Category Archives: rambling

Random Trinkets

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the cool things about living in the house your Grandparents and mother grew up in is that you end up with a lot of interesting stuff. My Grandfather, Arthur Rynkus, was a senior manager at the local IBM plant (new Lockheed Martin) here in Owego – he worked for IBM from 1951 (then in Binghamton and Vestal, then from 1956 or so on in the then-new Owego facility) until 1984.

As with many corporations at the time, IBM spawned a number of credit unions for employees (among many other things), normally wherever there were large sites. In our area, there was an IBM CU in Endicott and, separately, in Owego (though they were just 15 miles apart.) In the 1970s these CUs merged and became known as the IBM Endicott\Owego Employees Federal Credit Union, and in the 1990s when IBM downsized locally and\or sold plants (like Owego) to different entities, this credit union changed its name to Visions FCU and moved to what is known as a “community” charter – instead of having to be an IBM employee to be a member, now if you lived in the Greater Binghamton community you could join. Since then, Visions FCU has grown to become one of the largest CUs in the United States (No. 34 as of 2013) and has operations from New Jersey to Rochester.

My grandparents, parents, and brothers and sisters have all been a part of this CU, and the IBM CU in Austin (TX), and today I also volunteer at Visions as a Supervisory Committee member, assisting in overseeing the financial auditing process and helping to ensure regulatory compliance. It’s a big responsibility – Visions is a $3.4 billion financial institution.

But anyways, back to the story at hand: My grandfather was an employee of IBM for 33 years, and a member of the CU, probably from it’s inception, until he passed away in 2007. So he managed to collect a few trinkets along the way, like these:

IBM Owego Open House 1969 Key Chains – this facility is still around and part of Lockheed Martin.

IBM Owego Employees FCU coasters – red, white and blue in celebration of America’s Bicentennial in 1976.

IBM Owego Employees FCU ash tray – definitely don’t receive these as free gifts anymore.

I even have this book of IBM matches – the match heads are IBM blue.

I’ve shared other memorabilia that I’ve had before as well – you can see it here and also here.

I will give a plug here at the end: If you aren’t a member of a credit union, you should be. It’s the best financial deal you’ll get since the members literally own the place (it’s a cooperative) and it is non-profit (meaning lower fees, better loan rates, and higher savings rates.)

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen

Last month, Mary and I hosted a special event at the house – a Luau-style pig roast. About a year ago I was asking my friend Tim (Dr. Tim, he’s my partner in crime for things like the Mad Scientist Cocktails party) what he thought about putting on a pig roast. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So, I have an idea of something we can do – what do you think about doing a pig roast?

Tim: You mean like the pig on a spit over a fire, cause I’ve done that a few times.

Me: No, I mean like you see in Hawaii. We dig a hole and bury the pig and cook it that way.

Tim: Ooohhh…(gears turning in his head)…you know it’s pretty hard to do it that way, right?

Me: I know. We don’t do these things because they’re easy!

…and with that, we set off a quest to roast a pig “Hawaiian luau” style by digging a hole, throwing the pig in to bury it and come back the next day.

Roasting a pig in the ground requires a lot of time. Not like 2-3 or 5-6 hours…but 14-16 hours. Think of it as turning the ground into a giant slow cooking crock pot for your pig. The pig roast party happened on a Saturday at 3pm, which means that Friday night we were beginning the process of cooking the pig. In a nutshell it goes like this: you dig a hole, line it with some stone, then build a huge fire and let it burn to a mound of hot coals. You then take your prepared pig (seasoned and wrapped to protect it) and toss it into the coal bed and bury it with coals, then proceed to bury everything with dirt and then wait until the next day to dig it up and, if all goes well, have a lot of great pork for the 40 people who came to the party. Tim, myself and our friend Ryan started Friday night around 7pm getting everything ready.

For our pig roast, I ordered a 65 pound pig. My uncle, who I happened to have over with his tractor to help with pulling out some old landscaping (another story coming soon), dug the hole. I fortunately also happened to have a still standing but long since dead maple tree – a perfect amount of good firewood (we just had to cut it down.) To prepare our pig, we used the banana leaves and burlap method, but there are others depending on how you want to pig to come out. When you use our method, the pig is effectively steamed inside of the burlap – I have heard\seen alternatives (that I think we may try next year) where the pig is left more exposed to bake it more instead.

The end result was, in a word, spectacular – the pork was amazing, and the food everyone brought to share was excellent with it. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on the process we followed. (Many thanks to Jonathan Cohen for taking the unveiling shots):

The Evil Cantilever

Our house is a really cool back-split style house, but along with that comes some insulating and air sealing issues that are unique to our house. In 2010 when my Grandmother still lived here, I helped her replace the boiler as well as perform a whole-house insulation upgrade (the costs and rebates were so good she had all the work done for just the cost of the boiler and cut her heating bill in half.) These guys did blown cellulose in most walls (there was none previously) and air sealed a large portion of the house.

One thing they did not air seal – and I didn’t realize at the time to insist it be done – was the cantilever. The evil cantilever. You see, a cantilever adds additional space on the second floor of your house (yay!) but until recently they were almost universally constructed in such as a way that they are places where enormous amounts of energy (heat or cool) leak from your house. Our house was no exception. The cantilever in our house was so porous that during the winter the circulating air in the space between the family room and upstairs bedrooms was so significant it actually chilled the floor. Not a lot of fun – so I had to fix it.

This would qualify as a medium-scale project for me. It was pretty messy and took about a week to complete. I started by removing the soffit pieces on the cantilever and pulling back the wood that closes the cantilever up. Once inside, I took pre-cut pieces of foam insulation and fit them into the cavities between each set of joists above the wall and, using spray-foam insulation, foam sealed them into place. Once the spray foam expands and dries it forms a nearly air-tight barrier. By doing this I effectively “cut off” the cantilevered space from the interior space of the house – this would be sufficient to stop the air flow problem – but I still would have another problem that the outside 1.5 feet of floor in each bedroom upstairs would be exceptionally cold now.

To solve this, I picked up some mineral wool insulation (WAY better than fiberglass) and fit them into the cavities underneath the floor. This should insulate that last 1.5 feet of floor and keep it nice and warm. In one spot I had a pipe for the baseboard heat that poked into the space. To solve that, I had to use foam board and build a “box” around it.

Once finished I put the wood cover back up and caulked it appropriately to provide a first line of air sealing, cleaned everything up and reinstalled the plastic soffit pieces. The finished product came out nice, but of course I was doing this in late spring which means we don’t get a chance to see how much better the floor feels until winter. Based on some previous air sealing on another section of the flooring, we are expecting the change to be pretty significant.

Here is a photo chronology of the work:

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Today marks one year of writing this blog. I think this blog has covered a lot of ground and documents some pretty interesting history in the Owego area. Coincidentally, I would not have started the blog if not for some encouragement from Abbey Hendrickson from the Aesthetic Outburst blog, who also runs the Tioga Arts Council (and the Home Tour.) There are a lot of shadow readers out there – I run into people all the time who tell me that they regularly keep up with our posts on here. It’s awesome that people enjoy it, and I hope that the things Mary and I share here are helpful or inspiring to others with cool mid-mod houses as well.

Here’s a little statistical fun covering the first year:

Total pages viewed: 14,615

Average views per day: 43

Most popular post: Adventures in Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Flooring (1,146) – this post shows up with readers daily and apparently ranks high on Google searches about mid mod flooring.

Second most popular post: It’s All About The Sputniks (844) – a post about sputnik lights on the Retro Renovation blog has a link to this on it, and people seem to click on it a lot from there.

Right now we’re preparing for the arriving baby (Mary’s baby shower is tomorrow. We have the baby’s room mostly furnished), and I’ve been busy with a number of other projects that I will steadily be documenting here on the blog as time goes by.

Thanks for reading!