrop of a mountain that rises a mere 300 feet or so above the desert around it near the "town" of Gandy, Utah. In the Basin and Range country this sole little mountain was an oddity. The 82 degree water from the springs nourishes a little desert oasis with ferns, dragonflies, and crystal clear water. This became our lunch spot. We lounged around for about an hour.
Gandy Warm Springs, Utah. 
Our Airstreaming friends recommended Great Basin National Park, a guide book by Gretchen Baker. True to the recommendation, the book was filled with interesting stories about locals from the area. I read many of these to Bernard as we continued northward. We passed through little “towns” where you were lucky to see more than one building, though people still lived in these remote locations. We read about a 1918 showdown between neighbors over wandering cattle where men were shot and killed—though the killer somehow escaped justice. An outcast of the Jesse James gang lived along our route, spending the waning years of his life in hiding in a fortress he built in the Deep Creek Mountains. And we read stories of the Pony Express days.

A stone building not big enough to call a shed, really more of an outside closet, stood along the road we took up into a canyon that came out of the Deep Creek Mountains. This picturesque little stone building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as a shed for gunpowder. I don’t know if it was to blow out the crazy terraces the CCC put into mountainsides throughout the West, or just to supply gunpowder for guns, but it stands proud three quarters of a century after it was constructed in the wilderness. Its tiny roof is gone, but the wooden roof rafters remain.

CCC gunpowder building at the Deep Creek Mountains (not visible), Utah. 
Bernard and I agreed the canyon would be a wonderful place to camp with a small group of friends. With white granite, the Deep Creek Mountains are unique among Utah’s many mountain ranges. They're pretty.

Continuing up the Gandy Road we passed the long abandoned CCC camp where 100 men once lived and worked. Then we came to Callao, one of the stops along the Pony Express. Gretchen Baker is correct in her guide, calling this the most handsome settlement in the region. People still live in this little isolated town, but as many homesteads have been abandoned as there are that remain occupied.

An abandoned house in Callao, Utah. Photo by BVG. 
North of Callao is Gold Hill, a once productive mining town whose last heyday ended with the end of World War II. Like Callao there was a combination of abandoned buildings and some that are still occupied, though the occupied properties in Gold Hill seemed more run down, and therefore seemed a little scarier to those of us just passing through. Presumably this was a home for people living remotely who don’t want to be bothered by tourists--or so I imagined. The most interesting building in town is the roofless old general store. Bernard was not impressed and refused to stop. I wasn’t too far off from this instinct and didn’t object.

Along the Gandy Road at Callao. Gold Hill is to the right (north). The Deep Creek Mountains are on the horizon. 
The town is known for producing gold, copper, arsenic, and tungsten and was quite productive from 1871 to about 1945. It's one of a seemingly endless number of mining towns in the American West--many (most?) long ago abandoned. I know that Alta, Utah, for example, was once a booming mine town with thousands of people living there. Hard to believe since today, even with its world famous skiing, there are only a few hundred year round residents.

Gold Hill is home to the second Airstream we saw on the trip, one from the early to mid 1970s, the same vintage as my former aluminum home. It’s possible nobody has used this Gold Hill Airstream since the seventies too.

The final stop came outside of Gold Hill, about eight miles before we hit pavement again (the entire route since the Border Inn was on a dirt road). I brought a cantaloupe and wanted to crack it open before we headed home. The fruit was very cold from sitting in the melting ice of my cooler. We stopped in a grove of Pinyon-Juniper and ate a few pieces.

After the cantaloupe stop it was time for some driving that even I could agree was boring. We crossed back in to Nevada to connect with the first stretch of paved road in half a day and the final leg of the northbound journey. Then it was onto long stretches of I-80 between Wendover and Salt Lake that were straight and straighter. We cruised through the blinding white light emanating from the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bernard was kind enough to let me read to him from one of my favorite novels, Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose. He was restless and tired of the drive. Meanwhile I was happy as a clam--spoiled by having someone drive me, a rarity.

We arrived at my house around 7PM after this road tour of a still very wild part of the American West. It was a day of doing what I love to do: Exploring and going. Just going.

Don't miss part one of this post: Unplugging in the Great Basin.