Sunday, December 27, 2009

Two Degrees

Who would have thought that two little degrees could make such a big difference?

My son Ben chose the day after Christmas to begin a big remodel of his garage. The first project was to build a tool bench. He had found the plans for one he liked. Researched the materials he would need. Even watched a video online of someone building the exact bench. Ben decided that having an extra pair of hands would be a big help, so he figured he'd take advantage of the fact that we were already in Charlotte for the holiday by putting me to work. I don't do these kinds of projects on my own, but I'll gladly lend a hand when needed.

Still building his own tool collection, there was a framing nail gun that we needed to rent for the day. Then it was on to Lowes to purchase the necessary materials, including a box of about 3 million 3" framing nails. (I think they're only sold by the million!) We brought everything home, built a couple of portable workbenches to use as sawhorses, and then got busy cutting the 2X4's into the various lengths we needed. Once that was complete, it was time to fire up the nail gun. And that's where things came to a quick halt.

Instead of driving the nails all the way in, the gun left them about a half inch out, and bent over at the top. Not good. We determined, in our infinite wisdom, that it must be that the air compressor Ben got for Christmas was not quite powerful enough for 3" framing nails. Off we went to borrow a slightly larger compressor from one of Ben's buddies. Brought it home. Fired it up. Same result! Nails were still not penetrating their full length, and they were bent over at the top. Left up to me, I would have thrown in the towel at this point. I have no creativity when it comes to troubleshooting mechanical things, and thus very little patience when things don't work right. Ben, on the other hand, IS creative, and seems to have a double measure of patience when working with his hands.

Early in the process, one of us noticed that the nailer said it took 30 degree nails. We happened to look at the box of a million nails and it said they were 28 degree nails. We paused for a minute, but then decided that two degrees shouldn't make that big a difference. If they were the wrong nails, I thought, then they wouldn't fit in the nailer. This one simple oversight cost us several trips around town, a bit of frustration, and a lot of time spent Googling to find out what might be wrong.

As it turns out, two degrees makes all the difference! When we rented the nailer, it had a couple dozen nails still in it, which we proceeded to remove, in favor of loading it up with the new nails we just bought. Late in the evening, as a last resort, Ben decided to empty the nailer and put back the nails that were in it when we picked it up. And of course, that did the trick! The nails drove perfectly, and both air compressors worked just fine.

Who would have known that two degrees could make the difference! I mean, the nails looked pretty much exactly the same! The good thing is that we enjoyed working together, even as we had to put our heads together to figure out the problem. But we learned a lesson. The details are important, even when they seem insignificant! I'll have to remember that whenever I'm tempted to rush through something without giving my full attention to the details.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy a box of a bazillion 3" framing nails? I'll bet Ben will give you a bargain. Oh...and make sure you need the 28 degree ones!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It might seem silly, but this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year, and not just because it's Christmas. At 12:47 PM yesterday afternoon, we reached the winter solstice for 2009. This marks the shortest "day" of the year...actually the day with the fewest hours of daylight.

Why do I celebrate?

Because the days will now be getting longer for the next six months. Now that's something to cheer about!

Never a fan of these days that get dark so early, I had to give a shout out to the day when things, once again, turn in the right direction!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


With the end of 2009 quickly approaching, I thought it might be fun to look back at some key numbers from the past year. Most are personal, but some are pertinent to all of us. Here goes…
This is the number of flights I took this year. 10 of these were for personal reasons, the other 86 for business.
The number of nights I spent in a hotel. This represents about once in every 5 nights. Gotta love those hotel points!
This is the total number of nights spent away from home, including business and family visits. That means I’m sleeping away from home about 29% of the time.
The number of points the DOW is up since March 9th. That’s a 60% increase!
This is how many ‘friends’ I have on Facebook! I signed up almost a year ago so I could understand it enough to help Paulette if she ran into trouble. Turns out, I’ve had great fun reconnecting with former students, high school friends, and people from so many areas of my past. Nothing like catching up with someone you haven’t seen in 40 years!
The number of cousins I met this year that I didn’t even know existed a year ago. It has been a delight to get to know them.
The number of new pairs of socks I bought this year. (Aren’t you thrilled to know that?) I finally chucked all of my old socks and replaced them with a brand new dozen! My feet appreciate it.
This is how old the students in my very first sixth grade classroom are turning this year. They were 12 just a few years ago!
The number of text messages I’ve sent/received so far this year. I signed up back in March as a way to keep in touch with my niece who lives here in Raleigh. Only to discover that this is a preferred method of communication for both my kids. So easy to keep up with them this way! I’ll need to pony up an extra $5 a month soon to get on the unlimited text message plan! I know some teenagers who send this many texts in a month!
The number of emails I’ve sent so far this year from my desktop computer. This does not include the hundreds of quick emails I sent from my Blackberry Bold phone.
This is how many handwritten letters I’ve written this year. Both were to my 89 year old cousin in California (she has no email). It reminded me that it has been many years since I’ve actually written a letter.
11 and 21
The number if items I have bought and sold respectively on Craigslist this year. And I still have two more items I plan to sell. I’m hoping not to buy anymore.
This is an estimate (but a reasonable one) of the number of purchases I’ve made at Starbucks this year. It may be more. And it doesn’t include other coffee shops. Now you know why I ask for Starbucks gift cards at Christmas.
We have this many new grandchildren this year…both granddaughters. Including the twin boys, we have a total of 4 grandchildren now. Couldn’t be more proud!
The number of days (at this writing) until the winter solstace. I love knowing that at that point, the days will start getting longer. Not a fan of 5PM sunsets!
The number of years remaining in this decade. January 1 starts not only a new year, but a brand new decade! Hard to believe that Y2K was 10 years ago already.