Archive for December, 2010

Closeout Lists

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Fifty-one-and-a-half weeks ago (it was actually on a Wednesday) I committed to posting something every Monday for the rest of the year. The strength of that commitment was such that I crawled out of a warm bed a few minutes ago to post this one last effort for 2010, and it’s every bit as random as the rest.

You are likely aware that we are in the midst of a home repair project. We have finished the bathroom (well, except for the usual punch list items), so I thought I would start with a picture of it.

Newly-finished bathroom

Newly-finished bathroom

Interesting things from a flight

We took a break from home repair for a brief Christmas visit with Becca in Chicago. On the way back, I was drawn to some scenes that caught my eye.

Triple mopper

Triple mopper

Triple mopper – at 5 AM on December 26, this airport employee (see picture) was mopping a moving walkway; he just stood there steering three mops while the entire walkway moved under his mops. I have no idea why he looked back at me.

Deicer – I have never flown out in snow before; this time I got to watch the crew spray de-icing fluid onto the plane from a cherry-picker truck, using what looked like a small fire hose nozzle.

Sleepyheads – while we were being de-iced, I glanced forward from my window seat and saw a half-dozen passengers (including my own dear spouse) leaning their heads against the window to catch a quick nap before takeoff, all at the same angle.

Mimes – I have watched flight attendants go through their safety drill scores of times, but this particular morning they looked like a group of mimes doing a weird street performance; I’m sure it was just me.

Melting snow – As I stared out the window waiting for us to push back, I could see the tiniest snow flakes falling against the window, where they would slide down a few inches, then succumb to the chemical magic of the de-icing fluid.

Plows – As we taxied out to the runway, we passed an inpressive array of snow plows, maybe 40 of them, clustered in the infield, yellow lights flashing and diesel stacks blowing smoke as they waited for their call.

Atlanta looking like Chicago – As we made our approach into Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the snow-covered ground in Atlanta looked just like the snow-covered ground we had left in Chicago.

New tools

New tools

New tools

Home repair always offers an opportunity to acquire new tools, and this project has been no exception. Among the new tools I’ve acquired (some of which are pictured) are:

  • Molding pry bar (similar to a tool I’ve heard called a “cat’s paw”)
  • Reversible offset handle back saw (for sawing off door jambs to make room for thicker flooring; I think that was what one installation guide referred to as a “jam” saw)
  • 2″ wood chisel to go with my 1/4″ and 3/4″ chisels; it’s a monster
  • 48″ Sheetrock square, a well-made tool that I mostly used for marking plywood cuts
  • Floor scraper with steel blade (I had hoped to be able to remove glued linoleum with it, but it has come in handy cleaning general gunk off of old plywood sub-flooring)
  • 16″ stainless steel combination square, a beautiful tool to replace my old combination square; the tiny awl screws into its storage place
  • Coping saw; mostly used for cutting baseboard molding, but just generally useful
  • Pneumatic flooring nailer – I haven’t actually cranked it up yet, but I did assemble it tonight
  • Tile nippers, also known as blister-makers, despite Ben’s admonition to wear gloves, which I did
  • Notched trowel for tile mortar; this was my first tile job…
  • Grout applicator; … and my first grout attempt, too.

If you happen to be (1) not my mom and (2) peculiar enough to want to see more repair photos, there are 65 irregularly-timed pictures at this site.

Which brings to mind an appropriate closing. As I work, I am constantly aware that my parents encouraged me to work with my hands at an early age, teaching me how to be both safe and intrepid. That is one of many things for which I am grateful to them.

My wish for them is the same as my wish for you – have a Happy New Year!

Day and quote

Monday, December 20th, 2010


Christmas draws nigh, and our domicile is still in disarray, thanks to a home repair project I would not have selected, but have gladly accepted. I spent three hours this morning replacing a section of sub-sub-flooring at the back door. Years of weather, dating back way beyond the 20 years we have lived here, have pounded the back door, and somehow caused the sub-sub-floor to rot. I put up a long-overdue storm door last weekend, so it shouldn’t happen again. But I still had to fix it.

Of course, the first thing I did when I had removed the flooring was drop my wood chisel into the crawl space. I almost just jumped down to get it, but realized that (1) I might not be able to easily haul myself back up the way I went down, and (2) the crawl space door is locked from the outside. So I lowered a little step-stool to help me get out, which turned out to be handy when I added additional bracing.

So I got it repaired, and put down the sub-flooring, too.

At this point I took a break to mail Christmas cards. (Jayne did a great job on them, as usual. If you don’t get one, let me know and I’ll dispatch one forthwith.) The Post Office was living up to its busiest-day-of-the-year prognostication, but I enjoyed the trip, happy that I could use the Self-Serve kiosk.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pulling up sub-flooring in the hall. It was covered with linoleum firmly glued down (or possibly even joined at the molecular level), and I decided I would rather replace the sub-flooring than try to deal with the thickness differential between rooms.

Of course, I also found another rotten section by the front door. It’s not as bad as the back door, but will still need work, which I plan to tackle tomorrow.

Since the missus was returning late from a wedding planning trip, supper was leftover Thai from dinner on Saturday night, which pretty much brings me to here and now.

I can’t wait to start putting down actual flooring. All those hyphens in sub- and sub-sub-flooring are hard to type. Plus this time I’m going to use a pneumatic flooring nailer. Har har har!


For years my computer monitor has sported the following saying, source unknown: “How can I know what I think unless I read what I write?” (I didn’t know it until Google told me, but there is a similar quote attributed to E.M. Forster, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”) For me, the quote serves as a constant reminder of the benefits of writing my ideas rather than just thinking about them. In everything I do, writing, analysis, and editing always bring new insights and perspectives. The only thing that works better is discourse with others. But even that is more effective if we start off with a written thesis.

It will be no surprise, then, that I like this quote from William Safire. It not only captures the gist of my saying, but amplifies it, and offers up a tasty serving of snark en route.
“Composition is a discipline; it forces us to think. If you want to ‘get in touch with your feelings,’ fine — talk to yourself; we all do. But, if you want to communicate with another thinking human being, get in touch with your thoughts. Put them in order; give them a purpose; use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce. The secret way to do this is to write it down and then cut out the confusing parts.”

I’m still working on that last part.

In closing, I wish a Merry Christmas to you and to all those you love, and those you should love, too, for that matter. Tell ’em I said so. 


Monday, December 13th, 2010

Of late I am spending most of my mental and physical energies trying to install flooring. Progress is slow, but I have moved in the right direction.

Such fun has not deterred me from finding a few things to share – a poem from Emily Dickinson that caught my eye because of the home repair angle, a list of words invented by John Milton, and a couple of iPad links that may be of interest.

From last Thursday’s Writer’s Almanac:

1142 The Props assist the House
by Emily Dickinson
The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter –
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life –
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness – then the scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul –

And from the same source, a list of words coined by John Milton. I understand something about inventing technical solutions, but the notion of inventing words seems to be on a different plane (although a few of my early tweets might qualify). According to Garrison Keillor,

“Milton coined more than 600 words, including the adjectives dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, and feverish; as well as the nouns fragrance, adventurer, anarchy, and many more.” Wow.

From the iPad division, here’s a link to a holiday song I think you will enjoy, if it hasn’t already gone viral and you are tired of it:

And finally, a link to an article written earlier this year, which lists 99 iPhone and/or iPad apps “you must download.” That’s a little over-the-top for me, so I offer no recommendation on any of these, except BeBot, which will look familiar if you have already viewed the video. It is fun to play with. If you are interested in more information or instruction, there’s a good 10-minute introduction by Jordan Rudess here.

If my calculations are right, two more of these postings will complete my one-year commitment to myself. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be pondering whether to continue, and in what format and schedule. Regardless of what I decide, I have really appreciated the feedback I have received during the year. Thanks.

Steam of consciousness

Monday, December 6th, 2010


… and the thing I wanted to share was a link to a blog by the guy who drives a semi for  Prairie Home Companion when they are on the road. A trucker who appreciates the English language – what’s not to like? I hope you do.

Russ Ringsak

Until next time.