Monthly Archives: September 2012

It doesn’t matter if you want it back

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Not enough attention to this blog lately, while Hoxsie gets my love nearly every day! It’s been years since we’ve done a Top 10 of Absolutely Nothing here, so here one is:

  1. “Dear Lemon Lima” – what a sweet little high-school-outcast-makes good movie this was. It was quirky, sweet, kinda real, kinda not.
  2. “Brick” – somehow I had completely missed this one, despite my natural acceptance of all things Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and all things noir. Film noir set in a modern high school. “She knows where I eat lunch.”
  3. Amanda Palmer’s “Theatre is Evil.” Well, soon, anyway. I backed the Kickstarter and got the fabulous CD and bonus tracks and all, but am not sure my head is in the space for what she’s singing about just at the moment, so I’ve only listened to the tracks that I had already heard, and even that is a bit much for the moment. “It doesn’t matter that you want it back / You’ve given it away / You’ve given it away.” Fabulous naked video here.
  4. Fresh electricity – 21 years ago I bought a house with somewhat substandard electric service and a scary tangle of wires stapled to a sloppily painted chunk of board in the basement. It didn’t magically get better with time. Work on the house finally forced me to call an electrician to clean up the mess down there, and a fine job they did. Cleaned up a lot of the mess, pulled all kinds of dead wires, gave me shiny new plastic-covered wire outside the house (because cloth-covered wire is just gauche). And now I have a circuit breaker box I feel safe working in.
  5. Awesome new tools. Where do I apply to get back the years of my life that I wasted with poor, ancient hand-me-downs that simply didn’t do the job? How did I get by doing occasional framing work all these years without a laser-guided chop saw? Why did I continue to try to cut with my grandfather’s circular saw, which clearly wasn’t up to the task? And why did I not understand that a Milwaukee hammer-drill is just about the finest cordless drill for everyday use I could want? They just make every single task easier, WAY easier. If a poor carpenter blames his tools, does a good one praise them? I don’t know, but my work is much better for having these new wonders.
  6. Creative vegetables. It was our first season with a CSA (community sustainable agriculture) share. Even at a half-share, it was a struggle to keep up with all the food each week. What do we do with all this kale? And tomatillos? And all these tomatoes? We’re not canners, but we did discover the joys of dehydrating, as well as inventing dozens of new combinations of hot and cold mixed vegetable dishes. Also rediscovered beets. Now, seriously, what was I thinking not eating beets all these years? So much flavor.
  7. Missing the daughter who’s away at college, especially now that the days are shortening and I think of those quick suppers we had together in the kitchen on nights when it was just the two of us, or our little breakfast rituals in the dark mornings. So excited for her, so thrilled that she’s doing so well, and that she goes to the kind of college that has a major career fair just for summer jobs (my day, my school, that did not exist). But missing her nonetheless.
  8. Enjoying the hell out of the daughter who’s still at home. Love coming home to catch her practicing piano, unbidden, and listening to her sort out compositions. She’d rather we weren’t around to hear it, and I enjoy hearing every note. We’re sorting through the college search process now, which is daunting and exciting as we watch another one who can pretty much do whatever she wants, will get into one of the top schools for what she wants, and will have an amazing college career.
  9. Leg bands. This is really a bottom ten, not a top ten. But god, why do bicycle leg bands not work on my pants? Having had several failures, I tried a nice expensive rubber-backed Planet Bike band that is not only reflective, it lights up. Should be amazing. Would be amazing, IF the elastic didn’t keep sliding back in the clip, and if it would stay up on my leg and hold my pant leg in place. It won’t. Going to a full gaiter on one leg, one step removed from spats, just seems like one more thing to manage on a bike commute that is already a disproportionate pain in the ass. I think I’ve decided to just completely give up on purpose-built devices and just use binder clips, which seem to never fail.
  10. I’ve rediscovered my intended epitaph: “I yield to myself as much time as I may consume.”

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How this all got out of hand

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It all started so innocently. After 80 years and several
rehabs, it was time for our glassed-in porch, with its wood-on-wood sliding
windows and door that wouldn’t fully open, to be replaced. There was simply no
fixing it back up anymore. We had a brief fling with the idea of making it a
proper addition, a bit bigger and hiding a half-bathroom. The estimates (the
ones we could get, that is . . . good times or bad, contractors don’t seem to
want my money) came in at about a third of the value of the house . . . way too
much to put into a place in our neighborhood. So back to square 1.5, which was
replace the walls, windows and door on the porch, ourselves.

So here’s how it starts to get out of hand. This is my one
chance to insulate the porch, something I should certainly do to justify the
fancy new windows, and make it a good 3-1/2 season room. And that meant
crawling underneath, insulating the joists and sealing it up. And if I do that,
I have to insulate the ceiling, which means pulling down the old
tongue-and-groove ceiling that we love, and realizing that it really needs to
be refinished, so that’s 76 pieces of t&g that needs sanding and staining. Oh,
it’s also my one chance to spread some electricity around the porch, and get
light from something other than a centered fan, so let’s run some wiring,
outlets all over, two new sconces, a ceiling light, a new fan. And power for a
closet that we haven’t designed yet. And if we want to get the most use out of
it, wouldn’t a little space-heater make more sense than trying to get ductwork
out there? And when I get to the flooring, just putting it down over the old
stuff won’t work, so let’s cut a new subfloor layer.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of siding. The house
has 50-year-old asbestos siding, which lasts forever, insulates beautifully, is
easy to paint and nearly impossible to get rid of. But it’s getting brittle, it’s
hard to repair, it hurts the value of the house, and I’ll have to put something
else on the new porch, so let’s just get new siding at last. Well, if we’re
going to do that, that’s the time to replace the kitchen windows, which take up
too much wall space and ruin the layout.

Oh, and I’ll need to repair a couple of pieces of garage
wall before it’s sided. And replace a window that was never really a window
(just a tacked-on aluminum storm window). And repair the rotting roof deck at
the eaves.

Oh, and after the workers yank off all the old siding, I’ll
notice exposed wire on the electric service to the house, and decide that now
is also the time when I need to finally replace the old cloth-wrapped wire on
the electric service, get a new meter box, and get a new desperately needed
circuit breaker box. For that, for the siding removal, and for the new siding, I’ve turned to contractors. Otherwise, the pain is all mine.

Sometime soon it’ll all be done. Well, not the inside of the
porch, that’ll be another few months, but all the noticeable stuff from
outside. It’ll all look sensational, like a real house. And I will be, as I am
now, absolutely and utterly exhausted.

“There is no tragedy like this under the sky”

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There is a popular and often-repeated notion that romantic love is a modern invention of the Western world. Writer after writer will explain to us that only in the last couple of hundred years have we had this idea of being totally devoted to another human being; before that it was all practicality and contracts. It’s a cynical view that ignores  thousands of years of evidence to the contrary. So how, then to explain this: an incredible letter found on the chest of a mummified man in South Korea. Written in 1586, the letter is a heartwrenching plea from his pregnant widow, trying desperately to understand how to go on without him.

“How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you?
Whenever we lay down together you always told me, ‘Dear, do other people
cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?’ How
could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me? . . .

“When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can
anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.”

To read the full letter, go to the amazing site Letters of Note. And then tell me love is a modern, Western invention.