Category Archives: Humor

XC skiing in Banff National Park, AB; February 2018

Four of us, along with our Outing Club guide Lance Young, flew from Seattle WA to Calgary AB for several days of cold but beautiful cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Canada’s Banff National Park.  We were all retirees (we’re the ones with the time for trips like this); Linda and Terry, originally from Ketchikan AK, had operated a seafood company specializing in the Asian market.  Photographer Monica had worked at T-Mobile.  And your humble reporter Paul formerly in IT at the City of Seattle.IMG_3849

Monday 2/5: My adventure started right after my wife Pat, daughter Alice and her partner Jenn dropped me off at Seattle’s airport.  I’d had trouble packing because Lance said we’d be snowshoeing and my snowshoes didn’t fit in my suitcase.  Also, Air Canada has strict rules against putting anything other than skis in a ski bag; and my stuff didn’t all fit in my suitcase.  So I’d brought three bags.  The agent at Canada Air’s checkin counter was horrified at what he’d have to charge me to check three bags.  He implored me to carry one bag on board.  So I hung onto the suitcase.  But as Lance walked with me to TSA it dawned on me that I had a problem.

I hadn’t packed the suitcase to pass inspection as a carry-on, because I’d planned to check it.  I found a quiet corner under a wall of Pearl Jam posters and opened it up.  It was a simple matter to gather the liquids and stick them in a plastic bag; fortunately they were all small.  (From now on I’m going to pack every bag this way; who knows what I might have to carry on board?)  But the Swiss Army knife that I meant to put in my backpack while skiing certainly would be confiscated; Pat has lost two of them that way.  Lance snatched it and headed out to the airport to meet my family and hand it off to them.  For about 20 minutes they roamed around the airport looking for each other.  Now and then my family would swing by to see if Lance was there; so I got bonus goodbye hugs.

TSA usually awards me pre-check, considering me harmless, which is convenient if a bit humiliating.  I didn’t have to take off my shoes.  I’d hit on the plan of putting all my pocket items in a vest that I could slip off.  And I was wearing a plastic belt.  So, with my hastily-edited suitcase in hand, I strolled quickly thru security.  Then I turned my suitcase over to the gate attendant to check for free.

The flight to Vancouver BC was in a propellor plane too small to fit against a boarding ramp; so we were led onto the taxiway to climb up the plane’s own folding steps.  We were seated in the mostly empty plane at widely spaced intervals, arranged I suppose to keep our weight balanced.  A 25-minute hop brought us to the Vancouver airport.  Here Lance led us thru Canadian Customs’ maze of corridors and security wickets that had been built into the ceiling of the terminal.  Canada had no intention of considering me harmless; so I had to go thru another more rigorous security screening, shoes off.  On a little shelf at the head of the conveyor belt I saw a row of abandoned water bottles and one can of mace.  I drank all I could from a bottle of water I’d bought in Seattle and added it to the shelf.  Later, Lance told us that Customs had once confiscated his ski wax because it resembled TNT.

The flight from Vancouver to Calgary AB was about 90 minutes, on a much larger and fuller plane.  As the plane landed I saw a thick layer of snow blanketing Calgary; inland and at 4,000 feet, it has prairie weather.  I’d worn flannel-lined pants and brought a goose down coat, and I was glad to have them as we wandered the rental car parking lot looking for our van.  It was a large, comfortable Kia Sedona, “The worst car for snow that I’ve ever driven,” Lance concluded later.  We overnighted at a Calgary motel.

Canmore Nordic Center

Tuesday 2/6: The forecast high for today was 10 F. / -12 C.  Lance’s GPS wasn’t working, so Terry navigated us with a paper map to Highway 2 and Canmore’s Nordic Center.  It had been constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, and had a good lodge and an outstanding trail system.  It was quite cold, so I dropped two chemical heating pads into each mitten and put on all the layers I had.

The forest and the surrounding ridges were very beautiful.  The snow had a peculiar dry, grainy consistency like the tiny styrofoam pellets in a bean bag chair.  It wasn’t very fast, and I kept sliding sideways on any slope.  I ventured off the groomed tracks into some woods, but soon gave up the idea.  My skis were too narrow to stay on top of the snow, and wading in snow up to my shins wasn’t much fun.  The sun lowered and a mist rose, and I couldn’t see the contours in the snow any more.  So I quit at 2 PM and retreated to the fireplace with a mug of hot tea and a cookie.

We moved on to Banff, the biggest town inside Banff National Park, and checked into The Inns Of Banff, a large, rambling hotel whose buildings seemed to have been hooked together with sky-bridges and tunnels as an afterthought.  We picked out a promising dinner restaurant, but it turned out that they only offered Mexican food.  Monica wanted something else; so she and I walked on to the Maple Leaf Grill And Bar and had a nice dinner (seafood pasta for me).

Lake Louise

Wednesday 2/7: Lance led us thru the labyrinthine hotel to breakfast.  We went to the park information center, a grocery store, and touched the hotel again; the cold in town had persuaded me that I needed my heavy fleece.  Then we drove up to Lake Louise.  Cross-country skiing here is centered around the luxurious Fairmont Chateau hotel.  (Downhill skiing is at a separate resort south of the highway.). It was warmer here, 28 F. / -2 C., and there were billows of fluffy snow.  I skied up onto the wooded ridge above the hotel, imagining that I would get to a clearing with a sweeping view of the dramatic peaks; but I never found one.  Several inches of snow had fallen since the trails had last been groomed; this gave a nice feeling of skiing on virgin snow while still having a definite route to follow.  Previous skiers had skied very neatly, leaving a pair of perfect grooves; and snowshoers had kept to their own parallel trail.  I practically had the place to myself; I met only two other skiers on the ridge.

After noon, overcast moved in and it began snowing in earnest.  I skied down to Lake Louise; it was frozen and covered in snow, and there was a groomed ski trail on it.  I figured that if the ice could hold a grooming snowcat it could hold me, so I headed up the lake.  I met some friendly Canadians (really this is redundant to say, because they’re all friendly) who recommended a frozen waterfall halfway up the lake.  They warned against proceeding any further, because they’d seen some footprints that had broken through the ice.  Monica had been here earlier, and later she told me that she’d seen ice-climbers making their way up the waterfall.  They weren’t up there when I was looking, but all the same, seeing the pale blue icefall made the long ski worthwhile.

I could hardly see the craggy ridges on each side of the lake thru the snow, there was no point in taking pictures.  I followed the shore trail to the hotel.  It turned out that horse-drawn sleighs complete with jingle bells use this trail for excursions to the icefall.  I heard single bells and scrambled up onto the embankment; a two-horse sleigh full of heavily-muffled tourists glided past, taking up the whole width of the trail.  The sleigh had bench seats furnished with red blankets.  A blade attached to the rear of the sleigh smoothed out the hoof prints.  This happened two more times.  Monica said the same thing happened to her; she’d lost her balance and rolled down the hill to the edge of the lake in front of all the tourists.

At the hotel I stood my skis in a rack that the doormen pointed out and withdrew to the lobby.  I took off, shook and packed away my layers; globs of snow lay on the thick carpet in an incriminating ring around my chair.  The rest of the crew showed up, and we had supper in the lounge (a bison burger and a beet salad for me), watching the quickening snowstorm thru tall arched windows.  Monica and I had “Glacier Warmers,” which were basically hot chocolate with booze in it.  So good!

We drove back to Banff in heavy snow.  We were passed by a snowplow and a semi that threw out a great wake of snow.  I saw a car upside-down on the shoulder of the highway.  At our much more modest hotel, Lance made a run at the ramp to the upper parking lot near our rooms but couldn’t make it.  He concluded that the steering wheel must have been installed in the wrong end of the car, because it handled snow better driving backward.  We had to walk from the front door thru the labyrinth to our rooms in our ski gear.  Later I tried the Jacuzzi; it was piping hot.  It could hold a dozen or so people, and it was.

Spray River

Thursday 2/8: The forecast high today was 7 F. / -14 C.  I couldn’t find my balaclava; I must have lost it when I took off my layers in front of the fireplace at Canmore.  (A balaclava is a knitted tube that you pull over your head and neck, with a hole in the front to see thru.  Not to be confused with a baclava, a pastry.)  As we walked around downtown Banff, my face ached.  Lance made a detour to a ski shop so I could buy another balaclava.

Due to yesterday’s snowstorm, the mountain highways were not in good shape.  So a ranger at the park center recommended the Spray River trail at the south end of town; it’s in a valley and so is protected from the wind.

Lance drove us to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel (as luxurious as its Lake Louise sibling) and the group broke up. Monica and I got a late start, plus bad directions from the doorman.  We slithered down a steep, icy road to a picnic area at the foot of Spray Falls.  Here was copious fluffy snow; and it snowed all day.  Some people advised us to ski to a bridge, cross it, ski along the riverside fairway and take a footbridge across the river again.  I didn’t know what a fairway was; Monica didn’t know either.  It was achingly cold, my nose was running, and the balaclava was making my glasses fog up.  I had to keep stopping to fiddle with my clothing and equipment.  Monica paced me patiently.  As we crossed the footbridge, we met Lance crossing from the other direction.  He told us to ski up to the groomed Spray River trail the way he’d come down, and turn left to ski upstream or right to return to the hotel.  And then, like Gandalf having dispensed advice to hobbits, he disappeared.

We followed his tracks to a hillside trail and started up it.  But, beyond a curve in the trail, the tracks became faint.  We worried that they might be somebody else’s old tracks covered in snow.  So we went back to the bridge to look for other, fresher tracks Lance might have made.  We found none, so we started up the hill again.  But, a bit further on, the tracks were even fainter.  (Of course it was snowing all the while.). Back we went to the bridge, examining the snow-covered picnic area at its foot like Holmes and Watson.  There were some other tracks, but they had been made by snowshoes or boots.  So we skied to the top of the hill and found the groomed trail, just as Lance had described it.  Later Lance explained that he’d bombed down the hill so fast that his skis probably hadn’t made much of a mark.  Truly, nobody out-skis that man.

Skiing up Spray River was quite nice; we were protected from the wind as the ranger had expected, and the sun came out.  The recently-groomed trail had just a little fresh snow on it, fast but with enough structure to give good control.  The forest and glimpses of the river and the opposite wall of the valley were pretty, and ups and downs in the trail kept us entertained.  This trail goes all the way to Canmore’s Nordic Center, for those who have the time.  We saw a few other skiers; and we soon met Terry and Linda, who were skiing to the hotel for lunch.

At one point one of Monica’s poles lost its snow-basket; she found it in her last pole-hole, and screwed it back on.  Carrying an extra basket would probably be a good idea.  We came to a wide opening in the trees close to the river.  I could hear rapids out of sight behind a screen of trees.  I decided to sidestep down the embankment and take a picture of them.  This worked for about three steps; then the snow gave way and I rolled down the hill to the riverbank.

“Are you all right?” Monica called down.  I told her I was fine.  Then she took a picture of me wallowing in the snow.

I disentangled my skis from some bushes and checked out the rapids; as it turned out, they weren’t that great.  I sidestepped back up the embankment, but got stuck in more bushes; so I took off my skis, tossed them up onto the road and scrambled after them.  Happily, my ski bindings were in a good mood and let me clip them back on with no trouble.

We came to a clearing that might have been a campsite.  It looked like I could get a good view of the river, so I went off the road again, skiing laboriously thru feathery snow up to my knees.  I got some nice panoramas of the semi-frozen river, pale blue with “rock flour” — rock finely-ground by glaciers. Then it was time to head back.

Lance’s directions to the hotel worked much better than the doorman’s.  The group gathered for supper in front of a fireplace in the upstairs lounge.

Friday 2/9: I didn’t feel quite right today, so I took the day off and hung out at our hotel.  The rest of the group went snowshoeing up Johnson Canyon and then skiing on a trail they saw from the highway.  I never used the snowshoes that I’d gone to so much trouble to bring along.  I thought about exploring the town; but after some online research I decided not to.  The park museum was closed, the movie house had nothing interesting, and there was nothing else to do but shop.  It was too cold to just roam around.  I had the jacuzzi to myself and read and napped.  We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant in our hotel; hot sake, salmon teriyaki and California rolls for me.

Saturday 2/10: There had been some talk of skiing on the way back to the airport at Calgary.  But we had an early afternoon flight and it had been snowing for days, so Lance wanted to allow extra time for the drive.  Besides, once again it was very cold.  As it turned out, much of the highway was bare pavement.  And at the airport we discovered that our flight to Vancouver had been delayed.

I took my rolling suitcase to the carry-on security wicket as before.  It failed its scan; an agent summoned me to witness as he went thru it.  He started out by opening it upside-down; stuff fell out onto the table.  He said he was looking for a “handle,” and he wouldn’t let me help.  Was it the suitcase’s built-in telescoping handle?  No.  Was it my camera?  No.  He rummaged for a while and came up with my bathroom kit.  Inside was the culprit, my folding brush-comb.  Apparently it looked like a folding knife on the scanner.  I won’t travel with that any more!

More pictures




Woohoo! I replaced a Moen 1225 cartridge in a 7730 faucet

I thought I was an adequate home handyman until I gave up my unreliable but simple rubber-washer faucets for washerless faucets.  Now I’m afraid to do anything with them, and every time a plumber comes in here it’s like $500.  And the kitchen faucet was dripping and leaking around the handle like a sunufuhbitch.

I discovered that it didn’t drip if I pushed the handle all the way over to the right.  So I announced that I’d fixed it!  But The Woman wasn’t very impressed.  After a while she pointed out that it had started dripping even in this position.

My next move was to pick up a cheap “easy to install” faucet at Costco.  But then after watching some installation videos and giving the matter more thought I realized that the hard part of the project would be removing the old faucet.  I’d done something like this once before and it had turned out badly.  Also I discovered the new faucet got crappy reviews on Amazon.  (Memo to self; research stuff before buying it, instead of after.)

I persuaded the new faucet and its various accouterments back into their package for The Woman to return to the store.  Surely there must be a video on YouTube about how to replace the ceramic cartridge in my particular faucet?  I just needed to find out what make and model of faucet it was.

A little red and white emblem on the handle said “Moen,” a promising start.  I went to Moen’s website to look at a gallery of photos of faucets.  There are a million of them, and none of them is like mine.  I stumbled onto a customer support page that had instructions on how to find my faucet’s series number; 7730.  With this as a search term I found David Trebacz’s excellent cartridge replacement video.  If you’re facing the same job, I recommend you study it well.

What follows is a commentary on me following David’s wonderful video to get this job done.  Back when I was working I was an IT guy; so I’m reasonably clever behind a keyboard.  But my hardware experience, and for that matter my experience in anything practical, is close to zip.  The cartridge instructions said this job would take a beginner an hour; it took me two and a half hours.  Okay, I was being slow and careful, taking pictures and watching David’s video over and over.  Anyhow, if even I can swap out a Moen cartridge, so can you.

David is careful to get a good camera view of each piece of hardware, every step and every tool.  He fast-forwards thru stuff that’s boring, like turning a screw again and again, not leaving it out but just letting you know you’ll be doing it not-fast-forward.  He makes a few mistakes and deals with them, a nice touch.  And his tools are way better than my tools.  I ended up using a few different tools:

07 tools

  • Hammer (to tap down stubborn new cartridge)
  • Straight screwdriver
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Toothbrush
  • 7/16 inch hex driver
  • Flashlight
  • Plastic dealie that comes with a new cartridge
  • Small, wide rubber band that comes with fresh broccoli
  • Crescent wrench
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Channel-lock pliers
  • Bowl
  • Rag towels for wiping up, kneeling on, etc.

I used a small slot screwdriver to pry off the Moen emblem.  Inside were two holes, small and big.  The big hole is the one to put the 7/16 inch hex driver into (it’s the hole that’s in the center, duh).  I realized this after I’d rotated the hex driver in the little hole for a while with no effect.  The little hole turns out to match up with a stud in the emblem that keeps the emblem from swiveling around; and I guess it would stop you from attaching the emblem upside-down.  I checked the video; David’s faucet just had one hole in the handle, as far as I could tell.  I used a flashlight to see that the hex driver went into the square hole in the screw head deep inside the handle, unscrewed it, took out the screw and pulled off the handle.

Having survived the first crisis, I tried my Philips screwdriver on the obvious screw sticking out of the top of the assembly.  The whole assembly wanted to swivel around; David’s hadn’t done that.  I handled this emergency by holding the outer assembly steady with pliers while unscrewing the screw.  I didn’t have a cameraman like David did.  What a good trick to have my hands full of tools and still take a picture.  10 phiips screw

Next problem I ran into was how to loosen up the threaded black plastic thingie without stripping it.  I solved this problem by wrapping it with a small wide rubber band, protecting it and giving me a better grip.  I hadn’t noticed yet that it has two flat sides, as you can see in the picture below.  Those are the right place to put your channel-lock pliers.  I got it off somehow anyway, and found the flat sides later when I was putting the faucet back together.

15 black thingie

Next I ran into a little metal washer that I didn’t remember seeing in David’s video.  I slipped the tip of a screwdriver under it to get it off.  David makes up for this by putting two washers on the assembly when he’s putting it together, but I just had the one.  20 washer.jpg

David used needle-nosed pliers to rotate and loosen the cartridge.  He said that was because he didn’t have a new cartridge that comes with a special white tool-dealie that fits over its top.  I put my white dealie on the cartridge; it has two legs that fit into the little wells on each side of the central post.  This photo shows it about to go in.  I tried to turn it and the cartridge with the adjustable wrench; nada.  I’d forgotten to take out the clip.25 plastic dealie

The white plastic dealie is a crappy tool for rotating the cartridge anyway; it doesn’t hold well, and it strips itself.  Instead I grabbed the central post, which has two flat sides, with the adjustable wrench and turned it.  Eventually I realized the clip needed to come out, and after that it turned real well.  Here the clip is, half-way out.  It’s the same color as the thing it fits into, so I didn’t see it at first.  The two prongs slide underneath projections on the front lip of the outermost pipe-fitting, so you have to pull it out sideways, not upward.30 clip

At last, after taking off way more parts than seem necessary, I yank out the cartridge, just like an old time dentist yanking out a tooth.  Tada!  Oh my god how am I going to get this thing back together so it won’t erupt like Old Faithful?35 out it comes

The phrase in Peter And The Wolf (get the version narrated by Peter Ustinov if you can find it) that I always liked the best is “Now here is how things stood …”  I took this pic of the parts I removed, in the order removed, to make sure I put them back on in the same order:

37 partsNow I deviated from David’s video, because I’d read in some Moen instructions that I should wash out and flush the valve before putting in the new cartridge.  I scrubbed its insides with a discarded toothbrush (or you could use a toothbrush belonging to somebody you don’t like).  Nothing dramatic came out, just a little icky goo.40 toothbrush

Next I put a bowl over the valve so Old Faithful would flow downward.  I wrapped the vegetable sprayer around the bowl so it wouldn’t fall off the valve and get water all over the place.  I cautiously turned on the cold water under the sink part way.  I let it run for half a minute; I never saw any grunge wash out.  But I don’t see too well so maybe something did.45 bowl

Water off.  Now to put in the new cartridge.  I hadn’t paid attention to which way the old one was facing, so I just stuffed it into the valve, wondering whether the hot and cold positions would now be reversed like David warned.  The center post slipped down too far.  So I used the white thingie that came with it to push it in; this worked better.  Maybe it’s what the white thingie is really intended for?  It’s hard to tell; Moen’s instructions are little diagrams with no words, like Lego brick instructions.50 plastic dealie 2

I screwed down the threaded black ring, a tedious job with just a small turning space for the channel pliers, until it gave a lot of resistance.  Again wrapping it in the rubber band, and this time I realized that gripping it by the flat sides would work better.

I slid the clip back in.  A flat side of the center post has to face the gap in the front of the outer pipe exactly, or the clip won’t go in.

Next, I put the metal washer over the central post.  Turns out the washer has flat sides too, that have to align with those on the central post or it won’t fit.  Maybe it isn’t really quite a washer, but something else?  If it has a special name and you know it, please reply.  Any day I learn something is a good day.55 washer

Next, the gray plastic thingie.  Extrusions on its underside slip into gaps in the assembly, so you can’t just cram it on anyhow.  Here it is upside-down so you can see how they go in.60 gray thingie

The top of it is a sort of collar.  It’s not like David’s; in my case the tall side really did need to be in the front or it wouldn’t seat properly.65 collar

I screwed on the chrome dome.  I popped in the rabbit-eared thingie, ears forward, and screwed it on with the Philips screw.  67 rabbit ears

Now for the handle.  Getting it aligned felt floppy and indefinite.  I looked inside it and could see that the screw had to enter it just right to pass thru the rabbit-ear’s central hole, come out the far side of the rabbit-ears and enter a threaded block in the center of the handle.  Once it realized I wasn’t going to settle for anything other than a straight shot, it let the screw go in the way it should.  70 handle

$500 saved.  Good luck with your faucet!  And thanks again, David; you’re a hero to us nerds who can hardly lay a hand on a tool without hurting ourselves.






Phoneless in Seattle

My phone has gotten to the point where it’s starving by mid-afternoon.  I charge it every night; but its battery has gotten wimpy with age.  (Not like me!)

Apple doesn’t build a battery door into their phones; they’d rather you buy a new phone. But I found a shop that will put a new battery in your Apple phone, voiding your warranty and phone insurance while you wait.

I made an appointment on the shop’s website, and plotted a trip to the shop with Google Maps.  An hour later, I walked in the door.  I saw a lot of car batteries and I guess other manly stuff for cars.  I walked over to the glass counter.  Anthony stood on the other side, muscular, lavishly tattooed arms crossed on his black uniform shirt.

“Hi, I have a 4:30 appointment to put a new battery in my iPhone,” I said.

He stooped and peered into his computer; asked me my name; and turned to his assistant.  “Jason, when a confirmed appointment comes in, you need to print it and put the printout with the merchandise.  Now I’ve got to do this job, and there’s nobody here to mind the store but me, and you.”

“I could come back another time,” I offered.

“There’s no problem.  I’m just communicating with my employee,” he assured me.  He ran some tests on my phone and had me sign a waiver.  “I’ll need 45 minutes.  Do you have another contact number?”

“I only have the one cell phone.”

“Oh.  Well, come back after five, and it should be ready.”  Jason had disappeared into the back of the store; he started doing something that made a rhythmic whapping noise.  “JASON, I need you to stop doing that about 30 seconds ago,” Anthony commanded.  “It sounds like you’re shooting somebody.”

I didn’t want to sit on a car battery display, so I left.  Maybe there was a park nearby where I could text Pat and look at Facebook.  Wrong!  I’d search on Google Maps for nearby parks.  Or not!  I walked up to Northgate Mall.  I’d hang out there until five and head back.

I entered the mall next to an Azteca Mexican Restaurant and started looking for a clock.  There was a time when towns were proud of their public clocks.  Even in the 16th century when clocks only had hour hands, a public clock was borne aloft by the tower of every cathedral and city hall.  And I remember, as a child, large clocks gracing the walls and halls of public spaces.  Seattle had ornate four-sided clocks on pedestals on downtown street corners.  I remember the streamlined glassless clock over the elevators in the pillared main floor of Fredrick And Nelson’s sweeping away tardiness and disorder with its giant second-hand.

But now I walked the length and breadth of Northgate Mall without finding a single clock.  I peered into some jewelry stores, but all I could see inside was jewelry.  I went into Macy’s, the inheritor of Fredrick And Nelson’s legacy of quality and service, and looked around; no clock.  I didn’t want to pester people for the time every few minutes.  I own a watch, but I hadn’t thought to wear it; I just look at my phone for the time.

Finally I found a T-Mobile booth in the central hall that had some demo phones on display.  When I woke up the first one it showed an obviously wrong time, 11:24 PM; maybe it was set to a different time zone.  But I found two others that agreed on the same apparently current time.  I looked at badly-made shoes in Payless for a while and went back to the phones.  4:55; close enough.

Back in the battery store, Jason was in command of the glass counter (Anthony was eating his dinner).  He tested my phone competently and we completed our transaction.  I stepped out and googled a route home; a 41 express was going to pull up across the street in five minutes. While I waited, I texted Pat that I was on my way, and checked my mail.

I got on the bus and looked around at the other passengers.  It’s a little game I play; how many of the people whose hands I can see are using phones?  Tonight I could see six people’s hands.  Five of them were holding phones.  The last one was holding a phone in one hand and an e-book reader in the other.  What a bunch of zombies!




Fear of dentists

I just hate it when I go in for my semi annual cleaning and the dentist says “you know, I’ve been keeping an eye on this filling and I think it’s time to do something about it! ”  He demonstrates to the dental hygienist (who, perhaps, might grow up to be a dentist someday) by maneuvering his probe between an old filling on my left lower wisdom tooth and the tooth.

When I hear this, I’m afraid that he’s going to start drilling then and there. But this job is apparently too big for extemporaneous measures. I make an appointment and escape to Seattle’s gray, moist exterior, for now.  But this proves to be an unfortunate escape, because it gives me a week to think about what’s going to happen next!  In what seems like no time at all. I’m back in the chair.

The hygienist checks my blood pressure and pulse with a little handheld gadget. “Your blood pressure is pretty high,” she remarks, rattling off numbers. “Is it always that high?”

“I’m kind of nervous,” I admit.

The dentist comes in. “I can’t be sure until I get in there; but there’s a good chance you’re going to need a crown.”  I got my first crown a couple years ago after I broke a tooth. I’ll bet my blood pressure is really up there now.

“Do what you’ve got to do,” I tell him.  I may be terrified, but I’m not stupid.  An hour and more Novacaine shots than I can count later, it’s become clear that I do need a crown.  The job is maybe half done but everybody is ready to call it a day. He makes some kind of temporary filling and says “let’s try something different next time. ”  Something different is nitrous oxide.  What I know about nitrous oxide: I once read a 1920s mystery in which the villain was a dentist. He used nitrous oxide to knock out the detective (who’d been so foolish as to climb into his chair) and make an escape.


A week later, I’m back in the chair. My blood pressure checks out high. “The way nitrous oxide works is that it helps the anesthetic to work. It’s not actually an anesthetic itself. It relieves anxiety, which changes the signaling in your nervous system so the anesthetic can work. ”  He straps a sort of cap over my nose; I hear a hissing sound. “How does that feel?”

“I feel a little tingling in my toes. Honestly, I can’t say I’m very impressed.”

I get instructions on how to breathe nitrous oxide. Inhale deeply. hold my breath for five seconds, and exhale.  “It’s the 60s?”  Yes (laughter all around).  And exhale through your nose, not your mouth. We can’t enjoy what you’re enjoying; we have work to do.

“Let’s turn up your mixture, and have you practice for three minutes.”  I remember another relevant book here; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.  Or maybe the scene was from a different book?  Anyway, a drug test subject is challenged to say when some number of minutes has passed. He is pretty disoriented and has no grip on time; but he remembers his heart rate.  So he stealthily feels his pulse, counts his heartbeats and astounds the experimenters by telling them when the time is up.

I estimate that it will take me five seconds to inhale and exhale. This plus the five seconds during which I am to hold my breath sums to 10 seconds per breath.  That’s six breaths per minute, for a total of 18 breaths. I breathe and I count, maintaining separate totals for how long I hold each breath and how many breaths I’ve taken. The tingling feeling spreads upward, until I feel like I’m wrapped in a wonderful blanket.  After a while, a voice says “Open your mouth wider, please. ”  Are you talking to me?

The dentist gives me three Novacaine shots and starts in. I can feel what he’s doing, but it doesn’t hurt. And I’m really having too much fun to worry about whether it’s going to hurt.  They cram a lot of stuff into my mouth, and explain how to signal with my hand if I want more or less gas or need them to stop. I want more.  Things go along smoothly. They say I might feel sleepy; but I am alert, or so I suppose.  At one point the dentist starts squeezing my lower lip against my teeth.  I reach up and pull my lip out of the way, to his surprise.

The job is done. They let me enjoy their nitrous oxide for a couple more minutes while they are making my temporary crown.

I keep on taking 10 second breaths all the way to the bus stop.

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 3

Last post, we’d gotten to the point where we have one image of Nixon holding his left hand upward, and another image of Trump’s face.  Let’s put them together and have Nixon pulling off a Trump mask!


I need to move the Nixon image over the Trump one, for reasons I explained last time.  I did some backing and filling last time to try to get the images in the same scale.  But I also need the canvas of the receiving image to be at least as big as the part of the sending image I want to use (which is all of it).  Image > Resize > Canvas in the Trump image to specify the height of the Nixon image. screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-09-38-pm


In Nixon I Select > All layers.  A peculiarity of PSE is that the select functions are in their own menu, not the Edit menu.  Maybe that’s because there are so many of them?  To copy what I selected, Edit > Copy Merged.  This combination selects everything in all of the layers (let’s not forget the hand we worked so hard on), compressing the result into a single layer.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-10-14-pm

Cue the drum-roll!  In the Trump image, Edit > Paste to put the new Nixon layer in the Trump picture.  In the top right corner, notice that I’ve moved the Trump layer on top of the Nixon layer to keep Trump’s face visible.

I find the result a bit disturbing.  Trump’s face is too lifelike, as if he’d been beheaded.  This isn’t Rome — at least, not yet.

I want to make Trump look more two-dimensional and mask-like.  I decide to remove everything below the jawline.  There isn’t much contrast between the parts I want to keep and remove; so instead of the Magnetic Lasso I try to Polygonal Lasso.  It’s a “dumb” lasso; it just selects what you draw around without trying to help you.  I make the Nixon layer invisible by closing the “eye” in the Layer Window.  But, the Polygonal Lasso doesn’t work!  The problem turns out to be the transparent background.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-16-56-pm

As scaffolding I make a layer under the sleeping Nixon layer, Select All, and dump green paint in it with the Paint Can tool.   screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-18-39-pm

Now the Polygonal Lasso works.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-19-45-pm

I erase the selected area with the Eraser tool.  Now it’s transparent.


I wake Nixon up (opening that layer’s eye) and maneuver Trump’s face next to Nixon’s with the Move tool.  I rotate it a bit to approximate the way Nixon is holding his head.  I can’t get quite the right angle with the image I’ve got; maybe it could be warped somehow, but that’s beyond me.  I adjust Trump’s size (I’ll bet a lot of people would like to do that) to approximate Nixon’s by dragging the corner handles of his layer.

I move the Trump head over the hand.  But the fingers are behind it.  Oh yeah — the hand layer got combined with the main Nixon layer when I brought them over.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-25-15-pm

Back in Nixon world, I make the hand the active layer in the Layer Window, and Select > All and Edit > Copy.


Edit > Paste in Trump world (sort of like WestWorld, a theme park you wouldn’t want to visit).  Now Nixon has two left hands.  In the Layer Window I make the new hand the top layer so the fingers will be on top of Trump’s chin.  I move it exactly on top of the hand in the underlying layer.

Drum-roll!  I move Trump’s face into the hand with the Move tool.

I’m not quite happy with this.  For one thing, Trump’s head is much fatter than Nixon’s.  (I’m just talking about the image; I mean nothing personal.). I could squeeze a side handle with the Move tool while holding down the Shift key to suppress the automatic maintenance of proportionality.  But then it might not look like Trump.  Guess I’ll let it go.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-34-18-pm

The other thing that bothers me is that Trump’s eyes make the mask too lifelike and disturbing.  At high magnification, I use the Eraser tool to remove the eyes.  Like the Brush, the Eraser’s effect depends on how long you use it in an area.  I go over the eyes heavily to completely erase them.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-40-06-pm

To help those kids who aren’t sure who Nixon was, I use the Text tool and type in Nixon’s most famous quote.  What a thing for a president to say — but “Grab her by the _____” still takes the cake.  The Comic font seems appropriate.


All ready for Facebook!  Hahaha

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 2

In Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 1 I modified a picture of Richard Nixon to show him holding his left hand in front of him.  Now let’s make a Donald Trump mask for the hand to hold!

I google for pictures of Trump’s face looking slightly to his left — the same position as Nixon’s face.  I notice several pictures that combine Trump and Nixon!  Other people have been thinking the same as me.  One of them has the Trump face I want.  It’s in color.  I decide that’s a good thing; it will make the mask stand out in the black-and-white Nixon photo.


As with Nixon’s hand, I need to get rid of the background around Trump’s face.  I use the Magnetic Lasso.  It’s too big to select all at once in the magnification I’m working in; so I set the Magnetic Lasso’s Add option.  This lets me select part at a time, and each new part will be added to those before to form a single selected area. screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-34-49-pm

Erasing a background replaces it with the background color.  But I need the image surrounding the face to be transparent.  So in the Layers window I right-click the background and use the floating menu to convert it to a layer.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-36-38-pm

I invert the selection, protecting the face.  I erase everything around it.  But the darkness of the flag that Trump was standing in front of has polluted his hair!screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-43-01-pm

I’m not up to recoloring his hair.  So I invert the selected area again, and go back with a strongly-feathered eraser tool to lighten up the edge of the hair.

I’m hot to copy Trump’s face and paste it into the Nixon picture.  But when I try it, Trump’s face turns black-and-white.  I’m guessing that some internal color palette is established by the first layer in an image?  I can’t figure out how to tell PSE that color is really okay now.  I’d rather do the thing than research it; so I’ll move the Nixon image into the Trump one.  (I don’t expect Nixon to turn colored, and it doesn’t happen.).

There’s just one problem; the Trump image has higher resolution than does the Nixon one.  I don’t want the result to be pixellated, so it’s no good increasing the pixel count of the Nixon picture.  I need to reduce the pixel count (or maybe the Nixon count?) of the Trump picture to approximate Nixon’s.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-44-09-pm

I do an Image > Resize > Image on Nixon, just to see its pixel dimensions, and cancel.  I do the same with Trump.  The real comparison should be between their faces, not the whole images; but PSE 11 doesn’t have the Measure tool.  On a scratchpad, I try to approximate the proportion of each image’s height in pixels that is face.  Dredging up some high-school math, I decide to reduce the Trump pixel count by 37%.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-01-24-pm

Image > Resize > Image, and this time I’m going to do it.  In Pixel Dimensions I switch the unit of measure to Percent and enter 37.  I hit OK!

Cliff-hanger!  hahaha.  Join me in Part 3 to see how this pans out.


Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 1

Q: How can you have fun with a man who might grab you by the … whatever?  Uh, when he’s president of the United States?

A: With your imagination, in Photoshop Elements.

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called Barak Obama “The worst president in history.”  Baby-boomers will quickly offer an even worse president — the only one in history to resign in disgrace.  Richard Nixon.

Imagine Trump pulling off his face, which turns out to be a mask, to reveal that he’s really Nixon!

Will history repeat itself?  We’ll see.  In the meantime, what an interesting PSE project.  I haven’t totally mastered PSE, and I’m crutching it with version 11.  So if even I can pull this off, think what you can do!

First I need a picture of Nixon, preferably one in which he’s close to the position I need — holding one hand out in front of him.  I googled a good one; and it has a simple background in the area I need to edit.  This is important; I discovered by hard experience that if you remove an unwanted object from a picture, you don’t get what’s behind it — you get a hole in which you have to somehow reconstruct a background.

My picture is black and white, but that gives it an old-timey ambience, which is a clue for any kids out there who aren’t sure who Richard Nixon was.

Here we go!


I enlarge the hand, and use the stamp tool to cover the hand with background.  What I need is a hand that’s holding a mask upright, not this hand.


I use the rectangular marquee to select Nixon’s other hand.  I don’t need the pen, so I cut it off.  I make a new file for the hand copy with File > New > Image from clipboard .


After some experimenting with my own hands to reassure myself that the little finger should be to the front, I flip the hand vertically with Image > Rotate > Flip layer vertical.  The thumb is just peeking out behind the middle finger.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-32-49-pmI use the Magnetic Lasso to select the hand and omit everything else.  This tool automatically follows a border between contrasting color areas.  I help it by clicking on anchor-points I want the line to extend to, when it seems unsure.  If the line starts to veer off, I can just hit delete to take out an anchor-point.


I invert the selection.  Now everything BUT the hand is selected.


I erase the stuff around the hand with the Eraser tool.  My selection works like an eraser shield. (Kids, that’s a thin sheet of metal with variously-shaped holes in it that we used in the 20th century to limit the scope of our erasing.)  It protects the hand.


Select > All the edited hand, and Edit > Copy it.  Edit > Paste it on Nixon’s left arm.  Not very convincing!

How can I make it better?  (There’s a lot of trial and error going on here; with Undo to back out mistakes, why not?)


Because the paste created a new layer, I can select that layer and move it around.  I hover my mouse near a corner handle and drag to rotate the hand into a better position.


I fix up the hand, erasing extra junk that came along with it and stamping more back and wrist from the skin I have to work with.  I give up on the hidden thumb; let’s say it’s behind the mask.  Okay, it’s not perfect; but I’m hoping that the Trump mask will distract you from my bad anatomy.cuffsI use the color-selector and the brush to extend Nixon’s shirt- and jacket-sleeves around the rear of the hand.


From a distance, not too bad.

Next; Trump’s face!