Ladysmith, Wisconsin

on Friday, November 30, 2007

Yesterday we traveled to Ladysmith, Wisconsin. We left Minneapolis at 8:30 am so that we could give a short performance for the students at the high school at 1 pm. There were about 400 teenagers in the auditorium and they were surprisingly well behaved, quiet, as attentive as teenagers can be and inquisitive. We took questions from the audience, and as expected, my Minnesota Vikings jacket drew some fire.

"Who's the Vikings fan?" asked one of the younger ones, "You know the Packers play the Cowboys tonight, don't you?"

"Yes, yes," I replied, "I know the Packers are better than the Vikings this year," (wild applause), "all I care about is that they beat Dallas, because I hate the Cowboys." (more wild applause).

Afterwards one of the teachers was talking to me, "Not many of these kids will come to tonight's concert. The Packers play the Cowboys tonight, so most of them will stay home to watch it."

We spent the afternoon at the motel resting and cleaning up. We went to dinner at the local pizza place, Grandpa's Pizza.

As we were chatting about the set list a lady in the next booth asked if we were the musicians who were playing at the high school tonight. It turns out that her daughter and George went to high school together in Sun Prairie, WI and she remembered his name, that drew her and her husband to the concert.

"Well, you know," said her husband, "there's a Packers/Cowboys game tonight, but we're coming anyway!"

A few minutes later another patron of the pizza place came over to us and asked if we were the entertainers for the evening, "You picked kind of a bad night. There's a Packers/Cowboys game tonight, you know."

At the concert, the emcee referred to intermission as "halftime."

The gig was alright, but the piano, sad to say, had seen better days. We tried spot-tuning it in the afternoon and again right before the concert, but it was just too far gone. George and I spent the night staying out of each other's way because the piano was so flat and just plain out of whack that all our chords clashed.

My favorite moment of the evening was after the concert when a little girl of about 8 walked up to us and said, "Thank you for singing and playing for me tonight! I really enjoyed it!"

I'm glad she did, that made the whole night worthwhile.

Sadly, the Packers were defeated by the Cowboys 37-27.

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Cat Addict

on Saturday, November 24, 2007

I've come to the conclusion that I am addicted to cats. I have felt so empty since Callie died. I've had cats since the late 80's when I first got my dear, dear boy Tristram. This is the first time I've been without a little furry for around 20 years!

Rusty wants a cat, too. Poor little bastard has been carrying around an old boot lace like Linus van Pelt with his blanket and he follows me from room to room, or he meows mournfully as if he's looking for either Callie or Minky (she died one year ago today).

I want to get an orange male, but I don't want a kitten. Kittens go through what I call the 'tween years, which is somewhat similar to teen age years in humans. They go crazy, they git into shit they shouldn't and they're generally annoying for a month or two and I just don't want to deal with that. So I'd like to find a boy who's a year or more old. Orange boys have always been my favorite kind of cat, I've never met one who wasn't a complete lover.

I am going to get myself a cat for Xmas.

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RIP Callie

on Sunday, November 18, 2007

I found my poor little sweet poot today. She's dead.

I knew she'd been sick lately, she'd lost so much weight and gotten that ratty, sick cat fur. I knew she was going and the vet would only cost me money I don't really have. I can't spend hundreds of dollars keeping a cat alive like my sister could.

I saw her the other night and she was so weak and wobbly. I told her how much I loved her and what a great cat she'd been. I told her it was okay to die. I watched her not much later gingerly walk to one of her favorite living room spaces, under the end table -- she would sleep there for hours. And that's where I found her.

She was such a sweet, sweet girl. I keep thinking about our lives together.

My girlfriend at the time, Christy, brought home a stray cat one night that turned out to be a pregnant female, Callie was one of five kittens who were born a couple of weeks later.

We kept them in the back room of our apartment, a three-season porch that you had to walk down a couple of steps to enter. I would lay on the floor of that room and Callie and her siblings, Owange, Sunshine Face, Petite Guillame and Dottie, would crawl all over me and play with my hair and clothes. It was such fun! The day they figured out how to climb the couple of steps was they day the apartment got infested with kittens! We gave all the others away, including the mother, but kept Callie. She was with me for over 10 years.

She wasn't much for being held, instead she had what I called "ok, you may pet me now" time. When it was time for lovin' she'd jump up on my lap and purr. When she got happy she'd lift one of her front paws and flex her claws in the air and when she got really happy she'd start to drool from the corner of her mouth.

She wasn't the most social cat in the world, she'd hide for days without me seeing her. That's why I didn't notice anything wrong with her until it was too late. I was used to not seeing her, so not seeing her didn't seem odd.

My poor, poor baby lasted a couple of weeks, which was far longer than I thought.

I am so sad. I loved her so much. My poor, sweet baby...

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Equipment Malfunction

on Friday, November 16, 2007

My packaging machine started malfunctioning this week. Normal operation is as follows:
  • Pour roasted beans or grounds into the hopper.
  • Set the code for the weight needed
  • Start operation
  • Beans or grounds flow into weigh bucket
  • Weigh bucket stops when correct weight is reached
  • Place bag under spout
  • Press foot-switch to open hopper
  • Operation continues automatically
Everything still works like it should, but the foot-switch is operating as if someone were standing on it, that means it fills and dumps, fills and dumps, fills and dumps just as fast as the machine will go.

The other day we had 25 cases of 36 to fill -- that's 900 bags. Normally one person can fill one box in about 5 minutes. The machine was working so fast that two of us had to work in tandem, one person filling, the other sealing, and we were completing boxes in about 3-1/2 minutes (our record was 2:55)!!

I had an electrician come in and look at the machine, he said it's not the foot-switch, it's probably a circuit board in the machine. I looked at the manual, in 1998 that part was $275. I wonder what it's going to cost in 2007?

Ah, life's an adventure. Good thing we made the work fun because it could have easily sucked.

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Playing Hooky From Work

on Thursday, November 8, 2007

I played hooky yesterday. I just didn't feel like coming to this big, dark, cement building for a change. Most people go out and do fun stuff when they play hooky, they go shopping or fishing or to see a movie. Not me, I spent the day in front of my computer playing with Illustrator & Photoshop, making web graphics and buttons. Still, it felt good.

In the last week I've spent a bunch of time on a project that could turn into something big for my business. I can't go into too many details because I promised the people involved that I wouldn't, but here's the gist.

I received samples of roasted beans from this company and my task was to match the colors so that they could see if I could work for them. It wasn't very easy and I learned something about roasting that I had never noticed before, a 10 lb. batch of beans roasts differently than a 25 lb. batch. Everything happens quicker with a small batch, that's obvious because it takes less time, but it also gets to color at a much faster rate. I figured it out, but it took a few tries. Funny, that sort of thing used to be child's play to me, but I've been doing my own thing for so long I found it to be a challenge.

So I finally got the colors as close as I could get them (there's also the fact that I wasn't using the exact same beans as they sent me and different beans act differently) and sent them off on Tuesday afternoon. That's when the worrying started.

I can see them opening the box I sent them, looking at the beans and saying, "What the fuck was he thinking?!" I'm worried that my colors aren't close enough -- certainly I can see the difference, but they're really, really close. My only hope is that "close" is good enough and I can land this account.

The other half of the problem is that we had to figure out what it costs to produce a pound of beans, without factoring in the beans themselves. We had to look at power consumption, overhead and labor and then come up with a number. I hope the one we came up with is realistic and competitive.

If we land this account it could mean around $2000 a week! I have been running this business for about a year and a half and I still haven't paid myself. I want to be able to pay my monthly nut (rent, gas & electric, etc.) and be able to pay Jeff the money the business owes him and have a little to take home myself.

Papa needs a new car!

So that's why I played hooky yesterday, I needed a day to hide out from the world and worry about my future. I think fishing would have been more fun.

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Trick or Treat

on Thursday, November 1, 2007

My door got knocked on all of four times last night and only three of those times it was little kids in costumes (and one very cute mommy).

Next year when the group of teen-agers who aren't in costume come up to my door I am going to say, "What? Is this 'No costume-candy-give-away-day'? No, it isn't. Come
back on 'No-costume-candy-give-away day' and we'll do business then!"

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