Fighting the shades
of hostile history's making
I knit together a present
Try to hold the best of
What was past
Forge ahead with lessons
And leave the scars behind.
Stuff goes here...
See what's outside my window...
Fill in the blanks and click the button to see your destiny:
Thursday, July 22, 2004
So I can now post to my blog by email?
Awesome! Maybe I'll post more often now.
Well, I've tried my best to jury rig (in the grand
tradition of previous owners) a seal over the leaky pipe in my wall, but no
dice. Today I gave in and finally called in a plumber. The leak is
very slow so it was safe to wait for him to come on Friday, and as a result I
was finally able to find a plumber who charges less than $100 per hour.
The previous three I'd called (that is, the three who would tell me over the
phone what they charge) all wanted $135 and up.
Do I live in a money pit? Hmmm... I
don't *think* so but I certainly hope the property value goes up before I sell
the place so that I don't end up paying for a bunch of repairs someone else will
get to enjoy for years to come.
We also got our third estimate for having our
driveway paved today. This third estimate was the highest one yet.
It's a fairly short little driveway but it's never been paved, and now the city
is requiring that we have it paved. The estimates so far have been $1400,
$1500, and $1695. Much fun for all involved except me -- who has to pay
Yesterday the electrical inspector came and checked
over the service upgrade work that we had done right after the fourth of
July. He was in and out in about 15 minutes and really only checked over
the work that the electricians actually did. We had heard horror stories
about how he would check everything in our house and want it all to be up to
code, including anything anyone else had ever done. Fortunately for us, he
didn't. It's not that I know of any horrendous electrical problems hiding
in our house but there are a few things... like the refrigerator that
isn't plugged into a grounded outlet. The previous owners put an adapter
on it to plug it into a non-grounded two prong outlet.
On a brighter note, our yard is finally almost
fully green again. Minnesota was in a drought last summer, fall, and
winter... including the time between our agreement to purchase the house,
and when we moved in a month and a half later. The previous owners decided
to stop watering the lawn since they weren't living in the house, and had
already 'sold' it. The result, as would be expected, was for nearly half
the yard to pretty much just die. We've been doing a lot of fertilizing
and regular watering this year to bring it back.
Unfortunately, the flip side is that it's now
apparent just how much crab grass has invaded our yard. I don't think
there's much I can do about that until next spring though. I tried to put
out some Scott's that's supposed to fight crab grass but I don't think it's much
good unless you put it out early in the year before the grass comes fully to
Posted at 12:01 am by gothicpoet
Monday, July 19, 2004
One thing leads to another
There's an old Fixx song with the line "One thing - one thing leads to another..."
Life is kind of like that lately.
We had the electrical service on our house upgraded a couple of weeks ago. This was kind of a major undertaking and meant we had no power for a day while everything was unhooked.
I thought we were going to be done with major household expenses for at least a bit (other than getting our driveway paved to make the city happy!) but luck did not hold -- or maybe it did given the way things have gone with the house lately.
Within a couple of days after the service upgrade we realized that our electric dryer wasn't running hot anymore. It's a pretty old dryer that was in the house when we bought it. Judging by the amount of chrome I'm guessing 15 years old or more.
There are several possibilities at this juncture the first of which I ruled out by going to Menards and buying an electric circuit tester. The 240 volt outlet that our dryer is plugged into is working at the full 240 volts. The wiring does this by combining two 120 volt circuits -- it was possible that one of them wasn't connect up correctly when our wiring was redone. No such easy luck.
That means that the problem was either the element had given out or someother piece of wiring or circuitry had died. I could have started to try to track down which one but it would have been a lot of work and I don't know how much success I'd have had. I could also have hired an appliance repairman to come out and look at it. But it's a 15+ year old dryer.
When we moved in we knew that the washing machine was old, and the dryer was really old. We figured we would buy a new set, maybe, before we eventually sold the house again. We decided that this was fate giving us a kick in the pants to just go ahead and do it now. It's not the ideal time monetarily, but you don't get to pick that sort of thing. And at least we'd get the benefit of a new washer and dryer.
So we went to Home Depot after checking some prices online and seeing that they were pretty reasonable. We found a nice, not-quite-bottom-of-the-line set of washer and dryer that wouldn't totally blow our credit card out of the water and ordered them for delivery.
Saturday was the day that they were supposed to show up, and they came right on time, bright and early.
Ah, yes... except... (And this meant that the delivery people could not do the installation for us.)
The dryer outlet is not a dryer outlet. It's a range outlet. The difference is that one of the pins on a dryer plug is L-shaped. The do-it-yourself former home owner without a clue strikes again. Fortunately the voltages are the same, and the number of pins are the same so it was just a matter of buying a range cord instead of a dryer cord. You have to buy one or the other anyway -- electric dryers don't come with cords. But there's more...
Our existing dryer vent turned out to be another miscombobulatory on-the-cheap bit of half-assery by some previous owner. It runs through an opening in the wall that separates our laundry closet from our bathtub then out the wall of the house behind the bathtub. But at some point in time someone had replaced the middle part of it with a piece of metal tubing - except that the dryer vent is 4", and the metal tubing was 6"... So, instead of going and buying a $2 piece of 4" tubing, they squeezed the 6" tubing in on itself to get it down to 4" and squeezed some kind of glue all over it to try to hold it together. Then they bent the crap out of it to get it into the space beneath the bathtub, poking a hole in it's side in the process, and thus defeating the purpose of keeping the hot dryer exhaust enclosed on it's way out of the house. The area beneath the bathtub and behind the dryer was covered in lint.
After removing this piece of foo-barritry, I discovered that a normal sized section of insulated flexible dryer vent hose would reach from the back of our dryer through the wall and back to the vent on the outside wall of the house pretty easily...
I have no idea why they didn't do this in the first place, unless it was because it originally had been done with one long flexi-hose which then broke in the middle, and rather than spend $10 on a new piece of modern insulated hose, they'd taken a piece of 6" (again - too big) metal tubing they happened to have lying about, and tried to jury-rig it into place.
It has to be that or they were just insane, and for avoiding buying a $10 part they must have been so cheap as to be a bit insane anyway.
Alas, dear reader, our troubles do not end there. The hot and cold water valves for the washing machine also came to be trouble. The intrepid former-homeowner had cut the copper pipes in the wall between the laundry closet and our bathroom sink and soldered in t-joints and copper lines to connect the valves for the washing machine.
One of the valves is so corroded that the old washing machine hose can't be removed from it. The other valve is both leaky and appears to perhaps be (originally) a gas line valve or something. It doesn't go from off to on... You can turn it as much as you like and it goes from off to on to off to on ... ad infinitum in the same direction.
To make matters more interesting, an elbow soldered into the copper pipe below one of the valves has now started a very slow drip. And the old washing machine hose which is serving temporary duty until the valve it's corroded to can be removed has a very slow leak where it connects to the washing machine.
For an temporary fix I've slathered silicon sealant on the leaks and have them under control (sort of), but iI fear there's a plumber in our future, and my wallet quakes with dread.
And I got to spend my Saturday tweaking and tinkering and slathering, wobbling heavy appliances into a closet, and fiddling with the feet to get them level. We hadn't had a working dryer for a week so getting them running, no matter how much trouble, was a great relief.
Oddly enough, the new washer and dryer are physically smaller than the old ones and lighter, but they have a bigger capacity. That, at least, worked out very nicely. The old machines left on the delivery truck so we also didn't have to deal with having to get rid of them. (And from the grunts and groans of the two big guys maneuvering them out the door, I'm quite happy we didn't have to do that!)
Posted at 01:45 am by gothicpoet
Friday, June 25, 2004
Fun with city code enforcement
Time to complain about the previous owners of my house again... Yes, it's only been a couple of weeks and there's a new and exciting issue that they neglected to tell us about.
Our driveway is mostly old gravel with some grass. There's a four foot strip at the end that's paved but that's it. We've talked for a while about how nice it would be if we could afford to have the whole thing paved. The way it looks I figured we'd probably have trouble with the city sooner or later if I at least didn't get it regraveled.
And we got a couple of flyers from paving companies offering free estimates so I thought I'd check it out.
As an apparent "sales" tactic one of the guys asked me if the city was after us about getting the driveway paved. I told him we had just been talking about doing it because we thought it would look better. He said, "what is it - like a $700 fine?" with a sly look in his eye.
So I called the city and talked to the code enforcement folks. They were very nice and extremely informative. This is where it got interesting.
There's currently no fine, but there could be soon. The sales guy was trying to manipulate me about the $700 at least. However there was more...
Our city apparently decided a few years ago that all residences must have their driveways paved with asphalt, concrete or paving stones. No gravel. Notices were sent out almost two years ago to the previous owners that they needed to have their driveway paved by the end of this week.
Naturally they didn't disclose this to us when we purchased the house. They even had an opportunity to join a program to have the driveway paved at a discount rate as part of a citywide group, but they didn't do it.
We aren't immediately in trouble because the city now knows that we didn't receive the notices since we didn't even own the house until last fall. They're being quite nice about the whole thing but in the end we still have to have the driveway paved.
So... To sue, or not to sue. That is the question. Whether tis less hassle to simply pay up and have done with it, or to stick it to the previous owners. And in sticking it to them seek a small measure of justice for all the other little things they tried to hide from us.
Posted at 03:25 pm by gothicpoet
Another day, another slice of sanity regained...
My moto for the day.
Wouldn't it be nice sometimes if you could put your life on rewind but stay the same so that you could go back and relive some events and maybe try *not* to lose certain people along the way?
I'm unfortunately having one of those evenings where a song or two remind me of a bygone day when I and someone no longer in my life used to be close. It makes me pause to wonder why we're not in each other's lives anymore, and I can't think of a good reason.
That in turn leads me to wonder if the situation is a screw up on my part alone, or if there was mutual foobarritry at work.
I really just want to pick up the phone and talk to my old friend and see how she is, but I don't think I can do that anymore. (Certainly not at 2 a.m. but probably not at all.) There seems to be too much time under the bridge. I try to reach out across the gap but there doesn't seem to be a hand at the other side reaching back. I've tried to call a couple of times but there's never a call back.
So does that mean that the memories mean nothing, that the other person has had too many things happen since then to want to remember those days, or that I have screwed up in such a grand fashion that the memories have been tarnished? I don't want to believe that she's just the sort of shallow person who could care less. I knew her for too long.
What to do, what to do... At this point I'm almost afraid she will answer the phone and I won't like what I hear.
A lot of nostalgia lately because I'm learning to remember the good things without dwelling on the bad or downright horrible.
Posted at 02:18 am by gothicpoet
Sunday, June 20, 2004
It's been an interesting weekend though not in an entirely good way.
I think Friday was a harbinger - it's the weekend of disconnectedness. Everyone is out of reach.
I've been trying to reach a friend to see if she needed help moving into her new apartment since Wednesday. Her landline phone is disconnected and she hasn't answered her voicemail. Hopefully she's got enough people to help her move her stuff. (And also hopefully this just means she's too busy with moving to call back and not that her cell phone service is screwed up again -- it's happened before.)
An old friend (and ex-) whom I haven't seen in ten years was going to be in town this weekend and wanted to meet up with us to catch up on old times. Friday morning she IMed me to say that she couldn't meet Friday for lunch after all (the original plan) so we should shoot for today. I was fine with that -- "call me when you're ready to make plans."
Friday afternoon (a symbolic event apparently) I looked out the sliding doors to our deck and noticed something out of place... the phone lines to our house were lying draped across our deck and diagonally across the back yard. They were still attached to the box on the outside of the house and to the pole. The lines had come untethered from the post that sticks up above our roof to keep them out of the way.
This isn't a big deal because we don't use the local phone company at all anyway. We've been using Vonage over our broadband line for our phone (very cool -- http://www.vonage.com) for a year and a half anyway. The broadband is cable so we don't pay the telephone company for anything. I called them and they said that since the problem is between our house and the pole, it's their problem and it'll be no charge to us for them to come out and fix it.
I mention it merely because it seems to be part of the ongoing trend for the weekend. "Disconnectedness." (It's also annoying because I can either try to mow around it - ha! - or not mow the yard til Qwest comes out Monday to fix it.)
It's now Sunday late afternoon and no word from the old friend (from ten years gone) so I called her cell number. I got her voice mail of course.
And yet by the end of the day all things come together (mostly anyway). The old friend called back and we got together with her. We came home and discovered that Qwest had come to our house while we were gone and strung the phone line back up out in our yard (on a Sunday!) and our Minneapolis friend called to say that she'd been really busy but she'd gotten our messages.
I guess you can never count a day out until it's well and thoroughly over.
Posted at 10:00 pm by gothicpoet
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Just a little too late...
Have you noticed that the one thing you really want/need is invariably the thing that you can't get because the store/shop just closed?
Last night it was Starbucks... it had been a really long week and it just caught up with me just about 9:30 pm. I had just enough time to get to Starbucks before they close at 10:00 pm and I was having a ferocious craving for a frappucino.
Except that I caught every red light on the way. I got to the store just a couple of minutes after they locked the doors.
So, I'm thinking -- do the laws under which the cosmos operates deem that no matter what it is that you suddenly have a desperate yen for at in the evening, the store will close before you get there....
Or is there just something perverse about human nature that we never want something desperately until it's reached the point that we can just barely no longer get it?
The just missed frappucino is a metaphor for a lot of things in life. Especially "loves lost".
Posted at 03:11 pm by gothicpoet
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Everyone hates mosquitoes, or so I imagine. I'm no exception but I especially dislike them because I seem to react more strongly than most people to them. I have no idea why this is.
I've told my wife, "I'm allergic to mosquitoes." She says, "Everyone is allergic to mosquites. That's how it works."
Unlike most everyone else though I get nickel to quarter sized welts that don't go away for a few days and if I'm bitten by too many of them at a time I start to feel queasy. Sounds like an allergic reaction to me.
My wife is a wonderful woman with a sweet disposition in general, but there are occassional moments when I'm glad that my fate doesn't rest entirely in her hands. She has a theory about mosquito bites and my reaction to them.
My wife believes that I simply need to go let myself be bitten many many many times and then I'll build up a resistance to mosquitos and they won't bother me anymore. She says that this worked for her on a trip to the Boundary Waters some years ago. I'm not sure this is a terribly scientific theory and I'm certainly not about to put it to the test.
Unfortunately, given my aversion to mosquitoes, I had to change the porchlight on our side door the other night and it's high season for mosquitoes here in Minnesota.
Okay, I probably could have waited until the next day to do it, but it had occurred to me just then that I'd repeatedly been forgetting to do it. I wanted to do it while it was fresh on my mind.
It was warm so I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Getting to the light meant standing on a ladder. Getting the light put back together after putting in a new bulb was a two a handed job.
Can you see where this is going?
The mosquito population had a brief but very easy feast on my unprotected flesh because I couldn't swat them away or it'd drop the pieces of the light fixture and break them. (I actually did drop and badly chip one.)
By the time I got off the ladder I was cursing a blue streak and running for a bottle of Benadryl to smear on my arms and legs.
At moments like that I pause to wonder why I'm in this state (whose state bird is the mosquito)?
But then I remember that I married the cute graduate student...
Posted at 12:09 pm by gothicpoet
Monday, June 14, 2004
Tip to homeowners everywhere... If you have even the littlest bit of water damage, clean it up. If you don't clean it up right that minute, do the right thing and replace the little bit of drywall it damaged. And by all means DON'T paint over it and leave it for the next guy.
I just spent the day yesterday tearing out wallboard, and more wallboard, and more wallboard as I followed the mold inside of the wall. Every time I thought it would thin out, it got worse until I'd gone six feet up my wall and spanned the three feet between my bathroom and my hall-closet-of-doom. (Where I expect to have to remove more wallboard.)
The funny thing is that I just started out painting my hallway the other weekend. It was sponge painted. This may sound at first relatively innocuous but it was a sort of greenish/reddish/greyish mix of sponge paint. And after I'd painted over it with a nice winter wheat color, I began to see what the previous owners had been hiding.
Some of what they were covering was just cosmetic stuff. I suspect that was most of what they were thinking -- "hmmmm... did a sloppy job removing that old wallpaper and now there are scraper marks on the walls. Could try to replaster and smooth it - nah, we'll just paint it with a busy pattern that covers it up."
And then down near the baseboard, suddently visible because it was no longer covered by the crawling ant tones of sponge paint, were a couple of bubbled places in the wallboard. So I said, "well that doesn't look very good. I'll have to fix that with some sandpaper and patching plaster."
And then I pulled the baseboard off and found that it was definitely old water damage, and the dry wall was coming apart behind the baseboard... and there were signs of mold... so I started knocking out the damaged drywall.
This is where things started to get more interesting than I had planned for them to get. The paper backing of the inside-the-wall side of the drywall that I pulled out of the bottom of the wall was partially covered with black stuff... And it didn't seem to be ending behind the relatively innocuous bubbled patch (which spanned the distance from the closet-of-doom to the bathroom under the baseboard, but had only been visible in about a one inch by three inch area above the baseboard.)
At this point, I should probably explain the closet of doom. We don't use it, courtesy of the previous owners -- who kindly left a few things in there to make it a-ppear that they had used it. Which I seriously doubt.
I've gutted the shelves out of it and torn the carpet out. The carpet was water damaged anyway. The main drain and vent stack for our house is located through an access hole in the side of the closet (a rough cut hole in the drywall that had a piece of plywood over it when we moved in.)
After we moved into our house I discovered that the genius who installed the washer and dryer in the front closet that is behind the closet of doom had pulled a rather serious plumbing faux pas. Rather than spend the money to install an actual t-joint in the pipe or have someone do it for him, he had elected, in the spirit of Minnesota do-it-yourself-ism (and stupid cheap-ass-ism) to cut a hole in the side of the main vent and stuff the drain pipe coming off the washing machine into that.
To give the a**hole some small bit of credit, he at least *tried* to seal the hole around the drain pipe. However at some point during the residency of our predecessors it sprung a leak. The evidence for this would be the carpet which I removed from the closet (which they'd left there) and the newfound water damage in the hallway adjoining the closet-of-doom.
This must have been some leak. Funny thing is that the carpet in the hallway shows no sign of it... Hmmmm... (That's in-teresting...)
Why is the closet-of-doom mostly gutted, you may ask? Because while the homemade t-joint does not leak liquid, the closet does not smell at all healthy. It is waiting for a plumber to arrive (who is waiting for me to collect some hundreds of dollars that I'm told it will take to fix this.) In the meantime the closet is kept shut tight and NOT used.
Anyway... back to the MOLD....
I tore a hole a foot wide and two feet high in the wall, very carefully throwing away the drywall that came out of it and realized that this was going to be a big job because the end of the mold was NOT in sight... not even if I held a pocket mirror under the opening and shined a flashlight up in the wall. This would be the point that I began to become a bit worried. (My wife would tell you that this is an understatement.) I've heard things about mold in houses, and none of them were pretty.
On the somewhat brighter side, the other side of the wall was the bathroom, and someone had done me the one favor of at least using green-board (water resistant) instead of plain old sheetrock for the walls on that side of the wall. So the mold was only on the hallway side of the inside of the wall.
And I needed supplies that I didn't have handy. I needed a whole piece of drywall (comes in 4x8) and thus a truck (and a non-rainy day, which that wasn't) to go get it.
The hole got sealed up with tape and plastic sheeting as best I could for a couple of days, and yesterday we rented a truck at Menards, bought the drywall, and I proceeded to play "follow the moldy mold" up through the wall. (Cursing the former owners for beings so stupid as to not take care of this properly in the first place as I went.)
I was wearing a particle mask, and a long pair of rubber gloves and sweating because the AC was off to avoid spreading whatever exciting spores I stirred up throughout the entire house... and the mold was actually worse further up the wall before it got better. Gotta love it when that happens. My wife peeked her head around the end of the hallway a couple of times and I got to see her eyes get big as saucers at what I was tearing out of the wall.
After that fun finished, it was an hour of painting all of the wood inside of the wall with paint that contained a mildewicide to prevent the mold from coming back, then cutting the new 3x6 piece of sheetrock in my garage and drywall screwing it into place. Then taking a long hot shower and three ibuprofen for the headache I'd gotten from either the mold, the mold-fighting paint, or both.
Now I just need to work on my plastering technique to cover over the join between the old part at the top of the wall, and the new chunk in the rest of the wall.
And get that plumber out here to fix the main vent (and of course also probably do the mold-removal dance again for whatever evil may be lurking behind the wall in that closet...)
And additionally stifle the urge to go hunt down the previous owners and give them a piece of my mind for once again proving that they were "a**hoes, a*sholes, *ssholes!" (That particular mantra became a favorite of mine while watching the black smudges appear on the fingers of my gloves as I pulled pieces of drywall out yesterday...)
Pardon me, while I vent for a moment... "Stupid, cheap, dumb*ss, mother****ers."
Sigh... God help me if I *ever* sell someone a house and put them through this much trouble. Particularly if they pay as much as we did for this one.
Posted at 01:50 am by gothicpoet
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Well, it's been for-ever. Not been keeping up with the writing. Should make more of an effort.
What's new? I get more sleep these days and eat better. I've lost an inch off my waistline and feel much better. We paid off a loan and are trying to get some small home improvement projects going. Found a Minnesota friend, had her for a while, but may have lost her again... hard to say just yet. Why are these people so damn passive aggressive? They're extremely frustrating.
An old friend of Melinda's came to visit us for a few days last week. She's from Indiana like us, but lives far up at the north end of Minnesota. It was extremely refreshing to have someone from our part of the midwest to talk to. We're a lot more open than people are here.
I have sometimes wondered if maybe it's just the two of us, so I asked Jen if she found people here to be very "prickly" once you get past the layer of "we're all Minnesota-Nice." She surprised me a little by immediately saying, "oh, they're EXTREMELY passive aggressive. And then there's another layer of nice again if you ever get past that, but it takes a really long time!"
It's good to get some reassurance that you aren't crazy from time to time. Unfortunately, the culture here makes it that much more difficult for an outsider to make any friends. People are just too different. The games get really tiring. (Or to be less polite, the level of BS that you have to carefully avoid stepping in...)
Her visit was interesting in other ways as well. Jen is a Lutheran minister. More interesting from my perspective because I was raised as a fundamentalist baptist (the ranting right wing kind of baptists -- crazy). She was quite respectful of the fact that we didn't believe the same things she did, and didn't take my opinions of organized christianity at all personally. We had some nice conversations about religion... That almost never seems to happen with anyone.
Oh... and we got a cat. Yes, now it's two dogs (Roxy and Lucky) and our black cat Al. No, we didn't name him. We adopted him from an animal rescue center, and he already had the name. He seems to sort of know it. It's sometimes hard to tell with cats.
Al has been remarkably well behaved. I've had a lot of cats but never one that was this "house friendly". He's a good little guy.
Posted at 01:20 am by gothicpoet
Monday, February 23, 2004
Wow! It's been a while... I've been working a lot which is of course both good and bad. Not so good for me not to keep up with this.
Let's see... since I last wrote here I've had my 36th birthday, gotten a pretty nice new eMac, been to work in Indiana for a week (always an adventure), and decided that perhaps getting regularly scheduled sleep and meals might make a positive improvement in my life.
Ain't an attention deficit fun?
Posted at 05:26 pm by gothicpoet