Archive for Surlywood

The invaders

It rained rather a lot Monday: as the phrase goes, it was fit for neither man nor beast. It’s not too unusual for neighborhood critters to take temporary shelter on my porch, but this is exceptional:

Bird nest on porch light

(Lots of sizes on Flickr, if this one won’t do.)

I have next to no expertise on the subject of birds’ nests, but I have to assume that this little encampment belongs to the robins, inasmuch as they massed in a nearby redbud and complained loudly when I stepped up close enough to get the shot.

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And less is mower

Five years ago, I spent a smallish bunch of money on a lawn mower from Black and Decker, utterly lacking in engine: it has a little electric motor and a place to attach an extension cord. Gas prices were on the rise back then, and were worse the following year, so I was able to console myself with the thought that 12 amps times 120 volts equals 1440 watts times one hour equals about a quarter’s worth of electricity.

The Lawn Hog, as it was designated, held up decently well, though it has what I consider an irritating design flaw: unless you’re in the habit of carrying around calipers and maybe a small scale, you’ll never know if the blade is properly balanced on the motor shaft. This is usually what happens when it isn’t; if things are sufficiently out of plumb, the machine gives off a belch worthy of a Hungarian dinner and then flings the blade and its fittings in some random direction. The last time it did that, I flipped the box on its back, and noted that the little plastic fan that is supposed to circulate air to create mulchitude had a broken blade. Well, geez, no wonder it’s out of balance.

So I detached the handle, kinda sorta, and hoisted the machine into the trunk, grateful for its low mass (about 50 lb, plus several ounces of what used to be topsoil). That was Wednesday evening. Thursday afternoon I ditched work early, motivated by the following considerations:

  • No one will work on this little darb except B&D factory service;
  • There’s only the one service depot in town, and it closes at five;
  • It’s damn near the Cleveland County line, which I generally am not.

Arriving after a half-hour trip that would have taken 18 minutes were it not for random appearances of members of the Anti-Destination League, I pulled the creature from the trunk, attached its handle upside down, and wheeled it through the doors.

Estimate was $90, which didn’t sound bad; advised there’d be about a week of turnaround time, I responded jauntily, “A week is good. Take your time.”

“We get a lot of that,” said the tech.

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Neighborhood flotsam

Given the height and position of my house, I’m not surprised that odd things occasionally blow into the yard, but yesterday’s debris, obviously beyond the capacity of the wind unless there was a tornado, and I’m sure I’d have noticed if there was, threw me for a loop. On the southern edge of the porch, I found approximately two-thirds of a plastic milk jug containing about half a bowl’s worth of Cheerios (or some generic equivalent thereof), with a kid-sized shirt tied to it. One row of bricks away, a cat was staring at the stuff.

Well, thought I, kitteh didn’t bring this here on its own. I wondered if maybe this is how some unscrupulous humanoid (not human, really, if you ask me) plotted to lose the cat by dumping it at the nearest faraway place. I puzzled over the matter for a moment, then poured out the cereal into a low spot in the yard from which it was unlikely to spread, thinking either the cat (who fled after I picked up the stuff) or the resident birds would polish it off. I threw away the jug, and hung the shirt (which was wet, it having rained much of yesterday morning) on the mulberry tree to dry.

If it seems early for birds, consider that earlier this week, I’d found about forty feathers and/or fragments thereof concentrated in a small area near the driveway. White or very light grey, so it wasn’t the marauding crows from the Target store; I’m suspecting turf wars between scissor-tailed flycatchers, a few of which wandered into the area last year, though I didn’t find any evidence of same. Then again, their ferocity in defending their territory is legendary.

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Where it all goes (’11)

For the last few years, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. The actual tax rate in my particular district rose by 2.84 percent; it’s the highest ever, or at least the highest since the beginning of the County Assessor’s online list, but not by much. Here’s who’s getting what, with what they got last year in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $141.26 [$142.27]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $548.87 [$524.90]
  • Metro Tech Center: $136.58 [$138.15]
  • Oklahoma County general: $107.23 [$110.34]
  • Countywide school levy: $36.60 [$37.02]
  • County Health Department: $22.90 [$23.17]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $45.97 [$46.50]
  • Total: $1039.41 [$1022.34]

Note that with one exception, everyone is making do on slightly less than they got last year.

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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Surrounded by the best

Last month I tossed out what might have seemed to be a throwaway line about living “in a Neighborhood of the Year nominee.”

Well, now you can amend “nominee” to read “winner.”

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Meanwhile on the goblin front

Mayfair Heights SpooktacularSo this year I decided: rather than have the goblins come to me, I will go to the goblins. Two adjacent neighborhoods took over the business end of Smitty Park in the late afternoon and filled it up with all sorts of things to attract the younger set, up to and including a bounce house, and by the time I showed up — pushing sixish — the place was wall-to-wall kids. (“And they weren’t even on my lawn,” sighed the empty-nester.) I dropped my supply of goodies into the community bowl and watched as mischievousness was channeled into something almost controllable. My one moment of alarm came when several dozen rolls of toilet paper were produced for an event I hadn’t seen on the agenda: the youngsters were going to TP each other. “Wrap Your Mummy,” it was dubbed. Some of these kids have a future sealing packages at UPS.

Neighborhood Association officials pronounced themselves pleased with the turnout, and things started to run down at sundown. There’s a lot to be said for being halfway between downtown and the ‘burbs.

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Just add water and stand back

Summer was discouragingly hot and unusually dry — for several months the Drought Monitor has put this neck of the woods at either Extreme (which is bad) or Exceptional (which is worse). October, however, has had its wet moments, and apparently there were enough of them to coax a few more buds out of the rosebush closest to the driveway. I took this between downpours yesterday:

One lovely fall rose

Different sizes at Flickr, should you be interested.

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Happily unchewed

The fall termite inspection here at the palatial estate at Surlywood has been completed to everyone’s satisfaction, which is a boon if you live in what is essentially a wooden box on a slab, as I do. Another decade or so and I’ll have spent enough on these to pay for a new set of treatments — but hey, I’d rather dribble out a hundred at a time than write a four-digit check later. And yes, I know the little bastards swarm in the spring, but I bought the house in the fall, and I tend to stick to a schedule until it hurts.

Not that they asked for a plug or anything, but I use these guys.

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A matter of policy

You may remember this from two years ago:

We brag a lot in Oklahoma about our lowish cost of living, but there’s one item that costs a bundle: insurance for the home, which runs a good 10-20 percent above the national average, no thanks to our too-often-nasty weather.

And then there’s mine, which is going up 35 percent next year, to over $1200, on a $100k house.

For “10-20 percent,” read “30-40 percent”: various sources around town are now quoting the state average at somewhere in the $1400-1500 range. Mine has gone over $1600 for next year. Then again, I have about an average-priced house with slightly better-than-average coverages, and you have to figure that every underwriter who does business out here is sweating wildfires. Besides, I have had demonstrably good service from these guys, and I stand to gain little if anything by shopping around.

Oh, well. Nobody said it would be cheap to live in a Neighborhood of the Year nominee.

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Taken for granite

Megan McArdle, on kitchen fads and fashion:

My understanding of the luxury cycle is that as soon as everyone can afford a decent replica of high-priced items, the replicated qualities become outré. By that metric, stainless steel and granite have to be on their way out; the only thing more ubiquitous in the American kitchen is the George Foreman grill.

On the other hand, maybe in 1948 I’d have been saying that wall-mounted cabinets were a passing fad.

I dunno. I wasn’t around in 1948, when they built this house I live in, but I suspect that even then, hanging cabinets on the wall just seemed like a sensible space-utilization practice. Of course, the one distinctly non-period feature of the kitchen — a section of wall between kitchen and living room now has a ginormous rectangular cutout, and a breakfast bar (with track lighting!) has been installed therein — probably made no sense to anyone but a previous owner. And, of course, me.

Truth be told, if I were actually looking for another house, I’d ring up Trini and ask her to evaluate kitchens for me. She’s good at that.

Oh, and granite countertops release radon.

Disclosure: I own a George Foreman grill. Also, Firefox 3.6.23 spell check doesn’t bat an eye at “ginormous,” but frowns at “countertops.”

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Where has all the equity gone?

The hardest thing for some of us to get our minds around has been that there exists no Law of Conservation of Equity: if it’s reduced at Point A, there is no Point B at which it must therefore increase. There’s still a lot of it out there — $6.2 trillion, said the Federal Reserve at the end of June — but six years ago there was over $13 trillion. That’s one hell of a vanishing act.

Still, not everybody is underwater yet:

Roughly one of every three homes is mortgage-free, according to federal and industry estimates.

Among owners who have mortgages, according to CoreLogic, 48.5 percent of them have at least 25 percent equity stakes in their properties. Roughly a quarter of owners with mortgages — 24.6 percent — have more than 50 percent equity.

At the other end of the spectrum, 22.5 percent of owners are in negative equity positions, burdened with houses worth less than their mortgage balances.

According to the county assessor, the value of the palatial estate at Surlywood dropped by a percentage point this year, but the amount due on the mortgage went down more than that, so technically my equity position has improved by a smidgen: about 27 percent, putting me pretty close to the 50th percentile. Property-tax rates won’t be released until later this month, but I anticipate about a 1-percent increase — which would leave my tax bill for this year at pretty much where it was last year. Then again, my mad prediction skillz have been fairly questionable of late.

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Sweating joints instead of exams

Last night water pressure here at the Estate dropped alarmingly, which we will define here as “Five freaking minutes to fill up a toilet tank?” I duly went out looking for leaks, and didn’t find any; a couple of hours later, things were back to normal, which suggests a problem at the supply end. And given our drought-stricken condition — even after half an inch of rain, the soil is about as porous as manganese — I would hardly be surprised to hear of a main break up the road.

This is not to say that I could actually fix such a leak, but there are people who specialize in such things, and while we’re awash in people with degrees in Grievance Studies, what we really need is more plumbers:

[B]y all means if someone doing plumbing wants to take college classes, they should. But there are enough guys (and women) who DON’T want college classes, and would be happier doing something like apprenticing to a plumber and learning the trade. And boy darn, do we need good plumbers … I know I couldn’t have taken care of this problem at all.

A nation full of nothing but white-collar workers means a nation where the toilets leak and electrical wires are frayed and streets aren’t repaired…

I have often thought that if this IT thing ever blows away, I should probably invest in several cases of hand cleaner and go study automotive repair at CareerTech. If nothing else, I’d feel about 0.5 percent better when some damn warning light comes on.

And yes, they still have apprenticeships: the guy who did my last garbage disposer brought along a young lady who was learning the fine art of wrenching.

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Surly to rise

Product of Surly Brewing CompanyLast weekend, a friend in the Twin Cities dropped the phrase “Surly buttercream,” which was received here at the palatial estate at Surlywood with a wide-eyed “Huh?” She explained to the ignorant questioner — that would be me — that “Surly” is in fact a local brewer.

Even better, Surly Brewing Company, of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, has a whole line of grumpy-sounding brews, including the spring-only Schadenfreude, a dark lager, and a year-round oat-based brown ale called Bender. And there’s the inevitable iPhone app to find the nearest watering hole dispensing those Surly brews.

I am, you may be sure, uncomfortable with the idea of declaring a beer I can’t even taste the Official Brew of Surlywood, but on the other hand, what else is there? At least it gives me another excuse to return to the Twin Cities. (Last time I was there, I had the kids in tow, which mandated Reasonably Responsible Behavior.)

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Range on the home (once more)

Indoor Comfort Meter by La CrosseYou may remember this contraption which I described back in March ’09, noting that it retained the highest and lowest values it recorded for such time as the batteries hold out. Said batteries are now no longer holding out, but I did managed to get the new extremes before slapping in the new cells. The warmest it’s been along the north wall of my bedroom — there are windows west, south, and east, which is a neat trick — is 92.9°F (recorded on a summer morning when the A/C failed), and the maximum humidity has been 82.7%, which I’m sure came about some evening with the windows open. (Previous low figures were unchanged.) I have a duplicate device in my office, which I suspect will start screaming for batteries shortly.

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And the grass won’t pay no mind

Rainfall in these parts, since the first of the year, is running at about one-third of normal: yes, we had 19 inches of snow in February, but its actual moisture content apparently was somewhere around what you’d get from a box of moon rocks. This has had the expected effect on the lawn: the actual grass is still more or less dormant, but the weedier sections — and wouldn’t it be nice if they were actual sections instead of random outcroppings? — have more or less flourished.

So I hadn’t brought out the mower until yesterday evening. Part of that was good old fear: my knees have been most unkind to me this year, and doing the entire lawn involves a walk of a bit over a mile, plus several jumps to avoid a hundred-foot extension cord and, inevitably, a trip or two over something I didn’t see. I vowed, for this first attempt, to do just the weedier zones, which means the west side of the front yard and the east side of the back, and to do no more than half an hour’s work. I did trip once, and it wasn’t fun, but I wasn’t in any particular pain after 35 minutes or so, which should alleviate at least some of that anxiety. Downside: the conditions prevailing yesterday between 5 and 6 pm — middle 80s, 30-percent humidity — are not likely to recur in, say, mid-July.

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Blown away

A reader sends a question to Glenn Reynolds:

I just do not get it. For how long have Americans known about Tornado Alley? For how long have they known that a typical house would not withstand a once-in-20-years tornado, much less a worse one?

And yet houses are still built of clapboard and a couple of two-by-fours. Just like New Orleans is being rebuilt just where it used to be, because that worked out so well the first time around.

To which the Instant Man replied:

Even in Tornado Alley, the likelihood that any particular house will ever be hit by a tornado in its lifetime is pretty low. (Also, brick and stone construction, while good for tornadoes, is bad for earthquakes; wood-frame buildings actually do better there.) And basically nothing except quasi-fortified structures will withstand an EF4 or EF5 tornado.

The most significant storm of the 1999 Oklahoma outbreak, which sent funnels as far east as Tennessee, was a single F5 that started near Amber and didn’t lift until Midwest City, still packing F4 winds. (By the time it got to my neighborhood, I think it had just barely dropped into the F3 range.) The storm took out about 8,000 buildings, which sounds like a lot, but that’s over a sixty-mile stretch.

I am reasonably certain that another F5 would scrape my little frame house right off its slab. As it stands, though, the worst I’ve seen so far was from a hailstorm last year, which caused about $10,000 damage to the roof but left the house pretty much intact. Certainly nothing that happened then would have motivated me to move away.

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That little old bullet-dodger, me

So I’m unloading a trunk full (okay, five bags) of groceries, three the first trip, two the second, and in between I spot something on the garage floor that wasn’t there before: a wood screw with a hex head. “Damn good thing I didn’t drive over that,” I thought as I picked up the last two bags.

And then, of course: “Where the hell did it come from?” It’s not like hardware blows around in the Oklahoma wind or anything.

Well, wind has its own subtle effects. One of them is rattling the garage door in its tracks. And after rather a long period of rattlement and several hundred up-and-down trips, one of the screws that holds the door hardware onto the actual door had backed itself far enough out to be subject to routine gravitational forces.

I replaced the screw and checked the others in the door: two more were loose, though nowhere near that loose.

Now this is an old door, though I can’t vouch for its age. The garage was added onto the house in 1951, so it’s at most sixty years old. The mechanical (chain-driven) opener is newer, but not impressively so. And one of the big coil springs fragged a couple of years ago and was replaced. Having no desire to replace any more of this stuff if I can help it, I will consider myself fortunate for having been semi-attentive for once.

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Dysfunctional space

A sibling visiting the palatial estate at Surlywood once swore up and down that the premises were at least as large as his own, even though the County Assessor measures a 35-percent difference. This is, I suggest, something they used to call Good Design: the ceilings are a mere eight feet, and the bathroom is maybe a little bigger than one of San Quentin’s, but otherwise it’s a pretty efficient — with or without a comma between “pretty” and “efficient” — use of the limited available space.

The opposite of this, apparently, is where Daphne hangs her hat and stares in disbelief:

Two thousand square feet should be enough room for our small family. Hell, if you spent any time with us, you’d wonder why we even need that much space since we always seem to be crowded in one tight circle of a room. Unfortunately, our house was designed by an absolute moron who lacked any crucial comprehension of spacial flow or system design. He also failed to possess a scintilla of esthetic sensibility. The entire left side of the house resembles a dungeon maze of narrow halls and weirdly sized, dark rooms that everyone avoids like the pages of Proust. Tell me, is it so difficult to plan at least two walls featuring windows in every room? Maybe plant a skylight in the long run of an interior corridor, maximize storage space, carve out appropriately sized air-flow intakes that won’t choke the air conditioning system into grisly death seizures every summer?

I might fail on a couple of rooms, window-wise. The living room has only the one exterior wall — what used to be the second now adjoins the garage — but there’s enough glass for two, maybe three walls. However, the master bedroom, you should know, has actual windows on three walls out of a possible four, which is a neat trick.

In the past I have suggested that construction techniques have gotten sloppier in the last six decades, and I suspect Daphne will back me up on this:

When we bumped into a secondary bedroom to expand the master bath in the last good house, we discovered existing two by fours that weighed at least twice as much as our newly bought lumber and there wasn’t a bowed one in the bunch after years of service. The quality of common building materials has degraded, so has our respect for qualified craftsmen in the trades and they’re both as rare as hen’s teeth these days. When housing turned into a cheap, mass-produced commodity of banal cul-de-sac boxes, crudely built by unskilled labor with shoddy materials intended to maximize profit at the expense of quality, we ended up with the shittiest living spaces imaginable. They may look shiny on the outside for a few years, but they degrade into expensive, falling apart nightmares not long after you’ve hung the pictures and planted a few shrubs.

The house at Surlywood could use a coat (or two) of paint, but it’s in pretty good shape for being almost 63 years old. A couple of walls are showing crack, so to speak, and I have all the excuse I could want to rip out the bathroom tile, but as banal boxes go, this one can probably go on for a long time.

Oh, and the last HVAC guy who was out here was briefly shaken by the size of the unit, and it’s not often I can say that.

“Only two tons?” he asked.

I pointed out that the house was barely a thousand square feet, for which a two-ton capacity was appropriate. “Looks a lot bigger,” he said.

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Where it all goes (’10)

For the last couple of years or so, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. This year, no doubt inspired by my initiative, the County Treasurer is doing the math and enclosing the details with the annual tax statements, so here are his numbers for 2010, alongside my numbers [in brackets] for 2009:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $142.27 [$130.71]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $524.90 [$517.11]
  • Metro Tech Center: $138.15 [$136.73]
  • Oklahoma County general: $110.34 [$113.81]
  • Countywide school levy: $37.02 [$36.64]
  • County Health Department: $23.17 [$22.92]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $46.50 [$46.02]
  • Total: $1022.34 [$1003.94]

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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The last holdout

Two days of what they call a “hard freeze” in these parts — folks in the Dakotas and thereabouts may now take a few moments to laugh — and that’s it for the roses for 2010.

Except:

Last rose of fall 2010

Click to embiggen. And yes, that’s my car in the corner; I’d left the garage door open. I decided I liked the picture better uncropped.

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Massive goblin count

Based on last year’s experience, I brought in slightly less candy stock — only 5 lb or so — and figured I’d get two dozen or so trick-or-treaters.

Yeah, right. I got twenty in the first ten minutes, and the supply was completely gone in 60 minutes after I’d served 102 goblins, which is far and away the most I’ve ever seen in this neighborhood.

Weirdest outfit: someone was done up as Blinky, the three-eyed fish from Springfield.

Addendum: Yeah, I know. Read this.

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Get your own damn fiber

This is the time of year when I get the premises inspected for termites, and, as was the case every year since 2003, no trace of the nasty little buggers was found.

I admit to looking up “termite” in Wikipedia just for background information, and this amusing little notation was near the top of the page, even before the inevitable link to disambiguation:

Not to be confused with Termit, Thermite, or Turmite.

I know some people who, having discovered said nasty little buggers on their premises, were willing to subject them to thermite.

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Annual out-forking

This is the time of year when we start anticipating our property-tax bills and the Trepidation Meter starts deflecting rightward. We already know what we’re going to be taxed on — the Assessor publishes the taxable values in the spring — but the actual tax rate isn’t determined until fall.

And while they haven’t published the rate yet, a little down-digging into the Assessor’s Web site turns up a place where the new rate is already in use, and in my district it’s 114.33, up from 113.44 last year. This will increase the taxes on the palatial estate at Surlywood by $18.40.

Since I’ve been here, the market value of the house has risen by a third; the tax rate has bobbed up and down, and while 114.33 is the highest it’s been, the lowest (for 2008) was 106.08, so we’re talking a fairly-narrow range here. The Assessor’s online records go back to 1983, at which time the tax rate was 83.63; the tax rate has therefore risen 37 percent in 37 years. Market values, of course, have risen faster, especially considering that the local real-estate market in the early 1980s was in a deep, dark hole.

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The return of the Stubborn Rose

It was hot this summer, and it’s been on the dry side for rather a long time. As of the 10th of October, the rosebushes were pretty much bare.

But then:

Fall rose

This is an unusually-good flower for the waning days of the growing season, and there are a few more buds behind it, though you can’t see them from this angle. Last year, I had roses as late as Thanksgiving; with the first winter freeze still some time away, I might be able to pull that off again, and with better blooms too.

(Embiggened version on Flickr.)

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Recoup de grace

Last fall, faced with a 35-percent increase in the insurance premium for the house, I decided to take my business elsewhere.

Then came the spring, and suddenly every insurance company from Mangum to Miami was paying out bazillions of dollars in claims; my new insurer forked over $7500 or so to replace my roof.

So I figure that I may as well eat this year’s 35-percent increase, because all those guys are going to have to reprice their policies, presumably making shopping around a waste of time. Besides, Current Insurer did a creditable job of handling my claim, and more than a few people in this state were sent cancellation notices instead of renewals. And if I’ve figured correctly, I have about a $200 surplus in the escrow account, which will cover almost all of the increase anyway.

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Skedaddle mode remains at the ready

It’s been a while since the last World Tour, but when the power went off here at the Estate at 6:20 or so, I was packed and ready to go in my standard thirty minutes, ready to check into the nearest hotel (which did, I verified, have rooms, despite the widespread power outage).

Well, there was one little hang-up, and it’s one I presumably wouldn’t encounter on the road. I pulled the rip cord on the garage-door opener so I could back the car out — taking a taxi just didn’t seem budgetarian enough — and raised the door. I then came back through the house and went out to reconnect the beast so it would be working when the power came back on, whenever that might be.

And failed. Miserably. In fact, I knocked the door off the track during one attempt. It took me all of twenty minutes to get the thing reconnected, and as I was putting the ladder away, power was restored.

This is, I must point out, a very old opener, and newer ones may be easier to reconnect. Still, I suppose I’m slightly reassured that my Quick Pack routine still works.

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Modern mid-century storage

Daystrom dining furniture

The ad here is for the dining table and chairs (a mere $155), but what’s really spiffy about this setup is the cabinetry above: it’s accessible from both the kitchen and the dining area via sliding doors.

I was delighted to see this, because here at Surlywood I have a similar storage arrangement, although it’s located between living/dining room and hallway, it sits on the floor, and it’s six feet, six inches tall. There’s a divider between upper and lower halves, so there are eight access doors in all, though they’re not translucent: I actually have to open them to see what’s in there. Still, it was a selling point when I was house-shopping, since I’d never seen anything like it before and I’d been looking for some improbable combination of “distinctive” and “not expensive.” (When I found it, I jumped.) I suspect rather a lot of similar cabinets were installed in the postwar period, and likely most of them are now gone.

(Found in Mom’s Basement.)

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Zeno says to get off his lawn

The problem with August heat is obvious; it’s worse, though, when it shows up in June, simply because we’ll have to go through it again in August.

So here we are with highs in the middle 90s, maybe a touch higher, and lows around 75 at best, and dew points too close to 72 to suit me, and what with Monday’s cloudburst and all — the official rainfall at Will Rogers was 7.62 inches, the highest they’ve ever measured in 24 hours — the damn grass continues to grow, and perforce must be cut down to size. Unfortunately, while I am not yet classifiable as “old and infirm,” this heat definitely saps my strength, so I am having to do the job in stages: knock out about half of it at first, take a break, do maybe half of what’s left, take another break, do maybe half of what’s left, and so on. The trouble with that scheme, of course, is that it seems like you’ll never get finished.

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Wood chips keep falling on my head

But that doesn’t mean I’m hurt: I never even bled. (Bleeding’s not for me.)

A couple of the light fixtures here at the Estate are peculiar: they hang from the rafters and don’t quite reach the ceiling. On the ceiling itself, below each fixture, is a square wooden frame which contains a sliding pane of glass. Think of it as recessed lighting without the actual recess.

The disadvantage of this layout is that it collects dirt on the inside, meaning I have to fetch the ladder, slide the panel out, give it a decent cleaning, slide it back in, and take the ladder back to its storage space. (It hangs on the garage wall.) I’m not in the habit of looking up at light fixtures unless they’re producing no light at all, but these were lit, albeit decidedly dimmer than usual, a side effect, I figured, of last week’s roof replacement.

So I duly fetched the ladder, slid out the first panel, and got a face full of sawdust and such. A couple of full-fledged sticks dropped out of the corner. It took several minutes just to clean the scuzz off the inside of the glass.

The second fixture had three times as much debris; I could hear it thunking on the hardwood floor.

I suppose this could be construed as better what I usually find up there, which is a lunchroom for the resident spiders, but I generally don’t have to sweep up after spiders.

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I, up-follower

Two thousand square feet of shingles, fiberglass plus asphalt, applied in the summer sun, using some sort of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tar! sealant. The olfactory result?

“That’s odd,” said the guy supervising the job. “Usually it’s just the women who smell it.”

I am sufficiently anal (“That’s a polite word for what you are” — Annie Hall) to look (or sniff) for things that aren’t a hundred percent. For instance, while fitting a new flue head, they knocked loose the draft diverter on the water heater. (And they’d never have known this from up top, believe me.) About a forty-five-second fix, but were I not, um, sufficiently anal, I’d not have noticed this, and eventually the gas would blow out a wall or three.

I also ran the attic fan for half an hour, not really expecting to dispel the faint odor of whatever it is, but mostly to see if anything had fallen into the blades. It was scarifyingly rattle-y for the first six minutes or so, after which a single tink, and the sound changed back to the usual low roar. Bits of debris from the new upper decking, plus one actual nail, which landed in the hall.

The guys did run the magnet over the yard in an effort to retrieve nails; I didn’t find any while mowing the front yard yesterday, and by “didn’t find any” I mean “well, there was this one complete coil that wound up under a shrub.”

There are things to do yet: replacing the little spinning-ball ventilator, and redoing the gutters. Most of the really nasty stuff, though, is over and done with. I think. Keep in mind that what I know about roofing is right up there with Al Gore knows about setting an example.

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