Sunday, December 31, 2006

historical marker

Yesterday I finished installing most of the concrete backerboard around the bathtub. Just a few places left where I have to cut some small pieces to fit and after I seal all the joints the wall will be ready for the tile installation. I was really tired and stiff after hoisting those panels into place; I hope that was the hardest part of the job. The damaged discs in my back don't like that kind of work.

I asked the plumber about insulating between the two cast-iron walls of the tub with fiberglass and he said it would be ok, so I was trying to figure out how to do that when I found this 12" flexible flat metal ruler under the tub. It was quite rusted on the back but when I turned it over I found this 1951 schedule for the McKinney High School football team. I guess that's when the bathtub was originally installed. I checked the local phone books and the company whose name was printed on the ruler doesn't appear to be in business any more. I consider this a small treasure to add to my collection of relics acquired from this house.

Friday, December 29, 2006

fish sticks

A rainy day at home. I had time to play with my food before I ate it! I have a lot to learn about shooting still life in artificial light.

The plumber worked on the sewer line for more than 3 hours and finally cleared it. It may be only a temporary solution, though, as he and his helper thought there was at least 100 years worth of sludge in the pipe and they thought the pipe was sagging underground. There is no real cleanout valve, only a small pipe someone inserted into the main pipe once upon a time long ago and so no way to insert the sewer-cam to see what's happening underground. Right now we can't afford to have that problem fixed because now we have to pay for fixing the plumbing for the bathtub. I haven't had the time or energy to finish installing the cement backerboard in the tub so we have been making do with taking sink baths and have never really used the tub. Today when the plumbers filled the tub to check that the sewer was indeed draining properly they found the tub itself wouldn't drain. Pressure from a manual plunger did no good and when the plumber inserted the plumbing snake it wouldn't extend more than a foot or two.

We are a little pissed at our realtor and at the inspector who examined this house before we bought it. We were assured in writing the house had "new plumbing" and the inspector didn't even bother to check the drainage in the tub. The plumber today told me "new plumbing" just means you have copper pipes. Bah, humbug. I think selling real estate is a racket. I've participated in six transactions over the last ten years and they have mostly left a bitter and unsavory taste in my mouth. It seems so many people want a piece of what is essentially a simple transaction that it has become a stressful nightmare for the two principal parties involved. The best deal I ever got on a house didn't require a rubber stamped ok by a "certified" home inspector. Common sense prevailed. I lived in that house for 20 years and never had a problem with the 5 steps that led from the kitchen to the back yard but when I sold the house I was required by a "government institution" to install safety bars next to the steps. It seemed unnecessary to me and the prospective buyers weren't asked their opinion but I had to do it. The bars were quite annoying for the several weeks I lived with them. The new owners tore them out in less than a month.

bah, humbug, I say again.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

life is a gig with a jazz band...

If you want to jam, you've got to be able to ad lib. So every new problem is an opportunity to stretch your musical muscles, figuratively speaking. Latest roadblock is the waste water seeping into the driveway from the sewer pipe. I'm hoping it's only a blockage but the way things have gone with this house so far, it will be an old clay pipe broken beyond repair. The plumber will be here tomorrow morning to see how bad the damage is. I dread trying to balance my budget this week. This is the weekend when I usually try to get my receipts in order to make paying my taxes go easier but I may find myself drawing up a new budget for the coming months. About as much fun as going on a diet.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

goodbye, james brown

I feel I've been somewhat remiss by allowing almost two days to pass without mentioning the passing of "The Godfather of Soul."

This short film, part of a series called "The Hire" produced by BMW, is a fitting sendoff, I think. This online version is probably a copy of a copy, as the quality isn't nearly as good as watching these films on DVD. These mini-movies are really extended commercials, with notable stars and directors, but were only available for viewing on the web. If you can find a real version cheap, it's worth having, as Clive Owen, the newest "man with no name" goes about his business as chauffeur for some unlikely employers. Especially memorable on one disc is Ang Lee's exquisitely choreographed moonlit car chase/duel atop a many-storied building. And hey, give me Clive Owen in a Beamer over James Bond & his Aston Martin any day!

the trouble with neighbors....

Rufous Red-Squirrel eyes me from the birdbath. He looks cute clambering along the bare branches of the trees as he plays tag with some of his compadres but up close he's just another rodent.

I don't mind this particular type of rodent, as long as they stay out of my attic. They're fun to watch and they provide much entertainment for the ever-prey-seeking Phoebe, a Carolina Dog who lives with us. Unfortunately, Senor Rufous has inadvertently created a rift between us and our neighbor. The morning was sunny and crisp a few days ago, when the woman across the street, clad in slippers & pajamas, pounded on the front door about 8:30. I had worked late the night before and woke wondering what was happening. I don't know why she didn't ring the door bell. I didn't hear the conversation that ensued between her and my mom but the gist of it was that our dog was barking "since 6:30" "every day" and she couldn't sleep. Phoebe doesn't usually go outside until 7:30 most days and she is mostly quiet - it's the dog next door who barks at HER. This day, though was a perfect for squirrel games of "chase me" and there were so many squirrels running in so many directions both dogs were barking in frustration because the rodents would NOT come close enough for a chance to catch one.

My mom thought the woman was hung over. She told her to wear ear plugs. The woman was pissed. She left in her van about an hour later and hasn't been back since. I fear there's little chance for world peace when people get so upset over squirrels being squirrels and dogs being dogs.

Monday, December 25, 2006

for humbugs everywhere...

"It's a Wonderful Life" has been done to death for me. Maybe in 5 or 6 years I'll watch it again with new eyes and feel for George Bailey, the man who thinks the world would be better if he had never been born.

Meanwhile, the movie I'm looking forward to seeing (I missed it this year - we have no cable or broadcast tv at our house yet) is "A Christmas Carol". Mary Jacobs wrote a lighthearted piece about why Dickens' short tale still captures our imaginations and our hearts more than 150 years after its publication.

Read her story here.

My favorite version of the classic tale is the 1984 movie starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. My younger brother prefers the 1951 version in black & white starring Alistair Sims.

"x" marks the spot

something about the box with the X on it combined with the pale yellow trim of my neighbor's shed prompted me to shoot this photo. To my surprise a cardinal was perched in the bare branches of the shrub next to the tree. If you click on the photo and scroll right you may see him (of course it's a "him", the females lack the flashy red suit). One of the cool things about photos is they show us how we look but do not see. I was so busy looking in one direction I didn't see the whole picture. Then again, my eyes aren't what they used to be.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

christmas gets the boot

For much of the western world it's Christmas Eve. For me it's a rainy afternoon. Not being Christian I don't celebrate Christmas and not having a "regular" Monday through Firday work schedule I'm often unsure about what day of the week it is. Sometimes it's troubling, sometimes it's confusing, sometimes it's convenient. Over the years Sunday has become just another day. Holidays, too, are just days, although they may mean an extra day off for me. While I don't celebrate Christmas I do enjoy the trappings of the season. I like to see the houses decorated with lights when I come home from work at night. I like holiday cards, and holiday goodies, and holiday gifts. I like that people seem to be more generous to strangers than at other times of the year. I try to avoid grocery stores on the weekends and the malls at all times from the day before Thanksgiving until January 2.

We put up a Christmas tree because it's fun to dig the decorations out of storage and decide which ones to put on display. This year, too, it was a celebration of getting settled into our new house. This ornament, a wooden cowboy boot got some really pretty light one sunny day.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa or Satan....

Yesterday I listened to two co-workers talking about the lengths they go to just to keep their young children believing in Santa Claus. I'm standing on the sidelines regarding Mr. Claus. I have no children and have no recollection of my niece & nephew's transition from believers to non-believers. I was seven when I gave up on Santa. For now I'm simply watching the show.

B.D. has two daughters; the eldest is six years old. I presume it's a fairly easy task for him to keep the illusion going, but he does his best to fuel it further. He's the proud owner of an authentic Santa-Suit he keeps hidden in the attic and for the last 2 years a close and very large friend has donned that suit and prowled about B.D.'s house as his young daughters watch in awe. He has some lovely photos, almost Victorian in essence, of wonder-filled little girls. I think the illusion benefits him more than it does his little girls.

B.E.'s eldest is nine years old and still believes. I find this amazing. She must be in the 4th grade at school and I can't imagine that teachers or students haven't somehow poked holes in her belief. When I figured out Santa wasn't real I could hardly wait to tell my school chums. But maybe I was born to pop other peoples' balloons. B.E. and spouse find it much more difficult than B.D. to maintain the illusion. For some time they were able to spell out things in conversation that the kids were unable to understand, but the nine-year-old is a whiz in school and spelling is no longer an option for the parents. They now use single letters as a code to reference what they're talking about, but they fear this will be the last year they can do that.

To me, the saddest part of the charade is that the parents expend such an effort to further a myth of acquisition without attaching it to some form of giving (other than "being good", which amounts to bribery).

Friday, December 22, 2006

from a sunny window

Cold weather set in again last night and the house's deficiencies become evident as usual. Lack of insulation and and nothing but a subfloor make for a mighty cold wake-up in the morning. The warmest room in the house, surprisingly, is the glassed-in front porch with the cracked panes, broken sashes, and split frames. The "sunroom" redeems itself by facing east and becoming filled with the rising sun's welcome warmth. It's a hands-on lesson in passive solar heating and brings my collection of old glass to life, too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

breakfast at fifi's

I have at least four great vantage points from which I can photograph birds without having to venture outdoors but they're not doing me much good at the moment. We've covered most of the ancient windows with mylar to help prevent infiltration of cold air and the window through which I shot this chickadee is paned with "wavy glass" which added a bit of distortion to the already-blurred image. These tiny birds move so fast I can tell I'm going to have to practice a lot. I'm hoping to get my 18-200VR lens within the next few weeks and then I'll be able to get much better close-ups.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

kingdom of spiders

Spiders and empty houses - they go together like garlic and olive oil. As my once empty house becomes filled with material items, larger fishies in the food chain and the plain energy of life, the spiders that inhabited every nook and cranny have become largely invisible. On the other hand, the house that's just been vacated is now haunted by arachnids. The structure's also developed that odd smell that fills unused spaces. Is it a matter of physics - energy added, energy subtracted? Is it atrophy.......or entropy? What is that smell? Surely the spiders aren't using that much oxygen.....
Well, time to supply the place with the artificial odor of Renuzit, or some such thing. I hear the smell of cookies is conducive to the sale of a house, but the illusion would seem to be a waste in an empty home, unless you picture ghastly ghouls baking gingerbread. Still....think I'll go with the vanilla flavor.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I said it once.....

Those last-minute shoppers are MURDER!
Be careful out there!