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Well, yesterday was the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Your correspondent had his longest day of the year (so far) a couple of days before that, while working on the ditch, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
This past Wednesday, Karin & I trekked to the town of Puchberg, which is in the shadow of the Schneeberg: a local mountain of some renown. While the scenery was definitely beautiful, our final destination was to an indoor pool at the Kneipp Kur Hotel Schönheitsfarm, a spa with the usual amenities. You can check out their website for more info: "http://www.schlank-schoen.at"
When we arrived and as we were leaving this spa, there were groups of older people (in their sixties, I estimate) who were sitting in the lounge and smoking. Now, I'm not one of those violently anti-smoking persons that many Americans—and especially Californians—are accused of being (at least I don't think I am). I even partake in the occasional cigar, so I'm not one to tell people what to do in their own spaces. However, I do think it rather self-defeating to go to a spa which touts the many healthful activities they offer, only to sit in the lounge and puff away. In the same vein, while Karin and I were wandering through Vienna's first district, near the Judenplatz, we came across a new restaurant, featuring organic ("bio-" in German) vegetarian and vegan cuisine. As we walked by, we saw some people sitting inside, presumably enjoying a repast from the vegetable kingdom (do vegans eat mushrooms and other fungus?), and puffing away on cigarettes. While I can't fault the argument that tobacco is a plant, and therefore acceptable for vegetarian (and vegan) consumption, it doesn't really support the notion underlying that other bulwark of vegetarian logic: "meat is not healthy for you". Just had to get that off my chest.
Back to the Spa
This is where we met our midwife for our next birthing class. We spent most of the class working on breathing: steadying our breathing, understanding how we breathed and where we breathed from, breathing out with our mouths and noses submerged in water, breathing out while moving underwater. As Karin noted, most of these exercises are—as a recorder player—second nature to her (and to me as well, but I learned this in martial arts training). You can see one of the breathing awareness exercises in this picture:
The rest of the class was spent practicing something I call "directed floating". This is where the "director", using his shoulder to support the other person's head, holds the other person's hips in both hands, and sways that person side to side ("like a shark", said Karin") while slowly walking backwards in the water. You can see the midwife supporting Karin in this picture:
We worked on another supported floating exercise where supporter held out both arm with palms down and bent at the elbows, and supported the other person under the shoulder blades and lower back/hips. Then the supporter twisted one way and the other, which caused the "floater" to in an arc. (As I was doing this, I couldn't help thinking: "Wax on. Wax off."[1usa]) Here is a picture of me and Karin doing this exercise, or rather, posing for the midwife after finishing this exercise:
All in all, we had a great time at the pool. I even managed to get a picture of Karin with her belly in full view, as many of you have requested:
Afterwards, we walked around Puchberg, a launching point for the many visitors who come and climb the Schneeberg, either on foot or by a "rack railway" known as the Schneebergbahn. As Karin is not in any shape to make the ascent (or decent) by foot (1795 meters above sea level, 1218 meters above Puchberg), we wandered over to the station to get information about the train, and then had a bit of a snack at a local restaurant before driving back to my in-laws' in Wiener Neustadt. People interested in the Schneebergbahn should check out "http://www.schneebergbahn.at".
The Last Ditch
After three and half days, we are finally done with the ditches. I worked all day Sunday, most of Wednesday (had to stop early to attend the birthing class), and all of Thursday and Friday. I spent most of Saturday asleep (and all of it in pain), and Sunday we had a barbecue at my in-laws. So that's the short version of the past week. Here comes the gory details:
But first, I should mention that the city sewage department was working on their own ditch right outside our front door. They had finally come around unplug our drainage pipe (which, if you'll recall, was blocked about 3 meters inside of our property line). To do so, they had to block part of the street (at times an entire lane, which is a big deal since Fischauer Gasse is only two lanes at this point), and brought in some major equipment. Of course I took photos:
Note that this machine was chugging along outside while, inside, I was going at #6 with shovels and picks. Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Check out the pile of asphalt and concrete the city dug up:
And here is a sequence of pictures showing what they found and what they did:
Basically, they had to run a whole new sewer line from the house, replacing the old one and tying into a (hopefully) modern system.
Back inside, my father-in-law had very considerately gotten some of our own asphalt out of the way:
I have to say that the city wins on that one.
As I mentioned in the last issue, we are replacing the old water supply pipe with a new one. This pipe is 120 centimeters below the ground, and runs some ten meters under the yard. The ditch I dug was about 60 centimeters wide, which works out to around 7.2 cubic meters of dirt, rocks, bricks, tiles, etc. that I had to move. To avoid breaking the pipes from ditch #5, I had to undermine about a 70 centimeter section, but some of that got balanced out by the several ditch wall collapses. So in round numbers, I moved something like 7 cubic meters of dirt. You can see about 60% of that in this picture:
This is actually only two thirds of the ditch. I extended the middle, exploratory section to the boundary of ditch #5, then started on the other side. There is still another 4 meters to go on the end closest to the camera. In the next picture, you get the reverse angle, the rest of the ditch is behind me.
Now, you might be wandering why my face is all red. Contrary to what you might expect, it wasn't from the sun. I'd been wearing a make-shift cap and neck-shade, so I've been getting only a little bit of sun each day, and I'm actually starting to get a tan. No, I was red in this picture because I'd been drinking. A lot. With my father-in-law. Mid-afternoon Thursday, we had to hit the local hardware store (Hornbach, which looks just like a Home Depot once you get inside). On the way back, my father-in-law decided to stop for a beer at a neighborhood cafe, run by a Turkish friend of his (he seems to know everybody in town). Beer #1, 1/2 liter. We go back to my in-laws' to pick up more stuff, then drive all of 10 meters (an L.A. Story moment[2usa]) so we can visit his neighbor two doors down and drop off some gutter hangers. Of course the neighbor invites us and must offer us beer as he is drinking one. Turns out that this neighbor went to elementary school with my father-in-law (and his wife is Karin's godmother, but that's a whole 'nother story).[3usa] And because we had to hear the story about how the neighbor hurt his leg climbing the Schneeberg, this was a two-beer visit. Beers #2 & #3, 1/2 liter each. It was after this that we finally went back to work on the house, and then this picture was taken. After we finished working for the day, we went to the Restaurant Jasmine—the same place from issue #5 where we went to play nine-pins—and had two more beers. #4, 1/2 liter; #5, 0.3 liter.
Now, I'm not sure why all the beers on this day. We've had the occasion bottles when the gas/heating installer comes by, but this was different. The only thing I can figure is that my father-in-law is showing me around to the neighborhood, letting the folks see that the new son-in-law, though from America and is Chinese, is still a normal guy who is willing to dig ditches at his new house. Or he was really thirsty for beer. Or he was softening me up for the news that there is actually going to be one more ditch.
So while all this alcohol was in my system, we pulled out the old supply pipe in sections after we had cut through it:
You can see that the outside of the pipe was not much better than the inside:
We replace it with nice new plastic pipe, though I have no idea what it's equivalent in the States might be:
If someone can translate the information on the pipe, I'd be happy to include it in a future issue.
My father-in-law has really gotten into the action photos from the remodeling, so here is one of me cutting the pipe:
Do not think about the amount of alcohol in my system at this point.
So that was Thursday. On Friday, we started work on yet another ditch. It was a second supply line to go to the corner of the plant bed, so that Grandma Reißner didn't have to drag the hose across the entire yard. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable idea, even in the clear, alcohol free, light of morning. What we didn't expect was that the new ditch crossed a patch of ground that had more junk in it than any of the other parts of the yard where I'd been digging:
It also didn't help that the last minute nature of this ditch caused me to have to undo some work, so some of that 7 cubic meters of dirt had to be moved two extra times. This new ditch got dug, with much work done by father-in-law as I started closing up the rest of ditch #6, and then it was time for the rakes to replace the picks, as we tried to sort out the worst of the half-bricks, broken tiles, and rocks. Sadly no beers were to be had this day, and we finished around 9 p.m., after a 13 hour day. But I know that we have no more ditches to dig, as my father-in-law sowed some grass seeds.
Next week, we put in the concrete sub-floor for the living-room/bedroom. As a preview, here is the room with rebar down:
Silly Picture of the Week
A man with a really big hat.
Until next week,
 "Wax on. Wax off": Famous line from the movie "The Karate Kid", where said Kid was receiving karate training cleverly disguised as various cleaning chores.
 "L.A. Story": It's an American movie starring Steve Martin. The jokes might not make sense to folks outside of the US (or California, or even L.A), but the characters and situations are absolutely accurate. Except possibly for the freeway sign.
 "A whole 'nother": As far as I can tell, it's actually the word "whole" inserted into the word "another", meaning "an entirely other...".
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