Tags: house


Meet Maude. Or maybe Galileo.

So help me, I bought a minivan.

It's a 1996 Toyota Previa with 194,000 miles on her. I paid $2000, then spent another $500 on brakes and belts so she'll last another 200,000 miles. She's been inspected, licensed, and is almost ready to be a member of the family. The question now is, what do I name her?


Because she looks so much like a beat-up shuttlecraft, I am tempted to paint NCC-1701/7 on her side and name her Galileo. But, really, I think her name is Maude. What do you think?


In that picture you can also see my new home. Here's a better picture. Because the street name is Turf Court, and because my basement apartment is long, narrow, dark and cozy, I have taken to calling it Turf House.


Pictures of the inside of Turf House will have to wait a bit, though, until it's fixed up.

To Do Around the House

Well, we tuckpointed the north wall of the house, and around the NW corner to replace the mortar in about one third of the western wall too. We got a new mortar chimney cap on too.

And we had a technician out to inspect the boilers. There are two of them, one for each floor. The upstairs boiler is fairly new, but the downstairs one is a big red monster, about 80 years old, that originally burned coal.

We have a dead bird in the flue, and the Old Red Monster Boiler is operating at just 40% efficiency. But it should get us through this winter safely. Next year we get to think about replacing it. (The technician suggested taking out the radiators and installing forced air heating. I'd consider it if it meant switching to electric heat. The local gas company is Teh Evil.)

This weekend we will Work On The House. What I'd like Woof and me to accomplish is:

  • put a nice thick layer of mulch on the garden for the winter

  • fix the garage door so it closes all the way, with no mouse-high crack left open at the bottom

  • sweep out the garage, straighten it out, set up the new saw on its stand

  • while doing the yard and garage work, grill hamburgers and hotdogs for lunches for the week

  • take the broken air conditioner out to the alley

  • take our good bedroom air conditioner out of the window for the winter

  • finish the custom-made bookshelves for our paperback books

  • fill the bookshelves with the paperback books

  • replace the old toilet seat

  • rest by taking the big comforters to the laundromat with Woof, to wash and fluff them for the winter

A full and frolicsome weekend it will be!
po-ta-toes, duh, comfort food

More stove squee

I am cooking chicken in the oven, and risi-bisi on the stovetop. I did not have to lie down on the floor to light the oven! The oven heated up in just minutes! It sheds very little heat -- the door is still cool to the touch, and so is the stovetop (where I'm not cooking on it). I was able to precisely control the heat on the stovetop, and I won't have to scrub soot off the bottom of the pot later on. This is so cool!

(I don't think I realized just how ratty the old stove was until we got the new one.)
hat, smile, happy

Who wants to see raw news helicopter footage of my neighborhood?

In true newscaster fashion, before we get to the exciting pictures I'll give you the background story.

Besides the Prius we also have a 1994 Dodge Caravan, a big old hard-working vehicle that seats 8. Take the seats out and you can haul an even ton of gardening supplies, or enough camping gear for a family for a week, or a set of bedroom furniture. I drive her only once a month or so now, but over the years she's seen some hard use. This car has 180,000 miles on it. It's nobody's idea of a hot ride.

So a few weeks ago, some idiot stole her off the street in front of our house. Bwa?

And what with the bad weather not enticing us to linger outside, neither one of us even noticed it was missing for a couple of days. The police found the vehicle on the morning of the day we reported the theft; we are liable for all the parking tickets it collected in the meantime. And we had to pay the police for towing it to their impound lot in a seedy industrial zone at the far north edge of the city. And then there were the impound lot fees for a couple of days until I could get find the title and arrange for a ride there, and the 20-mile tow back south to the mechanic I use, and we hadn't even looked at the damage they did to the car yet.

Replacing a steering column and door lock is a little less than $400. I decided to forego repairing the dents and scratches in the door. But My Woof did buy me a bright yellow Club for the steering wheel!

Anyway, I took off a little early from work today to go pick up the Caravan and take her home. Only to find my road home blocked by police cars. I drove around a few blocks to approach the neighborhood from the other side -- the main entrance there was blocked as well. I could see a red fire-department ambulance, and assumed there had been a fire. My street was blocked at one end but not the other, so I was able to take a side street and get home.

And why were those streets blocked? It turns out that somebody with a gun had barricaded himself in his apartment around the corner. The police were trying to get him out without anyone getting hurt.

The story changed several times -- neighbors said the man was being evicted, and shot at the movers his landlord had hired to empty the apartment. The first news reports referred to five shots, nobody injured, but a hostage situation. Finally, the gunman called a local news station to say it had all been a mistake, nobody was shot, would the police just go away please? The other man in the apartment wasn't a hostage, it was just his friend who had recently been released from jail and didn't want no trouble.

Still the whole thing went on for hours longer, until the police finally fired tear gas into the apartment, entered and arrested them.

I'm mildly angry.

Sure, it's kind of neat to see newscopter film of my neighborhood. (See? I promised you there would be film at 11.) I'm glad no one was hurt.

But I really hate it that these guys were living in my neighborhood. In the '20s it was a solidly middle class area. It went downhill a bit but it is coming back. There's a lot of rehabbing going on, and prices are going up. As a new home-owner, I now approve of high rents! But stupid car thieves and ex-con jerks with guns don't encourage quiet, clean people with good credit to move in.
wooden badger, cunning, planning

Plans for 2007

Household Repairs/Improvements
  • Tuckpointing. Much as we hate to spend all that money, it has to be done.

  • Get the upstairs ready for tenants: Are all door handles functional? All closet lights fixed? All screens/storm windows in good shape? Add second light switch for stairwell light. Put a shelf or two in the old broom closet thing in the kitchen. Recaulk shower head. Clean thoroughly. Make arrangements to paint if necessary.

  • Get an electrician to put in a 220 volt outlet for the tenants' dryer, and a 220 volt outlet in the kitchen for the range-we-will-get-someday.

  • Install vent for tenants' dryer.

  • Get chest freezer functioning again. Half-fill it with jugs of distilled water for emergencies.

  • Finish emptying the basement of stuff we don't need and won't ever use.

  • Get someone out to service the furnaces and water heaters for next winter.

  • Turn the compost heap, rebuild the fence for it.

  • For the garden this year, put the peas in along the southern fence and put lettuces and spinach close to the house, where the peas were. Interplant carrots with radishes. Try the watermelon again. Tomatoes and peppers did so well, we'll need less this year. Try japanese eggplant. How about zucchini? In the bed to the north of the garage, plant rhubarb and blackberries. Maybe asparagus?

  • Tear down the gazebo thing to the south of the garage. Pull out part of the raised bed there and replace with concrete spacers on the ground (it's so not a good idea to have dirt right next to the garage wall in a termite area).

  • Repair the wooden fence between our yard and the neighbors to the south.

  • Dig out more of that weed tree between our yard and the neighbors to the north -- drill the stump and fill with chemicals if necessary. Project alt.weedtree.die.die.die

  • Windows! Replace front door windows, repairing woodwork that holds them. Remove and repair stained glass windows from upstairs apartment before renting it out. Remove and repair stained glass windows from our apartment. Replace stairwell window.

Other Purchases
  • Battery-powered fan, for the next time the power goes out.

  • Treadmill.

  • More bookshelves for library.

  • Sofabed or futon for library, so it will also be a guest room.

  • New stereo (turntable, CD player, cassette deck)

  • Fire extinguishers for kitchens.

  • Home backup generator?

  • New electric range? With a ventilator hood?

Our wedding is going to use up our travel budget for the year -- although I do hope to go to Chicago for a while after Sylvester is born, to help out Jo & Adam.

  • Exercise.

  • Waste less time doing unproductive things on the computer.

  • Get a permanent job.

  • Finally finish unpacking!
fed up, determined, Granny Weatherwax

Sears? Feh

This Wednesday we're getting a new dishwasher.

When we decided to buy the new dishwasher this afternoon, I did a little research and told bbwoof that it could cost anywhere from $200 to $2000 plus installation charges -- what was the maximum he wanted to spend?

Two thousand, he said. He'd trust my judgment.

Did he have any preferences at all?

Yes. He did. Only one. It could not be bought from Sears.

I nodded in grim agreement.

See, earlier this week I started unloading the dishwasher and ewwwwwww, the dishes were still dirty and greasy. In fact, it wasn't working at all.

The one household chore I absolutely loathe is doing dishes by hand. I would rather scrub the bathroom on my knees. I would rather weed the garden at noon in August. I would even rather pay bills.

Sears promised to send a repairman out between 8 AM and noon on Saturday, December 16. But when bbwoof called them at noon today to ask where the repairman was, well, gee, the "system" says we're scheduled for a service call on Monday.

The hell we are. If we'd been scheduled for a service call on Monday, Woof would have gone in to work this morning to get a head-start on the pile of email that he'd otherwise be tackling on Monday morning. If we'd been scheduled for a service call on Monday, we wouldn't have dragged our aching rhinovirus-ridden heads out of bed before eight o'clock on a Saturday morning.

Call center droid's response? She can't do anything about it, the earliest we can get a repairman is Monday. But we have pre-paid for this service on this day, can't she do anything about it? Oh no, no, no, it's in the system for Monday and that's that.

Of course we ask to speak with a supervisor, and of course we get put on hold for 15 minutes of CALYPSO CHRISTMAS MUSIC omigodhelpmeIaminhell.

The supervisor unblinkingly tells us that "it's in the system", he can't do anything about it, and he sends us into another long wait so we can make a complaint (cue the Little Steeldrummer Boy).

All the complaints department will do is offer to refund what we paid "if you are not completely satisfied". No, says Woof, it's not that I'm not "completely" satisfied -- I am not satisfied at all.

This confuses Complaints. She knows she can offer us a refund if we're "not completely satisfied". She's not sure what to do with someone who is "not satisfied at all".

Woof explains it to her: "Just refund my money. All of it. I will use it to purchase a new dishwasher. From. Your. Competitor."

Woof and I talked it over later. If any of the Sears people had sounded sympathetic, had acknowledged that a mistake had been made on their part, had apologized that they couldn't get a repairman out today and had offered a small concession for waiting until Monday, we would have felt good about Sears. If they'd offered us an extra year on the warranty, or maybe a 10% discount, we would have accepted the reschedule to Monday as one of those mistakes that happens, and we would have been satisfied that Sears had handled it well.

In other words, if they had blown 18 frigging dollars on a 10% discount, they would have gained a couple of satisfied customers who would be blogging this evening about how great Sears is.

But now? Let me tell you how great a local store called Hub Furniture and Appliance is!

I called them with the make, model and color of dishwasher that I wanted (one of Consumer Report's Best Buy picks, a mid-range Whirlpool that uses less water and electricity than average). A friendly, intelligent young woman named Debra took all my order information. They'll special order it on Monday, install it on Wednesday. With sales tax, delivery, installation, and a five-year warranty, it comes to $714.92 -- and the technician will call before he heads out, so Woof doesn't have to hang around the house all day.

If we are happy with the delivery and installation service, we'll probably go back to Hub again for a sofa bed and recliner for the library, and the eventual new range in the kitchen. Because good customer service is that important.

Sears? Forget about it. Life is too short for calypso Christmas music.
hat, smile, happy

And thennnnnn....

Yesterday morning bbwoof and I hosted the Mensa Brunch SIG at the Bristol, a luxurious buffet for $18.95, that gives you crawfish and trout and smoked salmon and chicken alfredo and eggs florentine and fruit salad and what-not to pass on the way to the chocolate fountain at the end.

Oooo, they had pecan pie, too. I'm usually impressed by the Bristol, but although the food was as good as ever, the quality of the service yesterday was markedly less than usual. I hope they're not going downhill.

On the way there, bbwoof and I were talking in the car about parallax, as one does on a Sunday morning before coffee, and I learned that the word 'parsec' comes from 'parallax second'. It's the distance an object has to be from Earth for its apparent change in position due to parallax, from one end of earth's orbit to another (six months later), to be one second of an arc. That's about 3.26 light years. This is incredibly cool, due to the combination of geometry and astronomy. (Trust me, it is.)

After brunch and a quick visit to the book store, we went to see my brother Mark perform in Tartuffe. A couple of years ago he'd played the part of the wealthy dupe Orgon in a community college production. But in this production he was Tartuffe himself, playing him as an oily lech. He was great, and the production was very funny, but bbwoof, in agreement with most of the reviews, didn't like the way the rhyming translation was handled. The actors unsusccessfully tried to make the verse sound like prose. A good actor can do that with Shakespeare's iambic pentameter, but it's a lot more difficult to do with heroic couplets. It sounded awkward too many times.

I've seen four different productions of Tartuffe, with two different translations. I think that the first one I ever saw was actually the funniest. It was put on by a community theater group in St. Charles on a tiny stage, and was farce at its best: doors opening and closing, split-second timing, a Dorine who acted her heart out, and a cheerful embrace of the artificial verse form of the language. (I saw it with maiabee8, and we spent the drive home talking to each other in rhymed couplets.) It used the exact same translation as this production did, but they did not try to make the verse sound like prose.

What I really did like about Mark's turn as Tartuffe was the way he portrayed him as a rather true-to-life conman, so glib and attractive that Orgon's infatuation is almost understandable. The stage business was wonderfully funny, too.

That's about it for the weekend. We'd had so much for brunch that we just had wine and cheese for supper. (bbwoof also polished off the last leftover pork chop with sauerkraut.)

I put up the last of the jalapenos in sherry instead of pickling them, and cleaned the pantry. bbwoof took down the air conditioners and window fans. We did a little grocery shopping, a little laundry, a little tidying up.

Tonight we may get our first freeze of the season. I'll need to pick all the green tomatoes as soon as I get home, to make green tomato relish out of them. I still need to pickle the bell peppers that fill the bottom of the fridge. Tonight we'll also need to drain and store the garden hoses. And I've got a box full of Halloween decorations to put up. I love getting ready for winter, it feels so snug and cozy.

Trivia, books, Magic. Life is Good.

A good weekend, even though it was much too short.

On Friday night bbwoof and I led Team Zoole at a trivia night held waaaaaaaay out in Chesterfield. We had to leave work early to get there by 6:30. And our table came in fifth place (we sucked at TV and music trivia questions!). But we had a good time.

Sadly, bbwoof and I argued on the way home. I didn't like the way he was driving, he didn't like the way I was whimpering when I thought he was going to run into something. I'm a terrible passenger at the best of times -- much prefer driving myself -- but for some reason both of us were on edge on Friday and we just made each other miserable.

The good thing, though, is that we talked and resolved our issues when we got home. (The bad thing is that by the time we were through with that, we were too sleepy for sex.)

On Saturday we slept late, opened a couple of new Magic decks, heated up a pizza, and had a very enjoyable lazy morning. The guy who was supposed to repair and repaint the porch ceiling showed up late, without all his equipment. After futzing around for half an hour he left with no work done. But he's cheap and well-recommended, so we're going to give him a chance to come back this afternoon and try again.

On Saturday afternoon we went to reannon's book signing in South County mall, then hung out for a while with reannon, the Triskells, their friend Rachel, and two extremely cute children. ohari treated us all to linner, besides smooching on my neck, which is always pleasant.

I discovered that I really like the food at Penn Station -- there's one just around the corner from us, but I'd never been to it. We dropped by the bank so I could deposit some checks. And I got my phone switched out, yay!

My old cell phone used to call people whenever it felt lonely. Several times a day. I'd get return calls all the time from people in my phonebook, asking me why I'd rung them up three times in a row and never said a word. But with the clam-shell phone I hope that won't happen anymore. Now all I have to do is figure out how to set the various ringer tones on this model.

On Sunday we went to the Bristol for brunch, then spent the rest of the rainy day doing several loads of laundry, unpacking a couple of boxes, moving furniture, shelving books, and doing little maintenance things. While folding laundry we watched an episode of Smallville, an episode of Sex and the City, and a movie -- that's how much laundry there was!

We also played more Magic, and I finished reading the latest Harry Dresden book. I will now have to wait until APRIL to read the next one. This is the great drawback of reading living authors.

Still to be done: pick and pickle more peppers, pull weeds, mop the kitchen floor, set up the new computer table, unpack and put away about two dozen more boxes. Someday, by golly, we're going to live like grownups.