Sunday, January 19, 2014

Family Post-Holiday Newsletter, 2013

This year we return to time honored tradition by wishing our friends and relatives Merry Christmas and publishing the Blichmann+Bond family newsletter well AFTER the official end of the holiday season.  So, here’s the year that was.  In order of descending age:

The Mighty Mackinac Bridge


 Parental Unit #1  The big news for Bob is that last summer he started a new job that’s actually local: no more living out of town Monday thru Friday.  This is looked upon as a definite lifestyle upgrade.  The position is with Element Materials Technology, an independent metals testing lab in Charlotte.   He'll miss his friends at Caterpillar and the great bicycling community in Sumter, SC, but not the driving back and forth.  It's great to get back home again!   

Parental Unit #2  Betsy’s year had fewer dramatic professional and personal changes, unless you count seeing more of Bob.  

Hiking near Roan Mtn, NC
Offspring #1   Paul finished up his research job at the Medical School of South Carolina this   fall, and immediately landed a temp spot at a firm in Charlotte working on FDA approval for a  new pharmaceutical.  That will keep him busy managing something like 10,000 PowerPoint slides worth of data.  His zeal for the culinary arts has lead to the destruction of an insignificant number of kitchen appliances. So far.

Christmas snow in Livonia, MI

Offspring #2  Nart graduated from UNC Chapel Hill last spring.  He's now down in Florida working part time as an elementary school tutor, and has started working toward a teaching certificate.  He's staying at his girlfriend's parent's place, and appears to have moved into the position of chief gardener, dog walker, and chef of that busy, multi-shift working, multi-generational household.  
Hiking near Mount Mitchell, NC

Lifestyle notes    The most noticeable impact of all this moving about is that three apartments worth of furniture and junk descended into our house over the course of 2013.  Our garage is packed to the gills with old furniture and cardboard boxes full of kitchen gear, textbooks, and who knows what.  It seems a good percentage of our house is similarly afflicted.  So far we've re-decorated/re-purposed a couple of rooms, but we're not sure we've really accomplished more than just shuffling giant stacks of stuff from one place to another.

Travel tidbits   We took a couple road trips to Michigan to visit family, which is always fun.  The U.P. is beautiful in August.  Christmas marked the first time all the Bond siblings have been together for quite a while.   We did spend a week in May up in the mountains of NC hiking to waterfalls, haunting the local art galleries, and hanging out by the peaceful South Toe River.  Bob got to spend a few weeks in Birmingham, England on business. 

The old harbor at Lafayette, MI
Ardis Furnace site, Iron Mtn, MI

Hobbies, Bob    Bob's jazz and Americana bands still perform locally from time to time.  Upright bass continues to be the thing – the electrics are gathering a bit of dust these days.   He's re-kindled his (possibly hereditary) interest in photography, and has been having     fun catching up with the world of digital imaging.

Hobbies, Betsy   Betsy continues her keen interest in the fiber arts, and is currently Secretary of the Charlotte Knitting Guild.  She does swim the early shift at the pool several days a week. 

Skippy and Zeela, not stressing it

The rabbits (thanks for asking) are both doing swell.  Skippy is hyper-friendly and eager to please, and his girlfriend Zeela II is aloof and a bit suspicious.  Nothing new there!




Happy 2014!

Bob and Betsy

Monday, June 17, 2013

World Wide Knit in Public Day 2013 with the Charlotte Knitting Guild

   

World Wide Knit in Public Day was indeed celebrated by the Charlotte Knitting Guild.  Fiber-related art was installed at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in uptown Charlotte.  Gotta like an institution with a plus sign as part of their official name.

The installation consisted of pre-knitted yarn bits of various sizes, shapes, and colors.  These are then woven in, through, and around the main hand railing leading into the museum.  This process typically goes by the street term of  "yarn bombing", although neither yarn or substrate is actually blown up.  Dang.

My role in all this was to take pictures, make a time-lapse video, haul yarn, fetch drinks, stay out of trouble, and, as is the case with most knit-related activities, generally enable.  

The Mint + Museum has some very cool exhibits going on right now.  There is F.O.O.D., which features fun items relating to all things kitchen and cooking.   There is also an exhibit by Columbian political artist Debora Arango.  Wild, colorful, fun, and thought-provoking all around.   Catch them if you can.

Bob.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Snow in March video

Snow isn't unheard of in March in the central Carolinas, but it's rare enough.
video

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 2012 Blichmann / Bond Family Holiday Newsletter


Welcome to a novel edition of the Blichmann / Bond Holiday Newsletter – one actually published before Christmas.  How about that? And yes, Christmas Eve is technically “before Christmas”.

Bob:  Bob is still doing the super-commute thing, working with Caterpillar in Sumter, SC during the week and spending weekends back at home. 
This year he took on the project of digitizing all the historic Blichmann family slides, figuring that should be done before time faded them any further, as some were over 50 years old.  He unearthed lots of good memories in those 4000+ photos.  Next up: the Bond family collection, which will be even bigger.  Both fathers were avid Leica shutterbugs.  The Bob & Betsy slide collection will be child’s play by comparison. 
It was a quiet year in both his music and bicycling worlds, with the exception of some late-season track cycling at the new Giordana Velodrome that opened up across the border in Rock Hill, SC.


Betsy and the rabbits:  No major career changes for Betsy, either, this year. But...
She did mastermind the total renovation of our kitchen and master bathroom.  This included lots of demolition, so she was kind of “camping out” at home for the summer. That means sleeping in a guest room (the Fabulous Flamingo Room!), cooking out of an old microwave in the garage, etc.  But both rooms turned out great, and now we have the world’s most strangely shaped hall closet.
She had success with surgery on her bad thumb/wrist -  for De Quervain's tenosynovitus -  and is now back knitting in earnest.  So that’s a nice life improvement. “Knit smarter, not harder.” 

Paul:  Paul graduated from Clemson with his Masters Degree in August.  He’s currently working down in Charleston, SC, doing nephrology research at the USC School of Medicine. Recent interests seem to include giant TV sets, old school hip hop, and beer brewing.

Nathaniel (for those in the know. AKA Bart, Clara, Nart, etc) Now a senior at UNC Chapel Hill, studying biology, chemistry, and environmental types of things while working as a Zone Manager at the student athletic complex.  Summer was spent up on Cape Cod, working with the Harwich Conservation Trust to improve trails and wipe out nasty invasive species.  A couple of solo backpack trips rounded out an adventuresome year. The picture is with one of the new, giant, fungus things that popped up in the yard. Nart was, needless to say, fascinated.

Travels  Fresh ski tracks, or ski tracks of any flavor, were NOT cut in 2012.  Maybe in 2013…     We did spend a week up on Cape Cod in June, staying a great Irish B&B.   It was nice to experience temperatures in the 60’s for a bit in the midst of a hot NC summer. 
We made several trips to visit family in MI, including one road trip where Bob’s car blew up in Charleston, WV.  The good news was that we got to ride in a big white tow truck, a big bright pink taxicab, and a little black rental car. The other great thing was having Moses fix the car. Really, the place was run by Moses. He sells cars too.

Parents:  Bob’s mom got moved into a very nice apartment at a place called Victorian Pines. Betsy and I are jealous. She even managed to sell both her houses - no mean feat in the current economy of the Far North. 
Betsy’s mom is still in Michigan keeping busy with the AAUW, book clubs and cooking clubs.

Here’s to a great New Year!  Hope to see you all sometime in 2013.


Bob and Betsy

==================================================================
Contact info and other stuff
  • Emails: bob.blichmann@gmail.com  betsy.j.bond@gmail.com
  • Betsy’s knitting in chronicled on Ravelry: www.ravelry.com. Her username is Knitbert
  • Bob has a bunch of videos up on YouTube.  Some are better than others. Search for “Bob Blichmann” or go to  http://www.youtube.com/user/cavees
  • Don’t forget the sometimes neglected BlichBlog at http://blichblog.blogspot.com/
  • And I think we’re all on the ubiquitous Facebook in some form or another. 
==================================================================

In the spirit of the giant fungus mentioned above, we continue on the "Stuff found in our yard this summer" theme.  I couldn't get a good photo of he weird mushrooms we found growing in one of the compost drums.


















A cool tiny immature milk snake on the back deck. 
That's a standard size brick.





A six foot tall weed, right in front of the house.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rabbits on the Edge































Critters and wide angle lenses - for the classic photos.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The 2011 Blichmann / Bond Holiday Newsletter

Season’s greetings to family and friends!

We totally missed sending out our traditional Blichmann / Bond holiday letter in 2010, so let's rewind a little bit...


Bob's Bifurcated Life: Bob was out of official work for the first half of 2010, but late in the summer he found a job a Caterpillar plant making parts for big yellow digging machines. That's a good thing. The position is less pure metallurgy and more general engineering stuff, which can also be a good thing. The bad thing is that it's located in wonderful Sumter, SOUTH Carolina, which is about two hours south of our home. Sumter is in the SC midlands – essentially a big swamp. It's main claim to fame is an Air Force bombing range that is open to the public. You can go watch planes blow things up, if you like that kind of thing.
Bob spends weekdays in Sumter, staying in a sort of crumby apartment we call the “Den of Squalor”. Weekends are mostly spent at home in North Carolina. Ah, the exotic double life


Bob outside the new modern
art museum in Charlotte.
















Sumter, SC does have an active bicycling community, though. And it's as flat as a pancake, with the exception of maybe one hill. 2011 was a hot summer down in the swamp, and Bob really did get acclimated to cycling in the 99 degree heat. Hard to imagine for a Yooper, eh?



Some of the swamps are actually pretty cool.


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Betsy and the Various Rabbits: Betsy is still working with exotic metal alloys at Allvac, and holds down the fort during the week with help from the rabbits. Her extreme knitting activities have been somewhat held in check by a nasty case of De Quervain's tenosynovitis – think carpal tunnel, only in the thumb. But she's working that out, and has nonetheless managed to produce a good number of cool knitted objects. Betsy was even the winner of the Charlotte Knitters Guild 2011 Excellence in Knitting Award in the non-professional category. Go Knitbert!

It’s an unwritten covenant in our neighborhood that each residence harbor at least two yapping dogs.
We snub our noses at convention by keeping a pair of outdoor rabbits. Our current critters are anything but your typical quiet, sedate, sit-there-and-look-cute fuzzy bunnies. High-energy, athletic, curious,
friendly, and excitable are more like it. Mr. Skippy exhibits behavior more associated with a puppy than a rabbit. His female friend, Zeela II, is a little more aloof, but still enjoys tearing around the back deck,
sometimes bouncing off the railings and walls like a hockey player. Project for 2012: engineer a way to mount a little video camera on one of these creatures.


Automatic deck sweepers,
out on the prowl.












News from the Offspring: Nart (AKA Clara, Bart, Nathaniel, take your pick) is currently a junior at UNC Chapel Hill, studying various biology-related subjects, and holds the best job title of the family: Center Manager. This stems from a part-time job supervising the sundry activities at the campus gym. Last summer was spent ridding a Florida slough of invasive plant species.

Grad student life seems to agree with Paul. He's still at Clemson, studying biomedical engineering, looking to finish up his Master's in 2012. There have been several trip to conventions to give papers and the like, so we assume that's evidence of some kind of progress.
















Mary and the kids at Paul's graduation, Clemson University 2010

Parental Units: Betsy's mom is doing well up in Livonia, MI, and is involved in a dizzying plethora of
book and cooking clubs.
Bob's parents are still in the U.P. Just before Thanksgiving they ended up in different hospitals, for different reasons, on the same day. Lorraine is now finishing up rehabilitation from an emergency hip replacement, and cheerfully putting up with the crazy nursing home world of early wake-up calls, relentless physical and occupational therapy sessions, and roommates who are retired World Professional Snoring Association champions. Dale's prostate cancer slowly is catching up with him, so he’s in hospice care at the VA hospital. But he's in great spirits, and enjoys reading, smuggled in beer, and having visitors in for Packers games on TV.

Travels, etc. We hadn’t been skiing for a few years, so in March we took a ski trip to Big Sky, MT. It was great to get away to someplace with real snow, big mountains, and hot tubs. That and a few enjoyable trips to Michigan to visit family effectively burned up our vacation days.
















Our one 2010 ski outing: Pine Mountain! Bob and Betsy at Big Sky

















Here’s to a happy 2012!

Bob and Betsy


=====================================================================

  • I think we’re all on Facebook in some way, shape, or form.

  • Betsy’s knitting in chronicled on Ravelry, the big, honkin’ knitting database. www.ravelry.com. Her username is Knitbert.

  • Bob’s musical stuff: www.facebook.com/RachelGarciaQuartet www.facebook.com/StevensMill


=====================================================================

Early 2012 P.S.

- Cancer finally caught up with Bob’s dad. He passed away just after the first of the year. The Blichmann family met up in the U.P. to celebrate his long, unique, and meaningful life.
- Lorraine is out of physical rehab, and has just moved into an assisted living apartment until she can gain enough strength to go back home.

And if we can keep the bugs and viruses out of our home computer, maybe our 2012 newsletter will actually be published in 2012. Imagine that.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rabbit Update

Lots of news in Rabbit World lately.
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To start with, Zeela mysteriously passed away last summer. She suddenly stopped eating and hopping around, and would just hide in her box. Took her to the vet, but she checked out just fine. But she only hung on for a few more days. I figured she got injured in some way, although the vet did check for broken bones, etc. Very strange – we only had her for a couple months, at the most.
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Zeela pretty much ignored all foods that most rabbits consider irresistible treats; bananas, fig bits, apple cores, weeds. But she could pack away the plain old rabbit pellets. So we buried her with a cup of pellets.
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Poor old Skippy had to spend the summer in bachelor mode. But we knew we should eventually get him a roommate. Once the weather was a bit cooler, and work schedules allowed, Betsy and I headed back over to the Mecklenburg Animal Control to look for a suitable mate. They had quite a few rabbits last week, 10 or so. One stood out as being quite alert and cautiously curious, a potential high-energy companion to wild and crazy Skippy. We didn’t think a quiet, timid, sit-there-like-a-lump bunny would be a good match for him! So we took her home. This one happened to look just like Zeela – that mixed brown/black/white marking typical of wild rabbits. So much so that we’re calling her Zeela the Second, or Z2 for short.
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Z2, with Skippy up on his box, both behaving peacefully for the moment.


Zeela the Second, or Z2 for short.

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Now, there are four things that can happen when two rabbits first meet:

  1. Love at first sight. Despite the reputation for romance and reproduction, this is actually rare.
  2. They ignore each other. This is good – they are checking each other out, trying to figure out if they can trust each other. Kind of like a first date.
  3. They chase each other around. This is also good. At least one of them has established some trust, and they’ve gone straight into trying to establish the pecking order. Who is going to be the alpha rabbit?
  4. They try to kill each other.

Unfortunately, what happened with Z2 and Skippy was Number Four. It took two seconds for them to get into an all out, no-holds-barred bunny brawl. Rabbits doing somersaults on the deck. Fur literally flying everywhere. Betsy swooped in and nabbed a random rabbit. Jeez. Getting these two bonded is going to take some serious work!
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I put a wire fence down the middle of the hutch, so they could see and smell each other, but couldn’t physically get at each other. This was only partially successful, at best. They would occasionally battle through the fence. And Skippy, who NEVER poops or urinates outside a litter box, started making a mess all over the place. And both of them eventually found a way to defeat the fence (they kind they sell as “rabbit fence” at the hardware store). One night, arriving home from work, they were found on OPPOSITE sides of the fence, acting innocent and calm, like nothing unusual had happened.
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That was it. The rabbit gauntlet was thrown down. It was time to escalate this game. And since I was out of town for the week, it was up to Betsy.
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We had read that one way to kick off a serious rabbit bonding project is to put the pair of rabbits through a stressful situation together . That way they get to experience some time panicking together – NOT fighting together. A car ride is said to work. Betsy took Z2 and plonked her onto the top of the clothes washer. This is a nervous place for a bun to start with – a smooth, slippery surface kind of high in the air. Then she went and got Skippy, put him up there, and started a load of clothes. Rumble, rumble, vibrate, vibrate. A car ride simulator! Now, do these two look like they’re brawling? NO!
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Terrorized, but NOT fighting, rabbits on the clothes dryer.

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After the wash cycle, she took them up to the bonus room, which was emptied out because we were painting at the time. True neutral territory. They hopped around exploring, did some friendly chasing (Z2 is indeed quick, and easily eluded Skippy), and eventually laid down for a rest in opposite corners of the room. Success! The process was repeated the following night, only on the dryer. Eventually I took down the barrier in the hutch, and they have been buddies ever since. Sounds like the title of a bad self-help book, “Go From Mortal Enemies to Soulmates in One Week”.
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Skippy has been inspiring Z2 to learn the local rabbitly customs: jumping up on chairs, burning laps around the deck, snarfing up banana bits, exploring every last square centimeter of available space, probing for security leaks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yikes!

Been a while...


Jeez, it's been ages since the last BlichBlog installment. A lot has been happening. Watch this space in the next week or so for:

- Rabbit news

- Yard and garden reports

- Employment updates

- Home improvement projects that were met with various degrees of success.


Let's start with the kiwi report. Here's our entire kiwi harvest for the year. Keep in mind that these plants are maybe 25 feet long by 15 feet high. Not a very impressive yield, if you ask me. But hey - it was essentially another drought year down here...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Various updates

Rabbits

Skippy and Zeela are officially bonded. It took four days of the rabbits living in separate cages. I’d let them out on the back deck to hop around together in “neutral territory”. Skippy was his usual hyper-friendly self, and wanted to do no more than chase Zeela around. She, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with this, and would tear off, stomping her feet. Of course, tearing off would just turn on crazy Skippy, and escalate the chase. The good thing was that each bunny would mellow out and lay down if you stopped to pet it. It was just a matter of coercing the rabbits into getting petted at the same time, which turned out to be pretty easy.

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Once a remote degree of calmness was induced by these, umm, rabbit-human-rabbit interactions, it was more of a contest of who gets to be the alpha rabbit. They would do this by approaching each other, lowering their chins, attempting to get the other rabbit to initiate grooming. In the bizarre world of lagomorph pecking order, the bigwig rabbit gets groomed first. “Hey you, lick my head!” Skippy made the first concession, and calmly groomed Zeela. But she held out for a few days, refusing to return the favor. He didn’t think much of this one-way behavior, so he kept up the chasing. On day four, Zeela finally gave in. She walked up to a resting Skippy, and started grooming his ears. From that minute on, they‘ve behaved like they’ve been best buddies all their lives. It’s not at all clear who won the alpha rabbit contest, but now they are both living together in the big hutch, and are getting along famously.

Fortunately, they were able to have lots of deck time. I had a project that I could work on out on the back deck while the rabbits tore around underfoot, sorting all their personal stuff. It was easy for me to stop a squabble, or enforce some quiet petting time.

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I am “The Rabbit Whisperer”…




The rabbits, doing what rabbits do on a hot day: hanging out by blocks of ice.
"What do you mean, 'Behave!'? We've been friends for years!"
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Yard stuff

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After a cold, late spring, we finally started to get some warmer temps and even some rain. Lots of stuff growing.



Figs. The first batch will be ready to pick soon, and you can see the second batch set on.



Coreopsis


Ice Plant

Ice Plant, up close.




Lavender.






The big, overgrown plant by the front door is some kind of picker bush. Its existence is justified only by the fact that new growth has somewhat interesting red foliage. Once summer hits, the leaves turn green, and I trim it back fairly aggressively – hey, now it’s just an annoying picker bush! The worst part is that it totally hides the only surviving azalea left in our yard. This azalea is actually pretty showy. But it’s only visible from inside the dining room, and completely invisible from the street. The picker bush may not be long for this world.






The kiwi vines were pruned way back this year, as they will take over the world if you let them. They are kind of like kudzu in that way. As you can see, they are growing like crazy. Looks like we will actually have kiwis this year! Yeah!!!

Baby kiwis on the vine.











Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zeela the Rabbit


Mr. Skippy has been doing well since the departure of his friend Petey. He continues to be a wild, enthusiastic, curious, happy kind of rabbit. You'd swear he was part puppy dog. Once we found him up on top of the back deck table, tearing into a banana that had been left there by mistake. As Elmer Fudd would say, "Cwazy wabbit".
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Nevertheless, we thought it would be good for him to have a roommate, rabbits being social creatures and all. So last Friday Paul and I went back to the Mecklenberg Animal Shelter to see if we could find a suitable match for him. There was a friendly brown bunny labeled "Ralph", but a little asking around revealed it was actually a spayed, 2-year old female going by the pound name of Rolfina. Sounded like a match to us, so we brought her home.
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The name Rolfina wasn't going to cut it, but Betsy came up with "Zeela", which sounded about right. So Zeela it is. She has a definite wild rabbit coloring scheme going on, with the dark-ish brown, and several different color bands on each hair shaft. She likes to explore, but in a calm, cautious, a-little-bit-at-a-time manner. She's also very affectionate. At least toward people. She's slowly getting used to Skippy and his wild ways. You see, Skippy likes to chase - it's his idea of fun. He'll tear around the deck in circles all by himself, just PRETENDING to chase something! This is all a bit alarming to cool, calm, quiet Zeela. They are not fully bonded yet, but have been making good progress in the last few days. Skippy is quite fired up about her arrival, and she's not quite used to all the attention. I'm thinking all this drama should even out in a few more days...
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Daffodils II

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We are having a compressed spring here in the Carolinas, with a cold February and everything coming up at once. The daffodils are essentially going nuts. Betsy took these pictures.



Note the freshly painted storage shed in the background, courtesy of Bob and Roy.












On a vaguely related note, this mushroomy thing popped up beneath the rabbit hutch. It was so weird I had to take an early morning picture.