Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oh yeah, way more relaxed...

My insane new dog!

Check it out! In my continuing determination to be the retirement option of choice for the older terrier, I have adopted "Mitzi," who will henceforth be called either "Mizzy Miz," "Walter Mitty," "Possum Butt," or "Scuzzlebutt," depending on which she answers to. First picture is from yesterday around noon, about 18 hours after I got her home. The rest are from just now. I think she seems more relaxed. I love that baleful terrier look in the last one...

She's snoring on the couch right now. She came from a family with 5 kids and a new baby, so I think she's enjoying the rest home. I hope she's well. We'll go to the vet early this week for a checkup, rabies shot, and flea stuff. She picked up a flea on our walk today (just one--easy to find since she's white--I squished it), and she was going nuts trying to scratch it by sticking her butt under the couch and violently scooting from side to side, which accidentally stimulated that spot on her back that causes her left leg to spaz out. So she's partially jammed under the couch kind of writhing around with her leg thumping on the floor. I was alarmed, and thought she might have some kind of exercise-induced neurological disorder until my sister said it was probably just a flea.

She might just work out. It's weird how similar her behaviors are to Dear Departed Bailey's. For instance, the baleful look. Or: the fact that she enjoys playing the "human pretend to strangle dog/dog pretend to bite human" game. I guess it must be a terrier thing...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

This kind of shit makes me nuts...

The Eggcorn Database

This is a page dedicated to documenting and theorizing about that kind of idiom-butchering where someone substitutes a similar-sounding word for another in an idiomatic phrase. The "about" page of the site explains the etymology of "eggcorn," but examples are:
  • "for all intensive purposes" (should be "for all intents and purposes")
  • "a shot across the bough" (should be "shot across the bow")
  • "land lover" (should be "landlubber")
The contributors to the site note that most "eggcorns" are the result of people substituting some more apparently sensible word, often because they aren't familiar with the archaic metaphor or usage underlying the phrase. (i.e. If you don't know that "shot across the bow" is based on a naval metaphor, "shot across the bough" makes just about as much sense.)

Of all of the errors (yes, errors!) people make in language use, this is the one that most makes me cringe. The Eggcorn Database is like a car crash for me. Why? Why does this kind of error, even more than "they're/their/there," make me so nuts? Several reasons:
  • They reveal a complete obliviousness to the connection between language and history.
  • They reveal a bizarre incuriousness about language.
  • They reveal a weird self-centeredness and presentism: everything must make sense to me RIGHT NOW!
  • They often rely on the supposition that language always makes logical sense, which just isn't true.
  • They often result in inexact or incorrect use of idioms.
But I think the main thing is: They reveal just how weird my own relationship to language is. I literally cannot imagine hearing an apparently absurd phrase and NOT having my first impulse be "Hmm. I wonder what the historical or cultural origin of that is." I think I actually looked up "shot across the bow" at some point. Sometimes it seems like half of the history I know, I either learned or remember via its connection to English idioms.

Gah. Gah.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's always a multi-step process...

Today's project was (surprise!) more scraping. But first, to get to the siding above the basement stairs, I had to build a little platform to cover the stairwell. Not to worry--this isn't *just* OSB. It's OSB with four treated wood 2x6s screwed to the bottom of it. (The 2x6s will be reused as a buried grass barrier at the edge of some flower beds.) Three sides are fully supported (by the top landing of the stairs and the top of the concrete retaining wall).

It seems pretty sturdy so far. We'll see how it's doing in FOUR TO SIX WEEKS when my $1800 worth of magical prestained shingles arrive.

And here's what the little platform has made possible. My sad molting house. Notice how when we took the quarter-round molding off the top of that ledger board, it ripped the paint off in sheets. That siding on the top is way too funky on the surface to hold paint, but curiously, it's not soft or rotty at all. Which is good, because it's going to have to hold a lot of nails.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Today I rented an unexpectedly huge Dodge Ram pickup with a king cab and a HEMI, whatever that is. (* Purpose of renting truck was: go to the dump, go to IKEA, go to Home Despot. However, the huge giantness of the truck and the faint ridiculousness of the HEMI proved a great source of amusement to S and me.

Example: On the way home from IKEA, we applied our newfound truck vocabulary...
Me: This thing has pretty good pickup. Maybe it's the HEMI.
S: Look! It's a Dualie!**

Example: After loading up at Home Despot, I needed to squeeze the truck past some scruffy dudes in Rossignol T-shirts loading drywall...
Me: I'm not sure if I can get the big giant HEMI around these guys.
S: Run 'em over! Stupid mountain men!!

The HEMI. It's dangerous, man.

*Why is the HTML for links so fucking hard to remember? I mean, it's the WEB. It's about linking. Shouldn't the HTML be "link" rather than "a=href" whatever? I'm just askin'.

**A truck so big and giant that it's gotta have two back wheels. No wait--that's all trucks. Two back wheels on each side.

((The HEMI has made me giddy.))

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Look! It's a tiny pine tree!

And it's growing right next to my house!

I blame the crows.

Tool of the Day

The Hyde carbide blade scraper, reguarly $8.99. This thing totally blows through layers of paint, and it's the only scraper (of the, um, five that I have now) that will get the paint off the underside of each board. And through the magic of carbide (whatever that is), it stays sharp! Yeah!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Apologies in Advance to the Insignificant M

M, I'm sorry, but this is just too ridiculous not to document.

One of our reckless horny giant spider friends has met a rather ignominious end.

And for those of you concerned about my housekeeping, I swear I scrubbed that toilet last week.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"My Best Fiend"

Herzog on Nature: "There is some sort of harmony. It is the harmony of overwelming and collective murder."

Herzog on Kinski: "I was never out of my senses, but perhaps just very angry. One day I seriously planned to firebomb him in his house. This was prevented only by the vigiliance of his Alsatian Shepherd."

Herzog on Himself: "I am quite sane, clinically sane, so to speak."

Giant Spiders: Running Amok and Caught on Film!!

(OK, not actually film, since it's a digital camera.)

Ah, here is my gigantic friend from the other night. S's remark upon seeing this booking across the carpet: "I can see why your dog was afraid of them. That thing could carry her away!"

For purposes of scale, the lettering on the heater is about 1.5" long. Making this spider's leg span something like, um...2.5 to 3".

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Things in my kitchen I should probably get rid of...

Am I the only person who has over four complete sets of keys to her own house?

This is my "attic access." Classy, huh? The kitchen has a drop ceiling made of texture-painted plywood (Classy, huh?), above which is the actual attic access through the original ceiling. I've been meaning to take a piece of plywood and some hinges (Classy, huh?) and make a somewhat more proper door here. But for now, the rug keeps the insulation from falling out.

This is a superb example of the previous owner's taste.

As is this.

Dude, there are NOT any lady spiders in the bowl!

Aa! Fuckity fuck!

This is not my friend from the other night.

This is a smaller fellow.

Dude, move on! The lady spiders are UNDER the house, not up here.


That horse chestnut the spider is attempting to love on is about 1.25" in diameter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Goop Rides Again

This morning's project was listening to Kinski and cleaning out the fridge and freezer.

Fridge-cleaning always causes me some anxiety, because, you know, it means throwing away perfectly good food, or at least throwing away food that was perfectly good at one time or another, and that you have now WASTED through your laziness, negligence, and/or stubborn refusal to eat things that taste bad. My sister and I had a long conversation last weekend on the theme of "Mom is crazy," and one of the things we talked about was her strange food stockpiling habits. (We're talking huge chest freezer crammed so full that I have memories of actually wedging new packages of frozen food between the old ones. We're talking about 100 cubic feet of pantry shelving in the basement, packed full of canned and dry goods.) I always attribute Mom's behavior to the "child of the Depression" thing, but my sister doesn't remember Mom hoarding food back in the 50s and 60s. So now my theory is Mom's survivalist thing got triggered by the OPEC embargo.

I have to say, psychologically speaking, it's a lot easier for me to clean out the fridge now that I have the huge Seattle yardwaste bin. Because now I'm not really wasting those 7 heels of bread. I'm recycling them. It's the circle of life, man.

Oh yeah, Goop. I was going to praise Goop again. Goop will soften and remove polymerized oils, such as those found on the salad dressing shelf in the fridges of people who haven't cleaned thoroughly in 2 or 3 years. (CSI Animation: Unsaturated oil polymerizing into a gummy, plasticized residue that's actually chemically bonded to the refrigerator shelf.)

Aaaa! ('Tis the Season)

Fuck fuckity fuck fuck. It's Giant House Spider mating season already. How do I know this? Because last night while I was sitting on the couch reading the New York Times, a giant spider came charging across the floor, and, undeterred by my screaming, went directly under the couch.

The worst thing about Giant House Spider mating season (besides the blind and desperately horny male spiders running frantically around your house) is that it's also Hobo Spider mating season. Hobos have a toxic bite, and they're generally smaller and hairier, but a small Giant and a large Hobo can be the same size. So one finds oneself crouching on the couch peering over one's knees trying to see whether the large spider running across one's living room at high speed is hairy or not. Good luck.

I thought caulking the living room might eliminate this problem, but evidently these spiders have a rat-like ability to squeeze through small spaces.

Monday, August 15, 2005

CSI: My House

I want there to be a TV show that crosses "CSI" with "This Old House." Each week, there would be a different abused old house with a bunch of stupid decisions made and projects poorly executed in its past, and the investigators would dig down into the situation and there would be animations illustrating the scientific principles behind the investigators' current theory of the crime.

So today, if my house were featured on "CSI," there would be two (non-exclusive) theories of the crime:
  • The previous owner painted over tannin-stained, weathered wood, and the paint simply didn't adhere. (Animation 1: Tannins migrating to surface of cedar planks. Animation 2: Paint adhering to the outer fibers of decayed wood and pulling them away from the body of the siding.)
  • The previous owner put a latex-based primer and paint over patches of oil-based paint. Latex paint expands and contracts more with temperature changes, and this loosened the formerly sound areas of oil-based paint. (Animation 3: Latex paint expanding and contracting, stressing the underlying oil-based paint.)
Of course, both of these theories roll up to the master theory:
  • After some desultory scraping and minimal surface prep, the previous owner slapped on some latex paint and primer over the mostly-peeled old oil paint and called it a day. (Flashback scene: sinister handyman whistling as he works.)

Additional complication #1: The 1958 remodelers of the house did not always allow for adequate overlap between the siding boards. Some of them overlap by only 1/4" of now-weak old cedar. Ideally, the siding would overlap enough to keep water out, but those gaps would not be blocked, so that water could drain out if it did get in. I'm thinking about caulking those areas--the lack of good overlap means I have to choose between keeping water out, or letting it out. I think I'd rather keep it out.

Additional complication #2: I can't remember right now and I have to go to yoga.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hey, What about the Law School Shit?

Currently I'm on Day 2 of my 39-day pre-law-school vacation, so I'm mainly obsessed with home improvement, the garden, not spending too much money on home improvement and the garden, etc. I'm also reading Chris Goodrich's "Anarchy and Elegance" from the 1L summer reading list, about which more later. (Initial thought: A couple of years ago, I swore off books by journalists. That was a good idea.) (Other thought: This is a book from, a concept I don't know much about. However, I've been frustrated by deficits in the physical book. Example: Several pages are missing a line or two at the bottom. Example: The binding is weak. Example: Occasionally, a line is so blurred as to be unreadable.)

Oh yeah, and my friend M sent me this link, which is superb:

Five-Minute Law School

Best quote: "Still, it is not really surprising that students who have learned from popular fiction that law school will pit them against hyper-competitive peers..."

There's a link in the article to the same guy's piece calling bullshit on the whole "Law school teaches you to think like a lawyer" cliche.

Crazy Tomatoes

Memorial Day weekend I built this raised bed along the alley. The weekend after that, I had the compost guy bring 3 cubic yards of compost to fill it. The weekend after that, I transplanted five rose bushes into the bed. About 2 or 3 weeks after that, I thought, "Hell, I'll plant some tomatoes. Maybe some sunflowers."

I'm scared of these tomatoes. Those bamboo hoops are about 3 1/2 feet tall. Now if they only get ripe...

Also notice the Louise Odier rose doing its thing (Bourbon, 1851). When it was on the east side of the house, it bloomed once in June and that was it.

And the Winning Tool Is...

That's right, the $6.00 Hyde scraper, plus the $10.00 sharpening stone.

These guys are really only winning for paint removal--I will still need to use the sander to take off the pithy, tannin-stained wood (that's the dark red stuff in the photo below).

Here's the scraper's handiwork:

Not to Pressure Wash (for now)

Overnight, I kept thinking about all that water. My siding is so lovely and dry now. All that water...

So, I've got my little blue beltsander friend here, and we'll see how we do.

(Purchasing the sander was, of course, traumatic, because Home Depot had no actual checkstands open, only the self serve, which seems to expect that you can fit your entire purchase in one bag, and won't let you finish ringing in if you move bag #1 off of the bagging rack to make room for bag #2. I think I'm going to take this as Home Depot's passive-aggressive way of communicating that they really don't want me to buy much stuff there. Eventually, I abandoned the self-serve transaction and schlepped my stuff out to the garden area, where there was an actual human.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

To Pressure Wash, or Not to Pressure Wash?

Or: What I Did on My Summer Vacation.

Those of you who actually know me doubtless recall my unbounded contempt for the previous owner of my house. Her sins and idiocy are legion, and include:
  • Foregoing euthanasia for her kidney-diseased cat, allowing it instead to spend its last days at home spraying bloody urine all over the east end of the living room. (Mmm. Humane!)
  • Living for 10 years with blood-and-urine-soaked carpet, the funk of which could, on humid days, be smelled outside the house.
  • In the kitchen, installing a new subfloor and vinyl flooring ON TOP OF the cat urine.
  • Never, in 22 years in the house, looking to see what was above the drop ceiling.
  • Never, in 22 years in the house, removing the wadded-up plugs of kleenex the owner before her had stuffed in the cracks between the baseboards and the paneling.
  • Not cleaning the kitchen when vacating the house.
  • Paying a plumber over $120 to fix the float on a 40-year-old toilet. (For those of you unfamiliar with the joys of homeownership, a decent toilet can be had in toto for about 86 bucks. And fixing a float ain't rocket science. And anyone who lives with that much bloody cat urine is not entitled to get sqeamish about fixing the fucking toilet.)
To this list I now add:
  • Painting over weathered wood and dry rot on the south side of the house.
From what I can tell, the 12" cedar bevel siding was entirely unpainted from 1958 until 2001. Then, without scraping, without sanding, without doing any surface prep whatsoever, the previous owner slapped on a coat of primer and a coat of paint. Which is now falling off, especially around the knot holes and cracks where the dry rot had set in.

I've torn out the rotted areas, and since the siding was nailed up on top of tar-impregnated construction felt, the wood behind the siding is sound. My plan is to take off the paint, sand a bit, use an epoxy consolidant to firm up any soft/weathered areas, use epoxy putty to patch the rot, put on a penetrating/sealing alkyd primer, and then paint the bastard again.* But: how to take off the paint?

I was thinking I'd just scrape/sand it off, but I started today and concluded it will take forever. So now I'm thinking about pressure washing. On the one hand, pressure washing could probably blast most of the paint off (and the first layer of wood, which would normally be a problem, but not here). On the other hand, I'm concerned about driving water up under the siding. That will be disastrous if it doesn't dry out before I paint (or ever...). On yet another hand, it's the hottest, driest month of the year here. I also need to renail a lot of the siding, which tempts me to nail it down as tight as I can, then pressure wash, then loosen it and let it dry out for a few weeks, then nail it down tight before I paint. But (on what is it, the fourth hand?) my friend T at (my former) work said he pressure washed his house and had problems with it not drying before he painted. (Thus, paint falling off in sheets.) Hmm. I wonder if Home Depot rents a moisture meter?

*This is just my plan for the bottom of the house. The top half of the house is some kind of tongue-and-groove siding running vertically, and I'm going to nail up cedar shingles there. That plan has the benefit of requiring no surface prep AND giving me an excuse to purchase more pneumatic tools...

Crows and Their Sworn Enemies

Predictably, I have become more and more fascinated by the crows in my neighborhood. I've taken to feeding them little scraps of my breakfast on the weekends. Last weekend, I got to watch an adult feed chewed-up bits of croissant to a demanding juvenile crow. I fear I may be giving the crows heart disease...

(You can tell a juvenile crow is a juvenile crow because: It's slightly smaller, it's slightly browner, its beak is not as curved, its eyes are lighter, the interior of its mouth is pink, and its voice is kind of...whiny. And because when other crows have food, it squawks and hops around with its mouth open.)

The other morning, I was awakened at 5:30 or 6:00 by the crows making a huge racket and some other bird going "squee......squee" (you know, that classic bird of prey call?). When I left for work, there was a fluffy dark feather on my car. Later, I found a couple more in the backyard. Today at dusk, I heard the same "squee.......squee" call and realized it was coming from a crow-sized bird perched on top of a telephone pole. Based on the size and call, it's probably a sharp-shinned hawk. All those nature web sites (like ENature, which is super cool) say the hawk doesn't usually attack crows, but will fight them if they try to take its kill.

I saw the juvenile crow again today, and I may be imagining things, but I think it looked a little the worse for wear.

This could get interesting.

Goop Rocks!

Goop (you know, the hand cleaning goo that you use when you're painting?) is a remarkably effective grease stain remover. It doesn't matter how old the stain is or how thoroughly it has bonded to the fabric--just massage some Goop into the affected garment, let sit about 15 minutes, and throw into the wash. Last week, I used Goop to remove a year-old stain from a washable silk sweater.

I especially like this Goop thing because it follows the old "like dissolves like" rule from high school chemistry.

Lucky Spiders

Cross Orb Spiders
This spring, my yard had two hatches of yellowy-brown garden spiders. When they first hatched, they looked just like a bunch of tiny gold BBs and they scooted and swarmed everywhere together like a school of fish. Now they're all over the yard--in front, in back, on the side, on the deck. I can see at least 8 spiders from any location in my yard, and when I go sit on my brick patio-let*, I walk around the house because I have to take down at least 6 webs if I cut through the back yard. Most of the spiders are still only 3/16" long from head to tail, but some of them are approaching 1/2". I'm not sure whether to attribute this to evolutionary savvy or to luck. They don't seem to actually fight about where to place their webs, but the ones with better spots definitely catch bigger bugs, get larger, spin stronger webs, catch bigger bugs, and so on. Today I saw one catch and bundle up a bee-fly that was bigger than the spider was. I also saw a green lacewing caught in a web with the spider approaching. (A beneficial-on-beneficial conflict rather upsetting to the gardener...) I ran in the house to get my camera, but by the time I got back, the lacewing was already wrapped up.

I also observed yellow jackets milling suspiciously around a corner of my roof today. Sigh.

* you know, a super tiny patio?

Trash v. Shit

A friend of my friend S enlightened her as to an interesting semantic distinction:

Talking trash = to the subject's face
Talking shit = behind the subject's back

Friday, August 05, 2005

Short-timers’ Syndrome

My friend and demanding solo audience member M writes to nag me about not writing. I have good reasons for not writing. Since my procrastination and report-writing frenzy on Sunday/Monday/Tuesday, I’m having one of those weeks where the sentences won’t behave and there are way too many “that”s flying around and clauses dangle in no particular direction and I just can’t get it all linked together. And I’m also crabby. As we will now see.

Next week is my last week at work. I delivered my last client report on Tuesday. Since then, I have been hit with the full force of short-timer’s syndrome. In me, the syndrome consists of a volatile mixture of sentimentality and surliness.

Sentimental because I’ve worked here for over 5 years, from the days when we had no business plan worthy of the name, through the years when we had 7 employees and a lot of late paychecks, to our current rebirth with something like 120 FTE.

Sentimental because three of my favorite people at work, who I’ve…not mentored exactly, but been truthful with, and encouraging to, and given the straight scoop in such a way that they can navigate the org…have joined my team, and it’s lovely to work with them.

Surly because I don’t get to work with them anymore.

Sentimental because we just won a large proposal, partly on the strength and honesty of my writing.

Surly because most of our best employees feel like they aren’t treated like professionals or allowed to exercise the full strength of their professional judgment, and it's so just fucking stupid and shortsighted to manage them this way.

Sentimental because everyone keeps buying me lunch.

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