Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life With Chicken Little

It’s all my grandfather’s fault -- his distrust of banks, his disdain for the stock market. It was all well-founded.

During “the Crash” way back when, in the days before the FDIC, Young Tom lost $2,000 - $3,000 that he had in the bank. That was money he had scrimped and saved for years while trying to help support seven younger siblings.

He never got over it. Can you blame him? That’s still a chunk of change today, at least to lose anyway. Back then though, it was enough to buy a house. Oh, he eventually did have a checking account. But there was never more than a $1 or $2 above what was needed to pay bills. Never.

I’m explaining all this to preface “the sky is falling” scenario that the mother currently is enveloped by. Her Young Tom genes are all aflame. She’s freaking out about my job, my credit, the money we have in the bank, the level of gas in the car, and the amount of food in the house. She’s convinced that we’ll never be able to finish the house now. That new car we’ve been talking about for so long? Forget it.

I can allay a few of those fears. I can go fill up the car. I can go buy groceries. I have no control over whether the bank (which is on a target list) will get swallowed up, but I guess I can always follow Young Tom’s example and leave only enough in the account for checks to clear. But if enough people do that, won’t that close the bank for sure?

As for my credit, if my limits suddenly disappear it will bitch-slap my FICO. Unless I pay off my balances now (which I’m not in a position to do) that’s probably what will happen. So, my credit rating will likely plunge like the Dow. I’m powerless to do anything about it.

As for my job, if I’m suddenly shown the door (not that I anticipate that I will be, but anything is possible anymore) what can I do? Refuse to leave? No. I’ll just have to find another one. Or two. Or maybe three to keep things going at their present level.

But no matter what, it’s going to do absolutely no good to freak out. I’ve spent the second half of my life trying to dispel the “expect the worst” mentality that was ingrained during the first half. Dwell enough on the negative and it will run to you – at top speed.

Not that I’m not stressed. It’s almost impossible not to be. It would seem that our country is going to hell – without the benefit of a handbasket. Even so, I’m trying to manage it. Not lose my cool. Not log onto my tiny 401K which, by now, is likely non-existent.

No. I’m finding comfort in small things. Like the newsletter I got from Tim Carter at Ask the Builder. Tim cites a USA Today article from yesterday that says “the economic woes are nothing close to the Great Depression, even if it feels that way to some. We're nowhere near the days of wandering homelessness evoked in John Steinbeck's 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath.”

Well, that’s some good news. So, is the sky falling at your house?

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Plan B

If, like me, you are a houseblogger going through withdrawal as Houseblogs.net is again MIA, listen up: I’ve devised a Plan B.

(OK. I didn’t exactly devise the plan any more than Al Gore created the Internet or John McCain invented the Blackberry. However, I’m putting some info out there for your consideration.) It was actually Vicki at Not So SAHM who’s the catalyst for the plan as it were.

Last month, she launched Best Posts of the Week. Rather than paraphrase and screw it up, here’s her explanation/description straight from the site: Best Posts of the Week is a blog dedicated to highlighting the best post of the week from participating bloggers. It's easy to participate. Just submit the link of your best post! … She got tired of spending too much time surfing for great content and wanted it to come to her. Now you can reap the rewards!

Now, here’s the plan part. If, like me, you send Vicki your favorite post for the week, you’ll be on BPOW for not only interested housebloggers but a whole ‘nother crop of folks to come and visit your blog. Because you know if they read one post and they like it, they'll read more, too.

It’s free, it’s easy, and most of it is something you’re already doing anyway (writing a blog post). All it means is you send a single email once a week with a link to your favorite post. And, it’s a nice Plan B to find everybody in one place when some of our other outlets aren’t up and running.

And, Vicki’s a great gal. I know she’d love to have you on board. She collects all the submissions by Friday and then posts them on BPOW on Saturday.

AND … you might even make some new friends or find some more blogs you’d like to read. I know I have. Hope you will, too.

Run Over by the Driveway

The sun is trying to come up and for now, it’s dry though the morning dew is thick.

I’m hoping that my driveway has had long enough to anchor in place. I think it has, considering that two-thirds of it has been down since Saturday and a large portion of that last third is under the carport. As rain is supposedly on its way later this morning, and probably again this afternoon, I guess we’ll find out.

Cross your fingers.

If ever I wished I had a day off, today would likely be that day. I don’t remember sealing the driveway as being that rigorous of a job, but I feel like someone has kicked the crap out of me, particularly my lower back. I guess that’s the way it is when you only do something every four or five years. This was the fourth time I’ve done it in 22 years, so I guess it’s a combination of 1)forgetting how hard it is and 2) being older each time I do it.

I had to laugh because the poor thing has already been under siege. There were slug trails and squirrel tracks in it this morning. I even walked across it – gingerly and in clean shoes – so I guess it has been appropriately christened.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paint It Black

With all due respect to the Rolling Stones:

I see a driveway and I want to paint it black .
Had no idea what it would do to my back!

Mean Old Man walks by and he wrinkles up his nose.
He's just lucky I can't reach him with my garden hose.

I started with a bristle brush just like I've always done.
Then I went to Ace and bought a roller just for fun.

It went on faster and a little easier on my back.
But my feet, my hands, my knees -- they're all painted black.

I see a driveway and it's now painted black.
I'm really glad that I don't have to go back.

Usually underestimate what I need to get the job done. Not this time -- I ended up with an extra one.

And I am gonna take it, take it, take it, take it back ...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Ginormous Driveway

Maybe you thought I was exaggerating in my previous post. I've got a small house, so how could the driveway really be that big, right?

Well, see for yourself. Here it is in all its ginormous glory! See those saw horses waaaaay up there at the front, by the street? That's where the sucker ends. God help me. I knew there was a reason I was dreading this.

I managed to finish getting it patched and primed (covering over any oil spots or places where we've dropped cleaner or other gook recently) yesterday. Ace put some more asphalt filler on the shelves and I bought their last four cans!

I also opened a tub of sealer yesterday and painted the exposed edge of the driveway. (At the left edge of the carport.)

I'll be doing a review of this sealer. It's already won -- and then promptly lost -- a point. But first, I have to seal the beast.

I'll be getting out there very shortly to run the shopvac over it. I'll be doing this a section at a time before sealing since if I tried to just use a broom, I'd still be out there at Christmas. Especially considering that dirt and leaves continuously blow in. It's nuts.

Now that it's over 60 degrees, I'll be heading out soon to get started. Here's hoping I can finish this TODAY.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My San Andreas Fault

Quick –name the largest crack to be found in the earth’s surface.
1. The Grand Canyon?
2. The San Andreas Fault?
3. Nope. Clearly, it’s my driveway.

The good news: Mother Nature has been remarkably well-behaved, giving us a brief extension on summer. The conditions are near idyllic for sealing my driveway.

The bad news: Apparently, every man, woman, and child in a 40-mile radius has decided to do some asphalt-sealing as well. Crack-filler of almost any variety has been removed from the shelves of hardware stores near and far. (I know because I’ve been to four stores in the last few days, nabbing the last of what was on their shelves in every case.) On my way home today, I’m making one more stop at another outlet I’ve not yet pillaged. And I’m hoping to find just a little bit more supply.

I didn’t get all of my prep work done last night as I’d hoped to. I tried. I even tried to get home a little earlier to maximize daylight. (Long story. The plan worked only marginally.) I was outside until after 8:30 and I still couldn’t get it done. I’d covered all the ground I could still see, courtesy of the carport light, before quitting.

Repairing cracks is key to 1) improving the longevity of your asphalt surface, 2) making sealer easier to apply and 3) promoting both a more even finish and complete drying. When I last sealed the driveway (2003), I must’ve done one hell of a patch job. A lot of that work is still intact! Otherwise, I’d be facing an even greater challenge than I already am.

I’m comforting myself in the knowledge that because I am spending all this time prepping, it will not only look better but will ideally hold up well until I can do a big repair job next year. And it’s going to be a doozie. *shudders* But I’ll think about that next year. I’ve got enough on my plate right now!

With some help from the mother, everything else has been removed from the carport. So, after an unanticipated client call that will delay my planned noon departure, it’s back to the trenches … literally. Meanwhile, go guess some more on my music meme! I see a driveway and I want to paint it black ...

And, on an unrelated note, as I prepare to post this, I find that once again, Houseblogs.net is whacked out. OUCH!

Fun for a Friday

It’s Friday. I’m bloody tired. Let’s have some fun!

In the past week or so, I have seen two different versions of a 30-song meme. The first came from kspin who had a different thing that each song title said about you. The second came from KayO and it’s like a bit o’trivia. (And I think it’s clear how much we love trivia at This D*mn House!) Both involve taking your iPod (or other MP3 player of your choice) and putting it on shuffle.

You can also use party shuffle from iTunes on your laptop – that’s what generated the second part of my list. In both cases, it chooses the songs for you to use. All you have to do is keep track. That’s easier said than done, too.

Here is how KayO’s version works:

Step 1: Put your iPod player on random.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 30 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song. (I've already done this. Here's where YOU come in!)
Step 3: Leave me a comment, guessing what song and artist the lines come from. Do as many as you can.
Step 4: I’ll bold the songs as my astute readers guess correctly. (Looking them up on Google or any other search engine is CHEATING!)

If you hit a song without lyrics, then just go onto the next one. I hit more than one. And, I also hit a surprising string of songs that the first line WAS the song title. That’s no fair. So, I ingeniously decided to just put (TITLE) where that occurs and the next lyrics to follow. For at least a few of these songs, I know there are probably several versions. Guess the one you think you’d be likely to find on MY iPod.

Then, when we’re done (I’ll likely wait ‘til next week), I’ll post the answers along with what the song says about me from the kspin meme. In order for it to be fun though, you have to play! C’mon, take some guesses. It's Friday; you really DON'T want to work anyway. AND NO CHEATING! You don’t win anything – ‘cept braggin’ rights for knowin’ my iPod really well!

Here we go. Name that tune and its artist.

1. Stay with it baby – and that’s all I ask of you.
2. Eddie waited ‘til he finished high school.
3. It's been a (TITLE) and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.
4. (TITLE), north and south and east and west of your life.
5. How does it feel to treat me like you do?
6. (TITLE), the thrill has gone away.
7. She is benediction, she is addicted to he.
8. You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on.
9. (TITLE) falling on my head like a memory, falling on my head like a new emotion.
10. Don’t you (TITLE)? Don’t you need her badly?
11. Just a castaway, island lost at sea-o.
12. For fear the hearts of men are failing, for these are latter days we know.
13. Little Rita and her sister Bette met some mook who drove a purple Chevy.
14. Miracle of miracles, look what the night dragged in.
15. On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.
16. I am the son and the heir of a shyness that was criminally vulgar.

17. I don’t know why I love you like I do, all the changes you put me through.
18. And if you listen now, you might hear a new sound coming in as an old one disappears.
19. Go ahead and waste your days with thinking when you fall everyone stands.
20. Does she walk, does she talk, does she come complete?
21. Watch out – you might get what you’re after.
22. Watch the sun rise, say your goodbyes, off we go.
23. When the world is a monster, bad to swallow you whole.
24. I can’t imagine so many monkeys comin’ in the daily mail.
25. It’s late in the evening. She’s wondering what clothes to wear.
26. (TITLE) tell me where have you been.
27. Some things you never get used to even though you’re feeling like another man.
28. You’ve got a (TITLE); I want a ticket to anywhere.
29. A bottle of white. A bottle of red. Perhaps a bottle of rose instead.
30. I am Jeremiah Dixon, I am a Geordie boy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flashback, Fast-forward, Flinch

These pictures are the result of two things. First, as I have been combing through various info online I came across this picture of the Boatmen’s Bank/Marquette Building from 1951. Since I see this building and walk past it every day, it kind of jumped out at me. It was fun to look at as I noticed a few key differences right away. I also noticed lots of similarities, too.

Second, I’ve been taking my little daily walks, Canon at my side, capturing historic architecture shots for future posts in my series. (You’ll hear more about this beauty in the weeks ahead.) And me being me, and armed with a camera, I set out to recreate this shot as best I could. It wasn’t easy.

The 1951 shot was taken from a building that no longer exists. In fact, I think there probably is no building at all where it was taken from, more of a plaza area leading up to a modern skyscraper. (A building I couldn’t get access to, to mimic the height.) So, without having a similar vantage point, I couldn’t exactly replicate the angle.

You get more of the block in my shot but I wanted to get the corners of both sides of the street and this was the only way I could do it.

To make this both fun (hopefully) and interactive, how many differences do you see? I almost feel like you could walk out of one photo and right into the other. Kind of eerie, isn’t it? I, for one, would love to try it! Considering that I was a long way from even being thought of when the original was taken, would I be me if I were to walk into it? But I digress. (Imagine that.)

One thing I neglected to mention about yesterday’s sojourn (the flinch part): I fell down. I have a “trick knee” that sometimes doesn’t work. It doesn’t happen often, and it has almost never happened out on the street. (Usually, I hit carpet or hardwood at home.) But yesterday, as I was preparing to step onto a curb, it happened. I tried to brace myself (and protect my camera because it was in my hand) which I think made me fall even harder. As a result, I seriously bashed my left elbow (swollen, scraped, and bruised), scraped and banged my left knee, and put a nice contusion on my outer left thigh, covered by a beautiful bruise. My camera was not harmed. Whew!

I’ll live, but I’m sore as hell. So today’s sojourn was cut incredibly short and sans camera. I feel like I wasted an opportunity on one of our lovelier days, but not much I can do about it. I need to save my energy to try and get prepwork for the driveway done tonight as tomorrow (I hope) is SEAL day!

Washed Ashore

The weather has been SO glorious this week. I wish it would stay this way year-round. I’ve been trying to make the most of it. Every day at lunch, I’ve been going for a walk.

I’ve gone to find Lewis and Clark each day and I’ve chosen a historic building or two to try and take some shots of for future posts and to just play with some interesting angles and light. Yesterday was no exception. I walked down to the Landing to visit the resident explorers. Here’s the latest. (Sorry if you’re getting sick of seeing these photos.)

Pretty soon their boat will look like it’s actually floating on the river instead of sinking into it! That’s the picture I want.

I also spied where some of the cobblestone walkway (often used for parking) has now emerged from the river. The river fell about 4 more feet on Wednesday.

While still damp, this section remains intact.

This one, however, seems to have taken a beating.
(I like this photo. It has a lot of colors and textures in it, with a dash of light and shadow thrown in for good measure.) Kind of funny how the cobblestones just congregated there.

I’m enjoying my little daily sojourns, but I think I’m becoming architecturally obsessed. I notice all kinds of buildings and all kinds of features on these buildings (some of which I’ve seen a thousand times in my life) that I never noticed before. (Background music: KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See.”) I was talking about this with my bus mother who asked: “So why didn’t you become an architect?”

An architect? Now there’s a job choice I readily admit that had never occurred to me. There’s probably a good reason. Beyond basic math, which I’m surprisingly good at for a writer, my mathematical skills suck. And when measurements aren’t precise, angles don’t quite align, and other important calculations go awry, buildings fall down. People get hurt or die.

Um, yeah. Really good reasons. I think I’ll stick to documenting the showpieces of some of the masters. I have a whole new level of appreciation for their work.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mosquitoes No More?

Warning: This is a shameless attempt to win something cool. Not only that, it’s something that has the potential to keep me from being covered in mosquito bites all the time!

That's because the guys and gals over at One Project Closer are giving away a Mosquito 86 mosquito prevention system. You can literally blast mosquitoes away. Isn’t that great?! Creating this post gets me 75 chances closer to winning it.

Their timing couldn’t be better. Working on the driveway every night after work, I’ve been getting swarmed – and bitten – by those damn things. And I’m itchy because of it. Seems like bugs are really wreaking havoc around here lately, doesn’t it?

Go check out their blog and this giveaway. Get in on it, too, if you want. Don’t have a blog or don’t want to write a post about the contest? You can still win! Just leave a comment (one chance) or register for OPC’s email updates (10 chances).

Good luck!

Water and Tar

My evening was filled with both – and a lack of – last night. For the water portion, we’re on a boil order for another 24 hours.

The mother called yesterday to tell me that we had no water. In part, I think it was kind of her way of asking, “Did you pay the water bill?” without asking “Did you pay the water bill?” (Remarkably, not only had I paid the water bill, I paid it early this month. Go figure.)

Our block and some of the surrounding properties have had a continuing series of water issues for months. It was supposedly resolved early in the summer. That effort left a huge hole in front of the neighbor across the alley’s house. They tried for weeks to get it fixed. The water company would say it was the city’s job. The city? They put it back on the water company!

I guess someone agreed to something yesterday as there was a truck and crew on-site (even after I got home last night). That was what caused the water shortage.

When I got home, the mother had moved a lot of stuff from under the carport (included her 80 million $%&^@ flower pots of varying sizes) and had cleaned the front half of the driveway off and swept it down. That was a lot of work and helped me a lot. I had started clearing and crack-filling on the back half Sunday and resumed it again Monday evening. After applying some asphalt primer to the array of oil spots, I think I’m pretty well done back there now.

Now it’s on to the carport and then out to the front half. Did I mention that our driveway is HUGE?! Freakin' ridiculously huge. We could put the whole house on it at least twice!

I ran out of liquid crack-filler, as I knew I would, so shortly after dark, I headed out to get supplies. Much to my dismay, the Sears Hardware closest to me did not have the asphalt caulk OR the liquid filler I like and had been using. Totally out! They did have some gravel patch and I picked that up as well as a cheap bristle applicator.

Home Depot didn’t have the big container of crack-filler either and the caulk cost nearly twice as much. (Though it’s supposed to be better and cover about 25 percent more.) The good news: The mid-grade sealer I decided to buy instead of the cheap stuff? MARKED DOWN! Part of HD’s companywide initiative to compete by marking down prices throughout the store. Saved me $15 so I was pleased. I just hope I bought enough. I did according to the coverage specs, more in fact, but their coverage estimates are rarely accurate.

I've got a half-day of vacation on Friday, so that’s when I’m hoping to get the bulk of actually sealing finished, if not completed. Tonight and tomorrow night’s agenda: serious crack-filling!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hey, Look! They’re Back!

Sort of. The river has given them back! The Mississippi is receding – and quite quickly I might add.

On the way home last night, I noticed that William Clark was making a triumphant return from the muddy depths. All I could see of him then was just about to his waist. And Lewis? All that was to be seen of him was barely the top of his hat! And the poor dog? Gone.

That was just last night, so you can see how much water left between 5:30 p.m. yesterday and about 11:30 a.m. today. It was fun to be able to catch a glimpse of them again as I walked down.

It’s hard to believe that it was just Thursday that the river looked like this. Lewis and Clark were nowhere to be found.
Well, it’s clearly a whole ‘nother story today. Not only could I walk all the way down Washington (and right past that previously submerged stop sign), I could cross Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd.! But, the fact that the statue is still submerged is an indication that the river remains high. Ideally, you can walk right up to it. (Probably still not a good idea to try that today.)
There was a British couple visiting the riverfront and we chatted briefly. They both shook their heads when I told them how high the water was just the other day. They looked at me in disbelief when I told them it had been just about the same way a few months ago.
I just hope this is it for the year!

ToolTalk Tuesday: Clamp It Down

With all the cool powertools at our disposal these days, it’s very easy to overlook the simple, yet very practical, basic handtool. I would put a spring clamp in that category.

The three I've shown here are from my latest Harbor Freight adventure. These work along the same lines as a clothespin ... only bigger and sturdier. I was able to find three sizes, which is great. You wouldn't hunt rabbits with a bazooka. (I wouldn't hunt rabbits, period.) You wouldn't clamp a small object with a 4-inch clamp!

These clamps are ideal for helping hold glued pieces in place until the adhesive sets. They also can clamp a metal guide to a board to help those of us who have trouble cutting straight lines. Another thing I like about these: they're padded so they don't leave scuffs, dents or other marks on the objects you're working on.
I'd have to say though that my favorite thing about them beyond their capabilities -- the price. I hit a sale. The 4-inch clamps were $1.87 each, while the smaller ones were 99 cents and 59 cents respectively. That would be incredibly hard to beat in my book! I bought several of the smaller ones and a pair of the 4-inchers. Just like hands and feet, it's good to have at least two.

Monday, September 22, 2008

History Lost: The Buder Building

You might recall my few posts highlighting the gorgeous architecture in downtown St. Louis. I’ve got several more installments planned or under way.

However, I think it’s important to also note that much was lost to the wrecking ball during the late 1970s and early 1980s. For a while, it was almost as if St. Louis was on a targeted path to destroy its historic heritage and rightful place as an architectural gatekeeper. Unfortunately, there was another strong dose of this destructive activity in the 1990s and a quick shot even in recent years that took out two more historic goliaths.

So, I’ve decided to also share information (and photos where I can find them) of some of the history that was made in centuries past lost in recent decades. So I’ll occasionally be doing another feature: History Lost. I’m going to start with the Buder Building. You can see it above in a 1910 postcard, and shortly before it was demolished in 1984.

I never even knew what it was called. Sadly, when I embarked on this little journey, I didn't even realize which building it was until I pulled up that photo from 1984. Oh yeah. The building where KFC was.

How sad is that? God, I wish I had paid more attention.

At the turn of the 20th century and in the decade that followed, downtown’s Seventh Street between Market and Locust was a collection of huge, monumental – by that time’s standards—skyscrapers.

Constructed for approximately $600,000, the 13-story Buder opened in 1902 as the Missouri Pacific Building. It officially completed the city 1890s development plan for the west side of Seventh Street. Faced in light buff brick, the Buder was embellished with white terra cotta at the two story base and two story capital and around the windows in the eight story shaft.

It exhibited the richest and most extensive use of Beaux Arts/Renaissance Revival terra cotta ornament in the city. If the outside was regal and lavish, no expense was spared inside either as this 2002 blog entry featuring an interview with Bruce Gerrie, curator of the first major exhibit of antique doorknobs in the United States.

“The emblematic doorknobs were often the owner's signature. For instance, when the Missouri Pacific building was built in St. Louis, its doorknobs had MP molded into them. When the building was purchased by Gary Buder, he renamed the building the Buder Building, and installed doorknobs with BB on them.”

Under much protest, it was leveled in August 1984 to make room for “green space” as part of the Gateway Mall project.

Now, I’m as much a fan of parks and open green lots as the next person, but not at the expense of one of a city’s historic architectural gems.

When I saw this photo recently, it almost moved me to tears.

Look at all that grandeur and beauty – fragmented and in a heap – treated like so much trash. (This was some of the rubble after they imploded it.) Thankfully, I also found this photo which shows workmen salvaging the angels (below) that can be seen in the shot of the building’s main entrance at far right.
I think progress is a wonderful thing but it should never trump our heritage. You can always build a new building. You can never replace one built a century or more before.
It reminds me of something I heard my grandmother say more than once: "Forget where you came from and you might never figure out where you're going ."
Don't worry, Gram. I won't forget.

SlugFest '08

To say that I was a slug on Saturday would be an insult to slugs. The slugs are plenty busy at This D*mn House. We’ve been overrun with them this year. Their slimy trails can be found late every night and early each morning traversing across the deck, down my walkway, and through the driveway. I seriously hate them.

And if I hate them, well, I don’t think there are words strong enough for how the mother feels about them. She’s been out there lately, flashlight in hand on slug patrol, wiping out however many may cross her path. As much as I dislike them, I owe them in a way. Because they had eaten one of the shrubs to death, one we replaced in May 2007, it set the stage for being able to get rid of the shrubs from hell once and for all.

They’re very destructive little buggers. We tried the beer method a few years back. It worked a little bit. This involves buying some cheap beer (it’s good enough for ‘em!), pouring it into shallow bowls and leaving the beer-filled bowls at night near where you find slimy trails.
Frankly, I think maybe it backfired.

While it did render a few to a final swim in the hops, I think perhaps the cheap beer made Selma the Slug look just a tad more attractive than usual. (Even a homely slug can look good with a little inebriation and the right lack of lighting, I guess. ) Making matters worse: they're freakin' hermaphrodites, meaning they can ALL lay eggs! And they lay about 300 hundred of them in batches from 10 to 50 at a time. Jeez. How long before they're in the house watching cable?

Last year they returned with a vengeance and this year, now that it’s not 90 to 100 degrees every day, they’re even worse.

So instead of trying again with the slug saloon, and risking the need for the shelless mollusk equivalent of AA, we bought some Slug Rid. I have yet to read all the instructions and put it out for our unwanted nocturnal visitors but that will happen soon. I'll heavily weigh the potential risks if I do use it. But sorry. I'm not saving the slug.

Especially since the first rays of light this morning illuminated an all-too-familiar gooey line along my walkway. Bastards! I’ll let you know how it goes. But I'm open to any other good remedies if you've got them.

Selma/Sam, your days are numbered …

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Rain Stays Away

The forecast rain, short of a few showers very early this morning, never came. In fact, it was a pretty glorious day.

Before noon, I went outside and started working on the driveway. The first order of driveway sealing is to fill cracks. Apparently, I did a pretty good job four years ago as a lot of the patching I did then is still in place. (You can see much of it now as the sealer itself has worn away.)

It's tedious and time-consuming work. So, I didn't get all that far. I did get some of the deeper cracks cleaned out and filled. Not that far, but at least it's started.

My time in the driveway gave me a unique vantage point to the neighbors' open house. It ran for about four hours. There were three visitors during that time.

And boy, what a conscientious agent. *sarcasm* At 3:45, she was putting stuff in her car. She had taken down the open house sign, the balloons she'd brought, and was pulling out of the driveway by 4 p.m. Makes me want to go hire her right now.

I'm anxiously waiting to see if the forecast (dry weather all week) has changed. Cross your fingers. I need it to be dry as much this week as possible and ALL of next weekend. C'mon Mother Nature. Be nice.

Harbor Freight, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways:
1) If I can imagine it, it’s on one of your shelves.
2) You provide the “basics” at reasonable prices.
3) No one has ever asked me “What are you looking for?” in the same tone that a mother would ask her 3-year-old if they have to go potty.
4) No one has posed that question and then contorted their face into a confused look and responded to my answer with, “Huh?”
5) You’re willing to acknowledge that maybe I do have half a brain. When I have asked for a specific item, no one has ever questioned my judgment with “What are you using that for?”
6) You’ve got a location not that far away from This D*mn House.
7) You’re open seven days a week. And with hours that allow me to actually make it there.
8) Everything I’ve ever purchased at your store has performed at above or expectation.
9) I’ve never had to return a purchase.
10) The only odd looks I’ve ever gotten as an “unattended” woman within your doors have come from other patrons, not your staff.

Clearly, I had another successful venture to Harbor Freight on Saturday. My primary goal was to get a squeegee to use for the driveway (if it will ever stop raining so I can seal the driveway). Lowe’s and Home Depot had a standard 24-inch for about $20, some kind of supposed higher-quality one for $25.

Sears Hardware cost: $24.99. For a squeegee. I’m not looking to bronze this thing and hang it on the wall. When I’m done with it, it’s getting tossed. (Driveway seal is pretty unforgiving and whatever I’d use to clean it off with would probably kill any surface that happens to be left after raking the poor thing across thousands of inches of driveway.)

Squeegee almost identical to the other stores’ offerings: $12.99 at Harbor Freight.

Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Harbor Freight. Earlier this summer, Toolcrib.com posted some good info with a series of links highlighting HF purchases. I agree with many of his assessments. I don’t think I’d want to trust all of their power tools, but some of the standards I’ve held and run inside the store seem OK.

Other things I’ve purchased from Harbor Freight include:
• Foldable, adjustable workbench, just big enough to hold my compound mitre saw.
• 8x8 iron tamper
• 14-pound sledgehammer
• Respirator masks
• Nitrile gloves
• Trowel
• Nylon rope
• Gardening handtool set
• Bungee cords

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Neighbor Exchange

In more than 22 years at This D*mn House, only one neighbor hasn't changed. And that may be changing soon.

The B Family, who live caticornered across the street, have been in their home for around 30 years. But a company relocation may whisk them away to the southwest. That remains to be seen.

More of a sure thing is the house directly across the street. They put a for sale sign in the yard a few weeks ago. They bought the house about six or seven years ago. They're the third owner since we've been here.

All afternoon there has been a steady stream of traffic over there, apparently friends I don't recognize and family that I do. One car drove up and homeowner Mrs. P pulled out throw pillows, a lamp and a big vase. A little while later, she and Mr. P cleaned out the trunk of another car, emptying it of tons of fresh mums which now adorn the front steps.

Like I said, busy place today. And finally, the crowning touch which confirmed what I'd suspected all along: an open house sign was placed next to the for sale sign. So, looks like they're expecting to see some folks tomorrow.

It will be interesting to see how they fare. They tried unsuccessfully last year to sell the house on their own (FSBO)in a vain attempt to buy my great aunt and uncle's house next door (on the other side of the Ps, now home to country music from hell).

It always makes me a little nervous when nearby properties go on the market. We've been through it plenty. Twice on one side, once on the other. And twice at each of two of the three properties across the street. I always think of Forrest Gump and his infamous box o' chocolates: You never know what you gonna git.

A nice, good-lookin', 40-ish single straight guy wouldn't be hard to take ...

Summer Ends Like It Started

Why shouldn't summer go out like it came in -- and like it stayed for most of its all too brief stint? It's not raining now, but has been and will be again pretty soon. So, no Dig My Driveway. No Pimp My Shed.

Instead, it will be some Clean My House. And, Buy Some Tools. I'm getting ready to make a Harbor Freight run. (They sent me a flier the other day. What can I say? I'm weak.)

Just hearing about the plane crash with Travis Barker and DJ AM. Sounds like Gavin DeGraw was supposed to be on board but wasn't. Lucky him. Reminds me of the 1990helicopter crash that took the life of Stevie Ray Vaughan. A helicopter that Eric Clapton supposedly was supposed to have boarded (members of his crew were killed) -- but thankfully, didn't.

Coverage of that crash is interspersed with breaking news about the hotel bombing in Pakistan. Eight people dead.

Sometimes, life really sucks. Tools will make it better ...

Friday, September 19, 2008


I’m torn because I don’t know whom to trust. Do I trust the local weathercasters – who burn me on a fairly regular basis – or do I go with weather.com where my chances are generally much better? The problem: I desperately want the local feebs to be right!

I want to work on the driveway this weekend but weather.com has forecast a 40 percent chance of rain for tomorrow and a 30 percent chance for Sunday. Those aren’t the best odds for a project that needs 48 hours of dry weather. Meanwhile, the locals are saying “chance of a shower or thunderstorm” for both days. Do I take that chance? Consider, too, that said local feeb was spouting last night about how slim the chance was.

So, I’m trying to decide whether I scrap my plans and just work on Pimp My Shed, the Exterior this weekend and maybe work on patching the driveway as I can. I could continue that throughout the week in that limited time I have between when I get home and when it gets dark. (Forecast currently calls for dry weather Monday through next Saturday. But that’s a whole week away, so it could definitely change by then.)

What’s worse is that, assuming a big announcement finally happens Monday, that would mean I have a reason to be at work every day next week. Not good grounds for a case for taking a vacation day.

I especially hate this because we’re in the latter part of September, so the bottom could fall out at any time. That means it could be 60-degree highs next weekend.

Why is it never easy?

It was bad enough just trying to decide what sealer to use. The freakin’ hardware stores never have the same brand twice, so I’m always having to make a decision on something new. I think I’m going with this stuff from Home Depot. The sealer at Lowe’s just seemed of the Mickey Mouse variety and I don’t want to do this again next year. And I’d sooner cut my arm off before I’d buy sealer from Sears again. Works about as well as their paint. That's not a compliment.

So tonight I guess I go and buy all the rest of the driveway stuff and just play it by ear. It should be interesting.

On a completely unrelated note, I have to mention two blogs that I’ve discovered in as many weeks. Blogs that have initially drawn me in because of their hilarious names. Blogs who’ve kept me coming back because of equally amusing and interesting content so I’ll give them both a shameless plug now.
  • The Idiot Speaketh was last week’s discovery. (Or maybe it was the week before. I’ve already explained that I have short-term memory issues.) I liked some of his previous posts but this one is a killer. Literally.
  • And this week I found Okay.Fine.Dammit. Maggie sounds like a lot of fun.

Are these some great blog titles or what? I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

No Sign of Lewis & Clark

They've totally disappeared. Swallowed whole by the Mississippi. They should be down there by the dark stone pillar on the left, (on the other side of it though, where you can't get to) where the metal arch of the historic Eads Bridge begins. You see, where that water starts is usually approaching a major intersection. Where you can drive a car or walk. No boat required.

But they're not. And apparently, I wasn't the only one lookin' for them. (see the guy in the right-hand corner?) Here's another look at where I normally walk down (and hang a left) to get to the famous duo and dog Seaman.

Nope. They're still not there. (Take my word for it since they're on the other side, going toward the MLK Bridge and not in this photo.)

So, not seeing them, I took a walk closer to the Arch. And bear in mind, this is a 23-FOOT-TALL statue. How high do you think that water has to be to cover it up like that? Oh, and that's a stop sign and highway direction signs floating back there in the distance.

As I headed for one of the many sets of stairs along the river ... uh-oh! NO MORE STAIRS! And I didn't bring a raft. So I went back up the path.

The Mississippi crested yesterday at about 36.7 feet, at least three feet lower than expected. And it is continuing a steady fall. Thank God!

While it is high, and it probably is almost as bad as it looks, you need to also know that 36.7 feet is a whole lot lower than the almost 50 FEET this part of the river hit in August 1993 during the great floods. So, now it doesn't seem so bad, does it?

It will probably be this time next week before things even vaguely resemble normal again. I'm not sure when the infamous Lewis & Clark will both officially return to land, but I'll keep watchin' for them.

In the meantime, I'll just be hummin' that tune. I'll let you know when they've been spotted.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Couldn't Remember, So I Forgot About It

I think a combination of stress and lack of sleep have finally come to beat the hell out of me. I’m waving a white flag. They win.

Like a lot of people these days, I’m on edge, and the stress is contributing to my lack of sleep. And, natural-born insomniac that I am, I don’t sleep much to start with. A combination of things at work and home are the key culprits. And I’ve been eating lots of junk again after being quite good for months.

Clearly, I need to calm down. I’m trying, believe me, but it’s not easy.

My body is letting me know that it’s unhappy, too. Primarily, it’s using my brain as the message-bearer. The message: your brain is shutting down. Game off. G’night everybody.

I can’t remember ANYTHING! It’s a miracle I make it back to This D*mn House at night. (Stress, sleep deprivation and poor diet = short-term memory trauma.)

I forget phone numbers that I call all the time. I go to greet people in the hall and their names escape me. Things I was supposed to add to documents … might as well tell the wall.

I’m losing things. Constantly. Last night is a great example. I left my jacket on the bus. Or maybe, at the bus stop. This wouldn’t be a big deal except my keys happen to be in one of the pockets. Good thing I didn’t drive to the bus station or I wouldn’t have been able to get the car home!

So this morning I ask the driver if he can ask dispatch if someone turned in a jacket. I describe it and add that it had keys in the pocket. He attempts but they say I have to call them. And I’d have done that right there on the bus.

Except my cell phone is at home, either on the table or the couch – along with my Nano and sunglasses because I forgot to grab them on my way out. (I’d have gone back into the house to retrieve them this morning except I don’t have keys, remember? And I wasn’t about to wake the mother.)

When I got off the bus, I walked up to my evening stop on the off chance that if I’d left my jacket there. it would be waiting for me. No such luck. When I get to my office, I go to close my door to call the transit system’s dispatch center. As I touch the door, something catches my eye: my jacket.

Hanging. On. The. Back. Of. The Door. Dear God. Please help me.

The one thing I have to do tonight is go to the grocery store. Once everything is home and put away, I’m taking a shower and going to bed. Before I retire, I think I’ll have some hot tea. Nice and relaxing. And adding a shot or two of Amaretto to it shouldn't hurt either.

That’s not a guarantee that I will sleep, but I’m putting forth the effort.

Just Google It!

Recently, I’ve seen several bloggers post about odd searches that brought visitors to their blogs. So, I decided to join that party. For some reason, yesterday was the day for Google to bring searchers to me. En masse.

When it was one or two, I smiled. Double that, I shrugged. But four, five, and six times that? Wow! And odder still, many of the searches came from foreign countries! Got to love Google searches. And some of the things they were searching for? I couldn’t help but grin.

Here’s a few of the searches that brought folks to This D*mn House and the post it took them to:
• Australia -what can you use a rivet tool
• Seattle – when does a guest become a resident?
• Somewhere in Colorado – simple shed 4x8 plywood
• India –Halloween shopping
• Somewhere in California – Neanderthal humor
• Spain – The Long Ryders
• Brazil – onebyday donna (This is the only one I just really don't get.)

And this is just some of them.

Who’d have thunk it? I'm finding it very amusing and I love it. (Especially since they aren't those weird, x-rated queries that show up every once in a while.) What are some of your fun keywords that drew visitors?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Follow the Mellow Brick Road

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him." – David Brinkley

A few weeks ago, the MonkeyGirl sent me a version of that quote, unattributed, and it touched me deeply. (The quote applies to women, too, and it came from a journalist whom I admired very much.) She said: “I know that they weren't referring to bricks in the literal sense of the word, but it still reminded me of you. You are the "mellow" brick road!” Hence, this post title.

I like to think that it applies. I’d like to think that I’ve built the Mellow Brick Road. It took a lot of time and effort.

All the work has an added bonus for me. Yesterday, while looking out the front door, the mother says: “It looks just like I always knew it would.” That made me smile.

The mother “sees” things. While scrapbooking has been an activity that has helped me in this regard, I’m still in the land of the lost when it comes to visualizing. I literally have to lay things out in front of me – tangible, movable parts – to see how to make something work. Describing it to me, and me translating it inside my head, usually just doesn’t do it.

The mother, now she can see some sh*t. She walks inside and can pretty much decorate an entire house – right down to the switchplates – in about 15 minutes. Me? I’m still standing in the foyer, marveling at the door or the flooring.

The problem with the mother’s little gift is that the job of doing it takes 20+ years to complete. In fairness, the house has been a work in progress since the mortgage papers were signed. (The last three or four years though have been like one loooooooong, neverending project.)

And did I mention that the mother is a neat freak? Me, I’m a slob. (The mother is Felix to my Oscar.) But I try. Part of the challenge for me is that I don’t have anywhere to go with things, so they tend to just pile up because it takes too much effort to put them away.

A home – just the way she “sees” it –has always been really high up on the mother’s priority list. Me? I don’t need that much. A real closet would be nice. Cabinets sized to hold real food (like cereal boxes) would be good, too. A sunroom would be ideal and provide some much-needed additional square-footage. I think I could be completely happy after that.

For now though, I’m content to occupy myself with those projects that either genuinely need doing or that will get that much closer to the picture of This D*mn House that lives inside the mother’s mind’s eye. With each change to the house, she gets a little more excited. It’s a rarity in the mother so I’ll agree to almost anything to see more of it. (Almost.) Why?

That, to me, is pure joy.

Dig My Driveway

This will be the last weekend of summer. How IS that possible?! Am I the only one that’s freaking out about it?

At least the mother is busy with her work on the foundation. I had to move all my plywood and frame boards for the shed – and a whole bunch of other crap – to give her access to the carport side of the house. She was caulking and starting to paint yesterday.

"Pimp My Shed" is going to have to go on temporary hiatus while I devote time to Dig My Driveway instead. I can always wear sweats and a jacket to work on the outside of the shed. Driveway seal has a few more requirements where temps are concerned. If I had a list, it would get bumped up on it.

I need to figure out how much driveway seal I need and what kind of patch I’m going to get and start doing it. We’re supposed to (again, nodding at KayO) have good weather through at least Monday and as long as we have highs in or near the 80s, the sealer should dry up well. So guess what I’m doing this weekend?

I forgot my camera AGAIN! Damn me anyhow. In fairness, I was lucky to get out the door this morning. I’m getting a cold which makes it hard to sleep and I’m a little stressed about some other stuff which has made it harder still to sleep. (About 12 hours so far this week. Not good.) I was slow to rise this morning and got ready pretty hurriedly, so the camera wasn’t exactly a priority.

I didn’t even LOOK for Lewis & Clark on the way in this morning (though I have since purchased the song.) Its crest is forecast for tomorrow so I’ll try very hard to remember!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lookin' for Lewis & Clark

OK. Remember those photos I took of the Mississippi flooding back in June? History sure has a funny way of repeating itself. And in just 90 days, too!

I didn’t bring a camera today – nor would I have had time this afternoon to walk down that far on the landing anyway – but I did find the photo you see here on GatewayPundit’s blog. Apparently he was taking the river flood photos around the same time I did and captured this shot of the Lewis and Clark statue.

The tip of Clark’s hat is just barely sticking out of the river. Well, that’s exactly what I expect to see when I go over the bridge. Coming over the bridge this morning, a tiny bit of arm and most of the hat were still visible. (Can’t see it? Look just to the right of the stop sign, at the railing with the chain then look directly behind the rail. That little triangle bobbing up? That’s it.)

Twenty-four hours earlier Clark was disappearing, but you could still see him. And like Clark and his hat, Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd. is MIA, too. (Please note: GatewayPundit and I don’t appear to have anything in common outside geography and photography. Just wanted to give proper credit to another blogger’s work. ‘Nuf said.)

If you want to see a video of the riverfront, one of the local news stations posted some shot this morning.

So just like I did in June, I find myself humming – or God help us singing – the refrain from an old ‘80s song from a band whose name I’d long forgotten ‘til today. The song (appropriately enough) is called “Lookin’ for Lewis and Clark.” You can see the video of the song here. The band was called the Long Ryders. I guess I’m going to have to get it on iTunes now.

Especially since it appears I’m going to be lookin’ for those two again for a while.

Tool Talk Tuesday: Arrow Rivet Tool

Just call me Rosie the Riveter. Replacing the bracket on a downspout has opened up a whole new world to me.

First, I thought rivet guns would be unbelievably expensive or else something reserved for use with an air compressor. Either option would put me out of the running. A recent trip to the Home Depot proved both beliefs to be pure misconception on my part.

Essentially, I had a choice between two models, both under $20, and both essentially the same tool. I chose the least expensive Arrow RH200 for $17 and some change. For a few bucks more, I could have gotten a model with a swivel head. For what I need it for, it didn’t seem worth it.

I replaced a bracket on a downspout. And now that I know how easy it is, I can fix other things, like my gutter drains! The tool uses four rivet sizes: 3/32-inch, 1/8-inch, 5/32-inch, and 3/16-inch. It has all four nose attachments on board and even comes with a little wrench to make the change-out easy as it’s tucked inside a handy pocket built into the handgrip.

This rivet tool can be used to repair or attach a variety of objects including lawn furniture, metal cabinets, aluminum doors and windows, cooking utensils and baking pans, pails, ironing boards, metal mail boxes, toys, power tools, bicycles, motor scooters, electrical fixtures, automobile add-on and repairs; installing and repairing heating ducts, gutters, downspouts, air conditioners, and TV antennas.

Rivets come in both steel and aluminum depending on the intended use whether it’s metal to metal, canvas to canvas, or canvas or leather to metal. Or, in my case, aluminum to aluminum and plastic to aluminum. I can get by with aluminum rivets for both these applications. They're also available in short and long lengths.

You’d want steel for metal to metal and if you’re using textiles or other softer materials, you might also use washers specially designed for the job. One important tip: clamp the two surfaces together and drill a hole the same size as the rivet you're using before you try to power it into place!

So, for under $20, I now have another tool that can fix lots of different things around This D*mn House, is easy to use, and doesn’t need a lot of storage space. Sounds like love to me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Water on the Brain

Wow. What a day this has been. If I were a car, my gears would be stripped – I’ve changed course that many times. It’s good to be busy so I won’t complain. I just was not in the right frame of mind to deal appropriately. I guess like much of our region, my brain is just waterlogged.

Was today like this for you?

This wouldn’t be an issue, but I’ve got a lot going on right now. My gray matter needs to get its act together. It probably would be a bad day to try and balance the ole checkbook.

It has looked like rain all day, while it hasn’t drenched us. It still looks really gray though rain is not in the forecast. The sun must have taken at least most of a vacation day as I’ve noted its presence only two or three times all day, and very briefly at that. I’m hoping that we don’t get any more rain. It hasn’t gotten above the mid-60s today so we’ve had neither sun nor warmth to really dry things out yet.

More rain would be tragic at this point. Not that we need more tragedy. Yesterday’s weather killed three people in the St. Louis area. Two were washed away. A third was struck by a falling tree limb. Unbelievably sad.

One of my colleagues, who lives in a neighboring ‘burb that was hard-hit yesterday, thought she escaped unscathed – until she opened her car door and a foot or so of water came pouring out. Most of the others who were affected had water come into their basements. I didn’t hear of anything too major. That’s something to be very grateful for.

So, if you’re dry, great! Hope you stay that way. And if you are among the water weary, here’s some commiseration and every hope that you dry out very soon.

The Grass Is Always Greener

Especially after 4-5 inches of rain ... in just a few hours. On top of a few inches 48 hours before that.

The good news: my yard is SO lush and green! The mother can't stop saying how nice it looks. I'm very glad I got it mowed Saturday, otherwise we may be talking jungle out there. The bad news: Step on it and you'll sink faster than in quicksand. I made the mistake of stepping on the edge as I deposited the last of the trash at the alley this morning. ACK! A mere step and my whole foot was nearly gone. Mud city, man. Think I should open a spa? People pay good money to have that crap slapped all over 'em.

Things are slowly drying out though the Mississippi is on the rise again. So much so, that the commemorative statue of explorers Lewis and Clark along the banks of the St. Louis landing that normally looks like this

instead looks like this today -- and the river won't crest until Thursday! While we aren't set for rain this week, if it rains upstream, it will surely go well above the 11 feet over flood stage. I'm thinking that hat will disappear soon and the banks will soon reclaim the adjacent Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd. as it did earlier this summer.

The weatherman said today that as of right now, this is the seventh wettest year on record with more than 50 inches of precipitation to date. We're on track though to have the wettest year ever. We only need four more inches. I'm OK with that.

Just as long as it doesn't all come at once again ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spared the Worst

We were lucky. The heavy rain dissipated before any got in the house. Our neighbors had some water, though nothing serious.

Lots of people here -- and on the other side of the river -- were flooded out. Some had to be rescued from their homes by boat! I was flabbergasted watching some of the news coverage.

The local hospital had a flooded basement and a telephone pole on the corner either got knocked down by the wind or else fell due to eroded ground from the rising water. (second photo) Stalled cars happened all over the place.(top photo) The worst was past by noon. Just some really gusty winds remained.

It was a rough morning so I took a nap. Didn't get to sleep much as my neighbor, who is siding his shed, came out and got working after the rain stopped. But I did get an hour or so in and that helped some.

Ike Reaches the Midwest

Hang in there, St. Louis. Just four more hours of heavy rain. That's what the guy on The Weather Channel just said. Seriously. Makes you want to punch him.

Ike's wrath clearly was not limited to Texas. And look out Chicago. I know you got dumped on yesterday, too, but it's coming your direction next.

My mom's friend who lives a mile or so away just called. The water is inches from their front door! Our back yard is under water and the front ... as bad as I've ever seen it. And it's getting worse. I'm afraid we may be in the same boat as the mother's friend soon.

Cross your fingers that this lets up soon.

On a happier note, the backyard doesn't always look this way. One Project closer chose my fence project to highlight today! This is a wonderful program that they do and I'm proud to have been included.

Well, I'm back to water patrol. I guess I'd better go find the Bible passage with the ark dimensions in it. We may be needing it very soon ...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mow, Show, and Home Depot

I started my day at Home Depot. Because, you know, it's been 72 hours since I've seen the inside of a hardware store. And that just isn't allowed ...

But this was no ordinary day. Not by a long stretch. It's not very often that you "meet" people online that you almost immediately click with only to find out that they live an hour or so away. (At least it doesn't happen to me. I usually latch onto folks who live thousands of miles away.)

But Ty'smommy lives a little over an hour north of me. And when she told me she was coming to a bead show this weekend, a show about 10 miles from my house AND just down the road from someplace I was planning to be anyway, the die was cast.

Now beads aren't particularly my thing. And God knows, as Ty'smommy so eloquently put it, it's not like I need another hobby. But when the Monkeygirl said she would come over the river, both for the show and to meet Ty'smommy, how could I stay away? So that was the show.

I had a good time. It was unbelievably great to meet Ty'smommy live and in person, and it's always good to hang with the Monkeygirl. Time went all too quick. Next time, we definitely do lunch. Or a happy hour. Definitely.

It was supposed to rain today. (Supposed to ... nodding at KayO.) It didn't. So I could have worked on Pimp My Shed. But because Ike is coming to drown us later and keep drowning us again tomorrow, I didn't feel like dragging out and setting up. I mowed instead. God knows the yard needed it. It was so muggy and hot, I was drenched halfway through the front yard. And the backyard ... I'll spare you the gory details.

The mother has deemed that both front and back "look very nice" and they must, or believe me, I'd hear about it.

It's STILL Missing

UPDATE: Houseblogs.net IS BACK! I am ecstatic. I was starting to go through withdrawal. (Yes, I could have clicked on various links from MY OWN SITE, and did last night for a bit, but it's just not the same. Clearly, I'm addicted.) I think it's safe to guess what I'll be doing later tonight -- catching up on blogs!!! But first ... Ike's rain has been scooting north of us all day so I managed to mow the WHOLE yard. I hadn't done the back in WEEKS! It was horrible. So now I'm off to the dump to get rid of the clippings.
It's true: You really don't know what you've got until it's gone. Sadly, I think a lot of Texans are realizing that today. I've been watching coverage of Hurricane Ike and it just makes me heartsick.

I b*tch an awful lot about This D*mn House and it frustrates me beyond belief sometimes, but it's mine. It's my lot in life. I should be very grateful, especially after seeing homes swept out into the ocean.

But the other "good thing" that is still gone is Houseblogs.net. Where the hell is it? I guess I didn't realize how much I rely on its feed to keep up with all of my fellow housebloggers, and as a means for them to keep up with me. It's been about 24 hours now and the site is still coming up dead. Has enough time passed then that I can officially report it missing?

Hopefully, by the time I get back home later it will have safely rematerialized.
Right now though I need to finish getting dressed. In addition to my routine hardware and household errands this morning, the day holds a special treat. A very special treat. But I'll tell you all about it later.

Friday, September 12, 2008

MIA: HouseBlogs.net

During the past few hours, I've noticed that Houseblogs.net is MIA.

Earlier today, I was going to look at some posts while I ate my lunch, but my Netvibes said it was "loading." I didn't think anything of it and then got distracted and forgot all about it. Until tonight.

Something is clearly wrong. The site won't come up. Anybody have any idea what's going on?

Downtown Architecture, Part 2

Part 2 in a continuing series looking at historic architecture in downtown St. Louis.

If the devil truly is in the details where architecture is concerned, sign me up for a tour of Hell! And when it comes to details, it's hard to beat the Railway Exchange Building. This has always been one of my favorites. Maybe because I logged so many hours of my youth there as the building shares space with the former Famous-Barr (now Macy's) store which has occupied it from Day One. Not only a tag-along on shopping trips, or to see Santa at its massive annual Christmas display as a kid, I worked in this building for the second half of high school and the first half of college. Even as a teen, I marveled at its many beautiful features.

Elaborate cornices flag every entrance (and there are several) and these gorgeous busts (left) hold up either side. Nope. They don't make them this way anymore.

This 22-story building houses 1.1-million-square-feet of office and retail space. It takes up an entire city block bounded by Locust and Olive between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Depending on which source you believe, it first opened in 1913 or 14. Here's a photo circa 1915.

Being as huge at it is, it once was not only the tallest building in St. Louis (1914-1926), it was the tallest building in Missouri (1914-1921), and was for a time the largest office building in the world.

The building's ornate surface is made from nearly 183,000 white terra cotta tiles.

You like this building? It can be yours!

Just last week, Macy's announced that it was going up for sale. The store occupies just seven floors (it was 12 when I worked there.) The company says it plans to keep the store going after the sale.

After decimating its rank of executives earlier this year -- and nearly 850 jobs -- that left the mammoth structure more than half empty.

While there's no asking price, current estimates say it will sell for more than $35 million.

Flooded Friday

It doesn't look quite this bad today, but it's not far off -- at least bad enough to keep me sitting still for a little while. And I guess I'd better get used to it. Seems like we're in for rain ALL weekend. Lovely.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I could always be in Galveston.

The thunder that awakened me about 4:45 brought heavy rain with it shortly thereafter. It POURED for about an hour, flooding my roadway and from what the news is showing, several streets between here and work. So I'm in no particular hurry to head out even though it's stopped now.

Between the thunder, Ozzie demanding to be let up because of it, Toby being woke up by it, and then the mother, I never went back to sleep. So I'm going on less than five hours. Not a pretty scene. Five is about my limit to function coherently. And joy of joys, I've got a really full plate today.

It should be a fun day. Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This D*mn Workshop

I managed to get out of work yesterday within 5 minutes of when I’d planned. (Writing this on the calendar now.) Got home, changed clothes, started in by about 12:40 p.m. and worked ‘til dark. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It got a little warm in the shed at times, but nothing like last week’s baked alive experience. Not even close.

I got the last, and one of the more difficult boards cut and up inside the shed. I helped the mother move everything out of the carport so she could finish her scrubbing (in preparation to paint the foundation), and then I started trying to organize the shed. I cleared out a bunch of old boards I’m never going to use, chopped those up, along with the scraps left from the shed project and got that all picked up. Then I went back to the shed for more organizing.

During all of this, one of my neighbors, he of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, came over to inspect. He eyed my small collection of 2x4 scraps. (I always seem to have some amount of scrap wood. You never know when it will come in handy.) “Hey, can I have one of these?” he asked. I don’t have an immediate use for it so I said “sure.”

He wanted it for something to do with their air-conditioner. I confess I wasn’t exactly listening as I was trying to get things picked up as we were heading for the last throes of light. “You don’t have your saw out or I’d have you cut it for me,” he said. Well, I did have my jigsaw set up still so I volunteered to fix him up. He went home to measure. I wasn’t going to let him saw. He has tremors and I’d be afraid he’d hurt himself! Welcome to This D*mn Workshop.

(All that the ‘workshop’ is are my two aluminum sawhorses and a sturdy piece of board leftover from when Lawrence replaced the front stoop back in the spring. I set them up on our half-lot, run an extension cord to the carport, and viola! Instant workshop. It’s where I cut bricks all summer and where I cut the framing and plywood for the shed.)

I continued to help the mother put stuff back in place. We even put the little chairs and table back on the front porch! It was a real step toward normalcy. ( I didn't take a picture, but I will when I put the finials on the new porch railing.)

We were just setting the boards for the shed’s exterior back under the carport (no, sadly, I didn’t get that part of the project going) when my neighbor ambled back with the scrap board, a cut line clearly visible. It may not have been a 100-percent straight cut (I was hurrying a bit) but I lopped off the last 2-3 inches as marked. That seemed to solve an issue for him – and that’s a good thing.

So while everything is back in the shed – including the lawnmower which hasn’t been there for months – it’s only about 90 percent organized. But still, a big improvement and lots of progress!

No Ordinary Day

It started out like an ordinary day, like any other Tuesday morning.

The day before had been a long, tough one that spilled over into the evening. I was busily trying to arrange interviews for an executive during a visit to the Northwest. I’d landed the interest of a leading aerospace reporter, but not until said executive was already en route. It shouldn’t have been a problem, except the executive went all primadonna and wouldn’t do the interview. So I’d wasted about two hours of my day, three hours of my evening and what might have proven to be a valuable contact. Gee, thanks.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I still had to be at work around 5:30 a.m. (A time I now rise at most days.) Still irked by the events of the previous night, I arrived at the office in a foul mood. I was greeted with a voicemail from a freelancer for the Chicago Tribune who wanted to do a story I’d pitched forever ago. Wow. Pat self on back, furiously.

But how quickly both my joy and disappointment would fade. How insignificant both would become in just a few, brief moments.

It was still early and the halls were still fairly quiet when a long-gone assistant stuck her head in my door. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center. They think it was a small, private jet gone off course. Maybe the guy had a heart attack or something.”

Man, that’s terrible. What a freak accident. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it became clear that it was no accident. I heard muttering in the hallway, and heard people asking the whereabouts of people in my department.

Barb the assistant appeared once again. “Another plane just hit. It’s terrorism. About a dozen commercial flights are unaccounted for – and we’ve got lots of people traveling today.” And I have a dear friend who, at that time, was an American Airlines flight attendant. Dear God, please don’t let her be flying today.

Thankfully, she wasn’t. And while several of my colleagues were traveling, they ended up stuck at their destinations or else grounded on tarmacs.

But a lot of people lost family and friends that day. Thousands of them. My heart goes out to them. I can't begin to comprehend their loss. I'm still to this very day taken aback by one thing: All any of the dead did wrong was to show up for work like usual. Or to board a plane. That's it. And they were murdered for it.

Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. On this day of all days, remember how quickly your life can change. Tell the people you love that you love them. Get that extra hug. Be patient with someone you don't know. Smile -- at everyone. (You might make their day.) Say please and thank you.

There's any number of little things all of us can do to make life better for ourselves and for others. And none of us know for sure just how many chances we have to do them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Turn of the Screw

Have you ever taken on a task late in the evening – while you’re in the middle of doing six other things – fully believing that it may take you 10 minutes, and then an hour later …? I think you see where this is going.

As part of her house-scrubbing task yesterday, the mother removed the mailbox from the house. She was busily scrubbing it last night (It’s brass and therefore in need of almost constant cleaning. Pretty stuff can be a real pain in the ass.) and the door kept flopping open, making her grumble.

Sorry, folks. No ghostly encounters or children to fear in this version of the classic tale. Just tools, stubborn hardware and occasional profanity.

For the longest time, the knob on the side that allows the mailman to open the box to put larger mail in (it has a letter slot on the front) and us to take the mail out has been loose. This wouldn’t be so bad except that its being loose allows the metal clip that it holds against the inside of the door to spin. What that means is that the clip then hangs upside down and won’t properly interlock with the retainer mounted to the inside of the box to keep the door closed.

“The screw just needs to be tightened, but it’s not a regular kind of screw,” says the mother. I opened the door to find what was once a Phillips-head screw. It had been a Phillips-head, tightened many times before rust, age, and years of abuse at the hands of the mailman had taken its toll. I successfully turned the screw, only to move the knob, not tighten the screw. I went and got my collection of driver bits and the drill. While the occasional Phillips or slotted screw would work, for about a second, the knob still just spun.

It took two sets of pliers to ultimately get things rolling. I held the knob in place with a pair of needle-nose while using a regular pair to painstakingly free the rusted screw. At last, success! But that was only half the battle.

I spent the next 30 minutes sorting through my vast array of hardware (and buddy, I own just about every kind of fastener there is) trying to find one to fit. I found several candidates, all of whom fit the knob and kept it attached, but none would sufficiently tighten the clip. Does everything really have to be this difficult, even something as stupidly simple as this? This went on for nearly an hour. And then finally, the shoe fit and they all lived happily ever after. OOps. Wrong story.

Finally, with just one or two left, I was able to get one to tighten all the way, using the drill. The clip was in place and the door shut -- and stayed that way. The mother was delighted, but was not very pleased that the mailbox had yet to return to its usual shiny surface. "I'm going to get a new one -- next year," she announced.

Let's hope it comes before that knob gets loose again ...

Are We REALLY Still Here?

Or have they not yet turned on that massive particle accelerator?! Nope, it's been switched on. This article though says that it is still a year away from full power. So I guess we can't really say for sure yet whether or not we'll be sucked out of existence by a series of small black holes.

One thing anyway, if it WAS the End of Days, I at least got to see most of an awesome sunrise. There is just something exhilirating about watching as your back window fills up with those first reds, oranges and pinks starting to blast their way into day.

And I got to drive across my beloved McKinley Bridge, the same structure that has linked at least four generations of my family to downtown St. Louis. The same bridge that CD and I grew up at opposite ends of.

I'm in ultra-early, even for me, because I'm gone at noon. Taking half a vacation day to go try to finish the shed interior, help the mother finish scrubbing the outside of the house, and maybe, just maybe, start on the exterior of Pimp My Shed. That's a lot to expect in less than seven hours, but we'll see.

At least I'm still here to try.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Son of Lawnmower Man

As it turns out, Lawnmower Man, menace to society though he may be, has a son. The son is nice, he's not insane, he does a fantastic job of edging and he's not expensive.

He even works on holidays. (Yard work is a sidejob for him.) He came over on Labor Day and edged the whole driveway so it's in pretty good shape for me to get my sealing job underway.

I think I've found someone to regularly do my trim work! YAY!

Now to finish the shed and get Mother Nature to cooperate. Hmmmmm....

Sometimes I Hate Blogger

Like now. When it puts my newest post below yesterday's only because I STARTED it yesterday. Right now, it looks like I didn't update the blog.

Stupid damn program. I should be able to start a draft and it post when I publish it!

Monday, September 8, 2008


It’s the end of the world as we know it … and I feel fine.R.E.M.

There’s a scientific experiment going on in just a few days (Sept. 10) that, depending on whom you believe, has the potential to destroy the earth. I’m probably not explaining this right, but I think what it boils down to is that they’re going to flip on this massive particle accelerator that will in effect mimic the Big Bang, but on a much smaller scale.

What it could do is touch off a black hole or a series of black holes that would then set about consuming all the matter that is earth and either instantly or within about a month (again, depending on whose camp you choose to believe) we’re gone.

A friend hosted a now infamous End of the World party in 1982 when some disaster or another was to befall earth and wipe out mankind. (I didn’t go; I can’t remember why.) There was a similar kind of threat in 1984 and maybe the world really did end. Part of it did for me. Financial aid for college dried up under this administration so I took on a third part-time job. At the time I remember thinking, albeit fleetingly, why am I doing this if we’re all going to die soon anyway?

A few more years later, my part of the world was threatened again when Iben Browning began predicting that the New Madrid Fault was going to level the Mississippi Valley surrounding it. Clearly, that didn’t happen either. So, much like Huck Finn, the details of earth's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

But just in case the world does end Wednesday, it’s been nice knowin’ ya.

And here I thought we had until December 2012 when the Mayan calendar supposedly ends.